Friday, September 23, 2016

Fine Line

I am not calling for a boycott!  No I’m not calling for a boycott, nor am I decrying the “soulless" state of American big business.  But I do have to tell you a story that I think illustrates a telling sign of the way our culture is gently closing its eyes to reality.

I was on my way to visit someone in the hospital, and I was concerned because I didn’t know if I would ever be able to see this person again after their recovery.  I wanted to leave something with them that could give them true help and comfort in their difficult season of life.  So, I stopped by a “big-box” store in town and went to the book section to see if I could find a gift Bible.  

I found the section I was looking for, and even found a set of shelves marked “best-sellers”.  Try as I might, I was not able to find a Bible anywhere on the shelves of the store—anywhere.  Finally, deciding to break manly tradition, I decided to ask for help from one of the store’s associates.  “Do you have any Bibles in the store?” I asked.  With a shrug, the the store’s employee told me they did not carry Bibles anymore.  She cautiously informed me that they had to “watch out for that fine line…”  What?  What fine line?

I am certain that she was referring to the current tensions in political and religious life in America.  And I am sure that she was doubtful of her own company’s decision not to carry such a significant work of literature, but I was looking in the Best Sellers section for a book that is clearly the best selling book of all time.  There is no thin line between the Bible and other books in print.  The line, in fact, is quite thick!

A December 2012 "Business Insider” article written by Jennifer Polland  cites a startling statistic.  She quotes writer, James Chapman, who gathered a list of the most read books based on book sales over just the past 50 years.  The Bible checks in at an incredible 3.9 billion copies sold in the last 50 years, with the second best seller, “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung” coming in at 820 million.  That’s a difference of over 3 billion books!  Let me put this another way:  if you sold one copy of Mao’s quotations every second, it would take twenty-six years to sell 820 million books.  If you sold one copy of the Bible per second, you, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be selling Bibles for 124 years!  

There is a reason that the Bible is the most loved and well-read book in all of human history.  The Bible is a book that God wrote by inspiring forty different authors from a variety of cultural backgrounds over a period of about 1,500 years.  It is filled with wisdom, romance, intrigue, prophecy, instruction, and correction that still applies to us today, and all of this serves the purpose of revealing to us the God who made us and loves us!  It tells a broken, sinful and hurting humanity of a God who can heal, forgive, save and empower for abundant living.

2 Peter 1:16, 19-21 says, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty….And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

These are powerful words for us to admire about the Bible.  I pray you will find your answers in the Word of God, and that you will find hope and joy in the God of the Word!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Don’t Give Up

“The problem with life is that it is so daily”.  I first heard this common phrase from my Dad.  He was impressing on me the importance of keeping a ‘big-picture’ perspective on life.  It is important not to get bogged down in the daily-ness of life, or discouraged from an apparent lack of progress in what we are doing.  I find myself struggling at times with this very concept, and I find it fascinating that the Bible speaks to our need to keep on going with an eternal perspective in view.  

Consider these words from Galatians 6:9…"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  First of all, in this passage, the apostle Paul acknowledges the reality of becoming weary even at doing good things.  There is a point where our best and most helpful opportunities for help and service seem to become burdensome and lose their luster.  It is important that we remember we have been given these opportunities from God for a purpose that He has in mind.  There will be a harvest “in due season” if we don’t give up or give in to the temptation to quit.

When we feel weak or discouraged, here are some encouragements from the Bible that can help us keep going:

  • John 6:35  "Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”  God’s strength in Christ Jesus is the power we need to live and love every day.

  • John 4:13-14  "Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  Our soul-thirst is quenched and renewed in Jesus.

  • Romans 8:37-39 “ all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  When we feel discouraged or defeated, the truth is that any victory we have is in Jesus. 

In Christ we live and move and have our being.  By His strength, His daily provision, and the encouragement we receive from the Holy Spirit, we can overcome discouragement and weariness and keep walking with the Lord!

You are Not Alone

I want to share a brief passage from scripture from which I take great encouragement. It is from the book of Hebrews, chapter four, verses fourteen through sixteen.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This passage reveals two truths worth grasping, and one admonition worth following, all of which would suffice to be our spiritual life’s work for the rest of our lives if we truly understood and treasured them. The first truth is this: We do not stand on our own before God the Father, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ, God the Son. God looks upon those who are in Christ Jesus and He sees not our own goodness, but the goodness of His Son. Scriptures tell us that Jesus acts as our Advocate, like a lawyer before a judge, and He stands to tell the judge that in spite of the guilt of His client, He has already paid our fine by dying on the cross.

The second truth is this: Jesus represents us to God the Father with an intimate understanding of our frailty. It is understandable that we get a general impression of God being powerful, mighty and distant because He is so much different than we are and He is so holy. But the Bible clearly tells us that Jesus can identify with us in the way we are tempted and afflicted because He himself faced those same trials and difficulties. I don’t know why it works this way, but there is some measure of comfort and assurance in knowing that someone else has gone through the issues we are dealing with. God comforts us by saying “I know…I’ve been there.”

Finally, we are called to “draw near the throne of grace”. This means that we are able to draw near to God’s throne with confidence instead of terror. It means that we need never feel alone because we have a confident expectation of God’s loving care for us. In Him we can find mercy, grace, and help in time of need.