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 - April 2017

It seems with the new season of Spring there also comes a new season called “Wedding.” In his new book, “This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel”, Trevin Wax examines several facets of current culture through the eyes of a younger generation. Below are several quotes on marriage from that book.

“… historically, wedding vows have not focused so much on the feeling of love but on the vow of commitment— to be an unbreakable source of faithfulness no matter what may come, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. That last line has always stuck with me. “Until death do us part.” I don’t think many couples sense the weight of that last line. What you are saying is, “One of us will stand at the grave of the other.” In other words, I’m with you until your last breath, or you’re with me until mine, whichever comes first.” (pp144-145)

“In Tim Keller’s pastoral counseling sessions of married couples, he often hears this statement: “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” Keller responds by asking, “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?

Why is marriage hard? Because “any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered . . . . Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature?” (pp145-146)

“It’s not about finding the “soul mate” who completes you. Only God can complete us. Marriage is, at best, a deeply flawed man and woman coming together before God and His people and agreeing to love and honor and cherish each other until the end of their days. All marriages are broken, but what makes a marriage is they are broken together.” (p146)

In one of the central thoughts of the book, Trevin says, “Evangelism is not just convincing people the gospel is true but also that it is better.” (p12) May our marriages be a witness of “better” to our culture and an invitation to hear the Gospel that makes them better.

(The Tim Keller quotes are from Tim and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, an excellent book for newlyweds … and seasoned veterans, too.)

Harold Henderson

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Confident Faith - March 2017

Many believe abortion is a hidden holocaust and a great stench in God’s nostrils – yet, abortion continues though there is great pro-life sentiment in this country. Perhaps that is the real issue: pro-life sentiment has not translated to effective action.

God is not silent choosing between sentiment and action in moral situations. "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:15-17 (NASB).

Many have pinned their pro-life hopes to a reversal of Roe vs Wade by the Supreme Court - if we could just elect the right president to appoint the right Justices. And now 44 years later the toll is 60,000,000 babies and rising each hour. Instead, maybe WE – YOU and I - are being called to personal action! Continue trying to make abortion illegal, but we should be working daily to make abortion unthinkable by changing hearts and minds – one person at a time.

Take one small step toward personal action today: learn to make the case for life in an effective, persuasive, and non-aggressive way. Here is a good beginning - Scott Klusendorf’s one minute case for life. Sometimes, all you have to make your case is a minute.

“I am pro-life because the science of embryology establishes that from the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living, and whole human being. You didn’t come from an embryo; you once were an embryo. True, you were immature and had yet to visibly develop, but the kind of thing you were was not in question. And there is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, development, environment, and dependency are not good reasons for killing you then but not now.”

Scott uses scientific (yes, science is on our side) and moral arguments to make his case. Take the next step and learn a few more details behind the scientific-moral argument by going to this link - http://prolifetraining.com/resources/five-minute-1/. It will help you flesh out the one minute case. This site is an excellent pro-life resource.

Learn the one minute case for life. The next time abortion comes up in a gathering of friends or family, you’ll be prepared to move from sentiment to action.

Harold Henderson

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Confident Faith - February 2017

Did you ever think of Christianity as the story of reality? Isn’t that what the Bible is – the story of reality from beginning to end? But it’s more than just a history for it is also the roadmap to life – and for everyone, not just Christians.

Story is a powerful way of getting messages through to people who might not otherwise read or listen to another form of presentation. Story engages the imagination and draws you in. Have you ever thought of commercials as a form of story? Are commercials effective? Were Jesus’ parables (stories) effective?

Think back on Cook Baptist Church’s two presentations of Judgement House. We were presenting the Gospel message in story form, and it was effective in changing lives. The core message was there but it was presented in story. Story is a powerful medium – particularly in today’s visual media obsessed culture.

We have been commissioned to carry the Gospel message to the world, yet right here in a nation founded on Biblical principles, there are more people conversant in the Star Wars universe than in the Bible. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I think you get my point.

The power of the Biblical message presented in story is not just in the story format itself but in the fact that this story is the true picture of reality for everyone.

To help you in seeing Christianity as story, I want to commend a new book to you: “The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends, and Everything Important in Between” by Greg Koukl. Greg weaves the story around five words – God, Man, Jesus, Cross, and Resurrection. This is a story you can tell others.

p.s. This book is in the church library - or will shortly be there.

Harold Henderson

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