Archive for October, 2008

Christ in disguise? A lesson for us in John 21?

Many times I feel, in my quest for Truth, that I am on an ocean where the waves are so high I cannot see my destination. I have to trust in God to bring me through, trusting in His promise of “Seek, and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you,  ask and it will be be given to you”. The caveat here, of course, is that we will get what we seek and that includes “another Jesus” or “another gospel”. The key is whether we seek in honesty and humility, thinking highly of Christ and nothing of ourselves. That’s a tough one sometimes, isn’t it?

Anyway, my real point is that as I was reading John 21 this morning, I was struck by the fact that the disciples, who were out fishing in spite of the fact that they had already seen the most amazing proof of Christ’s resurrection, didn’t recognize Jesus by sight in verse 4. They also didn’t recognize Him by sight when they were with Him at breakfast in vs.12-14. So, how did they know that this was Christ?

It appears it was because of what He said and did that they, John being the most perceptive, figured He must be Christ Jesus. The words of John make it plain, I think, that Jesus did not appear to them in a familiar form. Why else would John say “None of the disciples ventured to question Him “Who are You?” In a related appearance, when Jesus appeared to other disciples on the road to Emmaus, they did not recognize Him until they had pieced His words and actions together and come to that realization.

Now, we know that Jesus appeared in a physical body (Luke 24:38-43), but apparently Jesus did not always appear in a familar form. Even John says in 1 John 3:2 that only when Christ returns and we are resurrected and glorified with our new immortal bodies will we “be like Him, and shall see Him as He is”. So, I’m thinking ( since I’ve never read or heard this expounded on) there is a lesson in this for us which reinforces what Jesus often implied: that we human beings always tend to judge things by the outward appearance and let that sometimes overrule the evidence of something quite different in truth.

I pray that God will help us to recognize fruit and works of the Spirit rather than base our approval of things on feelings, first impressions and intuition. We all need to learn to “judge righteous judgment” concerning those who claim to be Christ’s and the many different “gospels” that are being taught. If it’s an apple tree, it’ll grow nothing but apples. No walnuts, no oranges, and certainly no prickly pears!

For an interesting take on the significance of the numbers in the Gospel of John check out this article.

Who’s in charge?

I am always adverse anymore to engaging in political conversation. After a spell of it, I always feel like I’ve been gossiping or at least wasting my breath. I sense people are growing more and more cynical about politics, the economy and life in general. It used to be that I could regularly engage someone in a gentle conversation in my travels, but people seem more and more withdrawn every day.

I also sense that hearts are at the same time growing colder and harder, including mine. I have been a bit discouraged with my own outreach efforts lately. It seems it’s been a good while since I just started a conversation to see where it would lead. I’m worried that, as Christ predicted, my love for others is growing cold because of the rampant wickedness and selfishness I see all around me. That’s really not supposed to happen!

When it comes to the elections, I am comforted by the words “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  God is in charge all the time, 24/7, night and day. What He allows is always for good, not only for those who believe, but God allows bad things to happen and evil rulers to gain power in order to show humanity’s dark side, lest we forget God. And God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth and to be saved. Jesus very pointedly said that bad things happen to everyone and not necessarily because they are worse sinners than others. Natural and human disasters are always a wake up call. God is, and has been, doing all He can righteously do to reveal to men the fallacy of believing in mankind, Mother Nature, or wealth.

Whoever we end up with as President, is whoever God decides needs to be in charge. That puts God in charge, not our votes. Paul backs me up, saying “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor(Romans 13:1-7)

Christians and usury: taking advantage of misfortune?

 

Here’s another tough one. According to USA Today “While millions may lose their homes during the worst housing slump since the Great Depression, some devout Christians among them will do so in part because they will not give up tithing — a voluntary contribution to their churches amounting to 10% of their gross income.”

Let’s first approach this with the scriptural admonition “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5) and “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:8-10)

If brothers and sisters in the Lord have made the mistake of buying more house than they can afford (assuming they have not lost their jobs and have not expereinced a crisis that radically increased their debt [medical bills for example]), should they be helped by other believers to avoid foreclosure?

MY OPINION –

I would be inclined to say, “Perhaps God is teaching you a lesson about desiring too many material things. You must give up the house.” I would, of course, support the idea of praying that the foreclosure could be avoided through a quick sale or other means. But, surely, people must realize that the biblical principal of “what a man sows, that shall he also reap” applies to all of us, saint or sinner. On the other hand, if these same people have many “toys” and expenses that they can give up in order to make their mrtgge payments, such as memberships, cable TV, campers, boats, extra vehicles, time shares, etc. these must be relinguished in order to not bring discredit on the name “Christian”. A Christian, I believe, should never seek bankruptcy unless that is the only way out of a mess that they themselves did not cause (again, unforseen medical issues, job or business loss and resulting long term unemployment, etc.).

How about the idea that Christians are free to “cash in” on other’s misfortunes? Can a God fearing person take advantage of another person’s misfortune to profit themselves?

MY OPINION –

If a believer should be able to facilitate relieving someone else of a tax burden or lien that prevents them from keeping their home, this is the approach that I consider scriptural:

– If possible, bid on the property at a government tax auction (usually at pennies on the value) and arrange to sell it back to the unfortunate person at cost. Of course, this would involve facilitating a re-mortgaging of the property, but perhaps at a greatly reduced payment.

– Pay the person’s “in arrears” if you can, especially if the person is a widowed or orphaned believer and do not require it back from them. If they cannot afford to pay their taxes long term,  find a place to live that they can afford or believers should offer them the option of moving in with a Christian family that can help them mae the most of their means.

– In the case of believers who have experienced catastrophic medical bills or litigious demands that prevent them from being able to pay these bills and provide for themselves as well, I believe bankruptcy is sometimes scripturally legitimized. It’s interesting that bankruptcy laws were loosely based on the seven years jubilee God ordained for Israel in Leviticus 25.

Simply put, I do not believe a true follower of Christ would ever seek to benefit from another person’s misfortune. That speaks only greed and avarice. Paul, in Philippians 2:4 says “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

 Obadiah 1:12-13 says “Do not gloat over your brother’s day, The day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah In the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast In the day of their distress. Do not enter the gate of My people In the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity In the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth In the day of their disaster.”

Some help this is!

Some help this is!

Illegal immigrants and outreach missions

This is another conundrum: the church I fellowship seeks to reach the illegal immigrant population, as well as the few legal ones, for Christ. However, I have come to the realization why this may be a harder than usual missional venture. If these people come to faith in Christ Jesus, won’t they also, in order to obey the scripture, have to return to their homeland and apply for citizenship there? I mean, illegal is illegal, and just as we expect the newly converted to stop lying, stealing, fornicating and cheating can we overlook these people and their lawless entry into America?

Peter tells us ” Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God.” (1 Peter 2:13-16 ASV)