Posts Tagged ‘Scriptures’

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Christmas Time Devotionals

November 23, 2010

Christmas Themed Devotional Readings: https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/tag/Christmas-2008/

In 2008 I wrote a series of 28 Christmas-themed devotionals, beginning with https://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/christmas01/.

At the time, I wrote:

I thought I’d take some time out to share a few thoughts on Christmas in the month to come, as a sort-of non-denominational pre-Christmas Advent devotional and musings column. I hope that it brings you some light, inspiration and excitement as we remind ourselves of the true meaning of the festive occasion.

I believe it is still relevant and hope you will consider reading it as part of your spiritual journey during December.

The devotionals incorporate Bible scriptures and links to further readings on related topics of faith.

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Apologetics Links: Genesis 1 & 2 – contradictory?

September 6, 2010

A frequently asked apologetics question (and, admittedly, one that never really crossed my mind even in my most skeptical anti-Bible beliefs) is the perceived contradiction between the first two chapters of Genesis. My simplest preferred answer to this is that Genesis 2 is merely a fleshing out of the details of Genesis 1:24-31.

All links accessed 6 September 2010.

http://creation.com/genesis-contradictions

http://www.gotquestions.org/two-Creation-accounts.html

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/09/03/feedback-genesis-1-and-2#

http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

http://creation.com/whats-in-a-name

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-ordercreation.html

Read Genesis Chapter 1 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

Read Genesis Chapter 2 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

*This post is not dealing with the issue of whether or not Genesis should be taken literally, just whether or not the first two chapters of the Bible contradict each other. Further information on the issue of historicity of Genesis can be found at the websites linked above, and clarifying questions should be directed to those websites.

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Following Jesus – 4 – The Name

October 5, 2009

Jesus – what image comes to mind at His name? In my childhood, it meant that white guy hanging on the cross statue in our Church. I knew He was a miracle worker and that He taught people a highly moral lifestyle. I knew He was called the Son of God and that He was part of a Trinity. Still, it was merely head knowledge. In my teen years, He became symbolic of what I thought was a dead religion that persisted despite ‘scientific evidence’ to the contrary… a religion that was authoritarian and legalistic. In my early years as a university student, He once again became a good moral teacher. I knew a few people who called themselves His followers; and they managed to demonstrate this in their words and actions. Their lifestyle intrigued me – I wanted to know what made them so different. Their example drew me in. Of course, I tried to deflect their influence – I had hundreds of questions, many I thought would be devastating to their Christian faith, but they patiently gave answers (1 Peter 3) and treated me with a kindness I knew I did not deserve.

Maybe, when we hear Jesus’ name, the image that comes to mind too often is that of His followers. And not the ‘good’ ones. It’s the weird ones who go a bit ultra-mystical. Or the sort who seem to think the Good News of the Gospel is all about making more money. Or the types who seem to take delight in their moral superiority and use it to attack non-Christians. Maybe it’s the type who think Christianity is an excuse to judge someone else, ask people to ‘pray for that bad person,’ and then tell that person that they’re praying that they’ll escape God’s judgement. Or perhaps it’s the ‘Christian’ whose outlook seems to be fairly racist, bloodthirsty and committed to their own culture’s version of ‘success.’

Still, I don’t want to be negative, and I don’t want to pretend that somehow my own Christian walk has been exemplary. See, the thing that scares me is that maybe, for the many people in my life who do not believe in Jesus, when they hear the name ‘Jesus,’ they’re going to think of me. My life. My example. My words and actions. How have I treated them? Have I come across as narrow and judgemental? Or materialistic? Or moralistic and legalistic?

One scary thing about being a follower of Jesus is that my own life and example could have an impact – whether positive or negative – on the people around me. When some social issue comes into a conversation – some political thing, or maybe a moral issue like abortion – how are they going to interpret my response? Will I be loving and merciful, like my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or will I be the hellfire and brimstone Bible thumper that leaves them wishing they hadn’t asked?

I don’t know how right it is, but I like to point people to Jesus Himself. As He is described in the Bible. Perhaps not enough people have read the Four Gospels these days for me to assume that people know the records of His life. The Bible records that, as a child, He and His family had to flee the violent ruler of their nation and seek refuge in Egypt (Matthew 2). As an adult, He worked at the family trade – carpentry (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – before beginning His ministry; which was marked by miracles (Matthew 11:20; Mark 6:2; Luke 19:37; John 10:25), astounding teachings (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 22:33; Luke 4:36);and violent persecution (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1; John 7:25). He was murdered, but He rose again to life (Luke Chapters 23-24). Then, shortly after His resurrection, He ascended to Heaven (Acts Chapter 1). He then sent the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, to Earth to inhabit His followers and empower them to live their lives for God (Mark 1:8; Luke 11:13; John 14:26).

One of the most astounding things Jesus said about Himself was this:

John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I used to think that rather offensive a statement. In my early Christian walk, I then tried to provide elaborate reasons and explanations for it. Lately I’ve been more inclined to suggest that there’s only a couple of ways to take this statement:

If Jesus is truly God Incarnate, the Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, and Redeemer of all Creation, then He is well within His rights to make a statement that, coming from a mere mortal, would be ridiculous – or a sign of insanity. That is, God is well within His right to be the decider of issues of eternity and salvation.

If He is insane, then one must wonder how He also managed to revolutionise the way that humans treat each other. We may well take for granted His teachings on justice, mercy, kindness, charity, forgiveness and goodness – but these values are not particularly intrinsic to humans, are they? Look at the broken down world, where one side of the world is dying from starvation and the other is dying from diseases resulting from overeating; where racism and war and hatred are daily occurrences; where the elderly are beaten and the young are abused and the unborn are routinely murdered; where people engage in incredible acts of cruelty towards our fellow creatures; where the wilderness is butchered for profits; where we know the right way to live but choose the selfish, hedonistic options instead.

With more than a little hint of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I am convinced that Jesus is either Lord, Liar or Lunatic. His amazing lifestyle, teachings, and descriptions of Himself don’t leave room for much else.

Following Jesus

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Following Jesus – 3 – Nature

September 28, 2009

Abell 2667 - From www.nasaimages.org

Abell 2667 - From http://www.nasaimages.org

Nature is full of some incredible things. The magnificent beauty of the galaxies. The colour and scent of flowers. The satisfaction of eating fresh vegetables that have grown in the garden. The majesty of the large beasts. The cuteness of the small beasts!

There’s some amazing stuff out there. The more that humans explore nature, the more we find. The further we travel, the more stars we find. The smaller the objects we can see, the more layers of reality are discovered. The intricate workings of the human body still have their many mysteries. Even the simplest life form is incredibly complex.

God is amazingly creative. He’s made a world of such awesome wonders. It’s amazing how creation isn’t just functional, it’s beautiful. Think of the creatures that inhabit the dark depths of the ocean but are spectacularly colourful. Or the incredible designs on butterfly wings.

The interesting thing with following Jesus is that nature takes on a new significance: nature has been made by a loving creator for His purposes and enjoyment. He has made humanity, in His image and likeness, to dwell in this world of matter.

The spiritual life isn’t about denying the material things, but putting them in their correct priority. We do not pretend that suffering doesn’t exist; we use what we have to alleviate suffering.

Luke 12:33 (NIV)

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Nature is not, then, a deity in itself. It has been made by The Deity, to serve His purposes. However, nowhere do I see in the Bible that this is permission to plunder the Earth’s resources. Indeed, when we damage the environment, we destroy the world in which other people live. Caring for the environment is, I believe, a reasonable way of responding to God’s creation. Think of how He made a beautiful Garden, Eden, and placed the man and woman there to tend it and care for it. He did not say, “go and destroy this Garden in your quest for material possessions.”

Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

I read a while back an interesting idea that Christian environmentalism incorporates the human element.* Rather than deifying nature, and downgrading humans, it seeks to take into account how the human treatment of the planet affects not only nature but all humanity, too. It included an awareness of such things as the manufacturing conditions of the products we buy. I personally believe there are many good environmentalist arguments for vegetarianism, for example, as well as acknowledging that many foods suitable for human consumption are instead fed to farm animals, which are then consumed by the small proportion of rich Westerners who can afford fast food. I digress. What was the point I was trying to make? Ah, yes – that being a follower of Jesus necessarily impacts on the way I perceive nature.

All too often we followers of Jesus have been linked to a philosophy of guns, hunting, destruction of the planet, and cruelty to animals and even to our fellow humans. But surely there is a distinction between religious ‘Christianity,’ in which man-made rules become the highest law; and a life genuinely lived following the Lord Jesus Christ and living as those called to tend His Garden? While such things – environmentalism, issues of diet, and our treatment of nature – may well be secondary to the primary issue of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one of our greatest apologetics is found in the way we live our life.

Peter 3:15-16 (NCV)

But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed.

Finally, acknowledging God as Creator has significant effects on my life: I have Someone to thank for the glorious wonders of nature. I can enjoy and appreciate animals, plants, the changing seasons, the stars, the weather, the land formations… I can also be creative – as I am made in the likeness of Creator God, so He has bestowed at least a little of His creativity on all His people. I have a reason to care what happens to the planet, and to do what I can to look after the environment. And I can enjoy the spectacular discoveries of the natural sciences, as human exploration reveals more and more of God’s spectacular works.

*David Tyler, Creation – Chance or Design?

Following Jesus

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Following Jesus – 2 – Rules

September 21, 2009

It was an eye-opener to be introduced to the concept that Jesus was not after outwards religious expressions. In fact, I remember feeling outraged that my good deeds were not enough. The thought that God was not after me to be good so much as He was after a relationship – I had never heard such a thing before. In fact, it was so shocking and counter-intuitive, that I remember asking – what human-made religion would ever propose such a concept. A God that is Love Incarnate? Not a lustful, ‘romantic’ love, but a Love that gives itself up as a sacrifice… A Love who would choose to die in the possibility that the Beloved might then turn to Him. It was all a bit beyond me. I had spent so long convinced that Christianity was, ultimately, about being a ‘good’ person. Be nice to other people, don’t be so selfish, help the needy, be a useful member of society – all that sort of stuff. But these things, noble as they are, don’t necessarily require God’s power to work. Plenty of non-religious people are good, useful members of society who work hard, love their families, help the needy and try to do what is right.

Following Jesus is something beyond that. It requires an inward transformation. I see this as happening when I partner with the Holy Spirit, in (hopefully!) obedience to His commands, yes, but also in listening to Him, allowing Him to speak into my life, in not being so hung up on rules and regulations – in being creative and flexible enough to hear what God is saying. Because the problem with rules is that they inspire rebellion, are often really hard to follow, and often miss the point.

It’s like Christian communities that impose dress codes on their members. Yes, the Bible says to dress modestly, but in getting into the rule – dress accordingly – we forget the ‘why.’ It’s not so that we all look like bored, tired, uptight middle class suburbanites – I’m guessing that at least part of it is so that we don’t drag fellow believers down by making them think lustful thoughts! (Matthew 5:28; 1 Timothy 2:9.)

However, relationship with God – that’s something else. The natural expression of knowing and loving God is in desiring to obey Him. That is when obedience to God’s commands becomes an expression of freedom and joy, rather than a burden of rules and regulations.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I suspect that it’s not too difficult to spot the difference between the believer who acts out of joy and genuine inner transformation compared to the believer who is still stuck in the rules and regulations mentality: the former will probably look a whole lot happier than the latter. Just check for the furrowed brow!

Following Jesus

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Following Jesus – 1 – Testimonies

September 14, 2009

Revelation 12:10-11 (NIV)

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

1 John 5:11 (NKJV)

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

I became a follower of Jesus just over seven years ago. It was an amazing, pivotal moment in my life. Where once it had seemed as though the whole world was dark and doom, and I felt despairing and fearful, encountering Jesus was like someone throwing the light switch on the world – I had a glimpse of a world bigger than me, greater than I could imagine. Even though things were still broken, light shone through the cracks.

It was a very personal experience, one that I’ve shared before at various church meetings and with other believers (and a few non-believers!). In some ways, I think my testimony – that is, my story of meeting Jesus – may seem unique, as I had been involved in occult belief systems prior to this time in my life. Yet, every committed follower of Jesus I have met has a story of how they arrived at their beliefs.

For some, their story is one of grace and mercy throughout their lives. They have grown up in a Christian family, or maybe somehow became involved in a Church from a young age. Their story is one of a progressive growth and realisation of the personal connection they have with Jesus. Many of these people have a point – or series of points – in their life, where they made a commitment to following Jesus. It was no longer about their parents’ faith, nor going along with the crowd. It was realising that they were in desperate need of a Saviour. Some may have rebelled against what they saw as their religious upbringing, only to eventually come back to the community of believers.

In my own ‘conversion’ – a convenient term; but I don’t think it quite conveys the reality of the experience of becoming a follower of Christ – I had a lot of questions that needed answering. It took well over a year of learning about Christianity before I was willing to take a leap of faith and follow Jesus. Not only questions, but there was a lot of baggage in my emotional and spiritual life that had to be examined. I was carrying a lot of hurt and unforgiveness towards others; yet here was Jesus declaring that we must be forgiving if we desire to follow Him (Matthew 6:12, 14).

Becoming a follower of Christ also meant a series of difficult choices. Everything in my life had to be examined. Every choice and decision. Difficult circumstances were plentiful, but now I was presented with a new question – give in to despair or trust that maybe God can bring good out of the hard times? (Romans 8:28.)

Following Jesus

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Hebrews 1:10 + Genesis 1:1

July 25, 2009

Hebrews 1:10 NKJV

And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

Genesis 1:1 NKJV

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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