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Faith Fuels Faithfulness

Faith Fuels Faithfulness

God’s past faithfulness is a prod for my faithfulness. Faith fuels faithfulness. God has been faithful to fulfill His past promises, and His future ones will certainly come to fruition.

God’s Past Faithfulness

Mary recalled God’s past promise and praised Him for His present fulfillment (Luke 1:54-55). Zechariah remembered that God spoke “by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old” (Luke 2:70) and he realized that those promises were being fulfilled before his face. God kept the mercy (v. 72) and the oath (v. 73) He promised, and He delivered His people.

God kept His promise because He’s a promise keeper. He will keep all His promises. He does, in fact, give light to those who sit in darkness (v. 79) and He will yet give perfect and eternal peace. We know this because His word is true. He has kept it. Yes, in radical and unexpected ways—way surpassing what is suspected—He has kept it. Yes, sometimes it takes longer than fickle humans would like, but God always delivers on what He says.

Trusting God’s Faithfulness into the Future

God has been faithful in the past and He will be faithful in the future. So, I should therefore trust in His promises that are yet to be fulfilled. Just as Christ came, He is coming back! Although it’s true that He’s coming in a much different way and for a different purpose. But just as on a real day in history He came, so He’s coming back. And just as Jesus brought salvation and peace, so will He bring salvation and peace when He returns, but it will be of a different kind. The peace that Jesus will bring upon His next return will not be merely of the heart and of relationship with God, it will be whole—pervasive. God’s peace and glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Peace will be palpable. Every foe and woe will be vanquished.

So, amid a land of war and woe, and where the enemy reigns and claims his own, may I never weary or tarry or tire, because God’s promises are true. Though the battle may bruise and be scary, may I ever remember He has been faithful and true, and He is good. The reality is, soon every tear will be wiped dry, and the sun will eternally shine.

Perspective on God’s Promises

A failure of faithfulness on my part is probably a failure of faith. I have doubted God’s faithfulness. My faith faltered. I have thought of God as failing. But God has—over and over again—shown Himself to be faithful. God has not failed. My faith failed. Our faith is often frail.

When I see the past and the present with the proper perspective (one that takes into account the reality of God’s radical faithfulness), the future fulfillment of His promise is seen more clearly. That is, with faith—the assurance of things unseen. So, faith fuels faithfulness.

Prayer for Faith

So, here’s my prayer:

“God hedge me up with faith. Let me not see mainly my failings, let all be eclipsed by a vision of Your faithfulness. You have been good and faithful way beyond what I deserve. Help me see that, so I never desert in disbelief. The reality is You are good, have done good, do good, and will do good. Let the past pave the way for my future trust.”

What is Pentecost?

What is Pentecost?

What is Pentecost? And what’s its significance?

Did you know there’s even a day that celebrates Pentecost?

I didn’t know what Pentecost Sunday was for a long time, and I certainly didn’t understand the full significance of it. Yet, Pentecost is full of significance. Pentecost Sunday is a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It, however, is not widely celebrated; at least, not very much in non-liturgical churches.

I grew up celebrating Christmas and praising God for the incarnation of Jesus. And I’m thankful for that. I grew up rejoicing in the truth of Easter, that Jesus is victorious over sin and death! And I’m thankful for that. But, Jesus said something that makes me think we’re missing out on an important celebration.

Jesus—God in human form—came to earth and walked and talked and performed miracles. And this GodMan, Jesus, said, “It is better that I go away” (Jn. 16:7). How could that be true? I mean, I know Jesus always speaks the truth, but how could this be true? How could anything be better than Jesus walking and talking on earth with us?

How could something be better than Jesus’ physical presence?!

Jesus has said some pretty shocking things, but this is one of His greatest hits!

Who or what could be better than Jesus’ physical presence?! Thankfully Jesus answers that question for us.

He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (Jn. 16:7).

Jesus said it was to our advantage that He go because then He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to us.

We rightly celebrate the coming of the Messiah at Christmas. Yet, if it is to our advantage that the Messiah go so we have the Spirit, shouldn’t we celebrate the Spirit too? Of course, one of the reasons the Spirit is not celebrated as Jesus is, is because one of the roles of the Spirit is to help us celebrate Jesus (Jn. 16:14).[1] Nevertheless, we should acknowledge and know and praise God for His helpful presence by the Spirit.

Pentecost Sunday is a day to celebrate the powerful presence of the Spirit.

Pentecost’s Background

Pentecost (pentékosté) comes from a Greek word that means “fifty.” Pentecost takes place fifty days or seven weeks after Passover (Ex. 23:14-16; 34:22-23; Lev. 23:15-16; Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:9).[2] Sometime people call it the Feast of Weeks. Pentecost is one of the three major Jewish festivals or feasts. It was a day to celebrate, anticipate, and thank God for His provisions, specifically of wheat.

For this festival, God’s people would offer the first fruits of their wheat harvest (Ex. 34:22), their new grain (Lev. 23:15-16) to the LORD (Ex. 34:23). This required a pilgrimage. And it required much planning because no customary work was supposed to be done on this feast day (Num. 28:26). “Though the holiday lasted but one day, it was a national event with elaborate rituals well known throughout the land.”[3]

Pentecost, however, is not just mentioned in the Old Testament; it’s mentioned in the New Testament too (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8). Passover is the more famous festival but both Passover and Pentecost are important. “The Festival of Passover… pointed forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, so the Feast of Pentecost pointed forward to another pivotal event in the history of the church.”[4]

The time of Pentecost was a time of anticipation. God had promised to provide and it was a time to see God’s provision. So, “Pentecost is all about living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come.”[5] With God’s provision there was life, health, and rejoicing. But, if God did not provide there would be devastation.[6]

Pentecost in Acts 2

In Acts 2, we see God provide more than just grain. God provided the gift of His presence as Jesus said He would, and as was foretold in Joel 2:28-29. God’s people received power from on high (Lk. 24:49).

In Acts 2, we see that “something tremendous happened in Jerusalem that transformed the Apostles into men of conviction and courage and provided them with a spiritual impetus that enabled the Christian movement to expand rapidly, so that in a few decades vital congregations were in all the major cities of the Roman Empire.”[7]

At Pentecost, there was a divine visitation, the presence of God came upon His people. In the Old Testament, we see God’s appearance was accompanied by wind and fire (1 Kings 18:38; 19:11-13; Ezek. 37:9-14). Yet, we see something new in the New Testament. God’s presence was also accompanied by the gift of tongues. So, we see at Pentecost that God is shifting His redemptive purpose from Israel, His particular people, to all people being welcomed in through Christ the risen King.[8] People were scattered because of sin at Babel but through the much-anticipated gift on Pentecost we see God gathering and uniting His people in King Jesus.[9]

The Spirit did not come just for us personally. The Spirit is also given for the purpose of mission: that all people might know Jesus as both Savior and King. As Glasser has said, “The spirit was not given just to enable the people of God to pursue personal holiness and joy in corporate worship and fellowship… The spirit was also given to energize corporate waiting on God for missionary outreach.”[10]

Jesus told His disciples to make disciples, but He let them know they wouldn’t have to do it all on their own. He would be with them, even to the end of the age. But, how? At Pentecost we find the answer. Jesus sends the Spirit (Jn. 14:16–17, 26 15:26) and is with us by the Spirit (Scripture even speaks of “the Spirit of Christ,” see Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; 1 Pet. 1:11).

The Spirit given at Pentecost is the “first fruits” of more that is to come (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:13-14). God heaps grace upon grace!

“Our redemption has begun, with the fullness yet to come. As Jesus has risen, so we will too. As we have come to Christ, more will follow. The Holy Spirit who guarantees our final redemption is the first part of her vital new relationship with God, with more to come.”[11]

Jesus, who has redeemed the Church, will also recreate the whole earth.

On Pentecost Sunday, we thank God for sending the Helper. We rejoice in His gift of the much needed and anticipated Helper.

Notes

____

[1] It’s important to realize that Peter’s concern on Pentecost aligns with the Spirit’s concern: focus on Jesus Christ!

[2] Pentecost Sunday happens fifty days after Easter. Of course, Easter or Resurrection Sunday corresponds with Passover.

[3] David Brickner and Rich Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 101.

[4] Brickner and Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 31.

[5] Ibid., 108.

[6] In the Old Testament, we see God’s promise to provide crops is often in connection to His people’s faithfulness to obey Him.

[7] A. F. Glasser, “Pentecost,” 757 in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

[8] Glasser, “Pentecost,” 757. “Pentecost marks the completion of Christ’s redemptive work. Following His resurrection He ascended into heaven and presented Himself as the first fruits of the coming harvest” (Ibid., 758).

[9] “Missionary outreach provides the divine reversal of the scattering and hostility of the nations that fall the judgment at Babel (Gen. 11:1-9)” (Glasser, “Pentecost,” 758).

[10] Glasser, “Pentecost,” 758.

[11] Brickner and Robinson, Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, 140.

Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering

Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering

Health and Healing, Sickness and Suffering

When it comes to health and healing, and sickness and suffering, there are a lot of questions and a lot of confusion.

This topic hits home for me because I serve as Care Pastor at Crossroads Church. But, more than that, it hits home because it is home. All the time. My wife has various diagnoses all adding up to making her chronically ill.* That is, she’s sick. She’s sick a lot; more or less all the time.

Does God want us to be healthy and happy? Then why is there suffering and sickness? And why are some people healthy and some people sick? Why is my wife sick? Did she do something to deserve it? Did I do something? Do we lack faith?

The answers to these questions are not simplistic. They are complex. And they are mysterious. It’s always good to remember that God as God is not like us. His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). That shouldn’t be surprising for us since He’s God, but it is vital that we remember that truth.

So, why sickness and suffering?

Sickness and suffering?

First, we should acknowledge how big and how relevant that question is. People have been asking this question for eons. The Bible gives some very valid and convincing reasons (especially when understand in the context of redemptive history).

Why sickness?

The Fall (sin in general, natural evil)

Sickness was introduced into the world as a result of sin (Gen. 3). When God made the world, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). So, sickness is an intruder. Sickness is not welcome and will not always be in the world. But it is certainly here now. Now in the natural course of the fallen world, people get sick and they die, and people die as a result of old age (Gen. 5 [notice the refrain of “and he died”], 48:1, 21).

Individual Sin (specific personal sin, moral evil)

Sometimes sickness is a result of a specific personal sin (1 Cor. 11:28-30). Of course, all sin leads to separation from God and death. But some sins bring especially pungent consequences. Some sins, as 1 Corinthians says, are against our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:18). Some sickness results from disobeying God (Ex. 15:26). It seems king David himself experienced the physical consequences of sin (Ps. 32:3-4; 38:3-5).

Demonic Forces

From reading the New Testament it seems clear that some sickness is a result of demonic forces. The Gospel of Mark talks about a young boy that has “a spirit that makes him mute” (Mk. 9:17-18 cf. Lk. 11:14). The Gospel of Luke talks about a woman that had a disabling spirit for 18 years (Lk. 13:11). Acts 10:38 tells us that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (cf. Matt. 8:16). Yet, Luke also distinguishes between the casting out of demons and healing (see Lk. 4:40-41) and thus shows that not all sickness is due to demonic forces. When we take into account the points below, it is clear that not all sickness comes from demonic forces.

For God’s Glory

Scripture also explicitly tells us that some sickness is for the glory of God. The most cogent and explicit is the story of the man born blind. Jesus says that the man was not born blind because of sin but instead “so that the works of God would be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:3).

Even the death of Lazarus was for the glory of God, so that Jesus might be glorified through it (Jn. 11:4). And Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever it was, was so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

In these examples, sickness was not a result of sin or a lack of faith. Sickness was for the glory of God.

We don’t always know why

At other times we simply do not know for sure what the reason for the sickness is. In Philippians 2:25-30 we see that Epaphroditus, a faithful co-laborer of Paul, was so sick he nearly died. Yet, we are not given a reason for his sickness. And we have no hint at all that it was because of lack of faith or because of a personal sin. And in 2 Timothy 4:20 we see that Trophimus is left in Miletus.

Paul was an apostle, had faith, and had healed others (Acts 19:11-12; 2 Cor. 12:12) and yet that didn’t guarantee that people—even his close and faithful co-workers—would be healed. We know God, by His Spirit, can heal and we can certainly pray that He will. But prayer and even the gift of healing is not a mechanism that we can simply push and guarantee that healing will be the result. God is sovereign over sickness. And for whatever reason, He doesn’t always heal. We don’t always know, as Paul the Apostle didn’t know, why some are healed, and others aren’t. But, just like Paul, we must trust God. He is good. And He has explicitly and repeatedly demonstrated His goodness.

So, sickness is clearly not always a result of sin or a lack of faith. 

What should we do when we’re sick?

Look at James 5:13-18. Notice first that before it talks about healing it talks about patience in suffering (v. 7-11). So, even in the context of asking for healing, there is an expectation of suffering.

Next, notice that whatever situation we are in, good or bad, we are always to go to the LORD in it, with praise or lament (v. 13). Then we see what we are to do if we’re sick. First, we need to realize our need. That is what leads to the calling of the elders. So, humility is necessary. When we are sick, we should realize our need.

Second, we are to realize that our need is not just physical, but spiritual. That is why we call for the “elders of the church.” And that is why we ask for prayer. Prayer is a supernatural beseeching of God; it’s going to God as Father and asking for help.

Third, I think the “anointing” with oil could have at a least a twofold significance. In the Old Testament the king would be anointed with oil and that symbolized the Spirit’s presence and blessing. Oil was also used for medicinal purposes (Mk. 6:13) or used as shorthand for medicine as we see when the Good Samaritan took care of the wounded man (Luke 10:34). Therefore, in anointing with oil we are calling on the Spirit to work and we are also confirming the goodness of medicine and imploring God to make it effective to heal.

Fourth, sickness uniquely reveals that we are but dust, that we soon pass away and are no more (Ps. 39). Yet, the “prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (v. 15), even if it is on the last day that he is raised up (Jn. 6:39-40, 44, 54). I don’t believe this passage means that just because the elders prayed over someone, and they had faith, they will be healed. But I do believe the prayer of faith saves. I believe this because that’s what the Bible teaches elsewhere (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 1:9). Also, as we have said, some sins uniquely lead to sickness. If someone commits one of those sins, they too can be forgiven (v. 15), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be healed.

But, fifth, we do have a strong encouragement to confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be healed (v. 16). We know from elsewhere that sin can hinder our prayer (1 Pet. 3:7). It is the prayer of a righteous person that has great power (James 5:16). Just because people are not always healed when we pray does not at all mean they cannot be healed when we pray. James 5:17-18 goes to great lengths to tell us that Elijah was a normal enough guy and yet God moved mightily through his prayers.

So, when we’re sick, we must realize our utter need; we certainly cannot heal ourselves. We should realize the nature of our need as well as who it is we need help from: supernatural help from God. And we should realize that medicine although good, is no good apart from God’s intervening grace. So, even in our use of medicine we must be reliant and thankful to the Lord. If we have unconfessed sin we should confess and repent, knowing that sin can lead to sickness. Lastly, we should pray in faith knowing that God can and does heal.

We should seek the Lord and medical help

I believe that it’s important that we seek the Lord and medical help. We must remember that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). And so, we should receive our Father’s good gifts with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).

Yet, it is vital that we not just seek out medical help and not seek the help of God. He’s God! He holds every molecule together. It would be utterly foolish to seek out the help from a person who has limited knowledge on a limited number of things, and not seek out God—the All-Knowing-One.

As great as Asa king of Judah was, this was one of his main sins. Second Chronicles 16:12 tells us that “Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.” That’s sad. And that’s foolish.

We should not follow Asa’s example. Rather, we should follow what I propose is the biblical example. We should seek the Lord and we should seek out the good physicians He has graciously provided. Paul even tells Timothy to make use of wine for help with a stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23).

Does God promise health and healing? 

Yes and no

In the story of Scripture, the story of Christ’s cosmic rescue, it starts out and the world is flawless, there’s no suffering or sin. But then the cosmic problem comes in. There’s a tear in time, a warp in the world, a curse in the cosmos. And it’s all because of sin.

Yet, the story of Scripture is the story of Jesus—God in flesh—coming to fix the broken world. The story starts in the Garden with God, and it ends in the Garden with God. It starts with no pain, suffering, sin, or sickness, and it ends that way.

Revelations 21 tells us of the glorious reality of God the Father wiping ever tear from all of His children’s faces. We, however, are not at that place in this true cosmic story.

Yes, that will happen—no suffering, sin, sickness, sadness, or death. But we are not there yet.

Yes

Yes, the LORD both forgives iniquities and heals our diseases (Psalms 103:3-5), but that doesn’t mean that the effects will be fully felt at the same time. For instance, the LORD has not yet brought “justice for all the oppressed” (v. 6). But that will happen. Jesus will bring complete justice. Jesus will satisfy His people with good thingsand He will renew our youth (v. 5). But not yet.

We are forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom in and through Jesus Christ and yet we are not yet in the full realization of the Kingdom. It is true that Jesus has “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:16-17; Is. 53:4). And our main illness and disease is that of sin and in taking that on Himself He enables access to the New Creation in which there is no illness or disease.

As Sam Storms has said, “To whatever degree we experience healing in this life, it is the fruit of Christ’s atoning death.” It is by Jesus that we receive the undeserved grace of God, and God taking our illnesses and diseases is certainly undeserved. “But it doesn’t necessarily follow that where there is atonement there is immediate healing.”

That’s a biblical and verifiable reality. Paul, Epaphroditus, Trophimus, and many other faithful Christian brothers and sisters have had their sins bore by Jesus and thus been accounted righteous (Is. 53) and yet died with various sicknesses. Therefore, Jesus’ atoning and propitiatory death does not equal healing in this life.

There’s also another real sense in which “yes, God wants us to be healthy and happy.” That’s part of why God gives His good commands, so that it may go well with us (Deut. 4:40; 5:29, 33; Eph. 6:3). Yet, following God’s commands does not in any way guarantee that things will go well with us from an earthly perspective. Just look at Jesus’ 12 disciples…

No

Does God promise health and healing? No. Not in this life. However, because of the love of God in Christ Jesus we know that in spite of sickness we have a surpassing hope. We know that all things will actually work together for good (Romans 8:28, in context).

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 4:17-5:4).

God does not promise health in healing in this life. In fact, persecution and plague are very likely to await us. That’s what Jesus repeatedly said (see The New Testament on Suffering). Yet, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). This place is not our home. And our current bodies are not our final bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-49).

Conclusion

As you can see, a simplistic answer to the question of sickness and healing will not suffice. Yet, God gives the answer. And the answer is Jesus Christ the Lord. But the answer may be “yes” now, and it may be “no” now, but for all who trust Jesus it’s a “yes” later. Healing will happen. Suffering will cease. But that doesn’t mean it will happen now.

____

*Lyme disease, POTS, EDS. And as of this writing, she has COIVD-19 which is not good to mix in with all of her other health issues.

How should I think about regret? How should I handle regret?

How should I think about regret? How should I handle regret?

How should I think about regret? How should I handle regret?

Regret can come about for a lot of reasons. The word regret means “sorrow or remorse for a fault or an act.” There are certainly reasons and times to feel regret, but we should not wallow in regret. Non-sinful forms of regret (like a wrong decision) can lead to lament. Lament is essentially laying out our loss to the LORD. It’s taking our cries, complaints, and cares to Him.

When regret leads us to the Lord or to repentance it can be a good thing. Though, it still should not be an all-consuming thing. Regret, however, is often more like worldly repentance, than godly repentance (see 2 Cor. 7). There’s a sense of loss, but not the will to change. Regret, like worldly repentance, often has sadness without the solid resolve to change. Whereas real repentance leads to life change and life, simple regret is not lifegiving (2 Cor. 7:10); it’s without hope and therefore deadly. Regret doesn’t take the transforming message and good news of Jesus into account.

Repentance and regret

Repentance is a biblical word and learning is a biblical word… Like learning from the wrong we’ve done and changing. Scripture calls us to repentance when we’ve done wrong. Not mere regret.

If there was someone who you think would be lost in hopeless regret, it would be the apostle Paul and, come to think of it, the apostle Peter too. Paul persecuted Jesus, and Peter denied Him—three times. Talk about regret. They didn’t just ruin their life, they turned their backs on the Author of life (Acts 3:15). Wow.

Yet, this is what Paul says: he forgets what lies behind him and strains forward to what lies ahead. He presses on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14). And Peter reminds us that through Christ Jesus, we have been cleansed from our former sins (2 Peter 1:9). So, regret turned into repentance, and repentance turned into rest in Jesus and resolve to live and die for Him.

Both Peter and Paul, and you and me, have things that we regret. Yet, Jesus cleanses and recreates. If we trust in Him and repent of our sin, He makes us new. Acts 3:19 says, Repent, turn back, “that your sins may be blotted out.”

So, Scripture calls us to repent—change our ways by the empowering grace of God—and not wallow in regret.

The Bible does relate that there are consequences for sin. Yet, it also tells us we can start over. Jesus makes us new. When we sow seeds to the flesh, what grows up is fruits of death—enmity, anger, and animosity. Whereas when we sow seeds to the Spirit, we get the fruits of life and righteousness—peace with God and relational prosperity.

Regret looks inward, into self, and tries to find resources there. That perspective is fruitless and flawed. There is not help enough there. Repentance, on the other hand, looks outward and upward for help from Christ the Creator and Recreator. He—as the Boss of the universe—has resources to help us with our deepest and darkest regrets.

Three categories of regret

Think of three regrets in your own life. List them out. Now we’re going to categorize them and consider how you should respond to them. Here are three categories of regrets:

  • Sinful: what you regret was flatly wrong (e.g., stealing)
  • Wrong choice: in retrospect, your choice was not the best (e.g., could have chosen a career you’re better suited for)
  • A confusing mix of sin and wrong choice: the situation is so extensive you can’t sort it out (e.g., a marriage that ended in divorce)

How does Scripture tell us to respond to the three categories of regret?

Sin should always be repented of

First, sin should always be repented of. Sin always leads to brokenness and is an offense to a holy God. Therefore, we should turn away from all sin and ask for forgiveness. The Bible teaches that when we do this God grants forgiveness. We, therefore, don’t need to live in shame and guilt. For those in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

If you have a regret to repent of, certainly do that! And even make restitution (Luke 19: 8 cf. Ex. 22:1; 2 Sam. 12:6) and reconciliation (Matt. 5:23-26; 2 Cor. 5:18-19) wherever possible. But God does not call us to condemn or flog ourselves. God instead makes us new creations in Christ and forgets our sin. Do not remember something God has forgotten. Do not carry something Christ has buried. If God has thrown your sin into the depths of the ocean never to surface again (Micah 7:19), why do you recall them? Could it be the father of lies bringing them up from the dark depths to destroy and condemn?

Some regrets do not require repentance, though they may require tears

Second, some regrets do not require repentance, though they may require tears. I regret not spending more time with certain loved ones that have died. I regret misunderstanding when a particular assignment was due because it resulted in a bad grade. Yet, I don’t need to repent of all my regrets because not all my regrets were the result of sin.

Some regrets are a source of frustration because we have more information now than we did when we made our choice. Or you may feel like you are a different person now than when you made the choice. Or… a thousand different things. But you did make the choice, and now, in some sense, you’re stuck with the choice. And you regret it.

So, what do you do? How should we respond to this type of regret? Trust and lament.

We trust the Lord is with us and for us and is good, even in the midst of our less than stellar situation. Even if our life never feels finally fulfilled, or it seems like it could’ve been so much better if we would’ve made a better choice, as Christians, we know that we are not home here. Nothing will actually be a perfect choice here. Instead, heaven is our home. We are strangers and exiles here.

We know the world reels and regrets, as a result of the Fall. Things are not as they should’ve been and won’t be until Jesus comes back to fix the world. So, in one sense, regret is natural now and expected because of the broken world that is our address.

We also lament. We talk to the Lord in song and prayer, and we tell Him what we don’t like and why. Yet, even as we lament and lay out our losses and regrets to the Lord, we also trust.

Sometimes it’s hard to sort through our regret

Third, sometimes it’s hard to sort through our regret. Sometimes it is hard to label it and put it in a specific bucket. Yet, we know the One who knows our hearts better than we know our own. So, we cry out to the Lord, and we ask Him to help us. We ask for direction and we trust that when we don’t know the way, He does.

We also know that even while Jesus never sinned—never made any wrong choices whatsoever—He does understand where we’re coming from. He does know and did experience this messy and messed up world (Heb. 4:14-16). So, He can sympathize with us.

When regret is a riddle that we cannot figure out, we can and must still lean on the Lord. We turn to Him (that’s really what repentance is) and away from wallowing in despondence.

So, take your regrets, categorize them as best as you can, and respond appropriately: repent, lament, or a combination of the two. But don’t wallow in self-pity or condemnation. Self-pity and condemnation forget the gospel; they forget that Jesus has promised us the Kingdom and given us His righteousness.

Ultimately, the solution to regret of any kind is trusting and remembering Jesus’ gift of perfect righteousness and His coming reign where all regrets will be washed away (Rev. 21:1-4).

Take some time and respond appropriately to your regrets.

Reflection questions to help you process regret

  • Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. What is the difference between “godly grief” and “worldly grief”?
  • Do you have places in your life where you have regret that is merely “worldly grief” but isn’t leading to healthy life change?
  • What are a few actions steps that you can take to purposely and intentionally turn away from and defeat sin in your life?
  • Read Psalm 51:1-7. What did king David, the author of Psalm 51, regret? (Notice the introduction to the Psalm)
  • How did king David respond to his regret?
  • Did David hold out hope that he could be forgiven for what he did?
  • When your sin is brought to light, what is your response?
  • Read Psalm 51:8-19. David clearly regretted his sin. Yet, he wasn’t totally hopeless even though his sin was terrible and tragic. In the verses you read, where do you see signs of hope?

*Photo by Nathan Dumlao

The Chasm of Being a Latino Christian

Chasm of Being a Latino Christian

Why am I Latino?

There have been many moments in my life where I have wondered, “Lord, why am I Latino?” Maybe it is not a common question, but for me, it made the difference in me understanding the core of who I am and who I should be. I have wondered. I have waited and sought answers from people, books, and reflected—hoping and yearning, to understand why. Being Mexican, coming to faith in a Chinese heritage church, pastoring at a majority white church, I have always felt different. Different simply because I did not always look the same as my brothers and sisters around me, and I felt like something was missing.

People often talk about how culture often influences being able to feel at home in a church, but in my case with my ethnic heritage, I have been able to look past those things and have found a home in the unknown and new. Going from big city to rural, I have remained open to all in which God has called me to. And I have found comfort in the new and have become more aware of how my upbringing allows me to minister to the body of Christ in ways that only I can, and that is a blessing.

Without trying to sound proud, I am grateful and humbled that Jesus would choose a sinner like me, broken and in the process, to serve Him and His people in this capacity despite whatever my upbringing might have been. But I still desire to understand why.

The Chasm

In my seeking, I was meeting with one of my professors and he pointed me to Mañana by Justo Gonzalez. The book examines different beliefs in theology through the lens of the life and history of Latin America and the Latinos that inhabit it. I had not met many Latino Protestant Christians and I was looking to see if there were any authors who could provide insight into my question. Surprisingly, I was drawn to tears by this statement made about Latinos converting to Protestantism: “It is often a traumatic break that brings about much suffering.” I had no idea how true this statement was for me. From the very moment of conversion, I have felt something like this.

I had to tear myself from the customs of my family that had persisted through generations. Having been brought up Catholic I had to remove myself from things like the veneration of Mary, praying to the saints, praying the rosary, and attending mass. These things and more, had more stock in my life than I had realized because in rejecting those things I no longer was able to share that part of life with my family.

This is where the chasm formed between the culture in which I grew up in and the road I walk as a believer. I separated myself from the things that go against Christ’s sacrifice for me and that would pull me away from Him and in the process, it tore me from the generations of traditions of my heritage. I never knew how to navigate that and am still in the process of figuring those things out. However, in the intersection of culture and Christianity, I have found Christ’s redemption of it. Christ is  the author and perfecter of all the happenings that led to the point of my conversion and beyond. All the events that transpired before even my birth were somehow to bring God glory in the renewed life I would one day have. I’m grateful and I’m privileged to think that I have the honor of being the first Christian in my family. And I look forward to continuing this journey and refining the idea of what it means to be Latino in light of Jesus Christ.

I know that the seeking does not end here. Nor does it simply end in the reflection of a single blog post. It will probably take an entire lifetime of hardship, unpacking baggage, pressing into the uncomfortable to understand how my ethnicity will influence my life. I rest assured, however, knowing I have the hope that Christ will see me through all of it, even if I do not get to the bottom of why I am Latino. Only the Lord knows.

In Christ,

A.R.

*Photo by Tiago Aguiar

We Still Need the Spirit’s Empowering Presence

We Still Need the Spirit’s Empowering Presence

We Still Need the Spirit’s Empowering Presence

Moses had stood before Pharaoh, led 600,000 Israelites out of Egypt, and received the Law from the LORD Himself. If there was someone that could feel accomplished and able you’d think it’d be Moses. Yet, he was humble and knew his need.

In fact, the book of Numbers says, “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (12:3). It seems there is a correspondence between proximity to God and the weighty work He’s called you to, and humility. The more one sees God, the more one is humbled by God and sees their need for God’s empowerment.

Moses had led God’s people out of Egypt and was forming them into a nation, yet Moses knew His utter need for the Spirit’s presence and leading. He said, “If Your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).

Moses said that, but I fear that I, along with many other Christians, run straight into various situations without the least thought as to our need for the Spirit’s help and leading. The Spirit was given as the Helper, but very often I’m afraid we don’t seek out His help. I know I’ve been guilty of that. That, however, is foolish.

Jesus Himself said that it was better that He go because then He’d give the Helper to be with us always. And Jesus’ disciples waited for the power of the Spirit before they moved. Moses—seemingly very capable Moses—also knew his need for the power of God’s presence.

The Bible says that what brought us from spiritual death to spiritual life was the Spirit of God. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63). The Spirit was absolutely critical at the beginning, and He is all the way to the end. Galatians says it this way: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Here’s what comes to mind for me: we’re alive because we breathe, so we keep breathing; it’s good and keeps us alive. We wouldn’t think of just stopping breathing because it is critical for life. I think that’s basically what Moses had in mind. Moses is saying, ‘God, You brought us here, and we have no hope without You.’

Perhaps we don’t see our need for God because we don’t see what He’s done. We don’t see what He’s capable of. Perhaps we chalk a lot up to ourselves. We’re capable. We think we can manage in our own power. Perhaps we don’t feel much strain because we have a comfortable little life without many seemingly impossible goals.

Perhaps.

But whatever the reasons, the reality is, we desperately need the Spirit’s empowering presence.

Moses did. The apostles did.

We do.

God’s Spirit is crucial at the beginning and through to the end. We need help and God has given Help.

We still need the Spirit’s empowering presence.

 

*Photo by Jon Tyson

How to Die Well

How to Die Well

We are all going to die. But that does not mean that we are all going to die well. If we are going to die well, first we must remember death (memento mori).[1]

Second, we must look to and learn from Jesus. Jesus, as the perfect Son of God, lived and died well. We’d be wise to take our cues in life and death from Him. Below are eight ways we can die well.

Anticipate

“…Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father…” (John 13:1).

We don’t always know when we’re going to die, but we do know we will die (Heb. 9:27). It is wise to anticipate and expect it and try as best we can to be ready for it by God’s grace and for His glory.

I think we best anticipate our death by living each day as if today may be our last day. The truth is, we could meet our Maker today.

Believe

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

That’s number one. That’s most important. Amazingly, God loved the world, the broken, fallen world, so much that He sent Jesus into the fractured world, so that whosoever believes in Him would not forever perish but rather of eternal and abundant life (John 3:16). So, if you have not trusted in Jesus and repented of your sins, do so today. Today is the day of salvation. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Love

Jesus “loved His own who were in the world” and “He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Being ready to die well means living in love. Jesus loved to the end. Dying well for us too means loving until the end.

Forgive

Jesus, from the cross, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

How can we hold unto hurts in life, when Jesus forgave from the cross? How can we hold unto hurts in life, when Jesus forgave at the cost of His life?

Jesus modeled forgiveness from first to last—He came to earth to forgive and left forgiving. How can we who have been forgiven, not forgive (Matt. 6:7-15; 18:21-35)?

Tell

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Even as Jesus took upon Himself the worst ordeal that we can fathom and that was completely undeserved, He still had the good news of salvation on His lips. The one true King hung on the cross—a perfect rose between two criminal thorns—and shared the message of salvation with the underserving.

If the message of salvation was on the King’s lips on the cross, how much more should it be on ours?! So, if we are to die well, we must tell well. We must share the reason for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). We must share the reason why even while we grieve, we have hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

 Provide

“When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27).

Jesus cared for His mother and so He made provisions for her. If we are to die well, we, like Jesus, will make the necessary provisions to care for our loved ones. This does not mean that those provisions need to be lavish and lush, but I do think we should do what we can to help those in our care.

Trust

Jesus called out with a loud voice: “’Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46).

In Jesus’ dying breath He did what He had always done, He breathed in and breathed out trust (Matt. 6:25-34). God has proven Himself in life, we can trust Him in death. Further, Jesus died and was raised to life to bring us to God and thereby Jesus proved that God is truth worthy.

When we trust God in life, it prepares us to trust Him in death. We must all pass through “the Jordan” but we’re helped when we recall God has been with us the whole journey. So, may our dying breath and our last mind glimmer be one of trust. May our faith not fail when are frame is frail and our skin is pale, like an anchor deep may our trust be tethered to the lamb who is the conquering lion.

 Receive

“Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:28-30).

Jesus shared a need. He said, “I thirst.” In part, this is connected to a prophecy about Jesus the Messiah (see Ps. 69:21). But I believe another application is it shows us that it is okay to for people that are suffering to seek alleviation of suffering. Proverb 31:6 says to “give strong drink to the one who is perishing.”

So, we see it is okay, and I believe even right, to receive medical help to lessen pain and provide comfort.

[1] I found Matthew McCullough’s book, Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope, really helpful and eyeopening. 

Laser Beam Focus on Jesus (not distracting speculation)

Laser Beam Focus on Jesus

The world that we live in is riddled with evil. It’s full of foul and wicked plots. There are many theories and conspiracy theories that tell stories about this world that we live in. Many of these tales are attention-grabbing and even deeply disturbing. How should we respond?

God tells us how we should respond. Here are a few things He tells us:

Laser Beam Focus on Jesus

From the beginning to the end, the story of Scripture is a story about the Savior; our need for a Savior, the coming of the Savior, and the coming quick return of our Savior. Scripture says testify about the Savior! He is who the world needs!

The world does not need just more knowledge or secret knowledge. It doesn’t need to uncover all the plots of man or Satan. The world needs the experiential life-transforming knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and Savior.

Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He’ll even quote God Himself. He’ll give what appears to be secret knowledge as he did to Eve in the Garden. But, that work of Satan is a distraction and diversion from the truth—from Jesus the Savior, answer, and solution.

Do you know who really knows what’s going on behind the scenes?! Not the person on YouTube; no matter what they say or how many followers they have.

We don’t want to be guilty of “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Instead, we want to follow Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastnesses, and persecutions and sufferings (v. 11).

We also need to remember that all Scripture, all the promises of God, find their fulfillment and answer in Jesus. We need to see Jesus, not more videos on various theories. Jesus is the hope and protection of the earth, not some person with some so-called “secret knowledge” of what’s really going on behind the scenes.

That being said, there are evil and deceitful plots going on in the government—in every government. We should not be naive and think there isn’t. But there always has been. There was when Jesus physically walked the earth and Moses too. But what does the Bible say the solution is? And what should be our focus?

People clearly do follow “the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). This world is often a wicked place where people creatively carry out wickedness. That is true. But what’s the solution?

It is certainly true that “ we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Yet, the solution is not some secret knowledge. It’s being “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (v. 10). The solution is taking “up the whole armor of God” (v. 13), not knowing the intimate and hidden details of what the spiritual forces of evil are up to. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus is the one who defeats the wicked powers.

Amid a crooked and perverse generation and while the antichrist or antichrists walk the earth, how are we to respond? How do we steel up ourselves to endure and persevere? It’s not through secret theories that we discover on the internet. No. It’s through holding fast to the word of truth, tenaciously seeking Jesus, and lovingly telling of Him and His goodness.

Jesus has the “words of life.” Jesus is our “first love” and it is He that we need to return to (Revelation 2:4). Notice what 2 Peter 1:3 says: “HIS divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of HIM who called us to his own glory and excellence.” It is in Jesus that “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And the riches of blessing found in Him are limitless.

Thus, we need a laser focus on Jesus. Satan as the great deceiver and destroyer would have us distracted from Jesus by any means possible.

Don’t Waste Time on Old Wives’ Tales

1 Timothy 4:7-8 says: “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths [some translations say, “Old Wives’ Tales.”]. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

In John 17:17 Jesus says we are made holy by the truth and then He says God’s word is that truth. It is all Scripture—not secret theories—that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

We need the words of life to live the life we’re called to live. We need to consume that truth every day and be able to “rightly divide the word of truth” and be like the Bereans and weigh what is said against what the Word of God shows us (Acts 17:11). And we need to be in tight relationship with other Christians so we can be accountable and encouraged by them.

In 1 Timothy 1 Paul urges that people not “teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (v. 3-4). Paul goes on to say, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion” (v. 5-6).

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us what we are to do instead of engaging in “vain discussion,” internet searches, and YouTube consumption: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (v. 1-2). So, instead of reading and watching conspiracies about the government, we are to pray for the government. That’s productive, biblical, and God-honoring.[1] So, if you have concerns about what’s going on in our world and in the government—which you should!—the thing to do is pray, not feed on loads of news and theories about “what’s really happening.”

Paul says that when we pray in this way, it “is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 3-6).

God loves people and wants them to receive salvation through Jesus. So, we pray for them and we share with them. We don’t waste time on speculation and silly myths. Instead, we should seek to be continually captured and enraptured by Christ Jesus, knowing there is solace, depth, mystery, and beauty there to sustain us a thousand lifetimes.

Spend Your Time on the Greatest TRUE Tale

Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” And Paul also said, “Him [Jesus!] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:28-29).

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. What Paul says there is the priority. That’s what “fighting the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7) looks like.

Paul strove and struggled to share the message of the Savior, not a secret message about something going on in the world. Satan would have us distracted from the good news of Jesus—the good news of hope and salvation to a broken and needy world.

When the chaos of wickedness ratchets up in the book of Revelation, what is it God’s people are to do? Protect the world and keep it from destruction through knowing what’s secretly going on behind the scenes and through sharing those hidden things? Is that how the book of Revelation exhorts us to persevere? No.

Revelation is about Jesus and the victory of Jesus. It’s the true story of His final triumph over every evil plot and wicked foe. It holds before us the truth that we are in a cosmic battle, that there is a god of this world who is presently working ruin, but also the truth that the Lion and the Lamb will conquer. That’s the “secret knowledge,” the revealing, the REVELATION we need. We need the true message of Jesus’ victory. We don’t need distracted by lesser stories. Instead, we need again and again to return to and be tethered to Jesus.

So many tales are a distraction from the true and greatest tale. Brothers and sisters, we don’t need new and secret knowledge. We need the old old story again and again. We need to be smothered with the truth of the Savior of the world, not suffocated by secret theories. The hope of the earth is Jesus, not some locked away thing we can learn about on a website somewhere.

We need laser beam focus on Jesus. And we need to share the true story about Him in love. We need to be evangelistic about the good news of Jesus Christ! Not any conspiracy theory.

Notes

[1] I think of Chuck Colson. If there was a theory about the watergate scandal it wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was true. But the answer wasn’t information, it was prayer. God brought Chuck Colson to salvation when he was in prison. Colson has gone on to lead a ministry to those in prison. So, prayer is powerful.

*Photo by Mika Baumeister

“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands

"In those days..." shows us our days are in God's hands

“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree… So Joseph also went up… to Bethlehem…”
(Luke 2:1).
.

One of the most profound parts of the Christmas story is the small phrase “In those days.” This concept comes up repeatedly in the Nativity story. In those days there was a powerful Roman Caesar, a cruel Edomite king, a young virgin girl, an elderly Jewish priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, a righteous but clueless man named Joseph, startled shepherds in the fields,  Magi from the East, a devout man named Simeon, an old prophetess named Anna, and John the Baptist.[1] In those days…

God’s timing has always been perfect and will always be perfect.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…” (Ps. 139:16)

“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live… so that men would seek Him…” (Acts 17:26-27)

“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman born under the law” (Gal. 4:4).

“The mystery… to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment…” (Eph. 1:9-10).

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…” (Rom. 5:6).

“He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” (1 Tim. 2:6).

“The time has come… Repent and believe…” (Mark 1:15).

The coming of the Messiah was with exact timing. God does all things with precise timing.

Historians point out some elements of the exact timing of the arrival of the Messiah:

Pax Romana (Roman Peace)

For around 200 years (BC 27-180AD) there was remarkable peace or lack of war in the Roman empire. This provided a safe passage for the Messiah and His message.

Julius Caesar was killed and his stepson Octavius, later named Augustus, established peace by powerful armies and began taxing people to pay for those armies. He traveled with 23 legions—23,000 men. This tax is what is spoken about in Luke 2:1. Augustus also began the practice of deifying the Caesar. A practice the Jews and Christians resisted.

Roman Roads

During a period of 700 years the Romans built 55,000 miles of roads. These roads were built to move troops and maintain order in the kingdom (similar to our modern interstate system of highways).

The Roman roads were:

  1. straight, the Fosse Way only veered a few miles in 180 mile length
  2. paved with stone, had bridges, and drainage
  3. marked with signs and mapped
  4. protected and patrolled
  5. taxed and tolls were collected
  6. durable, it was the 19th century before roads of this quality and scale were built again

The Romans thought they built roads for the glory of the empire, but in reality, they built them for the glory of God. The Roman roads enabled the Gospel to quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire.

All the way to the British Isle and Germany and France, which affects many of us to this day.

Greek Language

At the time of Christ, the entire Roman empire spoke and wrote the Greek language and used Greek logic. This enabled the good news of Jesus to spread.[2]

The Greeks came first then the Romans. The Greeks by way of Alexander the Great introduced language, culture, and logic. The Romans used Greek culture and language but established Roman government and military might.

There were two Greek languages used, Classical Greek and koine/Common Greek. The koine Greek used Phoenician or Hebrew alphabet.

The Greeks, following Aristotle’s influence, introduced inductive inference/reasoning (e.g. Geometry).[3] Also, reasoned arguments like:

  • All humans are mortal, I am a human, Therefore I am mortal.
  • All have sinned therefore I am a sinner.

Septuagint

Sometime about 300BC in Alexandria Egypt, the Old Testament was translated into koine Greek. Tradition says by 72 translators. This translation is known as the Septuagint or LXX. Again, this prepared the way for the Gospel—God’s Word in man’s language. There is little to no doubt regarding the OT text because of the scholarship of these translators.

Diaspora

Beginning around 600BC, the Jewish people began to emigrate to the Mediterranean basin and eventually into all Europe and the Middle East. This was the initial channel for the Gospel into the cultures of the world.[4]

In the first century (at the time of Christ), there were more Jews living in Alexandria Egypt than in all Judea (see Acts 2:7-11). Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD and all the inhabitants killed and the Jews were driven out of the land. The land was renamed Syria-Palestine. So, Jews emigrated to North Africa, Persia, Caucuses, India, China (Kaifeng) North Europe, and eventually the Americas.

The North American Jews are the most intermarried of all the groups. According to DNA, the North European Jews came from four Germanic women. It is thought Jewish merchants followed Roman legions to Germania and married local women.

Synagogues

Synagogue is a Greek word. Before the coming of the Messiah, the Jews began to develop the concept of the “spiritual temple” as opposed to the actual physical Temple in Jerusalem.  So there were synagogues in all the towns and cities of the Roman empire. The priest became rabbi (cf. Mark 1:21).

This kept Judaism alive in all the diaspora.  There were two distinctives:

  1. Calendar – Sabbath and Feast days (The Greeks and Romans did not have a weekend in their calendar)
  2. Diet – kosher diet

Also, many Gentiles began to enter Judaism. For example, Cornelius in Acts 10:1-2. It was first to these synagogues that the apostles went with the Message (cf. Acts 17:1-4).

“In those days…”

Someone has said: A miracle is an event with precise timing that brings glory to God. This was part of the miracle of Christmas. “In those days…”

Our whole lives are made up of a series of miracles, from arrival to leaving this world. God is still orchestrating all the events of the world and in our individual lives—for His Glory and our good.

As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”

“In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful, in His time
 
Lord, please show me every day,
As You’re teaching me Your way,
That You do just what You say, in Your time.
 
In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful, in Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring,
May each song I have to sing,
Be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.”
.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

The second appearing of the Lord will also be with exact timing. As Matthew 24:36 says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

What is God doing with precise timing in your life today?

Colossians 1:9 should be our prayer: that God would fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

May we all have confidence in the Lord’s good timing this Christmas. As God did long ago—He makes all things beautiful in His time!

Amy, my missionary daughter, has had to wait for a visa and I have had to tell her repeatedly, you need to be patient, this is often the hardest thing for missionaries to do—be patient and wait for the Lord.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8-9).

“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands. And God is faithful.

Notes

[1] See Matt. 1:18-19 for Mary and Joseph, Matt. 2:1 for King Herod, Luke 1:5 for Zechariah and Elizabeth, Luke 2:1 for Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:8 for the shepherds in the field, Luke 2:25 for Simeon, Luke 2:36 for Anna, and Luke 3:1-2 for John the Baptist.

[2] Romans was wrote in precise Greek language and logic.

[3] Aristotle was born near Thessalonica (384-322BC). He was the tutor of Alexander the Great. What bearing does this have on Acts 17:11? Also, note: Very little of Aristotle’s writings remain yet no one doubts the authenticity of his work. Yet many doubt the Scriptures?!

[4] The apostles went to the Jews first (see Acts 17:1-4).

*Photo by Ivana Cajina

500th Blog Post!

500th Blog Post!

Super excited. This is the 500th blog post. And over 21,000 different people from 145 countries have visited the site.

This is great because that’s the purpose of this site, to provide truth that transforms. We want to pepper people’s lives with relevant Christ-centered teaching. We want people to consider Christ and His relevance in their lives.

There are a lot of distractions in the world. A lot of reasons to falsely think Jesus doesn’t matter. We want to be part of counteracting those lies. We want to herald the Truth from the hills and the hollers, from wherever we can, by whatever means we can. Therefore, we will use any means available to reach and teach as many as we can. And we’ve reached a lot of people from some 145 countries!

We are excited about that. But, we’re not done. There are more people to reach. More truth to share. Thus, we forget what lies behind us and strain forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:13).

So, that’s what we’re going to keep working at. We are going to keep sharing relevant truth that transforms. We have some exciting plans for the upcoming year and are happy about what the new writers have to share.

Ways To Support

We have an exciting project coming up that we would love to have you support. We’ll give more information in the coming weeks. But, the short of it is, we are creating a resource that will help people see the relevance of Jesus. It’s created for people that grew up in the church and left the church. For people that know of Christ, but don’t live for Christ.

It’s our prayerful aim to change that.

Here are some ways you can support:

Pray

I know and quote Psalm 127:1 often. It says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Ps. 127:1). I want to reach 10,000 people with this new resource. And I know the Spirit can use it to keep people from limping back and forth, one minute holding Jesus to be relevant and the next irrelevant (2 Kings 18:21). God can awaken hearts to Himself through this resource.

But, for it to happen, it would be a work of the Lord. My part, however, is to do the work. And, I’ll do the work. I’d love for you to pray that I wouldn’t labor in vain. Pray that the Lord would choose to richly repay my work to His glory.

Give

High goals require giving. I’ve given to the goal of writing and sharing truth that transforms. And some of those goals have been met. I’m thankful. And I’m going to keep working and writing (I can’t help it. It’s one of the things my hand has found to do, and I‘m going to work at it with all my might).

But, I want to reach more people. I believe there is a huge need. Especially for my millennial peers and those younger than me. It is for those that I am working on this next resource. I want them to see and eternally savor the glory of Jesus.

So, if you can finically support the work, you can give here.

Share

You can also share and follow on Facebook or whatever platforms you use.

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