Hebrews 13:4

Have you found the love of your life? I’m not asking if you’re married, or if you’re dating or even with someone; I’m asking if you’re in love with someone to the degree that you think you can truly identify them as the love of your life, and if so, can you tell me–is this person your spouse, or someone else? Because unless both you and they are unmarried and rightly free to commit to each other–they have to go. Not what you wanted to hear? Surprised? Don’t be.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews‬ ‭13:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Today’s verse is a solid, immovable and unyielding brick wall if you find yourself in this particular situation. God honors marriage, and judges immorality and adultery. Period. End of discussion. Nothing else matters. Yet, the problem is the human psyche, and that elusive process of “falling in love.” What is it, after all, that causes us to fall for someone–sometimes so hard that otherwise stable pillars of the community will abandon their families and careers to abscond to Europe with a twenty-something? Because it happens.

I believe that euphoric feeling we call falling in love is a combination of 1) who the new person is, and 2) how they make us feel; it is these two in tandem that make individuals willing to sacrifice so much.

By “who that person is” I mean what you gain through intimate association with them. Each of us has something, in varying degrees, that we inherently offer others through association with us–money, fame, reputation, beauty, youth, health, accomplishment, education, family name, personality, status; we each represent and symbolize something to others in our life–and that can be highly desirable to those who currently lack that quality in their own situation. It is the ageless desire for complementarity within us.

The older established academic might not, for example, vicariously gain access to professional accomplishment or financial success through his involvement with the twenty-something because she can’t offer him that, she’s not there yet–but then, he already has those qualities himself in abundance. He will, however, experience something far more precious to him: youth and beauty, which is in increasingly short supply at this point in his own life. A first generation financial success might similarly be drawn to someone with an established family name and the status that comes with it; through them, they may, at long last, gain the social credibility they desire and be acknowledged as someone.

When my father married my mother, in his mind he married “the baron’s daughter,” because he remembered years earlier in Lithuania her older brother, “the baron’s son,” attending a basketball game in his village. To others, this was meaningless–I doubt anyone who grew up here in the U.S. had a clue–but to my dad, my mother represented a social status he himself lacked.

Yet the second dynamic that causes us to fall for someone–how they make us feel–is potentially more potent. The twenty-something might make the aging professional feel vibrant and young again; he might even be now experiencing a “youth” with and through her he previously missed out on because his own earlier years were spent building a career. The woman who never felt loved or thought beautiful by her husband of many years may finally feel appreciated by a new man in her life. This is, in fact, the strongest aphrodisiac because–how can you argue with what you’re experiencing, with how someone makes you feel about yourself?

And it is these two together–what a person brings to the table, and how he or she makes you feel–that is so incredibly powerful, that promises such ecstasy. It is beautiful when the right people find it, but what if you’re already married when this happens? What if the person you feel so strongly and gut-wrenchingly connected to isn’t your husband or wife? Or they’re married to someone else? Or for whatever other reason you know you shouldn’t have fallen for them? What do you do then?

If you listen to the voices around you, you’ll be advised to “listen to your heart”–as if good judgment could arise from the very source of the struggle with right and wrong! Remember that God tells us that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Looking toward the very emotions that are confused and off-kilter at a pivotal moment of our lives for right guidance is the height of both arrogance and foolishness. If we do so, we will invariably conclude that we should please ourselves–do the selfish thing, what’s “right for me,”–without any consideration of whether it is objectively right or wrong, or whether it’s right for others in our lives. We will experience spiritual ruin and a devastating downturn in our life. No, we need to look to the eternal God for reliable and trustworthy guidance at this precarious moment.

1) So realistically, what’s the first thing you should do once you recognize you situation? The very first thing you should do is the same thing you should do at any other time of great trial or temptation–you should call out to God for help. Why? So you wouldn’t hurt others, obviously! So you wouldn’t step wrongly, so you wouldn’t do something irreversible that will permanently impact your life and the lives of others.

Imagine yourself having slipped and fallen carrying a big sheet of glass, that has now shattered into shards all around you–you wouldn’t just dig your hands down into the sharp pieces to stand up and start stomping around haphazardly all over the place without any thought, would you? That’s exactly where you’re at spiritually–you’re in the middle of a potentially catastrophic pile of cut glass that could devastate your life and the lives of so many other people whose lives are intricately and irretrievably inter-woven with yours–who rightly rely on you to do what is right, not necessarily most pleasant.

You see, we can’t always predict whom our psyches will fall in love with–and unless we actively contribute to the situation, we are initially innocent victims of our innate emotional response. But where we go from there determines whether we remain innocent, or if we step out into sin–it is a very dangerous place to be in alone. That is why our very first response ought to be to call out to God for His help.

2) And then? What happens after we call out to the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Well, if it is really the God and Father of our LORD Jesus that we’re calling out to–if Jesus Christ really is the Lord and Master of my life–then, I will do the right but hard thing, and walk away from that person.

Remember Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John‬ ‭14:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬) We must also remember that “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans‬ ‭2:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I would be lying if I said it will be easy–it will probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do–but you can do it if you really believe in Jesus. If you really believe, you will lay your heart and it’s happiness at Christ’s feet, knowing that He is fully capable of giving you the joy and fulfillment you need here in this world legitimately–without your having to steal it under wrong circumstances–or, if He deems it not essential for you now, to reward, fulfill and overwhelm you with His joy in eternity! Either way is good, because He knows best. “…I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” (Psalm‬ ‭131:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬) And, I “…know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

It may, in fact, not feel okay for a long time afterward–it may take months or even years to really forget, but you “…can do all things through Christ who strengthens…[you.]” (Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Know that you can do this–you really can–because “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)!

And remember that in all things, we are to “…make it our aim…to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians‬ ‭5:9-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Ultimately, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you practice these things you will never stumble, and you will receive a lavish reception into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11, Berean)

Dear Lord Jesus,

Be my all; be more precious to me than anything else in life. Help me not only believe You are enough to pay for my sins, but also that you are enough to give me the joy and fulfillment I so desperately long for–without illegitimately stealing it. I am placing my heart and it’s needs in your care. I trust You; You know what I truly require, and will provide every last bit of it to me! Amen!

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Exodus 23:25-26

How healthy are you? Although not all illnesses are caused by a faulty diet, I am surprised by the ailments modern society needlessly suffers from, and am convinced that although not always, we nonetheless frequently bring them upon ourselves by our lack of wisdom in the food choices we make.

“Worship the Lord your God, and His blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.” (Exodus‬ ‭23:25-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God gives His people both wisdom, and the blessings that follow from living according to it. Yet so many of us these days aren’t being particularly wise in what we consume. Think about it: what do you typically eat? Is it the salted, sugared, artificially preserved and otherwise highly processed stuff our grocery shelves are stocked with which advertisers relentlessly market–because that’s what the majority of people eat, at least in part? Unless you are in a small minority, you probably do not home-prepare from scratch what you consume from healthy, basic and wholesome ingredients. Yet that is the way to both remain healthier, and survive off of a smaller grocery budget (surely you can use the remaining funds for something else!).

God made us a certain way–our bodies require specific nutrients found in raw and healthy foods to perform their best, and the modern grocery store does not typically cater to our bodies’ real needs. They instead focus on their bottom line, on making a profit, and let’s face it–it’s the packaged, pre-made stuff that has the highest mark-up, so that’s what they push. But we are God’s people, and as such we must be wise–and look out for our own bodies’ well-being.

Certain medical conditions impact what we can consume, but for most of us our bodies need a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, supplemented by milk, butter and cheeses, fish and meat, whole grains, beans and nuts. Organic is far superior to not, and I personally believe non-pasteurized milk and other dairy is best (I urge you to educate yourself on this issue and form your own opinion). Salt should not be processed (pink Himalayan is full of trace elements we need), vinegar should be apple cider, and we should still make homemade soups from bone broths simmered for hours like our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did–and homemade yoghurt and sauerkraut, and whole grain breads.

You don’t have the time for all of this? Maybe, but will you have the time for major illness when your body breaks down? It will require down-time whether you have it or not! You don’t have the money? I am convinced eating properly is actually cheaper, because you typically use less expensive raw foods like dried beans and brown rice, but even if it isn’t, consider whether you will have the money for doctors, hospitals and medicine later on down the road. But it is true that it is almost impossible to eat well if you work outside the home and don’t pack a lunch. So what should you do?

The answer is to always make a bit more when you cook dinner. Leftover salmon, pieces of steak meat, beans, brown rice, and the like make a fabulous take-along lunch. A nice slice of homemade whole grain bread (or health food store sprouted grain bread if you’re desperate) and a chunk of Brie or other cheese is filling and tasty. Supplement with a bag of fresh sugar peas or sliced up washed broccoli, or blueberries or melon pieces, and top off with 86% or 92% dark chocolate–you’ll be great until dinner and beyond!

Think about the simplest and most basic foods you had as a child, if you’re old enough–as an evening treat, for example, a little bit of oatmeal cooked in water with some Himalayan salt and ground up flaxseeds, finished off with some organic whole milk is absolutely scrumptious–and far healthier and cheaper per serving than a bag of Doritos, or chips and dip!

Know that sugar (as well as margarine and most oils) is your enemy–so many people suffer from diabetes, as well as various other ailments because of it–but a little bit of raw honey is nutritious. Fresh cherries or blueberries or watermelon is so much better than a candy bar, and when you feel like chewing, fresh cut up veggies are the best!

It amazes me that God has provided so many healing foods for our bodies, but most of us scorn–or aren’t even aware of–them. Consider garlic–because of the smell it gives our bodies for close to 48 hours, most of us have to think through when we consume it raw, but even someone who works full-time could eat it Friday night and be fine by Sunday morning. And what it does for our bodies is amazing! It has many antimicrobial and other benefits, not the least of which is simply an amazing sense of well-being and good health! Fresh onions, although not as potent, are also good for us.

God is gracious and kind; He gives wisdom to us when we look for it–and nutrition is no exception! “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬) If we approach the subject with a open mind that is eager to learn, and ask Him, God will help us understand what we can do to eat wholesome foods that will keep us functional for years to come!

So, how healthy are you? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Do you want to be healthier? Ask God! And do the research. Don’t be like the fool in this verse who despises wisdom and instruction. There are many online resources that explain what foods are good for us and which are not–make it your business to check them out; then do what they say. Your body will thank you!

Dear Lord God,

Give me wisdom and understand how to properly feed my body; help me then implement this wisdom! Amen.

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I Corinthians 4:2

Do you struggle with your weight? Are you unhappy with how you look–are you too heavy, too thin, too lumpy, bumpy, or padded in all the wrong places? Have you tried various diets, but not actually lost anything of consequence, or alternately, trimmed down only to gain it all back (and then some) after you got off your particular diet? Or maybe you achieved your weight goal, but you still don’t actually look like what you imagined you would? What’s wrong? Why isn’t your diet working as it should?

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (I Corinthians‬ ‭4:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

The reason your diet isn’t really working is because your focus–your goal–is all wrong. God blesses us when we align ourselves with His desires for us, but when we either adopt the wrong goals, or the right ones for the wrong reasons–not so much so. So what wrong attitude might we have about dieting, and our bodies in general?

The main one is being vain–maintaining an exclusive or unhealthy focus on appearances. This is not to say we shouldn’t make an effort to look good, but if all we want is to reach a certain weight loss goal, we might be tempted to indulge in behaviors that might actually threaten our health, such as anorexia, bulimia, excessive fasting, only eating certain foods that aren’t sufficient to properly feed our cells or that might actually be poisoning our bodies, etc. And using weight loss strategies that are dependent on unreasonable amounts of will power tend to backfire. Vanity is a sin, and as a long-term dieting strategy, not typically one God blesses. So what should our attitude toward dieting be?

Our attitude toward dieting should be to steward well everything God has entrusted into our care–and this includes the proper maintenance of the physical bodies He has given us. We accomplish His purposes in these bodies of ours, and therefore, they need to be strong and fit and healthy enough to do the “…good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Causing them to become dysfunctional in any way, whether through neglect or overindulgence, is being an unfaithful caretaker of that which was entrusted to our oversight, and it minimizes our impact for Christ! So, our goal should be to maintain our bodies at peak operating performance levels. How do we do this?

Maintaining our bodies properly is a many-pronged strategy. We eat modest portions of food that nourishes our bodies–what our cells need, not what our cravings want. That might be something slightly different for each of us, but for me it is almost exclusively lots of raw veggies, fruit, whole grains, milk, beans, nuts, some fish and meat. I avoid sugars, but I allow myself 85% dark chocolate, because it’s actually good for me (in moderation, because of the sugar). I avoid processed grains, margarine, and other fats (besides modest amounts of pure butter and olive or coconut oil) because I recognize they are poison to my cells. Do the research on what’s healthy and what’s not; it’s easy these days!

It also includes getting enough sleep and exercise because that helps our cells regenerate. For me it also means spending some time in the sun, maintaining good relationships with the people in my life, enjoying my work, and most of all, spending time with my Lord and Savior, because being right with Him puts it all into perspective. Everything–including the proper functionality of my physical body–is for Him to begin with: “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans‬ ‭11:36‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

And, a nice side-effect of faithfully stewarding our bodies is that we actually start to look better as we become more fit. We may never look exactly like the models we see in magazines or online because that may not be our particular physique, but we will be the best “me” that we can be, and hopefully, remain functional for our Master’s purposes for as long as He sees fit to keep us here!

So, do you struggle with your weight? Is your diet working? Change your approach from just a number on the scale or specific size to a fit and functional body for God’s purposes, and watch Him bless your efforts!

Dear Lord,

Help me treat the body You gave me with respect–help me nourish my cells, rather than indulge my food desires; help me get enough sleep; help me exert my body enough physically when I’m rested for optimal health; help me maintain good relationships. Most of all, help me be right with You, because when this is true, everything else falls into place! Amen.

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Philippians 3:8-11

Are you a lost soul? You know–one of the many otherwise interesting and captivating people in our world who have so much going for them, but who just don’t need Jesus? Maybe you’re educated, well-read; you know what’s going on, have a career, friends, a life. And, you’re a genuinely decent person; you have a moral code that you live by–maybe something as basic as “if it doesn’t hurt me or someone else, it’s not my business.” Or perhaps you are spiritual–you’ve seen the universal longing of the human heart that evidences itself through religion–but believe there are many different paths to God. You might not even reject the Bible completely; you might believe some of it, just not take everything literally. Regardless, do you understand that if you do not actually have Jesus, you absolutely are still truly lost?

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians‬ ‭3:8-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

There is a Supreme Being. If you study history, you see that the further back in time we go, the more likely it is people still looked for Him. They did all kinds of things to placate Him and misguidedly attempt to win His favor, including literally sacrificing their children; frequently they fractured Him into multiples deities, attributing to each a facet of who He really is. It was the universal expression of the human heart looking for that which it was meant to know–that which it was intended to love and be loved by.

Today we overtly or subliminally denigrate their strivings by attributing them to less advanced societies attempting to explain natural phenomena they did not understand. Because of the technology so ubiquitous today, we imagine we have now covered the missing ground they had not yet; that our scientific advances have filled in the gaps and rendered a belief in the divine no longer relevant–and we live as if He isn’t. Yet, He is.

You see, we conveniently push aside the ever-present witness of the phenomenon of death as something beyond comprehension. If we’ve ever seen it personally, it’s stark in its reality–a living being, regardless of how ill or near death, and the lifeless shell that remains after its life has left. It is something we simply cannot explain, because it is the portal between the physical reality we currently inhabit, and the spiritual one we enter at our physical death. But there is a link between the two existences, between the physical and the spiritual, and it is Christ. And it is the Bible that explains this link.

“…whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (Jesus Christ, in John‬ ‭5:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John‬ ‭5:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him. People who believe in God’s Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God’s one and only Son. They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things. All who do evil hate the light and will not come to the light, because it will show all the evil things they do. But those who follow the true way come to the light, and it shows that the things they do were done through God.” (John‬ ‭3:16-21‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Most importantly, “…You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [He] you will indeed die in your sins.” (Jesus Christ in John‬ ‭8:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Jesus Christ is the link between death and life, between this world and the next, between the physical and the spiritual. He is the only “possession” we can and will carry from this life to the next. If we do not reject Him, His Spirit can be in us now, “Christ in me, the hope of glory,” and He will pass across the barrier of death with us into eternity–and only because of Him will we “…be given a very great welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Because of this, the highest goal of my life ought to be to “gain Christ and be found in Him.” What does that mean? Simply that I truly make sure I have, get, possess Jesus inside of me–that I have Him living in me through His Spirit.

How can I get Him? By humbling myself before Him, and asking! Yes, there’s a bit more–I have to recognize that God is God, not me; that I’ve sinned, but God’s taken care of that because of Jesus; I have to stop rebelling against Him and trust in Jesus.

But how will I know that I do? Believe me, when it happens, I’ll know! There’ll be no mistaking it, because when I gain Christ, when His Spirit enters into me, “…if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬) I will be a completely new person!

Without Jesus, I don’t like Him; it all seems stupid. I don’t want to go to church; it’s boring and a waste of my time. I don’t read the Bible, because it doesn’t make sense. I don’t listen to sermons for the same reason, and praying seems like I’m saying empty words to myself.

When I put my trust in Jesus and get His Spirit in me, inexplicably, it’s a 180 degree about-face. Whereas I was formerly repulsed by Him, I am now drawn to Him. I want to find out more about Him, I want to read the Bible, I want to hang out with other people who care about Him. I like to pray, to go to church, to listen to anything and everything that has to do with Him! It really is a night and day change.

So what about you? Are you still a lost soul? You don’t have to be! You don’t have to go through life alone; better yet, you don’t have to pass out of this life alone–but pass out of it you will, one way or another. You can gain Christ; at the moment of your death, you can be found to really be in Him. Talk to Him; ask Him for Himself, for His Spirit–He will never say no! Just do it!!!

Dear Jesus,

Please give me Yourself; come with me, through life and death! Amen.

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I Peter 3:15

“Why do you follow Jesus–why are you a Christian?” Invariably, you will at some point in your life be asked this question, and even if you aren’t, you should know the answer for your own sake. For myself, there are two reasons why I believe: 1) because of the body of evidence for the message of the Bible as a whole, and 2) because of my own personal experience with Jesus Christ.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I do not believe because I want it to be true (since when does wanting something to be true make it so?). I do not believe because my parents believed (they could have been wrong). I do not believe because I’ve invested my entire life believing and don’t want to start from scratch (its best to arrive at the truth, even if you’re late at it). I do not believe because it’s the consensus of society (increasingly it isn’t).

1) No, I believe because it would be absurd not to–the body of evidence is overwhelming.

I believe because of the accounts of the eyewitnesses who were there. It doesn’t matter that it was two thousand years ago. To us that’s so long that it seems to enter the realm of “once upon a time” fairy tales and mythology, but the passage of time doesn’t make what happened any less real. I believe the accounts of the conquests of Rome; why should I hold these contemporaneous accounts any less credible?

Jesus’ follower Simon Peter wrote, “When we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not telling just clever stories that someone invented. But we saw the greatness of Jesus with our own eyes.” (2 Peter‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭NCV‬‬) Another follower, John, (referring to himself) wrote, “This is the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down. And we all know that his eyewitness account is reliable and accurate.” (John‬ ‭21:24‬ ‭MSG‬‬) And also that, “Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.” (John‬ ‭20:30-31‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

I believe because this wasn’t an obscure story created by one person in secret; it couldn’t have been because no one would have bought it! While He was alive, most of what Jesus did was done publicly in front of everyone around; that is, in fact, why the crowds followed Him. Right after His crucifixion, this is what people were saying:

“…Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, ‘You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days…The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,’ they said. ‘He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed Him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him. We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago. Then some women from our group of his followers were at His tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, His body was gone, just as the women had said.'” (Luke‬ ‭24:17-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

No, His followers started to preach and teach the message that’s become our Bible shortly after He rose from the dead, referring to what has just happened–to what everyone around was well aware of, as evidenced by what Peter preached to the crowds that gathered on the day of Pentecost:

“People of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus from Nazareth was a very special man. God clearly showed this to you by the miracles, wonders, and signs He did through Jesus. You all know this, because it happened right here among you. Jesus was given to you, and with the help of those who don’t know the law, you put Him to death by nailing Him to a cross. But this was God’s plan which He had made long ago; He knew all this would happen. God raised Jesus from the dead…” (Acts‬ ‭2:22-24‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

I believe because there were multiple parchments and copies of parchments from a great many different sources attesting to exactly the same account; no other ancient document, in fact, has anywhere near as many copies as does the Bible, attesting to the accuracy of what we have today.

I believe because most of these people were killed because they would not recant what they claimed. Their entire message pertained to not just this life, but what happens after death; if I’ve made up a story about what happens after I die and I know it is false, I will not go to my death refusing to say I lied, because I know it is false and I’d be giving up the only existence I have!

More generally, I believe in God because of the complexity of the natural world. I see His creativity when I see the variation of a German Shepherd’s fur or the intricacy of a dragonfly’s wings. I simply am not convinced that the randomness of nature works toward complexity rather than disarray, as we observe.

2) I also believe because I know Jesus myself. If you don’t know Jesus yourself yet, you probably won’t understand this, because it makes no sense. You can’t know someone who is a historical figure–you can know about him, but you can’t know him because he’s not currently alive; he’s not there to relate to you and interact with you right now.

And there’s the whole point: Jesus Christ is alive right now! That’s why I can know Him myself–because He’s not a historical figure like Cleopatra or Julius Cesar who lived and died and whom we only remember because of what was written about them. Yes, Jesus lived and died two thousand years ago. But unlike the other figures of history, there was and is something very starkly different about Him–He was human, but He was also God who became human.

Which is why He was able to do all the things for which the crowds followed Him–the miracles, the things human beings cannot and do not do. Which is why He could pay the penalty for our sins–because He had none of His own. Which is why He could become alive again after dying–something no other human being is capable of or ever did. Which is why He is still alive today two thousand years after He was crucified–and not just alive in our memories or hearts and minds, the way we mean when someone we love dies and we want to make ourselves feel better. No. He is alive today, the way He was alive before He became a human being two thousand years ago. And because He is alive, He is able to interact in a real and ongoing way with those who come to Him.

Yes, I talk to Him–every day. But many religions pray to their gods; how is this different? It is different because it’s not just me reaching up to Him; He reaches back down to me–He relates back to me. Something very special happened after Jesus rose and went back to heaven–He sent His followers His Spirit. What does that mean? It means that those of us who believe in Jesus Christ have Him literally in us, teaching and relating with us.

I have far too long of a track record of a relationship with Christ Jesus–of Him answering my prayers, relating to and responding to me and my needs, and of literally feeling His presence in me and in my life–to ever be hoodwinked into believing He’s not real: I know He is real. And just as you couldn’t convince me I only imagined my mother or father–that they only existed in my mind, or because I wanted them to–I also know Jesus exists! That is why I’m a Christian.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks…[me] to give the reason for the hope that…[I] have…” Amen.

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John 16:7-11

Do you have a Bible verse you’ve heard or read many times, but simply didn’t understand? One that you’re reading in English, but which might as well be in Hebrew or Greek for all the meaning you’ve been able to derive from it? I have, and it’s this one; I’m including the verses surrounding it, to put it in context:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John‬ ‭16:7-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Do you understand what this means–what Jesus was telling His followers, and us, about sin, righteousness, and judgment?

Jesus was explaining that He had to leave His followers and return to the Father for a reason: so the Helper, also called the Holy Spirit or Christ’s Spirit, could come to them. Why couldn’t He come if Jesus had stayed? I don’t know, but it wasn’t possible. But once He came, He would convict the world of sin, and righteousness and judgment. What does that mean?

To convict is to seriously impress on someone–to convince, to really help them see and understand in the depth of their being. So the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.

1) He convicts us of sin. That’s reasonably straightforward–He impresses upon us how terrible our sin and it’s effect on us and others really is, how utterly beyond fixing, how truly depraved and hopeless. This is important, because the rest makes no sense without our recognizing this first.

Once we see with eyes wide open just how miserable our condition really is, 2) He convicts us of righteousness. That means, He helps us see what real righteousness–the opposite of sin–is. He helps us fully comprehend not only how far we fall from the mark of perfection, but He also helps us see that it is only Christ Jesus who has that kind of perfection, and that only by believing in Him–that He is also God, God’s Son, who can fix us, forgive and change us–that we can have His holiness attributed to us.

And finally, 3) the Spirit of Christ convicts us of judgment–of judgment on sin, on those who rejected the righteousness Christ would have worked in them, had they let Him.

I think the New Living Translation is perhaps one of the easiest for understanding these verses, so here they are, again:

“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” (John‬ ‭16:7-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Sin, righteousness, judgment: this is the gospel in a nutshell! 1) Our sin, 2) Christ’s righteousness for those who want it, 3) judgment on those who don’t. Jesus said, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John‬ ‭8:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬)“ This has so many applications on so many different levels, but a major one is that when we look for Truth, when we really want to know Him, to understand, He let’s us get it–and we are free! Free from fear, doubt, condemnation, guilt, uncertainty. Free from the horrifying judgment we deserve. Free from not knowing the One we were meant to live with forever, from living a life separated from genuine Love, because He is love. Ultimately, free to be the people He wants us to become–in this life and the next!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Send me Your Spirit, that He May convict me of sin, righteousness, and judgment: of my sin; of true righteousness–which is only of You and which I get when I let You in; and of the coming judgement on sin. Amen.

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Philippians 3:8-9

If you’re a parent, what’s your most hoped for ambition for your children? What is it that you really want them to accomplish, gain or achieve in their lives–apart from which nothing else they do will really compensate or matter? Is it a good marriage that stands the test of time, grandchildren who grow up to be upstanding members of society, or a pleasant home in a good area? Is it an advanced education or a successful career? Is it the opportunity to travel the world and see the sights you perhaps never saw yourself? Is it making their mark on the world in some way, or rising to a place of leadership in their communities and spheres of influence? Is it some combination, or none, of the above–as long as they’re happy? Or, is it something altogether different, which will mean so much more to them in light of eternity?

“…that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…” (Philippians‬ ‭3:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

I suspect many of us–even those of us who go to church and try to teach our children to love Jesus–sometimes have wrong goals for them. It isn’t that we shouldn’t prepare them to live their lives in the present world, because they will spend at least a certain number of years here. We should educate them, advise them, nurture and otherwise equip and prepare them for this present age, but as we do so–and even more so–we should equip and prepare them for the future age to come because that is where they will spend eternity! Even as we are instilling in them the importance of good grades and an education, of a hard work ethic and many other practical life skills, we should be impressing upon them the futility of “…[gaining] the whole world, and…[losing]…[their] own soul” (Mark‬ ‭8:36‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). Because that’s what they’re doing if they’re only focusing on success in this life.

We may recognize it intuitively, but what we sometime don’t consciously grasp is that just as we prepare our children for this life, we must also prepare them for the next. Just as we teach them what they need to do to have a happy existence in this world–and hope and pray that at various points along the way to their adult years they pick up the baton and run with it themselves–we must teach them what they need to do to “…receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)–into the world they will hopefully enter when they breathe their last breath in this one. And just as there are things they must do to have a better physical life now, there are things they can do to have an exponentially better eternity!

The first and most important thing they can do, without which nothing else will matter much, is recognizing the Jesus story is God solving the dilemma of our sins Himself, and believing in Jesus–that we were damned in our sins and could do nothing to save ourselves, so Jesus Christ became a human being and paid the penalty in our place. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) But after they trust in Jesus, that’s not it–there’s more that they need to do to better prepare for their future.

1) They need to actually hang out with Jesus–they need to read their Bible every day, pray on their own, go to church. 2) They need to hang out with others who follow Jesus–not just go for an hour on Sunday mornings, but really get plugged into a local church and get involved with the various things they do throughout the week; they need their friends–their network–to be people who really care about following God, so they’ll have support and good advice when they’re at critical junctures. And, 3) they need to get busy doing their Heavenly Father’s business–they need to figure out what they can do to spread the gospel and further His kingdom, and do it, because that’s what Jesus wants of us in this life! But wait, there’s more!!

While all of these things are integral parts of following Christ and we need to do them–my goal, and my ultimate wish for my children, is that they may “gain Christ, and be found in Him” as they breathe their last–that they would recognize Jesus as the most valuable and priceless Treasure, that they would “…love the LORD…[their] God with all…[their] heart, with all…[their] soul, and with all…[their] mind” (Matthew‬ ‭22:37‬ ‭NKJV‬‬), that they would “know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John‬ ‭17:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)–because without this, nothing else will ultimately matter!

Dear Lord,

Above any other human accomplishment, help my children “gain Christ, and be found in Him!” Amen.

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