A life in Christ confidently proclaims the truth of God's Word.

Witness Well

How does a Christian consistently walk in the Spirit?

There I go again, responding in way that I don’t want to be.

I know what is the best way to respond, but so often I fail. Frustration and guilt is an ongoing battle.  How can I be more consistent in living the way God created me and desires for me to live?

In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul encourages Christians new in the faith to stop following laws and customs to be right with God, but bask in the freedom we have in Christ. Not that we want to follow our sinful nature, but follow the life of the Spirit that dwells in us. In verse 25 it says,“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Note the phrase “keep in step”. In the original Greek, a better translation could be “walk in line with” or “walk in a straight line”. This word was used to describe military troops who were arranged behind one another in a formation. In the context of this verse, the word could very well suggest following in line with a pattern or possibly following a leader with whom we are in agreement with. 

There will always be a conflict between what we do (sinful nature) versus what we would like to be doing (God’s will). A great example is in rearing children. Do we have to teach children how to behave badly? Do we say, “Sarah, stop sharing so much. Next time, just take the toy and keep it for yourself.”  Or do we say, “Daniel, the next time your brother takes your toy without asking, just smack him in the mouth!”  No, kids learn these instinctively because it is part of their nature. Parents and teachers have to teach children the right way to respond which is contrary to our human nature.

We can even apply this concept to challenging employees who tend to behave like little children. How do we “walk in line with the Spirit” with them? I think it is recognizing the differences between our sinful nature and our life in the Spirit. Our acts of the sinful nature are things we can generate easily on our own. Doing what is right in God’s eyes does not come to us naturally. We need to be taught. We need to have an example. But, more importantly, they are fruit of the Spirit.  It is only the Holy Spirit that produces love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness in us and through us.  There is really no law that tells us that we have to do these things, but we do them because this is what God wants us to do. They are attitudes and actions that are a reflection of Christians who have completely conformed to God’s will and purpose in their lives.

Why would God allow Himself to suffer for creatures as insignificant as us?

Our society has a tendency to make the assumption that small is unimportant. We assume that if we are “small” in comparison to the universe, than we simply can’t be important in the spiritual things. God’s love for us is all the more magnified precisely because we are so small. 

God is not only a personal Lord, he is also personally interested in us. We must remember that God, our Creator, is the definition of what it is to be perfect. Nothing can be above him. The fact that we have moral convictions, love, and reason did not come by “accident”. Our imperfect personal characteristics are mere shadows of the existence of a perfect personal being. If we imperfect beings are morally outraged at all the injustices of the world, would not God be infinitely more outraged? Is he not more loving, more knowing, more caring than us? The enormity of the cosmos and our smallness in relation to it would only present a problem for God’s love and care if he were not behind the whole thing! 

His love and care for his creation is inexhaustible, so there is plenty left over for us “small” human beings. It is impossible, then, to say that God, our Creator, doesn’t personally care for us. 

What does this mean for us?  It means that God knows us perfectly, better than we know ourselves. He loves us perfectly, more than we love ourselves.  God cares about our suffering perfectly, more than we care about them ourselves.

So, what is God’s purpose?  What does he want from us?  He wants to reveal himself to us and desires a relationship with us through Jesus Christ. 

If God is the one perfect, loving, caring being, then it is safe to say that he would do everything possible to bring about the greatest possible good for his creatures. Anything less would be less than perfect. And Jesus Christ reveals that this is exactly what God did!  God himself became a man, one of us, and suffered a horrible death on the cross in order to rectify all we humans have inflicted on ourselves.He has done and is doing everything possible to have us humans be eternally with him.  

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.   

If God is so all-knowing and all-powerful, why does he need our prayers?

The purpose of praying has little to do with asking God for things. We pray because God wants us to. Praying is a conversation with God. However, does God really need our prayers? God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us.   

Never underestimate the value of prayer when haring Christ with others.

God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us. If that’s the case then why does God want me to pray in the first place? 

Prayer is a means God gives us for us to build a trusting relationship with our Creator. Asking for things is just one minor aspect of our relationship with Him. He’s already as good, concerned, informed and powerful as He can be. Yet, since a loving relationship with Him is God’s highest concern for us, He constructs the order of things so that a loving relationship with him will be facilitated. Because of this, God seems to ordain that some things will only be done through prayer. 

If God doesn’t need our prayers, then is prayer truly effective? We need to remember that God commands us to pray for several reasons. First, prayer is a constant reminder for us that God is the only source for help and strength. When we truly slow down and examine our lives, during good times and bad, it is God that receives all credit and glory.

Second, we need to remember our relationship with God in our present fallen condition. We have all heard studies and testimonies on the healing power of prayer. However, God does not act like a cosmic vending machine. One does not make a request, pull a lever down and have our request granted. People are miraculously healed and people tragically die. What’s the difference? What did or did not work?   

There are billions of variables that go into God’s moment by moment interaction with the world. There is His overall plan for humankind and for the cosmos. There is His plan for each individual. There is the strategy of the spiritual battle with which He is involved. There is the degree to which He has ordained our prayer to have consequences in the world. To understand all of this would be like walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. Would you be able to explain the whole movie after only one minute of viewing? Or, would you be able to teach a chemistry class after reading one page of a textbook?

Prayer is a means to give us confidence and peace that God is working out all things for good, even when he says no to our prayers. Faith and trust becomes the critical element of being sure in what we hope and pray for and certain of what we do not see. 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.     

How come God didn’t listen to my prayers and spare a loved one?

Life has a way of hurling a stone and shattering the window into our soul. The wrenching pain of an exposed heart can cripple us emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. The tragedies of life have caused many to turn away from God. Many people of asked, “How can I loving God allow this to happen? Where can a person find peace and solace in the depths of suffering? Where can we turn for answers when God seems far away on some distant planet? We need someone who understands our pain — to share our grief, embrace our hearts — to put a hand on our shoulder and say, “I am always with you.

I cannot answer why an Almighty God would take a loved one in the prime of their lives. I don’t know why God chose to not answer fervent prayers to save them. If it was not for sin in this world, painful tragedies would never occur. As a result of sin and its consequences, God weeps too.

Jesus Christ is not an adversary during times of suffering, He is our cure. Jesus Christ suffers with us in our suffering. His unconditional love is the only source for healing and peace. Through his participation in our pain, he redeems it. By his ultimate suffering on the cross, he heals our own suffering. He is not off on some distant planet, but is with us each step of the way. This truth and promise reveals to us the magnitude of God’s love for us. A loving Father sent his only Son to a dirty, sinful world. Jesus experienced the hellish depth of all that is nightmarish in human existence on behalf of us. He loved the unlovable. He befriended the friendless. Finally, he suffered for a world that is at once so beautiful and so ugly. 

Questions are going to remain while we deal with the pain and suffering of life. Jesus’ answer for us is to trust in him. Christ wins our love and trust through the healing compassion of his Word and the warm understanding of his silent embrace. He provides an understanding in the heart which the mind can never fully grasp. This trust rests on the belief that God works good out of all situations, whether good or bad, for the purpose of bringing us closer to him.  He wins our love in a way reasons could never do. And finally, we rest in the comfort that despite our existence in a sinful world, we place our hope in an eternal existence with God where all pain and suffering is removed. That’s where we look to to help us stand firm until the end.

 

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994. 

The mystery of the human brain is an observable reality of a Creator

One of the great mysteries of life is on how life began. There have been many educated guesses throughout the centuries. The theory of evolution presents a process but seems to fall short on inception. It seems that some sort of intelligent design is becoming more widely accepted. The study of the human brain is a great example. The more scientists uncover the intricacies of the brain, the more baffling it becomes on how it all came into being.

Scientists are discovering that the mind is far more than a network of chemical reactions. It is still baffling how the mind is able to comprehend the physical aspects of the world and define reality around us. We can create mathematical equations. We know and remember the difference of what is good and bad (morality). We are self-aware. We can be angry or sad, laugh or be shocked, love or hate. Such observations can only indicate that some kind of “force” or “intelligence” created the cosmos, the universe, the earth and ourselves. Furthermore, this “intelligence” must be personal and moral. The human brain is probably the most observable reality that God was the designer and creator. 

Another observable reality is that God created us with longings. We long for food and water and God feeds and quenches us. We long for companionship, God provides. We long for a closer relationship with a higher being and he provides his Son, Jesus Christ. God created the heavens and the earth just for us. He not only provides, but he provides perfectly to meet every need of all creation. This, simply put, cannot be by chance, nor can it be a product of an impersonal “force.” 

Faith in God is a belief in the Creator of all things. Faith is not just a theory, but a relationship. We are made right with this “moral force” through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are made right by faith in the death and resurrection of our Savior. We come to faith, not because of a rational decision of our mind, but through the power and testimony of God’s Word. All that we need in life is found in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Through the Bible, we are assured of the presence of Jesus. Our relationship with him is enough to prove his existence and satisfies the deepest longings of our innermost being. 

 ** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.    

How to be the perfect Proverbs 31 woman

Many standards are offered by the world on how to be the perfect woman.  They include television, movies, magazines, books, billboards, even a husband’s desire. Another standard presented is even more difficult than what the world offers. It is found in Proverbs 31 of the Bible. Many women cringe to the standard presented. Read just some of her attributes:

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”

“Works with eager hands”

“She gets up while it is still dark and provides food for her family”“She sets about her work vigorously, her arms are strong”

“She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy”

“She is clothed with strength and dignity”

“Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her” 

Talk about depressing. Women are dealing with enough guilt already. Why pile it on even more? I think many women would agree that a man must have written this proverb.

When basking in the gloom of not measuring up to a certain standard, I am reminded of the purpose behind such passages. We look in the mirror and see failure in our efforts to meet our own standards, but also the standards placed by others (family, media, etc..). Then, we are confronted by the standard set by God. He desires for us to be perfect. To be perfect is the only way to receive God’s stamp of approval. The message God desires for us to know is that we need to stop trying to measure up to a worldly or a self-imposed standard. God’s standard is tough enough! But, fix our eyes on the only way we can achieve that standard and that is through faith in Christ.

Faith means surrendering our self, confessing that we fall way short of God’s standard and that we need His help. Through our weakness, faith receives the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in us and we are perfect. How can that be possible? Because this is what Christ did for us on the cross. He became our substitute and through His life in place of ours, we are perfect. The removal of self allows the fruit of the Spirit to pour forth. We become a new creation. We begin to respond to life, to people and to difficult circumstances with peace, patience, joy, gentleness and self-control. 

So, to all those woman who groan at the words written in Proverbs 31, I have a encouragement for you. You are forgiven. You are loved. You are perfect. Not because of who you are, or what you are doing, but what Christ has done for you. With this confidence and assurance of God’s promises, we can begin to experience the fruit of a surrendered life.   

Why isn’t God more obvious?

The greatest evidence that God is not only obvious, but a personal being, lies in his most magnificent creation of all; ourselves. God created us with a mind that is self-aware and a heart with the ability to love. We are created with a conscience that calls us to be morally responsible and a soul that longs for meaning and significance. Together, they become the essence of what humans were designed to be and the strongest evidence of a personal God.

Isn’t it interesting that the world around us is fully compatible to our physical longings and desires? We hunger and there is food. We thirst and there is water. We have sex drives and behold, there is sex. The world created for us remarkably provides for those natural drives within us.

Isn’t it also interesting that humans instinctively assume that something like love is a reality? Love becomes the only ideal in our lives worth living and dying for. On the other hand, nature seems to be indifferent, loveless, and a brute process of colliding chemicals. Is our ideal for love within us just a case of reacting chemicals? And where do we obtain our moral convictions?

Humans instinctively hunger for meaning and purpose. We strive to fill our lives with significance. If our cosmos or “evolution” is indifferent and purposeless, than all we are, all we do, all we believe in and strive for is “dust in the wind.” Everything becomes ultimately meaningless.

This must mean that we live in a created environment that is ultimately personal. All of nature takes care of all our personal needs. We have been created to be self-aware, rational, loving, moral, and purposeful. God created a perfect environment that is in perfect sync with his ultimate creation, mankind. If God is left out of the picture and our existence is solely based on human reasoning, then human existence becomes only a “freak of nature”, out of place, tortured, and extremely painful. We become the product of a cruel, sick, cosmic joke. So, unless the ultimate source of all existence is at least as personal as we are, than who we are, our very being, is both un-explainable and extremely difficult to swallow.

** This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.

If God is loving, why does He allow suffering?

As a result of sin, our world suffers and we suffer the consequences. Nobody likes to suffer, because its intensely painful. Even though we take great pains to achieve comfort, there are times when we can’t avoid suffering.

With that in mind, let me ask you a question. What is the main point of our lives? The Bible tells us that the main point of life and the reason for which we were created is to glorify God. The only way we can fulfill God’s purpose is through faith in Christ Jesus because Christ accomplished glory and through Christ, we receive His glory. It is God’s will that we not only come to faith, but grow in the faith as well. And God is glorified! 

The hard truth of the Bible is that the process of Christian growth can only be obtained through suffering, not when we are comfortable. Suffering was the process the Lord ordained for Christ Jesus on behalf of us. He suffered and died on the cross for us. It was God’s will. It was part of the plan. In fact, three times in the garden Jesus asked that if it was possible that God could take this cup of suffering from him. Yet, through Christ’s suffering, it was made possible for us to glorify God and fulfill his purpose. 

The Bible also says that we need to share in Christ’s suffering in order to share in his glory (Romans 8:17). There are seven other Biblical references that state that we as Christians “must” suffer with Jesus. Why? It is through suffering that we learn obedience, a firmer trust in our Lord. Because of our sinful nature and our sinful world, God has ordained suffering for us that we may draw closer to him. With this knowledge and understanding in Scripture, we can truthfully and confidently pray the same prayer in the garden, “not my will, but yours God.” Instead of bitterness or worry, the book of James says that we can have joy in facing sufferings. We can “rejoice” in our suffering because of the fruit of faith it brings to our Christian lives. 

In our Christian life, we must remember that joy is not happiness. Happiness rests on circumstances in our life. Joy does not depend on circumstances in life, but depends solely on our relationship with God. Each one of us goes through some type of ongoing suffering in our lives. Sometimes its little things, sometimes it’s a crisis. As Christian, we are encouraged to go to the Lord in prayer and confidence. Yet, with the fruit of trust hammered out by suffering, we are refrained from praying, “Lord, get me out of this!” but “Lord, thank you for putting me in the middle of the process of suffering.  This is your will for my life and I know that as a result, I will be stronger Christian.” 

For those who are suffering, I pray that God will make things better. When answered prayers goes against our desires it is painful. I encourage all of us to place our hope on the sure foundation that is found in Christ. Jesus. Our lives and the history of the world is not a random series of events, but it is a river whose flow is directed and guided by God in the channels he chooses for it. The ultimate goal God has in mind for this river is to flow into the ocean that is Christ.   

There are those who look at the cross, the circumstances in their life and at world events and say, “Where is God?” For those who are rooted in faith, we look at the circumstances in our life and world events and say, “I trust you, God!”  With joy, hope and confidence, we let go and allow our boat to go down the current and toward the victory found in Christ Jesus.