Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
How does Jesus feel about us? He created us, became human, and let us kill Him so He could make a new deal with us (Heb. 9.15-17). Most disregard Him, many are outright hostile. How could He love us at all? Because we know how most view God, it’s easy to lump ourselves into the same group as the hostiles.
Ephesians gives some awesome insight into how Jesus feels about his people.
1.3 – He gave us spiritual blessings through His sacrifice.
1.4 – He had us in mind before He even started creating things.
1.5 – He intended to make us part of His family.
1.6 – He gave us grace.
1.7 – He died to give us freedom.
1.7 – He gives us forgiveness.
1.9 – He told us what He wants.
1.11 – He is going to give us an inheritance.
1.11-14 – He knows His own, and He’s looking to get us back home.
He didn’t just do nice things for us, though. Here’s how He feels about it:
1.5 – Love motivated Him.
1.5 – He wanted to do it.
1.7 – He’s generous with His grace.
1.8 – He’s generous with His grace.
1.9 – He wanted to do it.
We don’t deserve Him, but He loves us to death. We let Him down, but He gives us grace. He’d have every right to be exasperated with His imperfect family, but He’s not. People get on our nerves and societies fall apart, but we have the best family on the planet. Remember whose you are when you’re discouraged. No one wants you more than He does!
Friday’s Column: Guest Writer
In 1986, Roy Whetstine was in Arizona at a mineral show. He was digging through a plastic bowl of rocks. He saw a large stone the size of a potato that looked interesting. He bought the stone for $10. Later, Whetstine would learn that his rock was actually the world’s largest sapphire, worth $2.28 million. The man who sold Whetstine the stone was willing to give up something of great value because he did not know what he had.
The Jews in Hebrews had a hard time giving up “Mt. Sinai” for “Mt. Zion” because they did not know that Mt. Zion was far better. Hebrews 12:18-24, ‘For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’ And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” There are a lot of things that are better in the new law, but we are just going to look at three of them.
In Hebrews, there are just a few of the many blessings in the New Testament. In our passage, the writer compares Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion. Starting in verse 18, he describes Mt. Sinai It sounds awful because if you touched it you would be burned with fire or shot with an arrow. God has the power to do all these things. The writer is referring to when Moses went to get the ten commandments. God wants the people of Israel to understand and not forget them. He wanted them to obey Him so they could be His special treasure (Exod. 19:5)
Starting in verse 32, he describes Mt. Zion. It’s better because it has better blessings than Mt. Sinai. Let’s look at three contrasts in our passage.
INSTEAD OF TERROR, WE CAN BE HAPPY (22)
How can we be happy with Jesus? Moses tells the people what kind of God we serve. In Deuteronomy 33:29, he says, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places.” Jesus gives us a rich and satisfying life.” In John 10:10, He says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” So you can be HAPPY by doing good deeds for others that may need it, and by knowing He is there.
INSTEAD OF KEEPING OUR DISTANCE, WE CAN BE CLOSE (23)
Instead of keeping our distance from Mount Sinai and we don’t have to be scared to get shot if we touch the mountain. How is Jesus close to us? In Proverbs 18:24, it states, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This shows how Jesus stays close to us.
INSTEAD OF BEING PUNISHED, WE CAN BE REWARDED (24)
Instead of being punished we can be rewarded with heaven. In John 3:16, it states, ”For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What does Jesus want us to do to be saved? We are hearing the word. In Romans 10:16, Paul writes, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So we can hear his word. Why do we believe in God’s word? In John 8:24 it states, ”unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” This is why you believe in God’s word. Why do we need to repent of our sins? In Mark 1:15 it states, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Why do we need to confess that Jesus is the son of God? In Matthew 26:63, it states “I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Why do we need to be baptized? In Acts 2:38, it states, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
All in all we don’t need to keep our distance from God. Instead of keeping God out of our lives, He needs to be in our lives because through Him we make it to heaven.
Kason with his family the night of his baptism (May 22, 2021)
Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
- God loved me enough to establish it.
- Jesus loves the Church.
- The Church loves Jesus.
- The Church is a family.
- The Church is filled with true friendships.
- The Church is a source of encouragement.
- I’ve seen firsthand the comfort that the Church provides.
- The Church is considerate of others.
- The Church is a place for the broken.
- The Church is a place for the weak.
- In the Church I belong to God.
- The Church has perfected potlucks.
- Jesus is the Head of the Church.
- The Church is the unified body of Christ.
- The Church helps me to be a better Christian.
- The Church helps to show me my purpose in life.
- I’ve met people that have changed my life.
- The Church helps me love God more.
- The Church is motivated.
- The Church reminds me that this world is not my home.
- The Church shows me the power of song.
- The Church shows me the power of the Gospel.
- The Church creates a bond that is impossible to find anywhere else.
- The Church shows me how amazing grace really is.
- The Church is a place of spiritual support.
- The Church is a place of physical comfort.
- The Church is a place of emotional healing.
- I leave every service feeling renewed.
- The Church helps me interact better with people.
- The Church at times helps me practice patience.
- The Church is a reminder that we are equal in Christ.
- The Church is a place filled with servants.
- The Church helps bring out the best in me.
- I want to go to Heaven.
- The Church helps me glorify God.
- The Church is the family I worship God with.
- The Church is exciting!
- The Church is where I belong.
- I can’t imagine a life without the Church.
- The Church puts my focus where it belongs; on God, and other people.
- The Church is selfless.
- The Church is life changing.
- God wants me to love the Church.
- The Church makes you feel needed.
- The Church makes me more considerate of others.
- I want to be a part of God’s plan.
- The Church helps me be closer to my physical family.
- The Church gives me memories that will last a lifetime.
- The Church is filled with people that I will never have to say goodbye to.
- The Church of Christ helps me keep heaven in view.
Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
When we forgive someone we usually do not forget what we forgave. Unless there is an underlying condition, our minds do not automatically or immediately delete irrelevant information, like something we no longer hold against another person. Because of this, it can be hard to understand what God’s forgiveness means for the Christian. We’ll think, “I know He has forgiven me, but there’s no way He’s forgotten about it. Maybe it will ‘cloud’ His decision to forgive me next time I ask.”
This is a very common mindset, and one that I struggle with daily. When we look at scripture, though, it paints a very different picture of what God’s forgiveness really does!
Forgiveness is the word ἀφίημι (afiemi). It has several definitions, according to Bauer:
1. To dismiss or release someone from a place or presence.
2. To release from a moral obligation or consequence, to cancel, remit, or pardon.
3. To move away with implication of causing a separation, to leave or depart from.
Knowing this, we should look at Hebrews 8.12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will not remember their sins anymore.” We understand that context is geared toward contrasting the old and new covenant, but it at least gives us insight into the process behind forgiveness.
When we get forgiveness from God, that sin is eradicated. It no longer exists, it will not affect our relationship with God anymore. “Remember” in Hebrews eight is, “To call information to memory.” It’s not only that God no longer holds a sin against us, it’s that it ceases to exist in His mind. How awesome is that?
When we ask God for forgiveness, let’s approach His throne with humility, yes, but also with confidence that He has the power and desire to make that sin disappear from our account forever.
Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
Some phrases in the Bible are simple to read, but very difficult to comprehend. In this article, I’d like to walk through a process together in an attempt to make sense of a difficult phrase (thanks, Paul). One of those is in Ephesians 1.23: “…the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is a description of Jesus, specifically as it relates to His being the head of the church. But what does that phrase mean?
I will not pretend to have the answer, but I would like to make a couple of suggestions. Firstly, “fullness” appears to describe the church. In my limited knowledge of Greek, it seems to be grammatically tied to “body.” The church – His body – is His fullness. Both are nominative, both are the subject of the sentence.
Secondly, Jesus fills all in all. It’s that last phrase that’s so hard for me to comprehend. What does it mean, that “He fills all in all?” Based on the fact that some form of “fullness” is used three times in a single phrase, it appears to have reference to his nature. He is not confined by time or space and is present everywhere.
If the church is His fullness (the word is possessive in Greek), and He is omnipresent (or, creation is full of Him), then the church must be extremely important. Again, I am not a scholar, I may be mistaken.
I would, though, like to attempt to make application from this difficult phrase. If the church is, ideally, representative of the very nature of Christ, are we living up to it? Is our passion for the lost like His was/is? Is our love for each other as strong as His is for the church? Do we treat the church as if it were the body of Christ (because it is)? Do we keep in mind, as we interact with each other, that we all answer to Him? Are we trying to mold culture to His image, or are we being molded to culture?
We really have to think about this one to try to make sense of it. Comprehending this phrase is anything but easy (at least for me!). But the church – which is one distinct unit, not a series of denominations – is supposed to represent Jesus. Our values, our demeanor, our goals, our mission, our attitudes, our behavior, and our purpose should scream to others, “We are not of this world.” If these do not, we are not representing Jesus. No one will do this perfectly, but the standard is high.
When we begin to understand this phrase a little more, it shifts from being hard to understand to being hard to hear. We have a huge responsibility, but we also have a global family to support us. The standard is high, but our Head is also our Savior. As things slowly go back to normal, let’s keep this in mind! We’re not just Christians to be good people, we’re Christians to show the world who Jesus is.
Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
This has been a beautiful spring. I cannot recall a time in recent memory when I’ve noted so many dogwood flowers in the trees. Our daffodils have been more prolific as well. There is phlox and violets blooming throughout the yard. Since I know that it is through nature that God first reveals Himself to us (cf. Romans 1.20), I could not help if wonder if what I have been seeing is providential. Think about it. We are in the midst of a pandemic and have been asked to shelter in place. What if God providentially boosted the fertility of the spring to grab the attention of all of the people stuck at home? It is a nice thought, isn’t it? Certainly, those who’ve inherited the earth (Matthew 5L5) would take notice of that.
Yet, the truth is, I cannot say this with any degree of certainty. My statement about this spring’s beauty is contingent on the amount of attention I have paid to it this year as well as the joy I’ve experienced having more time to spend outdoors since “normal” life has been shut down. The thought has occurred to me that maybe every spring is as beautiful, I’ve just been too busy or distracted to notice. Perhaps, there were plenty of equally beautiful things that had existed but went unobserved.
Maybe you’ve heard of “Schrodinger’s cat.” This is a thought experiment proposed by physicist Erwin Schrodinger, based on idea he had gotten from Albert Einstein. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, a poor kitty is imperiled by two deadly things inside a closed box. After an hour, you check to see if the cat has died. As crazy as it sounds, quantum mechanics allows for the cat to be both alive and dead until such time as one makes an observation; that is, until he or she opens the box. It is at the point of observation that the fate of the cat goes from superposition to a single state. If you find the thought experiment flawed, you’re not alone. Other physicists thought that it was ridiculous that a cat’s fate was contingent on whether or not we observed it. The radiation or the poisoned air would have killed the cat long before we opened the box. Another camp gave it a many-worlds interpretation. In other words, they say that upon opening the box, you as the observer become entangled with the cat on a quantum level and you both continue on in a reality in which the cat is either alive or dead. Since there are two possibilities, two worlds result in which the cat is alive and the cat is dead.
I apologize if I thoroughly confused you. Fortunately, it is not the wisdom of man that saves, but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.19-21). However, I referenced the thought experiment in order to frame my concept of a “Schrodinger’s spring.” God’s natural laws lead to a rebirth every year that He gives as we go from winter’s death to spring’s life. Because Christ sustains this creation (Colossians 1.15-17), we know that the promise God made with Noah will be kept (cf. Genesis 8.22). Hence, there will be “seedtime and harvest.” Yet, as I admitted about myself, there have likely been many years when I have failed to observe this unfolding process. There is a sense in which I allowed myself to be taken into a different world, one devoid of the joy God’s creation brings. We can do this when it comes to many different things besides nature, can’t we?
When I fail to note God’s providence and majesty, I create a world for myself that lacks contentment and joy. I don’t look to become satisfied with the state in which I am (cf. Philippians 4.11-13), but waste my life yearning for something else. We see the difference taking a moment to express gratitude made in the life of one former, Samaritan leper. Jesus had already cleansed his flesh, but extended forgiveness to him in response to the gratitude he had shown (Luke 17.18). A thankful heart is more predisposed to recognize the blessings of God, including the provisions made for our salvation. This is why, as with the cleansed Samaritan, it prompts worship. In what other way can we respond but with that desire to prostrate ourselves at His feet?
The next time you see the smiling face of the a child or a colorful sunset, remember “Schrodinger’s spring.” God has certainly surrounded you with blessings. It may be that in the hustle and bustle of life you simply haven’t had the time to notice. Make observations and change your reality as well.
Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
My wife and I were watching an NCIS episode where terrorists attempt to use fake currency to carry out an attack on the U.S. power grid. Their trail was picked up when instead of “United States” on the bills, “Untied States,” was found.
With the pandemic we’re facing, we have briefly enjoyed some unity not seen in seven decades. A lot of the partisan stuff has slowed, a lot of the animosity between political parties has simmered down, and people are beginning to treat each other like neighbors again.
With the cautiously optimistic breakthroughs in our fight against this virus, we seem to be slipping back into the “Untied States.” I think our enjoyment of the peace accompanying this unity will stick around and we’ll be as neighborly as we have been, even after quarantines have been lifted. We’re witnessing the ugliness of a government not unified and perhaps we will have gained some perspective as a result of this global trial.
That feeling of relief, calm, peace, reset, unity, and love has to be what God feels when His church is unified. It is what we experience when we put others above ourselves and treat each other like family.
We have a super cool opportunity once quarantines are lifted! I miss my family at Hebron like crazy – I’m not alone in missing my church family. We have a chance to use that momentum to love more, be more selfless, argue less, and encourage more. If we take these qualities and run with them, the church will grow like wildfire. Beyond that, the world will see the love we have and will want to be a part of it.
Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross
Have you been struggling with some feelings of hopelessness lately? Whenever we have a hard time seeing the end in sight or we face uncertainty or are exposed to fears and anxieties, it can undermine our determination to have hope. Yet, over a hundred times in Scripture, God points us to the hope His children have through Him and His promises. We have such a resource because of the rock-solid expectation He provides. Whatever may happen to us this week, this month, or this year, the Christian can look forward with confidence at the fulfillment of what God through Christ promises us. And Scripture says it so many ways:
–Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5)
–Hope helps us persevere with eagerness (Romans 8:24-25)
–Hope causes rejoicing (Romans 12:12)
–Hope fills you with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13)
–Hope is an abiding quality, alongside such elite qualities as faith and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
–Hope enables deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:10)
–There is one, unconquerable hope (Ephesians 1:18; 4:4)
–Hope is tied to earnest expectation and boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12; Philippians 1:20)
–Hope is connected to steadfastness (Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)
–Hope offsets grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
–Hope tunes our hearts to look for Jesus’ appearing (1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:13)
–Hope encourages the pursuit of our eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7)
–Hope anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19)
–Hope helps us draw near to God (Hebrews 7:19)
–Hope is tied to endurance (Hebrews 10:23)
–Hope is instrumental to faith (Hebrews 11:1)
–Hope prepares for eternity (Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3,13)
–Hope helps give a defense (1 Peter 3:15)
–Hope purifies (1 John 3:3)
“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
“The hope of the righteous is gladness…” (Proverbs 10:28).
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:24).
“Christ Jesus…is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).
You will face nothing today or ever that is too destructive, terrifying, or powerful to offset this hope! That doesn’t mean be rash, reckless, or rebellious. It does mean be faith-filled, optimistic, and courageous! Are your faith and hope in God (1 Peter 1:21)?
–I have taught a Bible study in the hut of a woman in a jungle village of southeast Asia. She had no furniture and only a couple of cooking vessels and utensils. Her one-room house was thatched in a place that averages an inch or more of rain each week. Her lifestyle reflected that of nearly all of her neighbors.
–I have stayed in the house of a faithful, fruitful gospel preacher in west Africa. One night, the temperature in the house was 91 degrees overnight. The interior walls were made of styrofoam, thin enough to hear the rats scurrying around and scratching behind them. They were actually better off than most in their village.
–I have stayed not far from the Bay of Bengal in a crowded city across from a leper colony. Taking a bath/shower consisted of using a large cup from a single spigot in a “bathroom” where the water ran a light brown color. Within a hundred miles of there, at least 100,000 people were living under cardboard boxes and old tarps.
–I met a man at a church service in east Africa who made his living working in a gem mine. He and his wife had four children of their own. Their neighbors both died of AIDS, leaving their three children orphaned. This Christian and his wife adopted them. He made $2 per day and Sunday was his only day off. He supported a household of nine on less than $15 per week.
In every one of the examples above, I was only there for a couple of weeks and returned home to hot water, running water, reliable shelter and automobiles, and a thousand other amenities.
Many of the people in our world, before the current pandemic, struggled to survive through subsistence farming, poor nutrition, virtually non-existent healthcare, and little access to education. This sets up a cycle of poverty and disease that lowers life expectancy to middle-age at best. Sports, vacations, retirement plans, and insurance are, for many, a pipe dream if even a concept they have ever entertained. I once drove past a slum in a capitol city that was part of 2.5 million homeless people living in what was essentially a trash dump.
The current crisis is real and impactful. It has required adjustments, changes, and sacrifices. Yet, from a medical, monetary, and material standpoint, we still find ourselves at the top of over 200 nations in just about every earthly way things can be measured. This is a time for us to pause and humbly thank God for His abundant blessings, to ask forgiveness for complaining in the face of such generosity, and to seek His guidance in how we can use this time to focus on others’ needs and helping those who are truly unfortunate. Matthew 25:31-46 is a convicting text, where the Lord tells us He watches how we respond to the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick, and imprisoned among “the least” of the world. Perhaps what we are going through now is a door of opportunity, to sharpen our perspective on what is essential and what is extra. Let it begin with me!