Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lost in Translation

And they will go to others and say, "I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved."

--  Job 33:27

One of the great things about the English language is that a single word can mean so many things to so many people. For instance, let's consider the word LOVE.

We might love playing golf, love watching Crossthe sunset, love ham and cheese sandwiches, and love our children. Each phrase has a distinct meaning. But we all know what the word LOVE means.

Or do we? When it comes to understanding what God's love is all about, the English language falls quite short.

The Good News is that the Bible is full of examples of God's love for us. There's the famous story about the Prodigal Son, where a loving father welcomes back his rebellious--and totally unworthy--child. Or what about the shepherd who searches tirelessly for a single missing sheep? When he finally finds it, he returns it triumphantly to the rest of the flock. There's also the account of a man who sells all his possessions to buy a field. And not just any field, but one holding buried treasure! The land's cost is staggering, but he does whatever it takes to gain the prize.

That's how God loves us. Even though we don't deserve it, He goes to any length to gather you and me into His family. Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament (John 3:16) tells us that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son (Jesus) so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. God willingly let Jesus suffer and die to pay for all our wrongdoings--past, present and future. We rightfully deserve death because of how we've lived our lives. But God's love offers us joy and happiness if we're only willing to accept it. By living on Earth among everyday people and then dying for our sins, Jesus has already paid the ultimate price.

Yes, the English language fails to fully reveal the meaning and implications of God's love. We can only skim the surface of this vast ocean. But maybe we shouldn't be overly critical. After all, it takes only three simple words from the Book of 1 John to sum up the entire picture:

God is Love.   

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sure Thing

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

--  John 11:25-26

Let's say you're planning to make a big purchase. Maybe it's for a new car, a smartphone, a digital camera--or even a cruise. Whatever it is, you've got a big decision to make. And there are so many choices.

If you're like most folks these days, the Internet is your next stop. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can find dozens of websites featuring helpful information Choiceabout virtually any product. Some sites feature reviews from the experts. If you want to compare a Nikon camera's white balance and exposure compensation ratings with comparable Canon and Sony models, that information is easy to find. But many of the best product websites feature comments from consumers. Their observations can be particularly helpful because they tend to cover the product's pros and cons without the manufacturer's marketing spin and hype. That glossy brochure might rave about a tablet computer's speed and futuristic design. But if a few actual owners write that this same device is difficult to use and prone to freeze-ups, you'll probably start looking for a better option. 

The lesson here is that taking advice from those who know can help you avoid making costly mistakes. If that's true for microwave ovens and hybrid automobiles, how about for things of eternal significance--like the existence of heaven and hell? If heaven exists, how can you get there? And what's the surefire way to avoid hell?

Ask these same questions to 20 people on the street, and you'll likely get as many different answers. But God doesn't want His people to be confused. So He personally came to earth through His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and reveal how we're all to live for today and for eternity. Several of those who traveled with Jesus during His 3-year-long ministry wrote about their experiences and confirmed that Christ really is who He claimed to be. What's more, they personally witnessed His miracles--how He raised people from the dead, healed the lame and made the blind see.

Luke, the physician who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, also wanted the real scoop about the Savior. So he interviewed the people who knew Jesus best and could attest to His authenticity. Consider the opening lines of the Scripture:

"Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. So I made a careful study of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. ... I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard."

The Apostle Peter also reassured some of the faith's earliest believers with his own testimony:

"When we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not telling just clever stories that someone invented," he reported. "But we saw the greatness of Jesus with our own eyes."

Are you uncertain about trusting what's in the Bible? Is all that stuff about Jesus rising from the dead really true? And if it is, how should it make a difference in the way you live each day? These are vitally-important questions. So why not avoid a costly mistake and read some in-depth reviews from the folks who know their stuff: the authors of the Gospels.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Inferiority Complex

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

--  Mark 10:27

Was he in the stands last week at the Super Bowl? 

He's that anonymous guy with the John 3:16 sign who seems to attend just about every televised sporting event. And why does he keep waving it at the camera? John 3:16 is arguably the most important message ever written:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

It's a simple sentence that's really Homelessthe Bible's message in a nutshell. It's the Gospel, which translated means good news. And good news it is! Whether you're rich or poor, famous or forgotten, it means there's no more reason to fear death when you put your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. All of your past, present and future failures won't be held against you. And because of Jesus' death and resurrection, all believers can look forward to an eternity of unimaginable joy and celebration with their Creator.

That sounds great for after we've passed away. But what about while we're still here on Earth? What does God have to tell us Average Joes (and Josephines) about getting through the challenges and frustrations of everyday life? Well, here's some more good news: God is for the little guy (and gal) who says "Yes" to Him and His plans--even when we feel inadequate, inferior and unnoticed. This is a consistent principle throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

Let's look at some examples. There was Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers and unjustly imprisoned in Egypt. But God made him that powerful nation's governor and used him to save Israel from famine. Mighty King David started out as an obscure shepherd boy. But God used him and his slingshot to slay Goliath--the fearsome 8-foot-tall leader of Israel's enemy, the Philistines. Moses was a poor speaker who stuttered, yet God chose him to face Pharaoh, bring the Israelites out of slavery and lead them to the Promised Land. And let's not forget the Apostle Peter. He was a lowly fisherman who actually disowned Jesus three times when things got tough. Yet God still picked him to lead the growing band of Christ-followers in Jerusalem and help spread the faith across the known world.

Today's Christ-followers are like the heroes of the Bible in many ways. We're imperfect human beings who can fail to hear God's call--or even decide to avoid or refuse it. We sometimes feel discouraged and abandoned when we don't feel God's presence. And our self-image is often one of inadequacy. But the truth is that God knows the plans He has for us. He sees us for what we can become, not for who we are at the moment. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Back to Basics

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other...

--  Matthew 6:24

There's plenty of talk these days about fighting high energy costs through conservation and renewable resources. It's all about doing more with less and getting back to basics. As a nation, we have to set priorities. But what about our personal priorities for a valuable resource that we can never renew: our time?

Everyone has only a set number of days to live on this Earth. And what we do with them depends on our priorities. Some might live to travel the globe and find adventure. RunnersSome might live for pleasure, family or friends. And still others might seek meaning by throwing themselves into their careers. With so many choices and outlooks, how can we best set our priorities?

With the Winter Olympics just a few days away, let's look at Eric Liddell's story for some guidance. Liddell was a Christ-follower who believed that everything in his life should be done to please God. Born in China, he looked forward to one day fulfilling his calling as a missionary. But before that, he would compete as a runner at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

All seemed well until Liddell learned that his big race was scheduled for a Sunday. And that was a big problem. He felt in his heart that competing on Sundays was wrong because it would dishonor the God He always sought to please. So the faithful runner stepped aside, seemingly disqualifying himself from a chance at fame by representing his country in the Olympic Games.

Eric Liddell's clear priority was to put God first, regardless of the cost. And needless to say, it was a priority that few others shared with him. It's reported that even the Prince of Wales urged the young athlete to run in the Sunday track meet. But Liddell refused to compromise his principles.

Then the unexpected. Liddell was given the opportunity to run on another day. The catch was that he had never trained for that particular event. Fans of the 1981 movie classic Chariots of Fire surely know what happened next: he won the race and claimed the cherished gold medal.

Let's now fast-forward 90 years to our present day. The 2014 Olympics are here and the same vital questions remain. What are your priorities in life? And what's really important to you? As Christ-followers, we first need to seek God's guidance for the answers. It's then that we can take that next crucial step: the decision to honor God. We also need to develop a plan of action. Which parts of our life are we willing to change to meet the goal? What's negotiable? And finally, it's time to deliver by running the race and seeing it through past the finish line.

Eric Liddell's real-life adventure is full of life lessons. And if there's just one to take away here, it's that God will honor us when we decide to honor God.

Are you ready to go back to basics in your walk of faith? Then let the race begin.