Confident Faith - August 2017

Yesterday morning as I was walking with my dog in our subdivision, I saw a young lady walking toward us. About 25 yards away, we exchanged southern nods. As she got closer, I said, "Beautiful morning," but there was no answer or acknowledgement. Then I noticed the ear buds and phone. She was lost in her phone. I didn't feel particularly slighted as this has sadly become almost normal ... particularly in younger generations. I did wonder if she even saw the beauty God painted in the landscape, breeze, and sky. Humans 0; Technology 1.

Your cell phone is changing you and your children and the world. Have you noticed?

There's a new book in the church library - "12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You" - that is well worth reading. The book is very easy to read and is not anti-technology. The introduction gives a Theology of Technology. Beside discussing how our electronic devices are changing our lives for the worse, the author also gives suggestions both to counter the negative aspects and enhance the positive for the Kingdom. Many checklists are included to help you see whether you are using technology or technology is using you.

Here is the checklist at the end of the first of the "12 Ways": "We Are Addicted to Distraction". "Do my smartphone habits: 1. expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements? 2. reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed? 3. distract me from genuine communion with God? 4. provide an easy escape from sobered thinking about my death, the return of Christ, and eternal realities? 5. preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success? 6. mute the sporadic leading of God’s Spirit in my life? 7. preoccupy me with dating and romance? 8. build up Christians and my local church? 9. center on what is necessary to me and beneficial to others? 10. disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of  me?" (Reinke, Tony. 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (p. 52). Crossway.)

I would particularly urge parents to read this book. We all need to be aware of the temptations new technology brings, but our children and youth have been born into this technology with no idea of what is being replaced and missed. This is the new normal for them. We cannot allow generations of Christians to be techno-morphed into a virtual self-driven/satisfying false reality. They need to be guided to use technology for God's Glory. Adults also need to be aware of the example we are setting as little eyes watch us.

This is also a view into the culture we are to bring the Gospel.

Harold

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Confident Faith - July 2017

[dropcap]In last month's column, I asked you to identify the Greek word for the english "love" used in the two greatest commandments given by Jesus. I also gave you extended definitions for the Greek "love" words used in the Bible: phileō, storgē, and agapē. If you need to review those definitions, they are here - "Confident Faith June 2017" at https://cookbc.org/staff-columns/apologetics/388-confident-faith-june-2017.

I have asked these questions of many Christians over the years. Almost all get one right and one wrong.

Almost everyone correctly identifies "agapē" as the Greek behind "love" in the first greatest commandment - "Love the LORD your God ..." (Mark 12:30), and almost everyone incorrectly picks "phileō" as the Greek for "love" in the second commandment - "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). "Love" in the second commandment is exactly the same as in the first - Agapē!

Agapē is a completely unselfish and unearned giving based on the intrinsic worth of the other. Jesus is commanding us to love our neighbor in the very same Agapē used in John 3:16 where "God so loved (Agapē) the world ..." The same Agapē is used in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

From beginning to end, the Bible is the story of a radical and all but unfathomable love. Agapē is the eternal, selfless glue binding three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - in one unity of essence - God. Agapē was shared in our creation - "Let Us make man in Our image." If we are commanded to Agapē God, then aren't we to also Agapē His image stamped in our neighbor?

The world says all will be OK if we just "love our neighbor as ourself", but that will ultimately fail because the world does not know the Agapē love of God. The closest human example of Agapē should be a mother's love for her child, yet the world corrupts that love promoting abortion as a mother's right - Agapē turned to death.

We live in a society desperately wanting Agapē, but it cannot without first knowing God through the Gospel. We (the church) would not know Agapē were it not shown to us - "We love because he first loved us," 1 John 4:19.

No, the world will never know Agapē ... unless we 1) understand the command to Agapē our neighbor, and 2) show them in our actions and words.

Harold

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Confident Faith - August 2016

Beauty in the Thorns of Struggle

Many Christians lean on 2 Chronicles 7:14 as God’s promise to heal America IF Christians will only humble themselves, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. I used to lean on that verse, too, but after closer study of context and applying interpretive principles, I no longer believe it is a promise for America, or Germany, or Australia, or Great Britain, or ...2 Chr 7:14 is a promise for a specific time, place, and people - ancient Israel.

It’s not my purpose here to prove my conclusion – just to suggest we might be losing out on something far greater by focusing on this verse. I understand the allure of the verse. Don’t we all want God to heal America? It’s a clear formula - If we DO “this”, then God has to do “that.” It seems we’ve found a guarantee ... to get what WE think best.

As New Testament children we have been given awesome, almost unbelievable, access and promises concerning prayer.1 John 5:14-15 says we have the confidence God hears and answers our prayer and in John 14:13 -14 Jesus says we have anything we ask. Well, there is a “thorny” condition –according to His will (1 John 5:14) and in My Name (John 14:13).In fact, I would suggest these pesky conditions are the very heart of prayer. They are invitations to deep personal relationship with our Father – a personal relationship not found in the Old Testament but bought for us by Jesus’ blood.

The evening before His crucifixion, Jesus included “nevertheless not my will but Thine” in His prayer in the garden after first asking the Father to take the cup of suffering away if possible. This was a sincere expression of His trust in and to walk in the Father’s decision. Jesus was struggling, but to Him, the Father’s will and way was best. Jesus fully embraced the Father's will "for the Joy set before Him" Heb 12:2.

Where is "according to your will" or "in Jesus' name" in 2 Chr 7:14? It seems to me the struggle in 2 Chr 7:14 is more a struggle with ourselves - have we done our part - rather than in struggling with the Father to discern His will. We lose out in not struggling with our abba, daddy, for it is here we find the crucible of conformed minds and wills.

2 Chr 7:14 is a beautiful Old Testament picture of God’s lovingkindness and mercy that still exceeds our guilt all the way to the New Testament. The formula of 2 Chr 7:14 has been replaced with something greater – the struggle of personal relationship. It’s here we grow confident faith.

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Confident Faith - June 2017

Here's a simple Bible test: In the "Love your neighbor as yourself" passage (Mark 12:31), what Greek word is "Love" translated from? Do not lookup the answer. If you do not know the answer, which of the below Greek words would be your guess?

There are three Greek words interpretted as the single English word, "love", in the New Testament: Agape, Phileo, and Storge. Below are definitions of these words:

Phileō

i) Phileō is a companionable love. ii) This love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking. iii) Kenneth Wuest says, "It is a love that is called out of one’s heart as a response to the pleasure one takes in a person or object." iv) Phileō is a love that responds to kindness, appreciation, or love. It involves giving as well as receiving; but when it is greatly strained, it can collapse in a crisis. v) Phileō is a higher love than eros because it is our happiness rather than my happiness. vi) This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.

Storgē

i) This love has its basis in one’s own nature. ii) Storgē is a natural affection or natural obligation. iii) It is a natural movement of the soul for husband, wife, child or dog. iv) It is a quiet, abiding feeling within a man that rests on something close to him and that he feels good about.

Agapē or Agapaō

i) Agapē is called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved. It is a love of esteem, of evaluation. It has the idea of prizing. It is the noblest word for love in the Greek language. ii) Agapē is not kindled by the merit or worth of it’s object, but it originates in it’s own God-given nature. God is love. iii) It delights in giving. iv) This love keeps on loving even when the loved one is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love. v) Agapē desires only the good of the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others.

Which is being interpretted in Mark 12:27 commanding us to "love the Lord your God?"

Tell me your answers when you see me.

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Confident Faith - May 2017

Post Easter thought on the importance of the Resurrection.

When you buy a house or a car, there's a transaction that occurs. Two people sign a bill of sale. You sign accepting the property in exchange for your payment, and the seller signs accepting your payment and tranferring the property to you. There's no deal unless both buyer and seller sign.

There was a transaction as Jesus suffered on the cross, but it was an unseen one occuring in heaven. Jesus was buying our sins and their death penalty in exchange for the payment of his perfect blood. He signed the transaction that his side of the deal was done when he uttered the words, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

In the physical world, people only saw a man die by crucifixion for the crime of blasphemy. He had claimed to be God, did what only God had the right to do, and accepted praise rightly due God alone. Justice was served.

The rocks stopped shaking. The skies cleared. The dead man was placed in a tomb. People went home to celebrate Passover. The world thought all was the same it had been.

Then, the third day, God signed the transaction. He affirmed Jesus' identity and worthiness to take our sins, proclaimed justice satisfied, and set us free from the penalty of our sin by killing death through Resurrection! "He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25, HCSB). Without the Resurrection, we are not justifed in Jesus' sacrifice.

Both parties - Son and Father - had to sign the transaction. There had to be both a Cross and a Resurrection - else "... if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17, NASB95).

Where you see a cross, also see an empty tomb.

Harold Henderson

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