Help My Doubt

Faith seeking reason- Mark 9:24

Atheist Conversations

While reviewing my links I realized that I had not visited Jim Henderson’s site in a while. When I went there I learned that he is closing his blog (http://conversationattheedge.com/).

In his final post he implied that he would be continuing his ministry with atheists at a site called “The Practicing Church” (http://thepracticingchurch.com/about/).

While I think the complaints that the emergent church brings up about the traditional church are valid I think this one goes too far. They state clearly that what we believe is a minor issue and servant behavior is a major issue.  Yet Jesus said, “the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29)”.  Belief is not a minor issue it is the major issue and, ironically, correct belief is also the remedy for the problems the emergent church folks hope to change.

I am removing my link to Jim Henderson and will not be promoting The Practicing Church’s version of the emergent church.

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December 29, 2009 Posted by | Doubt | 2 Comments

NotReligion.com

I have been hearing cool sound bites on the local Christian radio station from NotReligion.com and decided to check out the web site myself.

I like the way they present God’s word in simple words and an attractive format. Check out their page called, “Jesus Who?”, at http://www.notreligion.com/index.php/the-answer/The-Problem.html.

Its not about religion but about a relationship with God. So true.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Doubt, God | Leave a comment

Communion with Jesus: Visual Gospel (19)

Introduction

It seems to me that every year after December 26th there comes a sweet and sour recipe of Christmas feelings. Beginning in mid-November around Thanksgiving we feel good with anticipation. Then Black Friday comes and rapidly turns our attention from Thanksgiving to Christmas. By the week before Christmas many of us can barely even concentrate enough to get any work accomplished. Then Christmas Day arrives, presents start flying, food is over-consumed and sweet treats send us on a sugar-high! Finally comes “the day after” when we come face-to-face with the reality that Christmas is over.

Christmas can be an intense example of the typical roller-coaster we call “life”. We all know that there are good things in this life which taste good and smell good and feel good. We also know how quickly those good things in this life can disappear. Christmas is truly great but it seems to be over so quickly. God knows very well how human life can feel because He left the comfort of heaven and experienced it with us.

The Good Times

When it comes to experiencing the exciting things of life I don’t think we American gentiles can fully appreciate what a rush it was for Jesus’ disciples to watch the Messiah’s “Triumphal Entry” as King of Israel and then eat the Passover dinner together in Jerusalem. God said through Isaiah, He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever (Isaiah 9:7). When faithful Jews thought about the Messiah, their Savior, they remembered that “will reign on David’s throne (v.7)”. When they looked at Jesus they saw David who killed Goliath and defeated the Philistines. They saw their future king who would free them from the Roman Caesars and successfully defending the borders of Israel again. Jesus disciples knew that He was the Messiah that would reign, “with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever (Isaiah 9:6-7)”. Jesus had come as King of Israel, from the family of David, and His disciples were very excited!

The Bad Times

What Jesus disciples did NOT understand was that Jesus had to be crucified first. Jesus said, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later (John 13:36).” It is in that word, “later” that causes us so much pain. For many people Christmas is NOT thrilling right now.

  • Children are grown up and living many miles away- separation.
  • Husbands or wives have divorced or died – separation.

Personally, I was reminded of these things last week when I visited my grandfather for the last time. I drove to Meadville a week ago Friday and met my mother, her sister and brother for a meeting with Hospice. We visited each other all day and had a nice lunch together but we knew it would probably be the last time we got together before Grandpa died. When we stopped in his room to say, “goodbye”, he could not open his eyes or talk but he held on to our hands and would not let go. We prayed together, reminded him of his hope of heaven through Jesus and on Monday he died in his sleep. That must be similar to what it felt like when Jesus said, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later (John 13:36).”

The Solution

At a time of deep disappointment, confusion and sadness Jesus said, “1Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3)”. In this world of ups and downs the only way to live with constant joy is to “trust in God; and also Jesus (v.1)”.

  • Even though there are sinful people in this world who cause pain they will all answer to God- later.
  • Even though many faithful people have died they will all be with God- later.

God knows how sweet and sour life can be. That’s why He left the comfort of heaven to become our Prince of Peace.

The Sunday after Christmas is NOT a good time to do a lot of bible teaching. It is a time to remember, reflect and to bring our feelings to God.

  • Have you come to worship today with positive feelings of joy and love? Praise God in prayer.
  • Have you come to worship today with negative feelings of grief and disappointment? Trust God.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me (John 14:1)”.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | Christmas, Sermons | 4 Comments

Communion with Jesus: Visual Gospel (18)

Like “The Ghost of Christmas Past” in “A Christmas Carol” I would like to take you on a trip backwards in time and revisit Jesus’ last supper:

We are all taken out these windows, east through the sky, off of the east coast of the USA, across the ocean to the west coast of Israel and over the old city of Jerusalem onto the roof of a 2-story home in the year 35 A.D. There is a group of Jewish men sitting on pillows around a table eating lamb by the light of a few oil lamps. The voice of an invisible angel says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist (John 13:3-4)”.

  • As Jesus stood up to take off his outer clothing to reveal his bare chest and arms and legs he remembered how awkward Adam and Eve had felt the first time they looked at themselves and realized they were naked.
  • He remembered how Satan had succeeding in tempting Eve to disobey God by eating from the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”.
  • Jesus remembered God’s promise that one day one of Eve’s descendants would “crush Satan’s head”.

Jesus smiled as he wrapped the towel around his waist because he, “knew that the Father had put all things under his power (John 13:1-1)”.

Still looking down through the ceiling we can see as Jesus says to Peter, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand (John 13:7)”. Jesus knew, at this time, that he was the only One in the room who understood what He was saying and doing.

  • He remembered how often his disciples had misunderstood Him, even on this night when he took the cup and said, “this is my blood of the New Covenant, shed for the forgiveness of sin (Lk.22:20)”, His disciples looked at each another in confusion and could not understand what He was talking about.
  • Jesus couldn’t wait for the day when He would finally return to the Father and send His Holy Spirit into the hearts and minds of his disciples.

Jesus felt butterflies in his stomach as he said, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand (John 13:6-11)”.

At the same time Jesus knew that His disciples could understand some of His teaching, so he said, “ 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (John 13:15-17).

Jesus’ disciples did understand this part, and you should have seen the look on their faces! They whispered to one another, “Does he really expect us to wash each other’s feet from now on? When we walk back home to Galilee am I supposed to wrap a towel around my waist and offer to wash your feet?” What a shock it was to them to see Jesus do the work of a servant girl and then turn it around on them. They all began to remember how “the sinful woman” first washed Jesus feet with her tears, oil and wiped them with her hair. The also remembered, just 5 days ago, when Mary washed Jesus’ feet with perfume and her hair! They all knew very clearly that Jesus wanted them to love one another to the point of doing the work no one else wants to do.

When it comes to Christmas, it should be easy to see how we, “will be blessed if you do them (John 13:17). I think we can all agree that Jesus would not be a man that sits around watching TV while the women cook or do the dishes alone. Jesus would not be a woman who makes herself busy in the kitchen so that she can avoid talking to difficult relatives. Jesus would not be a teen or child who complains about having to do some work on Christmas vacation. Rather, Jesus would have us all help as loving servants.

When Jesus washed His disciples feet He also said, “15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:15)”. We know that Jesus WAS talking about loving one another like forgiven servant girls. Are you obeying Jesus by loving like He did?

When Jesus washed Peter’s feet He said, ““Unless I wash you, you have no part with me (John 13:8).” We know that Jesus was NOT talking about starting a “clean feet club”. He was talking about washing away Peter’s daily sins. Are you allowing Jesus to wash away your daily sins?

17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them

(John 13:17).

December 21, 2009 Posted by | Christmas, Sermons | Leave a comment

Communion with Jesus: Visual Gospel (17)

If we are ever going to understand the “Good News” of Jesus we must first face the reality of the war between light and darkness. Jesus said, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you (v.35)”. Darkness can be seen in the people who believed in Jesus but would not confess their faith because “they loved praise from men more than praise from God (v.43)”. The ordinary example of that today are the comfortable Christians in America who love to go to church but don’t have a single non-Christian friend.

  • They complain about gay marriage but would never make a gay friend to love them out of it.
  • They complain about abortion but would never consider adoption or helping with foster care.
  • They complain about alcoholism but never invite an AA group to use the church.
  • They complain about teenage drug abuse but would never open their church for a youth ministry.
  • They don’t have any non-Christian friends- and they like it that way!

Those are the ones who, “love praise from men more than praise from God (v.43)”. Jesus, on the other hand, describes himself as a light shining into the darkness.

Jesus is described as having “glory” which is nothing like the glory of men.  Six times in these few paragraphs we hear the word “glory” used to describe God and Jesus. Five of these words for “glory” are easier to understand because they are what we do (verb) in worship. We talk/sing/pray about Jesus and “glorify” Him by remembering His miracles and love. But one of these words for “glory” is harder to understand because it is something that Jesus is (noun) but it is much more exciting! John wrote that Isaiah, “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him (v.41)”. Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory” but he lived hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus was born. God must have revealed to Isaiah the “glory” that Jesus had with God in heaven before He became a man!

For example, English words we often use for “glory”: honor, splendor, excellence, illustrious, dignity, worth, brightness, magnificence, grace, majesty, perfection, blessedness, beauty, grandeur, brilliance, fame, respectful, loving, esteemed, luxurious, outstanding, exceptional, superb, tremendous, valuable, merit, appealing, significant, attractive, important, meaningful, radiant, high, lofty. Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory (v.41). That’s what Jesus is- He is “glory” and He is the “light”!

Jesus has “glory” which is so unlike anything in any other man on earth that he is described as “light” in a land of darkness. He was born into a world of depressing darkness but invites us to become children of the light. What and incredible offer it is to hear Jesus say, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons (and daughters) of light (v.36)”.

  • There will always be those who don’t believe but we can be those who do believe.
  • There will always be those who love the darkness but we can be those who love the light.

For example, a few days after “The Triumphal Entry” Jesus would pray about His disciples saying, I have given them the glory (Strong’s #1391) that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one (John 17:22). The “glory” that Isaiah saw in Jesus is the very same “glory” that Jesus gave to His disciples! The “glory” of God is the Holy Spirit of God which fills God, Jesus and the human heart that trusts in Jesus. So, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons (and daughters) of light (v.36)”.

“Communion with Jesus”, this week, is understanding the “glory” of Jesus. God gave His glorious light to Jesus and He also offers it to wo/men who trust in Him!

  • Have you trusted in Jesus and become a son/daughter of the light?
  • If you already have, did you need to be reminded today that you are a child of the light?

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me (v.26)”.

As we approach Christmas time, let’s prepare to “Commune with Jesus” by trusting and serving with all our heart.

December 14, 2009 Posted by | Christmas, Sermons | 3 Comments

Pastor’s Ponderings…

What do you think of when you hear the word, “Advent”? Do you think of the advent candles with the wreath and pretty decorations of red and gold and green? Those are the kinds of things I think about when I hear the word, “Advent”, not Jesus.

Unfortunately, I don’t think most people understand the meaning of Advent anymore. I think it has become a word like, “Sanctification” or “Eucharist” or “Pentecost”. They are religious words that most normal people don’t even understand today.

I’d like to try something different to honor the birth of Jesus this year. I’d like to watch the history of the One who came from God. I’d like to talk about Jesus, not Advent.

I do want to see the church decorated with Christmas colors and traditional symbols. I like lighting the advent candles too. But let’s be careful not to confuse people with religious language. Let’s simply focus on the birth, life and rising of God’s Son this year.

John said, “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name (Jn.20:31). We believe and we have life because of Jesus. Let’s celebrate Jesus and help other to believe this Christmas!

December 7, 2009 Posted by | Ponderings | Leave a comment

Communion with Jesus: Visual Gospel (16)

Challenge

Those of us who are Christians have heard the history of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead before. We love imagining what it must have been like to eat a dinner with Jesus and Lazarus, whom had been dead for 4 days. We love hearing about Mary, who always seems to be at Jesus’ feet, and Martha, who always seems to be serving in the kitchen. However, we may not have noticed what a challenge the first word creates for bible-believing Christians.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead (John 12:1).

All four gospels record the history of Jesus having a woman apply perfume to him during a dinner:

  • Two days away (Matthew 26:2)”.
  • Two days away (Mark 14:1)”.
  • While John the Baptist was alive (Lk.7:18).
  • Six days before the Passover (John 12:1)”.

Some unbelieving people would point at this difference and argue that the Bible is not God’s word. They suggest that John made a mistake and that proves the Bible is full of mistakes, unreliable and no different than any other man-made book. However, John said that he wrote this gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31)”. Therefore I would like to encourage you and explain how John’s gospel and the other 3 gospels fit consistently together.

Luke

The Gospel according to Luke is the one we often begin with at Christmas time. It has a beautiful way of telling the details of Jesus’ miraculous birth by Mary who had never been with a man, witnessed by shepherds who saw angels and as a 12-year-old boy amazing the temple priests by His divine wisdom. Luke goes on to tell the history of John the Baptist, who preached to Israel that the Savior of God was soon coming. Even though John baptized Jesus and announced Him as the Son of God, he later began to doubt, so he sent his disciples to Jesus for encouragement. Jesus encouraged John to believe that He is the Messiah and it is at this time that Jesus was invited to his first dinner party where “a sinful woman…poured perfume on his feet (Lk.7:38)”. Not long after that first dinner, near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus “walked on water” and “calmed the storm” in the presence of his disciples who witnessed these miracles.

John

John also recorded the history of Jesus “walking on water” and, from there, includes more of His public ministry for over 2 years as He traveled north and south throughout Israel from Galilee to Jerusalem and everywhere in between. At long last, we come to the last month or two of Jesus’ life before being crucified and his friend, Lazarus dies. Jesus was in Jerusalem, only 2 miles away, but delays going to Bethany until Lazarus had been dead already 4 days. Of course, Jesus raises him back to life again, many people put their faith in him but the Jewish leaders looked for ways to kill both him and Lazarus. Finally, we come to the last week of Jesus’ life and the dinner which John says took place, Six days before the Passover (John 12:1)”. This is Jesus’ “dinner #2” at which, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet (John 12:3)”. One of the reasons it makes sense to believe that there were 3 of these dinners is because John says that The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem happened, “the next day (Jn.12:12)”.

Matthew

Matthew and Mark also record The Triumphal Entry, after which Jesus promptly, “entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there (Mt.21:12)”. For several days Jesus remained in Jerusalem warning his disciples and the Pharisees about The Signs of the End, The Parable of the Talents and The Sheep and the Goats. It is after these events that Jesus said, “As you know, the Passover is two days away- and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified (Mt.26:2)”. Then Jesus had his 3rd dinner, “in the home of Simon the Leper (Mt.26:6)”. A woman broke a bottle of perfume open and poured it on Jesus’ head.

Lightfoot

One bible teacher outlined the life of Jesus so clearly that he said the 3rd dinner occurred on a Tuesday night and by Friday afternoon Jesus was dead. All 4 of these gospel histories make it clear that these women poured perfume on Jesus because he was going to die for the sins of the world.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial (John 12:7)”.

Three days later Jesus was dead. But three days more and Jesus was alive!

Conclusion

John wrote this gospel, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31)”.

  • Can you imagine eating dinner with Lazarus and Mary and Martha after Jesus raised him from the dead?
  • Can you imagine eating dinner with them after Jesus was raised from the dead?
  • Can you imagine eating dinner with them after Jesus raises you from the dead?

Sometimes life can cause us to doubt what God said in Scripture. But if we trust in Jesus then we, “may have life in his name (Jn.20:31)”.

December 7, 2009 Posted by | Sermons | Leave a comment