Love

Jesus Longs for You and Me

John Chapter 17 is a passage that is packed, pressed down, and running over with the most revealing truth about the heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the plans He has for you and me. Early in His earthly ministry, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray…(Luke 11:1). In response, Jesus gave them an outline of a model prayer. However, in John chapter 17, we are given an incredible opportunity that allows us to “hear” our Lord offer a life-changing, extraordinarily comprehensive High Priestly prayer for Himself, the early disciples, and the subsequent believers of all ages after them. In this prayer, Jesus gathered the entire human race into Himself and stood before the Father to make supplication on its behalf. “Father the hour has come…,” He began, (John 17:1). The hour for which Jesus came into the world was the hour He would leave it; the hour He would lay down His life for the seed of Adam; the hour He would be scourged, beaten, spat on and cruelly nailed on a Roman cross for you and I- a most ignominious death. This is the background against which this remarkable prayer was offered. Jesus was well aware that Satan was preparing to unleash his unbridled, vile force on him. So much was at stake. The redemption of the whole human race was the crux of the matter at that moment. Jesus turned to His Father. He needed to speak with One who understood the unfolding events; One from whom He could draw strength to endure the impending harrowing experience. That is why this prayer is unique. It is dense with emotion and passion, and fills the reader with wonder and adoration for our Savior and Lord.

In this prayer, Jesus made an astonishing request to His Father.  He said “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. ” (verse 24). Just pause for a while and contemplate on this stunning request and its staggering implications. Jesus, the Son of God, made this timeless request on your behalf and mine. He was calling you and I a gift to Him from His Father. Just think about the unparalleled worth this bestows on us. God saw you and I and decided to make us an eternal gift for His Son. We are God’s love gift to His only begotten Son. Jesus does not desire that we should be with Him because we have inherent goodness. It is because of His marvelously abundant grace. He loves us enough to want us to be with Him in glory!! In essence, He was saying to His disciples and to us who believe through them, “I will miss you and I want you with me where I will be.” How we all long to be wanted and loved not because of what we can give, but just for who we are. That the pre-existent second Person of the Godhead, the One through who all things were made, should think and long for your company and mine is a stunning thought. We were chosen before the foundation of the world and adopted of God so that, in the metaphor of marriage, we have become the corporate, spiritual bride of His Son (Ephesians 1:4; 5: 25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2). Jesus wants us with Him in His presence not for a limited period of time but for eternity!!! If you are ever tempted to think that no one loves you, think again. On earth, believers only saw a silhouette of His glory. But in heaven Jesus’ glory is unveiled in all its magnificence. His power is unbridled. This is what He wants us to experience with Him. On that eve, over two thousand years ago, Jesus was obviously aware of the rigors, harshness and sordidness of the night of our earthly existence, and He desired to give us an eternal rest. Although He would be leaving the believers, His desire was to, ultimately, have us all gathered unto Him, an eternal gift from His Father. This is one time the gift will take on the appearance of the its recipient. “But we know that when He appears [to take us home], we shall be as He is…” (1 John 3:2). Of course, this does not mean that we shall take on His deity. Rather we will also have a glorified, eternal body, just as He has. No wonder the apostle Paul exultantly exclaimed that ““Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, (1 Corinthians 2:9). In the book of Revelation, the apostle John was blessed with a vision of heaven and shared it with us.  He said he did not see a temple there because the Almighty God and the Lamb are the temple.  Nor did he see the sun or moon shedding light on the city of God because Jesus is its Lamp.  The radiance from the Person of Christ illuminates the entire city for eternity because. There is not night there. Jesus is heaven’s infinite Light.  They need no batteries or generators or power plants as sources of light there. Jesus shines forever. John saw Him in full disclosure. He was fully displayed as He has always been from eternity past, not as a flickering light but gloriously bright and incandescent, and we shall experience Him in this state forever.  I don’t know about you, but this strengthens my resolve to be there with Him, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord.  My spot is waiting for me because of Jesus who ever lives to make intercession for us, and I don’t intend to miss it.

The Cross-Our Adoption Center

Most of us are familiar with the words orphan and adoption.  Moreover, some of us are either orphans ourselves or we know someone who is an orphan. Orphanhood is often characterized by trauma, vulnerability, emotional distress, and material lack. The loss of a parent is a terrible blow at every stage in life. However, the blow is more severe when its victim is a minor and has to rely on other people for sustenance and other essentials of life. Orphanhood disrupts the very foundation of the child’s existence and wellbeing so severely that it can completely alter the entire course of its life. Inexplicable cords of affection and love unconsciously and deeply entwine parents’ and children’s hearts to each other. Parents provide a most intimate context for nurturing their offspring with unconditional love, psychological security, and material sustenance. Orphanhood robs the child of all this. Abigail Eaton- Master, a psychotherapist, claims that a parent’s bond with a child is so deep that it can help them sense when the offspring is in danger. When this bond is severed by the death of the parent, the effects can be catastrophic for the child. According to UNICEF, there are about 140 million orphans worldwide. Orphanhood leaves in its wake children beleaguered with anxiety, uncertainty, and despair. This why many people, both believers and non-believers, have committed themselves to care for orphans often through adoption. They endeavor to mitigate the intensity of the plight of orphanhood by assuming the role of surrogate parenthood.

However, as grim and heart-rending as the loss of biological parents maybe, nothing compares to spiritual orphanhood, which can shatter all prospects of the life to come. In The Fall of Man, humanity was severed and alienated from God, its source of life. Whatever is severed from its source of life dies. A collective death sentence was pronounced on all humanity that day in Adam and Eve.  The curse of death spread to all succeeding generations because we were all in Adam’s loins in Eden. We became estranged from God. The God-shaped place in us turned away to pursue the enemy so that sin became strangely appealing. We self-orphaned ourselves by listening to the Enemy who claimed (and still does) to know more about what was best for the human race than God who created us in His image, and subsequently became one of us Himself in Christ, literally.

After humanity’s isolation from God, anarchy reigned supreme. Murder, theft, envy, moral decadence, and all sorts of despicable vices gripped the human heart, making it desperately vile and wicked. People flagrantly defied God and followed the inclinations of their hearts to glamorize and lust after the profane and to ridicule and scorn the sacred. Evil became unrestrained and gained momentum with each succeeding generation. Senseless killings that started with domestic homicide (Cain vs Able), hatred, rage, and many other forms of wickedness have increased to stunning proportions. Futile human laws have been enacted to harness the appalling depravity of human nature to no avail. A self-orphaned humanity has been strangely contented to bask in its self-inflicted spiritual squalor.

Fortunately, the grace of God transcends human rebellion and sinfulness. In His self-expending love, God became one with us to lead us to a place where could once again experience unmitigated familial love and care and protection. In the cross of Christ, you and I have the privilege of being adopted into the family of God. We are no longer aliens or strangers, but members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). We can come back home. This time forever. We arrive at the cross broken, homeless, sick, and mutilated by sin’s vicious blows, and cuts to the soul. Although outwardly, the world might view us as decent human beings who “have it together,” that is just a façade.  Here is how the Bible describes our orphan status: As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born (Ezekiel 16 4-6, NKJV.

Rejected and cast out and exposed to the elements, we wallowed in our own filth in a deplorable condition. But moved with compassion, God in Christ, adopted us. He deliberately chose you and I to become His eternal children. The cross of Christ is the place where adoption takes place as we are crucified together with Him to this natural world and are raised with Him as God’s children with all the privileges that come with being His children including knowing Him as Abba! Father,” (Romans 8:15). The cross swings open the doors to a new and eternal familial existence. We become brothers and sisters with the rest of the human family with Jesus Christ as our Older Brother (Hebrews 2:11). God loves you and I the way He loves Jesus. As God’s children we receive corporate sonship and become a corporate bride for Christ. Jesus wrote our adoption papers and signed them with His own blood. Satan has no longer any legal claim to them who are in Christ; to you and I.  As adopted children, we are chosen children, desired by the adoptive parent. Being adopted is to enter into a new existence, another world. It is to be close to our God.

Adoption is not an easy task for the adoptive parents. Much soul-searching and reflection goes into the decision to adopt a human being into a family. This is an undertaking for compassionate and courageous people. Often times, the child is adopted because of their problematic situation, and the adoptive parent’s desire is to alleviate the suffering associated with that situation. Similarly, God saw the abject degradation of humanity and unfolded His age-old plan to adopt us in Christ. Adoption is not cheap. The adoptive parents bear the cost of ensuring that the adopted child’s comfort and general well-being are met. They give the child their name and are responsible for it until they die. It cost Jesus His own life to seal our adoption.  He emptied Himself for your sake and mine. Next time you doubt your self-worth, take time to reflect on the cost of adopting you into the family of God. That’s how special you and I are to Him whose opinion of us is the only one that matters, ultimately.

 

 

Ephesians 3:18

To comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, (Ephesians 3:18)

No one has had as profound an impact on the history of this planet as Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and rightfully so because He created it and sustains it: All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3, JKV). Kingdoms and Empires have come and gone. Rulers and leaders of every stripe have arisen for a season and exited the stage of life only to vanish into the dusty trails of history. Some are remembered with honor while others have gone down into infamy. But Jesus has continued to be an imposing Presence towering over all historical events. Muggeridge succinctly observed this when he said, “Behind the debris of… self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”1

What is most astonishing and awe-inspiring about Jesus is His unquenchable love for the inhabitants of this planet; His eternal, unconditional and undying connectedness to you and I. There is no human language rich enough to adequately describe this love. But Scripture exhorts us to “comprehend…what is the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passeth understanding…” (Eph. 3:18). How is it possible for us to comprehend love that is incomprehensible? Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we catch a glimpse of this enigmatic attribute of our Lord, which the apostle Paul attempted to describe.

What is the width of Christ’s love? Blinded and exiled to the island of Patmos, the apostle John had a series of spectacular visions of heaven.  He saw before the throne of God and the Lamb a multitude which no one could number. They came from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” (Revelation 7: 9). An inter-ethnic, multi-racial, inter-generational community of the redeemed stood before the throne of God- thousands and thousands of glorified saints. Such is the inclusiveness and width of Jesus’ love. No one is banned from it who desires it.  Everyone who comes to the Lord Jesus has the privilege of basking in this eternal agape love. That is how massive and intense and vast it is. In His love, there are no social strata, no castes, no walls of separation, nothing that insinuates a disadvantage. Just one blood-bought community standing before Him on level ground. Demoniacs, prostitutes, tax collectors, turncoats, and abusers of human rights have an equal opportunity to enter into this love.

The length of Jesus’ love is its timelessness. It extends from eternity past to eternity future.  This love existed before the foundation of our universe, which means it transcends time and space. It is as old as our Lord. It was the motivation for the Plan of Redemption. Jesus’ love never wears out. From generation to generation it crowns our existence. It covers our earthly pilgrimage, keeps us in Him in death, and will rouse us into eternal existence at the resurrection to become part of the eternal family of God and His Christ, forever. Never are we ever separated from it. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom 8: 38, 39). Nothing can intercept or interrupt Jesus’ man-ward love, ever.

The depth of Jesus’ love is exemplified in His incarnation and all His experiences in His flesh.  Of course, that was not the inception of His love for us. Rather that was when it began to be revealed and made manifest to us. Jesus condensed Himself so much that He injected Himself into the current of time and space not as an aristocrat but as a carpenter from a poor family. The apostle’s Christological hymn aptly expresses this: “Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant… He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Philippians 2: 6-8). The Incarnation is the most astonishing and mysterious historical event ever! In it, God displayed His shocking humility. In this Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, God became one with you and I. He grew human limbs and organs and sinew. He had a skeletal system and a circulatory system, too. He became fully human subject to death although He remained fully divine. His life of self-expenditure on our behalf is incomprehensible. It is beyond the grasp of the human mind. The Creator of billions of galaxies and complex life forms became a creature Himself.  He condensed Himself into an embryo in His creature’s womb and trusted her with all aspects of His childhood. Since the Incarnation, humanity has been elevated and dignified in a most amazing manner. Jesus allowed Satan to tempt Him, His brothers to doubt His divinity, Church leaders to deride Him and to finally hand Him over to a pagan Empire to crucify Him. On the Cross, He became the sinner’s substitute. Every type of human sin was laid on Him and, because of that, He experienced something He had never experienced before: He was separated from His Father’s face. All alone, He walked through palpable spiritual darkness to destroy the works of the Enemy. His was the greatest battle ever fought by one Man on a hill called Calvary-for your sake and mine.  All the powers of darkness were unleashed against Him. The only weapon He had was His love for you and I, and that was enough. This is how deep His love is, and much, much more. But the story does not end here.

The apostle urges us to contemplate and to know the height of Jesus love, too! Jesus, the Eternal Prophet, Priest, and King burst out of the tomb to die no more. He de-fanged death and the grave could not hold Him back. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death,” (Revelation 1:18).  When He ascended back to His Father, He did not go alone, but took you and I in Him to sit on the right hand of the throne of majesty, above all principalities and powers. We have passed from death unto life because of Jesus (John 5:24). We have inherited what we do not deserve; what we never worked for – eternal life through Him and with Him.  He has given us a weapon with which to overcome the Enemy, His blood (Rev. 12:11).  We are now a kingdom of priests in Him who ever lives to make intercession for us. Furthermore, when He appears again, we shall be as He is (1 John 3:2). He will transform our mortal bodies to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:2). His love has done all this for you and for I. Is it any wonder it passeth understanding?

Sources

1 Muggeridge, M. In Ravi Zacharia’s Book: Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, Dallas, USA: Word Publishing, 1996, pp. 187-8.

I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)-Two Sides of the Same Self-Portraiture

Without Jesus nothing was made that was made (John 1:3) and without Him, there is no resurrection. He is both the life and the resurrection. Life inheres in Him.

The intriguing story of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, illustrates and authenticates the claims above. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved the family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary (John 11:5). They were hospitable and kind to Him and received Him in their home from time to time. Therefore, when Lazarus became terminally ill, his sisters sent word to Jesus to inform him about Lazarus’ illness. Ordinarily, when a good friend falls ill with a life-threatening disease, we make it a point to rush to their side to give them the support and comfort they need. But in this case, the Bible says that when Jesus heard about Lazarus’ grave illness, He said “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it,” (John 11:4), and He remained where He was for an additional two days during which Lazarus died. Strangely enough, upon hearing about the death of Lazarus’ death, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus was merely sleeping. He seemed completely unfazed by Lazarus’ death. He did not even rush to attend the funeral. This must have really puzzled the sisters who must have expected Him to come and heal Lazarus the way He had healed other people, and even raised some from the dead.

Jesus finally went to be with the sisters. When He came near their town, Martha hurried to meet Him while Mary remained at home with the mourners. Martha told Jesus what she thought He would have done if He had been present: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died, (John 11:21).  When Mary finally came to the burial site, she reiterated her sister’s sentiments. They both had faith in Jesus, but they did not understand why He had not risen to their expectations during a difficult time in their lives. May be right now the reader feels that Jesus has abandoned them while they are going through a difficult time. When my daughter died, I knew that Jesus could have healed her if He had willed. But He did not. I still believe in Him even when I do not understand what is going on in the spiritual world; behind the physical veil of this life. When Rick Warren was asked this question during a CNN interview after the death of his son by suicide: “Looking back, is it possible to begin to see purpose in your pain?” He said he had struggled with the “why” questions: “Why didn’t you [God] answer the prayer I prayed every day for 27 years?” The prayer I prayed more than any other prayer went unanswered. But… What you need in tragedy is not an explanation, you need the presence of God.” Truer words have never been spoken. God’s presence in our lives is what has kept my family going, too.

During His conversation with Martha, Jesus made a staggering claim that has forever changed mankind’s view of death: “I am the resurrection and life…,” He said. Martha believed in an eschatological resurrection as she confessed to Jesus. She understood the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. But Jesus was trying to help her understand that the resurrection was not an event, as such. It was the Person standing right beside her. He is the life. Where there is resurrection, death is impotent and where life thrives, death is absent. In a nutshell, in Jesus, there is no death. In Him the dead do not pass into oblivion. They live on although they are separated from the physical life. Lazarus was not late Lazarus to Jesus. He was just Lazarus. Indeed Lazarus’ body had ceased to function and his flesh was decomposing, going back into the dust. But although its chemical properties had begun to disintegrate and the blood was no longer circulating, Lazarus was still within earshot of the voice of Jesus. There is never a point at which we are beyond Jesus’ voice or reach. Before the multitude in Bethany stood One who substituted the present for a future event of hope. What had ceased to exist was merely the tent housing Lazarus (2 Cor. 5:1). But to Jesus, Lazarus was more than his physical body. Human beings are spiritual beings and that is what connects us to our Creator God since the flesh has no interest in divine things (Gal 8:8).

Barclay aptly observed, in “Jesus Christ, we know that we are journeying not to the sunset, but to the sunrise” of eternal life with Him. Jesus’ voice pierced the heart of darkness that had engulfed Lazarus in his death, and shone the light of His life. Jesus completely altered the character of death so that although it remains, it is a powerless leviathan to the believer because of the continuity of life inherent in the Person of Christ, our Lord.

Human understanding is always restricted and crippled by our experiences on this earth. The present so pre-occupies us that it has obscured the future, particularly in spiritual issues.  Judging from what obtained in the present, Martha implicitly told the Lord that He was too late to do anything for Lazarus. Her view was confined to time and space: “If you had been here…” She thought that Jesus had to be physically present in their geographic location to heal her brother. Capitulation to the prison of time and space limits our focus to what we believe to be present reality, and makes us lose sight of that which is possible. Consequently, our straggling modicum of faith becomes frayed by our fixation to the present; to that which is temporary at the expense of the eternal.

Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead reveals to us that He has permanently defeated death.  This means that we have hope even when our loved ones succumb to physical death…

“Come, Follow Me,” (Matthew 4:19)

To be a follower of the Lord Jesus is more than merely agreeing with what He taught. It is to become an adherent who imitates Him; to have Him as the ultimate role model (1 Peter 2:21). This type of follower is known as a disciple. Being Jesus’ disciple means walking in His footsteps all the way even through rough terrain. Whether the terrain is dark and dreary or characterized with loss and tears, the disciple must never slacken the pace otherwise the enemy will read the cue and move in to steal, kill and destroy. In every situation, our pace must be consistent and unwavering lest we lose sight of the Lord going before us and find ourselves plunged into destructive darkness. To follow Jesus is to be called to a different ethical standard. As disciples, we are called to become like the Lord in purpose because we have the same Holy Spirit that dwells in Him. We read from Scripture that after Jesus had chosen His disciples, He preached what is known as the Sermon on the Mount; a redefinition of morality with specific ethical behavior; a roadmap for disengaging from the tantalizing worldly affiliations that so easily encumber us. This sermon is a call to being transformed by the renewing of the mind through power of the Holy Spirit. To be a disciple is to have a radical paradigm shift. It is to embrace Jesus and His teachings as guidelines for everyday conduct. As disciples, we abandon ourselves to Jesus as both Lord and Savior. For the disciple, “There is no compartmentalization of the faith, no realm, no sphere, no business, no politic in which the lordship of Christ will be excluded. We either make him Lord of all we are and have, or we deny him as Lord of any.”1 He must be preeminent in all facets of our life. He will not take a divided heart and will not compete with anyone or anything. The Bible talks about a certain would-be disciple who pledged fervent love for the Lord and promised to follow Him everywhere. But Jesus’ response was surprisingly dissuasive: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). Jesus answered people based on their unarticulated motives. He addressed the person not the words that veiled their intention. In this case, Jesus discerned in His spirit that the individual’s motive for wanting to be his disciple was wrong. Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom to impress people with its glory and grandeur. He came to be the Savior and Lord rejected by His own. He came to be taunted and scorned by the same people He came to die for. Jesus came not to glorify Himself, but the Father who sent Him. He was oppressed and afflicted, but never opened His mouth in resistance nor did He fight back. He is the King who allowed Himself to be literally bound hand and foot by his own subjects and still loved them even after they pronounced a death sentence on Him and handed Him over to be crucified. Jesus knew the would-be follower was not looking for that kind of life. Being a disciple is being the light of the world (Matt 5:14), diffusing the glory of the Master; walking where He bids us go even when it is painful, obscure and insignificant in the sight of the world. After all, ultimately, the only opinion that really matters is the opinion of our Creator. To be a disciple is to be the salt that preserves this world. As disciples, we enter into a new, spiritual realm, and attain a new identity. We re-organize our schedules so that Jesus becomes our first priority. We become members of a new family; the eternal family of God composed of blood-bought individuals from every nation, kindred, tongue and people; an unimaginably diverse community with an array of spiritual gifts for edifying each other. As Jesus’ disciples, we die to self so that we may be alive to God. We lose ourselves in Him so that we can find our full selves there. The Golden Calf of self-gratification is detrimental to our relationship with the Lord. As His disciples, we must give Him our dreams, our reputation, our careers, our finances, our purpose, our everything, so that He can make a glorious tapestry out of them. But this act of self-renunciation takes nothing away from us because, in the end, what we really have is what we have surrendered to the Lord. As His disciples, we get to know Jesus’s voice not through doctrinal teachings, but through His eternal presence in our lives. He never gives up on any one. Jesus “washes our feet even when we would betray him.”2 He gently restores and reaffirms our place in the family of God even when our quest for self-preservation leads us to deny Him.

But being a disciple is not a walk in the park. The road is difficult and the gate narrow, and only a few find it although there is room for everyone. The trials and tribulations that beset the disciple are the difficult road and the narrow gate. Our sinful nature resists and rebels against the discipline of turning the other cheek or loving others the way we love ourselves or blessing and praying for those who curse and revile us, which are all characteristics of the kingdom to which Jesus is calling His disciples. But this is how Jesus overcame the kingdom of darkness forever: using the weapon of love. Trials can be excruciatingly painful and draining, physically and emotionally. But we take comfort in the promise that this light affliction we might suffer momentarily as disciples is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). Whatever we have gone through in this life, whatever we will still be called to endure, the Bible insists that it pales into insignificance against the splendor awaiting us. Whatever has been taken from us, God will make it right beyond our wildest dreams and imagination. To be a disciple of Jesus is not to be disadvantaged. It is to be more than a conqueror both in this life and in the life to come….through Him.

“Follow Me,” the call has not changed.

Sources

  1. Camp, L.C..(2003). Mere Discipleship, pp. 19, 23-25.
  2. Ibid.

Wherefore Gird Up the Loins of Your Mind….(1 Peter 1: 13)

The loins are a procreative, generative and productive area of the human body. It is the part of the body that is between the lower ribs and the hip area. The apostle Peter drew a parallel from the natural and customary practice of the people of his day and gave us an object lesson – First the natural and then the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). Girding is a process of encircling a certain part of the human body with a belt to hold it together. In Bible times, in the Near East, people wore long loose robes (some still do) for everyday labors and activities, but when they faced an imminent intense activity, they girded their loins in preparation for it. They tucked their robes into a wide belt around their waist to free themselves from any encumbrances and to concentrate on the task. Strenuous activities required a sustained effort of engagement.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to prepare their minds for the inevitable intense challenges and tests of their faith. He is urging believers to think and reason intellectually and purposefully, not randomly or haphazardly. In order to do this, the mind should be surrendered to its Creator, the Source of all reason and wisdom, and be renewed. This is contrary to the popular belief that the Christian faith precludes intellectual activity and reasoning. Most critics of the concept of faith insist that faith is believing where there is no evidence. Sadly, they miss the point that every human being exercises a measure of faith in one thing or another. We believe our spouses love us not because we can quantify that love and test it in a laboratory, but because they tell us so and we see them demonstrate that love in their behavior toward us. The claim that science is the only way to access truth is itself unquantifiable. It cannot not be dissected or tested in a lab. Therefore, it is self-refuting. Not everything we believe can be quantified. Scientists believe in the intelligibility of the universe and in the fact that they can explore it? They are exercising a measure of faith here. The Oxford English Dictionary states that “faith and belief are cognitive concepts intimately related to the question of substantiating evidence.”1 This means that “evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives.”2 As such, faith is inevitably interwoven with our everyday living. Therefore, Christians need not be ashamed of their faith.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to apologetics, which is a defense of their faith; what they believe in and why they believe in it. But he urges them to do it with gentleness not strife. Intellectual indolence is not a characteristic of the Christian faith. A believer divinely endowed with a… sound mind cannot have a languorous or torpid mind. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin and to lead unbelievers to Christ, but can they do this without applying their reasoning power? By grasping the reasonableness of Jesus’ finished work on their behalf and what He says about them, unbelievers can open their heart to Him and become converted through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. No one can make such a radical decision about their life without reasoning and sifting through the evidence presented to them. Reasoning is one of God’s gifts to mankind. Why, He even challenges us to reason with Him (Isa. 1:18). The assumption that to become a good academic you need to be an atheist is a fallacy that has no evidence for its claims whatsoever. Believers who have girded the loins of their minds can see through the façade.
Unfortunately, there are some believers who have been fanning the belief that Christianity is opposed to intellectual engagement by insisting that the Word of God is not for the mind but for the spirit. This is nothing other than intellectual lethargy and languor. But where did this mindset come from? The early scientists were Bible-believing intellectuals such as Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, James Joule and many others. They found no dichotomy between their faith and intellectual acuity. In fact, these individuals believed that a Christian’s mind must be an intellectually sharp mind. A mind that is yoked to the mind of Christ is a keen and exceptionally intelligent mind because it draws from His unsurpassed wisdom and reasoning. Jesus was both an intellectual and spiritual authority. J.P. Moreland asserts that the anti-intellectual position among some of the believers is a consequence of the rise of “rhetorically powerful, and emotionally directed preaching of” some preachers of the Great Awakening revivals of the 1800s, which were not balanced with “intellectually careful and doctrinally precise” teaching to equip the saints to defend their faith with reason. This approach ill-prepared the church for harsh attacks from people such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin etc…with their philosophical challenges and arguments against Christianity.3 Since then, the attack against Christianity has grown more shrill and intense. Instead of responding to these challenges with counter intellectual vigor, the Church has mostly withdrawn from intellectual public debates and has lost the zeal to authenticate and validate its tenets. Its enemies have mistaken this to be a capitulation and admission of lack of rationality for the doctrines of the Christian faith. Perhaps the time has come for believers to study, soak and saturate themselves with the Word of God, and earnestly seek wisdom from above. The Church should ever match forward armed with reasoned-out truth. This is the wrong time for the Church to be marginalized and voiceless in the public debate. There is too much at stake.

Sources
1.Lennox, J. (2011). Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Point. Lion Hudson Plc. Pp. 55
2. Ibid.
3.Moreland, J.P. (1997). Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. NAVPRESS. pp. 23

http://www.wmturls.com/pp

When Death Means Life…Part I

Recently, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, John Boehner, described Ted Cruz, a presidential aspirant then as “Lucifer in the flesh.” Many people were appalled and outraged by the unsavory description and vehemently criticized the former speaker for such a severe censure of his colleague. Why the uproar? Lucifer was a powerful angel who degenerated into Satan and became associated with ultimate evil; a heartless source of all that pertains to wickedness and an enemy of all that is good.  To label as someone Lucifer is to imply that they are synonymous with evil.

When Jesus told His “disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matt 16: 21 ESV), one of His closest disciples, Peter, drew Him aside and rebuked Him and said “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall never happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22).

Peter had been Jesus’ disciple for slightly over 3 years now. He had left the fishing business he had built over the years to follow the itinerant Rabbi from Nazareth. He had recalibrated his dreams, goals and career, and had wrapped them around Jesus’ ministry. This was a radical ministry that was undergirded by unprecedented signs and wonders including the epic miracle in which Jesus had raised back to life a dead individual who had already started decomposing! Disease fled from Jesus and so did death. Congenital deformities such as blindness were corrected instantly. He had even walked on water and had multiplied a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish to feed thousands of people. Word had it that Jesus had even had a one-on-one encounter with Satan and had prevailed. He had also turned water into wine at a feast of one of His relatives. Jesus fascinated and attracted the general public, the outcasts, and the marginalized unlike the church leaders who had cloistered themselves into a cocoon of feigned piety. As the Scottish Theologian, James Stewart once remarked, Jesus “was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him… No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin…. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes.” Peter was glad to be part of this revolutionary Rabbi’s ministry; the power of being close to power gave life meaning and purpose-even a new identity. An insignificant individual formerly immersed in the mundane activities and rigors of a village fisherman’s life had become a significant component of a thriving and apparently divinely-endorsed ministry.

And now Jesus was talking about His demise!!! What a crashing blow to Peter and his family that would be! Just how would he start picking up the shards of a shattered life and build his image again? How would he find his place again and be re-established in the community as a credible business man? He had invested so much in this ministry and now it was slipping through his fingers…. Hope was dissipating before his very eyes. What about his life??? He had sacrificed all the components of his life: energy, time, talents, and money for the ministry. What would happen to the little band of disciples that Jesus had recruited and trained? No, Jesus must not talk about voluntary death. It would be too costly for Peter and the other disciples.

Jesus did not only hear Peter’s rebuke, He recognized the words Peter used, too. He had heard them before, in the grueling wilderness temptation. They were once again threatening the very core of His ministry; the very purpose of His Incarnation. It was another Mephistophelean ploy aimed at severing the jugular vein of His earthly mission, and He needed to respond immediately and decisively with a stern rebuke to silence His foe forever not only for Peter’s sake but for the sake of the rest of the disciples and the rest of humanity. True, Peter had spoken out of concern, love, and reverence for his Master. But he had also spoken out of ignorance and presumption. Misdirected love and care can be disastrous. Peter did not understand the implication of his words. This was a re-enactment of Eden where Satan had succeeded through a medium to move Adam and Eve to disobey God, and plunge humanity into an earthly nightmare of sin, disease and death.  Now he desired to separate the entire creation from God forever by derailing God’s plan to reconcile the world unto Himself through Christ’s sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus’ sacrifice was the catalyst event that would defang Satan forever and restore mankind to their rightful place with God. This is what was at stake. Everything hung in the balance and Jesus could not afford to pander to the Enemy’s suggestions. Not now, not ever.

…to be continued…

God and the Enigma of Evil

One of the reasons non-believers give for their unbelief in God is the presence and proliferation of evil in the world. They view evil as a blight against the claims of the Christians about the goodness of their God. Very often the question advanced is: “How can there be a good God when there is so much evil in the world?” This question is veiled with a multitude of assumptions and presumptions within itself. But it becomes mind-boggling when it is asked by people who believe that human beings are a product of a mindless, unguided natural process living in a universe that has “no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good…” and that they merely “dance to the music” of their DNA. [1] In such a closed system of mindlessness with an existence that is devoid of cognitive functions, who can qualify to recognize evil, let alone to ask questions about it?
But even theists and Christians struggle with the question of evil. It is an enigma that is hard to deal with because we do not have all the answers about it yet. But we can know something about it by studying and drawing inferences from what Scriptures say.
What indeed is evil? Evil is good gone bad. It is the corruption of that which was originally good. Evil cannot exist alone. Thomas Aquinas argues that God created everything, but evil is not a tangible thing that can exist on its own as a stand-alone entity. This is not say that evil is unreal. Rather, it is to say that evil has the potential to exist in a parasitic nature in some substance that is good: “evil signifies nothing else than ‘privation of perfect being.’” [2]. When we speak of moral evil, we are talking about a relationship between human beings that has been corrupted.
God created perfect human beings. But he created them with a freewill. They were created with the capacity to love and obey God or to reject and disobey him. God did not create robots who mechanically obey him. C.S. Lewis aptly observed that God took the risk of endowing the creatures he created with a freewill because coerced love and obedience are meaningless to him. God put his image in the creatures in whom he also deposited the power to choose either to do good or to do evil. No single human being can appreciate a robot manufactured and programed to say “I love you” every 2 hours! If someone did that, they would merely be telling themselves they love themselves which smacks of narcissism. Nothing is so gratifying and heartwarming than to be the object of free, warm and uncoerced love.
But why can’t God just stop evil in the world? The only way God can stop evil in this world is to take away from mankind the freewill he gave us; to take away the capacity to choose to love him and all he stands for or to choose to reject him and all he stands for. He would have to go back on his word of creating people with freewill and make them into some form of puppets.
For those who argue that God could have done a better job at creating this world, here is what Lewis says (and I agree with him, totally): “Of course God knew what would happen if [human beings] used their freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty in disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on. If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will-that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings-then we may take it that it is worth paying.”[3]

Resources
[1] Richard Dawkins, Out of Eden, pp. 133.
[2] Compendium theologiae 114, 125-126; In Bill Kin (2002). Thomas Aquinas on the Metaphysical Problem of Evil. Quodlibet Journal, 4, (2-3). ISSN: 1526-6575
[3] Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 52-53

Stigmatized, Yet Favored

The Bible says of Leah that she had weak eyes (Genesis 29:17, ESV), a form of physical disability. Apparently, there had been a genetic mistake, a mutation in the process of transmission of life to her, which left a noticeable effect on her phenotype. But her younger sister is said to have been so beautiful in form and appearance that she immediately caught the attention of Jacob, the new addition to their family. Jacob was the son of Rebekah, their father’s sister. He had fled from the wrath of his twin brother, Esau, after defrauding him of his blessing. Within one month of his arrival, Jacob asked Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage. The dowry for her was 7 years of labor, but at the end of the 7 years, Laban substituted Leah for Rachel, and Jacob had to work another 7 years for Rachel.
Jacob hated Leah and loved Rachel obviously because Rachel was more beautiful than her older sister. Leah deeply felt the pain and frustration of living with a man who preferred another woman to her. Even the names she gave her sons demonstrate her anguish and agony. There was no affection for her. Their marriage was loveless from the beginning. Leah lived under the shadow of her sister as a woman resented by her husband.
Things have not changed much since then. The World Health Organization statistics of 2011 indicate that there are currently more than one billion people, worldwide, who are living with one form of disability or another. That is about 15% of the entire global population. In most societies, disability is associated with stigma. Disabled people have limited access to healthcare and education, which could help them overcome some of the limitations associated with their disability. The lives of individuals with disabilities continue to be challenged not only by their conditions but by the general public’s response to these conditions often manifested in ostracism, stigma, discrimination, and even outright hostility. In countries where there are no systems for monetary assistance for people with disabilities or programs to assist their rehabilitation, disability can be devastating.
Leah manifested amazing fidelity to Jacob even when she knew he resented her. Her devotedness to family life is one of her amazing virtues. Scripture says that when God saw how Jacob hated Leah, He “opened her womb,” and she became the prolific mother of six sons and one daughter. She had hoped this would win her husband away from Rachel seeing that sons were of great value to their fathers in these times. She called her first born son, Reuben (see, a son). Then she had Simeon (God has heard that I was hated). Her third son was named Levi (because I have born him a third son, my husband will be joined to me now). But Jacob still loved Rachel and resented Leah. When she gave birth to her fourth son, Leah shifted her perspective. Instead of pursuing human love and validation, she looked to God who had always loved her. This was the moment when praise was born in her soul and she called her fourth son, Judah, meaning praise. She did not know it then, but this was her moment of triumph. She had just given birth to the ancestor of the Messiah, the Savior of the entire world. God honored Leah’s faith. Her other sons were Issachar and Zebulun. Her daughter was Dinah.
What is ironic about the whole scenario is that while Leah envied Rachel as the object of Jacob’s love, Rachel envied Leah as the object of God’s favor. God’s love is not contingent upon the physical perfection of its object. As a matter of fact, there is no perfection outside of Him, and genetics is never a measure of a human being to God. Leah’s strong faith in God was well-rewarded. It was Rachel not Leah who decided to be accompanied by their father’s idols when relocating to Canaan.

God cares for you. Check it out: http://www.wmturls.com/pp

What Is Real And What Is Not Real?

We live in an age when we insist that in order to believe in something, we need to experience and prove it by our senses. That is, we must touch it, smell it, hear it, taste it or see it otherwise it is not real. Our generation has specialized in walking by sight. Having faith in the things of God and his kingdom is scorned and ridiculed as credulity. It is regarded as a default unintellectual position. The dictionary defines credulity as a “readiness or willingness to believe especially on slight or uncertain evidence.” So I ask, what empirical or scientific evidence is there to support the process of evolution? And yet, evolutionists are touted as scholars and thinkers in academia. There are incessant voices that insist that if you cannot prove it scientifically or test it in a laboratory, you should never believe it because it is either a figment of one’s imagination or mere superstition emanating from minds that have no ability to think or reason. This assertion, that one can only know what is real through scientific methods, cannot itself be scientifically proven. Therefore, it qualifies to be put in the category of a figment of one’s imagination. There is nothing wrong with science itself. As engineer-turned-clergyman, John G. Lake once remarked, science tells us how God does things. Through science we have learned great truths about our universe and our physical bodies. We have also been able to learn and to cure and prevent disease through scientific discoveries, which has remarkably increased our life expectancy. But science is being used as a weapon against faith. It is amazing how it is being venerated as a new ideology called scientism. The tendency is to turn all argumentation-whether it concerns politics or social issues- into scientific obsessions to give them needed rationality. No wonder some have concluded that this makes “lab-coated scientists into priests,” which is the very thing they disdain.
To insist that only that which can be empirically proven is real or true is to be mistaken since there are many things in our universe that are considered to be real although they cannot be scientifically proven. For example, we know that numbers are real although they exist outside of space and time. As theologian and philosopher, Dr. J.P. Moreland asserts, science is not able to prove mathematics. It merely presupposes it. Similarly, no one can empirically quantify love or kindness or compassion and yet we know that they are real. No one can see thoughts. Yet as you are reading this, you are thinking, consciously. This means that it is true that there are things that exist that are not physical or tangible such as demons, angels, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God. Believers in the Christian faith should not be ashamed because they believe in that which cannot be scientifically proven. The apostle Paul, a scholar of his time, declares that it is the things that are not seen [physically] that are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). This is a time for believers to earnestly seek the grace to sanctify Christ as Lord in the heart and to always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). But this must be done with meekness and reverence, and not with acerbic anger.

http://www.wmturls.com/pp