10 things I’ve learned about How to Teach Kids about the Lord

Sooo you’re going to teach a Sunday school class, but you feel a little overwhelmed? It’s okay, I’ve got your back. I’ve been teaching kids in church settings and non-church settings about Bible things for over 20 years, and I’m going to give you my 10 best tips. I hope they help! Let’s jump right in.

The first, number one, most important thing to do- is pray. Seriously. I know this sounds elementary, but before I teach any kids, I take time to talk to the Lord myself, and ask him to speak through me, and to give me just the right words. I invite the Holy Spirit to open the ears the child’s heart so that they can know how much the Lord loves them and is calling to them. I sometimes also ask for any lying spirits or strongholds to be shut up so that the child won’t be hindered from hearing the truth! It helps most if you are praying for the lesson while you study or write it, and praying for the child regularly, but I also pray while driving to the meeting, and I pray over the room before the kids get there! Prayer is the MOST IMPORTANT PART. Remember, you are the vessel of the Spirit- but it is the Spirit who does the work! And then… Pray with them! Don’t be shy. Talk to God like you talk to a friend. Show them by example that they can talk to God in imperfect, normal language just like you do.

2. Trust God to use you, just as you are. Don’t beat yourself up about not being smart enough, learned enough, mature enough, or especially- good enough. Most of us were not brought to Christ by perfect, seminary educated theologians. We were won to Christ by the love shown through an ordinary human being! Take a deep breath and give freely, as you have been given. And don’t try to be someone you aren’t! It’s easy to try to emulate someone else’s teaching or speaking style. But you are YOU. Your flavor of speech and manor of dress are okay, and your story and your witness is more powerful than trying to put on a “perfect show.” Be real. You don’t have to reveal every little struggle and doubt you are having, but being honest about your relationship and walk with God helps the kids to see that THEY don’t have to be perfect, either. It helps them to realize, “Hey, if she can follow God, I can too!” And on the contrary- if you seem too perfect, when that child can’t live up to the “perfect” they think you are, they will tend to believe a lie that says that they can never be a Christian like you are. So be yourself.

3. Memory! Okay, here’s the thing. No matter what the occasion you have to minister to kids, use the opportunity to teach them words from Scripture. Even if they forget you, forget the bible story, even if they forget the main point of your lesson and that they ever even came to your class, someday in the future, the Holy Spirit will absolutely pull those memory verses out of their deep memory for them in the future. (Isaiah 55:11) But please, please, please, make it fun, and not a drudgery. Some kids will find it really easy, and some kids will struggle with it a little. Competition and drilling doesn’t work for a lot of kids, but music and teamwork works for almost all of them!

4. Kids can understand more than you think. They think about things like death and heaven and fear and the devil. Don’t try too much to “clean up” bible stories or even your own testimony. We never want to glamorize sin, but honestly? Many children these days have seen murder, adultery, and worse on their TV’s, ipods, and in their own homes. They don’t come to church to hear sweet little stories that sound like nursery rhymes. They want to know if the Bible talks about the important things in life. And it does. So tell them.

5. That being said, kids need words they can understand. A ten cent word that works is better than a ten dollar word they would have to look up in a dictionary. Use simple language as much as possible, even for kids who are “older.” Unchurched kids have no idea what words like “Holy,” “Righteous,” “Sanctified,” “baptized,” and even “sin” mean. You can use them, but ONLY if you explain them clearly in clear language every class period you use them. I assume that if their public school teacher would never say it, they don’t know what it is. Also something to note? Most kids these days are Bible illiterate. You can’t refer Moses, Joshua, the Israelites, or David, and have them know what you’re talking about. You have to start from scratch if you want to tell a narrative from the Bible. ( For instance, to talk about the battle of Jericho, I would say, “Today I’m going to tell you about a group of people who lived a long time ago. God promised them that if they followed him, he would give them a home in a new land. One day, their leader, a man named Joshua…” and then I go on. )

6. Kids understand more than you think when it comes to unspoken communication, too. If you are irritated with them, frustrated with a fellow teacher, or just plain in a bad mood, they know it. The best thing to do is take a deep breath and be honest. Say something like, “Hey guys, I just wanted you to know that I have a headache today. Please bear with me, I am trying my best.” They are usually understanding, and it’s better than having them wonder if it’s them you don’t like.

7. Because… this is probably the biggest part: Kids want to be loved. Honestly? You can be the coolest, funniest, most entertaining, educated, and prepared teacher out there- but if you don’t love them, they will. not. care. They won’t care! Kids can tell the difference between being loved and being endured. Being tolerated or being celebrated. Kids can see it, and maybe for a little while they might continue to come for the pizza or games, but if they aren’t loved, they will never open up to you- or let you speak into their lives. You can only influence them for the Lord if they feel the love.

8. Relax. Have fun. The curriculum is only a tool. The lesson is only a guideline. Every class you teach is an opportunity, a short window that you have, to look at a child, to ask the Holy Spirit to let you be the Lord Jesus’ hands, heart, and maybe voice to that child. Remember that Jesus blessed the children. So you do the same! If that’s all you do, sometimes that’s all you were called to do that day. Sometimes the most productive teaching sessions are just sitting sessions, where you sit on the rug with them and let them talk, and talk, and talk, and talk… Because you’re teaching them, “You are seen, and loved, and cared about.” You are doing to them what the Lord does for us. And maybe, like we should, they will someday learn to listen to the one who listens to them.

9. The only eternal things are people. A million years from now, those children will still exist, and your building will be only a memory. Remember that when the kids break something or run in the hallway. Rules are great for keeping order, and kids do thrive better in order than chaos. But the rules are for the people’s good. When we value the building over the children, we communicate to the kids that the stones and the carpet are worth more than them. We can always get more stones and carpet. But a lost soul is lost forever.

10. When the Lord calls you to do something, the best feeling you can have is to feel unqualified. Use that feeling to press in to the Lord and ask him to do the work through you. If you feel confident and skilled, you’re likely to lean on your own confidence and skills! The Lord says He lives with the humble and answers the cry of the low. And honestly, I think if you ask him for help with ministering to a young person, that’s one of his favorite prayers to answer. So go ahead- volunteer to teach Sunday School or VBS. Prepare your lessons as diligently as you can- and then the Lord use you- just who you are. I bet he surprises you. I bet you learn more than you end up teaching! I sure have.

Well, that’s my top 10. It’s not exhaustive, but I hope it encouraged you. If you’re reading this, and you have kids in your life that you want to reach for the Lord, I believe the Lord will give you the words and the wisdom you need to do it. Just ask him.

See ya!

Brianna

From Samaria

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”

This is from John, chapter 4, verses 7-10.

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Before we go on, I’d love to give you a few cultural background tips to help you understand what’s going on a little more. First of all, Samaria. It says “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” Let’s review that a little bit.

A long time before this, Abraham is the Father of the Jewish nation. The Lord promises him a land of his own, for his descendants. The land is the land of Canaan. Years go by, and Abraham’s descendants grow numerous, and they have a long story in which the Lord really does give them the land. But one of the things the Lord tells the children of Abraham, Isaac (his son) and Jacob, (his grandson, also named Israel,) Is that they are a set-apart people. God warns them and says, “Don’t intermarry with other people groups. Stay separate. Be my people.”

And for hundreds of years, the children of Israel have a problem with that command. The constantly mingle with and marry other races and religions, and that’s not the real problem… the real problem is that they take on the gods of those nations.

And they are punished. The Lord lets them reap destruction and violence and all sorts of evils, because they just won’t obey.

Now, at some point in this long 2,000 year history of the Israelites, they are taken away to live in Assyria. Well, most of them. The poorest of them are left in the land, and the king also re-populates Canaan with non-Israelites, who intermarry with these leftover Israelites. There’s a strange story you can read in 2 Kings about 17 how these people are settling in the area of Samaria, north of Jerusalem, but they keep getting attacked by lions. So they send a message to the King of Assyria, their king, and say, “Hey. Tell us about the gods who rule this land, because we must not be worshipping them and they’re mad at us.” So this foreign king researches a little bit, and he finds a priest of the Israelites, and sends him down to teach them “how to worship the god of the land.”

Okay, the chapter goes on to say that they do. They follow his instructions. And unknowingly, they start worshipping the One True God, and the lions stop. But it also says that they won’t give up their other gods. They just add them in all together.

Fast forward. Years later in the story, some Israelites from the tribe of Judah come home and start trying to rebuild the fallen Jerusalem. At that time, the people of Samaria come down and say to them, “Let us help you! We also worship your god.” But the Israelites reply to them, “Go away from us, we want nothing to do with you.” And at that point, The Hebrews and the Samaritans become enemies. In fact, the good leaders of the Israelites even violently prevent their people from mingling with these non-kosher neighbors. They remind the people, “This is what got us into trouble in the first place!!” You can read all this in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah.

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But back to First Century Samaria. Jesus is a descendant of these Israelite people. He’s a Jewish Rabbi, and the custom of a Rabbi was to be even more holy that just the regular Israelites.  And holy, to the Israelites, means, “set apart.” Set apart from whom? Samaritans, for sure, and also- women. 

And yet here is Jesus, sitting by a well, and asking her for a drink.

There have been many things said about how phenomenal this is. How magnanimous of Jesus to talk to a Samaritan, and a woman. If you are a woman in a western society, you can’t fully grasp just how meaningful this is.

When I was a little girl, my great-grandmother had a photo album full of her travel photos. She had been all over. But what fascinated me the most was photos of her next to the Great Pyramids, and the Giant Sphinx. I asked her about them and wanted to hear about what it was like there. She waved me off. Of all the stories she would tell me, she only said, “I will never go back to the Middle East. They treat women like dogs. We paid a lot of money to stay at the nicest places and eat at the best restaurants. And the waiters won’t even look at you. They say to the man, ‘What do you want to order for her?’” She was completely disgusted.

There’s more to this attitude than just ignoring. In a culture that treats women like a second-class citizen, the most honorable men won’t look at you. But the ones less honorable are worse. They will look at you like something for their consumption. Like meat.

Women in this culture are carefully guarded by the men who care about them, because these men know- women are not safe in a culture like this. They aren’t treasured, honored, respected, or people outside of their family. They are seen as something to be used and taken, and only interacted with for the benefit of the man.

 

This is how this woman probably experiences life. In fact, later in the story we find out she has had five husbands, and the one she’s living with is not her husband. Probably out of his choice.

Do you think she expects a Jewish holy man to speak to her? Kindly??

Or want to share a drinking vessel of hers? 

 

And so she answers,

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

 

He asks her for a drink, and she basically throws back 400 years of history in his face. She brings out her hurts, her ill-treatments, her wounds, and his part in them, and slaps him with them. 

But this, see this: If you knew who it is that you are interacting with, you could ask him and he would give you living water.

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Jesus is interacting with you. Every moment, every day, he is there, presenting you with opportunities to interact with him and hear him and listen to him. All day. Every day. And you go about your business, you have tasks to do and things on your mind. The Samaritan woman has a huge back story. Drawing water alone in the middle of the day, most likely to avoid the women of the town- because they likely look down on her. Not only that, she has more than 400 years of history on her mind, and questions about theology and her and her people’s ill-treatment, and prophesy of things to come. Her mind is a tangle of questions and heartache, and here, she meets the One Who can give her Living Water.

 

Will she recognize him?

Will she notice how tender He is towards her?

 

Will you?

Jesus doesn’t ignore her, or treat her like dirt. He asks her for a drink, yes, but he doesn’t demand it from her. In fact, he’s willing to share her cup.

When you go about your business today, and the Lord speaks to you, will you recognize his voice? 

When he asks for a cup of cool water, will you brush him off, or will you bend down and ruffle his hair as he drinks?

Do the wounds of your life, does your back story leave you with a chip on your shoulder? Do you expect to hear the voice of the Lord as a demanding One that brings up 400 years of your sins and lays more burden on you?

Lay down your theological wrestlings and come to him like a little child. He meets her right where she is, and he wants to give her the living water. 

Expect him to love you and meet you, right in the middle of your day. Don’t throw back in his face 400 years of what you consider ill-treatment. Just listen, and ask him, and let him give you the water you need. 

 

He doesn’t throw your sins in your face. He doesn’t avoid looking at you to talk to someone else. He doesn’t want to use and abuse you, or put heavy loads on you.

 

He doesn’t deal with you according to the history of your nation, your family, or even yourself. He just comes to you, person to person, and asks you to meet him for a drink.

 

And do you know why? Because he loves you. Later in the book of Acts, he’s called “The Author of our Souls.” He truly is intimately acquainted with our grief and heartaches, he understands all the backstory of our lives and theological questions. But he is a Person, a real person, and he meets us right in the middle of where we are, because he loves us and wants to quench our thirsty souls.

But when he comes, we often miss him- we walk right by opportunities to hear him and meet him, because our minds are on other things.

So watch, today. Wait for him by the side of the well, and linger over the dishes. He’ll meet you today. Watch and listen.

 

samaria 4

The book of John (1)This post is part of an ongoing series traveling through the book of John to meet the Mercy Man. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe by email or go to the lead page and follow at your own pace. Just click here. 

Born Again

We are going on in the third chapter of John. If you’re just getting started, you can back up and start at the beginning by clicking here. Or you can jump into the story right here. A man, Nicodemus, has come to Jesus at night to question him.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Here we are still in the middle of the conversation with Nicodemus. We’re talking about being born again. What a strange phrase, but then, it’s become so common it has lost it’s strange-ness in our ears.

Born Again.

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Nicodemus wants to know what God is doing, and what Jesus has to do with God, and Jesus answers by saying, “You won’t understand unless you’re born again.”

Then he gives an analogy. We can feel the wind going by, but we can’t understand it. That’s how it is with the Spirit’s ways… Unless.

Unless.

Unless what? Unless you are born of the Spirit.

Unless you are born of God, you don’t understand God. Unless you’re born of the Spirit, you don’t understand the Spirit. Jesus can’t explain anything of God to someone who isn’t born of God.

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Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.”

Here he’s gently reprimanding Nicodemus, and saying, How can I talk to you of God? This is harsh. Remember, Nicodemus is one of the religious leaders and teachers. He should know of God more than anyone, right?

And then Jesus goes on to refer to Himself in third Person. “We.”

It’s just like God spoke in Genesis. “Let us create man…”

It’s because He’s about to say something about Who He is.

Nicodemus says, “We know you have come from God.”

Jesus is about to say He IS God.

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“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe,” He goes on, “How will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

So he’s saying, no one has ever come from God, except the One who IS God. The Son of Man is a title that Jesus refers to- it’s essentially saying, “God who was born as a man.” And He’s saying it about himself. 

What do you think Nicodemus thinks of this? He came and said, “Okay, we know you came from God…” And Jesus answers him by saying, “If you want to understand what I’m about to say, you have to be of the Spirit. And by the way, I’m not from God. I am God.

But that’s not all, he says even more. He tells Nicodemus the answer to what he came to ask- Why are you here? What’s your purpose?

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” 

It’s only this beginning of the book of John, but he’s already telling what the ending will be. He’s saying, “I’m God’s Son, and I’m here to rescue all of you through my death.”

This is what it means to be born again: To believe. To come to Jesus, listen to him, and look at him, and recognize that this is the Son of God, who has come to die and take away our sins.

If you do that, you’re born again- and then you can understand more and more of the kingdom of heaven. You can go to Jesus with your questions, and he can answer them.

Do you have to go back inside your mother’s womb? No.

You have to lay down at the feet of Jesus, and say, “I believe you have come from God, because you are God, and you have come to rescue me from my sins.”

And he washes you, not with water, but with blood. And you stand up, free from sin, your old self dead, and your new self born through Him into a new life.

You are born again.

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The book of John (1)

This post is part of an ongoing series moving through the book of John. You can subscribe by email at the link on the side, or you can head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here. 

Answers

John, Chapter Three. Let’s read out of the New King James Version this time.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Okay. Hold up. He starts in by saying, listen. You’re from God.

 

And right away, before he says anything else, Jesus interrupts.

 

“Unless you’re born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God.”

 

Did he ask about the kingdom of heaven? Is that what he was asking?

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I guess I have to assume that’s what Nicodemus’ deep question was, because that’s what Jesus answered. He just cut right to the point.

 

Jesus does that with me a lot, too. I guess that’s what I want him to do. When I go to a bible study or prayer meeting or church service, I want to hear truth that meets the questions in my heart- the questions and hurts that I’m actually battling. Far too often I go and hear good advice, or doctrine, or pleasant words or sometimes correcting rebuke- but it is so rarely meeting me at the point I’m actually at.

 

But Jesus isn’t like that. Jesus looks at us and knows, right away, what our questions and struggles are.

 

You know, for most of my life I’ve been reading the bible, and reading Christian books, and listening to Christian radio, and most every time I’m listening, I’ve usually got some question or burden on me, and most every time I’m listening- I’m looking for answers. And most of the time, I am the sort of person who keeps pushing until I find the answer.

 

But I think that lots of times people come to the church, or open their bible to study, and the message doesn’t meet them where they are at, and so they shut the book or turn off the preacher, and sadly, give up.

 

Are you like this? Do you try to do devotions, but nothing makes sense, and you don’t know how to make it have any application to your life? Do you go to church but the sermons go over your head, or worse, make you feel farther from God?

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I have to tell you- unfortunately, this is not unusual. For hundreds, even thousands of years, people have had questions, and they go to the church, and sometimes it helps. For me, it has helped. I’ve found the Answer I’ve been looking for.

But for other people, it doesn’t help. They come in and drift out, or worse, they come in and are chased out, and leave thinking the church, and therefore God, are lies and liars.

 

Even in Jesus’ day.

 

Look at Nicodemus. He was a leader in the church, although it wasn’t called the church back then. But it was a leader of God’s people, and he was among those who were supposed to teach the people good things, and lead them to God. And yet, when Jesus came, the Son of God, performing miracles, even though he said “We know you are from God,” implying that the other religious rulers knew it, too, he went to him alone, at night. Secretly. The rest of them didn’t want to go. This is not good! This means that the God’s people didn’t want God! And it also means that they probably were no help to the people. 

 

The reason why people ran to Jesus and followed him and looked for him at night was because Jesus met their heart’s cries. He had the word from God for them, directly, exactly what they were hungry for. The religious rulers obviously weren’t doing that, or people wouldn’t have been so hungry for it. 

And do you know what? The religious rulers of the day didn’t like it. They were against Jesus, and in turn, he was against them. He spoke most harshly towards those were supposed to be his biggest leaders. They were religious, but they were not on God’s side. They were no longer doing the work of God’s people- teaching the people good things, and leading them to God. 

 

Some people draw the conclusion that all religion is wrong. I don’t. Jesus himself said he would “build his church.” And God Almighty ordained the priests of the temple. I am not a religious anarchist.

But I do think that too often our religion, our organized and traditional methods of finding the Lord can get stale and rote and stop meeting people where they need to be met.

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The solution is clear- we have to meet Jesus ourselves, not just go to the church or Christian books or Christian music or Christian this or that.  Whether we are on the outside of the church, or whether we are leaders. We have to not lose touch with him. We have to go, like Nicodemus did. 

We have to go, and find him ourselves, and ask him our questions. Or just go, and say anything- and let him answer the questions we don’t ask.

What are you doing tonight? Because you can go and find him. You’ve got things in your heart, I know, that bother you and plague you and stress you out, and he has answers. 

answers 4The book of John (1)

This post is part of a continuing series covering the book of John, bit by bit. You can follow by subscribing above, or you can go to the lead page and take it at your own pace.

 

Cana

John chapter two starts the stories. They’re both easier to read and more difficult to interpret. It’s easy to take a statement like, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and make a doctrine out of it. But when you read the stories of what happened, it’s more difficult. The first two stories that John lists here in chapter are extremely difficult. First, Jesus changes water into wine. And second, he makes a whip and drives people out of the temple.

We don’t usually take these actions and make a direct doctrine. “…We should all change water into wine.” “…We should all braid cords into whips for important times of… driving people places.” Well, someone somewhere has made those statements. But not usually.

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Instead, traditionally, we take these stories and try to find broad themes and meanings behind them, and apply those to our lives.

But that’s where it gets tricky. Everyone who reads a story has their own point of view when they read it, and so we see things in the story that others may not notice. This can be good and bad.

On the one hand, the more you read the bible, the more you see new things and learn more about this God who is beyond understanding, but whom we try to know more and more. When you read and study with other people, you hear things you never thought before and learn things you’ve never considered.

On the other hand, sometimes people’s interpretations and conclusions are just wrong.

Sometimes, even yours.

In particular, it’s interesting that we all usually have some preconceived notion of right and wrong, and Who God is, and what He’s like, and when we come to the bible, unfortunately, we often filter the story to fit  what we already believe.

THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE SHOULD DO.

Because listen! The BIBLE tells the truth about God! We shouldn’t try to fit the Scriptures to our ideas… we should and let them re-shape and refine and just plain CORRECT what we think about God!

Okay. So are you ready? We’re going to read about Jesus changing water into wine. We are going to Cana, in Galilee, to see what the Mercy Man was up to.  John chapter 2, verse 1.

 

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

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(Wait, real quick:  Jesus’ mother, of course, is Mary, who is not mentioned by name in this gospel so far. There’s no mention of Joseph, and in case you’re wondering, there’s some speculation that he must have died by this time. Jesus is about 30 years old when this story starts, by the way. Let’s go on.)

Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Dear Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

Okay, just THINK for a minute about all that this tells about who Jesus is, and what he’s like. Remember that we’re going through to find out what who the Mercy Man is, and we want to let what the Bible says outweigh what we think we know about him. So let’s make a list of what this story would tell us about him if we didn’t know anything else about him. 

  • He has a mother.
  • He’s invited to weddings, and he goes.
  • He’s living life. This tells us he’s not some a mystical god who floats on purple clouds. He’s very aware of normal life, because we see right here that he lived it.
  • His mother goes to him with a problem. Hm. This is interesting.
  • Here’s another interesting thing: She talks to him quite normally. Though he’s the Son of God, she doesn’t use any fancy language.
  • He, also, responds to her normally, with kind affection. Some translations leave out the “Dear,” and it sounds really harsh and demeaning. But I don’t think that is the correct tone to read it in at all. It was definitely “dear woman.”
  • It’s also interesting that she goes to him and doesn’t wait for him to notice.

 

Let’s hang out on that one for a few minutes. Now, we can’t take everything the characters in the bible do and say, “This is in the bible, so it must be right.” Not even Mary. The only person in the BIble, the only person in history, who did EVERYTHING right, was Jesus. So we can’t build a doctrine that says, “Mary went to Jesus and didn’t wait for him to notice, so we must always go to Jesus and not wait for him.” That doesn’t work. Instead, we just look at it and say, “That’s what she did. Should she have done this? Would I have done it like this?”

Anyway, okay. So here Mary comes with a problem. The wine is gone. The wine. Wow. What a controversial story to start out. If you had never heard this story before, you might think that Jesus would say some pithy proverb about how people shouldn’t drink so much, it’s not wise. But that’s not what happens. What happens is that he says,

“Why are you telling me about this? It’s not my time yet.”

This is a very interesting answer. This whole interaction shows so many things. First, it shows that Mary believed that Jesus was capable of doing something about the problem.  I’m guessing she wasn’t expecting him to run to the market for more. Yet there is no other record in this gospel or any in our bible that says there was any other miracle before this, so how did she know he would be able to solve this problem?

The second thing that it shows is that Mary believed that Jesus would WANT to do something about this problem. She knew he would care. How did she know this?

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I think the answer to both of these questions is because she knew Him. For thirty years, she had known Him. She went to him with a problem that she knew he could solve, and would solve, because after 30 years of knowing him, she knew what he was capable of, and what his character was.

This is so cool to me. We already know, from just this tiny conversation, so much about Jesus. We know that his mother related to him in a way that she knew- He can solve problems and he WANTS to solve problems. He cares, and he has power.

Wow.

Okay, but that’s not even all.

The really fascinating thing to me is that Jesus initially says no.

Not no, directly, but come on. “Why are you asking me? It’s not my time yet,” is very, very, much, “NO.”

And yet… And yet.

Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

For thirty years and nine months, since the angel told Mary she would bear the Son of God, Mary has been anxiously waiting for Him to fulfill his purpose. For thirty years.

And up until now, how many times has he said, “My time has not yet come?”

Why does he say that anyway?

It’s because he is following God, his Father, He is leaning on the leading of the Spirit, and up until now, He has not heard the word, “It’s time.”

God’s time is perfect, we know this. Many, many times, we hear people tell us when things are waiting or delayed… “God’s time! All in His time.” It’s almost a doctrine. God’s timing. We shouldn’t push or press, God will do things in his time. When we don’t understand, well, “it’s just not God’s time.” It’s used to comfort people with unanswered prayers, it’s used to console ourselves when we are disappointed. “God’s Time” is something that we don’t understand and we can’t do anything about, right? That’s what we’re taught, that’s what we believe.

But this story flies in the face of that.

Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Mary directly hears the voice of God telling her, “It’s not my time yet,” and she turns around and says, “Get ready,” and you know what happens. He performs a miracle.

Mary knows him, knows his character, knows his capabilities, knows him intimately, and that changes everything. 

Build your theology on that. Take your old ideas of “God’s timing,” set them next to that, and compare them. Does your doctrine align with what the Word says He does? Does your idea of how God acts compare to what this story says?  

If not, what are you going to do about it?

I’ve already written so many words here, and the story isn’t over. But you just consider that for a little while, okay? And come back and we can read the rest of the story later.

In God’s time. 😉

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The book of John (1)
This post is part of a series going through the book of
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Strange Things

The end of the first Chapter of John. We’re in the last few verses, numbers 49-51.

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

 

What a strange verse. Actually, what a strange chapter altogether. Let’s list some of the strangest things we’ve seen. 

  1. Jesus being the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  2. The Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a Dove.
  3. The whole “word became flesh” thing. Actually, Jesus being the Word.
  4. Jesus being the Son of God.
  5. The Messiah. (What even is that?)

 

Okay, let’s acknowledge right away that this is a spiritual book, and it’s a completely different book than the modern absolutely non-spiritual texts that we read all the time. I mean, we live in the early 21st century. As it’s been said, we are modern, scientific people. We deal in observable, provable facts. We want scientific reasons to back up the things we believe. And now here we have a book, the Bible, full of fantastical, inexplicable, strange phrases and words, and they say, “You have to have faith to believe.”

So strange.

But let’s consider a few things. First of all, let’s acknowledge that we are spiritual beings. You know it. You know that there is a You that is more than your body, because you are not a purely physical creature. You know that there is more to you than just your mind, because you can still exist when your mind is injured or affected by a drug. You know you have experiences that are unexplained by physical reasons. Why literature makes you cry and music makes you dance and you want to hug your grandmother. These things are emotional and often irrational. But there is more to you than just emotions.

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There is more to everything, in fact. Those who want to deny that there is a God often want to postulate that the world is a purely physical thing. That nothing exists that cannot be seen.

This is such a pale, sad state of denial. There are things that cannot be seen, and still exist. Love. Hope. Adventure. Despair.

There is more.

If you want to think there is nothing more, I am very sorry for you. I agree that the physical world is beautiful and magnificent and beyond our understanding, and that if we studied for a billion years there would still be more things to learn about it. It’s enough, if it was all there was. I’m not complaining. I love the physical world. I love the galaxies and the deep sea and photons and microbes, I love algebra and geometry and classic sculpture. I am very appreciative of it. It’s wonderful. But the delectable treats in a French bakery do not mean anything for the existence of Thai cuisine. And the phenomenon of the physical reality does not preclude the existence of the spiritual.

 

There is a spiritual world. And what’s more, we live in it and we can know of it, and it is wonderful.  

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The physical is experienced simply, frankly, with our senses. The spiritual is experienced rarely by our senses, and more often in other ways. Here’s the thing. In Western society, we place a lot of value on what we can see and touch and prove. In many ways, we say they are the only real things. But the spiritual things… They’re real, too, only they’re not as tangible as the blocks we’re used to playing with. 

The things of the spirit are like a series of riddles. And unfortunately, in order to ease our discomfort, we Westerners just decide to write off these things. We say there is no spiritual side, or we discount it very much. Some people are so uncomfortable with intangible things that they even discount emotions… actually, any abstract things. Art, music, love, honor… these things get pushed back into closets and the television gets turned up, because they’re too strange to look at, let alone consider. Instead, we talk about the price of meat and the rain and the new tires on the car.

I think that other cultures do it better in some ways- they don’t shut out the spiritual experiences, they don’t hush up talk about dreams or ghosts or strange voices.

There are downsides, of course, to opening yourself widely to all spiritual experiences. There are evil things out there, you know. 

But they acknowledge that the spiritual exists, and what’s more, they acknowledge that it’s difficult to understand.

Maybe that’s the hurdle with us, we don’t want to look stupid.

 

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As we look through this spiritual book from God, you might feel stupid sometimes. Things get confusing and weird. There’s language about circumcision and sacrifice and blood and the spirit and the Bride of Christ and angels ascending and descending on the Son of God, there are all these weird things that don’t make sense and are completely out of the realm of the things you’re reading about on Facebook and the things in Target and the things that you hear at work. 

And that’s okay.

It is completely okay to pick up this book, this book from God, and have it be foreign and strange and weird, and to feel out of your element. To feel small. It’s okay. 

 The truth is, the more you read, the more you will understand why Jesus is the lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the world. The more you will get references, like inside jokes that are not jokes at all, but beautiful and solemn and sweet, and like honey to your soul.

The more you read, the more the Spirit of the Living God, who raised Christ from the dead, will whisper inside of your heart and help you to see with your spiritual eyes, and hear with your spiritual ears, until the spiritual is as real to you as the physical, until heaven is your home and earth is where you’re passing through.

This might sound exciting to you- or scary. But I want to tell you that if you believe, you will see great things. You will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of God, and you might even learn what that means.

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What are you looking for?

 

Going on in the book of John, chapter 1, we are in verse 35.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “Where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Here is John the Baptist, again, with two of his disciples. And this is where the author John makes his entrance, only without being named. He is one of the two disciples. The other’s name is Andrew. John, the Author, is relaying information only he or Andrew could have known- that John the Baptist said this about Jesus.

And then John the author and Andrew both leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus.

Do you think this was hard for John? If it was, he knew it was right. He knew he was there to prepare the hearts for Christ. I don’t think John was perfect, he might have been disappointed or sad to see followers go. It’s never easy to watch people leave, it feels like rejection. But sometimes you have to let people go so they can find Jesus for themselves, and not just follow you.

At any rate, when they caught up to Jesus, he turned and looked at them, and asked them a fascinating question.

“What are you seeking?”

Some translations say it other ways. “What are you looking for?” “What do you want?”

But Jesus looked at them, saw them coming after him, and asked it.

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You’re going after Jesus right now- by reading this, by reading the book of John- you’re following on his trail. And I think that Jesus does the same thing with you. He knows you’re there, and he turns, looks you in the face, and asks,

“What are you looking for?”

Why do you go after Jesus? Why wonder at all about God? Why seek Him? Why do you care? What is in your heart that you think he will meet?

Is it questions? Is it enlightenment and personal development? Is it the mysteries of the universe? The meaning of life? Do you go after him for comfort and acceptance, for something to ease the pain of life?

Already in my writing I’ve begged you to come after him with promises. I’ve told you of the hope I’ve found in Him… has this caught your ear at all? Before you read any further, sit back, close yourself from my words, and answer this yourself.

What are you looking for?

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***************************************

The disciples do not answer directly. I think, if I understand the historical context at all, that these were looking for the Messiah, the Christ, as John the Baptist said, “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Many have postulated that the disciples were a group of revolutionaries who were looking for a leader to overthrow their occupying government- the Romans. Others have said that they were looking for the heir to David’s throne- a Hebrew King who would bring peace to their nation.

But I think it’s interesting that John the Baptist preached a repentance of sins, and then when he told his two disciples that this man “took away the sins of the world,” the two disciples immediately turned to follow him. This suggests to me that these two, at least, John and Andrew, were concerned with their sins. And this is as it should be.

 

We have to have a knowledge of our sins before we can come to him, really. Or at least, when we look at Jesus, and his role as the lamb of God, we need to stop and search ourselves and our position regarding sin.

You know, sin is the wicked thing we inherit since the Garden of Eden. It is not just a word that is a noun, meaning a wicked deed that is done, it is an abstract thing that is stuck to us, deep inside of us, that causes us to do those wicked things.

Sin is nebulous. It is both evil and lack of good. It is both hatred and withholding of love. It is both violent and stingy. Sin is falling short of God’s perfection. He is loving and kind and good to everyone, and whenever we aren’t, we show our sin.

 

I’ve heard people say that because there is goodness in people, that there can’t be sin. I’ve also heard people say that there’s no possible way to be good without God. I don’t know that either of these are true. I think that there is a measure of goodness in all of us while we are here on earth, because we are God’s creation. We were intended to belong to Him, and he put good gifts in all of us. It is not that we do good that proves that we are without sin, but that we cannot NOT do wrong that proves there is sin in us.

 

It’s true, this sin is what makes us human. None of us are perfect. At least, on this side of the Garden. And you might say, “I’m not that bad.” You might think that compared to some, you’re mostly a saint.

And this is where Jesus looks at you and says, “What do you want?”

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If you come to Jesus because you’re curious, but you’re satisfied with yourself, and the world around you, and you see nothing you want that you cannot get yourself, you will likely meet him and walk away.

There is a story in the bible of a man coming to Jesus, and asking him, “How do I live forever?”

It’s a funny question. No one can live forever. But this man, who the bible calls “rich, young, and a ruler,” was looking for something. He had riches, he had youth, and he had position. What more can you want in life? Maybe love or meaning… perhaps he had those. But he was still unsatisfied. Maybe he feared death. Maybe he had recently had a brush with it. At any rate, he wants to know, “Jesus, what do I have to do to have eternal life?”

I think that deep inside, he could still see that something was missing. Riches, youth, position and honor didn’t do it.

I’ve heard that there is a high rate of depression and suicide attempts in lottery winners, because the money reveals that the problems in their lives were more than just money problems. Maybe this is what the rich young ruler was experiencing. Money didn’t solve everything.

If you come to Jesus, knowing that you’re seeking something- knowing that on your own, you aren’t enough, you will find the answer to what your heart wants.

He is the ultimate satisfier of needs. He is the author and finisher of you, his creation. He is the lover of your soul.

John and Andrew answer his question strangely. They don’t answer it at all. They just ask, “Teacher, where are you staying?”

And Jesus replies, “Come and see.” Then see what happens.

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).

 

I think that what happened was that they followed him, and when they were with him, they found the answer to the questions in their hearts.

John, the Author, doesn’t say what happened that day. He doesn’t tell about their conversation or what happened at all back at the house, where he was staying. But at the end of the day, he goes and finds his brother, and says this telling thing: We have found the Messiah.

As in- we have found what we’ve been looking for.

This is what happens. We go after Him who created our hearts, and we find what our hearts want the most.

So… what are you looking for?

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The book of John (1)

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In the Beginning was the Word

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Let’s start at the book of John. Let’s open the Word and find the Mercy Man, let’s find this Jesus, Yeshua, who came from God and was God, and died for us and rose, and sits at the right hand of the Father. Let’s meet him, and see him, and know him, together, from the Word of God, beginning in the book of John.

In the beginning was the Word.

The Word. In Greek, it is Logos.

Jesus, the man of God, the Son of God, was the Word.

Nowadays when we say, “The Word of God,” most people mean the Holy Bible. 66 books, Old and New Testament. But do you know what? The trinity is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. Jesus himself is the Word.

This is strange to us, how can a person be the word? But Jesus himself is the personification, he embodied the whole message of God. He himself has everything we need. If we didn’t have the scriptures, but we had him, we would have enough.

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But we do have the scriptures. The Bible, the Holy Bible, is the authoritative final word on what God is, and who Jesus is. You can learn other things, you can know God in your life, you can have experiential knowledge of God, but the Holy Scripture is the litmus test. It is the final authority. If your experience or belief about God contradicts what the Bible says, your god is not the One True God.

We go to the scriptures because we believe that God revealed himself through them to people, and we believe that he has protected and guided the message of the scriptures supernaturally through men, throughout the ages.

I know there are  many people who doubt the authenticity of the scriptures. They say, this was written by men and preserved by men, who can know what is true in it? They point to the humanity and personality that shines through different books of the bible, and they say, I don’t like this, I don’t agree with this… I think differently, and they throw the Bible aside, or worse, they use it as a storybook, to cut and choose parts they like.

This is what I believe: I believe in a God who wanted his story written. I believe in a God who is capable of preserving his words through scrolls, through tablets, through words written on on shipwrecked islands, in jail cells, and in hidden cars making its way across a communist border.

I believe that the message of God, the Word of God, is so powerful that a not-always-likeable apostle’s personality could be perfectly clear and yet not mask the message of hope and mercy that God sent through it. I believe in a faith that is grounded in thousands of years of people who are filled with the spirit of God, and who maybe, just maybe, have been able to pass that good doctrine and discovery of who God is down, more than I trust my own thirty five years thinking and seeking and learning.

I believe in the scriptures. I believe in the Holy Bible.

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I personally like the Voice translation. It’s so refreshing to read the Bible in the language and dialect of English that I speak. But I also use and recommend the ESV and the NASB, because I love looking at the direct translation of the original words. I use a concordance to see the Greek and Hebrew, and to read their definitions. When I read “In the beginning was the Word,” I love to see the meaning of Logos- that it is not only “something spoken” but “doctrine, teaching… message.”

Jesus is the Message. He is the Voice of God.

I believe it is possible to know the Bible and to miss the message. It is possible, and it is too common. In John 5: 39, Jesus is talking to a group of men who are very educated in the Scriptures, and he says,

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life: it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life!”

He’s saying that they have turned to the Bible for the answers, for hope, for salvation… but they missed it, they have none of it, because the Bible has a purpose: It is to reveal Christ. It is to bring us to God. But too, far too often, people have the Bible and not the Message. They have the words but not the Word.

Jesus is the Word.

As we read through John, I want to find Him. I don’t want to waste my time debating about what the meaning of this passage is, or what the translation of that word is- I want to go through this book, and find HIM. He is the point. Knowing Him, seeing him, finding Christ, this is the whole point.

Let’s be seekers of Him, seekers of the Word and not just readers of the words. Let’s open this Bible, and thank the Lord that He preserved it and put it within our grasp, and let’s look in these words for Christ Himself, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us.

I truly believe that when we seek, we will find, and He wants us to find him more than we even want to find Him ourselves.

I truly believe that the whole point of our whole lives is finding Him- finding what has been from the beginning, the Word of God.

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The book of John (1)

 

This post is the first in a series going through the book of
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.

When the Storms Come

When I was in second grade, I sang a solo for the first time, and these were the words:

“Don’t build your house on the sandy land, Don’t build it too near the shore,

Oh, it might look kinda nice, but you’ll have to build it twice, Oh, you’ll have to build your house once more.”

It comes from Jesus’ story about the wise man building his house on the rock, and the foolish one on the sand. But this didn’t matter to me. What mattered to me was that I had a maroon velvet dress borrowed from a rich girl, and my mom curled my hair, and I was going to be on stage, which was my favorite place.

But thirty years later, the dress is gone, the curls are gone, and the stage is gone. The only thing that remains is the song. It turns out that while I focused very little on what I was singing, somehow it burned down into me, carved itself on my heart.

What’s funny about this is that my whole life, I knew that story, the wise man and the foolish man, the sand and the rock, the rain and the storms, and I never understood what it meant. Oh, I sang the song plenty of times-

The wise man built his house upon the rock,

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rains came tumbling down…

-But I never understood it. It seemed like a silly nursery rhyme.

This tells you how much of a ditz I can be. Because in Matthew 7, Jesus is extremely clear about what it means.

“Those people who are listening to Me, those people who hear what I say and live according to My teachings—you are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, on a firm foundation. 25 When storms hit, rain pounded down and waters rose, levies broke and winds beat all the walls of that house. But the house did not fall because it was built upon rock. 26 Those of you who are listening and do not hear—you are like a fool who builds a house on sand. 27 When a storm comes to his house, what will happen? The rain will fall, the waters will rise, the wind will blow, and his house will collapse with a great crash.”

(This is taken from The Voice, by the way, a new translation that I find makes things way more understandable.)

Anyway. I was in my twenties before it clicked. I was singing the song to my own kids…

“Soooooo build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ…”

And suddenly…. Oh! Sand and the Rock!

Your life is built on sand when you base it on wisdom from the world- Oprah or your friends, pop psychology or the school guidance counselor. It might look kinda nice, but when troubles come, when disaster hits, everything falls apart. Your marriage is rocky- because you get your counsel from your friends. Your kids drive you nuts- but you do what Parenting magazine tells you to do! Your inner self is exhausted… even though you are following some Pinterest printable of workouts and cleaning. Trouble comes, and nothing holds up. Everything falls apart.

But when we build our life on the Lord, that means we choose to build our life on what we find in the Bible, and what we learn from the people who are more mature in faith, and what we hear the Lord speaking to us from the inside. Then, when something major hits, nothing tumbles down. We have a firm foundation, and we can’t be shaken.  

Build your life on the Rock.

Duh.

I don’t know why it took me so long to understand the meaning of this simple parable. Because to be honest, I think I lived like I knew it.

Somehow in my teens, at that point in life when everyone starts deciding who they want to be when they grow up, I looked at Christian adults- real Christian adults, who lived like they believed- and I decided to go that way.

As I made decisions about what movies to watch, what friends to hang out with, and what jobs to apply for, I see now that I was trying to line up with what I knew would please the Lord. I built my life on the Rock.

I didn’t do it perfectly. No, no no no…. Not even close.

But I do try. Because I believe that the Lord’s way is the best way.

I think it’s the beginning of real Christianity. To say, I believe that God is good, that He loves me, and his way is the best way, and then to LIVE like you believe that.

Anyway. Everything in my life starts with that. All the discussions and questions in my heart, whether they’re about velvet dresses or who I should marry- boil down to these: What is God’s way here? What would please Him? Because I know that if I can answer those questions, I can answer everything else. And the result is that when trouble comes, I can go to the Rock. I can find peace in the storm. My world doesn’t crumble. 

 

So what do you build your life on? Are you checking your decisions against what the Lord wants, what pleases him? Or are you building things on sands that will shift and crumble? 

When the storms come, what will happen?

 

 

Here’s the Good News.

Gospel

Okay, whenever I hear people talk about their problems with Christianity, I feel like there are common questions/issues/themes.

  1. If God is sovereign, and loving, why is there pain? Or hell?
  2. I like Jesus, I don’t like Christians.
  3. What’s with all the rules? I think a loving God would be more tolerant.
  4. I think people are basically good, and so why do we need to be saved?
  5. From God’s wrath? What? That doesn’t make sense if he loves us.
  6. Speaking of wrath, what’s with the Old Testament?

Well, here’s how I come out on those questions.


I start with this.

God is sovereign. He created everything. He is Good. He is Love. We start there. When we speak of something being “right” or “wrong,” it’s not arbitrary. It is inherently good or inherently wrong. It’s not an assigned value.

When God created the light and the dark, it says “He saw that the light was good.” He recognized the goodness in it. He had that ability. 

Okay. So God calls some things good, right? Like love. Faithfulness. Joy. Peace. Etc.

He even calls his creation good. God creates good things because he is good.

Okay. Now let’s talk about people. He creates people. He loves them, he calls them good. He sets them in a perfect, beautiful world.

Now, here’s where things screw up. You know the story, the apple. The snake. But let me reframe it like this:

God gave us a perfect world, gave us life, gave us himself even… And then we rejected him. 

At first it was just Eve, wanting an apple. But then it was other, nastier things. We don’t want marriage, we want a new girlfriend. We don’t want that child- we want a career. We don’t want peace, we want wealth. We reject the good things and choose the bad.

Hatred instead of love. War instead of peace.


(Side note: You say that people are basically good? Come on. Have you ever met a two year old who wants what’s best for his brother? We start out selfish. Animalistic. We want pleasure, not pain. We want happiness, not fear. I think, truthfully, most people want to be good. I will give you that. We are altruistic and loyal at our best. But none of us are all, truly, good. We all have pockets of selfishness and hatred and disdain. Can you admit that part? Can you at least that you have pockets of those things?

I know there’s a mindset going around that if we all had enough, if we were all educated and understanding enough, we would be peaceful and happy. But come ON. Has Utopia EVER happened? EVER?! Has there ever been a rich enough, safe enough, educated enough person that they were suddenly able to act with compassion and altruism all of their lives?

I just don’t think you can ever give anyone enough safety, wealth, education, or love to make their badness disappear. It’s in there.


But let’s go back to the story.

We want our own way instead of his way.

He gives us a law, his word, telling us, so we’ll know, what’s good and what isn’t. And we want nothing to do with it. We don’t like it. We don’t like him calling the things we think are fun “wrong.” How dare he! (Even if he, in his sovereign wisdom, knows it’s not good for us.)

And even… when we do want the things he says he wants to give us, we want it our way. Not on his terms. Our terms.

It’s rebellion. 

And you think, “So what? Why should he begrudge us a little bit of independence?”

Well, here’s the big problem.

He IS goodness and love. He is. He is everything that is good. Peace. Love. Joy. Now I’m not saying that those things are God, that we can worship those qualities. But I am saying,

apart from him we can have none of those things. 

Do you understand?

That’s the message of the Bible, really. That He is Life, and there is no life apart from him. And the bible is basically a book telling us, for our own good, what will lead to life… and what will lead away. 


So basically, He created us for good, he wanted good for us, and we said no. 

This is where we start talking about pain, suffering, death, and hell.

You see, if we want to choose to have nothing to do with God, we are free to choose that. He gives us that option. We can have it eternally, forever. We can say,

“I want nothing of you, Sovereign King. I want my own way.”

And then we have nothing of him. We have no Love. We have no joy. We have no peace, no comfort, no hope.

We have nothing good. Forever.

It’s called hell.

But he doesn’t want that for us- he loves us. He is willing at any time for us to come home.

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it.” -CS Lewis


This is where Christ comes in. But let’s assume you know about Christ- you know how he came to love and serve and die for us, to provide a way for us to be cleaned of our rebellion and sin. Let’s assume that.


Let’s instead, talk about Christians.

You’re like, “Okay, Christ was great. Jesus is wonderful. I’d be his friend. But Christians, Christianity, churches… they’re awful! If Christianity is so wonderful, why are Christians so lousy?”

Well, here’s my short answer. So are the rest of you.

No, seriously. We are all people. Some people are nicer than others. When you become a Christian, what you have is forgiveness and restoration of your relationship with the King.

And the way it SHOULD be, the way I hope it is for me, the way it ought to be for every Christian- is that we start living in that relationship, and let him clean out the nasty that we have let into us, so that we will become more like Christ- loving and kind and wise… all that. That’s the way it should be. 

But lots of people hear the message of forgiveness, and out of laziness or doubt or distraction or something else… they never go any further.

That’s the long answer. But their failure to take hold of the heart-school of Christ doesn’t change the Truth– that God is King, that we’re in rebellion, and that he’s provided a way home. 


Now let’s talk, for a moment, about God’s wrath.

Imagine for yourselves that you are father. You have a herd of… hm. Let’s say llamas, okay? Llamas. Can you picture their confused, cud-chewing faces? The flies around them?

Now imagine that they’re in a fenced in area near a cliff, and the fence is broken. Some of them are wandering towards the broken area. And your son, your smart, kind-hearted, brave son, says, “Dad, I’ll get it!” And you rumple his hair, and he hops into the pen, and goes over to fix the fence.

But one of those llamas gets mad about the fence getting closed up, and runs him down. And spits on him. And bashes in his handsome with its hooves.

You watch your son die, gruesomely, in front of your eyes.

Imagine that, will you.

How, tell me, will you treat that llama? You, the owner. With a whip, or a gun, or a truck going to the meat market, with everything at all at your disposal, How will you treat that llama?

We have beef cows. You know what? Nevermind my son, even when a steer threatened my dog, I got completely angry and ran at it with a stick.

…But let me tell you how the Lord treats you. He walks gently over to you. He speaks tenderly. With tears in his eyes, he says, “You have killed my son.”

And then he allows you to stay.

I can not understand the patience or the forgiveness of the Lord.

I am astounded even writing this.


That this is the good news- We, in our rebellion, were in danger of separation from Every Good Thing Forever. And he sent his son to make a way

… And we killed him.

This isn’t even a perfect illustration, no parables are, because in the real story, the Son came knowing we would kill him. And the Son Himself pleads on our behalf, and we are adopted as sons! It’s… TOO amazing!

This is the Good News!

This is the Gospel.


As for the Old Testament, and the battles, and the death, and the gore.

I don’t know, okay. I do know that the Lord is able to bring life, and bring death. And sometimes death comes by a lightning bolt, sometimes by a car crash, sometimes by cancer, and sometimes death comes by a sword. Sometimes death comes too soon, we think. But every moment of our lives is by his mercy. I can’t explain why anyone dies when they do.

And if you have a huge problem with the death of young people, because they’re so “innocent,” and you’re crying out against the sovereign Lord’s judgement of them,

Maybe you should also have a huge problem with the death of extremely young people, (doesn’t that mean they’re even more innocent?) and start crying out against the death sentence given to 55+ million of them in the last 30 years.

But’s that’s another subject.


And pain and suffering on earth? Well, I think it is because we are in the limbo. There is pain and death and suffering because the entire creation is still subjects to the effects of sin, the effects of rebellion. But there will come a day when creation suffers enough, when the wickedness is so great, that God in his mercy will say, “Enough.”


In all I’ve written here, I’ve tried to position where I stand, in faith. How I answer those strange questions. There are other questions- other doubts and problems that people have, when they’re wrestling with what to do with the message of the Bible. I know.

I want to leave you with this one last thought: http://adam4d.com/prove-it/

I hope any of this brings you closer to the Hope and Family of God. I sincerely wish for everyone the blessing that I have. I am praying as I write this- that the Lord will reveal his Truth to you.

I write this with all love and affection to anyone who reads this.

Brianna

briannasiegrist@gmail.com