Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

When my kids were learning addition and subtraction, I would tell them that 1+1=2, or 2-1=1, but they struggled to understand it at first. Then I would take out 2 marbles, and I would count each one as I pointed to it: one, two. Then I would take one away so that they could see how 2-1=1. I would then add one back so they could see that 1+1=2. Our minds are great at learning, but for some it takes time.

Each of us learns in different ways. I tend to learn best when I see it and experience it. When I first meet someone and they tell me their name, it is easy for me to forget it at first; especially if it is not a common name. However, if they spell it for me then I am more likely to remember it. Even more, I will add them to my prayer list and pray for them each day. The next time I see them it is easy for me to recall their name!

I have had many conversations with people who don’t think that life makes sense. Relationships are difficult, sin is rampant, life is hard, and it doesn’t seem to all be fair. They wake up and try to find reason for their life, but it just doesn’t make sense. I believe the reason for this is because they fail to understand their purpose. If you understand the purpose of life, then it will makes sense. Similar to learning math and names, we need to experience and understand what brings purpose and meaning to life.

When God came to this earth in human form, in Jesus Christ, one of the things He sought to do was to help us make sense of our lives. One great way He did this was by giving us the 2 great commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40)

The first command helps us to understand our relationship with God. We have been created to be like God and be in relationship with God. The second command helps us to understand our relationship with each other. We are to seek to love one another and to work together. When we are fulfilling these two commands, not only does life make sense, but it is meaningful and blessed.

The problem comes when people fail to live according to one or both of the commands. When we are not in good communion with God, then we do not have God’s presence, power, and guidance in our lives. We struggle all the more in life, and find ourselves in more difficult situations with seemingly no way out. When we aren’t loving towards one another, we tend to experience more conflict and frustration.

I want to encourage you to use Matthew 22:37-40 as not only a guide to make sense of life, but to bring more meaning to your life as well. I believe that if you do this, you will find that you will experience the power and wonder of God’s presence, and the joy of living well with others. Blessings.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Does the evidence support evolution?

I’m not an expert by any means on evolution, so this blog post is not designed to be “expert” testimony. However, I do think that there is information available for the average person to have an informed position. My goal here will be to briefly explain what I believe the evidence shows us.

Creationism and evolution are really seeking to answer the same question: how did the universe and all life in it get formed? Creationism states that all things were formed by an all-powerful, always existing God. Evolution, which is derived from the principles of Charles Darwin, states that all organisms are descended from common ancestors by a process of branching. The theory continues that evolution took place over a long period of time.

Many people will look at the theory of creationism as unreliable, because there is no “scientific” proof to show it to be true. They will argue that there is much evidence in fossils and archaeological discoveries to give proof to the evolution theory of the origin of life. Yet, I believe this evidence falls short because there are no “intermediary” fossils that prove the evolving state of one species to the next. Even more, if evolution is true, why has the process ceased (i.e. we no longer see apes becoming human beings)?

In truth, both theories take an aspect of faith to believe. You need to have faith that evolution took place as believed, since we cannot experience this phenomenon first hand. You need faith to believe that God created all things from nothing, since we were not there when it was said to have happened. Yet, if you look closely at the human body, and see its complexities, it is difficult to believe that this just randomly happened through a series of mutations. The human body is a wonderful, and artful arrangement of organs and nerves and structure. It is clear to me that our lives, and this world that we live in, was designed by a creator who deeply cares for His creation.

Further evidence helps us to see that the man known as Jesus Christ was indeed God in the flesh, come to ‘save His people from their sin.’ You don’t have to look too hard to realize that human beings are sinful and corrupt. When Jesus Christ came to this earth as the Messiah, He fulfilled numerous prophecies foretelling His coming. After His death, there were hundreds of witnesses who saw Him appear again. Through the millions of believers who exist, there is great evidence of the miracles and power of this creating and loving God.

While faith is required to believe in creationism, it doesn’t take too long after one believes to know it is true. On the other hand, there are many gaps and questions still unanswered when it comes to evolution. My conclusion is that the evidence does not support evolution, but does support creationism. Blessings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spiritual Implications of Movies

Movies are full of spiritual implications. I believe this is because we are spiritual beings, and people are searching for answers. You have your overtly spiritual movies like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ”, you somewhat subtle spiritual movies like “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, as well as your controversial ones like “The Da Vinci Code”. But the movies that have intrigued me the most are the Star Wars movies.

In the Star Wars movies they talk about ‘the dark side,’ and ‘the force.’ The whole concept of the force is that it is the spiritual guide for their lives. The main character of the original Star Wars movies is Luke Skywalker. Luke is trained by a Jedi Master name Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan helps Luke to feel the force and use the force for his benefit. He tells Luke that he can listen to the force for direction and guidance. The force empowers him, especially when he learns how to channel it.

The dark side is really the evil side of life, the evil side of the force. The main character on the Dark Side is Darth Vader. Darth Vader is turned to the dark side by his anger and hate. Darth Vader also uses the force for evil, not for good. Darth Vader finds out that Luke Skywalker is his son, and tries to turn Luke to the dark side. Luke is conflicted by the fact that the force on the Dark Side is so powerful.

It is interesting how people are willing to talk about the force and Darth Vader and Sith Lords, and yet they are not as willing to talk about God, Satan, and sin. When I talk about people being lured to "the dark side," it is not just about the sin that is in people’s lives, though sin is certainly central to "the dark side." Rather, it is also the issue of what causes good people, even godly people, to turn away from God, not just in momentary actions, but in a pattern of living. Why does someone who once walked with God end up living in an ungodly manner? What has changed this person's heart and lifestyle?

In the end of Star Wars, Luke realizes that the Dark Side is full of evil, and anger, and hatred, and that the force is not meant to be used in this way. Luke is able to stand strong in being good, and even is able to pull his father (Darth Vader) back to the good side. Even though this leads to Darth Vader’s death, there is an air of joy knowing that it is better to die on the good side, than live on the Dark Side.

What is best about the Star Wars movies is the implication that the force is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and the Dark Side is sin. While we may be pulled toward the dark side by our tendency to sin, the Holy Sprit is there to help us overcome our sinful desires. Even more, when we stumble down the dark side in our sin, Jesus is there to forgive us and cleanse us from this sin. We are then brought into God’s presence. What a difference it is to be in the presence of God, as opposed to the presence of sin, and evil, and darkness!

Thanks be to God for giving us the life force we have; the very breath of life; His Spirit. May we let movies lead us to search the Bible to help us understand all the more. I encourage you to look for spiritual implications in the movies, and find a way to turn them into Biblical truths. Blessings.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Colors of the Rainbow

The rainbow is one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons that exist. Often times when we are traveling in the car after it has been raining, the kids will see a rainbow and they always shout out so that everyone else in the car can see it as well. The colors that are seen are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. What a beautiful array of colors they are!

What is even more beautiful about the rainbow is what it represents. In Genesis 6:5 we are told, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” God saw that the sin of humankind had gotten so great that they didn’t have any regard for doing good or for following God. So God made a decision that we are told about in the scriptures: “The Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” Because He was so grieved, God decided to send a flood. Whoever was on the ark that Noah and his family built would be saved. In the end, ONLY Noah and his family chose to follow God’s word and seek safety on the ark.

After the flood receded God made a promise, a covenant, to Noah and his family in Genesis 9:12-16, “And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

The rainbow is a reminder of God’s love for His people and His desire to see His people follow Him. The rainbow displays the beauty, and wonder, and holiness of God. The colors of the rainbow remind us of all the colors of God’s creation. The colors of the rainbow remind us of the wonderful colors that exist in heaven (for more on this you can read Revelation 9:9-21).

So, the next time you see a rainbow, I hope you remember to give thanks and praise to God, and remember the wonder and splendor of God. Maybe it will help you to serve God all the more and commit your life to Him a little more deeply. Blessings.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

My Favorite Bible Verse

The Bible is full of wonderful wisdom, insight, and instruction. The Bible teaches us how to love, the importance of giving of yourself, and reasons why you should pray. So to choose one verse or passage is a tough challenge. Yet, I believe that one verse speaks very powerfully to me: Romans 6:23. This verse says, “For the penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

A few years ago I was at a pastor’s conference. As I walked into the auditorium on the first day, I was surprised to see something on every chair: a free gift. There on my chair was a Bible and a music CD! I was excited about this because I like free gifts as much as anyone else. It was nice to have these gifts passed on to us by the vendors who were helping to sponsor the event.

Romans 6:23 tells us that God gives us a free gift. This free gift is the greatest gift that has ever been given. It is the gift of eternal life. To receive this free gift all we have to do is take hold of it, just like I had to pick up the gifts off my chair. Jesus Christ has done all the work that is needed (being crucified on a cross) to pay the penalty for our sins. In our saying “yes” to Christ, we are saying “yes” to this free gift.

What we have to do in the midst of this is to first understand our sinfulness, then accept our inability to save ourselves, and finally acknowledge what Christ has done for us. Admitting sinful nature is often a draw back for many people. Even more, accepting the fact that people can’t save themselves can be a hard pill to swallow. Acknowledging Christ’s work simply requires us to humble ourselves before God. If we can humble ourselves, then we find ourselves at that place where we are ready to grab hold of the free gift.

The reason why I state that this is the greatest gift ever given, is because this gift enables us to have an eternal future in heaven. We will forever be in the presence of God; the presence of love. Heaven will be a far superior place and environment than we will ever experience here on earth.

I love the Bible as a whole, but appreciate the truth of Romans 6:23. That is my choice for favorite verse. How about you?