“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17
If you’re like me, you sometimes hesitate to talk about your faith and, usually, our silence is because we’re afraid:
- Afraid someone might ask a question we can’t answer.
- Afraid they’ll think we’re not very sophisticated in our thinking.
- Afraid we just won’t say it right.
Here’s where Paul comes in with a God-given insight (see verse above): It’s not about our intellectual words, knowing all the answers, or having the power to persuade – it’s about Jesus. When we simply point people to Jesus, his message, his actions, and his cross, we can’t go wrong. Paul says, in fact, that if we’re too good in arguing our point or using impressive words, the attention goes to us and our message falls flat. If we can direct someone to Jesus and the cross, Paul says, that’s where the power is. Not us – him. That was Paul’s message to the people of Corinth in the 1st century and it’s ours today.
So, if someone asks what we believe or why we have hope or peace in this sometimes-crazy world, let’s not get sidetracked with reconciling the Bible with science or theorizing about prophecies. Let’s just talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and what he has promised to those who follow him. Then he does the rest. No more fear!
“The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took them upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.'”- Billy Graham
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” – Acts 17:24
There’s a scene from the TV series West Wing in which the US discovers a nuclear explosion in another country. The president meets with the ambassador from that country and is told that it was not nuclear, it was an oil refinery fire. Not true. He gives the littany of evidence of their lack of security, training, and expertise in to be able to handle nuclear weapons and he offers to help. The ambassador says, “We don’t need your help.” The President leaves the room in anger, knowing she’s lying and, in not accepting expert help, is putting the world at risk.
Then I read the prophets of the Old Testament and realize the one thing that seems to make God leave the room in anger is when his people think they don’t need him. “We’ve got it covered, Lord.” And by covered, they mean they are hiding their messes, sweeping the dirt under the rug, putting false fronts on the disasters lurking, and hoping someone (other than God, of course) will step in to save the day.
The messes in our world are big. The messes in many of our lives are big, too. It may be time we admit we’re not doing a very good job of managing things ourselves. Maybe it’s time to turn to God and say, “I need you! I’ve needed you all along, but have been trying to do it on my own. Now look at this mess. Can you, would you, please help me?”
The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” – A. W. Tozer
Books are always a sure-to-please gift in our household. Here are a few I have written that you may like for yourself or others:
The GodSense Journey: Exploring Sacred Pathways (April 2016): A year-long interactive devotional covering subjects such as intimacy with God, fruit of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, and relationships. Includes teaching, Bible study, prayers, and personal application. Click here to preview:
The Bible for Skeptics (June 2017 – Second Edition) An invitation to conversation about the authenticity of the Bible and its revelation of God and His plan for those of us who live on this planet. Click here:
The GodSense Devotional (2004): A year-long devotional study of God’s Word, requiring interaction, meditation, and prayer. Click here to preview:
The Bible Study Teachers’ Guide (2006): A helpful resource for those who lead small-group Bible studies at home, church, or the marketplace. Click here to preview:
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5
Do you ever go through those times when you think, “Why does God even bother with me? I’ve let him down again. I keep failing to overcome some of the issues that haunt me. I don’t know why he doesn’t just give up on me.”
Listen. Really listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit inside you as you sit in his presence, as you pray, as you read the Bible. You are likely to hear something like this:
I love you even when you feel unlovable. And because I love you, I
- answer your prayers
- guide your steps
- teach you through my Word
- protect you from the evil one
- draw you closer to me
- will take you someday to a place where we can be together forever.
I love you just because. You’re going to have to get used to that!
Can you believe that? Really believe it? It’s true, you know. God loves each of us unconditionally. Once we grasp the reality of that truth, we will never be the same. Our worthiness is not even a small part of the reason God loves us. He loves us because he created us. He loves us because it is part of his eternal nature to love us – no matter what. How can we help responding with joy to such unconditional, unchanging love? Believe it. Live in it. To God, you are always lovable. And always loved!
“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” – Psalm 119:130
Have you ever watched a legal drama on television? First we hear the prosecution’s case and it’s clear the guy is guilty. Then the defense presents its case and we aren’t so sure any more. The same thing happens when we hear the other side of an argument – particularly those about theological or sociological issues. If we listen openly to a well-presented response to our viewpoint, we may walk away saying, “I never thought of it that way before.” Don’t you like those moments of insight that open up new possibilities of thinking for you? I do!
In Acts 9, we read about Saul. He was persecuting followers of Jesus because he thought he knew the whole story about this now-dead Jewish rabbi. Then he was confronted by the resurrected Jesus and the encounter left him physically blinded, but spiritually enlightened. He was sent to Ananias in the city of Damascus. Ananias touched him and the Bible says something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see clearly. The restoration of his eyesight evidenced the truth that he had met the Christ, but the greatest miracle, to me, is the opening of his spiritual eyes so he could now see the world around him as God does: without prejudice, arrogance, or fear. Everything changed for Saul when he met Jesus and, for the first time, saw him as Lord.
“Dear Lord, I acknowledge the way I see things may be wrong. Remove the scales from my eyes so I can see the world, people, and your work among us as you do – with an understanding mind and loving heart.”
“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” – Blaise Pascal
“Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” – Psalm 98:8
What do you suppose Jesus meant when He taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Do you wonder would it would look like if God’s kingdom and will ruled the earth?
Maybe that’s part of what Jesus was showing us when He walked with humans long ago.
- His miracles give us a peek into a kingdom where everyone would see, hear, walk, jump, have enough, and be well.
- His casting out demons show us what it will look like when we’re all free from the influence of evil.
- His teaching reveals God’s kingdom as a place where grace, unity, forgiveness, and integrity reign.
If we’re sincere when we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done”, how could we not desire to be working alongside God to bring His kingdom values to earth today? Of course we won’t do it perfectly, but we can at least be moving in the same direction God is.
Jesus exampled what it means to live in a kingdom-come way: He taught truth, showed compassion, decried evil, and dealt honestly with everyone. He helped us see what it means to begin the process of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). And, He sends us out to continue what He started.
What does He want us to do today to help accomplish His will on earth? I think we should ask Him. It seems there’s a lot to be done!
“God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven would mean food, water, and homes for all who lack, justice in politics and economics, peace between nations, harmony with nature, healing and comfort for the sick, souls reconnected to their spiritual source.” – Philip Yancey
“How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” – Job 36:26
NOTE: A few weeks ago, I posted a blog saying our spirituality and our success in serving God are not measured in numbers. Some of you responded with thoughts reminding me that, while spiritual measurements are not usually given in numbers, numbers are very important to God. I completely agree – enough so, that I thought it a good topic for today’s blog.
The Bible is full of numbers: God took a census of His people on several occasions. He recorded people’s ages when they died and length of reigns of kings. We’re told the number of people fed with Jesus’ loaves and fishes, the number of fish caught when the fishermen threw the nets to the other side at Jesus’ instruction. The book of Acts presents the initial growth of the church in ever-increasing numbers. Paul records specifically how many times he was beaten with 39 lashes. These biblical numbers can be taken as counts and records.
At other times they might be seen symbolically. For example, when the Bible says there are 10,000 x 10,000 angels, maybe it means there are so many they cannot be counted (like we might say “a zillion”). As we observe how God used numbers, 10 often seems to refer to present kinds of earthly governance (reflected in the 10 Commandments), while 12 seems to refer more to God’s kingdom plan (12 tribes, 12 apostles). Seven is the considered the number of completion (as in the creation account) and 6 is seen as the number of man. Forty often refers to times of trial (Israel’s 40 years in the desert, Jesus’ 40 days of temptation, Noah’s 40 days of rain).
But maybe the most important scriptural mathematical principle of all is how God shows personalized attention to His creation.
- He knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.
- He determines the number of stars and has a name for each one.
- He sees even one sparrow that falls.
The great and glorious God who created a mathematically ordered universe, remains intricately involved in it. Isn’t He amazing?
“God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world.” – Paul Dirac (British physicist)