WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?

Forget the tweets and twitters. Never mind the election scandals. And fear not the terror that stalks by day or night. There is only one power and authority that is holding this earth and we its inhabitants together. That power is love. And love has a name. Jesus.

In Colossians 2:10 we read that Christ is the head over every power and authority and holds everything together. (Colossians 1:17)

No matter how it appears the Kingdom of God has arrived in fullness in Christ at his death and resurrection. It’s for all of us. It’s for you folks who even do not believe this. It’s not fake news. It has the highest reliability. It’s news that can be trusted. Listen we’ve had it, most of us, with the current news real or not. We need some good news and here it is. No matter who you are or what you have been or the doubts you have about the world or yourself you can know for certain that you are part of this Kingdom family that God has set up on this earth. God’s grace makes that possible and each step of faith brings us into his realm, where he and no other authority rule.

It’s not escapism. In fact living with Christ will place us solidly in the realm of love in this world. Heaven begins here. God’s influence is here.

Christ’s reign is not a dictatorial power but rather a strong disarming influence over the whole creation. It was love that held Jesus to the cross to remove the blindness of sin from the world so that more and more people would come under the sway of his heart changing love.

Even at this moment, in ways I don’t fully understand Christ is in the process of reconciling this world, this creation back to God. The towers of Babel are falling. Empires are tumbling. The stranded arks are finding dry land. The covenant that was made with Abraham is being fulfilled. Those who have sat in darkness are finally having light shine on them.

Death, terror and heartache abound but these are not the final words for this world. God won’t allow that for his beloved creation. Yes, suffering must be addressed but in the light of Christ not in a faithless void. No earthly power has the final say. No, the final words are from Jesus who tells us to fear not because the Father has given us the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Five hundred years ago Martin Luther by the grace of God stood against the earthly powers to proclaim the realm and reality of Christ. He lived amidst danger, emperors, threats and plagues. But give a look to some of the words he wrote from his famous hymn, ‘A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD’.

‘And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.’

GRACE IN ATHEISM

So here’s what I think about atheists. There are folks who say God just doesn’t exist, no way, shape or whatever. They are sometimes adamant that there is no power or authority, influence or being and certainly no entity called God.

So I got to wondering one day. What would or could give someone the idea that there is no god, no being of authority in the universe? Could be that people have been hurt by religion? No, that’s enough to maybe stay away from the church but not to believe in nothing. I suppose believing in nothing is some kind of religion but to my mind IT requires more faith than believing in God. But that’s for another time.

So after some pensiveness I came to at least one conclusion. Authority is one of the main issues contributing to atheism. If you believe there is a God, or even gods, you might draw the conclusion that someone or something has authority over your life. And who enjoys anyone being in control or having some authoritative say in our lives. Notice I switched from you to us because this ‘authority thing’ is a problem for believers as well as unbelievers. In atheists it may be more apparent by their words of rejection concerning God, Jesus or any religious figure.

See, we love to be the only authority in our lives and believe me, that is a poor foundation for living. I mean just take a look at AA to see that one of the first steps is surrendering to a higher power. And that is no easy feat.

But believers can experience profound truth concerning authority from atheism. We too love to be in control of our own lives. Oh, we talk a good game about surrendering to Christ, trusting God and so forth but when the rubber hits the road we discover that the words of Jesus ring empty to our ears when it comes to living the life of faith. So that’s why I call this piece GRACE IN ATHEISM. It’s because we have something to learn about ourselves through others.

You know, if an atheist person wanted to, he or she could search and search to really discover if there is a God. God knows there is enough evidence in nature, in philosophy, in science and in writings like the Bible to be able to uncover this God. But if he or she did, then what? Uh oh. Authority.

Recall something Jesus said. And by the way I cannot fathom why anybody could have a problem with Jesus, the smartest, most loving being to walk this earth. But I digress. No I don’t. I want to say something about Jesus.

At one point Jesus told the people around him, especially the religious leaders (now there’s some folks we could have problems with). He said to them that if anyone chooses to do the will of God that person will find out whether Jesus’ teaching really comes from God or if Jesus simply made it up on his own. (Found in the Gospel of John chapter 7:17)

So right there you have it. From the lips of God’s own son. That son, who by the way, in the Garden of Gethsemane tried to work things out on his own but finally said to his Father, ‘Your will be done’

So my invitation to all, including to myself, is to simply say to God –your will be done. And discover that Jesus is real. There is a huge sigh of relief in surrendering one’s life, imperfect as that life might be. See the authority of God, if we really search, is such that we cannot miss the great love of the God of the universe who from the beginning has had only one desire, to share that love with all of us in the midst of all the crap and our own misdeeds. “God is love” is not some trite slogan but the essence of the ONE who governs this creation.

So, see if we look diligently we can find in atheism some of the same stuff we believers are struggling with. Let’s be honest enough to admit that struggle.

“Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.”- Mark Twain

Three mighty big words in that quote; faith, belief, true. A lot of folk think that the first two belong to the realm of the unreasonable while truth is what science and materialism and the real world is all about.

I like what the late Dallas Willard writes in his book Knowing Christ Today. He uses the illustration of how science taught us how to kill crop pests by using DDT. And what we eventually learned was that it killed all kinds of wild life too. He then goes on to write that ‘scientific knowledge’ will not solve practical problems in life. It takes knowledge plus wisdom of HOW to live. “The best physical, chemical, and other scientific knowledge will not tell us what to do or who to be.”

Religion answers the question of how and who. There is a knowledge beyond but may include science. There is a knowledge given by God to those who will listen. We call that knowledge ‘faith’. Faith is trusting that what God has said and what Jesus said and did are true and that they inform all life.

Woe to humanity that would toss religion out because of the mistakes religious people have made. Better it would be to correct those mistakes with a sincere faith that is informed by knowledge.

Let me give an example that is all too real in our world today. And in doing so I am aware that there who those who agonize over choices they must make.

We as a nation allow and, it would seem through some recent investigation, even promote the taking of human life. Science has taught us the procedures for abortion but science has not taught us the God given sanctity of all human life. Abortion is a realm that needs more than materialistic, scientific or even enlightened thought. This is a realm of life that needs to be informed (given information) by the religious meaning of ‘life’, in all its forms.

If there is no God, and we are but atoms, electrons, molecules and such, then the practical answer to an inconvenient life is what is approved today according to the desires of society. But if there is a higher truth, a more informed truth, a truth that governs this creation we need to discover that truth by all means possible. For such truth will tell us who we are, and how we are to live on this planet in the best possible way.

If there is a way to investigate the reality of God then we as an enlightened people ought to do our best to discover a knowledge that might just best arrive in the form of faith. And that is as true of religious people who have ‘used’ faith to rationalize some terrible behavior. We can all ‘learn’.

Faith, real faith, is an informed confidence in Christ from whom we learn ‘truth’ and not blind irrationality.

For Skeptics and Believers: What draws me to Christianity

At the outset I admit, without being trite, that it’s Jesus who attracts me to the Christian faith. The most attractive quality of Jesus is the way he shows us the character of God that is loving, and forgiving. God, through Jesus, has told me I am loved and God has told that nothing can separate me from God’s love. Not even my own stupidity, negligence or sin. God in Christ pursues me until he brings me back into God’s wonderful embrace. This is for me the essence of Christianity in my being and worked out through my life and the community of faithful believers.

It’s difficult to imagine that Jesus is just an imaginary figure created to satisfy the human need for a god or a crutch in life’s hard times. The character of Jesus is not the sort you would, on your own, invent. I will admit that the church has been guilty over the years of producing a version of Christ that takes the form of power but those powers are hard pressed to find the Jesus they affirm from the scriptures of the New Testament particularly the Gospels.

There we find Jesus, the wisest and most loving teacher who ever lived, instructing his followers to ‘love one another’, to ‘love their enemies and bless those who curse them.’ In Christ we discover a religious master who seeks all who feel lost and left out and find themselves as society’s outcasts. His harshest condemnations are reserved for the proud, the self-confident and judgmental.

Jesus taught his followers to engage the world through ‘weakness’ not ‘strength’. He said they should take up a cross and be willing to die for one another and that behind such ‘foolish’ talk was the love of the Father, God. That kind of teaching goes against the grain of our ego but aligns itself with the Creator. And Jesus not only teaches these principles. He lives them, taking upon him, servant-hood even to the point of death.

I am currently watching all the political posturing of the possible candidates for the office of President and all I witness is self-aggrandizement, judgementalism, pride and power. Maybe I need to look harder and elsewhere.

A skeptical view of Christianity usually addresses the failures of the church, the institutional and individual sins and while it could be made abundantly clear that the church has done more good on this earth than any other institution let’s admit that the church has had its share of failure and sin.

Skepticism does have its place for they wonder if the church didn’t invent this Jesus within the pages of history of the course of the first few centuries C.E. And skeptics do well to question Jesus role today especially in matters of evil, suffering and injustice. These are valid queries into Christianity as long as those asking are willing to do the appropriate searching into the person and work of Jesus. And those of us willing to believe them must be willing to bear a healthy investigation.

To dismiss Christianity because of perceived contradictions in the Bible is not sufficient because most skeptics have seldom read the Bible. And contradictions that might be found are to my mind evidence of the veracity of the witness accounts. Eyewitness accounts rarely find total congruence. We would be even more suspicious if they did.

I think a bigger problem is that Christianity has been around for 2000 years and has been put up on our mental if not physical shelves to be disregarded and a dust collector at best. Many people have simply not tried to place their confidence in everything Jesus did or said. And we are part of a society, which is pretty self-absorbed whereby life, the way we decide to live it, is just fine. THAT would be a religion created in our own image, a religion that we take off the shelf every once in a while, blow the dust off and look for the self-help section.

But not so with Jesus. In every aspect of life Jesus claims Lordship and he calls for our devotion not because he is an egomaniacal dictator but because as God he knows what’s best for his creation.

People say that Christianity is a ‘weak’ religion. I say that dying to self takes more ‘guts’ than to live by any other code. And what is so incredibly reassuring about it is that we don’t have to go it alone.

Grace and Peace

george