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Big Problems With The First Family

Big Problems With The First Family

“…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” – Acts 16:31
Let’s talk about the big problems of the first family.

No, I’m not referring to the President and the First Lady, but to the original first family, Adam and Eve. They were also the first family to have big problems–I mean big problems. Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, and their sin infected the whole human race.

They had two boys, Cain and Abel, and the problem of sin carried over to their children’s lives. Cain became so jealous of Abel’s blessings that he murdered him.

The first family had real problems–from Adam and Eve’s simple disobedience, to seeing one of their children murder his brother. The family of man still struggles with the same problem of sin today. But God has a solution in the person of Jesus Christ, Who came to save us from our sin problem. When a person looks to Christ, in faith, for salvation from sin, it breaks the negative chain of sin that enslaves people and families.

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one the many will be righteous.” – Romans 5:19
A common question is, “How can a loving God allow so much suffering and evil in the world?” It’s a tough question that philosophers and theologians have struggled with forever. There is no completely adequate answer, but it’s important to remember that God is blamed for a lot of things that man does wrong.

When God created man He gave us all a free will. He didn’t program us as robots to always do what’s right or what He wants. Robots have no choice, but humans do. We can choose to trust and obey God–or do things our own way.

From the first man and woman, each person has chosen to go his or her own way rather than God’s way. The result of man’s sin is disease, suffering, and death.

God has done something pretty dramatic to confront the problem: He humbled Himself to become one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ, to show us how to live. Even more, Christ came to die for us. Through faith in Him, we begin to reverse this cycle of evil and suffering.

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The Local Church And The Neighborhood Bar

The Local Church And The Neighborhood Bar

“…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews10:25
Have you ever thought of the similarities of the local church and the neighborhood bar?

In both places:

…people come looking for fellowship;
…people want to go where others know their name;
…people want to go where they are accepted;
…people want to go where their spirits will be lifted;
…people are united around one theme;
…people go where they like the music.

Like a priest, the bartender serves by listening to people’s troubles. But the differences are profound. The bar is centered on booze and the church is centered on Jesus Christ. The bar offers a way to escape problems. The church offers a way to face them, get through them, and overcome them.The spirit inside the bar lowers one’s guard when it comes to temptation and sin. The spirit of the true church encourages people to turn from sin and turn to God.

The bar may be a substitute for the environment of the church, but it never comes close to providing the meaning and purpose found in a Christ-centered church.

The Source Of Power

THE SOURCE OF POWER

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off
to a solitary place, where he prayed”.
Mk 1:35 NIV 

Many people pray when things go wrong and they are up against it. Some pray by reading a book of prayers, or even their church’s set prayers for the day. Some set aside a time for quiet and meditation, but end up reading their Bible passage and repeating the same form of words day after day. Many Christian believers give up altogether. Then some become mighty prayers and spend long hours communing with God. 

Jesus led a busy life. He had been accustomed to earning his living in the carpenter’s shop and knew what it was like to be disciplined in producing the goods on time. But this short sentence tells us a whole heap about his private “walk with God”. It started early when no one was around. It was still dark – probably a good time to relax in the presence of the Father. It was also a time of silence when distractions would be minimal. Jesus committed his day to God the Father. He no doubt prayed for the disciples and that he would be the Father’s instrument in all that came to him during the day ahead. We are not told that he did this every day, but it is generally assumed that he did and that he made a regular discipline of it. This time of prayer was when he derived the spiritual power to speak as he did and to effect the healings that are recorded. 

Have a disciplined prayer-time too. Whatever type of prayer you prefer – provided it links you with God – do it regularly and willingly. 

Lord, help me to become a praying disciple.

Bringing Good Out Of a Bad Situation, Part 1

Bringing Good Out Of a Bad Situation, Part 1

“…the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18
In your mind, picture a fifty-two-year-old executive, writer, artist, and speaker who has a national radio broadcast. What would you think if I told you that same person has been a quadriplegic since she was seventeen? Some of you know her name–Joni Erikson Tada. Her life has been an inspiration to many because she believes God can bring good out of the worst situation. She believes that suffering has purpose through faith in God, for God can use suffering to mold our character to make us a better person.

Are you going through a difficult time? Does your hardship and suffering seem meaningless?

Remember, God can take the worst life brings and turn it into something good if you’ll put your trust in Him. He’s in the business of turning chaos into a masterpiece when we turn our life over to Him.

Are you willing to believe God can bring good out of even your situation? I assure you He can.

The Our Father

THE OUR FATHER
2 Cor. 11:1-11; Ps. 110; Matt. 6:7-15

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).
Jesus gave us the Our Father as our Christian prayer. Jesus is the only true divine Son of the Father, and God is the true natural father only of Jesus, for he had only one child, only one son. But through our union with the only Son of God we become adopted sons of the Father, and his father becomes our father, our adopted father. We are, then, to live to sanctify the Father, and we do so by doing his will, by worshiping him, by offering sacrifice to him, and by offering ourselves to him as a sacrifice of love and self-gift.
We now live in his kingdom, because Jesus brought the kingdom of God to earth. By being in Christ, united to him in faith and love, we live in his kingdom, which is within us (Luke 17:21). But this kingdom is also coming into the world and growing little by little, transforming the world, as leaven transforms dough and as a small seed grows into a great tree (Matt. 13:31-33). So we pray that his kingdom may come in its fullness and fill the world with the righteousness of Christ.
Furthermore, we want to always do the Father’s will, because this is the only way we can be happy, for this is how God has made us. Therefore we always try to find out what God’s will for us is, and do it. And so we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). We cannot live without food, and bread is the simplest, most basic food. So we pray for our daily bread, because we need it. We do not need opulence or riches or delicacies or luxuries. We do not need succulent food and fancy desserts. We do not pray for that, but for our daily bread, for as Christians we are to live a simple life, a life of self-denial (Luke 9:23-24), focused exclusively on the Lord with all our heart (Mark 12:30). So we lose our life in this word to save it with God, instead of trying to save it through the delicacies and savory foods of this world. Those who try to save their life in a worldly way lose their life with God (Luke 9:24). Therefore we pray for our daily bread and live a simple life for the love of God with an undivided heart in our love for him.
We also need the bread of life, which is the Eucharist. This too is our necessary daily bread. By daily eating with faith Christ’s flesh in the form of bread and drinking his blood in the form of wine in the Eucharist, we are illuminated from within and filled with Christ. And he unites us to the Father, for he is one being with the Father. Through receiving Holy Communion and through our faith Christ dwells within us, filling us with divine love and transforming us more each day into himself. We need this bread of life, and so we ask for it every day.
In order not to lose all this, we ask forgiveness for our sins. Every day we need to ask for this, for we are falling into imperfections or sins every day. God forgives us for our daily faults through the death of Christ on the cross, which makes reparation for all our sins, when we repent and believe in Christ and ask forgiveness through the merits of his death. But we must also forgive others when we ask for his forgiveness.
Finally, we pray that we might be freed from the evil one, from Satan, so that we do not fall into sin, so that we may not become alienated from God, but remain in his peace and love.

Meeting People’s Needs

MEETING PEOPLE’S NEEDS

“That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases”. 
Mk 1:32 – 34 NIV 

How we wish for an all-purpose solution to our various problems! Some people think that if they could fall in love all their problems would fall away. Others boil it down to money – a big windfall would put paid to all their difficulties. The truth is our problems are so many and so complicated that there will never be a simple omnibus solution. 

Jesus had quite a hectic day in Capernaum. He had taught in the synagogue. He had exorcised an evil spirit there. Then he had gone to a private house and healed Simon’s mother-in-law. Now it was evening. The Sabbath was over – it ended at 6.00 p.m. It had been unlawful for them to carry the sick on the Sabbath: that was deemed to be work. So now they streamed there and Jesus met them in the street. He healed them – not in order to prove who he was, nor to attract a crowd. He healed them because he had compassion on them and he yearned for them to know salvation or wholeness. He had come to bring “fullness of life”. In Mark’s gospel there is a fascinating thread. The people who receive Christ’s help are not the people close to him – his disciples and family. Nor are they the religious experts. They are the outcasts, the sick, the needy and those who throw themselves desperately on his mercy. 

Whatever your need is, bring it to Jesus and enjoy his help and love. Whether you have few or many he is able to meet them all. 

Lord, I bring my many needs to you. You alone have the answer.

Grief

Grief

“Therefore, you have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” – John 16:22
Losing a loved one or a close friend is never easy, but understanding the stages of grief can sometimes help. Grief involves numbness and denial, promoting an inability to feel when the news of the death arrives, and a sense of disbelief that the person is really gone. It involves tearful emotion as the reality of a permanent separation sets in.

The loss of the loved one can involve anger at God or life as the world continues on when you’re hurting so bad. It can involve depression, or feeling that life is meaningless. Finally, there is acceptance–coming to terms with the loss, and beginning to move on with life.

The grieving process takes time, but it can be overcome. The greatest strength for getting through it is found in the Lord. Remember, God understands your grief. He knows what it’s like to have a child die. He saw His own son, Jesus, die for us all. He loves you and wants to help you overcome your grief if you’ll let Him.

The Cross

THE CROSS

Zech. 12:10-11; 13:1; Ps. 62; Gal. 3:26-29; Luke 9:18-24

“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22).
We note that Jesus says that his suffering is necessary (dei in Greek)—“The Son of man must suffer many things” (Luke 9:22). The scriptures often say that it was necessary that Jesus suffer and die (Luke 9:22; Matt. 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 17:25; 24:7, 26, 44-46; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:22-23). Jesus’ sufferings were prophesied and prefigured in the Old Testament.
The whole system of Old Testament sacrifices was a preparation for Jesus’ great sacrifice of himself. The Passover supper, during which the Eucharist was instituted, was a figure of his suffering, in that the blood of the slain Paschal lamb saved Israel from death. Jesus was announced as the new Passover lamb, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Paschal lamb that was sacrificed for us—“Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7).
The goat of the Day of Atonement was a figure of the death of Christ to take away our sins, for the priest shall “confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel … The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land” (Lev. 16:21-22), and the other goat was slain in sacrifice for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15).
Christ is the sacrifice prefigured by these Old Testament types or figures. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).
The servant of the Lord is another Old Testament prefiguration of Christ’s sufferings which saved us. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed … The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6). This servant will carry our sins and be chastised for them in our place to bring us peace, as the goat on the Day of Atonement will suffer and die for the sins of the people to free them from their sins. This, Christ fulfilled and did on the cross. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).
In today’s first reading there is another prefiguration of the suffering and death of the Messiah, which will take place in connection with “the Spirit of grace and supplication” that God “will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:10 NKJV). This mysterious death will come about when “a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1 NKJV). Concerning this suffering and death the Lord says that on that day “they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10 NKJV). That is, it is God himself whom they will pierce—“They will look on Me whom they pierced”—and “they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son” (Zech. 12:10 NKJV). Christ fulfilled this. Christ is the Lord, God himself, whom they pierced on the cross, and they will look upon him whom they have pierced; and in his death, “there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1 RSV).
Such is God’s plan, prefigured from ancient times, which the scriptures tell us is necessary. “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). This plan, involving the suffering and death of the Messiah in reparation for our sins, was necessary because God’s character does not change. He is always all just and all merciful. In his infinite justice he punishes all sin, and in his infinite mercy he forgives all sin, when we repent. But how can he punish our sin and forgive our sin at the same time? He does it through the death of his Son, whose death counts as our punishment for our sins, when we put our faith in him. Thus our sin is justly punished in him and justly forgiven. And this justice is infinitely merciful, because it is God himself who is punished in our place for our sins; and his mercy in forgiving us is infinitely just in that God himself suffered all the punishment that was necessary. In this way God’s character never changes. He is always all just and all merciful. Therefore the scriptures tell us that the death of the Messiah was necessary: “The Son of man must suffer many things” (Luke 9:22).
But the death of Christ on the cross is also an example of how we as Christians are to live. Jesus also teaches us this in today’s gospel: “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it’” (Luke 9:23-24 NKJV).
First of all we note that Jesus said this to all—“he said to them all.” This teaching is for everyone who believes in Christ, not just for a special group. This is a new way of living in this world. Instead of seeking our pleasures, we are to deny ourselves. Instead of trying to save our life through the pleasures of the world, we are to lose our life in this world for the sake of Christ. This is the exact opposite of what the world does. Why should we live in this new way, the reverse of the lifestyle of the world around us? The reason is that we are now a new creation in Jesus Christ with our sins forgiven and our guilt removed from us, and so we are now to live only for him who died and rose for us (2 Cor. 5:15). We are not to live any more for ourselves and our pleasures, but for him who redeemed us with his death. Therefore we die to this world; we lose our life in this world for love of him. We do not seek our happiness in the delights of food or in the other things or entertainments of the world, but only in him who so loved us that he died to be able to justly forgive us in accord with his unchangeable nature that is always the same, all just and all merciful.
This means that we will live a simple life in every aspect of our life, in how we eat, how we dress, and how we spend our free time. We embrace evangelical poverty to be able to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30), in order to serve only one master (Matt. 6:24) and have only one treasure (Matt. 6:19-21).

Saved To Serve

SAVED TO SERVE

“The fever left (Simon’s mother-in-law) and she began to wait on them”. 
Mk 1:31 NIV 

When you fall ill you want to get better. Sometimes the doctor prescribes a bottle of medicine and you are back on your feet again in a few days. But then it might be a long process, with hospitalization, surgery and a period of convalescence. But your objective is not merely to get well. It’s to return to your normal way of life, your work and your place in society. 

Simon’s mother-in-law quickly got better when Jesus brought her healing. Mark’s account is very brief and lacks any helpful detail. But, once Jesus had “put her on her feet again”, she quickly got back to her domestic chores. The main Sabbath meal in ancient Judaism was straight after the synagogue service at twelve o’clock. So there was plenty for her to be busy about, especially with “visitors for lunch”. 

Vincente Quiroga of Chile happened to find some pages of a book washed up on the seashore. He took it home, dried the pages and read them. A friend told him they were from the Bible and, having read them repeatedly, he wanted to know more. The friend told him to contact a missionary who gave him the whole Bible. He eagerly read it, accepted Christ, and spent the rest of his life distributing copies of the Bible to people in the neglected villages of northern Chile. Like Simon’s mother-in-law, he had been saved to serve. 

Have you? It is not enough just to “tag along” as a person whom Christ has helped. If he has given you new and eternal life he wants you to become his servant in some way. Maybe it’s time to decide which? 

Lord, you have saved me. How can I serve you?