Your life has meaning …

 

 

 

Ernie and I were reclining in easy chairs in my basement family room looking up at a large TV screen waiting for the tip-off to the basketball game. I had the TV muted, while the commercials ran and that’s when Ernie said,

 

“You know our friendship with Jesus has benefits.”

Say what?”

Friendship with Jesus has benefits.”

Benefits like what for instance?”

Without hesitating Ernie said, “Peace of Mind.”

Peace of mind?”

Yes, as in freedom from concern or worry.”

That’d be nice. Anything else?”

You want me to list another benefit?” Ernie asked.

Sure. Are there any others benefits?”

You mean relevant benefits that make a difference in your everyday life?”

Uh-huh.”

Um, yes, there’s the benefit of kindness.”

OK. How does kindness work?”

It’s empowered by the Holy Spirit,” said Ernie.

Yeah but, how does kindness work itself out in a practical way?”

The kindness benefit is activated and realized by cooperation with the Holy Spirit.”

Cooperation?”

That’s right, you have to cooperate because you are unable to sustain kindness on your own.” Ernie explained.

You think so?”

Absolutely. The benefit of kindness and peace of mind are set in motion by cooperation with the Holy Spirit.”

Why?” I challenged. “Says who?”

Says Jesus.”

Where?” I pressed.

Lots of places.”

Name one.”

Alright. Jesus said ‘Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me. John 15:4-5.’”

“Wow! OK. That’s a good one.”

“And there are more benefits, which are often called fruits.” Ernie informed me.

“What are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about self-control.” Ernie glanced over at me.

“Oh … and you know this is a benefit because?”

“There’s constant spiritual warfare going on. Therefore, cooperation with the Holy Spirit is the only way to experience this benefit of self-control during a spiritual battle.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“I am certain, because I’ve tried self-control by using will-power and will-power isn’t enough.”

“Why is that?”

“Again,” Ernie said, “because it takes cooperation with the Holy Spirit to achieve real, long lasting, self-control.”

“I see how that may be true …”

“We miss out on benefits we could be enjoying because we doubt that Jesus makes any difference in our relationships at work, in our marriage, or with most anything else.”

“You’re saying I’m missing benefits?”

“I am. Actually, we all are. Because we don’t reckon John 15:4-5 has any practical application for where we live.”

“Interesting.”

Ernie wrapped it up by saying, “Our relationship with Jesus has benefits that offer us, among other things, peace of mind, kindness, and self-control.”

“Hmm … fascinating.” I admitted, without committing. I hit the mute on the TV remote as the basketball teams were tipping off. I thought, ‘Friendship with benefits, what a concept.’

 

Life forces me to deal with hard questions.

If I try to overlook difficult questions sooner or later I cannot.

Dante’s The Devine Comedy answers many of life’s tough questions.

For instance in passing through the gate of Hell (Inferno) there is this message:

Abandon Hope All Who Enter Here

There is nothing happy or cheerful about hell.

But who believes in hell anymore?

Though it matters what I choose to believe or ignore, denial doesn’t alter God’s plans and purposes.

DIFFICULT QUESTIONS:

1)      What is the sound of one hand clapping?

2)      Is hope lost?

3)      Who let the dog out?

4)      Is Jesus who he said he is?

5)      Do you want fries with that?

6)      Why am I here?

7)      What English word rhymes with orange?

8)      Where can I find answers?

SENSIBLE ANSWERS:

1)      Duh

2)      Never

3)      You

4)      Yes

5)      No

6)      Escape

7)      Nada

8)      Bible

BELIEVING LIES … BELIEVING TRUTH

Here’s some truth:

Serving Christ brings trouble yet not defeat.

2 Corinthians 4: 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever. (NLT)

Here’s more truth:

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/298#ixzz1v2m6iGfO

ACCEPTING EXPECTATION

I live with trouble but life isn’t hopeless.

Hard questions have sensible answers.

Isn’t that the way you see it?

The truth is I was wandering when I saw it.

It was the strangest thing.

It was lit up like it was burning, but not burning up.

It appeared alive—an altering intensity of shapes—an eternal fire?

I walked toward the object.

When I got close enough, no joke, it spoke. “There you are … it’s about time you showed up.”

I looked around for someone hiding, expecting this was a trick.

I didn’t see anyone. I’m thinking the guys back home will never believe this. “Are you talking to me?”

“I don’t see anyone else here, do you?”

“Who are you?” I’m still thinking this might be a prank.

“Don’t come any closer.”

“Say what?”

“Take off your shoes.”

“Say what?”

“This is holy ground.”

“Are you the Lord?”

“I am.”

“What do you want from me?” I was very nervous.

“I’m sending you on a mission trip to Pharaoh of Egypt with a message.”

“Oh?” My stomach was seasick.

“You will lead my people to freedom. Tell Pharaoh to let them leave.”

“Lord be reasonable, neither Pharaoh nor the people will believe me.” I felt on the edge of throwing up.

“I’ll take care of it.”

Now I’m desperate. “Listen Lord I was ready to do this when I was forty. I had everything going for me. I was a celebrity. I was heir apparent. I had my health. But now look at me I’m eighty.”

“I know how old you are.”

“Besides Lord, I don’t speak too well. I’m in sorry shape. I …”

“Forget the excuses.”

“Maybe someone else would be better?”

“Nope, I pick you.”

I’m grateful for being able to attend church nearly all the days of my life. God only knows the long list of benefits I’ve received by being in church on Sundays and other occasions.

Here are a few of those benefits:

THE GOOD

  • A growing knowledge of the Bible
  • A growing appreciation for church history and doctrine
  • A growing recognition of the power of prayer and praise
  • A growing list of valuable friends
  • A growing realization that God isn’t finished with me yet
  • A growing acceptance that God hasn’t given up on me

I do consider these real benefits.

But then too, I’ve noticed the church has a dark side.

This evil side causes me to maybe overlook what is most important: my growing connection and intimate relationship with Jesus.

Let me give three examples:

THE BAD

1)      My denomination spends too much time on infighting (disagreement, discord, dissension, disunity, division and friction),

2)      My denomination is critical (fault-find, belittling, condemning, and disapproving) of other individuals and worshippers, and

3)      My denomination is guilty of promoting “we are the people.” (Exaggerated self-importance as in arrogance: conceit, presumption, pretension, pride and smugness).

THE UGLY

  • I’m convinced all this calculates into majoring in minors.
  • I’m convinced all this produces excess religious activity where Christ isn’t necessarily essential, invited or missed.
  • I’m convinced all this stresses compliance to denominational rules, the denominational dress code and to denominational posturing.

Where’s the love and respect Jesus advanced?

You don’t have this problem do you?

Maybe I just need to endure the ugly bad with the good?

How do you feel?

IS GOD HIDING?

The Huffington Post recently asked a survey question: Where are you on the scale of belief in God? (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/belief-in-god-uchicago-report_n_1463379.html?ref=religion)

Please indicate which statement comes closest to expressing what you believe about God:

1. I don’t believe in God.
2. I don’t know whether there is a God and I don’t believe there is any way to find out.
3. I don’t believe in a personal God, but do believe in a Higher Power of some kind.
4. I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others.
5. While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
6. I know that God really exists and I have no doubts about it.
7. Can’t Choose
8. No Answer

Respondents were categorized as atheists (option 1), agnostics (option 2), deists (option 3), waivers (option 4), weak believers (option 5) and strong believers (option 6) depending on their answer choice.

After reading the article I’m asking myself: how do I know God exists and how can I show someone else that they (too) can know for sure that God exists?

Here’s how it makes sense to me:

A)    I realize God is not simply a feeling.

B)     I realize God is not found by reason alone

C)    I realize God makes His existence known some other way

What way?

WHERE CAN GOD BE FOUND?

The answer for me is in Hebrews 11.

I’ve heard some object to these words because they seem to eliminate reason and physical evidence.

This isn’t really true.

But God does expect us to use something that is available beyond our five senses and beyond our shoddy human reasoning.

Look at these words in Hebrews 11: 1 & 6. (I’ve printed them for you from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible). Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see … without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Obviously faith is the reality beyond reason or feelings.

LOOK FOR GOD HERE

So in my mind it works like this: Faith comes before reason or the senses will receive any longed for proof.

This is the way God has set it up.

Where are you on the scale of belief in God?

When do you know God exists?

I’m telling you my opinion and I’ll be happy to listen to yours.

I say you’ll know God is real when you begin exercising the faith given to you by God’s Holy Spirit.

Then the evidence will follow as God rewards your faith.

FATHER: Son I want you to do us a favor.

SON: Okay.

FATHER: I’m sending you to Earth to become a human being.

SON: All right.

FATHER: I have a plan.

SON: Will they get it?

FATHER: Let’s do it and find out.

FATHER: How does human feel?

SON: It’s painful.

Yesterday I picked up my granddaughter (2 ½) from daycare. Right away I noticed an Elmo Bandage on her right knee.

As we walked to my truck I asked her, “What happened?”

In her I’m-learning-to-talk English she told me the story, “I running … I fall down on rock.”

“Oh my! Are you all right?”

With a tearful whimper for affect she answered, “It still hurts a little bit.”

In the fifteen-minute drive home she kept repeating her report of how she came to be wounded and always ended with the phrase, “It still hurts a little bit.”

“Well I’ll look at it when we get home, okay?”

To which she responded, “It still hurts a little bit.”

At home I pulled aside half the Band-Aid and gave it a thorough grandfather examination. I found a tiny scratch that wasn’t life threatening.

“It still hurts a little bit.” She informed me when I re-covered her injury.

That evening while having a short quiet time I reviewed my granddaughters’ crisis and her words. I prayed for her complete healing.

And I prayed for me because I have boo-boos. “God I know my past is forgiven but it still hurts a little bit.”