Pro-choice leaders worried?

pro-choice-baby.jpgI recently explored some reasons why the pro-life movement might eventually win (in the sense of making abortion on demand illegal; we know we’ll never have a 100% win).

Jill Stanek had a thorough analysis as to why some pro-choice leaders were conceding that their movement has lost ground.  Here are a few of the points they acknowledged:

  • decreased public support for willy-nilly abortions
  • increased personal responsibility
  • “science” 
  • ultrasound
  • advancements in fetal surgery
  • increased survival of preemies
  • our [pro-lifer’s] improved debate skills
  • our increased ability to elect pro-life candidates
  • advanced empathy for minority rights, including those of the preborn
  • the animal rights movement
  • “to end violence at all levels,” which I take to mean in part opposition to the death penalty
  • the phrase, “culture of life”
  • “hard questions about why women get pregnant when they don’t want to have babies,” in other words, how could any woman let this happen with the widespread availability of contraceptives?
  • graphic photos of aborted babies
  • their side’s refusal to acknowledge morality in the abortion debate
  • “We haven’t convinced people that we are the ones actually doing things to make it possible for women to avoid needing abortions,” in other words, public skepticism that their side may not be the solution but rather the problem
  • “The choice movement seems to defend every individual abortion decision,” in other words, their adamant opposition to any common-sense restriction on abortion whatsoever

Note how some of those are on our side and will always be there (all the scientific advancements and ultrasounds are to our benefit).

I agree with Stanek’s assessment of the pro-choicers’ claims to want common ground:

I for one will never try to “build common ground” with the abortion industry. There is no common ground. The culture of death is the sworn enemy of the culture of life. This is a war, a clash of civilizations.

I do stand ready to dialogue with those in the mushy middle who don’t understand the abortion cartel’s agenda. But we will never have a meeting of the minds on abortion.

Why did Kissling and Michelman write their piece? To shake up pro-aborts to undergo “a serious reassessment” of strategy, not to say pro-lifers were right.

I continue to pray that the middle ground will get more educated on the topic and return to the obvious view that abortion is a moral wrong.  Hey, even Planned Parenthood used to know that:

Is it [birth control] an abortion?

Definitely not.  An abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun.  It is dangerous to your life and health.  It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it.  Birth control merely postpones the meaning of life.

In the mean time, remember that forgiveness and healing is possible for those who have participated in the abortion process.

Psalm 37

ps37a.jpgGreetings!

Of David.

1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;

2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

God wins in the end, and 2nd place won’t even be close.  Tough times and evil people seem like such a burden now, but I must remind myself that in light of eternity they will mean very little.

3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Verse 4 is one of my favorites.  I currently use it in the header of my regular blog.  It isn’t that if you like God that He’ll give you all the things you want that aren’t good for you.  It is that when you know and truly delight in the Lord your heart will want far different things.  When I think about what truly delights me, it includes things like opportunities to share the Gospel or to encourage others, or to see my kids grow in their faith. 

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

When you commit to the Lord you will find all sorts of opportunities to serve and glorify him.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Just as Jesus taught not to worry, so does the Psalmist.  It can lead to evil if it causes us to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting God.

9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.

11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

Just as Jesus notes in Matthew 5, the meek will inherit the earth.  But meek does not equal weak!  It is power under control.  It is humility and not exercising our power.  By submitting our wills to God we are being meek.  Just as a tamed lion or horse still has all of its power, so do we. Meekness does not equal cowardice!  Consider what Christians have done over the centuries for God that took incredible courage.

Meekness does not equal timidity or passivity!  Consider all the exciting and energy-requiring things people do for God. 

12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish: The Lord’s enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish—vanish like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;

22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be cut off.

23 If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

26 They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.

27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.

28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;

29 the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.

31 The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, seeking their very lives;

33 but the Lord will not leave them in their power or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Colossians 4

col4.jpgGreetings!

4     Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

There is so much I could say about prayer.  Sometimes I think it gets over-analyzed.  I read a book called Prayer by Philip Yancey, who is usually one of my favorite writers.  But if it is possible, I think I knew less about prayer after reading it! 

I heard a great sermon by John MacArthur that emphasized some basics of prayer and the freedom we have with it.  Pray to any member of the Trinity – or all three!  Pray any time, or all the time.  Pray with eyes open or closed.  Structured or unstructured prayers.  And so on.

3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

What great things to pray for – that God will give us opportunities to share the Gospel in a clear fashion!  I am convicted by the admonitions towards wisdom with outsiders.  Blogging is a challenge with so many hostile views out there.  I try to write the truth in provocative ways (especially on my other blog) without deliberately offending people.

Final Greetings

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Onesimus is the runaway slave written about in Philemon, a very short but impactful book of the Bible.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Luke is the one who wrote the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts.  He was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Again, Paul was in prison when he wrote this.  Yet consider his attitude!  We may not always be happy, but having true joy is one of our birthrights as Christians.  I have to remind myself of that because it is so easy to get pulled into the worries of the world.

Grace and peace to you all!

Who can understand the Bible?

bible5.gifIt ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

Mark Twain

The Bible can be challenging to understand.  66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,173 verses, ~40 authors over a 1,500 year period, etc.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t accessible.  As Twain noted, some things are very clear.  The parts that aren’t as clear take a little more work to understand. 

The letters in the New Testament were written to real people.  They didn’t have to get a priest to figure out what the author meant.  It wasn’t like the Ephesians got their letter and said, “I have no idea what he is talking about!”

Of course, there are many cultural things and a lot of background information that can help us understand the Bible better.  It is a large book so it can be overwhelming at times.  Solid teaching and preaching are important, but you can learn much on your own as well.  Here are some Bible study tips

One of the easiest things to do is focus on what you do understand and not just what you don’t understand.  Make a list of questions and seek answers later if you like, but don’t let that stop you from reading.

I always liked this passage in Acts 8, and especially v. 31 where the Ethiopian says what so many of us think: How can we understand the Bible unless someone explains it to us?  God made sure the Gospel got to someone who truly wanted to hear it.  Who knows what impact the Ethiopian man had when he returned home with the Good News?  Are we doing our part of spreading the Gospel and taking what we know to lost people?

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I like to use that passage to encourage people to take Bible studies.  In many areas of life we take classes and lessons to get better at something – golf, computers, math, etc.  But when it comes to the Bible many people think they need to know about it before going to a class.  They are embarrassed to admit that they are Christians and don’t know the Bible well.  But today is always a great day to start studying it.

P.S. Beware of churches or denominations that insist that you can’t understand the Bible without them giving their official interpretation of it to you.  Some churches actually discourage people from reading it on their own. 

Colossians 3

col3.jpgGreetings!

Rules for Holy Living

3     Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

That passage reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We focus way too little on Heaven, in my view.  Focusing on Jesus and the glory to come can help us keep things in the right priorities here and now and help us endure.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Those are long lists of things to avoid!  But Jesus has given us freedom from sin if we will let the Holy Spirit work.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Verse 15 is sometimes taken out of context to justify decisions that we feel a “peace” about.  But this isn’t about how to make decisions.  We may make many Godly decisions that we don’t have peace about.  The proper interpretation is that we are to resolve conflicts with fellow believers. 

If you are here then you are obeying v. 16!

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Peter and Paul give roughly the same marriage and family advice in several places.  Once again, our culture tends to overreact to the word submit but when they got this letter in Colosse it was probably just as controversial for the opposite reasons.  Women were property then, yet here Paul is telling husbands to love their wives and not to be harsh. 

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

“Slaves” would be any employees in our culture.  V. 23 convicts me, because I often wonder if I’m working hard enough at my job.  The results are great, but they come so easy I feel like I should be doing more.

Best present wrapping job ever

My daughters gave me a DVD of season 1 of The Office for my birthday.  To “wrap” it they enclosed it in Jello.   If you’ve seen the show you’ll get the joke.  I’ll explain it for the rest: One of the practical jokes one character plays on a co-worker is to put his office supplies, such as a stapler, in Jello.

hpim1506a.jpghpim1504.jpg

Yes, we ate it after recovering the DVD.  It doubled as a birthday cake (we’re not big cake eaters).  Mmmmmm . . . Jello! 

It was my favorite flavor: Red. (A restaurant in Tulsa pulled off the neat double oddity of listing “Red Jello” – not strawberry, not cherry, but red – as a vegetable.) 

P.S. My wife gave me a TiVo and had some interested friends set it up.  I am usually somewhat of an “early adopter” with technology and such – digital photography, computers, MP3 players, etc.  The notable exception has been in the TV area.  The friends were aghast that I was still using VHS tapes to record TV shows and were glad to help out.  They deemed it an “intervention.” 

To make matters worse, the TV in the living room is so old that they couldn’t connect the TiVo to it.  They had to put it in the game room, which of course disappointed my daughters to no end (it is their primary TV).  In theory, this was my gift.  In theory.

Hopefully this just leads to less commercial watching and not more TV watching!

Weekly roundup

Can we trust the Gospels? – Short answer: Yes.  Click the link for a lot of great analysis.

Seven benefits from reading the Bible

Abortion #1 killer of blacks, says Tennessee pastor Joseph Parker

“Planned Parenthood kills more black people in three days than the Klan has killed in its entire history of existence,” he states emphatically. “Yet many in the African-American community [who] don’t even see Planned Parenthood as an enemy would see them as a friend. So one of the things we’re using as a platform is explaining that ‘you may think the Klan is your enemy — let me show you the real enemy.'”

Should Christians help alleviate pain?   

See www.str.org

Colossians 2

col2.jpgGreetings!

2     I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Just before I started this chapter I was reading a blog comment by a postmodernist who denies the traditional definition of truth (that which corresponds to reality).  He claims to be a Christian -and perhaps he is – but his idea that there aren’t universal truths is not Biblical.  His logical conclusion of his beliefs is that all religions are valid paths to God.  But this is intellectually bankrupt.

Paul’s purpose was for the church members to be encouraged and to gain an understanding of Jesus who has all wisdom and knowledge, and he wanted to prevent us from being deceived. 

The Bible teaches over and over that some things are true and some are not.  We should seek truth and hold onto it.

Freedom From Human Regulations Through Life With Christ

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

I love verse 8.  It describes the challenges of this culture so well.  There are so many false teachings.  The world’s philosophies are indeed hollow and empty.  They are meant to deceive.  They are not based on Christ.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

V. 9 has another direct claim of Jesus’ deity. 

The circumcision of our hearts is compared to the physical circumcision done by the Israelites and with the sacrament of Baptism.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

He forgave all the sins of believers – past, present and future.  One of the most destructive heresies is any concept such as purgatory where we have to do “our part” to have our sins taken away.  Jesus did it all on the cross.  The cross trumps sin; sin doesn’t trump the cross.  Hear the Good News!

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

It is interesting that the Sabbath day is mentioned in this way.  Observance of the Sabbath is the only Commandment not specifically reiterated in the New Testament.  I think it is still a great habit, because God created us to need rest one day per week.  If you haven’t tried setting aside a day for minimal or no work and to focus on God, you’ll be amazed at how beneficial it is.  But it is not something we should be legalistic about. 

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What I’d really, really like to ask the Democratic candidates

carenet-walk-05-55.jpg

I would gladly pay $$$ to be able to ask this.

Hi Hillary, Barack and John,

If a genetic predisposition to homosexuality were proved and could be identified in utero, would you favor a ban on abortions to protect the unborn in this category?

Follow up questions:

If yes, then why not extend these protections to the unborn who are being aborted due to being female, or because they are in the way of careers or economic goals, or are just plain “unwanted?” 

If no, then are you homophobic?  Why should the GLBT lobby support you?  It seems that the Republicans value their lives more than the Democrats. 

Oh, the schadenfruede of watching them squirm over that!  I explored this as well in A hypothetical dilemma.

You can use the same example with gender-selection abortions, most of which are done to unborn females.  That one is also handy when pro-legalized-abortionists try to paint you as anti-women for opposing abortion.

Prison ministry closing ceremony

kairosjesusbehindbars.jpgI’m working another prison ministry weekend in March.  If anyone in the Houston area wants to come to the closing ceremony, it will be at 5:00 on Sunday, March 9.  Just click in the “Email Neil” box to the upper right and ask for the application instructions (you’ll need send an email with your driver license # to get on the entrance list). 

The ceremony is held inside an auditorium on the prison grounds.  It is quite safe.  The ceremony isn’t completely predictable, but you get a real feel for the transformed lives that occur because of what God is doing through various prison ministries.  If you have any interest, come check it out.

More here: Off to prison (ministry)

John 16

j16.jpgGreetings!  The persecution of the church started early and continues to this day.  As I write this, Hindus in India are offering rewards to people who kill pastors.  We in the West are far too comfortable with our faith and, broadly speaking, do a poor job defending it.

16     “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

I often forget the power of the Holy Spirit and his impact on my life.  He is God, the third member of the Trinity, and lives inside me. 

The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy

17 Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Someone just pointed out to me yesterday about how asking in Jesus’ name will make our joy complete.  What an incredible promise!  How did I miss that before?

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. 32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I always like v. 29 when they are so happy that Jesus is not using figures of speech.

V. 33 is powerful to memorize.  We will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world!

Colossians 1

col1.jpgGreetings!  Let’s dive in to the short but terrific letter from Paul to the Colossians. 

Colossians

1     Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

The Gospel is still growing around the world.  We don’t see it as much in the U.S., but it is growing rapidly in South America, Africa and Asia.  Why is it growing: For the same reason as in v. 6: People are hearing it and understanding God’s grace in all its truth.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We often don’t think of how we please God, but verses 10-12 tell us how we can.  One of the ways is to grow in the knowledge of him.  Many liberal theologians act as if God can’t be known, but the Bible teaches that we can know him and that it pleases him when we do so.

We are not only rescued but adopted into his kingdom as well.  All because of what Jesus did for us, and not because of what we did (in fact, it is in spite of what we did).

The Supremacy of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

V. 15-19 are one of the clearest declarations of Jesus’ divinity.  He is fully God and fully man.  When it says he is the “firstborn” it doesn’t mean He was created.  It means he is preeminent or superior.

Jesus created all things.  He is the eternally existent God the Son.  Jehovah’s witnesses wrongly add the word “other” in front of “all things” multiple times because they falsely claim that Jesus was created. 

A good verse to share with the JWs is Isaiah 44:24 “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”  Since Isaiah clearly teaches that God alone made all things and JWs at least concede that Jesus made all “other” things, then Jesus must be God.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Because of what Jesus did for us, we have gone from being enemies of God to being friends with him.

Paul’s Labor for the Church

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Again, Paul is writing so that we may know more about God and what Jesus did for us.  Paul clearly states that he is bring the word of God to us.  Thank God for that!

Who can understand the Bible?

bible5.gifBeware of churches or denominations the insist that you can’t understand the Bible without them giving their official interpretation of it to you.  Some churches actually discourage people from reading it on their own. 

But remember that the letters in the New Testament, for example, were written to real people.  They didn’t have to get a priest to figure out what the author meant.  It wasn’t like the Ephesians got their letter and said, “I have no idea what he is talking about!”

Of course, there are many cultural things and a lot of background information that can help us understand the Bible better.  It is a large book so it can be overwhelming at times.  Solid teaching and preaching are important, but you can learn much on your own as well.  Here are some Bible study tips.

I always liked this passage in Acts 8, and especially v. 31 where the Ethiopian says what so many of us think: How can we understand the Bible unless someone explains it to us?  God made sure the Gospel got to someone who truly wanted to hear it.  Who knows what impact the Ethiopian man had when he returned home with the Good News?  Are we doing our part of spreading the Gospel and taking what we know to lost people?

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Ethnocentricity

masai.jpgEthnocentricity is the belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own ethnic group or culture or the tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own.  

Many people misinterpret the Bible because of ethnocentricity.  They think it is anti-women, for example, while Christianity is actually the great liberator of women. 

Some things in other cultures are just plain wrong, but other things made sense for them at the time.  As always, we need to read these passages in the context of their culture and of the whole Bible. 

I noticed this with the Masai warriors in Kenya.  These tribes practice female circumcision and polygamy, drink a mixture of milk and blood, build their houses with cow dung and have cows living inside their houses.  Yet they think we’re weird because our dogs live inside our house.  One guy gave us the strangest look over that! 

Joel Osteen’s theology – too wide, too narrow, too shallow

joel-osteen.jpgMs. Green had a good piece on Joel Osteen – another false teacher / preacher, where Joel was either ignorant of what Mormons believe (bad) or aware of it and not willing to speak the truth (really bad).  I previously wrote a little about him here.

In my view his theology is too wide, too narrow and too shallow.  Here’s what I mean:

Too wide: His sermons could be preached at most Western churches, mosques, mormon temples and synagogues without offense.  We don’t want to add to the offense of the Gospel, of course, but by its very nature it offends people.  If you are preaching it properly you will make enemies.  The only way that many people could hear it without offense is if it is unbalanced and/or watered down.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

Too narrow: His prosperity gospel would make no sense to most of the world. 

Too shallow: He is also ignorant or afraid to speak clearly on various controversial topics (saying that Mitt Romney is a Christian, not knowing whether the Bible teaches about topics like homosexual behavior and whether Jesus is the only way).

Joel may give some good self-help advice.  But if you aren’t saved then Joel’s church is a dangerous place to be.  You might never realize that you need Jesus.