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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Need For Faith

For centuries the debate of faith and reason has been going on. Some think that both are mutually exclusive. Others say reason is superior. Reason, they say, is verifiable through the senses thus superior. Still others, argue that they are both partners. I do not attempt here to get into the philosophical arguments of this debate for I am not a philosopher nor it interests me.

But I do want to share some thoughts on the nature of faith and how faith is necessary. Faith is rooted in verifiable historical truths. When I read the Bible I don't read myths and ideas that have no historical truth. God himself manifests himself from the beginning, to Adam, Abraham, the rest of the Jewish Patriarchs, to Israel and finally reveals himself in Jesus Christ, Immanuel-God with us. Jesus, God incarnate, the second person of the trinity who becomes human and offers himself as a sacrifice to restore our relationship with Him.

Faith is not a blind leap without any basis. It is rooted in God's revelation of Himself. Yet, as time has passed, God has chosen to move and live in us through faith. In fact, Jesus said, "“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” "(John 20:29-ESV)

The Apostle Paul said that we live our life through faith not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our life in Christ is by nature, a life of faith. It is a prominent topic in the New Testament (see for example Hebrews 11). Faith is a certainty of the spirit but it is rooted in God's truth. It is the means by which God has chosen to make himself known to us. This doesn't diminish the role of reason but it allows it to depend on God. We don't know everything nor can we know everything. It is not possible as finite beings. But faith is not necessary only because of this. Faith opens our spiritual "eyes." It allows us to get a glimpse of the eternal which otherwise we cannot know. God lives in the spiritual realm and as such can only be worshipped through faith. Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24-ESV).

What would our lives be without faith? Our lives would only know and experience what is palpable and verifiable through the senses. There would be no sense of mystery. We would only know what we can know through our minds and senses. Our spirits would be barren. Dry. Our hope would be limited. We could only hope what we know and see. But hope rooted in faith is much more. It sees beyond the natural: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1-ESV)

Without faith we couldn't please God: "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6-ESV)

As Christians we live by faith. Faith in the one who saved us. We say with the Apostle Paul, "And the life I now live in the flesh (body) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reflecting on 1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians was written by Paul to a church he established there around the year 50 A.D. during his second missionary journey (Acts 17). It was a city that had approximately 200,000 people during this time. Paul's custom was to go the synagogues where Jewish people met for worship. Jews from Alexandria had established in Thesalonica around 168-103 B.C. What is interesting here is what Paul's strategy was when he started new churches. He went to the synagogues and as a Jew, he would be allowed to speak to those present. He presented the Gospel: how Jesus was the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament, how it was necessary for Him to die and rise from the dead to give everlasting life to those who believe. The message was simple. Some received it. Many rejected it and turned against Paul. But those who God granted to believe became the foundation of the new church.

 

In 1 Thessalonians Paul reminds the church in Thesalonica how they had come to believe. He points to the evidence of their belief. The evidence was observed by those around them, especially as they experienced persecution from those who did not believe. Their faith had a profound effect and was noticed by those around them. Paul describes their conversion:

 

"For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (v. 9)

 

Their conversion involved several things:

 

1. Turning away from idols.

That is what repentance means. It means turning away from something, in this case the worship of idols. Thesalonica was known for their idols. It may seem strange to us, but idols can take different forms. An idol is anything that we give worship (the worth). Idols have no power, except that it makes us feel better. But they do nothing for us with the exception of making us captives to them.

 

2. Serving the living God.

It is not enough to turn from something if you are not turning to something. They turned away from worshipping idols to worshipping the true and living God. There is only ONE true God. That is what the Bible teaches. And He is not an idol, He is a living, transcendent Being. He can be known. We can serve Him.

 

3. Waiting for Jesus's 2nd Coming.

We hear all kinds of predictions of the end of the world. But that is not what Christians wait for. They wait for Jesus Christ who is coming back from Heaven. And He is not coming to save but to judge. Those that have believed in Him do not have to fear. They will be delivered from His wrath.

 

Why would Jesus do that? Isn't he about love. He is! He loved us so much he gave his life so that we can know and serve the living God. Now. If you want to wait until He comes back then it will be too late.

 

Becoming a Christian is not about changing religions (akin to changing idols). It is about turning away from those things that have captured our hearts to serve the living God available through the sacrifice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Betraying Jesus

I was reading Luke 22 this morning and verse 2 caught my attention: "Then Satan entered Judas." This happens again here.
Here is the context. Up to this point the religious leaders have been trying to get Jesus in something he taught but could not. Their intentions were clear: put him to death. For what you say? They were afraid of Jesus becoming too popular, the people becoming enamored with Him to the point where they would actually believe He was the Messiah. He would raise an army against the Romans and try to over throw them. They couldn't allow this. They had a pretty good life with the power they had been granted.

They were afraid the people would do this. They tried to find ways, conspicuous ones that wouldn't raise suspicion of their plan.

Enters Satan. He is real. All along, even before Jesus's ministry, The Evil One tried to get him killed (Matthew 2, 4) . Now he's found an ally.

Enters Judas. He was counted as one of the twelve (v.3). How did this happen? We are not given too many answers. Here is what we know. He was the treasurer in the group. He was greedy and stole money. This is what he was interested. He spent the same amount of time as a disciple of Jesus never really believing in Him. He heard Jesus teach, preach; saw him heal, and save people.
He experienced the same closeness as the rest of the disciples. Jesus never exposed him until this time and it was not obvious to the rest of the disciples (this tells us how Judas didn't make it obvious). Jesus knew this would happen but He knew this was God's plan: "For the Son of Man will go away as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed." (v. 22). See also Mark 14:21

Judas decides to turn Him in. For money (a price of a slave). At the right moment. He does it with a kiss (a customary greeting). He acknowledges as "my great one" (Rabbi).

It's easy to condemn all the guilty ones here. We know who they were. But let's bring home an application. Is it possible for people to betray Jesus now? I say yes. Is it possible for a person to call himself/herself a disciple of Christ and not really be one? Is it possible that these followers spend all their life doing churchy and religious things and yet not really believe in Jesus? Is this not betrayal?

Is it possible for even a true believer to betray Jesus at a point and yet be a true follower of Jesus? Read about Peter. He did it. He repented. He lived and died for Christ from here on. That's the difference between name only followers and real followers of Jesus.

Don't forget Satan. He is involved in this world. Satan is much clever than we give Him credit for and he will get involved in your life if you let him.





Friday, February 17, 2012

Classroom Noise

I wrote this poem yesterday:

 

Classroom Noise (audio)

 

Classroom Noise

 

By eig

 

Little voices I hear

They're so many

And yet so near!

 

What do they say?

They make no sense

There must be a way

 

Laughing and shouting,

Telling, commanding!

Rising and standing

 

Oh stop this now!

Quit being so loud!

My students are thou!

 

 

 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

No Digas, "Mi vida" - ¡Da tu vida!


Vivimos en tiempos dónde “mi vida” es más importante que la de cualquier otro. Los comerciales de la T.V., de la radio, de los periódicos, revistas y otros medios de comunicación nos han ayudado a lograr un grado más profundo de amor propio llamado narcisismo. La cultura Americana individualista y materialista nos ha afectado a nosotros también y vemos muchos síntomas entre los cristianos del narcisismo, individualismo, y materialismo. ¿Cuáles son algunas opciones para vivir nuestra vida? Hay algunas muy populares hoy día:
1. La felicidad personal (sicóloga)
2. El placer (físico)
3. La religión (espiritual)
4. El materialismo (material)
5. La caridad/buenas obras (social)
Como cristianos estas opciones no son dignas para vivir y dedicar toda nuestra vida. ¿Cuál es la alternativa? Vivir para Cristo y dar nuestra vida por el. Esto es lo dijo Pablo en Filipenses 1:21, “Para mí el vivir es Cristo y el morir es ganancia.” El vivir para Cristo implica dar nuestra vida como El la dio a favor de nosotros. Marcos 10:45 dice: “Porque el Hijo del hombre no vino para ser servido sino para servir y dar su vida en rescate de muchos.”
Un ejemplo admirable de lo que es vivir la vida para Cristo es el Apóstol San Pablo. Hechos 20:24 resume su sentir en cuanto a su vida: “Sin embargo, no estimo que mi vida sea de ningún valor ni preciosa para mí mismo, con tal que acabe mi carrera y el ministerio que recibí del Señor Jesús, para dar testimonio del evangelio de la gracia de Dios.” Aunque sabía que le esperaba persecución y quizá aun la muerte, San Pablo afirmaba que no consideraba su vida tan preciosa para sí mismo, con tal que acabara la carrera y el ministerio que había recibido del Señor. ¡Qué diferente idea a la de muchos de nosotros hoy día!
Se dice que en el barco Titanic cuando se hundió muchos hombres tuvieron temor a la muerte y decidieron ponerse ropa de mujer para que los dejaran entrar en los barcos salvavidas. Otros como John Harper, Pastor Cristiano enfrentó la muerte con valor y hasta el último momento de su vida compartió el evangelio de Cristo. Siguió el ejemplo de San Pablo.
Muchos tenemos miedo de darle nuestra vida a Cristo. Sin embargo, la Palabra de Dios es clara: “Porque todo el que quiera salvar su vida, la perderá; y todo el que pierda su vida por causa de mí y del evangelio, la salvará.” (Marcos 8:35) Sin duda San Pablo y John Harper salvaron sus vidas al darla a favor de Cristo. ¿Qué de nosotros?
¿A qué darás tu vida tu?