Tag Archive for Mary Magdalene

Doubt: Part 3–Cloudy

 

Imagine you’re at a funeral on a cloudy day.  Then the sun comes out from behind a cloud.

 

Now if you are a scientific, buttoned-down, fact-based kind of a person, the first thing you would say is that the sun didn’t move–the cloud did.  You could give a meteorological explanation of prevailing winds, condensation, etc., and you would be factually correct in your explanation.  But you would be completely missing the point.

 

Now imagine at that same funeral on that same cloudy day, you are the grieving father standing over the grave of your first-born son.

 

You have never believed in God, though you have heard of him.  You have doubts about your child’s eternal destiny, because he hadn’t been baptized, and you don’t know what is real and what is bogus from a theological standpoint, because you have little intellectual knowledge of God.

 

All you know is that you turned your life upside-down to welcome this child into the world, and now he is gone, just as quickly as he came, and your world has been turned upside-down all over again.

 

Then, through the cloudy haze of your grief, you hear what the preacher is saying over your son’s grave.  You have never heard this minister before; you don’t go to his church, you have no idea what their Statements of Belief are.  But he is speaking words of peace and comfort, and even though you don’t understand what they all mean, they ring true.

 

As he finishes speaking, and says “Amen,” at that moment, the sun comes out from behind the cloud and a single sunbeam shines down on you, the child’s mother who is sobbing in your arms, the preacher, and the open grave.

 

And you feel warmth where there was only chill, and peace where there was only chaos—a peace that passes all understanding.  A peace that you have never felt before.  And your mind connects the dots for the first time.

 

And you know that God is real.

 

You are angry with him beyond measure for taking your child from you, but you can no longer deny His existence.

 

That was me on October 4, 1989.

 

The day of my son’s funeral was the day I buried my doubt.  I still wanted nothing to do with God, but I knew He was there.

 

It took five more years for God to break through my stubbornness and get me to listen to Him, and another eight for me to finally surrender my life to Him.  Fortunately, God is patient.

 

The point of this illustration is that on that cloudy day, at that funeral, I believed, and had peace.

 

Just like when I was three years old and my parents told the noise I heard was just the wind howling through the trees and not some phantom coming to yank me out of bed, throw me around like a dog with a chew toy, then drag me off to who knows where.

 

I was not able to see the wind, but my parents told me, and I believed.  Though I did not actually know, the belief was good enough to get me to sleep.

 

(How significant is the belief of a child?  Come back for Part 4–Faith)

 

Intolerance: Part 3–Righteous

 

Since no one can measure up to the standard of God by his or her own efforts, it is therefore senseless to expect anyone else to measure up to our own standards.  

 

We are in no position to judge the nature, or character, of another, because we share the same sinful character.  To attempt to judge someone in this way would make us guilty of self-righteous intolerance. 

 

However, there is such a thing as righteous intolerance.  This cannot come from any person’s will or way of thinking, as Solomon wrote, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins”  (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV). 

 

The only possible source of righteous intolerance is the only person who never sinned–Jesus.

 

One of the central tenets of Christianity is that Jesus is not just the only begotten Son of God, but is in very nature God Himself (see Philippians 2:6).

 

Being God in His nature, Jesus visibly displayed all of the invisible attributes of God’s goodness.  Being all good, He is diametrically opposed in His nature to all evil.  Therefore, Jesus is opposed to intolerance—the self-righteous intolerance toward people.

 

John 3:17 tells us that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  This was not because we deserved saving, but because He is good.  This is the essence of grace, which is the ultimate expression of tolerance. 

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows his tolerance of people by showing mercy and grace toward sinners, even the very ones who put him to death. 

 

However, it cannot be disregarded that while Jesus was a friend of sinners, He was never tolerant of sin.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He uses over-the-top imagery to illustrate his intolerance for evil behavior:

 

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30 NIV)

 

One of the most common Bible verses to be quoted out of context by non-Christians (usually in attempts to self-righteously justify sinful behavior) is John 8:7.  The religious leaders are preparing to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery. In response, Jesus is quoted as saying, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (KJV).”

 

Although this passage does not appear in original manuscripts, and therefore may not have actually happened, the point of the story remains clear:  because we are all sinners, no other person is qualified to cast a stone at us. 

 

Nevertheless, though none of us are righteous, we must remember that we will all be judged one day by the One who is. 

 

This is why, after showing mercy to the woman caught in adultery, He admonishes her (and us) to “go, and sin no more (John 8:11b KJV).

 

(Stay tuned for Part 4–Our God is a Jealous God)

           

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 7: The PRize

THE PRIZE

 

            So to sum up from the previous six posts, the most effective solution to Christianity’s PR problem is for the individuals within the church to live lives of service.

            We PRaise our God, PRotect our spouse’s hearts, PRovide for our children, PRactice grace with our extended families and PRove to the world that Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives by visibly living out or faith. 

            But let’s face it, all that service can be tiring.  If we put too much emphasis on pouring ourselves out for others, it can be all too easy to neglect the refilling process.

            Fortunately, we don’t need to look any farther than the Ten Commandments to find out how to solve this problem:

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work . . . (Exodus 20:9-10a NIV)

God gave us the Sabbath for a reason.  He knew we would need the rest.  To paraphrase Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,   you can’t sharpen your saw if you never stop sawing.

            Now I don’t want to get into the legalistic argument of what constitutes “work.”  Keeping the Sabbath is not about following the letter of the law.  That’s religion.  Jesus came to set us free from that.

            The point is that we were created to love God, love one another and serve the world.  We can only do that effectively if we take time to chill out and recharge.  With the concept of the Sabbath, God gave us a simple template to follow to make sure that we stayed refueled in order to carry out His ministry effectively.

            Paul knew that he would need this refueling when he wrote:

…Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.  (Philippians 3:13b-14 AMP)

If life were all about pressing on, with no time for resting, we would burn out.  Thus, we would not complete our mission and win the PRize.

                So what is this PRize of which Paul speaks?  It can’t be the salvation of our souls.  As we already covered back in Part 5, we are saved by grace, God’s unmerited favor, and not through our own efforts.  In other words, we don’t earn our golden ticket to Heaven by “straining forward” and “pressing on.”

                So what is the PRize then?  Would you believe, more rest?

                I’m not talking about the Sunday-afternoon-nap-on-the-couch-with-the-ball-game-on-after-killing-the-all-you-can-eat-buffet-after-Church kind of a rest though.  This PRize is much bigger:

So then, there is still awaiting a full and complete Sabbath rest reserved for the [true] people of God; For he who has once entered into [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors, just as God rested from those labors peculiarly His own.  (Hebrews 4:9-10 AMP)

                The PRize that I am pressing on toward is to hear my Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come and enter your master’s happiness.  Take the free gift of the water of life and enter into my rest.”

                To that end, I will continue pressing on—toward the PRize, and toward His rest.  I’m glad to have you along for the ride.