Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 7

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 7

(Book 4 : Beyond Personality, The First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity, Chapters 1-3)

Chapter 1 of Book 4 is called Making and Begetting. Lewis starts off by defining theology as the Science of God and I think any man who wants to think about God at all, would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available.

Think of a man seeing the Atlantic Ocean from the beach and having an awe-inspiring experience. Then think of a map, just colored paper. However the map has been laid out by thousands of people’s experiences that make it authenticated. Now, looking at the Atlantic Ocean is one thing, but if you wanted to sail it, you would need the map. That’s what theology is, sating you’ve had these vague religious experiences, these emotional experiences is one thing, but if you want to go deeper, if you want to have a real experience with God, that what theology is. Because, it’s been laid out by thousands of people who have already trod the course and it’s our map of how to know God more deeply.

Popular theology would say Jesus is another great moral teacher and if we follow His teachings, the world sure would be a better place. However, (A) that’s a shallow view and (B) we never follow the great teachers. Or else there are lots of great teachers who could have come along and could’ve made the world a happier place. See, when you get into Christian theology, it says Jesus is the Son of God and we put our confidence in Him and we gain Sonship as well and that His death saved us from our sins. Becoming sons of God is more than just the general sense that God created us, loves us and takes care of us, which makes Him like a Father. It means before all time began, before anything was in existence as we know it, Christ was begotten, not made.

To beget is to become the Father of, to create is to make. The difference is this, when you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies. A beaver little beavers, etc. But, when you make, you make something of a different kind. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, etc. What God begets is God, what God creates is not God. Man has a shape or likeness to God, but man does not have the same kind of life as God.  Every thing God has made has some likeness to himself.

Space is like God in its hugeness and greatness. The vegetable world is like him because it is a alive and He is a living God. But, it is only a kind of symbol or shadow of God. Man not only lives, but loves and reasons. Out of all creatures that we know of, we are the most like God; but what man in his natural condition has not got is spiritual life. The higher and different sort of life that exists in God.

The difference between biological life and spiritual life is so different. Biological life is Bios. Spiritual life is Zoe. The man who changed from having bios to Zoe would have gone through as big of a change as a stature carved in the shape of a man turning into a living, breathing man. This is precisely what Christianity is about. On Earth, we are just a great sculpture shop, but there is a rumor going around that one day these sculptures are going to come to life.

The Three Personal God is Chapter 2. There are many people who think of God as something more than personal. But, what they end up with an impersonal God. Christianity is the only religion on the market who looks as God as something Super-personal or more than personal.

God’s dimensions we find a being who is three person, while remaining one being. Just as a cube is six squares, while remaining one cube. Though we can’t firmly comprehend, we can get a faint notion of this. And when we do, we are getting a look at something Super personal, something more than personal. The important thing is not to be able to talk about it and explain it, because a way it’s unexplainable, but it is to be drawn into it.

When a Christian prays, he is trying to get in touch with God. But, if he is a Christian, he knows what is prompting him to pray is also God, God inside of him. But, he also know that all His real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the man who was God. That Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. God is the thing to which he is praying, the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside of him, pushing him on, the motive. God is also the road or bridge on which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole three-fold life of the personal being is actually going on in when an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being called up into the higher kind of life, Zoe, the spiritual life. He is being pulled into God but God, while still remaining himself. Theology is somewhat like experimental Science If you want to get to know a person, that other person must let you get to know him. If he doesn’t want to, you can’t get to know him. It takes equal initiative to becomes friend. When it comes to knowing God the initiative lies on His side. If He doesn’t show Himself, nothing will enable you to find Him. And in fact He shows much more of himself to some people than to others. Not because He has favorites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. The instrument through which you see God is his whole self. And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright a glimpse of himself will be blurred like a moon seen through a dirty telescope.

We need a community of believers to see who God really is. God can show himself as He really is only to real people. Not just individually good, but people who are united together in a body loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band or organs in one body. The one adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community. Christian brotherhood, is so to speak, the technical equipment for this science.

Now if we were making up our own religion, Christianity could be simpler. Anyone could make a simpler religion if they have no facts to deal with, but Christianity is based on facts.

Chapter 3, Time Beyond Time.

Often people have difficulty with God attending to several hundred million people at once as they pray. All in that one moment. The difficulty is of time and the thought of God being able to do all of that at once. However, almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at 10:30 tonight, He need not listen to all of them at that one little snit bit that we call 10:30. 10:30, and every other moment since the beginning of the world, is also the present to Him. Suppose I am writing a novel and write, “Mary laid down her work and the next moment a knock came at the door.” For Mary, who has to live in the imaginary time of my story, there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing that knock. But I who am Mary’s maker do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second half I can sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I can think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book for as long as I please. And the hours I spend doing so would not appear in Mary’s story, the time inside the story at all.

God is not hurried along by the time in this universe any more than an author is hurried along by the time in his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare fore each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. Just as when Christ died for you, He died for you individually as if you were the only man in the world.

God does not live in a time series at all. For Him, it is so to speak, 1950 still and already 2050 as well. For His life  is in Himself. If you picture life as a straight line along which you must travel, you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. To come to the parts of the line one by one we have to go from A to B to C, but God from above contains the whole line and sees it all.

Carry this thought of all time happening at once over to Jesus coming to Earth. It is really I suggest a timeless truth about God, that human nature and the human experience of weakness and sleep and ignorance are somehow included into His whole divine life. This human life in God, is from our point of view a particular period in the history of our world, from the year AD 1 to the crucifixion. We therefore imagine it is also a period in the history of God’s own, but God has not history. He is too completely and utterly real to have one. Because to have a history means losing part of reality, because it has already slipped away into the past. And not yet having another part, because it is still in the future. In fact, having nothing but the tiny little present which is gone before you can speak of it. God forbid we should think God is like that.

Now, carry this over into the free will argument. If God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to say we had the freewill not to do them. But, if God is outside and above the timeline, in that case what we call tomorrow is visible to Him, in the same way as what we call today. All the days are now for him. He does not remember seeing you do things yesterday, he simply sees you doing them. It is though you have lost yesterday, He has not.

He does not foresee you doing things tomorrow, he simply sees you doing them. For although tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. In a sense, He does not see your action until you have done it, but then the moment in which you have done it is already now for him.It is a great Christian idea, but not Biblical and you can be a perfectly good Christian without accepting it.

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Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 6

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 6

(Book 3 : Christian Behavior, Chapters 10 – 12)

In Chapter 10, Lewis begins by telling us that hope is the eternal perspective. Now, that doesn’t mean not doing anything for this world, because you’ll find that throughout history Christians who have done the most for the present world are the ones who looked most toward the next.We will leave our mark on earth when our minds are occupied on heaven. It’s when Christians cease to think about the next world they have become so ineffective in this.

Lewis says that if you aim at heaven you will get earth thrown in. If you aim at earth you will get neither. Most people do not long for heaven if they’re honest with themselves for a couple reasons. First off, they’ve been trained to think about now and this world. And secondly, you don’t realize you’re longing for heaven. Most people want something beyond what they can have right now. Something they can’t even quite put their finger on. That longing is heaven.

Is there anything that lives up to the anticipation and initial excitement of something new in our life? The excitement of something new; a new marriage, a new vacation, a new job. Yet, the reality of that is even if its best marriage, the best job, the best vacation, something evades that initial excitement. There is something we grasp at in the first moment of longing and it just fades away in reality.

There are two wrong ways of dealing with this and one right way. The first way is the fool’s way. He puts the blame on the things himself. He thinks if only he found the right woman, vacation or job that would give him satisfaction. The second way is the way of the disillusioned sensible man. He decides its all rubbish. It’s all fantasies of youth. By the time you get older you realizes its not going to happen. He settles down and learns not expect too much and represses a part of himself that used to, as he would say, cry for the Lord. This is a better way than the first one.

The their way is the Christian way. It says creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. If I found in myself a desire for which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation was that I was made for another world. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If this is so, I must take care on one hand to never despise or be unthankful for these earthly blessings, and on the other never to mistake them for the something else which they are only a kind of copy or an echo. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country which I will not find until after death. My main object of life must be to press on to this other country and to help others to do the same.

Lewis talks about how the music and crowns and gold are all imageries, not to be literal, but to show us that we have something extraordinary awaiting us. As each one represents something different. The music is something that a lot of people see as joyful and ecstasy. The crowns of sharing in God’s power when we get there.The gold, the endlessness of heaven, because it does not rust.These things are an attempt to express the inexpressible. People who take these things literally might as well thing that when Christ told us to be like doves, we were to lay eggs.

Chapter 11 focuses on the theological virtue of faith. Faith can be used in two senses. The first sense just meaning belief. Accepting the doctrines of Christianity.

Lewis discusses faith vs. reason, imagination vs emotion. Which part of why we come to believe, should be that when we reasoned it out faith and Christianity makes the most sense. But, we battle between faith and reason on one side and imagination and emotion on the other.  For example, a doctor lays a patient down to do the anesthesia the patient has faith and reason that it will work properly and that they won’t start the surgery till he’s numb. But, a child like panic takes over when he’s actually laying on that bad, because his imagination and emotion has taken over what he actually believes to be true with reason.

I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reason tells him that the weight of the evidence goes against it, that is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposes that a man’s reason decides that the weight of the evidence is for faith.

So, very soon after this there will come a moment when something bad happens or friends who are unbelievers he is surrounded by or a sinful opportunity presents itself, where his emotions will blitz him with the fact that maybe this Christianity thing isn’t right. Because it would be convenient if it wasn’t.

Faith is the art of holding on to things you reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing mood. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. Unless you teach your moods where they get off, you can neither be a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro with his beliefs really dependent upon his weather and the state of his digestion.

We must train ourselves to have faith. The first step is recognizing that your moods change. The next is once you’ve accepted Christianity is to make sure to hold these doctrines before yourself daily. We must continually remind our selves of our beliefs and faith through prayer, Bible reading and church,

There is faith in a second, higher sense. When we try to live out the Christian virtues, it might go swimmingly for a short time. But, very quickly, we see that we’ve fallen and messed up. And may even be back further than we were before. A bad man knows very little about temptation  because he gives in. It’s good man who starts to understand temptation, because after 5 minutes when he doesn’t give in and an hour later when the temptation is stronger and stronger, he begins to understand just how powerful the temptation is. And Christ is the only one who fully understands temptation, because He is the only one faced it in full and did not give in.

The main thing we learn when we try to practice the Christian virtues is that we fail. In other words, there’s not saying that we’re going to do this, that and the other thing to keep our side of the bargain with God and then we better keep his side. That’s wiped out when we try to be the good virtuous person that we know we ought. Accepting Christianity means blowing this thought to bugs, that there is anyway we are earning or bargaining or making ourselves right with God.

Then comes another discovery. Every faculty you have: The power of thinking or of moving your lips from moment to moment is given to you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything, that was in a sense, His already. 

So when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like: It is like a small child going  to his father and saying, “Daddy give me six pence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course the father does and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and thoughtful, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction.

When a man has made these two discoveries, God can really get to work on Him. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of faith in the second sense.

In one sense the map to God is a rode of moral effort. Of trying harder and harder and harder. But in another sense, trying is never going to bring us home. All this trying leads to the vital moment when we turn to God and say, “You must do this, I can’t.”

Do not stop and try to think, Have I come to that moment? Am I close to that moment? When did the moment happen?

That’s not the way it happens. For most people, unlike Paul, it is not a flash moment. It happens gradually, over time. There may not even be a point in time you can point to. The important thing is that the change happens and is happening.

It is a change from being confident of own efforts to the state in which we despair in doing anything in our selves and leave it to God. Leaves it to God means that he puts all his trust in Christ. Trust that He will somehow share with him the perfect human obedience, which he carried out from birth with His crucifixion, and Christ will make the man more like Himself and in a sense make good his deficiencies.

In Christian language, He will share His Sonship with us and make him like Himself, sons of God.  Christ offers something, everything, for nothing. In a sense , the whole Christian life consists of accepting that `very remarkable offer. The difficulty is recognizing that all we have done and can do is nothing. What we should’ve liked is for God to keep our good points and ignore our bad points.  `

So, to trust Him does not mean to stop trying, because to trust Him means to try do everything that Christ says. But, trying  in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing those things to be saved, but because he has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to heaven as a reward for your actions, but wanting to act in  a certain way because that first faint gleam of heaven is often inside you.

Christians have often disputed if what leads to the Christians home is good actions or faith in Christ. It seems to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. If serious moral effort is the only thing it will bring you to the point where you thrown in the towel in despair. And if faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point, then out of this faith good actions will inevitably come.

Lewis says the Bible puts both together in one sentence. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. The second half says, for it is God who worth in You. So the first half as if we have to earn it. The second half as if God does it all. So, Lewis says although it’s puzzling, it’s not surprising. Because what we’re trying to do is separate in Christianity exactly what God does and exactly what m

My way of summing it up is that Works can not save us, but we cannot be saved without works!

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 5

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 5

(Book 3 : Christian Behavior, Chapters 7-9)

In Chapter 7, Lewis deals with forgiveness. He states that while he had said earlier that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues, he believed forgiveness may be more unpopular. See, Christianity says love you neighbor as yourself, but in Christianity your neighbor includes your enemy. Which means we come up against the fact we must forgive our enemy.

Lewis gives the extreme example of the Gestapo and thinking of an enemy in those terms. I thought in 2017, we could probably compare it to having a member of Isis murder one of your children. Lewis says that People get mad when they are told, “Well you need to forgive these people now.” And they answer, “Well, would you forgive if your family was killed by them?” Lewis responds that he’s not here to tell you what I could do in a certain situation. He’s here to tell you what Christianity is and forgiveness of enemies is one of the things Christianity is.

The Lord’s prayer states, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” There is no suggestion that we offer forgiveness on any other terms.  It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. We sort of have to work our way to forgiving our enemies. We start out by forgiving our spouse or children. Someone close to you for something they have said or done in the last week.

We must also understand what love our neighbor as our self means. But, first me must look at what it doesn’t mean. Well, I don’t always have a fondness for myself. So, it doesn’t mean I have to be affectionate or fond toward them. Do I think myself a wonderful, nice person? Well sometimes, but not always. So, loving my neighbor does not necessarily mean thinking of them in that way.

It my  clear sighted moments, not only do I know that I’m not a very nice man, but I know that I’m quite a nasty one. I look at some of the things I’ve done before with loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loath and hate some of the things my enemies do.Remember we hate the bad action, not the person. This seemed like quite a silly thought to Lewis until he realized he had been doing this with himself for years. There are plenty of things that he has done that he wishes he wouldn’t have done and hates. But he still loves himself. The very reason why I hated these things is because I love myself. Because I love myself I was very sorry I did these things.

We aught to hate evil and the terrible things these people do. However we ought to hate it in the same way we hate those things in ourselves. Hoping that someway this person can be cured and made human again if that is possible.

Loving your enemy does not mean not punishing them. Lewis does not believe (like in war or when a judge sentences someone for a crime) that loving your enemy does not mean not killing the enemy soldier or sentencing the prisoner to death. It’s an interesting distinction that when Jesus quotes the command, “thou shall not murder,” there’s the distinction in Greek between kill and murder. And all three times not to murder. As opposed to not to kill.John the Baptist never suggested that the soldiers coming to be baptized should leave the army neither did Christ to the centurion who came.

We Christians think that man lives forever. Therefore what really matters is those little knots or twists in the central inside part of the soul  that will turn us in the long run to a heavenly or hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that want’s to get one’s own revenge must be killed. (my analogy) Not that this magically happens, but like the little Whack-a-mole things that pop up at the arcade, every time one pops up you have to bang it with a hammer. With this feeling of revenge or hate, every time it pops up we have to bang it with a hammer (namely prayer).

In our heart we must wish that our enemy were not bad. Wish that he were cured. Wish good for him. Remember God just loves us just because we’re human. Not because there is anything good inside of us. We love our self just because we’re our self, not because of good inside of us. We must then apply this rule to all others and we will be forgiving and loving our enemies.

Chapter 8 is entitled “Great Sin.” There is no sin that is seen in more men, except they don’t know they have it, however no sin that men find more deplorable in others, and that is pride or self conceit. The virtue opposite of it in Christian morals is called humility. This is where the center of Christian morals lies. The utmost evil is pride above all others.

Pride leads to every other vice. It is an anti-God state of mind. Pride is competitive and therefore the more fault you find with others pride, probably the more prideful you are, because you’re upset they’re getting the attention you wanted. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It’s the comparison that makes you proud. The pleasure of being above the rest. The pleasure of being richer, better looking, cleverer than the next man.

Let’s look at an example of this competitiveness with money. What people call greed is often pride. Certainly a person cane be greedy and want a bigger house, more vacations….but what makes somebody who makes $10 million dollars a year want to make $20 million dollars a year? At the point of $10 million dollars a year, they can already do whatever they want. Well, it’s pride. It’s to be richer and have more than the next guy. 

Still, more the wish for power. Because power is really what pride is. Nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers. Pride always means enmity because  as long as there is one person richer, better looking, etc than you, then you always have that enemy you are trying to outdo.

As long as you are proud, you can never really know God. Because you only really know God when you realize He is everything and you are nothing at all. How can people full of pride say that they are worshipping God? Well, they are really worshipping a phantom God because what they do all the time, while saying they are nothing and humble, is thinking the whole time that God approves of them for how great they are. Which of course, the God that approves of them is their make believe God. They pay a penny’s worth of humility to this imaginary God and get a dollar’s worth of pride toward their fellow man.

Lewis says he believes it’s these people that Christ is talking of when he said they would preach in His names and cast out demons and yet at the end of the world he did not know them.

Anytime you are thinking that you are better than someone else, remember it is not God making you act that way, but the devil. Remember, being around God will make you feel one of two ways. You will completely forget about self and focus on Him and others. Or you will see yourself as the dirty, sinful person that you are. The devil is perfectly happy to see people becoming brave and chaste and self controlled, as long as the whole time he is setting up in you to be proud of all these virtues and be prideful. Because, this then overrides all the good things that are happening. It’s like seeing your cold cured, while finding out your diagnosed with cancer.

There are some common misconceptions about pride. Pleasure in being praised is not pride. For the pleasure here does not lie in who you are, but that you have pleased someone you wanted and rightly wanted to please. The trouble is when the thinking passes from I have pleased him and that’s great to what a fine person I must have been to have done so. The more you delight in yourself and the less you delight the praise, the worse you are becoming.

While being vain and wanting is not good, it is almost a child like problem. It shows that you still don’t think so highly of yourself, because you want others to affirm you. However, the real black, dark diabolical pride comes when you down on other so much, you do not care what they think about you. This does not mean that when we have it right that we care so much about what God things, that we do not care what others think about us. This is when you think so highly of yourself that why would you even care whether or not people praise you because you already know you got it.

Is it bad when you’re proud of your son or your school or your father? Is pride in this sense a sin? Well, what do we mean by proud of? In often cases we just mean we have a warm hearted admiration for and this is of course not a sin. But, it would be sinful if you take so much pride in your father or child or college you attended that you have an arrogance about it. However, even this is not as bad as having pride in just our self, because at least it is having pride in someone or something else. Of course, the problem still being that our pride should only come from God.

God does not tell you not to be prideful because he needs you to humble yourself and be proud of Him, but God wants you to be in relationship with Him and when you truly are you’re so humbled in a good way that you get rid of all the nonsense and things you hold on to be right with him. This humility makes that relationship, where we are truly free, possible.

What you think of a humble person is probably not accurate. Someone walking around, “woe is me, I’m so humble.” A truly humble person would probably be a cheerful person, intelligent chap who took a fine interest in what you had to say and if you felt any contentment toward them it would only be because they seemed to enjoy life so much. The reason he would enjoy life so much is because he would not be thinking about humility because he would not be thinking about himself at all.

The first step if you want humility is admitting and realizing you are proud, because if you think you are not conceited you are quite conceited indeed.

In chapter 9, Lewis focuses on charity. Charity is one of the three theological virtues. In the modern sense, charity means giving to the poor. But, in the Christian sense, charity means love. Remember love in the Christian sense does not mean an emotion, it means a state of the will. Christian love or charity for our neighbors is quite a different thing  then liking or affection. Natural liking or fondness of someone is not a sin nor a virtue. Though, natural liking should typically be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to begin to show charitable love would be to begin to manufacture unnatural likings to all. Don’t waste your time figuring out whether or not you love your neighbor, act as if you did. And you’ll learn a great secret. When you behave as if you love someone, you will really come to love them. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking them even more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections and likings and that the Christian has only charity, but that the worldly man treats certain people kindly because he likes them and the Christian trying to treat everyone kindly finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on. Including people he could not even have imagined himself liking to begin with.

This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans perhaps at first ill-treated the Jews because they hatted them.  Afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate and the more cruelly you will treat that person.

In other words, the goodness snowballs and so does the evil; the smallest good deed could snowball into something you never could have imagined being able to do, while the smallest evil doing the same.

We should have charity and love toward God. If we’re not feeling it, the same thing as with people, what would I do if I truly loved God? Think about it, go do it and you might find that you start truly loving God.

Remember Christian love is of the will. God is not judging us on feeling. We cannot create that. But, if we try to follow the commandment love God and love thy neighbor through acts of the will, that’s what God is looking for and he may or may not manufacture the love feeling for us. We can not control that.

The great thing to remember is that our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins or our indifference. And therefore it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4

(Book 3: Christian Behavior, Chapters 4-6)

Lewis entitles chapter four of Book 3 Morality and Psychoanalysis. Lewis begins by stating that we must do two things at once. Apply, “do as you would want done to you” into all aspects of our society AND try to become the people who would apply it on the inside if we knew how.

Lewis goes on to explain that when a man makes a choice there are two things involved. One is the act of choosing. The second is the psychoanalysis process and the felling and impulses that come to him, which are the raw material of his choice.

In this process, there can be normal feelings or unnatural feelings. It may be normal and consist of the feelings that are common to all man or it might consist of quite unnatural feelings through the things that have gone wrong in his subconscious.

The first would be a fear of something dangerous that keeps you safe.The second would be a fear of cats or spiders.Psychoanalysis seeks to remove those subconscious things that have brought you to those unnatural fears and feelings.

Rarely does it start with that acts and choices itself, the psychoanalytical problem has to be cured, before the moral problem can begin. Because now that someone is cured, they have the choice to make the right moral decisions. Once the raw material is improved the man has the free choice to but himself first or to put others first. And that free choice is the only thing morality is really concerned with. 

Bad psychological material is not a sin, but a disease. It doesn’t need to be repented of, but cured.This is important, because as humans we judge one another by their external appearances, but God judges people by their moral choices.

Take the person who has an unnatural fear of cats and yet sees a cat in distress and helps it down. He may have done more than a typical person with a typical neurological makeup who showed bravery in war.

Flip this around, those of us with a normal heredity and makeup, seem outwardly like pretty nice people, may have used their typical makeup and good upbringing in such a small way, that God would view us in a worse light than those that we consider to be fiends.

Can we have be sure how we would have behaved had we been saddled with the bad psychological outfit and bad upbringing and with the power, say of Himmler?

That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results of man’s choices. But, God does not judge them on the raw material, but what he has done with it.

Most of the man’s psychological make up is due to his body. When he dies, all of that will fall off. And the real central man, the thing that chose, the thing that made the best or worst out of this material will stand naked. All of the good things that we thought we did that were just because of a good upbringing will fall off of us. All of the bad things that someone did that were really just due to a psychological disorder will fall of them. And then we really see for the first time people as they really are.

People often think that God is making a deal. If you keep rules, I will reward you. If you don’t I will give you the other thing. But, think of it more as a central part of you, every time you make a choice, your turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all of your innumerable choices, you are slowing turning this thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature. Either into a creature that is harmony with God and other creatures and yourself. Or into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, its fellow creatures and itself.

To be first kind of creature is heaven, joy, peace, knowledge, and power. To be the other is madness, horror, hideous, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. 

Each of is progressing to one state or the other.

Think of someone who murders and then think of someone who yells and spouts off mean words. You would think of course the murderer is worse. Except for, in his case that central part of the man, each time the murder murders and each time the second man rages, it distorts and twists the central part of their beings a little further, So, that each man, in this way is equal and the only thing that can straighten them out is for God to put them right. Each man moves equally far away from God with their rage, even though the outward looks very different.

One last point, the right direction leads not only to peace, but to knowledge. When the man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left within him. As a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. Think of this, you understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know the nature of good and evil. Bad people know neither.

In Chapter 5, Lewis goes on to talk about sexuality morality and the Christian rule of chastity.

Chastity is not modesty, which is the amount of coverage a woman has in a particular society or a particular time, which can change. Chastity does not change.  An extreme modesty is not necessarily a sign of chastity.

Since this isn’t a firm standard, the elderly should not be so quick to judge the young for their new fashions, etc and the young should not be so quick to call their elders prudes and out of touch.

Chastity is the most unpopular of all of the Christian virtues. There is not getting around it. It’s sex within the confines of marriage and complete fidelity to your partner or complete abstinence.

Lewis asks the question of what has caused the overwhelming lack of respect for sex.Either Christianity has gone wrong or biological sexual desires have gone wrong.

The biological need for food is to give energy. The biological need for sex is to bare children. If we were all to just eat whatever we want, whenever we want, we would all eat too much. But, only to a certain extent, we might eat enough for 2 people, not for 10.

But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined and each escapade produced a baby, in 10 years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Think of this, there are large audiences at strip clubs all the time to watch women undress, but imagine if there was a society where you could get a large audience together to put a covered plate on stage and then to uncover it just to see what food was underneath. Wouldn’t you think in that country something had gone wrong in regards to their appetite for food?

Someone visiting us from another planet would probably think there was something equally odd with the sex instinct within our society. Sexually appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. You find very few people who use food for other things than to eat. Food perversion is rare. The perversion of sex is ramped.

Christianity never said sex in itself is bad. Christianity actually glorifies marriage, lifts up the body  – – Christ came down in a human body; we will have a new body in heaven – – Sex for reproduction and as a form of pleasure is true and Christianity uplifts this.

People say that sex is an instinct just like any other natural instinct like hunger or pain, but that is not true.When people say sex is not to be ashamed of, in the Christian sense of reproduction and pleasure that is true. In the sense of just being a natural instinct to do whatever you want, it is shameful. If people made food take up half of their life, just talking about it all day and looking at pictures of it, that would be quite odd.

Our society has put out the propaganda that sexual unchastity is the norm.There are people who want to keep our sex instincts inflamed in order to make money off of us.

Lewis says (regarding sexual temptation/sin) that God knows our situation and He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

Chastity is very difficult to achieve and even to desire. Before we can be cured, we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even this wish is difficult. We can say with our lips, “Our Lord make me chaste,” but our hearts say, “but not yet.” (St. Augustine)

Three reasons why it is hard to desire, let alone achieve complete chastity.1 – Our warped nature. All of the temptation  and the contemporary propaganda for lust. It can make you feel that the desires you are trying to resists are natural, so why try to resist them?It has been propaganda that has told us every sexual desire at any time is healthy and natural and normal. But, take heart. There are many things including sexual restraint where we must restrain in order to have a happy, healthy and successful life.

2 – People often think that Christian chastity is impossibleBut that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just like  a very, very hard question on a test. You don’t leave it blank. You try it and you do your best. Just as you may get some credit for getting certain parts right and certain parts wrong. You will get no credit for not trying at all.   We must ask for God’s help. But after each failure, ask for forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again. Very often what God helps us to first is not the virtue itself, but to always try again. The only failure is to be content with anything less than perfection.

3 – People often misunderstand what psychologists teach about repression. It teaches us that repressed sex is dangerous, but that’s misusing the term suppression for repression. Your suppressing your desire and you are very conscience of your choice. Where, repression is something blocked because it has been so awful (since childhood or something).

While there was a lot to say about sex and Christian morality, it is not the center of Christian morality. The sins of flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all the sins. All worst sins are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting, the pleasure of power, of hatred. 

For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. That is why a cold. Self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course it s better to be neither.

Lewis follows up his chapter on sexual morality with Christian marriage.

Christina doctrine on marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and a wife are to be regarded as a single organism. That is what the word “one flesh” would be in modern English. He was not given a sentiment, but a fact; just as a lock and a key are one mechanism. And a violin and a bow one instrument.

So, the Christian view is that the pleasure must be coupled within marriage. Just as with food you shouldn’t try to get the taste without digesting it. You don’t chew up your food and spit it out just for the taste.

Some churches won’t allow divorce under any circumstances. Some do very reluctantly under extreme circumstances. What churches agree on and are much  more in agreement with each other than with the outside world is that divorce is not a good thing and that it is more like cutting off a leg than just separating so easily as the world does when any little thing doesn’t go right.

Anyone who is married in a church makes the promise till death do you part, however this is often see as just a mere formality. But, why make the promise then? Who are they trying to trick? Often, it’s the public. They want the formality of a respectable wedding, without intending to pay the price of actually meaning what their marriage vows say. If people do not believe in the permanency of marriage, it would be better for them to live together unmarried, then to become married and make vows they do not intend to keep.

The idea that being in love is the only reason to remain married really leaves no room for marriage as a promise at all. If love the love is the whole thing, than the promise could add nothing. And if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.The promise is not to remain in love. You can’t promise to continue to feel a certain way. The promise is about what you can control, the actions, what you do, regardless of the feeling.

What’s the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound social reasons.First, to provide a home for their children.Second, to protect a woman, who has probably sacrificed her own career to get married, from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her.

Being in love is great in one way, no one would deny it is better than common sensuality or complete selfishness.  But the most dangerous thing you can do is take any one impulse of our nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.

Too often we want to say that something is just good or bad. But, there’s good, better, best. There’s bad, worse, worst. And being in love is a good thing, but it’s not the best thing. There are many things below it, but also many above it. It’s noble feeling, but just a feeling. No feeling can last in it’s full intensity or can even be relied on to last at all. Knowledge, principles and habits can last, but feelings come and go.

Ceasing to be in love, does not mean ceasing to love.  IN this sense, love is not merely a feeling, it is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace with which both parents ask for and receive from God. 

They can have this love for each other even in moments when they do not like each other. They can maintain this love, even when if each allowed themselves, they could easily be “in love” with someone else. Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity , this second quieter promise allows them to keep this fidelity . It is on this love that the engine of marriage runs. Being in love was the explosion which started it.

We must learn from our own marriage and those around us what is really true and not from movies and books. We must disentangle this and see what is reality and what is fantasies that have permeated through our brain through fiction.

Think of anything, anything that the first experience or thinking about it is so exciting, but the reality of it does not stay at that peak , but something lasting comes instead.  (this may apply to my teaching).

Often when we settle down and continue in that interest even after the initial excitement is over, we find a thrill in something new, For example, the one who goes off to live in “the perfect place,” the excitement died down, but then found a new thrill in gardening.

Lewis believes this is one of the things Christ meant when he said a man may not truly live until he dies. If all you try to do is live all off of thrills, they would get weaker and weaker. You would end up living as a delusioned person. You must settle into a quieter peace that comes from the ongoing fulfillment and take the new thrills as they come along away.

It’s also by movies, etc that falling in love seems so irresistible that you just can’t help it , but Lewis says that yes you meet someone whose beautiful and clever and witty, And in a certain sense we should love these qualities. But, don’t we have much more choice than we tend to say or believe in whether or not we fall in love with them?

A Christian doctrine on marriage even more unpopular than the permanence is that Christian wives promise to obey their husbands. The man is said to be the head.

The need for some head follows the thought that the marriage is permanent. Typically, the couple should agree, but when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen?Either they must separate and go their own ways or one must have the final decision.

Why should the head be the man?Does the woman really want to be the head of the house? Even a woman who says she wants to be the head of the house, does not see it the same when it’s her neighbor. “Poor Mr. Smith. Why does his wife boss him round like that? That’s just not right.” There must be something unnatural of the rule of wives over husbands because wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule.

Also, a woman is so focused on her family and fighting for their needs, she finds it hard to be just to those in the outside world when it comes to issues dealing with her family. Where a man tends to be more just to all involved.If your child had hit another child, who would you rather talk to about it? The dad or the mom next door?

Also, wives think of this. Don’t you think one of the failings of your husband is he seems to see the other person’s point of view too much. Is a bit of an appeaser. Doesn’t go all out to defend you and the kids.

Why Do I Need Jesus, Anyway? & The Joy of Guilt

There are those times when you are reading something (or in my case listening to the audio book) and it put together pieces of something that has been on your mind for so long, but all scrambled, into the right place. God gave me one of those moments lately through CS Lewis and his book “The Problem of Pain” in the form of a two-fold revelation.

 

Why do I Need Jesus, Anyway?

The first revelation I call, “Why do I Need Jesus, Anyway?” It is a very obvious, but also very offensive, part of the Gospel message.  And at this point, in our politically correct times, I think many Christians have come conceded it in order not to offend. And when I am honest with myself, it had started to bother me quite a bit lately, and dare I say even offend me. Yet, as Lewis often does, he puts it in a way that made it make sense to me once more.

This part of the Gospel message is often left out of altar calls or a friend or family member’s attempt to “sell Jesus” on all of the wonderful things He will do if you just “ask him into your heart.” I am talking about the need for salvation based on sin, and quite frankly, the vileness, of every human being.  Lately, I had started to ask, “Why would God hold us accountable for this if we are born with no choice but to sin? It we were screwed because of Adam?

Lewis points out that this is an unanswerable question to fully understand the complexity of man’s first sin. Lewis also indicates that he does not hold the story of Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden as a completely literal story, but simply as a way of introducing the human race’s first sin, which was the pride of thinking his own will superior to God’s. 

More importantly, he goes on to explain there is no need to go around blaming Adam for our individual revolts against God, because we can all see how despicable we are as sinners on our own. Blaming it on Adam and saying he messed it up for the human race is simply to shift the blame from myself and all of the awful things inside of me that clearly demonstrate my being an enemy of God and my desperate need of a savior.

He put it like this. We try to get around this by saying, “Well compared to person X, I am not really so bad.” Of course, we choose someone who had quite a few more hang-ups then us to make ourselves feel good, instead of realizing that our only comparison can be to Christ when we are talking about being right with God on our own merit.

Secondly, he makes the point that when we have our guilty moments, when our mind takes us to the places of our worst deeds, we realize quite fully just how terrible we are. We understand just how corrupt we are. And we know that we would not even want the person sitting next to us or our best friend to be able to see this part of us, let alone the Holy, Living God who created us. And then we are at a point where we can easily admit our need for our savior and fall down on our face in repentance.

It is only when we first understand that our sin separates us from God that the rest of the Gospel message (of a God-Man coming down out of Heaven and living a sinless life, dying on the cross to pay the debt of my sins, and raising from the dead to conquer the grave with the same offer to me) really has any meaning. For when we fall down on our face in the shame of the awfulness inside of our self, we then raise up with the joy of knowing God loved me so much He sent Jesus that we might be forgiven of our wickedness!

 

The Joy of Guilt

If you have already had this moment of conversion to Christianity, you may be thinking the same thing as me, “Well I have acknowledged my guilt to the Lord. I have put my trust in Jesus as the only way for me to be forgiven and have a right relationship with God. And I am trying with the help of the Holy Spirit to live as a disciple of Jesus. But, I’m still not perfect. I still sin. And I still have the sins of my past that seem to keep nagging me.” Well, my friend, this brings me to my second revelation, “The Joy of Guilt.”

Guilt to simply be self-deprecating is definitely not a good thing. However, when I have the full weight of guilt from some past sin weighing me down, this can be a wonderful moment. Instead of trying to ask God to forgive me for the thousandth time (which assuming I have already truly repented, there is no need, for God forgave me the first time I asked), I call out the guilt for what it is.

I realize that due to my awful sin, having guilt in this life is a natural consequence while I live on this Earth. But, I am not going to wallow in this guilt. Instead, I will take this time to allow the guilt to bring me back to a place of realizing my deplorability. And when I sufficiently recognize how deplorable I am, it brings me back to a place of appreciating my need of a Savior. At this point, I have now come full circle and I am praising the Lord for providing that Savior through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And then my joy is complete as I realize that indeed I am one of the blessed who has found that salvation in Christ.

God has turned my guilt into the joy! I am able to feel the pleasure of when I first put my trust in him all over again! Praise You, Lord, for saving a sinner like me!

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 2 (Book 2: What Christians Believe)

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 2  

(Book 2 : What Christians Believe)

Christians believe God created the universe, like a man painting a picture. God made the world, but a great many things have gone wrong in the world. And that God insists quite loudly on our trying to put them right again

There is often the argument (as was Lewis’ when he was an atheist) that the world is just so cruel and unjust, how can there be a good God out there? This question took Lewis back to the thought of moral law. How did he even have the idea of just and unjust? Cruelty and kindness? If it weren’t for God placing that inside of him?

Lewis contends that atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe had no meaning, we should have never found out it has no meaning. Just as if there was no light in the universe and creatures were without eyes, we would never know that there was dark. Dark would be without meaning

Then there is another view that is too simple along with Atheism. That there is a good God in heaven and everything is just all right. In other words, these people make Christianity and religion too simple. They don’t deal with any of the facts of all the wrong in the world and the need for justice and redemption and sin and salvation. They just think that there is a good God in heaven who made the universe. Period.

Not only is reality not simple, it is often quite strange. You would have to be purposefully oblivious to the reality of our world to look around and believe that everything is all right! Human beings walking around the planet understand that there are things that are bad and meaningless.

Christianity explains there was a good world created that has gone terribly wrong. But, there is still a thought and remembrance of how it should be. And we can actually look at the fact that bad things help prove the existence of good. And not only the existence of good, but that good is on a higher level than the bad. Because in order for it to be bad, there must be something good for it to have gone off against.

There is no badness just for the sake of badness. Even the most evil thing is some sort of good perverted.  For example, even people who seem to do cruel things just for the sake of being cruel (sadists), do so because in some way there is a sexual perversion. They get aroused in the cruelty they commit. Which means there had to be a normal sexual standard, which is good, to be perverted, in order for them to have this arousal.

Even someone who seems to be happy when they do bad things…they get pleasure out of the bad things. The pleasure is the goodness and they’ve perverted the way in which they get that pleasure. There is no evil without good. All bad is, is a perversion of something good.

Christianity believes that it’s a civil war. That the evil was created by the good. And that there is now a Civil War going on and we, people, are in the territory occupied by the rebel. We are in enemy occupied territory and the rightful king has landed. And is calling us all on a great campaign of sabotage!

Christianity says that the prince of evil is the one reigning this world for this time. This raises a couple of questions. This would be odd that this would be within the will of a good God. On the other hand, if it’s not within His will, it raises the question, how can something happen outside of a God’s will who has absolute power?

However, anyone who has been in a position of authority can see how something can be BOTH in and out of your will. For example, a mother tells her children I’m not going to be coming up here and making you tidy up the playroom every single night. You must learn to have the responsibility to do that on your own…So, the mother comes up one night and there are toys all over. It was not her will that the room be a mess, however it was in her will that the children have the responsibility to keep the play room clean on her own.

This is what God did when He created humans to have free will. You may ask, why would he go and do such a crazy thing like that? Give free will to a race of people who will use this will to do many terrible and evil things. But, you must thing of the other side of this coin as well. The only true joy and happiness comes is through free will. The love and happiness and joy that God wants for everyone through being united with him is by choosing to be united with Him and to one another.

Of course God knew what would happen if people choose to use their free will the wrong way, but apparently He thought it was worth the risk. Now, you might disagree with God for giving free will. However, the only reason you can disagree with God is because He gave you the reasoning power to disagree with Him. So, it becomes somewhat absurd to disagree with the one who gave you the power to disagree with Him.

Now, the more powerful a creature, the more wonderful it can be when it uses its free will for good and the more terrible it can be when it uses its free will for evil. Which is how we get to Satan.

How did Satan go wrong? We can speculate it was his desire to be God. To put himself at the center and first. This was his sin and this was the sin that he passed onto the human race. Out of this thought that we can be happy apart from our maker. That we can make something of life without God, is where all the tragedy of history has come from: war, poverty, slavery, prostitution. These are all in an attempt to do things outside of the way the maker intended.

You may wonder, “Why can we not have happiness apart from God?” Think of a car. A car is designed to run on gasoline. You can’t put anything else in it to make it run. Well, God designed humans to run on Himself. He is the fuel that we burn. He is what is supposed to fuel our spirits and our souls and without him we don’t run….at least not properly.

God left us conscience, though. The sense of right and wrong. And all through history there have been people, some trying very hard, although not completely succeeding, to obey it.

God has also given, what Lewis calls, “queer dreams.” The stories scattered all throughout heathen religions of a god who dies and comes to life again. And somehow in that is redemption and new life is given to men.

Also, God picked one particular people, the Jewish people, and spent several centuries hammering into their heads what kind of God he was. That there was only One of Him and that he cared about right conduct. This is the Old Testament. It gives an account of the hammering process.

Then, the most shocking of all…Jesus comes, claiming to BE God and to give life. Claiming to be the one who will come back to judge at the end of time. And a claim that we often overlook, to forgive sins. Think about this, we can forgive someone for something they do against us, but we can’t forgive someone for something they have done to someone else; i.e. “I forgive you that you hit your sister.”

But, that’s just what Jesus did! Which of course would only make sense if He was indeed God and he was forgiving the sins of the laws that were created by Him. The moral laws of the universe…because He was indeed God!

Christ says He is humble and meek and we believe Him. As do most non-Christians. They don’t argue these claims. Yet, if Christ was not God, humbleness and meekness would be the last characteristics’ we would assign Him….as He goes around forgiving other people’s sins and claiming to be the living God….therefore he is only humble and meek if He is indeed God….

Lewis is arguing against is anyone who says, “I accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but not as God.” If Jesus is not God, he is not a great moral teacher; maybe he tells some good stories, but not a great moral teacher. In fact if Jesus is not God, he is pompous and arrogant and saying things that are absurd for any man to say. (As Lewis so delicately puts it, he would be insane up there on the level with a man who believes himself to be a poached egg).

Jesus is indeed God or He is a lunatic beyond all lunatics or He is the devil of hell. Lewis says, “Either this man was and is the son of God or a mad man or someone worse….You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at him and kill him as a demon. Or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But, let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that door open to us. He did not intend to.”

The Christian belief is that Jesus is God landing in this enemy occupied territory in human form. And that as important and profound as His teachings are, the most important part of the whole story is Christ’s death and resurrection. Which brings us to the question, “How does Christ’s death on the cross put us right with God?”

Lewis says that before becoming a Christian, he thought you had to believe only one theory of why Jesus died on the cross. That God wanted to punish man for joining with the great rebel and therefore Christ came to take our place, so that God would let us off.

But he goes on to say, “What I’ve come to see is that neither this theory nor any other is the central belief of Christianity. The central belief of Christianity is that Christ’s death somehow put us right with God. It has given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this is another matter. There are many different theories as to how this works. What all Christians agree upon is that it does work.”

We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history where something absolutely unimaginable from the outside shows through into our own world. And since this is beyond our comprehension, the biblical writers have created different pictures to help us represent and understand what it is like, what Jesus did. But these pictures do not take the place of the actual even that occurred. Just like pictures in math help us to understand a certain formula, but the mathematical formula is in and of itself true, while the pictures merely represent it.

Christ was killed for us. His death has washed out our sins. And by dying he disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up, as to how Christ’s death did all this are quite secondary.

However, there are different theories worth looking at. One is that we are being let off, because Christ bared our punishment for us. On the surface you say, “Well, why did he do that? If God was going to let us off, why punish an innocent person for us, instead of just letting us off?” And this would seem quite absurd if you think of it is another man standing before a judge for you.

However, think of it a little differently. Think of it as a debt. And the person who has the assets to pay for it, paying for it in the place of the person who has no assets.  So exactly what hole had man got himself into to owe this great debt?

He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if it belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement, he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, realizing you have been on the wrong track and get ready to start life over from the ground floor.

This is what Christians call repentance. To repent is more than just saying you’re sorry, it’s changing who you’ve been this whole time, a selfish person. It means killing part of yourself.

Here’s the problem: Only a bad person needs to repent, but only a good person can truly repent. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person and he would not need it. You cannot go back to God without this repentance, because without repentance you’re asking God to go back, without really going back. The very need for repentance makes us unable to do that repentance.

So, the only way we can do truly repent is if God helps us? But what do we meant that God will help us? It means that God puts a little of Himself into us. We can love and we can reason because God loves and reasons.

But, then there is the problem of the fall. Without the fall, it would be all smooth sailing. But because of the fall, we now needs God’s help to do something, that within His own nature, God never does. To surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. So, the place that we need God’s help the most, God cannot help us because it’s not in his nature.

But suppose, God became man. And this man that now had human nature would be able to help us.  He could surrender His will and then suffer and die because he is man, and he could do so perfectly because He is God.

The only way we can successfully repent is by sharing God’s dying. And the only way God can die is if He becomes a man. That is the sense in which he pays our debt and suffers for us what He needs not suffer at all.

So, one picture of what Jesus did is the atonement. But remember, it is only one more picture, do not mistake it for the actual event, for the thing itself.

The perfect surrender and humiliation were gone through by Christ. Perfect because He was God. Surrender and humiliation because He was man. Christians believe if we somehow share the humiliation and suffering of Christ, we also somehow share the conquest of death and find new life after we die. And in it become perfect and perfectly happy creatures.

There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief and communion. (At least that’s the ordinary methods. Lewis says he is not trying to say there aren’t special cases where it is spread by different methods, but these are the three typical ways). – – Lewis says while this seem quite odd and he doesn’t understand why these three things are a part of new life, if he didn’t know it was true, he would also find it quite odd about the way (our natural) life is brought about in the first place!

Lewis says the reason he believes these three things are true is because Jesus taught them. However, these three things do not take the place of trying to copy Christ in our lives; which must be the main goal of any Christian. And in this way Christianity is different from all other religion. For you are not making it, you are not being good or kind or loving or become a better person on your own; you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else.

In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ life that was put in him. He has to make efforts to keep it. Even the best and most dedicated Christian is not acting on his own steam. He is only keeping up and nourishing a life that he could have never acquired on his own.

This does not mean a Christian is man who never go wrong. But, he is a man who is able to repent, to pick himself up and begin over again.

A Christian does not believe that his good deeds come from himself. “A Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but God will make us good because he loves us.”

Christians believe quite literally that Christ is operating through them. That the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts. We are his fingers and muscles, the cells of his body. We are the body of Christ.

Some might wonder why Christ came in the way he did. Why is Christ not landing in force? Why is God not just taking over? Is He not strong enough to take out the enemy?

Well, Christians believe that He will land in force. We just don’t know when. In the meantime, He is giving us the chance to join his side freely.

People who ask God to invade and take over now, don’t necessarily realize what they’re asking. “When the writer walks on to the stage, the play is over…When God comes back, the world is over…God is going to invade alright, but what is the use in saying you are on his side then, when the whole natural universe is melting away?” Think of it this way. Imagine a soldier has been fighting for one side of the war the whole time, but when he realizes the other side is winning, so he tries to go to change ranks. It is too late then!

When God coms back, fully revealed, it will be so aweing, it will either inspire irresistible love or irresistible horror in each creature. But either way, no one anymore will deny Him. It will be too late then to choose your side. It will not be the time for choosing, it will be the time for discovering which side we have really chosen. 

Stand if You Would Get Shot for Jesus

A year or so ago I shared this writing with my adult Sunday School class the week after my pastor preached a sermon and gave a challenge that will be explained below. It brought about great thought-provoking conversation and I hope it will cause you to stop and think as well.

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Our pastor was concluding his sermon. It was both a thought provoking and emotion-educing sermon. A call to live your life in a way that matters; big in the eternal perspective. He was wrapping it up with a headline drawn from the recent news; College students in Oregon willing to be shot in order to pronounce their allegiance to Jesus Christ. These students are now spiritual heroes. In their last moments on Earth, they have taken a stand that will echo for all eternity. I am awed by their commitment. I am deep in inner-reflection as I consider just how deep my allegiance to the Lord really is. Then he drops the bomb, “If a gun was in your face and you would still say, “I’m a Christian,” I want you to stand up.”

My emotional instincts are screaming at me to get on my feet. But, my mind is telling me, Be honest, you can not, with any certainty or  sincerity stand up right now.

I pick my head up to look around. I figure there must be dozens of people throughout the sanctuary grappling with these same feelings, wrestling with this sobering challenge pastor has just laid before us. But, wait…..

WHAT! SERIOUSLY! As I scan of the sanctuary, it seems as if I am literally the only person still seated.


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I would just like to take a few minutes to share why it concerns me that I was the only person seated in the sanctuary that day. And this comes from no place of judgment, as this has been a rough week this week, and I believe it was in large part due to the fact that I have not stopped struggling with the fact that I couldn’t stand. That in my heart of hearts, I know I should be ready and willing to live and die for Jesus, but that I don’t know that I’m there yet. So, if every other person in the sanctuary was certain of what they would do with a gun in their face, I guess you could say my words come from judgement, but from envy.

However, my gut tells me that there might have been more than a few who had some of the same thoughts and feelings as me. And if so,  this is for you. Or, maybe for some who popped up without fully thinking about the reality of that promise; I hope that these words might spur you on to contemplate what that stand meant.

 

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As I said, as far as I could see all those in the sanctuary where standing, including the teens. After each sermon I typically ask my teenage daughter about what she learned and how it applies to her life. So, after this sermon I asked her about how she felt about the challenge pastor had given at the end of service.

Keep in mind, my daughter did stand up, but she told me, “I didn’t want to stand up. I mean, I knew what I would want to do, but in that situation I don’t know what I would really do.”

My 13-year old daughter had just processed an emotional moment at church and articulated her true thoughts and feeling. I was very proud to say the least. She had also just stated precisely my first layer of thinking when I chose to stay seated last week. Pastor did not just ask if I’d like to have the courage to stand with a gun in my face (to which I could have answered yes adamantly), but in essence, would I commit to doing so. And in that situation, do I really know what I would do? Does anyone really know? And how does standing amongst this of this sea of people who are all standing make my commitment any more real?

 

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Let me share some of the reasons for doubting that I truly know what I would do in that situation. First of all, it is a panic situation. One full of feelings, emotions, stress and terror that I have never experienced. It’s really unfair to say I am certain of how I would handle it.

I do know that in situations where great consequences are sure to come from the choices made, the best and worst in people tends to brought out; in some, the most extreme courage to do what is right no matter what the cost, and in others, the greatest of cowardliness to save their own butt regardless of what will happen to anyone else. Now I know which group I want to fall into, but I cannot say for certain  in which actuality I would.

I do know my track record in panic situations and it is not too hot. You can ask my wife about  time I cut my hand while trying to pry apart frozen tacos with a knife. (I know, brilliant…) The cut was just bad enough to maybe need a stitch or two. However, as I sat on the floor holding a towel on my hand and trying to stop the bleeding, I kept telling her over and over how bad it hurt and that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. Or ask one of my former students how well I do in pressure filled moments. At recess, she hit what we thought at the time was inside her eye (but thank God, turned out to be just above her eye)on a piece of metal fencing.  The wound was gushing blood. I told another teacher to call 911 (the only good thing I did) then promptly took her into the building and sat her right in the doorway of my classroom….. A spot that every other 5th grader entering the building from recess had to walk by and had a great view of her as the puddle of blood formed below her as they walked by.

 

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As I sat in my seat in the sanctuary last week, eyes closed, hoping that if it looked enough like I was in deep prayer not too many of those around me would judge me for not standing, the even scarier thought popped in my head of what would happen if the gun was to my face and I was actually thinking clearly.

If I was thinking clearly, would thoughts of Jesus have been what was running through my head? I like to believe he would be, but I can’t help but think of some of the other possibilities as I lay on the floor with the dead bodies of those brave enough to stand for their faith just feet from me.

I get a clear image of wife in my mind, then my teenage daughter,  my 5-year old son and my baby girl barely 2 years old. If I stand, I am not going home to them tonight. If I just stay put on the ground I will tuck my three children into bed and hold my wife as I fall asleep.

 

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And then there is another possibility. Might my fears of what is to come if I do stand and take the bullet rush to my mind. I mean, I believe that after death I will spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.  If I didn’t, I would live a very different life. I believe, with all my faults and sins; my life and the choices I make demonstrate my trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and point me towards life everlasting.

However, although it is a matter of much prayer and much pleading, when it comes down to it, eternity scares me. First off, no matter what is going to take place forever, the very thought of forever brings me fear. Secondly, there is the thought that of, what if I’ve been wrong about the whole Christianity thing? That thought that when I die, that’s it…….terrifies me. I guess when it comes down to it, I am scared of the unknown. Because no matter what we say or think about eternity, what takes place after we breathe our last is unknown, until, well…..until we actually breathe our last. So, I wonder, with all of my fears of eternity, would I still stand?

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And then I get to maybe the most rational thought of all. We all believe that Jesus shows us the extent of God’s forgiveness with stories like the Prodigal Son. With his promise of paradise to the thief who hung next to him on the cross. I’d venture to say that we all believe someone in that situation in Oregon who did not stand; yet genuinely repented at a later time, would be forgiven.

So, if as I ways lying there with gunshots still ringing in my ears, and my mind happened to be clear enough to think all of that through, to tell myself that I can save my life and still be forgiven by Jesus; I am afraid I might not have stood.

 

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As I continued to try to process the question asked by pastor this week.  As I wrestled with the haunting thought of would I be willing to be martyred for Christ; I seemed to keep coming back to the a slightly different question: Will I daily take up my cross? I hope that being asked about whether or not we would make the ultimate sacrifice theoretically does not in any way keep us from making daily sacrifices in reality. Might we face physical persecution or even death for our faith? Yes. But we will certainly daily be granted opportunities to live a BIG life that require us to sacrifice by not making the easy choice. YES!

How often do I fail to sacrifice my fear in order to share Christ with co-workers? How often do I fail to sacrifice my selfishness in order to spend more time with my family? How often do I fail to sacrifice my laziness in order to take a shortcut at work? And the list of questions that hit a little too close to home could go on and on.

And so my challenge to myself, and to anyone else who left last week burdened by pastor’s question, is that we might share, first with God, and then with another human being who will hold us accountable, something that we know we must begin doing, stop doing, or do more consistently, in order to truly daily sacrifice for the sake of Christ, and to live a life of eternal significance. And once, with the help of the Lord and our accountability partner, we start to find ourselves achieving sacrifice in that area, we move on to the next and the next and the next.

And for me, maybe, just maybe, if I were truly in a situation where my faith was going to cost me my physical life, I would be so used to my daily sacrifices for Christ, that the final and ultimate sacrifice would come a little more naturally.  
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The Day Jesus Came to Youth Group (Part 1)

The worship set wouldn’t start for another fifteen minutes and the teens were eating the snack set up in the back of the youth room and standing around talking. Their youth pastor was telling his usual, not so funny jokes to a group of new freshman, the only ones who hadn’t yet heard his comedic charm.  As the talking began to die down and the countdown on the screen showed only three minutes till service would start, a large crowd of adult men walked in.

The youth pastor grew a bit nervous as he counted to himself , 1,2,3…11,12,13. Now he hadn’t recognized the first 12 who had walked in and headed straight for the snack table, but the 13th was unmistakable, it was Jesus! And the other 12 where of course his disciples. Before the youth pastor had a chance to get over his awe and walk over to greet him, Jesus came straight over and began to speak.

“Hello, John. How are you this evening?”

“Well, uhhhh, ummm, I’m fine.”

“That’s good. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me just a moment to speak to the teens in your youth group. I will keep it very short.”

“Well of course Jesus. Do you want to talk before or after we worship?”

“What do you mean?” Jesus asked. “Does worship ever end? Is it not within our hearts to constantly adore the Father who has given us life and everlasting love?”
Feeling quite chided, the youth pastor’s cheeks grew red as he answered, “I mean, I meant…before or after the praise songs.”
“Oh,” Jesus replied with a smirk on his face. “After will be fine. Nothing better than singing to my Dad.” Jesus’ eyes scanned toward the back of the room where the disciples were still greedily devouring the few remaining snacks. Jesus sighed and began to walk toward them. “I just can’t take these guys anywhere.”

After the praise songs had been sung, Pastor John got up and said, “Well guys, I don’t quite know how to make this introduction. But, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ himself is here with us today! And he has asked to say a few words to you.”

Jesus walked up to the old music stand that served as a pulpit. He did not put down any notes, but began to quote from memory Matthew 7:1-5, “Do not judge or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

He continued, “You come here on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday. You read the Gospels that tell you of my words. You talk about love, love, love. Yet, the only ones you seem to love are those who are just like you, and this is only in small proportion to how much you love yourselves. How can you read my words time and again and not see that I loved the tax collectors, the lepers, the sinners, the promiscuous, the outcasts.”

With that, Jesus went and took a seat in the first row of chairs, took out his iPhone and began texting. All eyes were on him, waiting for him to say something more. But he just sat. Pastor John knew he had to do something. He couldn’t allow Jesus to only say such scathing remarks to his teens. They would be offended.

He went and sat in an empty seat next to Jesus and whispered, “Um, Jesus. I’m not trying to tell you what to do here. I mean, I get the whole Son of God thing and all, and I know you know better than me. But, um, well you were really hard on these guys. I mean they are just teens and all. Do you think, just maybe, you could say a few uplifting words to them before you go?”

Jesus looked up at the youth pastor. He saw into his heart. He knew he meant well and he spoke to Jesus out of genuine love for his flock. Jesus set down his cell phone and walked back to the front.

“Let me tell you a story,” Jesus began.

 

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Courtney pulled on her black leggings and then put on a gray sweater, turned around and looked in the mirror. Nope, not long enough. She took it off and tried on a pink one. She tugged at the bottom a bit. At least an inch or two past her butt, should do. She knew it first had to pass the inspection of her mother as she left the house and then any of the teachers who actually cared about the new dress code policy the school had initiated that year.

She went down to the kitchen and grabbed a granola bar, a banana and a bottle of water and started to head out the door.

“Is that all you’re gonna eat for breakfast, honey,” her mom asked as she fixed pancakes for Courtney’s younger brother and sister.

“Yeah, mom. I’m in a hurry. I need to be to school early for a study session in History class. It seems to be Mr. Jones’ mission in life to destroy as many students’ GPAs as possible before he retires.”

“Okay, well just wait to eat that till you get there. I don’t like you eating and driving.”

“Yes mom,” answered Courtney with mock concern. “And I will make sure my hands are at 10 and 2 the whole way there.”

Mom chuckled and then added, “And isn’t that sweater a bit short to be wearing with those leggings?”

“It covers my butt. I checked it.”
“Yeah, as long as you don’t bend down, walk quickly or happen to be outside when there is a gentle breeze.”

“Ha ha, mom. The new rule clearly states that if a student wears leggings he/she must wear a shirt that completely covers his/her bottom. My bottom is completely covered.”

“You know what. You are a junior in high school. You drive yourself to school. You have a job. I guess you are old enough to figure out if your clothes are in dress code or not. But, if there is a consequence at school, you’re on your own.”

It seemed her mom had finished and Courtney started to head back to the door, but just as she opened it her mom added, “I mean, I’m not so sure you’d wear that outfit if Jesus were in the room. I’m just sayin.”

Mom’s favorite, Courtney thought to herself. The catch all. Would you do, say, watch, act like, treat your brother and sister that way, and now of course, wear that, if Jesus were in the room.

Not to be deterred, Courtney answered over her shoulder as she walked out the door, “Jesus is okay with my outfit. I asked him this morning while I was upstairs. Love you mom, see you after school.”  

 

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As Courtney parked her car in the student parking lot she saw her friend Ashley pulling up. She waited for her to park and the two girls walked in together.

“Mr. Jones is just ridiculous,” complained Ashley as the two girls walked toward the building. “All this, ‘I’m just trying to prepare you for college’ crap. Give me a break. His wife left him last year and now he is bitter and has way too much time on his hand. A bad combination.”

“Seriously,” Courtney agreed. “Get a life. Go to the movies. Go on a date. Do something other than stay up all night dreaming up ways to make your students’ lives miserable creating more unnecessary work.”

As they neared the door, a boy came racing past them and opened the door. “Let me get that for you,” Donald said, clearly nervous and almost dropping the large pile of books he now tried to balance in one hand while opening the door with the other. “Two lovely ladies like yourselves should always have the door held for them.”

“Yeah, okay, thanks Donald,” Ashley said not hiding her irritation.

“Ya know, Donald, it is 2015, most girls really don’t mind pulling the handle of the big heavy door and walking through it them self,” added Courtney.

The girls walked quickly through the door and headed toward Mr. Jones’ room.  Donald, who struggled more than a bit in taking social cues, quickened his step to keep up with the girls.

“Ummm, sorry, I just thought…” Donald’s apology trailed off and he decided to give it another try. “So, Mr. Jones sure is laying it on thick this year. These study sessions are the only way I can keep up.”
“Really, Donald give me a break,” answered Courtney. “What’s your GPA, like a 5.9?”

Ashley decided the subtle hints weren’t worked with Donald and said, “We’re gonna stop in the restroom on the way to class, can you maybe not follow us into there.”

Donald’s head dropped as he slowed his pace to continue down the hall. “Yeah, sorry. Didn’t mean to bother you. Sees ya in class.”

As the two girls entered the restroom, Ashley continued the verbal assault. “Seriously, that guy is something. He could get straight A’s in his sleep. His in #1 in our class. I think the only reason he is here for the study session is because he actually likes to be in this building and wanted to get in as early as he could. And you know the only reason that dork held the door for us was so he could look at our asses while we walked by.”

“Butts, Ashley, butts,” corrected Courtney. “You know I don’t like the foul language.”

“Whatever, Ms. Church Girl.”

“Well,” Courtney added laughing. “At least he got a nice view, because I know my back side looks good in these leggings.”

The girls were still having a good laugh at Donald’s expense as they left the restroom and walked down the hall to the study session.

 

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Courtney sat alone picking at a salad in the lunchroom and waiting for her boyfriend Derek to come in. The lettuce in the salad was on the verge of turning brown and she counted a grand total of three pieces of chicken, but out of the options the cafeteria offered, it was the best she could do.  As she sat there lost in her own thoughts, a commotion from the corner of the cafeteria nearest where she sat startled her.

“We’re gonna crush ‘em tonight!” yelled Brad, the running back and team captain of the football team.

“We’re gonna hit ‘em so hard they are gonna wish the game only had two quarters,” Marcus, a lineman, chimed in oh so intelligently.

Sounds that were somewhere between grunting and barking could now be clearly heard from the huddle of barbarian football players getting themselves amped up for tonight’s game.

What idiots, Courtney thought to herself. God I know you are a lot smarter than me, but it seems like the world would be a little bit better place if you hadn’t allowed those guys to be created.

“And what do you say Bo!” Brad screamed trying to draw in the star quarterback; who seemed to be trying to keep just enough distance to not be a part of the commotion, but not too much distance to offend his teammates.

“I’m sure we’ll win tonight, Brad,” answered Bo in a voice much quieter than the other players.

And there is the worst of all, humble, quiet Bo. Courtney’s thoughts continuing to throw daggers at the group of jocks, but now specifically honing in on Bo. Gets all the glory of being the quarterback. But, stays just to the edge of all the other players. I can see right through his pious act. It’s just his way of bragging. Look at me, not only am I a the best quarterback in the conference, but I’m just a quiet, down to Earth guy. Yeah right!

“That better not be all you got!” Brad fired back.

Bo sighed, and raised his voice just slightly, and without much conviction said, “We’re gonna destroy them tonight!”

“Yeah, that’s right!” all the guys screamed and their voices turned into a loud chorus of “Whose house? Bear’s house!” The Brawling Bears being the high school’s mascot.

As the yelling grew louder Courtney noticed Bo slowly backing away from the group. Good grief, she thought. None of these guys will ever amount to anything more than a bunch of townies. I can just see them now. All in their mid 40s, sitting around at a the run-down diner talking about their “glory days.” And look, there’s Bo. He’s the one serving the coffee!

The thought of Bo in an apron handing out mugs of coffee to pot bellied, balding, former football players made Courtney chuckle to herself.

 

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“What ya laughing at babe?” Derek asked as he gave Courtney a kiss on the cheek and sat down beside her.

“Oh nothing, just thinking about the wonderful future those buffoons in the corner are going to have once they are no longer star high school athletes.

“And look who’s joining them now,” Derek said.

Over to the chanting, grunting, screaming crowd of players, strutted Cassie. Being gameday she was of course dressed in her cheerleading uniform with a skirt that showed just how long her legs were.

Courtney snorted, “Yeah, I have to wear a shirt that covers my butt completely when I wear leggings, but she can wear a skirt that hardly covers her.”

“Yeah,” agreed Derek. “If you are in any way a part of the athletic program here at the amazing intellectual intuition of Morrisville High you can pretty much get away with murder.”

_________________________________

“Wow, Cass, I can’t get over how good you look in your uniform,” one of the not so subtle jocks told her.

Cassie giggled and rubbed her hand over his chest, “And you look so strong in your jersey, Tyler. You gonna catch a touchdown for me tonight?”

“I’ll catch two,” he answered grinning.

“That’s cool, you go ahead and score for her. I’m trying to score with her,” another player threw in, laughing loudly at his own joke.

Cassie didn’t even seem to blush at the comment, but just giggled and flipped her hair.

_________________________________

 

“She is such a slut,” Courtney told Derek.

“They say she spends more time on her back than Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,” Derek added.
_________________________________

“Come on, show us some of that Brawlin’ Bear pride, Cass. You know it’s our good luck charm,” Brad coaxed.

Cassie giggled again, flipped up her skirt in back, and sure enough there on the spankies, right on Cassie’s derriere, was the picture of a bear in boxing gloves. The players performed their weekly ritual, each either giving Cassie’s backside a little slap or pinch. And although, her giggles continued throughout the ceremony, they seemed to grow a little more forced with each groping from the jocks.

 

_________________________________

 

“Whore,” Courtney’s hissed.

“Oh, forget about her. Let’s talk about something else,” Derek said.

“Okay, what do you want to talk about?”
As Derek began to speak, his hand began to slowly run up from where it had been sitting on Courtney’s knee to her thigh. “Well, like, what we are going to do after the football game.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well, my parents are out of town this weekend. So, I thought maybe after we go to the football game, you might want to come over and hang out.

“Derek,” Courtney replied grabbing his hand that was getting dangerously close to an area past her leg completely. “You know I am waiting till I get married to have sex.”

“I know,” said Derek sliding his hand out of Cassie’s and continuing his attempt upward. “But, we could do some of the stuff we did that night in your basement when your parents had fallen asleep upstairs watching a movie. And maybe try a few new things. There are lots of things besides sex, you know.”

Courtney giggled as Derek’s hand finally reached its destination and she answered, “Sounds good to me. I will just tell my mom I am going over to Ashley’s after the game.”

With their plans set, the bell rang. Derek walked Courtney to class and Bo, the only player to not have his hands on her Brawling Bear emblem, walked Cassie to class.

 

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Courtney went into her last class of the day, Biology. She hated biology. The only thing that made the class bearable was that Ashley was in there with her. She slumped down in a seat near the back with Ashley to her right. To her left sat Allison. Allison wore all black, sported hot pink hair and had more piercings in her ears, nose, eyebrows and tongue than seemed humanly possible.

The bell rang and Mr. Becket, always prompt, began his lecture immediately. “Today, class, we will be looking at how both dominant traits and recessive traits are contributing factors in offspring.”

Ashley and Courtney looked at each other and rolled her eyes.  Ashley shot a glance at Allison, who seemed to be genuinely interested in Mr. Becket, and smirked. She took out a piece of paper, wrote a note and passed it to Courtney.

Courtney opened the note and read it, Do you think it was the dominant or recessive trait that gave Allison pink hair.

Courtney wrote back, I’m not sure, but with Halloween coming up it must be nice not to have to buy a costume.

Both girls laughed at this. And while stifled enough not to catch Mr. Becket’s attention, it was loud enough to draw a glance from Allison. And when Ashley passed back a note back that said FREAK in large, squiggly red letters and pictured Allison riding a witch’s broom, Allison was watching. She shot Courtney and Ashley both a piercing look, but somewhere just behind the death stare their seemed to be a trace of moisture.

 

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Courtney got home two minutes before curfew that night, feeling pretty lousy. She had taken things even a step further than last time with Derek and wasn’t feeling particularly great about it. Not to mention that she had lied to her mom and told her she was at Ashley’s. With all this on her mind, and a terrible headache, she was really not in the mood to make small talk.

Courtney took off her shoes as she as she came through the door and attempted to tip toe her way through the living room, where her ever devoted mother slept. She would never go up to bed until Courtney was home safe and sound. But, she never could actually quite keep awake, so it made her feel better to at least be downstairs when Courtney got home, even if she was off in dream land.

As Courtney carefully tiptoed past the couch and was nearly to the stairs, she

happened upon a squeaky floor board. Her mom sat up and rubbed her eyes, looked down at her watch and smiled, “Just in the nick of time, huh honey.  How was Ashley’s.”

“Good mom. But, my head is really hurting. I am going to take some Tylenol and get to bed.”

“Okay, sweetie. Maybe we can eat breakfast together in the morning and I can get a little more detail than ‘good.’”

“Sure, mom. Sounds great.”

“Hope your head feel better Courtney. Love you honey.”

“Love you mom. Good night.”

Courtney went upstairs and took some Tylenol and got in her pajamas. As she laid down her head was still pounding. She tossed and turned trying to find a position where her head would feel a little bit better, but it was no use. Finally, exhausted, head still throbbing, she fell asleep.

As Courtney lay sleeping, she woke suddenly in a fright. She thought she heard something that sounded like lots of people talking at once. So many that it was impossible to hear what they were saying. She looked around her room. She was alone. All was okay. Must have been a nightmare. But, man, did her head still ache.

She laid her head gingerly back onto the pillow. And even with the pain, she quickly fell back to sleep.

Eternity: The Ultimate Comfort

My family visits at a nursing home each month. While we’re there I present a message, my teenage daughter dances, my first grade son reads a book or shares a poem, my wife keeps our youngest daughter from interrupting what everyone else is doing 🙂 and at the end we just visit with the residents. The last time we went Jasmine danced to the song “Tell My Heart to Beat Again,” by Danny Gokey to set up my message. If you’re not familiar with the song, take a minute to click the link and listen before you read this blog.

htpps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13wFGffg

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You may recognize that name Danny Gokey from American Idol. Gokey finished third place on season eight of American Idol. What you might not know is that just a few weeks before Gokey auditioned for “American Idol,” his wife died unexpectedly during a routine heart surgery.

Which then makes the story behind the inspiration for this song all the more amazing. Gokey tells the story of a pastor in Ohio who had a heart surgeon who went to his church. The pastor wanted to see a heart surgery actually take place. So, the surgeon pulled some strings and the pastor was there watching as they opened up the patient’s chest cavity and took the heart out to work on it. Now before they can close the patient’s chest back up, they need to restart it. But this time the heart wasn’t restarting.

And the surgeon did something completely out of the ordinary, that blew the pastor’s mind. He got down on his knees and said, “Mrs. Johnson, this is your doctor. We have fixed your heart. There is no longer anything wrong with it. Mrs. Johnson, if you can hear me, I need you to tell your heart to beat again.” And then, as if on cue, her her heart began to beat.

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We have all had our moments in life when it seems as if our heart has actually stopped beating.  When something is happening that is simply too great to bare and it feels like life may no longer be worth living.

As the powerful opening lyrics of the song put it:

Shattered, like you’ve never been before

The life you knew

In a thousand pieces on the floor

Words fall short in times like these

When this world drives you to your knees

You think you’re never gonna get back

To the you that used to be

 

It may be a cancer diagnosis. The loss of spouse or a child. Opening the mail and taking out a letter that explains your house is being foreclosed. Being let go at work and having no idea how you will support your family. Having your spouse walk out on you without warning. Driving home from the your office’s Christmas party and seeing the flashing lights poll up behind you when you know you’ve had too much to drink. Trying for years, but never being able to conceive. And the list could go on. I am sure each person in the room could certainly tell their own story.

For most of us, though, somehow or another, we all survive our most terrible moment. We find the strength to go on. We resolve to never be in that position again. We decide to allow our terrible moment to motivate us to do some sort of good with our life moving forward. Our heart does indeed beat again.

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Today, I want to talk about the moment for Jesus’ disciples when their world came crashing down around them; when it seemed like all they had been living for had been taken away. And I am of course referring to when Jesus was crucified. But, then we all know the rest of the story. Three days later, Jesus was raised again! And the disciples’ tragic moment quickly turned to joy and they were rejuvenated with the strength to press on. Yet, there was something more to their strength to move forward; something way beyond the way in which most of move on back into the ordinary day to day routines that we were accustomed to before our moment of tragedy. And this is what we need to pay close attention to today: what gave the disciples such a  more powerful rejuvenation?

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First though, we need to start by going way back, far before Jesus ever walked the earth. Because we need to remember something that is often forgotten in our modern American churches. Jesus was Jewish. He was born into the history and culture and religion and traditions of the Israelites.  So, we must take a moment and remember this history.

The Jewish nation since almost their earliest time had been in a pattern of being enslaved by foreign nations delivered to freedom by the Lord, enslaved or exiled, delivered, enslaved, delivered…you get the picture. Going all the way back to the book of Exodus and the most well-known example, when God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, but only after the Lord convinced the Pharaoh with 10 plagues that He really meant business and then for an encore parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry land before having the waters come crashing back down on top of the pursing Egyptian Army.

From there the was the exile to Assyria of the Northern Kingdom and then the Southern Kingdom to Babylon. Then, after Cyrus of Pers took Babylon, the Jews were allowed to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem and many were allowed to return. A couple hundred years letter it was the Greeks who gained control of Jerusalem and over the next several hundred years,depending on the ruler, the Jewish people had varying levels of independence to practice their religion and traditions.

Now as we near the time of Jesus’ birth, the Israelites had been under Roman rule for about 60 years. And at this point we start to see a change in the expectations of the Israelites. No longer did they think they would they reclaim their freedom through simply God’s intervention in giving some extra daylight to win a war or his knocking over a city wall at the sound of a trumpet blast, but God would now send a Messiah to lead the Israelite people to freedom. This Messiah would be a conquering Messiah who would lead the Israelite people victoriously in battle and regain their freedom as a people.

But, even more than this, the Messiah would establish a Kingdom on Earth for God Almighty to come down and be with His people on Earth. For God to directly reign on Earth. And in doing that, He would save not only the Israelites, but through Israel, God would then save all nations. And when the Lord came to reign, God would establish a Kingdom on Earth where all was made right. Peace and love would reign supreme.

The prophet Amos talked of this time when justice would roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.

 

Isaiah spoke of the day when (Isaiah 40:4-5):

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

   every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

   the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

   and all people will see it together.

 

Also also of a time when (Isaiah 11:6-9);

6The wolf will live with the lamb,

   the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;

   and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

   their young will lie down together,

   and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,

   and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

   on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

   as the waters cover the sea.

 

This is the world into which Jesus came in to. And the claim of Messiah was not unique to Jesus. There was a self proclaimed Messiah, Simon of Perea who came shortly before Jesus. He rebelled against the Romans and proved himself a false Messiah when he was killed by the Romans. A few decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection came the First Jewish revolt, which was ended by the Romans in AD 70 when they completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. But, in 132 AD, the Second Jewish Revolt was fought and led by Simon bar Kochba, who also claimed to be the Messiah. There was even a short-lived Jewish state founded, with Kochba hailed as the Messiah-king, before the Romans once again squashed the revolt, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and selling many more as slaves.

Now, it would seem odd to someone who follows the Christian tradition that someone claiming to be Messiah would come after Jesus, since we believe Jesus is indeed the true Messiah,  and in fact, the Son of God. But most Jews, and for that matter, most of humanity ever since, did not and have not realized Jesus’ true identity, because they missed what happened 3 days after the cross. They missed what turned the disciples dejection to elation; they missed what caused the disciples’ heart to beat again.

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But, before we get to the good news at the end of the story, we must look at just how tragic, just how devastating, Jesus’ death on the cross would have been to his disciples. We start with when the disciples first began to follow Jesus. And we must remember they had lives of their own. We know that a number of the disciples were fisherman, including Peter, James, John and Andrew. We also know that Matthew had been a tax collector. In addition, Simon is referred to as Simon the Zealot and we can assume he would have already been involved in some nationalistic leanings before meeting Jesus. We also know Peter was married because we hear of his mother in law in the book of Matthew. In addition, in 1 Corinthians, Paul is asked whether he also did not have the right to take a believing wife as did the other apostle and the Lord’s brothers and Peter. So, we can assume other disciples also had wives.

So, when these guys decided to follow Jesus, they dropped everything, left all they knew behind and simply went where Jesus went.

And then they spent the next three years side by side with Jesus. Talking with him. Eating with him. Following him wherever he went. Jesus was the disciples’ friend. They had spent three years with this man. They knew him more intimately then they knew their own families at this point. But, he was not just their friend, but the friend who had all the answers. Jesus had settled their arguments, taught them as their Rabbi, and calmed the raging storm when they were afraid. Jesus was the friend who everyone turned to when they weren’t sure where else to turn. The friend who made everything all right when there seemed to be no way out.

And more than a friend, but a teacher and Rabbi.  The disciples had listened to Jesus’ teaching for the last three years. They had bought into what he was teaching. They had heard the sermon on the mount and believed in the almost unreal expectations to not only love your neighbor, but also your enemy. To not only stay clear of adultery, but of all lust. To not only keep blood off your hands, but to keep violence from your heart and mind and angry words from your lips. And not only had they heard his teachings, but they had witnessed his miracles. They had seen him heal diseases and physical deformities and even rebuke nature itself. They had seen Jesus do the impossible time and again.

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Now, put this together with the backdrop of Israel’s history that I shared and the time and place Jesus came into. Jesus’ disciples had come to truly believe he was the Messiah. Peter declares this when Jesus asked the disciples who other people said he is and then followed it up with who the disciples said he was. Peter tells Jesus,  “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

They believed they were following the one who would lead the nation of Israel to freedom. The one who would overthrow the Roman rule and usher in the coming of God Himself to reign in their midst! Their expectation was that they would be a part of, and not just any part, but a ruling part of, this new kingdom. In Mark chapter 10, when James and John ask Jesus that one of them may sit on his right hand and the other on his left when he comes to glory, they are not talking of heaven. They are talking of the very near future when they believed Jesus would rule as the Messiah-king on Earth!

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And this thought of Jesus’ Messiahship had built to a crescendo as Jesus had come riding into Jerusalem on a colt for the Passover Celebration. This festival commemorated God’s deliverance of the Israelite people from Egypt. The religious fervor that was already a part of this weekend was incredible. And as the people laid down their cloaks in the street, shouting Hosannah and waving palm branches, the nationalistic zeal was palpable. This Jesus, the people had heard about, he might just be the one. And this might just be the time. And no one in Jerusalem believed this more than the disciples.

But, a short time after this triumphal entry, Jesus does something odd. Instead of claiming his throne and making a public declaration of being the Messiah, he washes the disciples feet and talks about a master being a servant and how to truly be great you must humble yourself as a servant to all. He then shares a passover meal with disciples. And during, it he breaks bread and drinks wine with the disciples, referring to it as his body that would be broken and his blood that would be shed. But the disciples just don’t get it! For Luke’s account tells how just after the bread is broken and the wine is drank, the disciples are back to arguing over who will be the greatest.

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And then comes the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus lays down his own will in order to take up God the Father’s. Yet, the disciples, even at this moment are still not yet willing to see what is destined to take place. They are unable to comprehend that Jesus will not rule as a conquering king, but instead will save humanity as a suffering servant.

As a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees came with lanterns and torches and weapons to arrest Jesus, Peter, still not understanding Jesus’ true mission, took his sword and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. At this point, if the disciples could not make it any more clear they had no clue, all fled and deserted Jesus. As a trial that was a mockery to justice took place, as Jesus was scourged and beaten, and eventually nailed to the cross, it would seem from scripture that except for  Peter who watched from afar and denied Jesus three times, and Jon who stood at the foot of the cross in Jesus’ last moments, the disciples where nowhere to be find.

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The disciples were utterly hopeless. They were lost. Their best friend, their teacher, their Messiah was dead and gone. They were grieving over the loss of one they loved and also mourning over finding out all they had believed was soon to take place, the promise of the prophets and the scriptures being fulfilled through Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, was not going to happen. And now what? Would the authorities come after them next? There was certainly a fear that gripped the disciples. We already heard of how all fled at his arrest. Then in the book of John, we hear how the disciples were meeting together behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. And once a bit of the fear had worn off, the overwhelming emptiness  set in of having what you believed to be truth completely and undeniably shown to be a lie. And with no thought of what else to do, the disciples simply went back to the lives they knew before Jesus, as John records that a group of disciples were back out fishing.

You see, the disciples were having a moment to make their hearts stop, without any reason to think that it would beat again. There was nothing to make them believe that they would see the promise of the Messiah fulfilled. Nothing to dull the pain of losing their best friend. Nothing to ease the sense of loss they felt of having chased a lie for three years.

But then, in the greatest comeback story of all time, in the  single most important moment in human history, the disciples hearts are jolted to life once more. As if the paddles where placed on their chests and the electric shock of the defibrillator put life is put back into their bodies. Or maybe, it was more like Jesus getting down on his knees and whispered to the disciples, “I am alive again. I have come back. I am no longer dead. I need you to tell your hearts to beat again.”

And once Jesus spoke these words, once they realized the resurrection was for real, the disciples hearts didn’t start to beat, but they pulsed with an energy they had never known before. When the women tell the apostles of the empty tomb, Peter and John race there to see for themselves. And when Jesus appears to seven of the disciples on the shore while they are fishing, as soon as they realize it is him they get their boat full of fish back to land as fast as they can, except for Peter who jumps out and swims! For the disciples cannot wait to hear what Jesus has to tell them next.

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You see, when that life is put back into us, when God takes us out of that dark place where we just don’t believe we can go on and we realize there is something greater to live for; we don’t just putter along, we hit the ground running. We find new purpose, new focus, new desire. And this is what happened for the disciples. For each of them went out after hearing Jesus’ great commission and began to tell others about Jesus’ death and resurrection with a fervor. And the only thing that could stop them from sharing this message was death. Tradition tells us that all of the disciples but John, who lived out his last years exiled alone to the island of Patmos,  all the other disciples, were martyred for their faith.

What changed for the disciples? What took them from hiding behind locked doors to boldly proclaiming the gospel? I think it is that after the resurrection, when Jesus restarted their hearts; the disciples realized that what they were now living for was not simply a better life on this earth, but for eternal life. What their heart now beat for was not taking up arms to be a part of a kingdom of this world, but to be a part of an eternal Kingdom where all will be made right through the redemption found in the sacrifice Christ made on the cross and the victory over death that came through His victorious resurrection from the grave!

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Now, when I started out this afternoon, I talked about the fact that we all have those moments when we wonder if our heart will beat again; when our world comes crashing down around us and we wonder if life is even worth living. And yet in these situations, we find a way to make it through; to press on and continue with our lives. Maybe even to turn our tragedy into triumph by making something good from our misfortune.

But, I also mentioned when I began that there was something different about the way the disciples bounced back then the way we typically do. And I think this difference was shown clearly in their willingness to follow Jesus even to death after they saw him resurrected. So, what was it? What was it that caused the disciples to not just press on with the day to day, but to boldly declare Jesus to all those they encountered.

I believe it was that when they saw Jesus after His resurrection, their focus changed. It changed from an earthly focus, to an eternal focus. You see, when we come back from our tragedies it is with a focus of moving forward with our lives. Making the most of the years we will walk this earth. Which is wonderful. And we should make the very most of every moment we have. However, the disciples had a different focus after seeing the resurrected Jesus. It was a focus to live the rest of their earthly lives to do something that would matter for eternity. The disciples no longer worried about what would happen to them as they walked this earth, because they knew where they were going when their time on earth ended. And they wanted as many people as possible to come with them.

And when we have our times when the worst seems to have happened, sometimes the only thing that can truly make it right is if this eternal promise is real. Think of the loss of a child. Sure, you may go onto have more children and raise a beautiful family. But, every Christmas, every birthday, every anniversary of your child’s death, the ache is there. But, what about in the eternal perspective? That child has been made new and whole and one day you will be reunited forevermore.

Your spouse has walked out on you. And sure you heart has stared to heal. And you may have even met someone new. But the scar is deep. And the trust issues are real. And you can never love quite as fully as you did before. Yet, in the eternal perspective, you are the bride of Christ. And he loves you more deeply then any spouse ever could. And he reaches out his hand and says I will heal you in part now, as much as earthly possible, but just you wait until one day after you have breathed your last and real life begins. You will hurt no more. You will will weep no more. And you will be blown away by a love that makes all loves you knew on earth seem like mere weeds in a garden of roses.

Or the terminal cancer diagnosis. You can come to terms with it. You can get get going on your bucket list. You can get your will in order. You can say all your goodbyes. But, then there is that thought, I’m really going to die. I am really going to close my eyes for the last time and no longer exist.  However, the eternal perspective says something much different. The eternal perspective says that when you close your eyes for the last time here on earth it is not a period, but simply a comma. And what comes after that comma is true life. What happened here on earth was just a mere shadow of the real thing. The real thing that is beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations that we can not even begin to comprehend.

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And so, I ask you today, do you have the eternal perspective? Do you believe its real? Are you able to have peace in life when the moments come that make you feel like you heart has stopped beating? Not because you simply push on with a new determination to live this life to its fullest, but beaus you know there is something so much greater than this life waiting for you. Are you sure of where you will go when you breathe your last?

The Bible says being sure of this is very simple. Romans 10:9-10 tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and with your mouth that you confessed and are saved.”

In order to have the eternal perspective you must have faith in the one who holds eternity in His hands. You must tell God that you understand he is God and you are not. That you know that you have sinned against him. Done things that you knew where wrong. Chose to be your own god and make your own choices instead of allowing him his rightful position as God and letting him lead your life.

And you must understand that these choices you made were sinful. And that a Holy God cannot be in relationship with sinners. And there IS no way that on your own you could earn your way back to God or cleanse yourself of your sins.

But, this eternal God is not only Holy, but also loving. And he sent Jesus, God’s son, to this earth. Jesus came and lived a blameless life.He died and rose again. And in his death, he took all of the sins of the world upon him. And in his rising, he conquered death once and forevermore, so that all people may have the chance to spend eternity with the Lord.

But, God is not a God who forces. No, in his love he gives us the freedom to choose. And in order to have the promise of eternity we must choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We must choose to willingly lay down the agenda we had for our lives and take up his agenda. And in doing this, we are taken in by the Lord as a son or daughter. And he will be with all of the days of life; but even greater than that, when the days of our life are over, we will go to be with him for all of eternity.

 

 

 

A Modern Day Parable on Faith

A Modern Day Parable on Faith

“To what can I compare faith?” Jesus began to the crowd sipping their lattes outside Starbucks. “Faith is continuing to make the sponsorship payments for your Compassion child, even after taking a pay cut at work. Faith is staying in your marriage, even when it seems like things will never improve, because you trust that in the long run God will bless you, and your marriage, for sticking it out. Faith is being sure you knew my Father’s will, then seeing things go completely different then you had hoped and still saying, I trust in your plan and purpose Lord. Faith is accepting a new position knowing it will be a significantly smaller salary than your current position, because you truly believe in the mission of the new company.”

With that, a man in a tailored suit sipping a $5 Carmel Macchiato quietly slipped into his BMW and headed off to the job as a Power Broker that he loathed. Jesus went on, “How can I make you understand faith? It is like a man who had to drive through a depressed part of town on the way to work each day. Each day he drove by a man holding a sign saying, Down & out on my luck. Will work for food. The man on his way to work judged the one holding the sign. In fact, he would take an alternative route some days that took longer, just so he did not have to see the man. But as time went on, a feeling formed in the pit of his stomach that he could not ignore whenever he went by the raggedy man. Until one day when he was leaving his house for work, the man made a ham and cheese sand which. And when he came to the man holding the sign, he rolled down his window and handed it to him. And his faith grew.

He continued with the sandwhiches out the window for several weeks. Until that feeling consumed him again. And he looked up at our Father and asked, “Are you kidding me?” This time the man left for work 20 minutes early and when he came to the man holding the sign, he parked his car. He got out and asked if it was okay if they ate a sandwhich together this morning. The two men ate together. No longer did he pity the man who held the sign, but he loved him. And his faith grew”

The crown had begun to thin, but Jesus was apparently not taking the social cues too well and continued, “No God,” the man said driving into work that day. “Nope. Don’t know him that well. Not sticking my neck out for him. No, Lord, no way.” Yet he found himself at his boss’ desk that day. And he heard the boss telling him, “You don’t even have to bring him in for an interview. It’s just a cleaning position. If you recommend the guy, he can start Monday.” And his faith grew.

“No longer does the man ride alone to work. But each day he rides with the man who used to hold the sign.”

Jesus looked out at the thinning crowd and new that some of their hearts were still hard. “I tell you the truth faith that is not tested will wither and die like a flower that receives no rain. If your faith does not force you beyond yourself, you have no faith at all.”

A woman in the crowd holding her baby and thinking of all of the safety issues with actually having a homeless person in her car spoke up. “But Jesus, each person’s faith is a little different. Your story is very touching, but you don’t expect everyone to have faith like that…do you?”

Jesus looked upon the woman with love. For he knew how she loved her baby with a beautiful and selfless love. But, that she had justified not being stretched in her faith because she put her child before God. He began to speak, “There was a Nazarene church headed by a pastor who longed to do more than preach practical application sermons to the regular attendees before taking his scheduled Sunday afternoon nap. Stepping out on faith he went before his board with a plan to do more. With much coercing, he convinced his board to approve the purchase of a small abandoned building right next to the church property.  The building would be turned into a community center to hold evening activities for the youth who were turning more and more to delinquent behaviors.

With the building purchased, the Pastor now needed someone who could see his vision and get the program rolling. He knew the perfect person. A member of his church board was in a high-level management position. He was amazing with planning and organization. He tithed 25% of his large salary to the church. He and the pastor went and walked through the newly purchased building one evening and talked of his heading up the programming for the youth. He replied to the pastor, “I would love to, but I often hold evening meetings at work. And besides, with my knowledge of running an organization, there are far too many unanswered questions at this point as to how this program will actually work to think it will get up and off the ground. I just couldn’t even think of taking this on without there being a more solid foundation.”

The pastor was not discouraged. He had another amazing choice in mind. She was currently a stay-at-home mom, but had been a middle and high school teacher and a principal before having kids. She would bring an amazing knowledge of how to interact with the youth. As the woman and the pastor walked through the building the pastor told her, “I know you have your hands full with a preschooler and a toddler at home. But, since it is in the evening I thought your husband might stay home with the kids or you can even bring them here! Start them early serving others.”  She answered with a chuckle, “Oh Bill could never handle the kids on his own. He can hardly take care of himself.” Then, she became much more serious, “And I could never bring my kids around ‘those kids’ who would come here in the evenings.”

The pastor had been sure that one of his top two choices would accept and was doing his best not to become discouraged. That evening he sat in his office trying to think of a third choice when he heard a knock. A woman walked in who lived in the community and had recently begun attending the church after coming to receive a free backpack for her oldest of 3 children (all by different fathers who were long gone by now). “Pastor, “ she began. “I know I’m new to the church. But I heard about the community center and that you needed someone to head it up and I wanted to volunteer. I don’t really have no experience except that I grew up in this community and am raising my 3 kids here. So, I get were the kids around here are coming from and I know they just need someone to love on them and to learn how much the Lord loves them. Just like I needed. I will have to stop my evening hours at the restaurant and bring my own 3 with me, but like you always say if we doing God’s will He will provide what we need.”  The Pastor wiped away a tear and smiled at his knew community center leader.

Jesus turned to the woman holding her baby, “Which of the 3 showed faith?”

“The one who was willing to lead the programming at the community center,” she answered.

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus responded.

Of those left, a few walked away sad for they had many important things planned that they could not lay aside. But, as Jesus walked away past the Nail Salon and Smoothie King, he turned to see a small crowd still following him.