Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What To Do About Jesus

“What shall I do, then with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  This is the question Pilate asked an unruly crowd many years ago.  The response to this question led to the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus; a series of events that has caused people around the world to ask themselves the very same question.

I went to church for years without asking myself that question.  I believed in God and prayed to God, but Jesus was just kind of there in the background.  I couldn’t really articulate what I believed about Him, and I was OK with that.

Eventually I realized if I was going to call myself a Christian, I needed to make a decision.  Did I believe Jesus was the Son of God, crucified and risen?  If I did what were the implications of that?  And what if I got it wrong?  It was a decision only I could make and it was time to choose what I was going to do with Jesus.

I started on a faith journey, searching for answers to mysterious questions.  Everyone’s faith journey is different.  Mine happened over the course of the last few years and I’m still on it.  But early on, after reading and reflecting on the gospels in the Bible, my decision about Jesus was made. 

I do believe Him to be the Son of God.  I believe He voluntarily died on the cross so I can be forgiven of my wrong doings.  I believe He rose from the grave and is alive in me in the form of the Holy Spirit.  And I believe that one day I will join Him in eternal life.  That’s my choice.  I believe.

There are many different opinions about who Jesus was.  Even when He was alive He was controversial and people had varying opinions.  Some listened to Him, saw Him perform miracles, and chose not to believe.  Others, never having met Him, chose to believe He was the Son of God.  And some were swayed one way or the other by popular opinion, or the influence of religious leaders.

I think of the Roman soldier who watched Jesus as he died an excruciating death by crucifixion.  I wonder what he saw in Jesus' death that made him exclaim “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39; Matthew 27:54)

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Where are you on your faith journey?  Have you answered the question, “What will you do with Jesus, the one called the Messiah?

Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The New Testament - Stuff I Never Knew

I have four weeks left in my New Testament Introduction course.  It’s scary how quickly it’s gone by, but I’m really enjoying it.  I thought I’d share a few interesting facts I picked up along the way. 

1.       Phylactery – You know when you read segments of scripture that say something like this, “fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”?(Deuteronomy 11:18)

This wasn’t just a figure of speech.  Pious Jews actually wrote down scripture, mounted it in small cases and wore the cases on their foreheads or left arms.  This was called a phylactery.

2.       Apparently we’ve gone away from using the terms BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini or after death) as designations when referring to calendar dates.  The terms BCE (before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) are now used, at least in the world of academia, when referencing dates.

3.       I now know the difference between Pharisees and Sadducees.  Pharisees were based in rural areas and factored greatly in Jesus’ ministry in the Galilean region.  They were associated with the synagogues and were primarily teachers.  They focused on maintaining Israel’s relationship with God through strict obedience to the law and believed in resurrection of humans to life after death.

Sadducees were the upper class, mostly residing in Jerusalem, and were associated with the temple.  They were primarily priests and were committed to maintaining Israel’s relationship with God through the sacrificial system.  They did not believe in resurrection to life after death.  They were primarily responsible for the plot to have Jesus put to death.
 
About the only thing the Pharisees and Sadducees had in common was the fact that they both believed Jesus was a threat.

4.       The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible and is abbreviated as LXX.

5.       The letters from Paul in the New Testament are arranged from longest to shortest.

6.       An amanuensis was a secretary or scribe who was trained in letter writing.  Most people in the Roman Empire were illiterate so the process of letter writing generally was designated to someone skilled in that area – an amanuensis.

7.       There are four different “Herod’s” in the New Testament:

Herod The Great – ruled all of Palestine on behalf of Rome and was in power when Jesus was born.

Herod Antipas – Herod the Great’s son - ruled the territories of Perea and Galilee.  Was in power during the time of Jesus’ ministry and death.  Had John the Baptist beheaded.

Herod Agrippa I – ruled Judea and Samaria.  He is the Herod mentioned in Acts 12 that persecutes the believers and kills the apostle James. 

Herod Agrippa II – The last ruler of the Herodian dynasty.  Paul appears before him as a prisoner in Act 25.

8.       I now know what eschatology means – the study of “last things” like the return of Christ, the final judgment, and other things associated with the end times.  I’d heard the word used, but didn’t know what it meant.

9.       I didn’t know all the gospels were anonymous documents.  We are able to track back through historical documents to support various authorship of each gospel, but the original documents were anonymous.

This is probably not new information for some you and I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve been living under a rock.  When it comes to historical knowledge, yes, I have been living under a rock.  But I’m loving learning all this information and getting a better understanding of the New Testament.
 
Things To Think About
Is there something in the bible you've been wondering about?  Ask your pastor to help you figure it out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Important Components of Christ-Centered Ministry

Last week I handed in an essay for my New Testament Introduction course.  The purpose of the essay was to identify key components of Paul’s ministry, based on his writings in the New Testament, and discuss what components are necessary for someone in ministry today.

 
I thought it was a great assignment, so I’m sharing the summary list I came up with in my essay.
 

1.      Paul views himself as an “apostle of Christ” (Rom 1:1, 1 Cor 1:1, 2 Cor 1:1) who is called to preach the gospel.  In his mind he has no choice BUT to preach the gospel.

 
2.      It is Christ who does the work, not Paul.  Paul realizes the weaker he is, the more he must rely on Christ to accomplish the mission.  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. “  (2 Cor 12:9-10)


3.      Paul feels it is his responsibility to provide ongoing pastoral support to the churches he plants.  He encourages, supports, corrects, and guides them in their Christian journey.  He’s not afraid to speak boldly and truthfully to ensure his converts follow Christ faithfully.


4.      Prayer is a vital part of Paul’s ministry.  Paul prays for the churches and for the spread of the gospel.

 
5.      He leads by example, demonstrating solid faith in salvation through Jesus Christ.  Paul wants to be a role-model for the churches he plants and strives to live faithfully in Christ.

So what’s important for ministry today? 

In order to hang in there and echo Paul’s sentiments, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7) a sense of divine call or appointment is crucial.  Without the deep-rooted sense that there is nothing else God has called one to, it becomes very easy to leave ministry when things become challenging.

Prayer is essential.  Without a continuous connection to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, ministry is doomed.  How can a ministry be Spirit led if no one listens to the Spirit?

I’m always amazed by the guts Paul shows in writing his letters.  He doesn’t sugar coat his message.  If he was sending an email the entire body of some of these epistles would be all caps and bolded!  He rants, he raves, he exhorts, he uses sarcasm, and I’m fairly sure he yells in some parts.  He speaks the truth for the good of his congregation.  And he does it because he loves them and genuinely wants what is best for them.

Oh that I could be as courageous as Paul!

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
What do you think is important for someone in ministry today?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pure Flix - Do You Believe? - Movie Thoughts

A year ago Pure Flix Entertainment released their movie “God’s Not Dead”; a hit among
Christian movie goers.  This weekend their new movie, “Do You Believe” hits movie screens across Canada and the U.S.

I attended a pre-screening sponsored by 105.9 ShineFM in Edmonton and highly recommend you put this movie on your “must see” list.

Gun fights, car crashes, tear jerking moments, family strife, action, drama; this movie has it all.  Not once did I think, “This is two hours of my life I’ll never get back.”  Trust me there are lots of movies out there where that’s about all I can say about them, but “Do You Believe” isn’t one of them!

“Do You Believe” challenges you to answer real questions.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ?  Do you believe in the power of His death and resurrection?  Do you trust Him for your salvation?

One bit of dialogue stayed with me long after we’d left the theatre.  A first responder leads a dying man to Christ, giving him a small wooden cross.  The cross becomes “exhibit A” in a lawsuit the man’s wife files against the first responder. 

He must make a decision…does he stand up for his belief, or deny his faith to gain the backing of his union.  The prosecuting attorney looks him in the eye and speaks these words, “This cross is gonna cost you.”

“This cross is gonna cost you.”  How true!  Following Jesus doesn’t guarantee a life exempt from pain, sorrow, anguish, heartache, and illness.  Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  (Matthew 15:24-25 NIV)

The cross will cost you.  The cross will challenge you. 
The cross will save you!

Do you believe?  And if you do…what are you doing about it?

Check out the “Do You Believe” movie trailer and don’t miss this faith challenging movie opening this weekend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Worship

A couple of weekends ago I attended the Breakforth Conference in Edmonton.  Grace Revolution, a band from Calgary, was leading worship.   We sang a number of songs before they led us in the Revelation Song. 

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You”

The crowd, already energized by corporate worship, came alive.  I looked around, taking in the moment; the band focused not on entertaining but intent on genuine worship, hundreds of people arms stretched out to God, spot lights shining like rays of coloured sunshine, and brilliant white lights beaming down.  The Spirit was like a tangible thing that filled the air, bounced off the walls, and settled on the crowd.

David Nasser reminded us that as amazing as this worship experience might be, it can’t come close to worship in Heaven.  The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, paints a picture of what worship in Heaven is like. 

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.  They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they were saying:  ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!”  Revelation 5:11-13 (NIV)

Imagine!  Take the most amazing worship experience you’ve ever had.  Add to that, the voices of ten thousand times ten thousand angels joined together in a chorus of, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty...”  Revelation 4:8

Close your eyes and hold that amazing image in surround sound; angels voices singing praises to our God, radiant light, vibrant colour, overwhelming joy, blessed peace.  All for the worship of God.

Listen to the Revelation Song now.  Then worship the Lord Almighty.

Friday, January 30, 2015

We're Just Not That Important

Sometimes your health smacks you upside the head and there’s nothing you can do about it.  I had a recent bout with a nasty case of the flu.  I was convinced I was coughing up a lung, had no energy, and just wanted to lie in bed watching old episodes of That 70’s Show. 

I know at least three other people who have recently had health challenges too, forcing them to change their daily activities. 

Annoying, frustrating, irritating, inconvenient….all of these words describe this situation.

But here’s a news flash…life doesn’t stop just because we’re not in the office, or seeing customers, or writing our blogs, or cooking meals for our families.

Apparently we’re not as important as we think we are!

I suppose a reality check is a good thing every now and then.  It keeps us humble.  Believe it or not people from my sales team don’t stop selling radio advertising just because I’m not there to oversee them.  I really am dispensable. 

Which leads me to ask the question, where do I get my self-worth?  Do I need to think I’m an indispensable part of the company in order to feel good about myself?  Does my role as Sales Manager define me as a person?

Fortunately, I’m happy to answer, “No” to that question.  My self-concept isn’t wrapped up with what I do for a living, where I work, or how much I get paid.

Over the course of a week I wear a bunch of different hats depending on who I’m with and what I’m doing…
Wife, step-mother, sales manager, landlord, blogger, speaker, student, trainer, sister, friend, aunt, cat grandma, step daughter, boss...

Yes, I’m all those things and they all define who I am as a person.  But the most important role that defines me is being a child of God. 

Being a child of God defines who I am, how I act, and the words I speak.  Being a child of God is really all I need.  I am loved by a forgiving, all powerful, amazing God…and that’s enough.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
Have you been limited by health or life issues recently?  Where do you get your self-worth?  What defines who you are as a person?

Share your thoughts by clicking the link below.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Brain Filter

By now you all know I’m an OCD introvert at heart.  Sometimes I wish I could be spontaneous, make snap decisions, take action, live large, dangerous and free.  But then there are the times when I’m thankful for the filter part of my brain that carefully evaluates and assesses each thought before the action part of my brain kicks in.

Case in point…

I like to get to the gym early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to run.  There’s no noise, no one jockeying for position on the track, no kids sprinting around you; just soothing silence at 7:00 a.m.

I’m in the change room getting into my running gear  Tank top…check, shoes…check, sports bra…check, socks…check, running watch…check, shorts…  What, no shorts!  Frantic digging in backpack ensues.  The worst is confirmed.  No shorts!

I really don’t want to waste time driving home to get them. 

“Maybe I could run in my jeans.”  The brain filter wakes momentarily from its slumber to rule this out as way too restrictive. 
                                                                                                                           
“I wonder if anyone would notice if I ran in my underwear.  There’s not a lot of people around.  It's no different than a two-piece bathing suit”

The brain filter, still on guard from the previous thought, quickly vetoes this unacceptable idea.  Inspiration strikes!  Superstore is two minutes away and they generally have inexpensive workout gear.

Fast forward ten minutes to Superstore’s deserted lady’s clothing department.  Who knew the women’s department isn’t staffed at 7:30 in the morning?  I stand shorts in hand, staring at the locked fitting rooms. 

“Maybe I could crawl underneath the door…” 

The brain filter, thoroughly appalled by the audacity of this thought, deems it necessary to take more serious preventative measures, conjuring up a mental image of WKRP’s, Herb Tarlek, in a carp suit trapped underneath the door of a pay toilet. 

I snicker involuntarily and glance around to make sure no one heard.  Fine, no crawling under doors.  (For those of you who have never had the pleasure of watching this particular hilarity you can view the WKRP episode at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYbLzYCFYhw )

“What about just doing a quick change in the alcove by the fitting rooms?  The store’s relatively deserted, probably no one would even notice.” 

I glance furtively around the women’s department.  The brain filter takes swift evasive maneuvers and delivers up a brilliant HD image of me being hauled out of the alcove, half naked, by store security.  It’s not a pretty sight! 

Fine!  I surrender to the brain filter and walk the extra steps to the Customer Service desk to get a clerk to unlock a fitting room for me.

My brain filter has saved me from bad decisions on more than this occasion.  In fact it’s rescued me many times throughout my life.  But then there are the times when I’ve ignored the brain filter and regretted it later.  Some of those instances I’d rather forget!

The brain filter is a good thing.  It’s there so we don’t have to give in to every thought we have.  Isn’t it cool that God wired our brains this way?  We have choices and the brain filter helps us evaluate and choose between good and bad decisions.

You might know the brain filter by different names…

Will power
Self-control
Discipline

All of these things are inside of us.  We just have to exercise them. 

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13

 
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT...
 
What decision are you toying with today? 
  • Spending money you can’t afford
  • Stealing office supplies from work
  • Cheating on an exam
  • An emotional affair on Facebook
  • Cheating on your taxes

Whatever the temptation, there’s ALWAYS a way out.  Ask God to kick your brain filter into high gear.  Exercise self-control and will power.