I have been listening to some debates on YouTube concerning the argument for the existence of God. One reason I listen is to better understand how many people around me have been taught to think about God. It is my hope that by knowing more about these things, I may be better able to offer witness to the life of Jesus. After listening to a debate last night, I came away with a few thoughts. First, we need to expect that people who think of themselves as “wise and educated” will generally dismiss the message of Jesus. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” As Christians, we must realize that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is “hard to swallow”—especially if you presuppose that life is just nature and miracles do not happen. Paul goes on to say, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). So, let’s expect opposition…and even ridicule. Also, keep in mind to follow a line of reason to its’ conclusion in human behavior. If you truly believe there is no God or afterlife, you will live according to your beliefs. No hope after death invites a depressing, purposeless life. And, with no belief in our accountability to God, what prevents us from becoming totally absorbed with our own desires? What prevents us from treating our neighbors with contempt, and simply living for what makes us feel good in the moment? Atheists often point out the “problems of religion” and refer to the crusades and the Inquisition as evidence of God being “man-made.” Though these events were evil for sure (masquerading as Christian), how much more evil has been poured on humanity by godless leaders and their regimes? On a personal level, would you rather live in a city where everyone was godless or in one where the people honestly sought to live for the Lord? One reason I follow Jesus is because of the many godly people who have gone before me. They showed me that God is real by their love, wisdom, and humility. I want to finish my “race” on earth as they did. So, it’s okay to learn more about how people without God think about life, but let’s understand that the arguments of atheism do not satisfy our deepest needs. May others who are searching for meaning discover that Jesus lives…because they see Him living in us!
During Bible days, the world was governed by kings. Imagine yourself a king. How would you rule? Would you be just and fair? The greatest temptation of a king is to use his power and authority for sinful, selfish pursuits. History is littered with records of wicked kings and queens. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, the Lord knew that the people would want a king in order to be like the other nations. So, in Deuteronomy, the Lord (through Moses) gave commands and directions for Israel’s future kings. “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). For kings, arrogance and superiority attitudes were constant temptations. God provided just the right antidote to such poisonous thinking…the Word of God! The Bible was given to us not just to reveal God but to help us to think right about ourselves. The truth from Scripture is that we are no better than others…even if we are kings! Reverence for God, combined with the discipline of immersing ourselves daily in His Word, enables us to think accurately about our relationships with others. In the Bible we discover that we are here to serve God and love others, and that we will give account to the Lord. On that day, He will ask, “What did you do with what I gave you?” I challenge you (as I challenge myself) to read the Word daily. This Word, fit for a king, helps us not to get too high or too low on ourselves. Stay focused on Jesus, and let Him define your self-worth and self-image. And remember that the Lord Jesus, the King of Kings, humbled himself and died for you that you might have life in Him.
Some people call it “down time.” Others think of it as “recharging.” Even Jesus needed this. During His ministry, Jesus immersed himself in helping and serving others. It wasn’t long before the word got out, and Jesus found himself surrounded by people…with their constant flow of needs. “Yet, the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16). Here we see Jesus living by the priorities of the Spirit. From His life and example, we learn that quality time with the Father is essential for quality time with people. During my years of ministry, I notice how easy it is to feel tired and depleted by life’s many demands. When I start to feel overwhelmed, it’s like an alarm clock goes off in my heart…calling me to spend time alone with God. To be honest, most of my prayer times with the Lord are not “shock and awe.” I don’t hear voices or receive emotional lightning bolts. However, I do receive strength and peace. Just putting myself in the presence of Jesus feeds my soul and encourages my heart. I think of Jesus’ conversation with his friends Mary and Martha. They had invited Jesus to their house for dinner. Instead of running around in a frenzy, Mary chose to sit and listen to Jesus. Martha, on the other hand, “was distracted by all the preparations” (Luke 10:40). Finally, Martha boils over in frustration to Jesus and explodes, “Tell her to help me!” Does Jesus give in to her stress? He lovingly replies, “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (vv. 41-42). We need to understand there is a time to work and a time to “unplug” and just be with Jesus. Without time at His feet, even good ministry seems like a burden and work becomes a source of irritation. So, what are you doing to create your “alone time” with Jesus? His power is more than enough to sustain us, but we need to create a pathway into His presence. He will meet you. His presence is all you need!
I remember it like yesterday. I was in eighth grade, sitting in my math class of about 30 students. In our school there were four math classes (A, B, C, and D), with A having the highest math students and D the lowest. (I was in class B.) One Monday, an administrator walked in and announced the names of two students being “demoted” to class C. My name was called. The two of us stood up and were ushered down the hall into the room with the C group. Ouch! That was quite humbling! Looking back, I know the reason for the demotion…I didn’t pay attention! A couple of my friends and I whispered a lot while the teacher had his back to us as he wrote on the chalkboard. On top of that, I allowed myself to daydream and missed several homework assignments. I think the way the school handled my “math demise” left a lot to be desired, but, ultimately, I had no one to blame but myself. This week I thought about Psalm 81. Here we find God’s offer of amazing grace and bountiful provision. He proclaims His willingness to give of himself and teach all that is needed for life and godliness. The Lord reminded His people of His steadfast love and how, in mercy, He had delivered them from the slavery of Egypt. He said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But my people would not listen to me…. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies…” (Psalm 81:10-14a). The Lord promises hope and a future for His people, if only we would listen. From reading the Bible, I believe the worst sins are not what first come to mind. It seems the “gateway” sin leading to all the others is the everyday ignoring of God. We choose not to listen to Him and fill our schedules and minds with distractions. I am challenging myself to think about the Lord more and pay attention to Him every hour in my daily life. With all the cares of life, it takes a conscious effort on my part to pay attention to God. Even though I can’t do eighth grade math over again, I don’t have to fail in my walk with God. Hear again the heart cry of God as He pleads with us, “If my people would but listen to me!” May our desires and choices in life proceed from our rapt attention to our Lord and God! He will not steer us wrong.