Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

“…but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 NIV)

Picture a large meadow of yellow flowers bowing to a gentle breeze. This golden pond of beauty is densely populated on the outer edges by trees that stand stoic throughout the course of time. The summer sun hangs lazily alone in the afternoon sky against a canvass of aqua blue. The air is punctuated periodically by God’s curious creatures that fly about on cue — assuring the casual observer that life is more than worrying about the next event.

But that’s not all.

The sound of a rushing river nearby captures the essence of energy as it follows its familiar path toward the open sea. All marvel at its ability to remain constant. Nothing stops its flow. Its strength is undeniable. Its will, undeterred. The river beckons those who are thirsty to partake of its power to quench. For the filthy, it calls them to bathe in its capacity to cleanse. For everyone who seeks healing, it invites them to take a leap of faith and jump in.

Similarly, Father thank you for being the ever-present river of life in our lives. May the richness of your presence flow from us to others so that they may see your mercy and grace. May those who feel discouraged or depressed find supernatural strength in your heavenly reservoir of love.

Who killed JFK? What is the Illuminati? Was there equipment on the space shuttle that caused earthquakes? If God reveals the answer to any of these speculations, we should be thankful He has brought light to our mysteries. If not, we should leave well enough alone—especially if dwelling on those mysteries brings fear.
wisdom
On one level, conspiracy theories are entertaining. Trying to connect the dots through disparate historical events brings a sense of order to chaos. Speculating about mysteries incites a titillating anxiety of the future that relieves boredom and distracts from more pressing dilemmas.

Speaking up and uncovering the truth is certainly biblical. The prophet Nathan uncovered David’s conspiracy to cover up his sin of murder (2 Samuel 12). Paul’s nephew uncovered a plot to assassinate Paul, and his knowledge foiled the attempt (Acts 23). Wickedness likes to hide.John 3:20says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” We should always seek the truth. “Love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19).

Two warnings concerning conspiracy theories: first, we should never get ahead of what God wishes to reveal to us.Godreveals the truth in mystery (Daniel 2:30;Genesis 40:8). He will tell us what we need to know in His time, and there are things we do not need to know (Mark 13:32;Revelation 10:4). We should not indulge in useless speculation that takes time and effort away from our work for Christ (1 Timothy 1:4).

Second, we should not fear. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Many conspiracy theories feed fear and prey on ignorance and gullibility. God has called us to something better.

One problem with conspiracy theories is that they place too much emphasis on worldly matters. It’s good for political intrigue to come to light, but that is not a necessary condition for the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:12). It is right for corruption to be brought to justice (Isaiah 1:17), but it is still possible to live a godly life, even if justice never happens. In our search for truth,Romans 8:31should always be in mind: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

Exposing the truth is good. Obsessing over rumor and hearsay and half-proven theories is harmful.Ephesians 5:11-14is an excellent guideline. Verse 11 says to expose “the fruitless deeds of darkness.” But verse 12 says not to mention them. How do we expose them? Not by conjecture or worry or fear or never-ending deliberation, but by waiting on the words of verses 13 and 14: “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.” Speak the truth and wait for God’s timing.

Endless speculation about conspiracy theories is, at best, a waste of time. At worst, the obsession induces paralyzing fear as our attention is drawn away from Christ. Avoid the mysteries God hasn’t chosen to reveal yet. Let Him work according to His timing. Rest in His plan, which can never be thwarted (Job 42:2).

Above all, do not fear. “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed.” But “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:2,4).

The troubles of this world are cold and relentless. It’s not easy to stay so focused on heaven that we are being bombarded with the problems of earthly life. We’re commanded, of course, to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2), but even the most committed believer will testify that earthly trials sometimes obscure the heavenly perspective.

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We worry. We grieve. We stumble. We strain under the toil of our daily labors. We feel the guilt of our fallen condition. Meanwhile, we are assaulted with troubles of all kinds. Those are just a few of the many worldly burdens that  keep our thoughts from rising to heaven.

And yet we are commanded repeatedly to “seek the things that are above” (Col. 3:1). We are instructed to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18). We can’t allow the burdens of this life to divert our hearts from heaven.

How is that possible? When the load weighs us down and the troubles become too much for one person to bear, pie-in-the-sky sentiments can sound very far away.

But that is precisely why the church is so important. It is our duty as believers to help bear each others burdens (Gal. 6:2). When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that should be something every Christian WANTS to do.

Of course, that concept is contrary to the thoughts of our culture, with secular society’s tendency to focus on ourselves. Our generation has developed an unhealthy obsession with entertainment; we are daily bombarded with a bunch of trivial diversions; and we tend to interact with one another in sound-bites or through faceless media. We live in crowded cities and over-populated neighborhoods; yet most individuals are more isolated than ever.

And let’s be honest — Most churches nowadays often imitate the culture exactly where we most need to confront and contradict its influence. As churches seek to become bigger, flashier, and more technologically savvy, they usually tend to become more cold and impersonal. Contemporary churches sometimes even seem to encourage the “me first” agenda of self-love rather than the “one another” commands of Scripture. As a result, we don’t bear one another’s burdens like we should.

Paul made this duty a high priority. It was the centerpiece of his sermons to the Galatian churches. The first half (or more) of Galatians is a defense of  faith and a series of arguments against the false teaching that threatened to place those churches in bondage to the Law. In Galatians 5:14 he reminded them: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

How is that love best shown? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).

Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. How do you love him? By bearing his burdens.

It’s interesting that Paul would emphasize this theme in an epistle written to confront people who were falling into legalism. It’s as if he were saying, “You want to observe a law? Let it be the law of Christ. If you have to impose burdens on yourselves, let it be through acts of love toward your neighbor.”

If you will do that faithfully, your own burden won’t seem so heavy. Best of all, you will find it easier to keep your focus heavenward, regardless of the trials you suffer in this life.

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16 )

Heaven

We live here, we walk here, we eat and drink here, but may we never call it home. The ground beneath our feet and sky above our heads are the scenery we enjoy momentarily, but they will pass away (Matthew 24:35). Our family is more than people with the same last name (Mark 3:35), as believers we are united by blood, literally the shed blood of Jesus the risen Savior. We, the family, walk as sojourners (1 Peter 2:11), as travelers, loving and serving the people around us, all the while remembering we will one day be home. A home that has been prepared for us (John 14:3), where we will live in ever increasing joy.

Our lips will never again say, “It was fun while it lasted”, as the smile fades from our face. In our home there is no sorrow, there is no disease, there is no end to joy (Revelation 21:4). In our home our treasure does not fail, there is no thief to steal, no moneybag to grow old (Luke 12:33). In your heart, and in your head, where is your treasure and your home? For “there will your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).

Where is your home?

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:4, 5

Trinity

No doubt you associate March 17th each year as St. Patrick’s Day, as I do. For as long as I can remember, the date set aside to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, has been a day dedicated to the wearing of green, to decorating with leprechauns and shamrocks, and to holding parades in locations where many Irish have settled.

But little did I know that March 17th is also a holiday because of a military victory. We’ll get back to St. Patrick—because that’s a very important story—but so is Evacuation Day. If I’ve done my homework right, Evacuation Day was the day in the Boston area when British General Sir William Howe led his troops onto their ships and left the city for Nova Scotia. The Continental Army, under the new command of General George Washington, strategically occupied Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor. Fortifications were built with artillery equipment captured at Fort Ticonderoga, and the British realized that their position within Boston was indefensible. Fearing a defeat similar to Bunker Hill, General Howe decided to evacuate, ending an 11 month siege of the city. Boston was never attacked again by the British, and this can be considered Washington’s first victory of the Revolutionary War. The password for the day in General Washington’s Continental Army encampment was “Saint Patrick,” and March 17th was declared an official holiday for Suffolk County, Massachusetts in the early 1900s.

With the story of St. Patrick we find another victory, but of a different sort. His is the story of victory over bitterness, victory over the lies of a pagan culture, and, asThomas Cahill in How the Irish Saved Civilization would even say, the victory over illiteracy and ignorance which would preserve writings so important to us today, including the Bible.

Patrick was a young man of sixteen years when kidnapped from his home in England around 400 A.D. and taken to Ireland. There he was sold to a chieftain who forced Patrick to tend his sheep. It was during this captivity that Patrick remembered his Christian upbringing, which he had formerly rejected. As he wrote in his Confessions, “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more.” His understanding and love for God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit grew during these lonely years of survival in the cold, rain, and snow. His writings do not show bitterness, however, because he used his time to grow in new love and faith. After six years as a slave-shepherd Patrick escaped and returned to his home in England, a changed man.

Feeling called to return to Ireland and proclaim the Gospel to the pagan and barbaric culture which he had left, Patrick began to study and prepare. Eventually he was ordained as a priest, and then a bishop. When he did return, he brought new hope to the land where he had been held captive, all because of his bold and faithful proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world. He even used the shamrock to explain the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He served in Ireland for 29 years, baptizing thousands and planting hundreds of churches. Besides individual lives redeemed, their new Christian faith gave the Irish people a revived love of learning—which then fostered literacy. The Irish monks were instrumental in copying books, including the Bible, which were in danger of being looted and destroyed during the final days of the Roman Empire as it crumbled.

This is a quick summary, no doubt, and there is much to appreciate in the legacy of St. Patrick. Although accounts of his biography differ in details, there seems to be little disagreement as to his passion to evangelize the people of Ireland because of his love for them and his love for our Lord. I am particularly inspired by his deep prayer life, and am touched by this writing called “The Breastplate,” attributed to St. Patrick:

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

March 17th is a day to celebrate victory, whether Evacuation Day or St. Patrick’s Day. The ultimate victory is through Jesus Christ, and as Christians we celebrate His life in us every day of the year. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58)

John 7:37-38 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

Frozen Niagara Falls

An estimated 500,000 tons of water go over Niagara Falls every minute. On March 29, 1948, the falls suddenly stopped. Those who lived near enough heard the overwhelming silence, and immediately they thought it was a sign – the end of the world had come! However, after thirty hours had passed – the flow of water resumed.

What happened? Heavy winds had set the ice fields of Lake Erie in motion and tons of ice had jammed the Niagara River entrance near Buffalo. The ice blocked the flow of water until finally, there was a shift in the blockage and the river began flowing again.

The river had stopped flowing because of ice.

If we really want the flow of God’s love, peace, joy, and anointing in our lives – we cannot allow our hearts to become like ice. If we do, His life-giving current will stop.

Let the Lord search your heart for those areas where the ice has built up and needs to thaw out. He will show you where they are if you ask. Our hearts should be burning for Him, so let the river flow…. once again.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Even in the middle of our Christian lives, arguments, disagreements, and tension-filled conflict will come, but when it does, here are five Biblical principles to consider before we ever open our lips:

  1. Listen. Be silent in your mind as well as your mouth. “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:27-28).
  2. Be teachable. Are you in the wrong? If so, how can you respond in humility, grace, and repentance? If you genuinely desire to grow in Christ-likeness, then remember that God uses iron to sharpen iron, and frequently, there will be sparks (Proverbs 27:17).
  3. Think. Take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We are in a spiritual struggle against an enemy who seeks to divide us. Don’t let your thoughts grow vengeful, spiteful, or believe lies about others. Be disciplined in your thought life.
  4. Seek unity. We are one body with many parts. If this is true (which today’s text says it is), that means each believer’s mission is the same. Think about it, is the eye’s mission different than the heart’s? In its function—what it does—yes. In its mission—why it does it—no. Remember, we are one, a unified whole. Seek unity between yourself and your brothers and sisters because we’re playing for the same team.
  5. Model love over winning an argument. Always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), because love seeks unity over division, and peace over strife (See especially 1 Corinthians 13:1-7). Sometimes, though, people are simply wrong, misled, or in sin. When this is the case, don’t shrink from the truth, but don’t use it as a weapon to wound, either. Love reconciles, pride dominates.

Our lives will not be free of controversy until Jesus returns. Until then, let’s remember his words, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).