December 1, 2015

Your Faith Box Series: The Fifth Basic Foundation: "...he sent his only begotten Son.."

Now would seem a good time to review our faith box contents. We have committed four realities to our faith box which are basis to our Christianity.

1. There is a supreme being we call God who is the creator of the universe. He is involved in His creation and He loves His created creatures including and especially the Humans who He caused to be created in His own image.

2. God loves his creation. God can not stand to be separated from his creation. God loves you regardless of whether you are lovable or  not, whether you are his enemy or his friend.

3. Your faith box must include the belief God loves you so much, he refuses to give up on you! You can not ignore him enough or reject him enough for him to step away from the pursuing you. In the grand story of God's pursue of his creation, he finally found a different way of reconciliation. He chose to forego his efforts to reconcile a peoples in favor of reconciling individuals to him.

4. We find ourselves in a state of separation from God and we can't do anything to close the gap, to reconcile us to God. We can not do enough good works, feed the poor, cloth the naked, comfort the weak and ill. We can not pray enough or go to Church enough or introduce enough sinners to God or perform miracles or give enough money or give our life for someone else. As noble and righteous as all these things are, they will not save us; they will not reconcile us to God, they will not keep us from receiving the punishment our sins deserve. And the punishment we deserve is death, not physical death, we all are going to physically die, but eternal death. Eternal death is eternal separation from God. That is what we deserve.
The good news is God does not want us to be separated from him. God does not want you to be eternally separated from him. God wants to be reconciled with you.

And He has a Plan!

November 28, 2015

Your Faith Box: The Fourth Foundation Belief "We can not do it by ourselves"

If you have been around toddlers, you have heard them say, "I can do it myself." It seems to be human nature to achieve something without any help from anyone. In fact, this attitude is not limited to four year old children. The iconic phrase "self made man" is used universality to describe a successful man, or woman for that matter. Politicians, especially those in the campaign season, remind us, "Anyone through hard work can make it to the top. Anyone can be the President." Mothers and fathers of young girls tell them they can do or be anything they want to be. This hard work theme is called in America, the Protestant ethic, but in reality, it is the Universal ethic of Humankind!

With this basic instinct, the young and inexperienced enter adulthood. Yes we enter the physical world with it's demands and trials, it's risk and rewards, it's ups and downs, but we enter it confidently because we believe, "I can do it myself!" While there are exceptions, most of us can do most things for ourselves, at least enough to live in the world. And some individuals can do amazing things most of us could never do.

But, and this is a big but, there is one thing no one can do for themselves. The wealthiest person can not do it, The most powerful man or woman can not do it. A strong willed person will fail when they try to do it. You can not get enough education at any level to do it. It is impossible o do it yourself!

November 12, 2015

Your Faith Box: The Third Foundation Belief: God will not give up on you

The unfolding story of God's relationship with his creation can be summed in one phrase; relentless pursuit. This is so different from the human experience. Imagine a letter to an advice columnist.

Dear Amy:
I like this girl and want to ask her out. I have tried to make friends with her and it is okay for a while until someone else comes along and she drops me. I send her flowers and she says, "Oh how sweet."and we are friends for a while. But when I ask her out she always has something else to do. I did her homework for her and she says, "Oh how nice." and we are friends for a while. But when I asked her out she can not make it. What should I do?  

What would you advise "Lonesome" to do? I, for one, would tell "Lonesome" to forget this girl, look for someone else who is not so heartless. She had ample opportunity to date you. clearly she is not interested in you. 

But God is not human! He does not operate as we do. To summarize the situation to date. God created the universe and humans. God loves his creations especially humans. God gave us the right to make our own choices and we chose to turn away from God. But God loves us and wants us to have a family relationship with him. So God does all he can to win our voluntary choice to return to him. Unfortunately, we reject his overtures to us. We reject him.

November 5, 2015

Your Faith Box: The Second Foundation belief, God "loved the world"

Love is a misunderstood word or concept. What is Love? We use "love" in many ways. I love my mother, I love my wife, I love my children, I love my car, I love my work, I love my school, I love my sports team, I love, I love, I love. Is any of this relative to "For God so loved the world..."? Can we truly understand God loving the world, or God loving us? Coming to grips with the idea this great creating and sustaining God actually loving you and me, is absolutely a foundation belief lining your faith box.

Love has a price. If I offered you $1 million for the car you love, would you take? In a heart beat you would take it. What would be the price of others things you love? What would you take for your spouse? or your children? That really is not a far fetched idea, many families are broken because one spouse accepted something in exchange for their family. Families have been broken when one spouse thought a career was more important or an affair was more satisfying, or money could solve any problem or any number of other things. The point is love has a price, something more important than the thing you say you love.

Which of us would give up our life to save our child? I dare say most parents would give their own life to save their child's life. The need to protect our children is embedded in our DNA. In fact it is an animal instinct of the parents to protect the young whether in the animal kingdom or in the human kingdom. Sacrificial love for those we create or for those who love us is natural. Is God's more than that?

Who would give their life for someone they do not know? I am not talking about donating a kidney for a stranger. I am talking about being willing to die so you can donate a heart to someone you do not know. A child, maybe, but a stranger? You want me to let you kill me so a women in Dallas can receive my heart? Whoa!

October 22, 2015

Your Faith Box: The First Foundation Belief, "For God..."

I have asked many Christians the following question. What is or are the basic essential beliefs of a Christian? Most of the responses are some variation of the familiar scripture in John chapter three where John writes in verses 16 and 17 (do not leave out the critical 17th versus). Let me quote it from the King James Translation, but feel free to read it from other translations.

   "For God so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
     For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

If I were stricken dead and not able to complete this blog, that verse would stand as my primary faith statement. This is the one truth Christians must be able to affirm in the face of any temptations or challenges Satan might thrown at you even if your life depended on it. Within this statement, complete though it is, we can learn several secondary but essential truths basic to Christian.

First, a Christian acknowledges there is a supreme being we call God. Muslims call that being Allah. Ancient Jews were so in awe of this supreme being they could only spell his name with no consonants, YHWH. There are many other names for God, but they all point to a supreme being, someone or something well beyond the human experience.  There are numerous concepts about this God. In pantheism, God is the universe itself. In atheism, God does not exist, The agnostic sees God as unknowable or unknown. In deism, God is the creator, but not the sustainer of the universe. He built it and then left it on it's own. There are other "isms" about the concept of God, all beyond the scope of this blog, but worth reading about.

October 20, 2015

Your Faith Box: What is in your faith box?

As a young boy, I had a cigar box I found in my grandfather's basement. Over the years, I began to fill that old box with my "treasures". Even into young adulthood, I added to my box. While the contents of the box were not valuable to anyone but me, they served to remind me of my youth and the events that shaped my life. I had an old knife my grandfather gave me, my Dad's military ribbons, a lock of my first girlfriend's hair, a medal I won in high school, a letter from my Dad, a postcard from a family vacation; nothing of worldly value, but priceless in the story of my life.

I am suggesting you have a box as well. This box, however, should be filled with something more valuable than my cigar box. My box was filled with things. This box should be filled with your ideas. Filled with your beliefs. Filled with the keystones of your faith walk. I call this your Faith Box.

In your faith box are those things you truly and deeply believe. Things you will not disown. Things that guide your life. Things no one can take from you. Have you read the story of a gunman who entered a classroom on a college campus and held the class captive? At one point he asked a student, "Are you a Christian?" When the student answered, "yes", the gunman shot her. While her courage and commitment needs to be celebrated, it is what happened next that speaks volumes about courage.  The gunman turned to a second student and asked the same question. Imagine what goes through a person's mind when they know answer to the question will get them killed. Answering "Yes" would get her killed! What would you do? A lot depends on what is in your Faith Box. She did answer "yes" and was shot. What a testimony to a strong faith, what courage!

So what is in your Faith Box? What do you believe, not what do you think, not what do you feel, not what you hope, but what do you believe; absolutely, unshakable, without a question, believe?

October 15, 2015

Your Faith Box: Planting in good soil

For your faith to grow and mature and produce a good crop, it must be planted in good soil, soil that provides room to grow, proper nutrients, protection for the weather and resistance to the weeds and thorns seeking to hinder growth and maturity. The new Christian has already provided the soil ready to receive the word. You have accepted Christ as your savior and Lord. Hopefully you have been baptized and have received the Holy Spirit. What more can you do? The first thing you can do is read the Word of God regularly. Find out what the scriptures say about the life you want to build with God.

Luke's gospel 4:1-13 records the story of Jesus temptations by Satan in the wilderness after John had baptized Him. Notice in the story as Satan tempts Jesus, His every response begins with, "It is written,..." Or "It is said.." Jesus knew the wisdom of the prophets and ancient men and women of God; the scriptures. He used the scriptures to rebuke Satan because He knew the scriptures. A new Christian would be wise to know what the scriptures say about God and this new life you want to live.

September 30, 2015

Your Faith Box: SoYou Have Been Saved, NOW WHAT?

Huh? You mean there is more? Believe it or not, being saved is the easy part. Now you are a Christian, a child of God and the real work begins!

Paul wrote to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:11 HCSB) “…Become mature…” They were encouraged to grow in their faith and their understanding of the new relationship they had in Christ. While Paul encouraged the Corinthians to grow in their faith, he knew it would not be easy. He knew they would be affected by the world around them. He knew they would have cause to question this new faith. He knew they would not understand everything. Knowing these these things he wrote to encourage them. He wrote to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:9-12 HCBS)

We come into the spiritual family of God much like we come into the physical world; fresh, full of wonder and curiosity, a blank sheet. That blank sheet begs to be written filled and so we grow.
Little children grow and develop as they learn new exciting aspects of the mature life. We continue to learn as we age and as we age we naturally grow into maturity. And like children, new Christians grow as we learn more about what it means to be a member of the family of God.

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