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faith journey

It’s a worn out phrase, “faith journey,” but it’s accurate. It’s been a long, hard struggle for me, at times. Often I’m trudging along, with my eyes focused on the path ahead, ever vigilant for obstacles. There can be big boulders, some so large I have to climb over them. Like my prideful selfishness. It just keeps getting in my way.

Sometimes I get tired of this journey, ever looking out for and dodging potholes and roadblocks. Sometimes I just want to step off the path, set up camp, and crash for a while. But then I look up, and there ahead is my goal, always bright and visible. Jesus is right there, forever in front of me, encouraging me onward. His love is so powerful. It gets me back on my feet and moving again. Almost like a magnetic force, pulling me onward. When my feet get tired, Jesus’ love lights the fire in my soul, and gives me all the energy I need.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Not Alone in the Trials

Not alone in the trials

My last trial found me very afraid, at first. The threat of prostrate cancer hit me in the face. Yet very quickly I found myself leaving the fear, and embracing excitement. For I knew I wasn’t alone. The Holy Spirit of God is within me, and He was sharing the experience with me. And the prospect of cancer began to look like an adventure. I found myself giggling because my reaction was the opposite of what I had first expected. Then tears of joy, for I was experiencing the promise of the peace that goes beyond my capability to understand. The verse that filled my thoughts was, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

None of us need be alone in the trials.

(btw, turned out not to be cancer)

Growing your love for God

We love because God loves

I recently met someone who said they are concerned about their love for God. They feel theirs is a conditional love, one that changes as circumstances change. They’re not happy about it; they wish their love for God were stronger. This got me thinking, how do we nurture our love for God and help it grow beyond the conditional phase, to a true, unconditional love?

When I met my wife, I was immediately attracted to her. The more we came to know each other, the more I loved her. But my love for her was conditional, initially. I have to admit that it took time for my love to grow into a true, unconditional love. Yet, what fed our love and helped it grow bigger and stronger? For me it was two simple things: our ever-growing closeness and relationship, and the knowledge of the love she felt for me.

What will feed your love for God? Your ever-growing closeness and relationship with Him, and an understanding of the magnitude of Gods love for you. God loves you without conditions. Nothing you do can diminish His love for you. The more you come to feel the reality of Gods love for you, the more you will love Him. You will love, because He first loves you.

God so loves the world…

crying

… that he GAVE his one and only Son. Such is the magnitude of Gods love. Father and Son had been together for eternity. Then God held out his dearly loved child, and sin snatched the Son away and nailed him to the cross. Imagine the pain of a parent watching a child suffer (I’m sorry for those of you who know this pain).

Jesus was not the only one who suffered on the cross. God suffered too – all because of His love for us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Gods love

As usual, Tom sat quietly during the first part of our small group bible study, just listening and thinking. Eventually, Tom would start talking, and what he had to say was always well thought-out, inspiring, and intriguing. I looked forward to the moment when Tom decided to join the conversation. But on this night I found myself not ready for what he had to say. “I just know I’m not going to heaven. I’ve done too many bad things in my life. God can’t love me. I’m just not good enough.”

Tom is a victim of a scam of guilt promoted by some churches. Tom and others like him have difficulty in believing that God can in fact love them; they just don’t feel good enough. Does God love only good people?

First, the “goodness” Tom believes he lacks does not come from past behavior, but from faith: “This righteousness (goodness) from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23) It’s not the amount of goodness or badness that matters – it’s what you believe.

God doesn’t care about our past; He cares about now. No matter how dark your past may be, where are you now? Do you feel distressed about past sins? Do you wish you could erase the sins of yesterday, and resist the sins of today? I know Tom does; he said so. To such a show of repentance Jesus would say, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)

Is Relevance Relevant?

relevance

Many Christians believe that making the gospel relevant for our times will attract people to the church. Trying to “meet people where they live” is just what Jesus did, so this should be a good approach. Yet, judging by the dwindling numbers of those attending church, there must be something wrong with the drive for relevance.

The flaw of the relevance approach is when they change the message to meet the needs of the day. This takes the focus off the truth of Jesus. His message is eternal, in that it always meets the needs of the day, no matter what day it is. We always need love, always need faith, and always need hope. This is what Jesus has to offer, and it’s always relevant.

What people need is not a customized message for the day, which will loose power as conditions change. It’s not relevance that’s needed, but truth.

Opening Your Mind

open mind

After Jesus was crucified and came back to life, his disciples had a hard time believing what they were seeing. They thought he was a ghost, still dead. They saw with their eyes, yet still did not understand. Don’t be surprised if you have difficulty understanding what you read in the bible, for even eyewitnesses had trouble.

Yet, as Jesus did for His disciples, He can do for us…“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) Understanding does not come from our own intellect, cleverness, or imaginations. Understanding comes from only one source, the Holy Spirit. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

If you are willing, the Holy Spirit can open your mind and show you the truth. As Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12-13)

JESUS FOR THE UNCHURCHED

FOR PEOPLE WHO DO NOT CONNECT TO THE TRADITIONAL CHURCH

J.S. Park

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