Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fast, fast, fast

Be still, and that that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

We are living in an age of speed.  Electronic devices are always being pushed to operate faster. New television shows have to immediately find an audience or face cancellation. Advertisers constantly urge us to act quickly before a great shopping opportunity comes to an end.

We grumble at having to wait.  We don’t like being stuck in traffic or slowed by road construction.  We get antsy standing in line to check out at the store.  We get frustrated sitting in the waiting room when the doctor is running behind schedule. 

We want things to happen fast because of our own inner flaws.  We are impatient because we are selfish—we don’t like having to give up our time while waiting for others.  We panic easily—we get scared that something bad is happening, so we want immediate action: we want answers now, we want medical treatment now, we want a solution now.  And we get in a rush because we are over-committed—our schedules are full of things to do and places to be, with no wiggle-room for hold-ups or delays. 

Time is precious.  It is good to realize this and work at maximizing its use.  Time is a valuable resource that should not be carelessly wasted.  But when you’re in a frantic rush you don’t enjoy the time that God has given you, nor do you use it well.

Getting impatient results from our selfishness.  Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  If we embrace God’s love as a guiding principle of our lives, then we’ll start seeing other people with a sympathetic eye instead of viewing them as obstacles in our way.  Panic comes from being afraid.  God says, do not fear, for I am with you (Isaiah 41:10).  When we trust in God’s love and power, then we can wait with confidence for solutions to our problems.  And being overwhelmed by too many commitments results from getting our priorities wrong.   Our Lord says to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; then everything else that is necessary will be given to us as well. 

Using time efficiently is a good thing.  But when the need for speed takes over your life, it’s time to let off the accelerator and turn to Christ. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reaching perfection

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:5).

The greatest dream of humankind is self-perfection.  There are countless TV shows and books and seminars that offer ways to make you into a better person.  Someone who is not addicted to bad habits.  Someone who doesn’t criticize or lose their temper.  Someone who is willing to share and give and show compassion.  Someone who is deserving of respectful treatment and loving affection.

This ideal of self-perfection is a major component of every religion.  Hindus believe in reincarnation, the idea that you are reborn over and over again until you finally get things right and ascend to eternal peace.  The Mormon faith teaches that if you do a good enough job living according to the church’s beliefs, you can eventually ascend to become a god yourself.  How many funerals have you attended where it was implied that by living a good life, the dearly departed had earned their wings in heaven?

Sadly, the dream of self-perfection is truly futile.  If humanity can reach a higher state of being, why do war and poverty and crime still exist?  How well have you carried out the New Year’s resolutions made throughout your life?  Are you absolutely sure that when you die, what awaits you in eternity is reward--not divine punishment?

Achieving perfection on our own is impossible.  Jesus says, be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  But who can be perfect from cradle to grave?  The answer, of course, is no one.  Scripture says, there is no one who does good, not a single person (Psalm 53:5).  No matter how hard we try, our weak and corrupted human nature will always result in some degree of failure.

Thankfully, self-improvement doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility.  When the Son of God dwelt on earth 2,000 years ago, He lived the perfect life that God expects from each of us.  When we embrace Jesus as our Savior, we are permitted to share in His perfection.  When Christ suffered on the cross and died, His sacrifice paid the penalty for each and every way that we have been failures, ridding us of both guilt and punishment.  And the Savior who opens heaven to believers also helps us reflect His love to those around us.  We don’t have to be perfect, not when we make our home in Jesus’ loving arms.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

This weekend the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday.  This time each year, we celebrate that which makes our God unique.  Of all the gods that have ever been worshiped, no other God has been known as both three and one.  No other God has sent His Son into the mortal world to suffer and die for humanity’s sins.  No other god is like our God.

Of course, there are many who scoff at our religion.  They say that the Triune nature of God makes no sense.  How can anyone believe in a God that is made up of three persons and yet claims to be one God alone? 

The truth is, we don’t understand how God can be three and yet only one.  For thousands of years, men of faith have been trying figure this out without success.  Yet the Bible is clear—there is only one God who we must answer to as Lord and Master.  In Isaiah 45:5 God said, I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.  Moses told the Israelites, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  But the Bible also reveals God as three different persons.  On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples: When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me (John 15:26).  Jesus also mentioned the three persons of God just before He returned to heaven, He said go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

God has always been three in one.  Listen to Him speaking in Genesis chapter one about the creation of mankind. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness"…So God created man in his own image.  We hear the same kind of language at the tower of Babel in Genesis chapter 11:  The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.  The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."  The Lord Almighty is one God who is also Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Three persons, one God.  We don’t understand it, but we accept the facts as God reveals them to us through the Bible.  Why should we think that God can be understood by mortal man?  Does an ant understand the human looking down on it?  How can we expect to understand God?

Think about the religions created by man.  The human imagination creates gods that are just humans beefed up with incredible power.  The Greeks invented gods like Zeus, Hera and Hercules.  But Zeus constantly cheated on his wife.  Hera was consumed with jealousy and acted out of spite.  Hercules was full of pride.  The Scandinavians invented Odin and Loki.  When Odin killed a giant, he adopted fatherless Loki as his own, yet Loki hated his new family and plotted their downfall.  The gods invented by human religion have all the faults of corrupt mankind—they are fickle, power mad, capricious, demented.  Humans worship them more out of fear than anything else.

The God of Abraham, Moses and David is not like false human gods.  The God of Elijah and Isaiah is holy and loving.  You can count on His promises; He never goes back on His word.  You be confident that when He speaks, His words are true.  God never acts impulsively; He is wise and patient.  He is committed to justice.  He is filled with loving-kindness. 

Do we need to fear God?  Yes!  He hates sin; righteousness cannot abide evil behavior.  The holiness of God is a fire that destroys sin.  But fear need not keep us away from God.  If we are forgiven by His Son, our sin is taken away.  Through Jesus, God’s love brings us close to Him in perfect safety.

We need a God who is three in one, because we have three terrible enemies—sin, Satan, and death.  On our own, these enemies are too powerful to withstand; they confront us no matter which way we turn.

Sin is a problem from the moment of birth.  Sin is with us constantly.  It’s a hunger that gnaws at us all the time; it’s a compulsion to get our way and make ourselves feel good right now.  Sin doesn’t give a thought to what others want; sin doesn’t pause to consider the future ramifications of an impulsive decision.  Sin doesn’t care about your health; you want that bag of chocolate, and you don’t want to stop eating until it’s empty.  Sin doesn’t care about your children; go ahead and do what it takes to shut them up so you can have the peace and quiet you deserve.  Sin doesn’t care about your spouse; if the person you married is not giving you the kind of sex you want, go and find someone who will.  Sin doesn’t care about God; why go to church when the lake or golf course are waiting?  Sin destroys your health and your relationships, especially your relationship with God.

By itself, sin would be a big enough problem for anyone to deal with.  To make matters worse, sin has an ally.  The devil wants sin to control you; he wants you on the outs with God so he can play with you as he sees fit.  The devil is a master manipulator; lies and half-truths are his weapons of choice.  He wants you to believe that might makes right, that the ends justify the means, that you are the only one who knows what’s best for you. He interferes in our lives, causing stress and frustration; anger and fear are emotions he can use. He stokes the fires of resentment when someone tries to tell you what to do.  He urges you to worry so much that you’ll forget about praying for help.  He wants you to get depressed; then you’ll be ready for the big lie: you are worthless.  No one cares about you, not even God—why don’t you just end the misery right now?  Satan wants us to forget about God, give up on each other and hate ourselves.  Satan does all he can to snuff love and hope from our lives. 

The third enemy is death.  Death is no friend—that’s just one of Satan’s many lies.  Death is the enemy of life.  We feel the touch of death right from the beginning with the terrible pain of childbirth, a bloody event that sometimes kills the mother or cripples the baby.  Death touches infants through disorders like Downs’ Syndrome or Muscular Dystrophy.  Death continues to plague our lives through disease and disability, through near-sightedness and diabetes, cancer and HIV.  Death makes our joints ache with pain, steals our strength, and dulls our reflexes.  Eventually, death steals our very life, tearing loved ones from each others’ arms.  Death puts a time limit on our lives; it keeps us from finishing projects or reaching long-term goals.  Worst of all, death closes the door on Jesus’ offer of salvation; if a person dies before faith has taken hold of his heart, access to heaven will be lost. 

Sin, Satan, and death—three enemies overwhelming in their power.  How wonderful it is, then, that we have the three-in-one God standing up for us, guaranteeing victory for all believers!

It all starts with the Father.  He is the head of the Trinity; although the Son and the Spirit are equal to Him in every way, they defer to His authority and show Him respect—as we should.  The Father is the source of justice and love.  By His will the universe was made.  He created the angels, a vast army of powerful spirits who carry out His will in heaven and on earth.  It is His justice that forms the backbone for human law, although sinful man has muddied things up considerably.  God’s justice demands that sin be punished; He created hell as a place to confine those tainted by sin, so the righteous can rest comfortably forever. 

Because we are sinners, hell is the eternal fate that we deserve.  But God the Father has another quality besides a desire for justice; He is also the source of perfect love.  That love caused Him to do something truly remarkable—He sent His Son to suffer the punishment of hell as our stand-in. 

Jesus is the living example of love.  Love is more than a warm, mushy feeling.  Love is more than poetic words that set the heart aglow.  Love is action.  Love is serving others in their need, even at the expense of yourself.  Love is showing respect.  Love is about building relationships that can stand the test of time.

In Jesus, we see perfect love at work.  Jesus obeyed His Father in every way, treating Him with utmost respect.   Jesus was a teacher of righteousness; He explained how we can improve our relationships with each other.   Jesus served us in our need; our sins had earned the Father’s righteous judgment.  But Jesus took the stinging blows of justice in our place; because He suffered hell for us on the cross, we can be forgiven.  Through Jesus we can have a wonderful relationship with God, a relationship that will never end.

God the Father gives us everything necessary to live and show love for others.  He sends angels to guard us from evil’s power.  The Son of God has defeated Satan and stripped the grave of its mighty grip.  He listens to our prayers and forgives our sins.  But we have one more ally helping us as well—that ally is the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit plants faith in our hearts.  When we hear or read God’s holy word, the Spirit chisels away at our stubborn unbelief.  Some resent His efforts and push Him away; others find their hearts softening at the gentleness of His touch.  When we accept the Spirit’s help, life changes for the better.  The Spirit gives us strength to resist temptation.  He comforts us when life is painful or disappointing.  When we’re worried or afraid, He encourages us.  He offers His wisdom and guidance when we’re faced with tough decisions.  Through God’s Spirit, we have access to gifts that make life wonderful—gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  All of this is ours for the asking if we trust in the Lord’s generosity.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit—these three persons are on our side and they are united as one.  They are one in purpose: to see wickedness brought to an end.  They are united in their concern for you; they work constantly to push back evil and draw you close.  The persons of God are united in their commitment to a bright future, a day when the world is reborn in perfection and the children of God will live again, free from the oppression of sin, Satan and death. 

This is God.  He is beyond our understanding, but you can be sure of this—He loves you with an everlasting love.  He came to offer us His hand through the body of Christ.  He touches your life through Word and Sacrament.  His angels surround you and His Spirit rests on you.  He is the one true God—there is no other.  He deserves your thanks and praise, your respect and trust, your love and devotion. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Concern for the future

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you (Psalm 143:8).

Something that’s frequently on our minds is the future.  What problems will I have to deal with at work tomorrow?  Will I ever meet my soulmate?  What kind of future will my children have?  Am I adequately prepared for retirement? 

Thinking about the future can be unsettling; we worry that things might not turn as we hope.  Some read their daily horoscope to prepare themselves for handling things.  Others sock money away so they have enough funds to cover emergency expenses.  There are people who devote themselves to fitness in order to avoid getting sick or feeble during their senior years.  And many work at establishing a network of family and friends so they will never wind up alone.

Sadly, taking charge of your future is a futile dream.  Maintaining good health can’t insure that you won’t get disabled in a terrible accident or come down with some form of deadly infection.  Savings can be lost through bad investments or a major medical expense.  Some of the elderly wind up alone because they have outlived all their family members and friends.  And horoscopes are no help—they are about as dependable in their predictions as simply flipping a coin.  No matter how you try to prepare for the future, things rarely go according to plan.

Approaching the future with confidence does not have to be an exercise in futility.  You don’t have to live each day consumed with worry over what tomorrow might bring.  God does not tell us a whole lot about what’s coming in the days ahead, but He does tell us to trust Him.  And that’s the key—do you trust God?  Are you confident that He loves you, that He has the power to keep you safe, that He knows what’s for the best?  If you trust Him, you don’t need to know specific details about the future; it’s enough to know that all things rest in His mighty hands.  This is why it angers Him when people try to peek into the future using things like horoscopes or Tarot cards, or waste time in endless worry over what might happen in the days to come; such behavior reveals that we don’t really trust in the LORD to take good care of us.  Instead, we should pray as David did: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


My times are in your hands (Psalm 31:15).

If there’s anything an adult wants, it is control over his own life. We don’t like being out of the loop.  We don’t like having unanswered questions hanging over our heads. We resist being admitted into nursing homes or assisted living centers. We don’t like to be dependent on others for our income, personal hygiene, or the food that we eat.

We want to power to shape our lives according to what feels right and makes us happy.  Many’s the man or woman who, after the honeymoon, gets busy trying to change their mate into the perfect spouse.  Parents work hard at raising accomplished children who will be a source of pride in everything they do.  Employees hunger for a position of authority so they can get things done at work the way that they want. 

Sadly, maintaining control over your life is an exercise in futility.  There’s always stuff going on that you are unaware of, stuff that catches you by surprise and leaves you in a panic.  Disasters can strike from out of the blue—fires, flooding, windstorms and blizzards; car accidents and computer failure; a vitally important team member takes another job, your child is caught with illegal drugs in her possession.  The desire to have everything under control will leave you frazzled and exhausted, and when you go to bed you’ll lie there with eyes wide open, wondering how you can fix the list of things that is running through your head.

Feeling comfortable with your life doesn’t have to be a futile dream.  First you need to admit that your control over things is limited, and you don’t always make the best decisions either.  Then you need to approach the cross, kneel in its shadow, and ask Jesus to lift the burden of worrying from your shoulders.  You don’t need to have all the answers; just trust that Jesus knows what to do.  You don’t have to fix the people in your life; ask Christ to shape them into what He wants them to be.  You don’t have to have control over your life—in fact, since so many of your decisions are poor ones because of sin, you’re better off letting Jesus take control!  Read the book He has given you, the Bible where His wisdom is found.  When a decision needs to be made, first make time for prayer, seeking His leadership.  And when things do spiral into chaos, trust that God’s Son has the power to safely see you through.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Creator Spirit

Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid

Creator Spirit, by whose aid The world’s foundations first were laid, Come visit every humble mind; Come, pour Your joys on humankind; From sin and sorrow set us free; May we Your living temples be.

O Source of uncreated light, The bearer of God’s gracious might, Thrice holy fount, thrice holy fire, Our hearts with heavenly love inspire; Your sacred, healing message bring To sanctify us as we sing.

Giver of grace, descend from high; Your sevenfold gifts to us supply; Help us eternal truths receive And practice all that we believe; Give us Yourself that we may see The glory of the Trinity.

Immortal honor, endless fame Attend the almighty Father’s name; The Savior Son be glorified, Who for all humankind has died; To you, O Paraclete, we raise Unending songs of thanks and praise

Today I invite you to join me in learning about the Spirit of God, using the above hymn as our guide.

Verse one starts out with these words: Creator Spirit, by whose aid the world’s foundations first were laid.  This is a reference to Genesis chapter one verse two where we read, the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  On the first day of creation, this world was like a wet lump of clay—shapeless and ugly.  But the Holy Spirit saw potential in that dark, chaotic mass.  He saw the beginning of a beautiful world filled with people who would find delight in the love of God.  On that first day of creation, God the Father ordered construction to begin; the Holy Spirit offered His advice on design, and the Son of God built the universe according to heaven’s plan.

Verse one continues with an invitation and a request: Come visit every humble mind; Come, pour Your joys on humankind. We want the Spirit to be part of our lives; we need the joy that comes from being connected to God.  Sin has damaged our Lord’s beautiful design for earth. Sin has brought the darkness of war, disease and death.  Sin has delivered fear, hatred and loneliness.  In order to find joy despite the darkness, we need the Spirit who inspired the beauty that has been lost. 

But notice the importance of humility.  Without humility, no heart can welcome the Spirit of God.  Pride puts up barriers.  Pride keeps us from admitting to our weaknesses; pride won’t let us ask for assistance.  We need to be humble; the Spirit won’t bless us with His presence until we admit that we need God’s help.

From sin and sorrow set us free; May we Your living temples be.  These words reference what Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians chapter three: Don't you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?  A temple is a place where God makes His presence known.  When God’s Spirit lives in you, you become a temple.  But God is holy; He expects and deserves a temple that is perfect and fully dedicated to Him.  In 1 Corinthians 6:20 Paul writes, honor God with your body.  Is it right that God should live in a heart that is covered with the mildew of sin?  Is it right that God should have to share His temple with lust, greed, or hatred?  Certainly not!  So we ask the Spirit to rescue us from sin.  We want to be free from the sorrow caused by guilt.  When we are forgiven, the stain of evil is washed away and our hearts become fit places for God to live.

Verse two begins, O Source of uncreated light, The bearer of God’s gracious might.  God created the light of the sun and moon and stars.  He enables us to create light through fire and electricity. But these all pale in comparison to the true light of heaven.  John writes, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  The light of God is holiness, a pure radiance that destroys the darkness of evil.  God shares this light with us; the Holy Spirit caused all of Scripture to be written, and it is through the Word of God that He shares the light with us.  In Psalm 119 David wrote, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path

Thrice holy fount, thrice holy fire, Our hearts with heavenly love inspire.  When you hear the word ‘fountain’, you think of a monument that is always filled with splashing, sparkling water.  God’s Spirit is an inexhaustible fountain of life-giving water.  Because of sin, our world is like a hot, parched desert—everywhere you turn, people are dying from spiritual thirst.  They don’t understand why they keep falling prey to temptation.  They crave peace but don’t know how to forgive.  They would love to know the truth but don’t believe that it exists.  Their souls are thirsty, but without the water of life they are shriveled up inside.

Jesus compares the Spirit to a source of life-giving water.  In John 7:37-39 our Lord says, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  The Holy Spirit invigorates us with heavenly love. This is a love that is not weakened or contaminated by sin; this is a love that has complete trust in God, respects Him in all ways and at all times, and seeks to honor His love with grateful acts of service.  This heavenly love binds us to God now and for eternity, giving us confidence to face any challenges that come our way.

Your sacred, healing message bring To sanctify us as we sing.  The love of God is only made known to us through the Bible.  We cannot grow in the love of God if we don’t read or listen to His Word.  That message of grace is a powerful thing; through it the Spirit sanctifies us.  Sanctification is a process that continues as long as God’s Spirit lives within us; every day He works on us like gem cutter, chiseling and polishing our rough edges to make us better reflectors of God’s marvelous light. 

Giver of grace, descend from high; Your sevenfold gifts to us supply.  The sevenfold gifts refer to Isaiah chapter eleven where the prophet speaks of the blessings God’s Spirit will bestow on Jesus when He comes to save mankind: The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of strength, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--and he will delight in obeying the LORD

As friends and followers of Christ, we have access to these same gifts from God’s Holy Spirit.  We can have the gift of wisdom, which helps us to understand the people around us.  We can have the gift of understanding, which enables us to see how God is at work in our lives.  The gift of counsel is important when we make decisions; the Spirit helps us to see which path pleases God and which path angers Him.  The gift of strength gives us backbone to resist the devil’s temptations.  The gift of knowledge enables us to hear God’s Word and apply it to our everyday affairs.  It is important that we fear God because He is holy and does not tolerate evil; this leads us to repent our sins instead of acting like they’re no big deal.  And we should take delight in obeying God.  If we only serve Him out of fear, our relationship with the Almighty is empty of joy; our obedience to God’s law should be motivated by love and gratitude for His undeserved mercy. 

Help us eternal truths receive And practice all that we believe.  We need the Spirit’s help to accept God’s Word as true.  In Romans chapter 8 Paul tells us, The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.  The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.  The Holy Spirit breaks down the wall of sin that isolates our hearts from God; because of Him, we have faith and joy.

Give us Yourself that we may see The glory of the Trinity.  One of the hardest things for us to believe is the three-in-one nature of our God.  The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet there is one God, not three.  Through Isaiah God has said, there is none besides me. I AM the LORD, and there is no other. Yet the Father, Son, and Spirit are each unique; all three made themselves known at Jesus’ baptism: As he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:21-22). How God can be one and three at the same time is a mystery to us: God is greater and more complex than any human mind can understand.  Thankfully the Spirit helps us believe in things that are beyond our limited comprehension.

The last verse of the hymn addresses each person of the Trinity individually. Immortal honor, endless fame Attend the almighty Father’s name.  Although the Son of God and the Spirit of God share all of the Father’s mighty power, they are both respectful of His authority, as we should be.  Jesus did not seek praise for Himself; He said let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Nor did Jesus take credit for His teaching; He said These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me (John 14:24).  In the same way the Spirit does not call attention to Himself; He remains invisible so as not to capture glory that should be the Father's.  The Son of God and the Spirit of God both kneel in respect to the Father, and they urge us to do likewise.

The Savior Son be glorified, Who for all humankind has died.  God the Father is holy; no sinner can look on Him and live.  No sinner dare approach His magnificent throne.  So God reached out to us through His Son, born from a woman by the power of God’s Spirit.  Jesus is holy like His Father, yet He submitted to life on a sin-filled earth out of love for us.  Jesus suffered the punishment we had earned from God for breaking His laws.  On the cross, God’s Son gave His life to win our forgiveness.  Because Jesus’ love was so deep as to hold nothing back, not even His own life, God the Father raised Him from the dead and shares His glory with the Savior of mankind.

To you, O Paraclete, we raise Unending songs of thanks and praise.  ‘Paraclete’ is an old Greek word; it means Counselor.  Jesus uses this word to describe the role of God’s Spirit in our lives.  When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father…he will testify about me…he will convict the world with regard of sin, righteousness and judgment: of sin, because they don’t believe in me; of righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore, of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged (John chapter 16).  The Spirit of God puts all of mankind on trial.  We stand accused on three counts: we have broken God’s laws, we don’t understand how His legal system works, and we act as if there is no punishment coming.  The Spirit acts as legal counsel; it is His job to convince us that we are sinners who need to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.  So He convicts us of sin; through the written law of holy Scripture, He shows us how much we anger God with evil thoughts, careless words and harmful deeds.  Then He dismantles our puny defense; when we claim to be pretty good people who deserve some consideration for our efforts, He reveals how God’s righteousness works—we are only forgiven through the work of Jesus, who is at the Father’s side pleading our case.  Finally, He warns us of judgment—eternal misery in hell, bereft of anything that makes life even remotely tolerable. 

The Spirit works hard to convince us to admit our guilt.  When we finally own up to our failures, we are ready to hear the wonderful news that Jesus has served our sentence for us.  Although the truth hurts, we praise the Spirit for making us face reality so we can be saved by Jesus’ loving sacrifice. 

The Holy Spirit—we need His presence in our lives just as much as we do the Father and the Son.  Give thanks to God that He has sent the Spirit to live in us and with us always. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Your voice is sweet and your face is lovely (Song of Solomon 2:14).

From childhood we have been seeking the attention of others.  “Look at me!” we cried as we tried to be acrobatic, played dress up, or made silly faces for an audience.  As we get older, the attention-seeking changes—we learn to dress fashionably or tell really good jokes or shine in debate.  Many adult attention-seekers enter politics or go into broadcast journalism or try to make it as a celebrity. 

We all want people to like us, respect us, dote on us, love us.  So we try to impress by how we dress and how we talk.  We try to impress by how we cook and do our jobs.  We flaunt what we have, and get miffed when no one pays attention.

Sadly, trying to get everyone to like you is futile.  No matter how attractive or talented you are, there is always someone else who has nicer looks, more money, or a better sense of humor.  No matter how hard you try to impress, there are people who won’t find you interesting or worthy of their time.  In fact, if you get too popular, you’ll just provoke others to see you as unwanted competition and they will try to tear you down so they can be the undisputed center of attention.

Another problem with the quest to be popular is that it can make you afraid to take risks.  Politicians quickly learn that in order to get elected you have to tell people what they want to hear; each person that you offend becomes a voter for someone else.  Men and women who are in abusive relationships put up with pain and mistreatment because they don’t want to risk being alone if they stand up for themselves or walk out the door never to return. 

There is nothing futile about wanting to be loved and respected, but you can’t make people like you.  Instead, you need to take risks.  You need to take the risk of being vulnerable, owning up to your mistakes and asking for forgiveness instead of constantly bragging about how great you are.  You need to take the risk of doing what God wants you to do, even if you’re afraid that it won’t endear you to others.  God is love; everything He does is motivated by love, and living as His student will reflect genuine love to everyone around you.  If they don’t respond to that, it is their loss, not yours.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How far can you push God?

While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled (John 17:12).

How far can you push God before He turns His back on you?  How much can you sin before God gets fed up with you?  How long will God tolerate your bad behavior?

These are important questions.  From the Bible, we know two things about God: He is holy and He is loving.  His holiness cannot and will not tolerate evil.  His love moves Him to set aside His anger and forgive those who are sorry for doing wrong. 

The Bible is full of examples showing God’s anger over sin.  When the earth was filled with wicked behavior and only Noah’s family still feared the Lord, God sent a great flood to destroy everyone not protected inside the ark.  When men started building a monument to their pride at Babel, God dispersed them by changing one language into many.  When Pharaoh refused to release God’s people from slavery, the Lord afflicted Egypt with ten devastating plagues.  When the Israelites grumbled about God’s leadership, He condemned them to 40 years living in the wilderness instead of letting them enter the Promised Land.  God has no tolerance for sinfulness, even among those who believe in Him.

But the Bible is also full of examples of God’s love for us.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were cursed with death, God eased the pain with a promise—one day a Savior would come, a man from heaven who would rescue God’s children from sin, death and hell.  When God met with Moses at Mount Sinai, He laid out plans for a temple and the sacrifices that were to be offered there; this system provided God’s people with a way to be forgiven their sins.  God sent prophets who warned people against wickedness and promised God’s mercy for all who repented.  Throughout the centuries, God has repeatedly reached out in love to offer mankind His undeserved mercy.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the life of Jesus.  Jesus is the Son of God; He shares His Father’s priorities.  Jesus hates sin.  When merchants set up business in the Temple courtyard to take advantage of visiting pilgrims, Jesus got angry; he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" (John 2:15-16) Jesus had no patience for people who twisted religion to make themselves look good; Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Matthew 23:27-28)

But Jesus also showed loving compassion.  He healed the sick.  He spoke words of love and hope to everyone, regardless of past mistakes.  When He was nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed for His tormentors: Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing (Luke 23:34).  When the criminal dying next to Him asked for mercy, Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise"(Luke 23:43). In fact, the whole reason Jesus went to the cross was out of love for us.  He suffered the punishment we deserve from God for being sinners.  He suffered in our place to shield us from the awful justice that we deserve.

In Jesus, we see both natures of God—holiness and love.  The Lord expects perfection from us—be holy, because I am holy (Leviticus 11:45).  Yet God also knows that perfection is beyond our limited abilities; without outside intervention, all mankind would be doomed to hell.  But God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  How do you resolve the tension between the punishment that holy justice demands and the forgiveness that perfect love wants to offer?  In Christ, we see God’s answer—Jesus willingly bore the brunt of holy wrath in order to spare us.  On the cross, Jesus suffered the hellish sentence each of us has deserved for our wicked thoughts, careless words and hurtful deeds.

This is what the Scriptures teach about God’s holiness and His love.  So what are we to make of Jesus’ comment in today’s Gospel lesson?  Speaking of the traitor Judas, Jesus said None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction.  What does Jesus mean?  Did He deliberately pick Judas as a disciple just so Judas could later betray Him?  Or was Judas a helpless puppet, set up by God to make sure Jesus was betrayed as Scripture foretold?  Neither interpretation seems to square with the behavior of a holy and loving God.

It comes down to a matter of free will.  Did Judas have free will?  If he didn’t, is it fair that God sent him to hell for his actions? 

God gave each of us the ability to make decisions.  Sadly, our ability to make good decisions has been severely hampered by sin.  Sin blinds us; when considering a course of action, we only see those choices which are tainted with darkness.  Sin doesn’t let us see the righteous ways of God or accept them as the preferred choice.  In 1st Corinthians Paul tells us, natural man does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.  We don’t choose to believe in Jesus—faith is a gift from God.  Jesus said, You did not choose me, but I chose you (John 15:16).  Paul writes, no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3)

When it comes to matters of faith, we only have free choice in one direction—we can choose to walk away from God.  The New Testament gives several examples of believers who wandered from the Church never to return. In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), Jesus warns that shallow faith will die in times of adversity because it has no root; He also warns that the worries and distractions of life can choke faith and kill it. Paul takes up this thought in 1st Timothy where he writes, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  If we take our faith for granted; if we push God into a corner because we’re too busy with other things; if we don’t make worship and Bible study and prayer an important part of our lives, faith can shrivel away to nothing.

Sadly, this is exactly what happened to Judas.  Jesus chose him—chose him to be one of the 12 disciples, men selected to learn and pass along the mysteries of God, men who would be the first leaders of the Church.  This high position made Judas a prize target for Satan.  It started small; John writes he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:6).  Like any addiction, the hunger for money grew stronger and stronger until Judas was so lost to greed that he was willing to betray Jesus for a pile of coins. 

Scripture had long predicted that the Messiah would suffer betrayal resulting in death.  Did Jesus choose greedy, weak-willed Judas to make prophecy come true?  Not at all.  In the first place, Judas had three years at Jesus’ side, seeing miracles and listening to the words of life that come down from heaven.  Also, consider this: on the night of the betrayal, Jesus warned Judas no less than three times to reconsider his plan before it was too late.  First Jesus washed everyone’s feet, including Judas; as He finished up, Jesus said "You are clean, though not every one of you."  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean (John 13:10-11).  Then, while seated at the table, Jesus said The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born (Matthew 26:23-24).  Following this second warning, Judas said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you" (Matthew 26:25). After this Satan took control of Judas, and he left to arrange Jesus’ arrest (John 13:27).

For three years, the Son of God walked with Judas, ate with Judas, shared His knowledge and love with Judas.  On their final night together, Jesus warned him three times not to follow Satan’s lead.  Tragically it was all in vain.  Judas chose money over the Son of God.  Satan took ownership of his soul and the next day Judas committed suicide, the money having lost all value to him

Scripture says that Jesus would suffer betrayal.  But Judas wasn’t set up to fail; Jesus loved that frail little man, loved Him more than we can possibly imagine.  Judas was lost by his own terrible choice.  Judas was doomed to hell as a consequence of his evil decisions. 

But it didn’t have to be.  When Judas finally understood the ramifications of his betrayal, he went to the Temple, trying to return the money in exchange for Jesus’ life.  He did not get the kind of reception he was hoping for. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."  Crushed by guilt, Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27:4-5).  Judas knew he had done a terrible wrong.  He wanted forgiveness.  But when the priests turned him away, Judas made his final mistake.  He committed suicide because he believed there was no hope for him.  It never occurred to him to leave the city and go to the cross where Jesus was slowly dying.  He chose to kill himself because he didn’t believe that Jesus would forgive him.  Tragically, Judas was wrong.  Jesus forgave the men who were nailing Him to the cross, who were taunting Him in His agony.  If Judas had asked for mercy, he would have received peace for his tortured soul.  But Judas’ faith was dead; he no longer believed in the forgiving love of God.  All he had left was fear of God’s righteous judgment.

How far can you push God before He turns His back on you? In Romans chapter 7 Paul writes, I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: in my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.  God understands that we are compulsive sinners; that’s why He sent Jesus to bring us forgiveness.

How much can you sin before God gets fed up with you? Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:21-22).  With these words, Jesus shows that He doesn’t keep count of how often He forgives us.

How long will God tolerate your bad behavior?  Peter writes, The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  The ark that God designed took Noah 120 years to build; the sinners of that time had more than a century to repent and reserve cabin space, although none of them did.  God gave Judas three years to decide who he would stand with—Jesus or the devil.  God is patient, but no one knows how much time is left on the clock.  This is why Paul speaks to us with such urgency: We are workers together with God, so we beg you: do not let the grace that you received from God be for nothing. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Saving the planet

Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

A lot of people want to change the world.  For some it’s about making things better for the sake of their children and grandchildren.  For others it’s about sparing future generations from the pain and struggles they themselves have been forced to endure.  And some work for lasting change because they want their name to be remembered with respect, long after they have been laid to rest. 

Sadly, trying to change the world is ultimately futile.  Our children still march off to war, like every generation before them.  Despite conservation efforts, species are still going extinct and people all around the world are sickened by pollution.  We have all sorts of streets and parks and buildings named for individuals who are deceased, but only few of them are remembered for who they were.

The world is just too big to change.  Nature tears down what man has made; weeds and rust and rot can reclaim anything that we build.  Many who are proud and greedy are more than happy to use violence and trickery to achieve their goals; despite all the efforts made to educate and negotiate, crime and war still occur with alarming frequency.  Despite all the talk about saving our planet or making the world a better place for our children, things really haven’t changed significantly for the better.

But working for change needn’t be futile; you just have to focus your energy in the right direction.  There is only one person who has the power to effect real and lasting change—that person is our Lord and Savior.  If you want to change the world, you can have a positive impact by working for the Son of God.  Jesus changes the world one heart at a time.  He changes individuals by convincing them that they are sinners—that they make bad decisions and don’t follow through on their promises to do the right thing.  When their guilt hits home, He offers forgiveness and the opportunity to try again, now guided by His wisdom.  As these individuals see where they’ve gone wrong and start following Christ, their behavior improves and influences those around them for the better of us all.  If you really want to work for a kinder and gentler world, the best thing you can do is share the message of Christ; tell your friends and coworkers and relatives about the Savior, and support mission work both overseas and right here in America. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Who is God?

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Our living God made a diverse and living world.  But the Creator of All Things is not like the living beings He created.  God does not operate on instinct like animals do.  The Mighty One has no limits on His power as angels do.  And the King of Creation never does anything selfish or spiteful as we humans do. 

Nature worshipers think that God is a feminine power; everything is born from her and shares in her divinity.  But God never became pregnant and gave birth to anything; the world is not made from God’s body, and nothing of it is divine.  God spoke the universe into existence; He said let there be, and His command became reality (Genesis chapter one).

Some religions teach that God is an evolved being, that He achieved His current status through ages of hard work.  They say that godhood is something we can all aspire to, using the Almighty as our example.  But God is eternal—He has no beginning, hard as that is to imagine.  God never had dark impulses that He had to learn to overcome.  And no matter how much effort we put in, we can never ascend to become His equal.

When we try to understand God on our terms, we fail miserably.  He is holy; we are flawed and stained, weak and corrupt.  He prizes order, we flounder in chaos.  His love is unselfish and never-failing, our love is tainted and fickle.  He is committed to righteousness, we are fascinated by evil. 

It wasn’t always like this.  Mankind was created in God’s image—we were designed to share His values, love Him and each other as He loves us.  Adam and Eve were privileged to speak with Him face to face!  But sin changed all that; sin made our first parents unfit to approach God and they hid from Him in fear.  So God did something that makes no sense to us—He sent His own Son to assume the responsibility for our guilt.  Christ became our scapegoat, suffering the punishment which our sins deserved.  God showed how different He is from us by forgiving our wretched behavior without first demanding any kind of satisfaction.  God is infinite power, unequaled wisdom and unlimited compassion all rolled into one.  He is beyond our limited comprehension.  But praise His goodness, for He has made Himself known to us through His beloved Son.

Friday, May 03, 2013


Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2).

We are taught to respect other people regardless of their skin color or social standing, their financial situation or their age.  We are told that in order to show love, we must accept other people—accept their ideas and traditions, accept their lifestyle choices and behavior. 

We must be taught to show love and respect because such behavior does not come naturally.  Children are born selfish and egotistical—every infant believes that he is the most important person in the universe and should have his needs catered to immediately.  If you make a baby wait or tell her no, you can expect lots of big tears and loud screaming.  

It goes against our grain to show love and respect to others.  We’d rather boss people around than have to ask them nicely.  We’re not interested in sharing or waiting our turn.  We want to be complimented, not corrected. 

Such behavior leads to the forming of cliques.  We surround ourselves with people who think like we do and echo our opinions.  This gives us the ability to treat others with disdain.  We can sneer at people with bad fashion sense.  We can throw insults at those who are poor or shy or disabled in some way.  We can tell nasty jokes about people with differing political views.  We can gang up on someone we dislike for being different and teach them a lesson through the use of violence. 

As we grow older, we discover that words of love and respect can be useful tools for manipulating others.  A man can use words of love to get a woman into bed.  A woman can use words of respect to sweet-talk a patrolman out of giving her a ticket.  

Acting out of genuine love and respect does not come naturally to us.  We have to be taught such behavior.  We have to see it modeled by others.  This is one reason why Jesus came to live among us.  From ancient times God has told us the importance of showing love and respect to others—that’s what the Ten Commandments are all about.  But we don’t listen, so Jesus came and showed us personally what a life of love and respect looks like.  When compared to Jesus’ perfect example, our selfish and egotistical lives look empty and meaningless, stirring the desire for something better.

We live in an age of tolerance.  Teachers urge our children to respect people who are different.  So how is it that intolerance still exists, is even sometimes regarded as acceptable?

We are asked to respect other religions, but when Christians say that Jesus is the only one who can rescue us from sin and hell, churches are burned and followers of Christ are threatened with violence. We are urged to respect gays and lesbians, but if someone says that same-sex marriage is wrong there will be a flood of hate mail and negative attention from the media.  We are told that in the interests of free speech, every opinion deserves a fair hearing--but when it comes to evolution, all schools are required to teach this theory alone as if it is unchallenged fact.  

We live in an age of tolerance.  Yet many who promote tolerance are unwilling to tolerate Jesus Christ.  You dare not make jokes about Jews or Muslims, but Christians are fair game.  All over the world, countries are passing hate crimes legislation—but Christians are never singled out for protection. 

The world is filled with advocacy groups.  You have watchdogs ready to pounce if a person says something negative about race, religion, or sexual orientation.  You have people advocating for the rights of animals and in defense of the environment.  But you don’t see advocacy groups jumping up and making noise in defense of Jesus Christ and those who follow Him.

Maybe it’s because Jesus did not defend Himself when He was arrested on false charges, tried unjustly, and sentenced to a death He did nothing to deserve.  Jesus is the Son of God, yet people insulted Him.  Jesus came to show the way to heaven, yet people would not tolerate His message.  Jesus had every right to lash out at those who treated Him so badly; He had the power to end their lives with a word.  But Jesus did not lash out; instead He prayed, Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34).  Jesus did not use His power to destroy sinful men and women; He used His power to break the chains of sin that linked us to death and the devil.  Jesus responded to intolerance and hate with respect and love.  He urges us to do the same.

We live in a world that urges tolerance for all.  But is there a time when intolerance is appropriate? 

The secular world says yes.  Our society does not tolerate child abuse or neglect.  Our country does not tolerate crime or political corruption.  Our government does not tolerate acts of treason.  Such behaviors are punished harshly.

But things change over time.  200 years ago, slavery was tolerated and women’s suffrage was not.  Abortion used to be illegal.  When I was young, no one could sell liquor on Sunday.  Things have changed, and things will change. 

And that is scary.  What will be tolerated in the future?  What will not be tolerated in the future?  Suppose Christianity is pushed to the side as intolerable; will the value of life be defined by how much money you have or how much pleasure you can get out of your body?  Without Jesus’ teachings and personal example, will people love and respect each other or will they brag and use each other? 

When we decide what is tolerable and what is not, we need Jesus as our guide.  Jesus tolerated sinners, but He did not tolerate sin.  Jesus compared Himself to a physician, a man of healing who loves His patients but hates the disease that makes them sick. 

Bedside manner is important.  A doctor wants your respect and trust, but he must tell you the truth about your condition.  The diagnosis is not good—sin will kill each and every one of us unless we undergo radical treatment.  That radical treatment sounds scary—give up pride and control over your life; turn your back on anything that is self destructive or brings harm to others.  Give your life over to Jesus; let Him guide all your decisions.  Trust in His wisdom.  Submit to His authority. 

Our world values tolerance.  But we cannot tolerate that which destroys us.  We cannot tolerate sin.  So we must tolerate Jesus’ diagnosis of our condition; we need to hear the truth so that Jesus can begin treatment on a willing patient.

Jesus hates sin but loves sinners.  It’s a good thing for us that He does, because we make Him put up with an awful lot of bad behavior.  We don’t pray as often as we could.  We treat God’s name like an exclamation point for a sentence.  We disobey our parents, we make threats, we break promises, we cheat, we tell lies, we constantly whine and complain.  We don’t show love or respect to God or to each other. 

Jesus puts up with it all.  Every time we come on our knees to the cross and say we’re sorry, He forgives us and embraces us with His love.  He treats us with love and respect, hoping to encourage those qualities in each of us.

Jesus wants us to tolerate sinners, showing them respect and love.  Jesus said, Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).  Paul writes, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:12).  To this Peter adds, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  1st Corinthians chapter 13 tells us Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

But while God wants us to love sinners, He does not want us tolerating their sin.  Consider these words spoken by God to His prophet Ezekiel (chapter three): If I warn the wicked, saying, 'You are under the penalty of death,' but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins—and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins—but you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.  God curses sin with everlasting punishment; we do no one any favors by tolerating their sinful behavior without comment.  Instead, we show our love by sharing God’s truth with them so they might repent and ask Jesus to forgive them. 

Hate the sin, but show love to the sinner—that’s how God treats us, and that’s how He wants us to treat each other.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Humanity--noble or savage?

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:10).

There is no living thing on earth that is more highly regarded and thoroughly despised as humanity.  Songwriters and poets have much to say about our capacity for love, understanding, and generosity towards others.  At the same time, angry people armed with weapons maim and kill those who don’t look like them, act like them, or believe as they do. Idealistic youth dream of building a future where all can do as they please and no one has to live in want.  Environmentalists blame man for ruining the earth, and the most radical among them say that the world would be better off if humanity wiped itself out.

So what is humanity?  Is it noble or savage?  The short answer is yes—mankind is both.  Every human being struggles with doing the right thing or the wrong thing, and that struggle is a daily occurrence. The reason?  We have a corrupted inner nature. God’s design for humanity was perfection—the Bible says, God saw all that He had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).  But our first parents were not satisfied with things as they stood—Satan persuaded them into thinking that perfection was somehow not good enough.  So they opposed God, and by so doing became corrupt—corrupt with a rebellious nature that can never be satisfied but always craves more, even when that ‘more’ is too much, unhealthy, even outright dangerous.  Every day, the good we were created to do is undermined by the evil that we hunger to do.

We are beings of body and soul joined as one.  Like the soul, our bodies were intended to live forever.  But living forever in corruption would be truly awful.  So God placed a time limit on the human body; death reigns in just how much hurt any one person can cause and suffer.  But death by itself is a curse—we needed something more.  That ‘something more’ came in the form of Jesus, who did something absolutely mind-boggling—He took the punishment we deserved for being sinners, so that we might ultimately walk free!  Jesus gave His life as restitution for all the hurt we’ve caused, then stepped from the grave alive to assure our own resurrection following death.  Forgiven by Christ, our corruption is laid to rest in the grave. The new life which follows will no longer be a struggle between nobility and savagery; with every last trace of sin removed, we can experience life that is filled with joy untouched by pain. Best of all, that new life will be lived in the company of kind and loving individuals who will be with us forever.

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