Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

Healing Devotions: Day 4

Today’s Scripture: This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Confession: I am a new person in Christ Jesus. I am different than I was before. I have the life of God in me, the very nature of God, and the ability of God. Darkness has no place in me. I am a child of the light.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus still heals today in order to fulfil his covenant.

No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said (Psalm 89:34).

As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one (Luke 4:40).

Healing was for all in those days, and Christ the healer has never changed.

When people don’t know God wants them well, they have a tendency to accept sicknesses and diseases.. This is why the New Testament demonstrates for us the importance of preaching healing.

Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city(Acts 8:6-8).

Peter preached Christ to the cripple (Acts 3:6), to the multitudes (Acts 5:14-16), and to Aeneas (Acts 9:34). All were healed.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been born that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, ‘Stand up!’ And the man jumped to his feet and started walking (Acts 14:8-10).

I am the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26b).

And then he (Jesus) told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned’ (Mark 16:15).

Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authoirty in heaven and on earth, Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the command I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

The fact that God wants us well is part of the good news of the gospel. That is why we preach this throughout the world. Physical healing is part of the gospel, and healing is for all. A careful study of the Scriptures will show that God has declared that his will includes healing for his children. He has declared himself to be the healer of his people.

Many believe in devine healing, but have no personal knowledge of Jesus as the healer of our bodies. They see that others are divinely healed, but question whether God will heal them in answer to prayer or not. God need not give any special revelation of his will when he has plainly given his revealed will in the Bible.

The Scriptures are clear: God wants us well. And the evidence is clear, sometimes God heals instantly, other times he heals over time, sometimes he uses natural law, and other times he works through the care of a doctor or nurse. All of these methods reveal that God wants us well, even while we are here on the Earth. We in the West tend to rely more on medical science than on divine healing, yet regardless of the delivery mechanism for healing, the fact is, God wants us well. Thus we have a responsibility to take care of our emotions, minds, and bodies, and to care for others,  praying and serving, so others can be better off as well.

He (God) said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptiuans; for I am the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26).

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

What Would Jesus Do?

What would Jesus do?” We have all heard that question.

However, few of us understand what it really means.

Even so, we all accept, Jesus is our model FOR human behavior.

For those of you who live near Colorado Springs, that’s what we will be discussing in the seminar you are invited to attend here at St. James Church this Saturday, March 7th, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

It’s the The Jesus Personality Style Seminar.  Registration is $49 for one person, or $79 for you and as many as you want to bring from your family. Your registration fee covers the valuable material we’ll be discussing and that you’ll receive as handouts, plus refreshments, and lunch. I can assure that you will learn about Jesus. You will learn about you. And you will learn why you respond to him the way you do. You will also discover things about his personality that will help you enjoy greater success in representing him to the people you influence.

I am teaching this seminar because I believe that as followers of Christ we need to understand what it means to be like him—to understand him and to understand his personality. And he does have a vivid personality!  We often bog down in trying to understand human behavior, but as Christians, we understand that Jesus gives all of us the model FOR human behavior. (I know, I already said that.)

Armed with the understanding of Jesus’ personality and our own personality, we can begin to understand the personalities of those around us, and how to develop more productive and satisfying relationships with them. These tools can also help us repair those relationships that are currently filled with stress and frustration.

Most importantly, this four-hour seminar will help you better understand how Jesus deliberately lived his life—how he perceived situations as well as the way he responded to them differently in different circumstances. He understood human behavior better than anyone who has ever lived. He was a master at demonstrating how to do the appropriate behavior at the appropriate time for the appropriate reason.

As you learn this information and as you begin to practice this approach to life, you are going to be amazed at the peace and productivity that develops in your own life.

I will never waste your time. I believe that the insights in this seminar will transform your life the way they have transformed mine.

You do not need to pre-register for the seminar. Simply arrive at 4615 Northpark Drive in time for us to start at 10:00. We’ll be excited to see you Saturday.

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Pastor Ted Haggard, DD, CHBC, is a Bible teacher with an emphasis on New Testament solutions to the human condition. His Bible teaching is informed by biblical scholarship, Choice Theory (Glasser), Attachment Theory (Johnson), and Behavioral Studies using DISC (Rohm).

This and other blogs by Pastor Ted Haggard are available at http://www.tedhaggardblog.com as a ministry of St. James Church. If you would like to strengthen the ministry of St. James Church and Pastor Ted Haggard by giving, please use the “give” tab at http://www.saintjameschurch.com.

Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

The Divine Flow

Love Series #3

Job said, “. . .  when God comes near, I cannot see him. When God moves by, I do not see him.” This could be the testimony of thousands of Christians. They want to be used by God, but do not recognize his presence and guidance when it comes. The Lord is so near, yet they don’t perceive him.

I love God’s people and desire to help everyone of them find the best for their lives. And I believe that every believer, regardless of their occupation, can be a minister to others. God wants to use all of his people to serve others. Every one of us are called into ministry.

But very often we don’t recognize God’s Spirit working in our lives to help us minister to others. Most of us are convinced that God will work through someone else to reach the people we care about. But no one has the relationships and the credibility we have to reach the people in our world. We are special. We are called. We are right where we are supposed to be, the age we are supposed to be, and with the relationships we are supposed to have. With that confidence, we can uniquely help the people around us.

You can reach people no one else can reach. God wants to use you to make your specific world a better place. It starts with your sphere of influence. You are God’s instrument.

But how do we know who we are to minister to and how we are to minister to them?

Matthew 14:14 says, Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 20:34 says, Jesus felt sorry (had compassion) for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.

In Mark 8, Jesus said, I feel sorry (have compassion) for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. After this, he multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed the multitudes.

There are 21 Scriptures in the New Testament that talk about miracles happening through Jesus after he felt a strong, loving emotion toward people. It’s the same with us. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and ask him to fill us with the Holy Spirit, we receive love in our hearts like never before. In other words, we have a greater desire to make the lives of others better. We want to heal those who are sick and give to those in need.

All of my ministry life I’ve watched people be filled with God’s loving Holy Spirit and they always do the same thing: hug people, love people, pray for people, give to people, serve people.

Why is that? It’s because God is love. And when we ask God to take dominance in our lives, love takes over. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with his love.

And just like Jesus was moved by love and compassion toward others, so are we. I call this the divine flow. In the Scriptures listed above, and many others in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus felt love flowing out of his spirit toward others. He followed the flow of that love and ministered to the multitudes. The end result was that the healing love of God brought deliverance and healing to the suffering people of that day. Love directed his life. It led him constantly.

The Devine flow of God’s love in our hearts can move us toward the people God wants us to reach..

2 John 6, quoted here from the Amplified Bible, says,

And what the love consists in is this, that we live and walk in accordance with and guided by his commandments, his orders, ordinances, precepts and teachings. This is the commandment, as ye have heard from the beginning that you continue to walk in love, guided by it and following it.

All of us have had someone come to mind and, when we pick up the phone and call them, or send them an unexpected gift, or visit them, the result is some form of healing. This, I believe is the way we are guided by and follow God—by being guided by and following love.

Let me urge you never to follow hate. Never follow evil thoughts or impulses to get even. Never return evil for evil. Never follow that which is selfish or that which is full of greed and covetousness. These are not of God.

Instead, pay attention to the prompting of the love that is in your spirit. It might be the Holy Spirit guiding you.

I am sure that at some time you have felt God’s love tugging you. God is nearer to you than you may think, and he is directing you through love to share his grace with others.

Don’t miss that blessing. You are experiencing God.

Be guided by love.

Follow love.

God’s love is stifled when we are selfish and mean, unwise or manipulative, lustful, covetous, self-seeking, or deceitful. It doesn’t flow through us when we argue and fight or have ill-will and malice.

Instead, love is living for the good of the other.

Jesus is the perfect example of love, yet he was friendly to some, but not to others; he rebuked some, but not all; and he healed some, but not all. Love is serving others, but it does not mean we are mushy. Love does not make us weak; it gives us strength so we can serve others (see blog #1 in this Love Series).

So, fill up with love by being continually filled with God’s Spirit. Get rid of any bitterness that may be in your heart and avoid strife, filth, darkness, and hurt, and forgive those who have hurt or disappointed you. Think of ways you can gain skills to help you serve people better. This is how you love them. And finally, be open to the flow of God’s love through you, so you can sincerely make life better for others.

Love does lead us, which is why all of us need a secure attachment style (read blog #2 in this Love Series for more explanation of this important idea). When we have a secure attachment style, the love of God can work without hinderance in all of our lives, and we can respond to that love with the wisdom that also comes from God. This is how God will use you as a minister to heal yourself and others. With long-term life-giving relationships and long-term participation in a life-giving church, you’ll gain the wisdom and power to let love direct your life, and you will discover the abundant life God has prepared for you.

Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

The Value of Love

The Love Series #1

The Value of Love

A teacher who wanted to do her part to avert school shootings asked her students every Friday to make a list of four other students in their class they wanted to sit with the following week and to nominate one student who they thought had been an exceptional classroom citizen. As she looked over the lists, she would take note of which students were never chosen by others, the ones who were left out, rejected, alone, and those who never could think of anyone to request.

Why? Because that observation informed the teacher who may need her attention the most. She was wise enough to know that when people are alone and isolated, it may lead to difficulties in their lives. It might indicate past or current difficulties, and it is certainly a signal of future trouble. This teacher knew that we human beings don’t do our best when we feel alone, but our outlook improves when we are connected to and valued by others.

As a pastor for many years, I’ve been involved with the rejected, the lonely, the depressed, the mentally ill, as well as those who thrive. I’ve watched as people have enjoyed great successes and endured devastating disappointments. And in all of these stages, I’ve concluded that no other experience has more impact on a person’s life—their happiness and health—than success at loving and being loved and feeling valued by oneself and others. Love makes us vulnerable, but it also makes us safe and strong.

Our grandparents knew the life-giving power of long-term loving relationships, and how to develop them. But this generation is experiencing a tsunami of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. We seem in so many ways to be lost in our attempts toward love and commitment, while we exalt emotional independence, self-protection, boundaries, and blame. We’re exhorted to love ourselves first and foremost. We’re becoming distant and dismissive people in spite of our successes in other arenas. People seem to have lost hope in having love relationships. They’re no longer a priority. Some think they don’t have time for them anyway.

We’re in trouble. We have more professional marriage and family counselors than ever before in our history, but often upon discovery, those very professionals have been married multiple times, and their own children are often suffering from anxiety and depression. We have more books written by highly educated professionals and professional educators telling parents and children how to be successful, as those very professionals have often crashed in their personal lives and in their families. That indicates some gaps in their understanding.

We may have lost our way in how to develop healthy relationships, and we’ve minimized the value of doing so.

I believe that we are made in the likeness and image of God, who is three persons in such close relationship with one another that they are one. As a result, we, too, are most natural, healthy, and productive when we are in loving relationships, and we do not function at our best when our relationships are broken, strained, or non-existent.

Bottom line, love is vital to our existence.

From the Scriptures, I have deduced that love is simply living for the good of another. Certainly, love may include compelling emotions and overwhelming feelings, but it is fundamentally logical and understandable. It’s adaptive and functional. Moreover, it’s malleable, repairable, and durable. To me, love makes sense. It can be perceived, felt, known, measured, observed, and grown. What’s most significant is that it gives us direction and helps us find our way.

Since God is love and we are created in his image and likeness, love is a basic survival code, and our brains are created to read and respond to others in order to increase the likelihood of survival as well as other essential tasks with the greatest ease.

In contrast, rejection and abandonment are danger cues that plunge us into real physical pain and discomfort. My experience in my own life and in observing the lives of others is that even the most distressed people can be repaired if they are guided to deal with their emotions and relationships a little differently. The exception would be the truly mentally ill. But if their cognitive abilities are within normal ranges, most people can find healing and satisfaction in life by learning to love and developing themselves so they can be loved.

In conclusion, a stable, loving relationship is the absolute cornerstone of human happiness and well-being. A good relationship is better health insurance than a careful diet and a better anti-aging strategy than taking health supplements. A loving relationship also is the key to creating a family that teaches the skills necessary to support and maintain a civilized society – trust, empathy, and cooperation. Love is the lifeblood of our humanity and our world.

Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). We all have many ways that we measure our lives. Jesus was exhorting us to measure our lives by our love for ourselves and others.

So the teacher is right: the student that is alone and is not valued by others is in danger. Let’s let the teacher’s wisdom teach us to be intentional in our loving others and in being loved by others. We’re created to do that; we need it.

Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

On Being Stable

God has established two institutions to help us all live healthy and strong lives—the family and the church. Since human beings make up our families and our churches, there are glaring flaws in both. Even so, those who mature wisely draw great mental, physical, and spiritual stability from participating in these institutions. And interestingly, the two entities work well together. If the family becomes dysfunctional, the church has the ability to make up the gap. If the church becomes dysfunctional, the family has the ability to make up the gap. So ultimately, we can all live better lives and be more stable in every way by learning how to build healthy families and churches.

ABC News reports that eighty-three percent of Americans self-identify as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, identify as having no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions. That means that 83% of our population shares some degree of common direction by believing that the Bible at least includes the Word of God and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who demonstrated for all of us what God is really like.

Inherent in having a foundation of Christian faith is the core value of embracing forgiveness and kindness instead of revenge and fear, and contributing to the health and strength of our families and our churches. Doing so creates a very different world than many human beings currently survive in. I believe everything we do is a combination of five desires within all of us: survival, love and belonging, freedom, power, and fun. When we do our part to create a healthy family, everyone in the family can have those five basic needs satisfied. When we do our part to create a healthy church that our family participates in, more people in our community can have those five basic human needs satisfied. In contrast, when the family and/or church gets sick, we start trying to survive without having our needs being met in a healthy way.

So how do we do our part to build a healthy family and participate in a healthy church? We read our Bibles, ourselves, to glean life-giving ideas that “teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. The Bible corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16b-17).

The first few verses of the book of Proverbs explain the purpose of the proverbs. We can apply this explanation to all of Scripture, which is a strong motivation to read the whole Bible and apply it. Proverbs 1:2-6 says,

“Their (the Proverbs) purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.

“These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.”

What a wonderful world we would be living in if we who identify as Christians would simply read and apply the Scriptures. To grasp this idea, read and re-read, then think about the previous two paragraphs from Proverbs. Maybe you could talk about those two paragraphs with someone. Why? Because sometimes we have a tendency to read the Bible just to pick up a few nice ideas, or maybe find good points or suggestions for addressing meetings or preparing sermons. Certainly that is better than never being exposed to the Scriptures. But generally that approach does not get rid of our ignorance of the true meaning of the Scriptures, and leaves the Bible unnecessarily ineffective in our lives. That approach engenders superficiality, both mentally and spiritually.

I’ve seen it too many times. People live their lives as they please until tragedy strikes. Then they randomly ask God to give them guidance through Scripture, or to intervene supernaturally in their situations to relieve their pain. When I see this, I’m reminded that it’s too late to think about fire prevention after your house is burning down, or to start thinking about your health after your second heart attack. You still might be able to get help, but it would have been better for you if you had prepared before your bad day.

Same with the good life God has for all of us. The Word of God was never meant merely for hurried consultations. The Bible was written for study and contemplation, and it was compiled so we can know the Word of God as a whole. Becoming a student of God’s Word can give any of us knowledge of God’s personality and dealings with others so that we can gain depth, richness, and fullness to every dimension of our lives. It teaches us, so we can enjoy full, informed, and satisfying lives. And so that during difficult times, we can stay steady.

I have enjoyed pastoral ministry with significant effectiveness most of my adult life, and I’ve experienced the stabilizing power of God’s Word and Spirit during difficult times. But I can say that the greatest sermons usually come when I am not looking for sermons but simply studying the Word of God for the sake of its own vital truth. Then I can teach the Scriptures in a life-giving way that is both powerful and effective. People love it, and more importantly, God loves it!

Begin today reading the Word for yourself and letting the Scriptures instruct you in a way that builds your life into a tower of strength and integrity. If your local church has a good discussion based systematic study of God’s Word, attend and participate. Then apply those truths so that you can contribute to the health of your family and your church. This will enable you to draw stability from the institutions God has ordained for us—our families and our churches—and within those institutions have your needs met for survival, love and belonging, freedom, power, and fun.

Categories
21st Century Evangelicalism

Stability, Strength, and Insight

Several years ago I was invited to attend a small meeting of key Free Methodist pastors to discuss the future of America, the church in America, and how we could best build healthy believers within our churches with the future in mind.

The conclusion was that we could not predict the future due to our current volatile political transitions, but that we could help build strong Christians no matter the outcome. Since Christian believers have proven to thrive in Communist countries, Islamic countries, and secular nations, perhaps we should stop assuming that our waning Judea-Christian cultural influences will continue to support the message of the church. Maybe we should begin training believers in our churches to be strong in their faith regardless of our cultural environment.

During our discussion I made a conscience decision to enhance the understanding of the Bible within our church. And as a result, we launched an intentional effort for every believer in our church to ingest the Scriptures into the fabric of their lives—in a life-giving way—instead of simply being exposed to the Scriptures. My unspoken assumption was that they might find themselves without access to a Bible in their lifetimes.

In this process, we learned that many of our members enjoyed Christian books and movies, as well as the inspiration they found in the body of Christ, but didn’t have a practical, applicable knowledge of Scripture. Thus, when faced with life-altering decisions, they made their choices based on cultural trends and the worldly advice of their friends or counselors instead of Scripture. Although they claimed to be Christians and believe the Bible, they were worldly. They enjoyed the positive aspects of our faith, but were not constrained by the dictates of Scripture. In my view, they wanted the eternal security offered by our most popular speakers and authors, but were not reading and applying the Scriptures to every aspect of their lives. They liked the comfort of their faith, but were not allowing themselves to be transformed by it.

So at St. James Church, we emphasize that it is of no use to read Christian books without reading and understanding the Bible itself. To simply listen to Christian messages without a serious contemplation of Scripture could inadvertently lead a believer to miss the point of their faith altogether. What we have decided is that our goal is to understand the Bible by reading it and contemplating its teachings chapter by chapter, and then reading and contemplating each chapter several times over. Then we meet weekly to wrestle with the texts and then have life-giving discussions of a 21stcentury application of the Scripture. So any Christian movie, book, or discussion would be viewed through the lens of biblical understanding, rather than worldly ignorance of biblical teachings.

Our hope is that some, who have not yet studied through the Bible on their own, would be motivated to devote time each week to exploring the truths of the whole Bible, book by book, as we follow our congregational Bible study program. Add to that practice sermons, discussion groups, breakfast meetings, and retreats, and they will find themselves more and more rooted in God’s Word. Then, should the benefits of a life-giving local group of believers be denied them in their futures, they will have God’s Word in their hearts and be grounded in their faith regardless of the culture surrounding them.

Let’s get stronger, and stronger, and stronger.

Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

In Order to Understand the News, We Have to Understand the Bible

It’s impossible to understand our modern world without some understanding of the Bible. Every culture has theological influences that have informed its laws, traditions, perceptions of justice, cultural norms, and educational systems. The Bible has been the dominant theological influence in western civilization.

The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by at least 40 authors from three different continents and various backgrounds — including shepherds, kings, farmers, priests, poets, scribes, and fishermen — yet the texts are in perfect harmony with one another.  More people read the Bible today than any other book in the world, and more people have read the Bible throughout history than any other book in the world. It has been translated into 532 languages, and partially translated into 2,883 languages.

When people read it with open hearts and minds, God speaks into their lives. The Bible is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. Humble people appreciate the Bible. It’s helpful, encouraging, instructive, and corrective. It’s not just a book of ideas, but also consists of stories containing lessons that help life make sense. It’s not timid, nor does it gloss over the failures of biblical heroes. It’s honest about our human condition and provides help and hope in the midst of every story. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. Not only is it a good book, but it’s “the” good book.

The nations that have strong Judeo-Christian influences are distinguishable in many ways when compared to nations with strong Islamic, Buddhist, or Hindu influences. And each of those have important differentiating world-views that cause demarcations which can confuse those who don’t understand faith.

Since the 20thCentury, we’ve vividly observed the impact of atheism on some nations in contrast to those that respect faith. Atheistic nations often forbid Bible reading and persecute people of faith, where secular nations, like the United States, accommodate and encourage religious practice, but attempt to be even-handed  between various faiths. However, since the majority of Americans are Christians, Christianity naturally exerts a significant influence on our culture.

Observers place differing values on the influences religious beliefs produce within cultures. Secularists cannot fully grasp world history or current events because they do not understand how faith profoundly influences human behaviors and thoughts.

Without the knowledge of the Bible, many holidays are a mystery and our masterpieces are misunderstood. Jesus taught the idea that power is to be used to serve instead of dominate others. To understand why we protect those with special needs instead of rejecting them requires an understanding of the New Testament. In the West, our desire for equality under the law, our resistance to racism and sexism, our appreciation for charitable organizations that serve, and our desires for mutual respect and our love for music all come from a biblical base.

Many would say that biblical faith is the enemy of many of these ideas and progressive developments, which is why I think people need to read the Bible themselves and discover what it says. A life-giving reading of the New Testament with a foundation of Old Testament understanding is illuminating to everyone I’ve ever known that actually reads the Bible for themselves. The Bible is a unique book in many ways, which is why it is foundational for anyone wanting to be educated.

So why are so many critical of the Bible? I think one reason is because people who are not spiritual choose not to receive truths from God’s Word. Biblical truths sound foolish to them and they cannot understand them.

On a more humorous note, though, I think there are at least three things about the Bible that you really don’t need to know. One is that the Bible is the most commonly stolen book in the world. Two, some say that nearly all of the villains in the Bible have red hair. And third is that the longest word in the Bible is Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:3).

Read the Bible yourself. Start with the book of John and enjoy getting stronger and better

Categories
Responsible Citizens

The Thirteen Folds

On November 20, 2018, my father-in-law, Col. Troy Alcorn, USAF Retired, was honored at his internment service at the Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His son-in-law, Command CMSgt Bobby Smith, USAF Retired, explained the meaning of the 13 folds of the flag-folding ceremony. I had never heard the official meaning of the folds, and thought you might be interested. 

If you’ve attended a funeral honoring a veteran who served our country, perhaps you witnessed the folding of the flag that once covered the casket of a loved one. Each of the 13 folds of the flag holds great significance.

And at the ceremony of retreat, a daily observance at bases during which all personnel pay respect to the flag, “the flag is lowered, folded in a triangle fold and kept under watch throughout the night as a tribute to our nation’s honored dead. The next morning, it is brought out and, at the ceremony of reveille, run aloft as a symbol of our belief in the resurrection of the body.”

Please think about these respectfully:

  1. The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  2. The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
  3. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
  4. The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
  5. The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
  6. The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
  7. The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
  8. The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
  9. The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
  10. The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
  11. The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  12. The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
  13. The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

This might be one of the blogs you would like to print out and keep. Or, maybe you would like to distribute this to your friends and family members. The flag folding ceremony has always been meaningful to me as one who has personally witnessed the struggles others face who do not enjoy our heritage, but after hearing this explanation, the ceremony is even more powerful to me.

Categories
Q and A

Is It Blasphemous to Predict the Date of Jesus’ Return?

Every January at St. James Church we invite our congregation to submit questions that I then answer impromptu. This is always fun and interesting because it reveals what ideas congregation members are curious about and gives me an opportunity to teach the Scriptures that are relevant to the concerns of those within our church family.

The questions are randomly selected during the month of January to be answered publicly. Those unanswered live in St. James Church services during the month of January are answered in written form throughout the balance of the year in blog form.

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Question: Why did God not reveal to Jesus when he is coming for the second time? Why does only God know?

Great question! I think you are referring to Matthew 24:36 where Jesus said,

. . . no one knows the day or hour when these things [the second coming of Christ to the earth] will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

When Jesus was on the earth, he was 100% man as well as 100% God. By coming to earth as a man, he temporarily suspended some of his abilities and some of his omniscience as God. Because of that choice, in his human form, he had to grow physically from an infant into a man, learn certain things from his mother, father, and friends as he grew, and develop human skills. This is one of the mysteries—that Jesus agreed to come to the earth, take the form of a man, so he could fully understand what it’s like for all of us who are simply human, and to model for all of us what God is truly like, as well as godly living and godly power. And of course, after overcoming all the temptations that are common to humans, he was perfectly qualified to sacrifice his life for all of us on the cross.

Philippians 2:6-8 describes this when Paul wrote,

Though he [Jesus] was God,

He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave

And was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

He humbled himself in obedience to God

And died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Even after his resurrection, but before his ascension to the right hand of the Father, a similar question came up again and Jesus gave a similar answer.

Acts 1:6-7 says,

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, ‘Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?’

He replied, ‘The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.’

Your question is important because we tend to view Jesus as exclusively divine, forgetting that his humanity was evident while he was here on the earth. Though he obviously operated in the power of the Holy Spirit with the demonstration of spiritual gifts, he had to trust the Holy Spirit and respond to the Father just as we do.

Jesus said in John 5:19,

. . . the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.

Then in John 12:49-50 Jesus said,

I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.

 We Christians pray to the Father in the name of the Son by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we, too, must trust the Holy Spirit to work in us so we can hear the Father’s voice and know what the Father is doing, which is possible because of Jesus’ model and sacrifice. We have access to Father God because of Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit is here on the earth to guide us forward in that relationship.

Jesus is the Son of God, and he knew that it was important that he not know these things. He clearly communicated that these were truths exclusively known by the Father. We are more limited in our understanding than Jesus was while on earth. Yet today, some claim to know more than Christ did.

These two ideas are important for every believer:

First, the hour of Jesus’ return is known to God and to God alone. Therefore, the pretense of predicting the time of the second coming might be blasphemy, for anyone who so speculates about this subject and presents themselves as knowing is seeking to wrest from God knowledge which belongs to God alone. It has not proven beneficial for Bible teachers or those who claim a prophetic gift to speculate or to actually believe they know. If they pretend, they are deceivers. If they believe they know, they are deceived.

Our duties, according to Scripture, are always to be prepared for Jesus’ return, to watch, and to pray. No doubt, not knowing the specifics of the second coming isn’t as dramatic, enticing, or popular as saying that we know the day or the hour, or even the season of Jesus’ second coming. However, Christian leaders claiming to know have proven to be a primary reason for the lack of credibility of the Charismatic movement and a stain on much of the Christian media. Presuming to know more than we do has created great disillusionment in those who believed the deception and then were disappointed by its falsehood. We should not presume to know more while here on earth than Jesus himself did.

Secondly, the Bible does tell us that the return of Christ will come with shattering suddenness on those who are immersed in material things. Noah prepared himself in calm weather for the flood that was to come. And when it came he was ready. But the rest of humanity was lost in its eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, and was caught completely unaware and therefore swept away. These verses are a warning never to become so immersed in our earthly lives that we forget eternity, and never to let our concern with worldly affairs distract us from remembering that there is a God, and that whenever he returns, he must find us ready.

Beyond these truths we cannot go – for God has kept the details of his second coming to himself.

So, as for me, I draw security from abiding in him and focusing on being ready for his return, not from thinking I know his secrets about the day and hour.

Great question! Thank you.

Categories
Authentic New Testament Solutions

The Importance of Having Fun

A therapist once told me that destructive behaviors develop in a person’s life in response to pain. That might be true in some cases, but I think many people get in trouble because they simply want more fun, more adventure. We all have taken risks seeking some type of thrill.

  • Alcoholics start by taking a drink for fun.
  • Drug addicts start by taking a drug for fun.
  • Porn addicts start by watching pornography for fun.

However, since fun is a basic human need, we all need to be more thoughtful and intentional about how we have fun so it benefits us, and doesn’t hurt us.

I think Jesus laughed a lot, but we don’t hear much about his humor because overly serious people lead most of our seminaries and Bible schools. The Scriptures are delightful, but some may fear they will appear lacking in spiritual depth if they highlight the funny situations Jesus often created.

Many of Jesus’ confrontations were, in fact, him jabbing his detractors in a clever way that probably left the boys, who were his disciples, snickering. We read those confrontations as sober prose, but I think the actual events might have been Jesus mocking the powerful – with a twinkle in his eye and a playful grin as he glanced at the disciples. In addition, many of his parables that have been analyzed to death by those in suits sporting furrowed brows, pursed lips, and wrinkled foreheads, reveal his sense of humor in confronting the troubled leaders of his day.

He liked troubling them.

I think that’s awesome!

Think about his actions after his resurrection. One was when his disciples were hiding in a locked room fearful of the Romans, and then Jesus suddenly terrifies them by appearing out of thin air — only to say  peace be unto you. Yeah right! He knew what he was doing, and it reveals to me that he was having fun with his followers. My guess is he laughed while they were composing themselves.

Just as our lives must be liberated from excessive gravity, so must our reading of the Gospels and our worship experiences. Jesus came to give us abundant life that is loving, joyful, and satisfying. His faithfulness makes me smile. His provision keeps me in wonder at his majesty. It’s hard to be a Christian and be sad about it. Christ is excessively pleasing. And, as he cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death, he gives us a strong core, as well as an ability to see humor and laugh.

Aristotle defined human beings as creatures who are risible, ones who provoke laughter. We laugh, not just because we can be silly, but because we can find enjoyment and healing when we have some fun.

I love being a pastor because, for me, it’s loads of fun. Certainly I don’t want to minimize the serious calling and duties associated with competent pastoral ministry. But because I know I’m called, I look for opportunities to strengthen people’s relationships with God and with each other. One way I try to do this is by setting the stage for people to have fun with one another. Hurt, disappointed, and discouraged people can change perspectives and become delightful in a good church. As they connect with other individuals who are healthy and life-giving, they learn, and they grow toward more enjoyable lives.

I am a fan of Dr. William Glasser, the psychologist who developed Choice Theory and Reality Therapy. He connects fun with learning. He said,

We are the only land-based creatures who play all our lives. And because we learn all our lives, the day we stop playing is the day we stop learning. People who fall in love are learning a lot about each other and they find themselves laughing almost continually. One of the first times infants laugh is when someone plays peek-a-boo with them. I believe they laugh because that game teaches them something very useful. They learn, I am I and you are you.

This is one of the reasons I love the way God grouped us: families, communities, churches, nations, etc. God is a trinity, three persons in such close relationship with one another that they are, in fact, one. We are the same way. Families share the same last name, members of a church identify under the name of that church, and citizens identify with their city, state, and nation. God created us to be like him in that our greatest effectiveness in life occurs when we are in healthy, constructive relationships with others. When those relationships are healthy, we are happy. When they are broken, we don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable.

I believe this is exactly why God created all of us in intergenerational groups, families, where we must continually learn wisdom to keep the relationships. When we all learn, we are able to laugh, have fun, and experience peace and joy, and sorrow if necessary,  together. If the relationships are not wisely developed, they fracture; people get uncomfortable and use alcohol or some other drug to artificially create the appearance of fun.

We all know that often doesn’t end well.

Fun and sound relationships go hand-in-hand. I am a 62 year-old pastor with a church that is growing primarily with people in their 20s and 30s. Years ago I bought a couple of ATVs so I could have fun with my children. Now I have five ATVs so Gayle and I can have fun with couples from the church, or I can go with a group of guys from the church. Why? To have fun. Why? Because I understand our basic human need to have fun, and I know that fun connects us. We have fun in the mountains, and that improves our Sunday morning worship services.

Gayle likes to hike with groups of women from the church. When they hike, they talk. When they talk, they learn. And the women that hike with her are happier because as they connect with each other, their enjoyment in life becomes more attainable, and their own relationships are improved. Fun and learning make everyone happier.

Earlier this year Gayle and I went to Israel with some people from our church. Among those who went, there is more vibrant discussion before and after church on Sundays. Why? Because we shared fun, memorable experiences together. We learned, we had fun, and now we are more connected, and thus, happier. Now it’s easier to laugh and have fun together.

We should avoid believing that fun is superficial and shallow and that it does not create intimacy because it does not involve more intense levels of shared feelings. The opposite is actually true. Fun provides common ground to build upon when the need comes for deeper sharing.

Sadly, fun is underrated in both the therapeutic and church communities. Most therapists I know could use more laughter in their lives, and I’m convinced most pastors could too. I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of trauma, pain, and disappointments in life. And certainly, therapists and pastors work to help others heal and recover from these negative experiences. But as successful frontline soldiers and missionaries who are almost daily faced with human tragedy report, one of the secrets to their success is a good sense of humor, which includes having fun. Maybe more people could recover from serious situations by finding ways to laugh more.

We human beings have a core need for fun and enjoyment. That’s why entertainment is a welcome relief for all of us. When we can have fun, laugh, and enjoy ourselves and other people, we enjoy life more.

No doubt, life will present pain, suffering, and disappointment to all of us. In order for us to stay healthy in the midst of the hurtful realities of life, we need people around us who have laughed with us, laughed at us, and get a kick out of our foibles.

It’s the Christmas season. Relax, and have some fun.