Category Archives: Faith and Life

Illusions of Immortality

Twenty-eight year old Natalie went into the hospital last week with a stomach bug. She died a few days later. Walking with her and her family through unimaginable heartache and unexpected loss gave me time to reflect on life.

What do you do when faced with tragedy? Most try to find reasons, things or people they can blame. Questions emerge. Were there drugs involved? What did she do? Did the doctors make a mistake? How could this happen?

This time, there is no one and nothing to blame. Natalie was a likeable person. She was young. She was an over-achiever. Not just smart, she was a valedictorian. She worked her way through nursing school, graduated without debt and owned her own home while most of her peers were still trying to figure out which bills to pay first.

No, she wasn’t perfect. Yes, she had her share of challenges. But there simply is no easy way to explain away her “untimely” passing.

Tragedies such as this are why many of Natalie’s peers have embraced fatalistic and narcissistic attitudes and behaviors. What’s the point of working hard or trying to get ahead in a world where things like this can happen to anybody?!? “Live for today, for tomorrow may never come…” Right?

Well, if this life were it, I suppose that line of thought could be right. The reality is, there is much more to this life than meets the eye. We have much more at stake and much more to live for than we could dare imagine.

You see, Natalie is much more alive than most could fathom. During her life, she had received life that transcends this life. She had been, and still is, connected to the Giver of all life because God had chosen Natalie to be His own dear daughter.

There are many, whose hearts are still beating, who are so busy living for today, who are already dead. They’re dead in sin. They lead lives of selfishness. Even though they may not see it, others who have life, can see how spiritual death affects the lives, choices, and relationships of those who don’t know God.

It often isn’t until someone physically dies, especially a peer, close friend or family member, that those who are spiritually dead stop to consider their lives. Sometimes they even come to terms with an emptiness they’d either never recognized or brushed aside.

Most people today live with, what I like to call, “illusions of immortality.” Few would dare dream that human beings will actually cure death. But just as damaging (and even damning for some) is the thought that we can postpone the inevitable, inevitably.

Some think they can exercise themselves into good health forever. Others think it possible to will themselves to be healthy. Some have supplement regimens that promise to stave off all manner of ill health. Still more live close enough to the hospital that the doctors will be able to fix whatever ails them when they become ill. There are even Christian preachers preaching such non-sense in the Name of Jesus!

Most are so focused on today that they never pause long enough to consider the future, let alone eternity. Thankfully, Natalie lived her life in light of eternity. She knew the love of God and life that only He can give. When she stumbled, He caught her. When she fell, He lifted her up. We hear the hope Natalie possessed expressed well by the prophet Isaiah:

He gives power to the faint,

Since ancient times, the eagle has been a symbol of grace and strength. What great hope comes from knowing the grace and strength of the Almighty God! Courtesy Logos Media Resources.

Since ancient times, the eagle has been a symbol of grace and strength. What great hope comes from knowing the grace and strength of the Almighty God! Courtesy Logos Media Resources.

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31 ESV)

God proved, once and for all, that even death won’t take life from His children. When Jesus died on the cross, all sin was forgiven and heaven was opened to all who believe. We, who know God’s Son, and live in His love, will never die! By the power of His resurrection, we to will rise and live a new life!!

Natalie’s family takes great comfort in this fact. As her mother told me, “Natalie is happy, while we are sad. Natalie is healed.”

We don’t have to wait until our earthly life end’s to know the life that Christ can give. We have been given access to that life through faith, faith which God’s Holy Spirit gives. Eyes opened to eternity, we get to live now and forever!

Consider your life. In what have you placed your hope? From where does your strength come? Are you living in the hopes that you may not die? Or have you died in Christ, so that you may live?

 

When Life Isn’t Fun.

Today wasn’t going incredibly well for me. Now, I’m not complaining. Simply stating a fact.

I can’t complain because God is good, I love my family and get to do what I love every day. I live in a free country. I am materially blessed far more than I could ever deserve.

And yet, today I found myself down. Even though I was doing something that I love, it was harder than I expected. My brain hurt. Words wouldn’t flow. Pressing needs were stacking up against me quicker than I could make time for.

Recent failures on my part were also looming in my mind. They had managed to creep from the back burner to the foreground of my thoughts. I couldn’t escape them. They were crowding out my joy and even my ability to concentrate on the task at hand.

I also was confronted with a situation that is far less than desirable for one of my sheep whom I love. I was processing all sorts of emotions, most of which were negative. What do you do when life isn’t fun?

Usually, I’d push through it. Pretend all is well and keep on truckin’. “Turn that frown upside-down,” the saying goes.

Easier said than done. Now normally, my exert-enough-effort-and-things-will-get-better mentality works. Not this time. By late morning, I had spiraled downward enough that I was simply wasting my time being unproductive.

I had planned on working through lunch, so I went down to the lunchroom. One of the perks of working at a church with a school is school lunch. For many, school lunch is a byword. But I love it! So I went down to get some chips, artificial cheese, taco meat in something the size of a medicine cup, frozen strawberries and two, count them two, packets of carrots. (We have a great lunch lady.)

Better yet, my timing collided with the lunch of one of my children.

Instead of turning right to take my lunch back to the office and eat it alone so I could power through my darkness, I turned left to eat lunch with my son whom I love. My problems didn’t miraculously vanish. Nor did my work magically get done. Neither did the problems I had been wrestling with in my mind go away, but everything changed.

Love is a powerful force. It is impossible to predict. We can’t control it. And yet, it changes everything.

To the outside observer, all that happened was a pastor having lunch with a table full of first grade boys. They made ridiculous jokes. One offered me some sunflower seeds. Another made faces at me the entire time. My son was mostly silent, sipping on a chocolate milk, content to be with his dad. What mattered was that we were together.Kids don't have to be taught how to love.

I was reminded of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together. “Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship.” My inner feeling of darkness, or “aloneness” if you prefer, had prepared me to cherish this moment of fellowship with my son.

In his presence, I felt the gentle restoration of my soul. In a way I couldn’t have forecast (and would have completely missed had I ate lunch alone in my office with my work) my joy returned.

I remembered that this is why I do what I do. Love for and the love of my family and my church family make the difficulties all worthwhile. Love doesn’t remove my moments of darkness. My love for my people actually makes some of the hard stuff of being a father and pastor harder. Honestly, in some clinical and professional way, my job would be much “easier” if I didn’t love the people under my care.

But life without love would be meaningless, “a chasing after wind,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes states. (Ecclesiastes 1 & 2) In a quiet moment of togetherness, my joy in who I am as God’s child returned.

Along with the return of joy came an epiphany. Maybe, in some small way, I’ve felt just a little of what Christ feels for me.

This is love.His earthly life wasn’t always fun. Both as a human being, but also as God. He became weak for me. He was even made sin for me. He died a most painful death for me. That most certainly wasn’t fun.

Why did He choose to live a life that wasn’t always fun? The wisdom of the world says that you should have as much fun as you can while you can because you never know what the future holds. Jesus’ life and death teaches us something different. Love > fun.

Jesus lived a life that wasn’t always fun because He loves me and wants to be with me. He wants me to know and experienced Him and His love. He died and rose again so that I can live every day of this life certain of His love. His love makes this life worth living.

Even better yet, His love never ends! When I love others and go through times of darkness, He uses me to show them His love. When my joy is rekindled because of a lunch with someone I love, He uses that person to show me His love. And because He has destroyed death by the power of His resurrection, I know that when He returns, I will rise to live in His love forever! Heaven will be filled with His people doing what makes life worth living—receiving God’s love and sharing love with each other. What a joy it is to live in His love!

Maybe you’ve read this because your life isn’t always fun. Welcome to the club. My prayer for you is not that God keeps you from experiencing moments of darkness in your life. But rather, that God uses those moments of darkness to reveal a new measure of His love to you!

“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:2b-11 ESV)

Pain and Hope-A Pilgrimage and then a Mission

My adventure in Africa began on a pilgrimage with my fellow Wabash Pastors in South Africa. While there, we studied a troubled history of many peoples whose story is punctuated by rivalries, conquest, defeat and victory. This nation is still haunted by sins of her past, yet a new generation, born free, seeks to write a new history of hope.
After parting ways with my colleagues, I traveled alone to Kenya, to survey for myself the work being done at Point of Grace Academy. This was my first visit to 4 Kenya’s Kids, the mission I lead stateside. This part of my trip was truly a blessed opportunity for me to live with my brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I’ve heard so much about. As with my experience in South Africa, my journey began with some disappointments and concluded with renewed hope for the African continent.

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To be perfectly honest, my first day in Kenya was quite difficult. Snafu’s at the airport leading to half a day lost reclaiming a bag at the airport was an inconvenient beginning. Being confronted with thousands of people who live in conditions that would be totally unacceptable in the states was a shock to the system. Crippling poverty was accented by crumbling infrastructure due to inept (at best) or corrupt (at worst) contractors failing to fulfill their obligations to the public. All this before I even got to the mission of Pastor and Deaconess Meeker for the children at Point of Grace.

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At Point of Grace, I was introduced to, and unconditionally loved, by more than 400 of my best friends. Some were born with HIV. Many are orphans. Most of the students I met are at least partial orphans. All have been given a new lease on life at Point of Grace.

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Pastor is here counseling a boy we literally rescued from the streets just a year ago. Already, Meshack is one of our brightest students.

At our school, these children receive a topnotch education. Even though we seek out the destitute and have a disproportionately high number of children with family, social and economic troubles, Point of Grace was ranked in the top 1/3 of primary schools in our area. Education=hope in Kenya, and the schooling these children receive promises to break the cycle of poverty for many families.
These children are fed, clothed, cared for and loved by a diligent staff who labors day and night for the kids. St. James challenged his readers by saying, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18b, ESV) Watching our teachers and staff work, even though none of them would say so themselves, was, to me, watching God Himself care for his children.

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This entire ministry is the love of Christ in action! The school was built, the ministry founded and is being sustained by the Savior who loves these children enough to give up His own life for theirs. As His people give of themselves for these little ones, be they teachers, supporters or prayer partners, He is present in our midst!

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As I sit in an airport terminal prepared to depart from Kenya, more than ready to see my own wife and children,  I am torn. I don’t know whether to weep or rejoice for these children. I want to weep for the struggles they face. I rejoice for the richness of faith they possess, which I surmise far surpasses my own. I weep because I can’t save them from their distress. I rejoice because God already has.

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I don’t know how best to serve these children, but I am convinced I need to do more for them. Not for my own sake, but for theirs. Not for the love of Christ, but because of the love of Christ.
Will you join me? Has God called you, through the gentle tug on your heart and whisper of His Spirit, to do what you can to give them hope for today and a glorious future? What are you going to do about it?

Bloom Where You’re Planted-The Eddie Daniels Story, Part One

Today, I was priveleged to visit one of the most unique environments in the world. Before travelling to Cape Town, I had no idea that this area boasts its own floral kingdom, with over 2,200 species of flowers. Considering there are only six floral kingdoms in the entire world, most spanning multiple continents, this place is truly unique.
We drove to the top of Signal Mountain, where many native species still thrive. The natives, in their stunning diversity, are both great and small. The Yellowwood Tree is the largest native tree. Towering above all other native plants, it takes hundreds of years to fully mature and can live for thousands of years. The Protea flower, in contrast, lends the area a resilient beauty, retaining her beauty for over a month in a vase.
Given the area’s human history, it’s environment is even more unique. One of the places we visited was the legendary Company Gardens (originally planted by the Dutch East India Trading Company to resupply ships as they sailed to and from Europe). In the garden, species from all over the world are still being cultivated and grown.
In the company gardens, many exotic and native plants thrive together.
There were Bird of Paradise (native) flowers as I’ve never seen before.

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There were roses (imported) of every color.

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Under the eucalyptus trees (imported from the east) and aloe trees (native), (native) Cala lilies bloomed.

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Unique as the flowers were, none were more intriguing than a man I met on the ferry ride to Robben Island. As a part of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program, I was blessed to spend much of the day with Eddie Daniels. Eddie spent fifteen years of his life imprisoned on the island, with almost all of his sentence served alongside Nelson Mandella.
When I saw that Eddie was sporting a Michigan State University hat, I had to sit next to him to take a selfie. We then began a conversation about where we were from. What I learned from Eddie wasn’t how different he is from me. But how similar our desires are.

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Eddie only had about an eighth grade education when he went into the workforce, as did many people who were born in 1928. He started working in print shops and factories, but wanted to be a whaler. A fisherman myself (and fan of Deadliest Catch), I was much interested by his eight month stint on a commercial fishing troller. He signed-on for the sole purpose of eventually being hired by a whaling vessel.
Eddie only spent three months on a whaler. He was still able to tell me much about size limits, how a whale was hunted and how they were processed upon capture. Regardless of one’s personal view of the whaling industry, I found we had a love for fishing in common. As a fisherman, you can’t get any bigger than whaling. Yes, we have fishing in common, but he had taken it to a much different level than I ever have.
After fishing, Eddie went to work in the diamond mines and then returned to the printing industry. I remember what it’s like to go from job to job as a young man, to provide for yourself and family. We had this in common.
Where our stories diverge, however, is where his politcal involvement became an embodiment of the struggle he and fellow South Africans went through to obtain freedom from apartheid.
Apartheid was the government’s racial segregation of people based upon the color of their skin. People were forced to move into certain communities because of their race. They were told what occupation they could or couldn’t do based upon the darkness of their complexion.
This systematic segregation was enshrined by law in 1948. It blows my mind this happened right after the fall of the Nazi regime in World War II!
Eddie was very active politically. He attended hundreds of anti-government rallies. While working and attending rallies, he said he, “bombed things along the way.” He talked about planning and carrying-out bombings as nonchallantly as you or I would say, “I had a cheeseburger.”
By some, he is lauded as a freedom fighter. Others would label him a terrorist. What would you call him?
Before you decide if Eddie is a freedom fighter or terrorist, consider what you would do if you had known freedom for nearly 20 years, before your world was taken from you because of the color of your skin. What would you call him if it was your mother, father or child who was hurt by a bomb planted by the African Resistance Movement? Can you know for certain how you would “bloom,” had your world been turned upside-down by a governmental edict?
This blog is the first of a series on post-apartheid South Africa. If you would like to be notified of future blogs, please subscribe. Thank-you.

Turtle Rescue

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a hapless turtle. She apparently hadn’t considered the difficulty of scaling the curb on the other side of the road she decided to cross. In a second, I had to make a decision.

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My choices were simple:
1. Ignore the gentle tug on my heartstrings, urging me to intervene and just keep on driving.
2. Risk my life for her life by pulling to the side of the road and picking her up to send her safely on her way.
Now, it really wasn’t that dangerous. At least not for me. We were in the entrance to a cul-de-sac, after all.
Of course you know what I decided. But before we get into the details of the rescue, there are some things you need to know about a proper turtle rescue. Some simple facts that are good to know.
According to a herpetologist, whenever you decide to try to rescue a turtle, it’s important to make sure you put it back on the ground facing the same direction it was going. Apparently, they can be easily confused if you put them down facing another direction. You certainly don’t want to confuse a turtle any more than necessary during a rescue. It’s traumatic enough.
Another thing you need to know about turtles being rescued is that they don’t like being rescued. As a matter of fact, being rescued is a terrifying experience for turtles. Even the cute Eastern Box Turtle I wanted to rescue was scared.
When I tried to pick-up the turtle, she tried to run away. Turtles are slow. So, try as hard as she did to run away, she was caught.

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When I gently grasped her by the edges of her shell, she tried to claw me. Repeatedly. And then she tried to run or swim away again. It was hard for her to go anywhere because she was suspended in mid-air.
I tried to calm her down. She would have none of it. I tried talking softly to her, but it wouldn’t work.
Despite her resistence, I quickly and carefully carried her across the road. Making sure she was pointing in the same direction I first discovered her, I placed her on the ground. I even went so far as to take her to a beautiful pond complete with a fountain. It was the closest to turtle heaven I could imagine.
This turtle rescue went off without a hitch, despite the reluctance and even protest of the turtle I rescued. It was the best possible thing that could’ve happened to the turtle. She didn’t think so at the time.

Pulling away from the turtle rescue, I couldn’t help but wonder how often we are the turtle. How often does God rescue us from danger, place us in a pleasant place, and we not appreciate it? How often do we resist His influence even though He has nothing but our best interest at heart?
Jesus said, upon His entrance into Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37b) Thankfully for us, Jesus came into Jerusalem not to cast His people off, but rather to gather them to Himself. He went much further than to cross the road, He went all the way to the cross.
Not sure if it’s morning or still late at night as I write this somewhere over the Atlantic, but either way, the following passage is a great daily reminder of God’s care and concern, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'” (Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV)

To, “An Atheist User said this…” A Kind Response

An atheist user of ________.net said this:

“Ironic thing; The Bible has no credibility whatsoever, it’s nothing but a useless piece of text used to spread mass ignorance amongst the world.

Mal. 3:6. For I am the Lord; I change not. Num. 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. (Ezek. 24:14; James 1:17)
Ex. 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people. (Gen. 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Sam. 2:30-31; II Kings 20:1-6; Num. 16:20-35)

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. (Luke 2:14; Acts 10:36)
Matt. 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matt. 10:35-37; Luke 22:36)

Matt. 5:22 Whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire.
Matt. 23:17 (Jesus said) Ye fools and blind.

*cough.. bipolar much?… cough*”

BookTalk-Logo-SMALL-Color-FilteredLess than twenty-four hours after a national radio interview regarding On Our origins was uploaded to the world wide web, one of my students emailed me a post directed against our shared beliefs (listen to interview here). The atheist’s attack, which I was asked to respond to, (above) said some things I most certainly take issue with.
There are many views of the Bible throughout Christianity. Some say the Bible contains the Word of God, others that it is the Word of God. Some view it as error-free. Others feel the need to sift through it to discover the heart of what God intended in differing portions. Regardless of how we approach it, the Bible is a significant part of the foundation of Christian faith. Through the Bible, God reveals Himself, His Son, His Spirit and makes His love known to humanity.
One need read no further than the previous sentence to see that I have a very high regard for the Bible. It bothers me when others call me ignorant because of my belief. It also bothers me when someone says disparaging things about my God.
But instead of reacting with angst and hate, I’d rather use this as an opportunity to reflect on a few things:
1. How Christians should treat those who don’t agree with them.
2. The importance of making a positive case for the Bible and God of the Bible.
3. Framing attacks on faith as opportunities for witness and building understanding.
It would be too easy for me to react to those with whom I disagree sarcastically. We have been raised in a culture that teaches if you think you are right, go ahead and treat others with contempt. This isn’t how we are called to witness.
I’ve heard Christians reference Jesus overturning tables in the Temple and speaking tersely to the Pharisees as justification for being less than charitable to those with whom they disagree. In my tradition, there are too many who fancy themselves to be Martin Luther, adopt his tenor and tone, but fail to love people as he most certainly loved his. I wish that there were more who embodied Christ’s love and followed in Luther’s faithful proclamation; but too often Christians who speak in a disrespectful manner come off to outsiders as self-justified hypocrites.
I Peter 3:15 is often quoted in our circles, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” But this is only a portion of the verse. The verse ends, “yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Unfortunately, many have good reason to take offense at the Church because Peter’s admonition is oft only half-heartedly followed.
The same sentiments that can make us react with hate can tempt us to defend our faith in a way that is negative instead of positive. In other words, too often our goal is simply to prove the other person wrong. The Gospel is much better served when Christians teach what is right about our faith.
The meta-narrative of the Bible tells the story of a loving Heavenly Father that fills His creation and people with life. Instead of reacting to someone by trying to disprove evolution, why not tell the story of creation? Then one is free to explore topics as diverse as cosmology, geology and biology in a way that describes the inter-connectedness of all forms of light and life instead of arguing about scientific minutia.
A positive case for Christian morality can be made by simple reference to the greatest commandments of Christ in Matthew 22. God’s law always encourages people to put others first by serving them and meeting their needs. Society needs citizens who put others first. Instead of arguing over a neutral basis of human morality, why not explore the selfless and sacrificial nature of God’s love that brings honor, respect and value to all life? Instead of berating and belittling our outspoken critics, why not exalt people who exemplify the Christian ethos such as Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol?
Kent and Nancy are the medical workers who contracted Ebola. They literally put their lives on the line to bring healing to others. Now that they have contracted Ebola, they have been infected with the disease they came to help cure.
This gives us a timely and powerful picture of what Jesus did for all. When Christ took human flesh upon Himself, He was “infected” with sin and died on the cross. But through His death and resurrection we have now been healed. Their actions embody Christ’s love and the Christian ethos.
We pray for Dr. Brantly’s healing. We commend him for taking such risks for the sake of others. Nobody can deny his courage, love and sacrifice. When defending the faith, we should focus our attention on what’s praiseworthy to make a positive case for faith.
Only after we show people the respect they deserve will they listen. We must teach in a way that doesn’t seek only to prove someone wrong. We must show them how life, love and reason resound throughout the scriptures and how scriptural principles work in real life.
The best witness is seasoned with love and respect. It’s salted with wisdom that comes from knowing God in His Word. With this recipe we can begin to debunk much of the ignorance in the world that passes as understanding.
The same atheist who blasted the Bible as riddled with contradictions only knew the Bible well enough to copy-and-paste the same contradictions that have been bouncing around the internet since its inception. Were he to examine the scriptures with an open mind, he may begin to understand that God and His love don’t have to change in order to make sense of most of his supposed contradictions. It is his ignorance that is on display, not God’s purportedly bi-polar nature.
Here are some of the passages that supposedly contradict each other from the post:
Mal. 3:6. For I am the Lord; I change not. Num. 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. (Ezek. 24:14; James 1:17)
Ex. 32:14. And the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people. (Gen. 6:6; Jonah 3:10; Sam. 2:30-31; II Kings 20:1-6; Num. 16:20-35)
In citing these scriptures, the skeptic fails to acknowledge the context of each passage. They are drawn from diverse passages with entirely different circumstances. To rebuff this misuse of scripture, one can use the illustration of a parent who on one day disciplines her child and on the next may commend the same child.
Does a loving parent “change” every time she tells her child something different? The same mother who loves her child may on one day tell her child to clean his room because it’s a mess. The very next day, this same parent may tell her child they don’t need to clean their room because it is already clean.
I suppose this mother has somehow changed? I think not. The parent has said contradicting things on different days because the condition of the room changed.
The atheist also took issue with Jesus telling the disciples He didn’t come to earth to bring peace to the world but a sword in Matthew 10:34, whilst telling the same disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” Christ has brought peace to earth by waging war against sin, satan and the world. These oppose God’s way of life and love.
In a fallen world, where good and bad are realities, peace only comes through conflict. This battle climaxed when Christ insisted on doing what was right and good to the point that it literally cost Him His own life on the cross. When Christians follow their Lord, they bring peace through conflict.
Christians daily battle against sin, temptation and evil at work in the world. Fighting disease (like Brantly and Writebol) brings peace in the form of healing. Battling dysfunction in families (counselors and Christian therapists) restores relationships. When people fail to resist evil, life dissolves into chaos. When we fight for what’s right, Christ’s love at work in the world through faith brings us peace.
Another supposed contradiction is found in Matthew’s gospel. Matt. 5:22, “Whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hellfire.” Matt. 23:17, (Jesus said) “Ye fools and blind.” Here, we do well to consider who is right to sit in the judgment seat and why.
In Matthew five, Jesus warns his listeners that words spoken in hate are murder. In anger, it is easy to condemn someone, but fallible human beings don’t have the authority to judge each other. This judgment is God’s prerogative.
In Matthew 23, Jesus (who is God) condemns those who presumptuously sit in judgment over others. He is right to condemn those who sin because they are trying to sit in God’s seat of judgment. When Christ judges, He is exercising the right He has been given by His Father. So again, there is no contradiction here.
When an atheist seeks to condemn God, they judge a god they have imagined. Their god is far less than the God of the Bible. We have nothing to fear in their attacks.
A well-educated Christian may have nothing to fear in their attacks, but many others aren’t equipped to deal with them. We, therefore, are called to meet them where they are. Christians do well to exemplify Christ by speaking the truth with gentleness and respect. In this way, even if others don’t hear a word we say, they will see Christ in how we react to them.

Rich Redefined

What makes one rich? Sunday, I challenged our confirmands with a new definition of riches. St. Paul wrote, “In [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.” (I Corinthians 1:5-6 ESV)
What does St. Paul mean when he says Christians are made rich? What do you think makes a person rich? If we are to appreciate the gift of God’s riches in Christ, Jesus’ disciples must learn to think of riches more like God than the people around us.
To help rethink what it means to be rich, I read this story to our class. Consider it a modern parable. Feel free to share if this story is a blessing to you.
The Rich Family in Church

by Eddie Ogan
“I’ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was like to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946, my older sisters were married, and my brothers had left home.
A month before Easter, the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.
When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn’t listen to the radio, we’d save money on that month’s electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For 15 cents, we could buy enough cotton loops to make three potholders to sell for $1. We made $20 on potholders.
That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we’d sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in our church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the Pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn’t care that we wouldn’t have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.
We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn’t own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn’t seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet, but we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. That was us. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt so rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us girls put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch, Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!
Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn’t say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 bill, and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn’t talk, but instead, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them... (Matthew 18:1-2 ESV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them…
(Matthew 18:1-2 ESV)

We kids had had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn’t have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the fork or the spoon that night. We had two knives which we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn’t have a lot of things that other people had, but I’d never thought we were poor. That Easter Day I found out we were poor. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor.
I didn’t like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed that I didn’t want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew we were poor. I decided I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.
We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn’t know. We’d never known we were poor.
We didn’t want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn’t talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they need money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, ‘Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?’

Some of the hundreds of children served by 4Kenya'sKids. Many of these are total orphans. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40 ESV)

Some of the hundreds of children served by 4Kenya’sKids. Many of these are total orphans. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:40 ESV)

We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering plate. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn’t expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, “You must have some rich people in this church.”
Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that ‘little over $100.’ We were the rich family in the church! The missionary said so…”