Who is my neighbor?

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

———–

The point that Jesus is trying to emphasize is a widening concept of the term neighbor. In an overly religious setting the walls of ‘neighbor’ were defined very strictly. Jesus steps in to say that anyone in need, no matter what differences you have, is a neighbor in need of God’s grace and your concern.

And this thought has called, encouraged and sent Christian missionaries around the world for hundreds of years. We have concluded (rightly) that anyone in need is our neighbor. We have taken Jesus’ message to heart.

But in our zeal to fulfill this call we have forgotten something that is hugely important to Jesus: our actual neighbors.

Picture your house, apartment or living quarters. Make a grid like a tic-tac-toe board and put yourself in the center.

If each section of the grid were a neighbors house, could you list the eight closest people that live next to you? What else do you know about them? Can you list everyone in the house? Are they more than casual acquaintances; would you actually consider them friends?

The times I’ve done this have shown that less than 50% of people can name a majority of people around them and very few can name all eight. The speaker this last weekend shared similar results.

In our Christian passion to share our faith with the whole world we have forgotten those that live immediately around us. We have become blinded by going to all the world that we have forgotten the immediacy of those around that need to hear about Jesus.

This is one reason I push missional theology. It forces us to wrestle with the way we think of “Christian missions.” The job isn’t always ‘to go’ to exotic places and eat different food. Sometimes Christ’s call is to stay and be with those he has put around us. It’s to know about Bill and Brenda. Have them into your home and be more than fence sharers, be real neighbors. Love them into the Kingdom.

Science vs. God’s Existence ?

In the wake of this most recent horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, so many people attempt to find a reason for such evil. Unspeakable suffering, pain, and hurting take place in lives everyday. As we attempt to understand with our finite minds something infinite, we must understand that without Faith and Hope, we will struggle to explain the existence of evil to those that jeer at a proposed “Lack of the existence of God”, they say “Where is your God? If he exists, why would he allow these things to happen?”. Jimmy’s post below on Hope, truly resonates. While we can offer up a myriad of  “explanations” as to why such things happen, or why evil runs rampant, I was reminded of this rebuttal to the demand of a scientific explanation of God’s existence, that I came across a few years ago. A little lengthy but truly worth the read……..

Consider this explanation for those void of faith and insist on a “scientific” explanation of such events. 405401_400993166629257_989873826_n

“Let me explain the problem science has with religion.”  The professor of philosophy pauses before his class, then asks one of his new students to stand.

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

“Yes sir,” the student says.

“So you believe in God?”

“Absolutely.”

“Is God good?”

“Sure! God’s good.”

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”

“Yes.”

“Are you good or evil?”

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?”

“Yes sir, I would.”

“So you’re good…!”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.”

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?”

The student is silent. “No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says.

He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

“Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

“Er…yes”, the student says.

“Is Satan good?”

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

“Where does Satan come from?”

The student falters,”From God.”

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

“Yes, sir…”

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”

“Yes.”

“So who created evil?”, the professor continues, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists. And according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

Again, the student has no answer.

” Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things — do they exist in this world?”

The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

“So who created them?”

The student does not answer, so the professor repeats his question, “Who created them?”

There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. “Tell me”, he continues on to another student, “do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?”

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

“No, sir, I have not…”

“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ? Or God, for that matter?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

“Yet you still believe in him?”

“Yes.”

“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

“Nothing”, the student replies, “I only have my faith.”

“Yes, faith”, the professor repeats, “And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his own. “Professor, is there such a thing as heat? “

“Yes.”

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

“No sir, there isn’t.”

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room becomes very quiet.

The student begins to explain.

“You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest – 458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy.

Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

“What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

“Yes”, the professor replies without hesitation, “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing — and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. “So what point are you making, young man?”

“My point, professor, is that your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

“You are working on the premise of duality”, the student explains. “You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood, either one.

To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. Now tell me,professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

“Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?”

The class is in uproar.

The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

“To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.”

The student looks around the room.

“Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?”

The class breaks out into laughter.

“Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir. So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

Now the room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues. “Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course there is evil. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replies, “Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sits down.

~Author Unknown

What is the Bible?

Open a Gideon bible and you will find this statement:

This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.
Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions immutable.
This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers.
Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions immutable.
Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.
It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.
It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.
Christ is its subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end.
It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet.
Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully.
It is given to you in life, will be open in the judgement, and be remembered forever.
It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents!

The most important aspect of the bible is that it is inerrant and true in its original language. If it claims to be true, but isn’t, it cannot be the inspired word of God. If it isn’t true, it isn’t timeless and subject to contemporary opinion.

But, If it is true, knowing what it says and acting accordingly is essential. It will strengthen my faith and get me to heaven. My (and your) unbiblical opinions won’t.

I challenge you to read it and apply it to yourself, your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. When you realize you don’t meet God’s standard (as we all must), confess it to God in prayer and ask God to forgive and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. He promises to do this very thing.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

Jesus saves sinners. We like to think that it happens in a moment and is pain free. Well, it’s a walk, not just a moment. The moment we accept God’s judgment on sin, and trust his promises to forgive and cleanse us, we may be saved. Everyday brings awareness to new sins to confess. Eventually, only you (and God) can see your sinfulness, but you confess it just the same. Through this lifelong process, you look and act more like Christ, and glorify God in the process. Like a sheep belonging to the Great Shepherd, you know His voice and follow Him alone.

The world and the Evil one will rebel against God and His standard, inciting you to question It. But, those who are truly saved, like the seed that fell on good soil (in the parable of the sower), will grow in faith and obedience to God. God will come and save you where you are, deep in sin. But, He will not leave you there.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

God’s blessings to you!
John
Az4christ.wordpress.com

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Peace!

Should Christians Get Tattoos? What Does The Bible Say?

From the “Cruciformity Stations on Skin” at Xnihilo Gallery in Houston, Texas

There is a lot of conversation now days in regards to tattoos. A lot of people are asking questions as to whether or not they should get a tattoo.

You can find arguments on both sides of the issue, and both can be very convincing.

The problem I have with the whole argument against is how they are basing their reasoning.

How can you base your arguments on ONE scripture in Leviticus 19, but completely ignore this one, or this one?

When it clearly says in Leviticus 19:37, “Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.”

The last time I checked, we are no longer offering physical sacrifices because Jesus Christ Himself became THE sacrifice for us.

So….What does it all mean?

It comes down to this…the Bible is unclear about whether or not one should get tattoos, and any one touting the whole ‘the Bible is very clear about tattoos’ argument, are merely spouting their opinion.

I would encourage any Christian who is considering getting tattooed to do the research for yourself, earnestly pray about it, then determine whether or not it is for you.

NEVER take someones word for it, whether it leans toward your beliefs or not. Research it for yourself. Know what you believe and why.

Here are a couple of links to read on the subject.

What Does The Bible Say About Tattoos? RelevantChristian.org

To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo / RELEVANT Magazine

**UPDATE**
Another Great article on Tattoos!

Feel free to let us know what you think.

Click Below to Read Relevant Christian News!

Revolutionary, Reformist, Radical, or Anarchist?

I have heard a lot of talk about being a revolutionary. I have read numerous blog posts and articles about the need for reformation. I have read books on how to be radical in your faith…but it seems I always come back to these thoughts….

    Are we kicking against the status quo because it is cool to kick against the status quo?
    Are we trying to be hip or relevant to today’s culture?
    Are we following an urging in the Holy Spirit?
    Are we experiencing unrest in our personal faith because of a holy indignation?
    Are we complaining about the state of today’s “churches” because we see something that needs to change, or simply because we don’t want to go to “church”?
    Do we really want to see and effect change in the world…or do we just want to talk about it?

If the only reason we are fighting is simply for the sake of fighting…then we have become as the title to an old James Dean movie…a “Rebel Without a Cause”.

If all we are doing is railing to rile…then we aren’t Revolutionary, Radical or even a Reformist….we are an Anarchist.

I have questioned myself time and time again about my disinterest and dissatisfaction in today’s church culture and have come to a few conclusions.

    I am not simply trying to kick against the status quo…I really want to see lives changed into the image of Christ.
    I am not trying to be hip, current or relevant…I really do believe that God wants His people to live in community with each other, to care for one another, to share with one another, to know one another, to passionately love one another.
    I will endeavor to no longer complain about today’s church organizations…rather I will speak the truth about what God wants to do in, through and for His people.
    I will talk about God’s grace and His mercy and His deep love for us.
    I will continually tout the simplicity of the Gospel and tell people about the Good News that Jesus gave all for them, so that they might have life abundant. I will always tell of how that this thing called Christianity is really a simple faith, though not always easy to walk out, but well worth the struggle.

I have been called a rebel, a non-conformist, and a malcontent just to name a few. And to those that have called me those things I say…thank you very much! Having read about the apostles and Jesus himself…I think I am in good company.

Darkness is Overcome

His light shines through darkness.

His light shines through darkness.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5

The absence of all color is black, although there are those that would argue this sentiment. I have even had a few artistic folk claim that the absence of color is white and that black is the culmination of all colors. Most have forgotten what they were taught in 8th grade science, color is determined by what we see reflected off of an object. White is a combination of all colors being reflected off of an object. Black is THE ABSENCE OF ANY COLOR being reflected off of an object. Therefore in the same respect, the absence of all light is darkness.

Jesus has come into the world to abolish darkness…to displace the darkness with His light. A light so bright that darkness cannot overcome it. A light so intense that it penetrates to the deepest of depths, to the darkest of darkness….and the light overcomes the darkness.

“In Him was life…and that life was the light of all mankind.”

A life lived in Him shines light to the darkened hearts of those around us. A life lived in Him is filled with love, and that love is what shines so brightly to those in the shadows. That love, that light, overcomes the darkness and allows all of the colors of life to be shown in all of its beauty. Ask anyone who receives Christ for the first time and they will tell you that the whole world looks different…they see things in a whole new light. They see things as God intended them to be. Full of beauty and wonder.

Heavenly Father help us to live a life full of light, shining your love to all who dwell in the shadows of life.