Category Archives: Religion
Well, yesterday was Thanksgiving here in america. It is a wonderful time for food, family, and football. But it’s original purpose was a say to give thanks. Sadly this aspect has become a tertiary purpose at best.
We relegate thanks to one team per person before the meal. Then, often we seem to give ours begrudgingly. If we are truly thankful, we should be bursting with Joy when we tell of our blessing.
So, with joy bursting inside of me, I would like to share one of my favorite things to be thankful for…
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV)
How great a passage is this?
I rejoice over this passage. I celebrate this passage. I will never forget the time my good friend Pastor Alan Koch sat down and explained how he derived his church name, (Christ Triumphant Church in Lee’s Summit, MO) from this passage.
So let me dig into this passage a little and take just a moment to show you why it has been so meaningful to me.
First, Paul begins by giving thanks to God. However, He doesn’t just say thank you, He explains to us what He is thankful for and this allows us to share in His thanksgiving.
He is thankful because God always leads us in Triumph. Think about that, God never leads us in fear our doubt, no! God leads us in Triumph. But not just any triumph. Paul is very specific. We are lead in triumph in Christ Jesus.
It isn’t enough to know that God is leading us in triumph. God wants us to know what Triumph looks like. Triumph looks like a slain Lamb who overcomes the world, sin, and the grave.
But Do not stop there… The passage continues. Paul is thankful because God uses us. He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere. We literally become God’s candles. Jesus said we are the light of the world. that light descended in Acts two like a flame over our heads. This is the image of the Candle.
God allows us to spread His knowledge like light and like fragrance. However, just like any candle there will be two reactions. First there are those who love the candle and want to have it in their home. these are the people who are being saved. But to others our fragrance will be rank. These are the people who are far from Christ and on the fast road to death.
We should intend in our hearts today to be like Paul. We should be thankful that we are in Christ. We should rejoice that we are walking in His victory. We should Celebrate that He uses us to spread His knowledge. We should Give thanks that we smell like Him, even when it causes others to gag.
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
I am reading a book. It is called “Make Fear Bow” by Gary Whetstone. This book is challenging me to deal with the areas of fear I still hold in my life. It was recommended to me by a friend, and even though I am not finished with it, I already recommend it. It will challenge you to deal with fear, as well as helping identify the root causes of your fears. However, that is not exactly what this article is about. I could discuss fear, but really its a minor aside he made that prompted this writing. He briefly mentions a passage in Jeremiah which has had me stuck for about a day. Its chapter 17, verses 5-10 let me share them here.
Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
The Desert Shrub
So let’s begin with the first verse. In it, God shows us three stages of falling away.
- Trusting in Man
- Trusting in Self (Arm of Flesh)
- Turned Heart
I believe that these three things are actually a pattern. We do number one, then when it fails we do number two. When we realize number doesn’t work, we blame God as if it was His fault that our strength failed. So finally our heart turns from Him. In reality our heart has been turning in each of the previous stages, but stage three is where we actually acknowledge it for ourselves.
What is interesting is that God tells us that following this pattern brings a curse. Its actually a cause and effect. Because you followed this pattern it leads you to its natural end. The Curse. So what is this curse? ” He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
Now we know that you don’t physically become a shrub in th desert, this passage has prophetic implications. You see, the bible tells us that there is a river that flows from the throne of God and it a river of peace, pleasure, and gladness. (psalm 46:4, Psalm 36:8, Isaiah 66:12) When your heart trust in God, you are connected to this river. Its life giving waters overflowing within your soul. When you are connected to this river you bear fruit and grow, and live. (Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22)
However, when you are disconnected from this river you are not being fed from its waters. Instead of partaking in the life of God, you are dry and barren. Instead of the life giving fresh water that never runs dry, you get salt water, barrenness, and desert dry living. How awful is that.
What’s worse is that the scripture says, “…and shall not see any good come.” This doesn’t mean there is no Good, but rather that you are blinded from seeing it. Because God is the source of everything Good, when you are not recognizing Him, you are unable to recognize His goodness, and His blessing.
Being disconnected from the river of God is equivalent to giving yourself over to spiritual death. You turn from God, and all of His goodness and instead are met with death, dehydration, and depravity. If this is you, I want you to take a minute and realize that God does not desire this for you. His heart for you is to prosper you, to bless you, and to give you good things. (Jeremiah 29:11) The dry and barren land you feel is a direct result of your not trusting in God and trusting in self and others.
If this is where you are, turn your heart to God. Even though all you can SEE is dry, death, broken, and barren. You need to know that God has good things for you. You need to be willing to trust God and His plans even though at the moment you cannot see them. Take a moment now to pray and ask God to forgive you for trusting in others, for trusting in yourself, and not trusting Him. Ask Him to pull you out of the barrenness and bring you back to the living waters and His blessing.
The Tree Rooted to the River
Now, the second portion of the passage shows us the blessing for those who do trust in God. ” He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
This is literally the exact opposite of what happens when you turn from God. You are planted with roots that go deep and reach the stream. His water continually supplies life. You are green with life and you produce fruit. Not only once in a while, but continually. You consistently bear fruit as you are planted in Him, because His living water gives you the nutrients of His Spirit to produce fruit in your life.
Further, being securely rooted in the ground and attached to the river means you do not have to fear the heat. When you have the water, the heat can’t destroy you. But if you are dry, you become tinder for fire, and the heat can burn you up and leave you with only a pile of ash.
The Human Heart
The final portion of the passage deals with the human heart. God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
The world constantly tells us cold clichés like “Follow your heart” or “Listen To Your Heart.” but this is stupid. It doesn’t take a bible scholar to tell you the heart is a liar. That is why people who follow their heart often find themselves hurt and broken. Half of the time we don’t even know our own heart. In fact its not till we are truly tested by fire that we begin to realize what is truly down in our heart. Some find nobility and character, but the majority of us find ourselves lacking.
This is the reason that time and time again the Bible encourages us to Trust in the Lord. Becuase He knows the human heart better than we do. He made it, formed it, and has the ability to truly read it. So instead of relying on man, or your own heart. Let God be your source and your supply. Let Him guide you. So I want you to think on it. To pray on it. To meditate on the scriptures we have discussed. Finally I have one last scripture to leave you with. I know you are already well familiar with it. So Read it and then live it out.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I want to say upfront that this is not a synopsis of the movie, so I will try to hold off from major spoilers. However, Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents a world-view that is very unique and seems almost inconceivable to many. So if you read this, be warned you many see minor spoilers. You may want to have watched the movie before you read this.
So Captain America is a man with a unique take on the world. He was born an raised in the era Leading up to and during the second world war, but thanks to being frozen has found himself in the modern age. These two worlds couldn’t be more different. Or perhaps they are much more similar than we would care to believe.
During the war, everything was pretty clear. America Good, Hitler Bad. If you just knew that everything fell into place. You knew that the villains intended to kill, steal, and destroy. So you did what you had to in order to stop them. This is how it worked. But this world is not that world. So thee is this struggle with the world trying to convince Captain America to conform to the modern era. This is exemplified in a scene where Captain America is Speaking with Nick Fury after being shown the helicarriers (Flying aircraft carriers) Where Fury explains that they ships will take out threats before they happen. Captain America has a strong reaction…
“That’s not freedom. That’s fear.”
When he says this, Nick Fury get a little angry and retorts,
“We take the world as it is Captain.Not as we would like it to be. It’s about Damn time you got with that program…”
Right here we see the chief struggle of the movie. The Captain is a man of Absolutes; Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Freedom and Fear. Captain America doesn’t dance in the grey areas, and he doesn’t hide in the shadows. The fact that the world wants him to conform to secrets, shadows, and moral ambiguity doesn’t sit well with him.
This is the modern life. The world has definitely changed. There is no good and evil. There is no right and wrong. There is only life. The thing tat is right for me is wrong for you and thats OK, because we are tolerant. Its this shadow that gives Evil a place to grow. Because S.H.I.E.L.D. thrived and embraced moral ambiguity and a life in the shadows, there was no light to shine on the evil that had grown within their own ranks.
Welcome to the real world. If you are reading this, you know that I am a Christian. Chances are that you would call yourself one too. Therefore you know that we should be Captain America. The problem is that more often than we care to admit, we bow to compromise. Despite the desire to be the Super Soldier, more often we become the man who lives in the shadows. Whilst we talk like the idealist, our actions betray us. We are Nick Fury.
As the movie continues, we see something interesting. Captain America and his resolve proves to be right. In the end the compromise of S.H.I.E.L.D. leads to its downfall, and even Nick Fury himself has to admit tat the whole system is broken. This is troublesome, and difficult for Fury to accept. The people he has believed in, the thing that he spent his life fighting for was ntohing more than a broken system and a failed ideology.
Welcome to the real world. A system of moral ambiguity will always fail. If a game doesn’t have set rules it can never be won. The best you can do is to hold of defeat a little while longer. But eventually the compromise you have given in to will eventually rise up and take you out.
Welcome to the real world. No matter how hard you try to ignore it it creeps up on you. That is why in a world filled with men like Nick Fury, Captain America is the Hero we need. We need men who lack compromise. Who live in the Light and shine the light in the darkness to make all the roaches scatter.
We do not need another person comfortable with secrecy, shadows, and fear. We need FREEDOM, We need TRUTH, and we need LIGHT. Will you stand and be counted as a Captain America? Or will you fall with the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. and try to survive the failure of the world? Other heroes have claimed to be the Hero we needed, but none have actually been. Captain America, the man out of time, the man without compromise. He is the Hero we desperately need.
I saw a picture. It had twenty musicians on it who are all dead, and the caption was, “If you could see any one of these musicians live, who would it be.
What I found interesting was that with the exception of Beethoven all of the musicians were people from the last 50 years give or take. Most of the comments were stereotypical answers; Hendrix, Queen, Michael Jackson, etc…
However instantly I knew without question who I wanted to see. I wanted Beethoven. You see, with every other musician on the list we have recordings, some even video of them performing.
Beethoven is different. He never recorded his own music. All we have from him is sheet music. The recordings we listen to are someones interpretation of his work. I wonder what it sounded like the first time Beethoven sat down at a piano and played the first few notes of Fur Elise?
Can you imagine what it was like hearing it for the first time. To us it is a familiar tune. We have heard it time and time again. Its so familiar that most people can hum it without thinking.
But when we hear it played, it is always someone other than Beethoven at the piano. What would it be like to sit with Him and see his face as he struck the keys. To watch his passion as he furiously let his fingers dance across the piano. We will never know for sure, but I imagine it was magical. That is why His music is still being played all over the world today.
I however often feel this way of theologians as well. I never got to hear a sermon from the Wesley’s, or John Calvin, or Athanasius, or Paul, Peter, John, etc… I know what they believed based solely on their writings, but what would it be like to have actually been there and heard them as they preached.
I would love to see the look on people’s faces when Peter first explained the power of Pentecost. Or to watch as Jesus shared his heart to the people when He preached the sermon on the mount. In our reading, we can become so familiar with the text that we often forget its passion. Beethoven had passion and we will never see it. But we can get a glimpse of it in the recordings people have done of his work.
There is a raw emotion in music, that is amazing to capture. Yet, the raw emotion of the Christian faith is overwhelmingly beautiful. It goes beyond all our imagination. Beethoven’s passion was his blood, sweat, and tears, poured into music. For Christ, His blood, Sweat, and Tears were poured out on the ground for all the earth. This raw emotion, this passion, this is what drove every great man of the faith. It caused us to push farther and pursue longer.
Sometimes, in our intellectual society I think we lose the raw nature of the emotion. I think it might serve us well to take a moment and get raw. To let the honest emotion of the cross overwhelm us again. Especially as we are coming up to the time of the year where we celebrate, and remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Passion of Christ.
Take a moment this week and let that passion, that raw emotion overwhelm you and don’t suppress the emotions you feel. If you need to weep, then let the tears flow. If you need to shout, then shout it out. If you need to fall at His feet as though you were dead, you are in good company. But please, let the raw emotion of the Passion of Christ move you.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
1st Timothy 12-17
I absolutely love this passage of scripture. It is one of my all time favourites. I know people often say that, but this is true. I really think this is a portion of scripture that we all need to not only read, but memorize and get deep down inside us. This is about Humility. Paul, who was an apostle, a wise man, a strong leader, a great author, and one of the most foundational members of our faith. If there was ever a man who had a good reason to be proud it was Paul.
Think about it, if you argued doctrine with him, he could just quote himself from one of his writings. He could lay the proverbial smack down on you. Yet when he was talking to his disciple, the one who he was training to do his ministry, this is how he described himself. He says “I thank Jesus Christ… He has strengthened me… He considered me faithful… putting me into service.”
Think about that perspective. He is saying here “I thank God, He is the one who makes the ministry possible, not me.” Furthermore, he recognizes who he was, and all of the issues that he had. He called himself the chief of sinners. He didn’t think of himself as someone who was high and mighty. Someone who was better than. No, he remembered that He was someone who God brought out of sin. It was this humility that helped him to love the people that God was calling him to.
This is a common theme among many great leaders in the Bible. I love what King David said in Psalm 18:
“The God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.”
Here David, the King of Israel, the man who God called and appointed, gives all the credit to God. Look how this portion ends, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.” I love this, He recognizes that it is the right hand of the Lo rd upholds and Lifts Him. He recognized that even though He was a big shot in the worlds eye, It was the Hand of God that held him up and gave him that position.
After the birth of the Church, signs and wonders began to be shown through the Apostles. One great moment came in Acts three when Peter and John were up at the temple. This one day in particular, they had the opportunity to pray for a man who couldn’t walk, and God healed him.
But, when all the people were suddenly crowding Peter and John (as will happen when you start seeing the power of God released in your life.) They didn’t use it as an opportunity to pass the bucket or the business cards. They diverted the attention back to Jesus.
“Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…”
That quote was from NASB which is how I usually quote, and says “Not by our own power or piety.” The NIV says, “by our own power or godliness” the KJV says “by our own power or holiness” But the Key in this verse is that it isn’t something that we did, but Jesus working through us.
As people we are often full of ourselves. We tend towards wanting to be recognized and great. This isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it can lead to bad things if the one we want to recognize us is anyone other than Jesus. If we find our significance and greatness in ourself or other people, we have missed it. Men may exalt us for a time, but only God will recognize us forever.
This is a trustworthy saying and worthy of full acceptance.
“He must increase, and I must decrease.” – John the Baptist.
Let us commit these scriptures to more than just our memory, but to our way of life. If these scriptures become the mode in which we think and live, then we will begin to see our love for others grow. Then we will see people being drawn to us because of our love. The bible never said that they will know we are Christians because of how great we are. No, rather they will know we are Christians by our Love.
Today is the national day of Prayer. This is actually one of my favorite and most depressed days of the year. I believe in the power of Prayer. I have seen pray change situations for people. I have seen God answer prayers. I have seen provision, healing, love, Joy, and much more restored to people after praying.
This is a day when Christians all over the globe are supposed to set aside special time, and rather than praying for ourselves, praying for our Nation. I know this nation is in serious need. I can look at the violence, the terror, the immorality, the brokenness, the depression, and I know we need prayer.
Let’s remember the words God spoke to The King of Israel in 2nd Chronicles 7:12-16
“Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.'”
Today was a cold and rainy day here in Lawrence, and I think it is a reminder to me, and hopefully to others. “If I shut the heavens that there be no rain…” Yet today on this day where we worship, repent, and pray for our nation. Today there is RAIN!
Tonight all around the nation, churches will be having special prayer gatherings, but if you can’t make one of those please turn off the computer/phone/tv/etc… Just take time to pray for our Nation. We need restoration. We need Restoration.
If you are in Johnson County, KS. I am leading worship for a gathering on the campus of Johnson County College. GEB Building Room 233. If you can make it, awesome. If you can’t that is ok, just please take time and really cry out to God. Now, I know this is a short thing, but I have to head out to catch the bus to the college.
One of the things that we as Chrisitans often say is that God created the universe out of nothing. We say, “There was nothing, God spoke, there was something. Boom.” This leads fans of science to consider us lunatics. They thing that we are insane. Let’s face it, that does sound a little crazy, science told us hundreds of years ago that something does not come from nothing.
This is an idea called spontaneous generation. If you took middle school science you remember this. You learned about the experiment with the meat and the bugs. If you don’t know the experiment in question. People recognized that if rotten meat was left out, maggots and flies would spring up, and the theory was that the maggots and flies were born from the rotten meat. However Francisco Reddi disproved this by simply putting a jar over a piece of meat and showing that it did not create bugs.
Then finally in 1859 Louis Pasteur definitively disproved the theory with an experiment. You know Pasteur, the man who made milk ‘safe’ to drink. Yeah, he proved once and for all that something does not come from nothing. So why then do people try to continue the myth that God created everything out of nothing?
I think this is a simple misunderstanding of the creation account. Let’s look at Genesis 1.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3
In this passage it just says God created the heavens and the earth. It doesn’t say they came out of nothing, but since nothing is recorded previous to this, it is assumed that nothing became something. This isn’t true however. Let’s look at another great verse, this time from Hebrews.
“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. ” Hebrews 11:3
Words were prepared by The “Word of God.” What is seen was made of things that were invisible…. This is the crux of this statement. We know that The word of God made invisible things into visible things, and made the world. This idea actually lines up better with science. Because as the first law of thermodynamics teaches, “Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.” We call this law, The Conservation of Energy.
So, when we take the Genesis account in the context of Hebrews 3, we see that invisible things “energy” were made visible to become the universe. When God spoke into His Hovering Spirit, He was focusing energy into matter. Now, imagine that you are talking to someone who is unchristian and believes only in science. If you were to discuss the creation story with them in this context, they might not believe you, but perhaps they would be more willing to listen.
When it comes to Science and religion, I like to imagine two rulers, and when side by side they line up, inch by inch. However most people know a few inches of science and a few inches of Bible. So when they compare the inches they know of each and see them not linking, they assume one or the other is inherently flawed. But perhaps you know inches 1, 4, and 9 of Bible, and Inches 3, 8, and 12 of science. Well since your info is incomplete your observation is also incomplete.
Both Sceince and Religion are seeking to understand the universe, but in different ways. One is experimental and one is relational. But neither is wrong. There are some theories that scientist share that aren’t correct, and there are some ideas people preach that are wrong. But if we are wise we will not throw everything away because of one bad experience.
I know this wasn’t a long article, but it was something simple that I wanted to share to get you thinking about how science and religion can interact with civility.