Aren’t Miracles Impossible?

Aren’t miracles impossible?  What is a miracle?  Why are miracles important to Christian faith?

Here’s episode 3 of a series I am working on with Square One Media.

Advertisements

Big Questions – why are we wrestling?

Only the best of free online stock photography for my blog.

Only the best of free online stock photography for my blog.

Having had a number of Question Nights at my church, I’ve learned a little about how and why people ask questions.

Asking questions of faith is important and good.  But we’re not really thinking about simply information-seeking questions.  What people are normally chewing are the Big Questions.  Like, how can I reconcile God’s goodness with suffering in the world?  Or, how free is our human will?  For someone who has some familiarity with the Biblical story made they’ve asked:  How could God apparently command the slaughter of Canaanites?

These are big questions that are not to be lightly skipped past.  They’re serious and they matter.  Every serious person of faith, or reader of the Bible, has probably wrestled at least a bit with ones like them.  But as we ask our question, let’s ask ourselves, why are we wrestling?

Sometimes we wrestle because we want an answer we don’t have.  Some things are really unknown.  We can be wrestling in order to make sense of something.  Like how can God be good and permit/allow/ordain suffering?  (That question is super old, by the way, so no points for originality).  There are things to discover about that issue, and sometimes they take a lot of wrestling.

But…

Sometimes we wrestle because we have an apparent answer that we don’t like.  A lot of wrestling with big questions is, after it all, is just this.  God really does appear to command the slaughter of Canaanites.  That is not that obscure.  Like previously, there are things to discover about that that could help us in our wrestling.  But the question comes back to us:  Do you like the answers?

Whatever you do… (how would Jesus do your job?)

workplace

 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

I remember working in a group home with some young men with developmental disabilities.  It wasn’t glamourous.  But I remember being able to find meaning in it when I decided to do my work “as a Christian”.  That didn’t mean a fundamental change in the tasks accomplished.  What that did mean was that I decided to do them for the Lord.  It made all the difference.

Dallas Willard even encourages us to see our daily work as a place of glory – an opportunity for discipleship:

Consider just your job, the work you do to make a living.  This is one of the clearest ways possible of focusing upon apprenticeship to Jesus.  To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it.  New Testament language for this is to do it “in the name” of Jesus…

But how, exactly, is one to make one’s job a primary place of apprenticeship to Jesus?…

A gentle but firm non-cooperation with things that everyone knows to be wrong, together with a sensitive, non-officious, non-intrusive, non-obsequious service to others, should be our overt manner.  This should be combined with inward attitudes of constant prayer for whatever kind of activity our workplace requires and genuine love for everyone involved…

But, once again, the specific work to be done – whether it is making ax handles or tacos, selling automobiles or teaching kindergarten, investment banking or political office, evangelizing or running a Christian educational program, performing in the arts or teaching English as a second language – is of central interest to God.  He wants it well done.  It is work that should be done, and it should be done as Jesus himself would do it.  Nothing can substitute for that.*

 

 

* Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, pages 285-286

What is for Christians? (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYWhat is for Christians?  When we are Christian what do we receive?  What is for us?  Another 3 part answer comes to us from Jude’s intro.  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. (v 2)  That right there, is a blessing.  We’re blessed with these three things.

Mercy.  The mercy of God coming to us.  We are not treated as we ought to be because of our sins.  God could justly treat us in a certain way but he treats us in the opposite.  That’s mercy.  Peace. Peace in the Bible usually doesn’t mean a kind of ‘inner peace’ that we may long for (although that may be a great thing).  It usually means peace between two or more parties.  God has made peace with us and bridged the animosity we’ve had towards Him.  Love.  The greatest of things is love.  Love is not mere feeling but neither is it dispassionate posture.  It is complete self-giving towards another.  God has given us love in Christ.

Christians are blessed with Mercy, Peace, and Love.  This is what is for Christians.   But we’re not merely to receive these things but to give them out as well.  As we’ve received so we must give mercy, peace, and love to others.  What is for us must also be what we are for.

What is a Christian? (Jude in July)

JUDE in JULYWhat is a Christian?  What are we when we call ourselves Christian?  A million possible answers could pop into our heads and many may be very insightful.  None is better, though, than the heart-warming nugget contained in the intro to the letter of Jude.  (I’m preaching through this small, strange, and often neglected letter through July and I’ll be micro-posting along with that).
Jude greets the Christians he’s writing to as …those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for [by] Jesus Christ. (v 1b)  There, concisely and beautifully, is what we are when we call ourselves Christian.  We are:

Called. To be Christian is to have heard the call of God and responded.  God is all about calling a people to Himself.  Starting with Abraham, the nation of Israel, the inclusion of the Gentiles (non-Jews), and right up to the present day.  To be Christian is to be a part of that.  It’s right even to say that “called” is almost synonymous with “Christian”.

Beloved.  Loved by God, specifically by the Father, that’s what a Christian is.  Be careful to not dismiss this as mere idea; the Father’s love is to be experienced.  To be the object of such love is the privilege of all Christians.

Kept.  Either to be kept for service to Jesus or kept by His faithful preservation.  Both options are encouraging and blessed.  We’re neither purposeless nor left to our own devices.  Jesus does not save us from our sins and then leave on our own.  We’re kept.  Safe and sound by his care.

What is a Christian?  Called, Beloved, Kept.

Who Am I? vs Who Are You?

How do we respond to God properly?  How do we respond with thankfulness and not with presumption?  How does our response show how we have received (or not received) His grace?

"I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord..." King David Playing the Harp, Gerard von Honthorst, 17th C

“I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord…”
King David Playing the Harp, Gerard von Honthorst, 17th C

King David was a man of many failures.  Also, he had many high points in his relationship with God.  Perhaps that is why he can be of such help to us as we all struggle/stumble/trip/fall/get back up in our pursuit of God.

2 Samuel 7 records an amazing prayer of thankfulness that David prayed God makes covenant with him.  It is well worth meditating upon but the first line jumps off the page.

Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?

This is how to pray.  This is prayer to God that understands his grace.  And when we understand God’s grace, our disposition to Him will be similar.  When we don’t, it tends to veer to the opposite.

Who am I?   David prays with total humble thankfulness.  He knows that he deserves nothing from God.  Why?  Because he remembers where he’s from and that it was God’s grace alone that brought him to where he is.  He is King (no small achievement).  he has had success (by God’s power).  And he knows that everything is his life is a gift (it’s this way for us all).  He has a low view of himself and his efforts – not in a low self-esteem way but a healthy way.  He has no sense of entitlement.  He is at the top of his life and knows he doesn’t deserve.  God’s grace has made him amazed, thankful, and reverently worshipful.  He gives all the glory to God.  This is a response of one who has a sense of God’s grace.

Who are You?  Without a grasp of grace, we will either become arrogant in ourselves or will turn demanding of God.  Instead of an amazed ‘who am I?’, we may begin to ask God ‘who are you?’.  Not in a searching, seeking way but in a demanding way.  We believe that God owes us something – for our good behaviour, or just because we’re entitled to a good life.  But we’re not.  Everything comes as a gift from God.  When we forget that, our amazed thankfulness will turn to demand.  And because the life we want is rarely the life we get, we could doubt God’s goodness or blame Him in some way.  Who are You? we could ask, demanding that He give the life we desire.

God’s grace given to the undeserving is the heart of Christian faith and a key to the amazed, worshipful, and thankful soul.