Worry vs. Anxiety

worry

Some of the literal translations of the Bible do not do not contain the word “worry” anywhere in the contents. Search a KJV or ESV Bible for the word worry and it will not be found. Many people think that the Bible tells us not to worry because God is in control. While it is true to a degree it is not true in the way we might think. Dictionary.com defines worry as “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts” and that sounds awful. The Bible does use a similar word, “anxiety”, that many people use interchangeably with “worry” in every day speech. In fact many of the newer translations use “worry” and “anxiety” interchangeably. The KJV does not use the newer words “worry” or “anxiety” but uses older words like “Be careful for nothing” or in Christian speak one might say they “cast their cares to God”. But in modern language worry and anxiety have taken over the conversation. Anxiety is the primary word used by the ESV when it translates the Greek μεριμνάω (me-rēm-nä’-ō). This Greek word, μεριμνάω, means “to be anxious or to be troubled with cares”.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

I do not think of myself as a worrier. Crazy scenarios like bears attacking me in my sleep while camping might pop in my mind but then I just shrug my shoulders and go back to sleep. My wife on the other hand worries about all kinds of plausible ill-fated scenarios while camping. Moms by nature are known for their ability to worry. Is that a bad thing to be concerned about the pitfalls of life and want to avoid them? I don’t think so and I doubt God would want his people to not worry about clear and present dangers. The greatest danger of all that every person alive should worry about is where they stand with God. If you are not saved by Christ then you should be gravely worried.

I may not worry about much but I am anxious. I have been an anxious person my entire life. My anxiety is in full force when it comes to interactions (like parties) with people. The nervousness of it all wears me out. Dictionary.com defines anxious as “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune”. Reasonable worries might be used in a productive way to keep one safe. Anxiety however is full on mental trouble that may be crippling in any productive life. Psychology Today has a great article that breaks down the difference between Worry and Anxiety. Here are two key points.

“If you’re concerned about getting fired because you did really poorly on a project, you’re worried. If you’re concerned about getting fired because your boss didn’t ask about your child’s piano recital, you’re anxious.”

“Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral in that we feel it throughout our bodies.”

That last one really hits home for me. My anxiety around people impacts me physically. On occasion I have a duty that requires that I speak publicly. The last time this was required my anxiety got the better of me and while practicing the presentation my blood pressure spiked so high that I went into a full headache and nose bleed while practicing my first run through (I know that sounds crazy but it is true). The energy I need to get on stage and speak to a crowd is consuming of all my physical and mental energy. The insanity of this is that logically I know that I am prepared, capable, and encouraged to present. Why my body reacts with such stress is beyond me.

The question then dear reader is your life full of worry or anxiety? How much do the cares and troubles of this world paralyze your life? Hopefully we are all fortunate that worry is limited to practical and productive problem solving in a sin cursed world. While I do live an anxious life (at one time even writing this blog in front of the world would have been too much for me) I prayerfully live that life in submission to God’s desires for me. I serve him and if he wants me on a stage speaking before a crowd then I will summon courage not from myself but from Christ.

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Luke 12:22-25 ESV

The reality is that anxiety does not add to life but takes away hours and days. Jesus speaking to the disciples tells them not to be anxious in serving him. If they can learn to trust him and draw strength from him for the basics like food and clothing then the they can trust him with power that changes lives.

26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Luke 12:26 ESV

It is natural and normal to worry about practical issues that are right in front of you. But take to heart the words of Paul and submit your cares and anxiety to Christ. Bring him everything. Nothing is too small or too trivial for God provides even our daily bread.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 ESV

Aliens Prove We are not Alone

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There have been a rash of aliens in the news the last few weeks. Not the terrestrial illegal kind Trump rails against but the little green men from another planet type. The mainstream media is growing a narrative that is breathlessly waiting on proof that “we are not alone”. Here are a few recent examples…

These speculative stories receiving attention from credible news organizations is new and it is a direct result of a popular worldview that society has been raised to accept. My prediction is that these “UFO” stories will only increase in the coming years and larger portions of society will be gripped in fear or will want to worship the supposed visitors.

The alien story line will grow in significance because of the dominant evolutionary view that if random life could evolve here on earth with the almost infinite size of the universe then statistically speaking there is no way we are alone. Taking that worldview to conclusion scientists began speculating on where to look for life in our own solar system. The first mainstream news stories that took on air of credibility occurred in the early 2000s where scientists, breathlessly claimed they had found microscopic life on a Martian meteorite.

The news was sensational like many scientific claims that are reported as fact only later to be proven wrong but the imagination is captured and NASA was in desperate need of new funding. Falling short of finding actual life the narratives started to focused on finding water. If there is water on this planet or that moon then it is possible that life could be found. This narrative became the staple for many years.

Being raised in an education system that assumes the animate sprang from the inanimate it is no wonder that many professionals both in the science community and in the journalism community would see this line of reasoning to be natural and acceptable. Taken to conclusion then seeing aliens in every unique or unexplained occurrence is not a far speculative leap especially when the media needs to sensationalize for clicks.

So where does the truth fall? Are there aliens is there life out there? The short answer is “Yes” and “No” depending on how one defines “life out there”.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1 ESV

God created everything. The universe and mankind. Could God have created Aliens and alien life? Yes of course, He is God and He can create anything including a universe so large it is not comprehensible to the human mind.

4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5 Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? 6 What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7 as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7 NLT

The Bible tells us that he created Angels and Humans but is silent on any other “beings”. When one asks the question is there life out there the answer is Yes in that there is a spiritual world that interacts with our physical world and we know that God, Angels, and Demons (fallen Angels) mysteriously interact with our physical realities. Is there intelligent life on another planet that evolved then the answer is no. Did God create other planets with life like earth? The answer to that is also no with the caveat that God can do as he pleases. The reason that this is unlikely is the theological implications that intelligent life outside of angels presents to the complete framework of the Bible and the saving work of Christ.

Why was Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us, born? His mission is two fold. First is to save people from the curse of their sins. ‘Second Jesus will return to establish God’s kingdom and in order to establish God’s perfection all that we see today the physical realities must be undone and then recreated in an unblemished and un-cursed way.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:20-23 ESV

7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly … 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 2 Peter 3:7;10 ESV

If there are Aliens living on another planet in another galaxy then they have two unjust impacts placed upon them and that would be outside the character and nature of God. First they are forced to live in a universe that is cursed because of something Adam and Eve did on the day that SIN entered the world. God could have just cursed the Earth but he went further cursing the entire creation. Second when Christ returns Peter states that the universe will “pass away with a roar” and the earth will be consumed by fire and destroyed. The poor aliens who did nothing wrong and were placed under a SIN curse are now destroyed when Christ returns on Judgment day not ever knowing anything about this planet or God’s promises here. This is the Biblical narrative. The information that God himself wants us to know about how important we are. The vast universe was created so we might marvel at just how big and how powerful he is.

Maybe it is time for all of us to pause and give to God the adoration he is due and praise such a wonderful creator who came with a plan to save not only each one who calls on his name but also to restore everything that our sin broke in the universe.

God is not Fair

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An objection I hear from time to time is that God is not fair or he is unjust.  A great of example of this objection is when Abraham lies to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Because of the lie Pharaoh takes Sarah, Abraham’s wife and future mother of the nation of Israel, as his wife because Abraham told the Egyptians that Sarah is his sister. Because Abraham lies to the Egyptians God punishes the Egyptians with a plague. Here is the relevant passage that shows God’s supposed unfairness…

11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. Genesis 12:17-20 ESV

God justice is bigger than the lie of Abraham. Is Pharaoh innocently and righteously living before God? Absolutely not. Why did Abraham fear Pharaoh and decide to lie? Because Pharaoh is a treacherous man who may not be above killing another man to take that man’s wife. God is never unjust or unfair. Pharaoh is just as accountable to God as Abraham. Here a few examples of this higher idea from Jesus in the New Testament.

8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Matthew 20:8-14 ESV

The parable Jesus is telling is of workers who agreed to a wage and then were hurt when other who worked less received the exact same wage. It their mind it was an unfair distribution. Jesus responds that it is his right as the owner (God and Creator) to pay each as he sees fit. In addition, these workers agreed to work for that wage because it was a good wage. When we are comparing our lives with the lives of others discontent and “fairness” questions arise but that discontent is unjustified because God is always just. Here is another example of Jesus dealing with this “fairness”.

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:20-22 ESV

Peter asks Jesus what the fate of John would be. Peter wants to compare his own life to the other Disciple that is closest to Jesus. Refusing to answer the question Jesus insinuates “what does it matter to you?” or “Would you call my answer unfair and would it rob your joy?”. Jesus looks to Peter in the same way he looks to all of us and tells Peter “You follow me!” Stop using fairness and justice as an excuse to stay unengaged with God. Christ sees the full picture and he knows the father’s plans for each and every person. Truth be told if God was fair to each and every person all of us would be dead and punished in Hell for all eternity. Paul states it perfectly when he speaks about the wages of our sin leading to death. But God’s unfair gift is eternal life through Christ.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV

Philippians 4:13 | I Can Do All Things

Under Armor has a marketing campaign that caught my eye for one of the superstar athletes. The shirt that caught my attention states “I can do all things”. The athlete associated with that quote is Steph Curry a championship basketball superstar who won a title with the Golden State Warriors in the 2016-2017 season. What caught my attention is the quote is well-known as part of the King James Bible in the Christian community.

“I can do all things” Philippians 4:13a KJV

When I saw this quote on the shirt, I wanted to ask the person to turn around so I could read the second half of that famous verse. But I paused realizing it would not be there. “I can do all things” branded with Under Armor is the perfect slogan of contemporary America. I applaud Curry’s efforts to put his faith front and center, but no way Under Armor is going to give the Bible credit for this marketing campaign or complete the verse it its entirety. In the current form the quote is perfect branding for Under Armor to compete with Nike’s “Just do it”. Is this not the mantra of society? A mantra that tells people “you are sufficient”, “you are perfect”, or “you can do anything you set your mind to do”. The mentality plays right into the larger society messages… Do it if it feels good. Go for it. Nothing can stop you. “I can do all things”. For those unaware the second half of Curry’s quote is “I can do all things” in Christ.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13 KJV

I can do all things through Christ is the actual truth. Secular marketing is happy to promote that people can do anything apart from God but the marketing is not true. We are limited. We cannot work our way to Heaven. We cannot oppose God without consequence. We cannot do all things apart from Christ. Human effort will be insufficient to accomplish anything outside of God’s will.

16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. Romans 9:16 NIV

Curry’s success is a direct result of God not of Curry’s desire, will, effort, or privilege. Those things matter but the success is dependent on God’s mercy. Without God’s grace on our lives then everything our hands touch would be worthless.

One other point regarding this contradiction between the world “I can do all things” and the Christian “I can do all things in Christ” is the full context of Paul’s writing. Paul is not saying he can accomplish anything he wants to accomplish as long as Jesus is his copilot. Paul is not talking about working harder, smarter, or better than everyone else. Paul is talking about contentment and bearing up in whatever place one finds themselves when following God’s plan.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12 NIV

Paul is telling the audience of his letter that he is not currently in need of anything but he knows what it is to be in need. Paul has been wealthy and, he has been desperately poor. He has lived a privileged life and, he has lived the life of a hated minority. Paul is telling us that he knows how to be content on either extreme of life. Whatever the situation Paul has discovered a secret to being content in hunger, being content well fed. Paul has a secret to live life in any situation and that secret is the quote Under Armor has twisted and broken. Paul goes on to tell his audience the secret in the very next verse. Paul’s secret to living in tough times…

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

Are you in prison? Paul says the secret to getting through is strength found in Christ. Are you in debt and loosing your home? Paul says the secret to moving on in life is strength found in Christ. Are your children running from God in rebellion? Then your strength is found in Christ. Is life hopeless and you want to end it all? Stop! Fall on your knees and draw strength from Christ. “I can do all things” through Christ. There is no situation, no hardship, no success, no failure, no mortal wound, no broken heart is too much for Christ.

9/11 and the Truth of Lawlessness

Today is the anniversary of 9/11 a terrorist attack, an act of war, on a scale unknown to the modern American society. Looking over the history of America it is not difficult to find murderous tragedies and barbarous acts of war on this soil but 9/11 is unique in modern enlightened law and order 1st world society. On this somber day today, I also see a Hurricane carving up the state of Florida. The world has changed or I should rightly say my perception of the world has changed. The world is temporary. Evil abounds. Spiritual forces are at work overturning right and wrong. As I reflect on the clashes in the streets over “hate speech”, wars the world over, and the unfriendly seas spewing storms on me hundreds of miles from shore I remember that this is not my home.

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21 ESV

My heart is in something greater. Jesus told Peter that the church would be the foundation, a rock, to preserve society. Jesus told Peter that hell would not break through, or overcome the church. I take heart in knowing that God is present because the church, the body of Jesus Christ, is here.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18 ESV

On Sunday, my pastor preached the body of Christ is salt and light from Matthew 5. He reminds the congregation that we are a preservative that holds society together. Without Salt without light society becomes worthless and the gates of hell would overcome. Hell has not victory. Hell will not win. Hell does not own this world because the Church is still here. The Holy Spirit is still here. Paul writing to the Thessalonian Church tells them what the return of Christ in bodily form will look like. Paul tells them to not worry. The restrainer, the spirit of God, holds back the destruction of lawlessness. And when that day comes the King, Jesus, will “bring to nothing” all this evil.

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 ESV

Now here is what I need to know, what the contemporary Christian needs to know. First God’s plans are perfect and sovereign. The current wars, the acts of nature, none of the current ails of this world are a surprise to him. Second lawlessness is in check. Thank God that he is restraining the evil that lives in all of us. Lawlessness is restrained because the Church by way of the Holy Sprit living through Christians is salt and light in this dark world. Jesus has promised that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” while the Church, the Holy Spirit are still active.

Because of this we know there is still time. The moment of grace is still available. This is the good news of the gospel.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38-39 ESV

Creation, Laws, and Christ

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God, the maker of heaven and earth is present and draws men and women to himself. He is drawing people to himself because in our rebellion we have distanced ourselves from His perfect holiness. But God made a way and He…

4 desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 ESV

The knowledge of truth God wishes is for all people to know Him. Understanding God’s desire from the following facts may lead to a restored relationship with God. These truths while boiled down to the following statements here does not mean an easy answer and there is no simple prescription when it comes to God because each person is unique in how they react to these truths. In fact, Jesus claimed few people will navigate this narrow road.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

To know God and reconcile with Him the following three key truths must be understood, believed, and embraced. Each of the following facts are progressive and many reading this may find each successive truth more difficult to agree with but Christianity and salvation require all three.

Where there is a Creator there is a creation.

Creation is an irreducible truth it is not an accident or a random occurrence. The humanist champions of science worship the order and the repeatable laws that make up the scientific method. But those same worshiper’s state that random nothing created the perfect order of science. An atheist worldview is such an odd paradox. And truth be told most people assume and accept some type of Creator be him personal or impersonal.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV

Where there is a Law there is a Law Giver.

Accepting a Creator is an easy first step with religions and people the world over finding peace with this truth. Where the specific truths of Christianity become complicated and many find objection is in man’s relation to the law. The scientific method assumes natural laws are in effect. Force and friction are mathematically measurable. Violating those laws of nature will not allow society to create the combustion engine. In the same way God of the creation has put in place laws of human nature and violating those laws causes death and failure of the engine, our body and soul. The well-known Ten Commandments are a perfect representation of God’s laws and the recognizable effects of their violation. Do not steal, or lie, or kill. Also worship God and God alone are examples and yet people break these laws and know in their heart what they have done is wrong. All men and women have fallen short of God’s standard (be honest) and Paul writes the penalty is death. Sinners (you and me both) deserve death because all have broken the laws of God. Each person has a broken fellowship with the Creator and He sits in judgment on our crimes.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 ESV

Where there is Christ there is Salvation.

While most people accept “god” in the first truth about creation few agree with the second point that they have broken the laws of God and are therefore guilty sinners deserving of death and punishment. As stated in the intro being Christian is not an easy road. Sadly, people in a dwindling percentage agree and accept the second truth about sin and law breaking. Because of that even fewer will listen for the final truth the best truth of the three which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus resurrected from death and Peter’s first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago states the final key perfectly. If you accept God and you acknowledge you are a sinner breaking God’s laws then listen now to the greatest news ever told.

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:36-39 ESV

“goodness, kindness, faithfulness”

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What does it mean to idly desert God’s mercy? I like to casually read the NIV Bible and recently the words of Jonah, yes the same man swallowed by a sea creature, jumped off the page…

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. Jonah 2:8 NIV

Turn away from God’s love by clinging to the things of this earthly world? Why yes, I can see that happening to myself and all those around me. What a truth. God the loving Creator calls and I am distracted by an obsession with a new car, or a new boat, or chasing women, or wanting to resist the oppressive government, or wanting social justice. I turn way from God because I want to use my talents for the good of the culture. Jonah is speaking to me. I wanted a more literal translation than the NIV so as usual I turned to the ESV and the clarity became muddied somewhat.

Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love Jonah 2:8 ESV

The clarity of turning away from God’s love becomes forsaking hope of steadfast love. It is an interesting change in the translation. I like the direction of the NIV creating the image of worldly focused peoples turning away from God’s love that is so clearly present. The literal ESV translation however presents the image of a worldly focused people giving up the hope that God will love them. The ESV is a more realistic translation of the nature of people. Sure giving up the hope of love not yet experience is understandable and God’s love is not so clear and present as the NIV might make it sound. It is a subtle but striking difference.

The word Jonah used in this sentence from Hebrew חֶסֶד and means “goodness, kindness, faithfulness”. The context of this verse is that Jonah is fleeing from God. God has asked Jonah to warn the Assyrians that they need to repent of their sinful ways. Jonah is worried God’s mercy will be given to this murderous people. Jonah as a prophet has lived a called life. A life with a deep spirit filled relationship with a most good, kind, and faithful God. Jonah has witnessed firsthand God’s character and it is not a hope for him it is real and it is present. The NIV and ESV leaving me unsatisfied I continued on in my research and then I found clarity in the Wycliffe translation. Wycliffe is one of the first translations of the bible into English predating even the King James version.

They that keep vanities, forsake their mercy idly. (Those who worship idols, idly desert thy mercy.) Jonah 2:8 WYC

Wycliffe communicates the image of people who idly throw away without concern what God is ready to be to them… “Goodness, kindness, faithfulness”. Deserting his mercy we keep our own selfish vanities or idols of this world. We turn to the physical offerings of the here and now and idly fail to pursue the mercy of God. It is more complicated than making a conscious decision to turn a back on God, although some do come to that point. We are distracted by idols of money, fame, power, sex, and whatever makes one supposedly happy. In self-seeking such vanities people have no regard for their Creator. Jonah with wisdom from his relationship with God knows that many people have deserted God through ignorance, laziness, and the consuming distraction of physical pursuits in this life. Jonah also knows that given the opportunity of a confrontation by God they can be overwhelmed by God’s love because these earthly pursuits ultimately are empty, worthless, and loveless.

Here Jonah uses the same word for חֶסֶד “goodness, kindness, faithfulness” in his complaint to God that he has been asked to preach to this people.

He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2 NIV

There is an opportunity here even for the enlightened and educated person. An opportunity for the wise of this age. Paul preaching to the philosophers, and those that think much like the western world of today, told them how God is still calling for peoples to repent of their obsession with the material pleasures. Paul is telling us, the modern reader, to repent. God has placed each of us in our country and in our time that we might find Him because He is not far away. God as Christ is near and ready to be involved in the life He has given.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, … 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:26-27;30-31 ESV

Repent dear reader. God is near and he embodies what we need “goodness, kindness, faithfulness”.

Robot Preacher

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A church in Germany has created some international headlines with an experiment in robotic “blessings”. Below is a video of the creation and how it works. This robot has a touch screen set of buttons where you answer a series of questions like what language, male for female voice, and would you like a printed copy. Once the input is selected the robot raises robotic hands from which light shines forth and then the robot blesses those standing in front of it.

News articles focus on robots replacing the clergy or on how the church feels about using technology in the church. While this robot is not exactly cutting edge and it is just a little bit silly the idea is interesting in this technological world. What if instead of the Terminator and Skynet destroying mankind robots became apologist fuelled by big data to speak life with reasonable answers to a world with questions about Christ and the cross.

Gutenberg invented the printing press and revolutionized the world by allowing the written words of God to be placed into the hands of every person on earth. That technology strengthens the church. What if now an Azure platformed chat bot could provide theologically sound and consistent answers to anyone in the world at any time? Said bot could even direct the questioner to a local church where relationships might be found the way God intends.

Gift’s are for God’s Glory

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I have taken many kinds of strength profiles, and career assessment tools over the years. There are two that stand out. The first is the one I took through the high school. What stood out in this skills assessment that was given to all of the students were the results. It provided job and career ideas related to the category one fit within. I remember this because one of the job suggestions was Mineralogist. I was the only person that got this recommendation. I did not even know how to get into this field or what it would involve. It is certainly not something that any high school person I knew wanted to grow up to be. The second profile test that I remember was in college. The pastor of my church was taking the smaller Wednesday night crowed through a biblically based spiritual gifts assessment and to my surprise “teacher” was on the top of the list. At that time teacher was the last job that made up my passions. I showed the results to the pastor and told him the test was broken. Every person is given skills and gifts. The science behind tests like these can be informative about our personality and what we might be good at and bad at in life. Both of those tests were not wrong in their suggestions even if I was unaware of my own self at that time. We all have gifts and skills the question is to what end will we use these gifts?

In some Church cultures, there is a powerful desire to speak in tongues or speak prophecy. These miraculous type gifts are elevated to a high standing and become a mark of someone who has attained significant favor from God. While these gifts are included in the Biblical narrative and may be true in contemporary society the real question I want to know is to what end are these gifts sought and used? Paul clearly states that the Holy Spirit gives gifts for the good of the Body of Christ so that the Church will be equipped to carry out God’s will.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV

Whatever gifts the Spirit has given whoever God has created an individual to be then in turn Christians must not be proud about that strength and one should not seek visible gifts for status or control. Just a few lines later Paul gets specific to warn the Corinthians about the role of these gifts.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

Those who are saved and part of the body have a purpose in the Church. The Holy Spirit will gives a desire and skill to accomplish that roll. These gifts work together to accomplish God’s plans. When people attempt to use them in the strength of man or for a selfish purpose then how does God get the glory for what is accomplished? Lecrae in his song Chase That speaks of the worst type of sin and that is the sin of selfish ambition while claiming to do it for God.

[the Devil] lies to us all, told Adam he could ball
“why you following God when you can go get it all?”
I tell you what’s better, or better yet worse.
chasing your own glory while doing the Lord’s work,
so holla if it hurts, but we were made for greater
our greatest satisfaction is making His name famous

The mark of someone serving God is Love. They have a love for God and a love for their fellow man.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

Love makes the gift useful. Service inside the body with Faith, Hope, and most importantly Love is used by God for His purpose. Do you love God? Are you broken to love others more than yourself? If so then go and obey what God has placed on your heart for His Glory.

* Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort May 2014.

What Kind of Christian are You?

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An interesting idea passed through my reading list this week. The comment was that each person, denomination, tradition, or opinion sees God and scripture in their own image. The challenge the person put forth is that everyone reads into the scripture their own “interpretation” and there is no actual single Christian view of things. While true that different Christian traditions might form church government and worship services differently. And some traditions may disagree on some minor aspects of what is most important. What is not true is that a right “interpretation” of scripture is impossible to know. The reality is that most misunderstandings are basically ignorance because so few people spend time reading with their heart open to hear from God. Other wrong “interpretations” are based on purposeful manipulation out of a desire for something other than God. Jesus assumed that his teachings would be remembered and understood by those that followed him and Jesus is never wrong so we can know exactly what is true.

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 ESV

And this is where the church comes in. If the leadership and those teaching are following Christ (not their own selfish ambitions) then they can guide parishioners on how to read and understand what Jesus taught.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 ESV

Christianity also uniquely has the source text in Greek and Hebrew that any lay person can learn to read if they are so inclined. Even that is not necessary because of access to modern translations of nearly original letters. The apostles encouraged the churches to search these texts to confirm what they taught was true.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:10-11 ESV

God is true and so all his words, actions, and calls in our life must be consistent with Himself. The Bible is that consistency given to humankind. God will never ask something of someone that a) he was has not already done himself and b) is contrary to his very nature. Scripture then is a baseline that even the greatest Christian teacher must work from. One well known Bible teacher once wrote that followers of Christ must teach and believe what the Bible states as true not what we want the Bible to say is true. I may not like or understand everything but that does not diminish God that only proves my lack of understanding in all things. God has the entire picture and he has proven himself trustworthy.

The last Chapter of Hebrews is the closing of the letter and the author runs through a liturgy of sorts that when lived out mark a Christian in this world. What kind of Christian are you? If you can’t say yes to everything in this list then you may want to reevaluate what kind of Christian you have been.

Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:1-3 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: Christians must not be self-seeking but be servants to those in need. Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you ready to show hospitality to strangers in need? Do you remember and pray for Christians in prison or those mistreated because they are Christian? This is the type of person that Jesus has called you to be.

4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Hebrews 13:4 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: God did not create man and woman to be sexually promiscuous. He created man and woman to love each other and to honor the marriage bed. If you are living with someone outside of marriage, if you are having an affair, if you are a consumer of porn or lustful images of any kind, or you believe that whatever your preferences are regarding sex are more important than God’s perfect standards then you are not living the life that Jesus has called you to live. Make this right with God there is no other way.

5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:5-6; 16 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: God never promises to make men rich. God does however promise that he will provide our daily bread. Do not fear living with limited money. The Lord is our helper and His resources are endless. If you do have anything be ready to share sacrificially because this pleases God. The type of person that Jesus called you to be is the person who is not in love with money and stuff.

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:7-9; 17 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: God has called each Christian to serve and live within a Church that honors His word. Submit to the leaders of this church and look to their example to imitate. Confirm their example by finding it written about in the Bible. The leadership in your church has been given to you by God and they are accountable to God if they teach what is not true. Do not complain about the Church leadership but make their job a joy (remember they are only men and women like yourself). If you are not in a church or if you are not attending a physical church with real relationships then you are not following the desires of Christ. Jesus is a relational Creator and he never desires for his followers to operate in isolation.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. Hebrews 13:18 ESV

I agree in the Affirmative: Followers of Christ act honorably in ALL things. These standards of God are not negotiable. He has saved us and he has died in our stead so we can live. Do you love Jesus, then in obedience set your dead self aside and find life that can only come from Christ.

What kind of Christian are you? If you are not answering affirmatively to the above with a desire to live it out real time then the answer to the question of what kind of Christian are you is either not at all or not much of one. Harsh I know. Sometimes the truth hurts but God has plainly laid out his standards even the parts we may not like.