Tag Archives: religion

The Power of Books

book-863418_960_720Carl Sagan was an atheist who had this to say about the power a book possesses.

“What an astonishing thing a book is,” marveled [Carl] Sagan. “It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.”

Sagan’s comment certainly explains the desirability of books through the ages.  It would also seem to explain the power and effectiveness of the Bible. Its author, God, is not dead and its words are timeless. That being said, one has to wonder why we don’t read the Bible more.

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The Knowledge of the Holy: part 2

IMG_0057In the second chapter of his book, Tozer poses the question, “What is God like?”

“When the Scripture states that man was made in the image of God, we dare not add to that statement an idea from our own head and make it mean in the exact image.  To do so is to make man a replica of God, and that is to lose the unicity of God and end with no God at all.”

Tozer goes on to say:

“Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.  We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need him.  We want a God we can in some measure control.  We need a feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like…”

Tozer adds that the answer to the question, what God is like, can be answered in the person of His son, Jesus Christ.

“In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love.  Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience.  God came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him.”

We can only begin to understand what God is like if we study what Tozer regards as God’s attributes, which he addresses in the rest of the book.  A divine attribute he says, “is something true about God.”

“A man is the sum of his parts and his character the sum of the traits that compose it.  These traits very from man to man…The doctrine of the divine unity means not only that there is but one God, it means also that God is simple, uncomplex, one with Himself.  The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but the absence of parts.  Between His attributes no contradiction can exist.”

When we look at God’s attribute of love, using the above above quotation, it is not something He has, love is who he is.  Tozer goes on to discuss many other attributes such as the Trinity, His self existence, eternity, infinitude, omniscience, sovereignty and many more.

It is a great book, which I highly recommend reading.  For those of us with a casual view of God it will shake up our perception of Him.  As you progress through the book, you will be acquainted with the depths of God’s love and the height of His holiness.

Check out this song by Addison Road, “What do I know of holy”.  It certainly captures a desire to know what is God like.

 

Psalm 119:33-48 Cause Me

(33) “Follow it to the end” – this section of the 119th Psalm speaks about finishing well.  God’s help is needed for us to stay the course and finish well.  (37) “Turn my eyes” – our eyes have an appetite, we need to guard what they are focusing on.  (41) “Thy salvation” –  deliverance from the evil that is revealed to us in God’s word.  (48) “I will lift up my hands” – how many of us can say that we reach out  for God’s word like a child reaches for a gift (Spurgeon).

Matt Chandler in his video series on Psalm 119 titles this section, “Cause Me.”  Our prayers should reflect two ideas: (1) to love what is good (give me an appetite for God’s Word) and (2) to hate what is evil (my selfishness can be a source of evil).  Studying God’s word positions us to do both.

My prayer: Cause me to be certain of my faith, cause me to be thirsty for Your word and cause me to finish well.-Let anyone who is thirsty (2)

Human Failure

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Only human.  This quote accurately portrays humans as imperfect beings vulnerable to failure.  As we travel through life, it is clear that some of these human failures can be devastating.  Thankfully, relationships we have made with others as we journey provide the necessary framework needed to make forgiveness and restoration possible.  In matters with eternal consequences, it is a personal relationship with God, not a membership in religious institution that provides authentic hope for forgiveness and restoration of the human soul.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.  Hebrews 11:1 NLT

 

Third key to Happiness

I am going all out in an attempt to give my class visual reminders of the message of Ecclesiastes.  Previously I have used a glass of water and an open pair of cupped hands to convey keys to happiness and contentment.  This week I implored them to dance their way through life.  Outwardly or inwardly, openly or secretly it seems that dancing can be an expression of gratitude to God for all he has given us.

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As I began to paraphrase Ecclesiastes chapter 3 into some kind of dance choreography, a dance used during intermissions at sporting events I have attended came to mind.

Yield to the God of heaven. He has determined a time and a season for everything.

In My heart he has planted eternity that I may seek him.

Though the Certainty of death has caused many to see life as vanity,

And Around me lies injustice and wickedness; I will give my cares to God and dance!

Y – M – C – A!   Y – M – C – A!  Can hear the music playing?

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The Key to Happiness is?

I am leading a group study of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes.  I began our study today with a question.  “The key to happiness is _______.  A simple, fill in the blank answer.  I did get a few great answers from the class, but no one thought of my suggestion.

The key to happiness is a glass of water. 

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Huh?

I proceeded to pour a half glass of water.  As I poured, I posed another question to them, “Are you a glass is half full or a glass is half empty kind of person?”  People from both persuasions participated in a show of hands.  I asked the “glass is have empty” folks, “At any time did you see me empty anything out of the glass?”  I had not emptied anything out.  I only filled it half full.

Hmmm.

I proposed to them that this glass of water represented a solitary persons life essence; their successes, achievements, financial well-being, family, etc.  Everything valued in life.

My questioning continued…So, are we thankful for what we have (water already in the glass) or are we focused on what we don’t have (empty portion of the glass).  The challenge we face is being happy and content with what we already have in our glass.

Aaah!

I poured water into a few more glasses.  Some were filled to the brim, others appeared clearly more than half full.  This batch of glasses, I said, represents a truly blessed society of peoples.  The person with the half full glass, if they continually mingled with the richly blessed group, would naturally start wanting their glass to be filled more.  Contentment, they believe, can only be found with more ________ . (Fill in the blank)

Next, a handful of other glasses were poured.  This time the glasses received varying degrees of water, each much less than half full.  Some glasses with barely enough water to cover the bottom.  If, our half full glass subject mingled with the less fortunate, wouldn’t he or she be more appreciative of what they had in their glass.  They may even be compelled to share some of their water it with the less fortunate.  It is becoming apparent that perspective may have something to do with happiness.

To make another point I poured all the water out of each glass, including the half full one.  “Which glass had the advantage now?” I asked.  None of them.  This, I said happens to each of us. When we die our glass is empty.  Hence the opening lines of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, Vanity all is vanity!”  Where is the advantage for all our toil?

For my final point, I filled each of the empty glasses to the brim.  As believers in Jesus Christ, life does not end when we die.  Jesus, In John 10:10 said that he came to give us life, abundant life!  This abundant life can be enjoyed in the here and now as we journey through life.

I decided to give the class a homework assignment.  The next time each of you pours a glass, stop halfway and think of something that you are thankful for.  Then, fill the glass the rest of the way.  As you continue to pour, remember the abundant life we have in Christ.

Yes, the key to happiness can be found in a glass of water!

 

 

 

Religion or Relationship

John 3:1-21

img_1152Two great teachers enter into a dialog. Both are skilled communicators and extremely well versed in the Holy Scriptures we call the Old Testament. Nicodemus, an ambitious Bible scholar his whole life, rose to the ultimate rank of Pharisee. Jesus, a lowly carpenter, learned the scriptures as a boy and began teaching barely three years prior to this conversation.

Why did Nicodemus come to see Jesus under a cloak of darkness? Was he afraid of being seen with Jesus? Was he impressed with the things Jesus was doing?  He knew that Jesus performed miracles, a sure sign that the Spirit of God was with him. And then there was the Carpenter’s teaching, which seemed to contradict the Jewish beliefs Nicodemus labored so hard to protect.

Nicodemus opens the conversation with flattery. With the skill of a learned scholar he calls Jesus a great teacher. Surely this will soften his rhetoric. Nicodemus reminds himself that he, too, is esteemed albeit by men.

Undaunted, Jesus responds by openly stating that if Nicodemus is not born again (born from above) he will not see heaven. Whatever soapbox Nicodemus hoped to climb up upon has suddenly vanished. He senses that the Carpenter’s words were not meant to insult him or cause embarrassment. Instead, they were spoken with love, truthfully, and with conviction.

I imagine Nicodemus’ mind was racing at this point. Judaism, the religion to which he belonged, was a system of sacrifices and festivals designed to help men, women and children earn God’s favor. What people did or didn’t do mattered most to God, right? What was this talk about being born again?

Immediately Jesus clarifies his position. You must be born of water and of the Spirit. The realm of water referred to could be a reference to physical birth, or more likely, water baptism. It is a point modern commentators continue to debate.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:1-7, would later explain that baptism (immersion) offered a picture of the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus. We are to “die” to our sins he said, be “buried with Him through baptism into death” and be raised to “walk in newness of life.” By receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior we can have a new birth or new beginning.

Jesus continues to speak concerning being born of the Sprit, likening it to the wind. You can’t see it but it is real and its presence is felt. Like the wind, the Spirit “blows wherever it wishes.”

Now it’s Jesus’ turn to refer to Nicodemus as a great teacher, which only serves to highlight the Pharisee’s lack of understanding. Nicodemus is frustrated. He is not used to being in a position of an unlearned student, yet the words of Jesus have stirred something inside him.

Jesus, aware of Nicodemus’ struggle to understand offers an example from the life of Moses. Moses is a man Jews hold in such high regard that to speak ill of him is equivalent to blasphemy. The Pharisee knows every detail of Moses life.

The obscure reference Jesus gives is from Numbers 21:4-9. The people of Israel, wandering aimlessly in the desert, were once again disobedient to God and because of this He brought a plague of venomous snakes upon them. The Israelites who were bitten began to die one by one. God instructed Moses to fashion a snake out of brass and lift it up on a pole. He told Moses that anyone who was bitten by a venomous snake need only to look upon the brass image and they would not die. Only an act of faith would spare them.

Jesus likened himself to the brass serpent. He, the Son of Man, is the one God has chosen to be the savior of the world. Faith in Jesus leads to life not death.  Jesus was sent from heaven to redeem mankind, not to judge it.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus fades from the passage without apparent resolution. Jesus certainly gave Nicodemus a lot to think about.

But Nicodemus’ heart was not hardened as was the case with so many of the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  He did not abandon Jesus. We are told in John 19:38-9 that after the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, accompanied by Nicodemus, took the lifeless body of Jesus, prepared it for burial and laid it in the tomb owned by Joseph. Joseph and Nicodemus and other believers in Jesus would experience being born of the Spirit at Pentecost. (Acts 2)

IMG_0837The ultimate question the passage asks is do you have a personal relationship with God or are you just observing certain religious practices? Jesus warns against trying to earn our way to heaven solely through religious observances. To do so means fighting against a natural inclination of selfishness, which can defeat all who try at every turn. Instead, Jesus offers an alternative, embrace Him as your Savior, and let the Spirit of God give you new life.

The truth, they say, will set you free. I know of no higher truth than to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God.