An App for That

When you own a smart phone, it provides amazing technology that makes information easy; possibly too easy. I must admit I enjoy the various “apps” I can add to my I-Phone.  There’s one for the weather, quickly able to access a radar screen to see where bad weather is moving.  There’s one for ESPN so you can get an immediate update on sports scores and activity (there’s even the ability during baseball season to watch pitch by pitch where the ball is within the strike zone, on a visual display).  There’s an app for Facebook, of course.  I have another for my 401(k) and can check the balance of funds anytime.  There’s another for our bank.  There’s one I use for USA Today or Fox News to check what’s going on in the world.  And, I also have a great Bible app on my phone, where I can quickly change versions, highlight text, etc.

iphone apps

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But have you ever heard the phrase “information overload”?

Our culture is inundated with technology that provides information; all kinds of information. At a quick click you can access porn sights, for example, so there’s plenty    of negative stuff out there too.  Of course all of these sites that are free parade advertisements past you constantly trying to get you to bite.  And even if it’s generally positive stuff, it absorbs time.  Unless we manage our time well, that becomes a problem in itself in terms of Christian stewardship.

When we have too much information we tend to gloss over it and don’t pay enough attention to the important things. I peruse the local paper every day, but my focus tends to wander to the trivial stuff (like the funnies) and I often miss the murder on page one.  How did I do that?  Lack of focus.  Too much info and I gravitate to what appeals, rather than to what is meaningful.

If we are Christians, disciples of Christ (same thing), that must mean something in terms of how we live: the choices we make, the values we adopt, the activities we pursue, the character we develop, the service we provide.  We need focus!  Is there an app for that?

Indeed! There are two: the Bible, and the church.  The Bible is a collection of inspired manuscripts written by men who were linked to God in history, providing God’s values and expectations, providing stories of human victory and failure to walk God’s way.  It’s a very honest book, documenting the sins of its heroes just as it documents their successes.  Ultimately God is the hero!  This collection of books leads us to Jesus Christ and the salvation he provides through his sacrifice for our sins, which can be accessed by faith, as we make Jesus Lord.  The church is a resource where the mature can help school the immature, where we all remember and learn, where we seek to make the Bible teaching real in our life.  Read the Bible, participate in church, make application.

Distractions? There are many.  Don’t let modern technology rule.  Access God’s apps!

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Living in the Wreckage of Eden

Oh, what a sight it was. As he looked out over the landscape, he couldn’t help but think this was something amazing.  Animals gently grazing, fruit trees with luscious food, a stream running smoothly over rocks that seemed to be placed just so, with tender care.  It’s been called Eden, thought Adam.  Adam’s wife Eve was preparing a meal, smiling, beckoning for Adam to come and be playful again.  Things were just so perfect.  But then Eve remembered.  There was another person, with the voice of an angel, but eyes that seemed to contradict the voice.  He was not like them, yet he was like them.  He made Eve think of the slithering creature they had seen down by the orchard one night, almost serpent like.  He wanted to see her, tonight.  Should she go?  There was a certain intrigue about him.  Maybe…

You know the story. And you know the biblical proportions of the damage that was done once both Eve and Adam gave into to the temptations presented to them.  That damage has compounded due to each one of us participating in defiance of our Maker.  You have felt it, and I have too.  The unexpected death of a loved one.  The diagnosis of cancer.  The loneliness and impact of divorce.   Abuse & selfish arguments that defy the good relationship we truly want with the other person.  There are food shortages in much of the world.  Even recently we’ve seen earthquakes and hurricanes and volcanoes erupt.  Wars, rumors of wars. Then there is our society that seems to have gone mad.  People hating other people because of their politics, wanting gun control (but be sure to shoot those who don’t before you put the guns away).  It’s all wrapped up in a word.  We don’t like it much, but we know it.  Sin.

And so, we live in the wreckage of Eden. God placed his angel at the entry, flaming sword in hand, and would not allow sinful man to return to his perfect environment, no fruit from the tree of life.  We’ve been struggling to make sense of things and right the wrongs ever since.  We take one step forward, and two back.  And that’s the nature of things.  Unless.  Unless we can find a way to have a new creation.

cherubim-flaming-sword

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old is gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17) It was promised in Isaiah, “See, I will create a new heaven and a new earth, the former things will not be remembered.” (Isaiah 65:17) And it will be fulfilled with Jesus’ return, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”  (2 Peter 3:13) And again, from John the Apostle, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1).

Is this world messed up? Indeed.  Has your life been messed up at times, maybe even now?  Indeed, I would expect you to say.  But God has not left us to wander aimlessly in the dark.  Through Jesus he has provided forgiveness of sins, a renewed relationship with the Lord, and a pathway back to the wonders and joy of Eden.  The wrongs will be made right, every tear will be wiped away.  Health restored, vigor renewed.  Maybe not tomorrow, but soon, very soon.  It’s what you’ve been longing for.  Me too.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb. And on each side of the river stood the tree of life…yielding its fruit.” (Rev. 22)

The Answer

God created all things good. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:1, 31).

But then sin entered the picture, and things were not so good. “she took of the tree’s (forbidden) fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened.” (Genesis 3:6, 7). Sin disrupts and separates humans spiritually from a perfect God.

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalms 119:11)

This is not something we view from the outside, we are all participants in sin, choosing The Answerto do things that fail to honor God and his commands. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). As a result, we all are touched by sin’s impact, both directly and indirectly. At times we suffer for bad choices we have made. Other times we suffer as a result of bad choices others have made. Because sin has messed up life on earth, bad things happen to good people. Accidents happen. Things are not fair. Sickness and disease happens. It’s a consequence of the fallen world we live in.

  • A young boy has lived through a nightmare of being abused for years while growing up, due to the immoral approach of an uncle. He is scarred. He needs therapy to deal with it. He struggles with relationships because of it.
  • A young girl has become addicted to heroin because of friends who have provided bad influence and exposed her to a night life environment that has many temptations. She has tried to come clean, but the battle is a tough one.
  • Kids must grapple with the instability of their parent’s divorce, a divorce that has caused changes in their life that they could have avoided if the family had been stable and mom and dad had stayed together.
  • A middle aged lady has become caught up in the values of Hollywood, even though she grew up going to church. But church was not supported with a complimentary lifestyle she saw at home, and her escape was the movies. Whatever those “stars” believed had appeal to her.
  • An older couple have lived a great life. Their parents weren’t Christian, but they were stable and provided a strong family life. The couple both went to college, got degrees, then had fulfilling careers. A nice house in the suburbs, two cars, trips to exotic places. Living the American Dream. Now they are growing older and wonder about death, but have no place for God.

Sin has touched every one of those illustrated above. It’s tempting to admire the last couple, but such a life, in-light of eternity, is very short, and goes by so quickly. And then? Truth is, that couple may be the most in danger, because life has not caused them to see their need for God. It’s not fair the way it all occurs, but in the end, even for those who live a good life, death comes. That is sin’s final result. Don’t neglect the answer God has provided through Jesus, the Messiah. He came to defeat sin and death. Through him we can have purpose, no matter our circumstances; eventually life eternal in a place where fulfillment is beyond our imagination. That’s not fair either; praise the Lord!

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

Is Baptism Necessary?

I wish this wasn’t an issue. It shouldn’t be for Bible believing people. But when it comes to baptism, the various stances of churches and teachers over the years has made it an issue. So, the question becomes: In the process of understanding who Jesus is, that he died for my sins, rose from the dead, and thus conquered death on my behalf; deciding I will become a disciple of Jesus, must I be baptized?

The best source for resolving that issue is the book of Acts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us of the life of Jesus, describe his death and resurrection. The letters written by the apostles or their apprentice instruct Christians, admonish, provide encouragement. Only the book of Acts truly focuses on people becoming Christian, then forming churches. What do we find there on baptism? Let’s look.Is Baptism Necessary Pic

Acts 2 – Peter preaches on Pentecost, telling the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.”

Acts 8 – We are told the Samaritans believed and they were baptized; then we see that when the Ethiopian Eunuch was told of Jesus he said, “Here is water, what prevents me from being baptized?”

Acts 9 – Saul/Paul is converted, and we see he arose and was baptized. When he retells the story in Acts 22 we find Ananias telling him, “And now why do you delay, rise and be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Acts 10 – Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, Peter commands him to be baptized in the name of Jesus. Acts 16 – Lydia is converted, the Lord opened her heart to pay attention we’re told, then she was baptized. Same chapter we find the Jailer believes, and he was baptized. Acts 18 – Crispus, we are told, believed and was baptized.

Acts 19 – disciples of John the Baptist – knew of John’s baptism, but when the need based on the connection to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is explained, they are baptized in name of Jesus.

There are a couple of other accounts in Acts of people “believing” with no mention of baptism, but to the Jew of the 1st Century, believing without following through with the necessary action was nonsense. To truly believe, you followed through. We can easily assume they did so.

Join the above examples from Acts with the strait-forward instruction of Jesus and his apostles and it is pretty compelling. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). The Apostle Paul provides the explanation for what baptism accomplishes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3, 4) We also find that through baptism we are clothed with Christ, hiding our sins while allowing God to see us through the righteousness of Jesus (Galatians 3: 26, 27).

There’s nothing magical about being dunked in water in itself, but when predicated by genuine faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is a step of that faith we must not neglect.

…having been buried with him (Jesus) in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11,12)

To the Closed Heart

I am not better than you, whoever you are. And I’m not the nut “Christian” that you saw on the news doing something political or strange. I am not your judge. I do not have all the answers. But I do have a few questions that I’d like you to consider:

What do you believe? You’ve closed your heart to Christian faith, I’m not sure why, but surely you believe in something. Is it really God you have rejected, or just an inaccurate portrayal of him? If we are honest, even though we don’t think about it much, we know that we face death one day. On what basis do you have hope beyond the grave? If you take the time to really read the Bible, about how God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, how through Jesus he died for our sins, and how through the resurrection of Jesus we can have hope for resurrection one day, that’s a pretty amazing thing. Is that what you’ve rejected? Take a closer look, please.

Are you an atheist? That would seem odd to me. Most people don’t define themselves by what they do not believe. I don’t call myself an “a-Buddhist” or an “a-Muslim” (“a” in front of the word means you are not what follows). Yet some call themselves a-theists. They do not believe in God, and that’s how they define themselves. But I don’t know you: how do you define yourself?

In spite of a huge amount of evidence to support creation and the Bible and the historical person of Jesus and his resurrection, there are tough questions that arise; but tell me, must all of your questions be answered before you believe? In the realm of science, for example, there are many unanswered questions, many mistakes they make, do you fail to believe in science as a result?to-the-closed-heart-pic

Maybe a church or an individual in a church, maybe even a priest or pastor, has let you down in a major way. If that is the case, I am sorry. Really. Too many people suffer from such things. Maybe the person who hurt you wasn’t in fact a Christian at all, many wear the name who do not sincerely swear allegiance to Christ. Others who are truly Christian still make mistakes as they grow and mature in their Christian walk. Please try to understand, that gives further evidence of the sin problem Christ dealt with. It is not a reason to reject him, but a reason to run to him.

If you read one of the gospel accounts (I might recommend Mark, a short, fast paced account of the life of Jesus), I bet you’ll be surprised by the frustration Jesus himself expressed for religious leaders and the people who claimed what they did not live. Yet crowds flocked to Jesus, those who honestly faced their sin and wanted a solution to it. When the Apostle Peter preached the first resurrection message (in Acts 2) people who were convicted cried out, “What must we do?” And Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins…” Many (3,000) responded.

That was just the beginning. Such can be the beginning for you too. Please open your heart back up and consider the true message of Jesus.