Is God Against Everything?

Several years ago, my father had heart surgery. Of course, after his surgery, he had to change his exercise habits and pay a lot more attention to how he ate. One day I called him on the phone and asked him how he was doing.

“I’m trying to get used to this Baptist diet,” he said.

“Baptist diet?  What in the world is a Baptist diet?”

“If you put something good in your mouth,” he said, “spit it out!”

He went on, “According to this diet my doctor has me on, I can’t eat anything that tastes good…”

Most of us feel the same way about God.  If we enjoy doing it, it must be against some commandment.

In fact, most casual observers assume God is simply against everything.

But is that true? Let’s check the record.

In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve freedom to eat of every tree and plant in the Garden… except one… ONE! In all of creation, God had one NO!

As the children of Israel moved out of Egypt’s slavery into the freedom of the Promised Land, God gave His people the Ten Commandments.

God seems to be saying, “Now that you are My people, here are ten things I expect from you.” Of the ten, two are positive (Keep the Sabbath and Honor Your Parents).  As Israel came into their new lives as a free people, God said there are eight things they could not do… EIGHT!

And what were those eight? Well, they include things like murder, lying and stealing… are any of us for these things?

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandments, He said there are two. First, love God with all of your heart, soul and mind. Second, love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Two commandments… and these two, Jesus said, sum up everything in the Bible.

One rule in the garden, Ten Commandments for the Promised Land, two commandments given by Jesus… that doesn’t sound like a God who’s against everything.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. He came to save us. He wasn’t sent to the world to say NO, but to bring us God’s YES. God is already on our side. Getting that is the first step to living in the freedom of FOR instead of the negative reaction of simply being AGAINST.

God’s word to us is YES and Jesus is the living proof.

Winning the Battle

In Kairos, our young adult worship experience on Tuesday night, we have been talking about spiritual warfare. We have focused our study on Paul’s teachings in Ephesians 6. In the passage, Paul tells us to be sure to put on the full armor of God that we may be able to stand in the day of battle.

Now, while there are a lot of things I could talk about out of this passage, I want to focus on something that I find peculiar.  In verses 10-13 of chapter 6, Paul reminds the Ephesian church of the nature of the battle. In verses 14-17, he describes the armor Christians are to wear in the battle.  Now, in verse 18, you would expect Paul to yell, “Charge!”

But he doesn’t. Instead, he tells the Ephesians to pray. Once you get your armor on, the first thing you do is pray.

Pray? Why? Because the battle is won is prayer.

Ever wondered why Jesus could stand so calmly in front of Pilate?

Because of the prayer in Gethsemane.

Ever wondered why John the Baptist could preach with such confidence?

Because of all of the time in prayer in the wilderness.

Ever wondered why Mary was so devout in her loyalty to Jesus, her Son?

Because, we’re told, she treasured the stories of Jesus in her heart and meditated on them. In short, she prayed.

Before every public victory, a private victory is won.  This only happens in prayer.

So, if this is tough week for you, if the battle seems to be especially strong, find a quiet place and slip away.

This is where the battle is really fought…in our own lives in the Presence of Christ.

Once the battle is won here, we’re liberated and empowered in Christ to make our stands everywhere else.

But remember, the battle is won in prayer.

Step for Step

Biblical scholars have always been fascinated by Luke’s account of the resurrection. What makes Luke’s telling of the story so interesting is the way he focused on two friends walking along the road to Emmaus.

Cleopas and his friend, neither of whom we have met before, are walking along when a stranger joins them. They begin to talk about Jesus and His death and the rumors of His resurrection. The stranger, Jesus, yet to be recognized by the other two, takes the time to explain why the Messiah had to die and what the resurrection means. Then, while He is breaking bread with them, He allows Cleopas and his friend to recognize Him.

Interesting, isn’t it? The story isn’t about Peter or John or any of the other disciples.  Nor, is the story about the women.  The story is about two guys walking down the road.

The story is about us. Remember, the good news of the gospel is not that we can get to God, but that God, in Christ, has come to us. The story of the road to Emmaus is the first proof of this. Jesus comes to Cleopas and his friend. They aren’t even looking for Him, but Jesus is looking for them.

Lost, but now I’m found. Blind, but now I see.

These past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting with my Dad in the hospital. There are hours of silence interrupted by moments of sheer terror. You cry. You laugh. You believe. You doubt.

Most of the time you just put one foot in front of the other. The road is before you and you don’t know where it goes. You know you just have to keep walking. So you walk.

Somewhere in the moment, you won’t ever be able to figure out exactly when it was, but you will know. Someone has been walking with you. The Stranger who has joined you on your journey is familiar. He is Emmanuel, the promise of Christmas come true. God is with us.

Step for step.

Not That Mysterious

One of the great mysteries of history is how Christianity went from a small band of scared believers in an upper room in Jerusalem to conquering the Roman Empire in less than 400 years. I know a lot of theologians and New Testament scholars have written about the growth of the early church. The missionary journeys of Paul, the adoption of the early creeds, the writings of Ignatius and Augustine—you can find many books on these topics.

But I want to make the point of this blog a little more basic.  At its core, the missionary growth of the early church was fueled by two things.  First, people whose lives had been authentically and radically transformed by an encounter with the Risen Christ. Second, they told their friends about Jesus.