Those who follow Jesus are known by two terms: disciples of Jesus and apostles of Jesus.
In Greek the word for disciple is “mathetes” meaning a “learner” or “follower” and refers to the accepting and following the views and practices of a teacher.
In Greek the word for apostle is “apostolos” meaning “one who is sent out with a special commission as a fully authorized representative of the sender”, like an agent or ambassador.
Early in His ministry Jesus chose twelve men as He encountered them in their lives. The list of His inner circle is mentioned in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16 and Acts 1:13. These twelve men were hand picked for special training to carry on His ministry and spread the Gospel after He ascended back into Heaven.
Do you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? Or in December at all? Americans tend to think of the birth of Christ as being in winter, envisioning Joseph trudging through snow with Mary on a donkey. But all accounts of the announcement of Jesus’ birth state that there were shepherds abiding in the fields with their flocks. Winter in Israel tends to be cold and rainy. Sometimes it snows. Shepherds would live in the fields with their flocks during the fair-weather months of late spring, summer and early fall, but in winter Jewish shepherds sought shelter for themselves and their flocks. They would not have been abiding in the fields during the time we call December.
Why December 25th?
The choice of December 25, made around 273 AD, reflects a convergence of pagan gods and the church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other similar festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” worshiped by many Roman soldiers. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to Jesus, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival.Continue reading “Why Christmas is on December 25th”
In this world which is increasingly hostile to Christians, evangelism is a touchy subject. Many churches prefer to take an, “If they’re interested, they’ll come to us” stance in order to avoid creating any sort of enmity. Matthew 28: 19 & 20 says:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (NKJV)
These are the marching orders Jesus gave His disciples (past and present) before ascending to return to God in Heaven. In this directive are four points we need to understand. Continue reading “Hit-n-Run Evangelism”
I once worked with a young woman who was a member of an emotional church. They did a lot of shouting affirmations at the preacher as he spoke and hooting and yelling “as the spirit moved them”. As they left the service, they often spoke of how they “really felt the spirit today”.
I found such experiences unsettling. They obviously enjoyed it, and so that’s fine for them. But there is a danger here.
This young woman once said to me “I need to be saved again.”
You need to be saved a second time? Why?”
“Oh, no; this will be the fourth time.”
Her explanation was that she no longer felt The Spirit working in her life, so she must have lost it and needs to be saved again to get it back. I tried to explain that this is not how it works, but she was adamant. “I need that feeling again!”
A good portion of the book of James is devoted to the damage (to others and to ourselves) that can be done by an unbridled tongue. Let’s look as these.
But first, what exactly do we mean by “unbridled”? A bridle is a device that is placed over the face of an animal in order to steer the animal while we ride either the animal or a conveyance being pulled by the animal. In general, an unbridled horse, camel, llama, ox, dog, etcetera cannot be steered and will therefore wander about as it pleases. Rarely will that in in the direction we want to go. In like manner, an unbridled tongue is one over which you have little or no conscious control: it (you) will blurt out all manner of hurtful, insulting things with very little thought of the harm it may do to others, or the impact it has on the opinion others hold of you. In all cases this lesson is referring to believers, and especially believers talking about other believers – although some is about our speech in general.
Someone has said, “The future is not what it used to be.” Although filled with fertile thought the author of this statement is unknown. Perhaps we could speculate as to the disposition of the person who would make such a comment.
Maybe it was a pessimist who had a dismal attitude toward the future. It may reflect someone’s inability to express hope. In this person’s mind the negative may dominate the positive always creating a bleak outlook. He or she may have become so disillusioned with life there is little for which to look forward. It is an unsettling way to live for those who feel the best is behind them and the future can never be what it used to be.
On the other hand, however, the comment may have come from an optimist. The statement could express great hope in the future. This person may sense that the greatest days are ahead. In this person’s mind the positive always prevails over the negative creating a sense of hopeful anticipation. If the future is not what it used to be, it could be better. It is a beautiful way to live and has the backing of the scriptures which point to an end time of joy and celebration. It is a matter of faith that we trust the processes of life to lead us to God’s special future.
It may be possible that the statement was made by an older person who is trying to adjust to change. The kinds of things he or she anticipated early in life are no longer a reality. The years have taken their toll and the future looks different through aging eyes. It is not a matter of the future being better or worse. It is simply different. Changing times give an older perspective a new vision. The future is not what it used to be because nothing is what it used to be.
Furthermore, the statement could have been made by a young person. It may be that young eyes do not see a future as bright as their predecessors. Youth have a way of questioning and challenging a system they feel has jeopardized their future. They also have a capacity to dream the impossible dream. They have time and health on their side. For them the future can be what they make it.
Whether optimist or pessimist, young or old, the words of a gospel song may speak best to us about the future. “Many things about tomorrow, I do not seem to understand, but I know Who holds the future and I know Who holds my hand.”
Note from Doug
Calvin ended this post with “I know Who holds the future and I know Who holds my hand.” and I’m glad he knew these things because on September 10th, 2014 Calvin Metcalf took the hand of Jesus and went home. He has been a pastor, teacher, mentor and friend, and I shall miss him. But I know his soul is safe in heaven, probably playing golf with his grandson, Jonathan.
It is a wonderful thing: being alive. To be able to breathe, to see, to smell, and to touch. These things which we take for granted are vital to our health and well being. God in His creative grace has chosen to share a bit of His existence with us and we call it life. He has given the energy of existence to all living things and we are blessed by it. The sights and sounds of life explode before us and we are often unaware of their presence. The laughter of children, the buzz of bees, chirping birds, trees, flowers, friendship and worship are just some of the things that give us a sense of awe and celebration to being alive. Sometimes the crises of life pungently bring to our attention those simple aspects of our daily routine which have a marvelous capacity for our nurture.
Often in our search for the profound we miss the profundity of the simple. In our haste to show up at the important events of life we miss a thousand opportunities to allow little things to prepare us for big things. In our search for the significant we miss some of life’s most pertinent pictures. Life has its own candid camera as well as its serious productions. It is a video victory when we have eyes to see and can really see. It is an audio miracle to have ears to hear and really hear.
Being alive is an event worth celebrating. The more we call attention to our aliveness the more grateful we are for being a part of God’s existence. Every day we receive multiple blessings for being alive. Let us count them.
If I were to say to you, “I don’t believe in molecules” how would you go about convincing me that you and your certainty that molecules exist are correct?
I have never seen a molecule with my own eyes. Neither have you. No one has. Even those who claim to study such things have not seen them except through the filter of high technology; technology that could be flawed, or a grand conspiracy. I have seen representations of molecules and even atoms, drawn by those who claim intimate knowledge and experience, but no molecule has ever forced itself into my awareness so as to induce in me a belief in its existence.
Yes, situations can be set up where under certain conditions actions result in a predicted and repeatable outcome, but does that prove their theories of why it happens? These priests of molecular physics and chemistry have agendas of their own; perhaps nefarious agendas. They promote science as the ultimate authority. Continue reading “Belief”
Sometimes we find ourselves wishing things could be the way they were. However “the way they were” did not last very long. Whatever past circumstances we long for were temporary at best. Nostalgia is a fickle feeling. It can give us pleasant thoughts about days gone by and yet it can cause us to be so unrealistic about the past that we penalize our present and our future. Time moves on and change is inevitable. The “good old days” are but a memory of a time when we thought we had less stress and strain. We tend to forget the complications of life back then because present complications overshadow anything that ever has been. In an attempt to escape the painful perplexities of today we try to reconstruct yesterday according to how we wish it had been.
Even though things never were exactly the way we think they were, we must never stop making beautiful memories. It may be out of the way we think things were that we find the motivation to create a tomorrow in the way we want it to be. In this manner our memories are closely connected to our dreams. Perhaps the only way we can construct our dreams is by remembering the way we wish things had been.
Therefore, as we long for the “good old days”, we can actually prepare ourselves for a better “new day” if we understand that every day has its share of hopes and horrors. The key is to be realistically aware that today we are making memories for the future. Yesterday is but a reminder that today contains the ingredients for a healthier tomorrow.
The major focus of our lives needs to be on the present. It is the only time we have. We cannot honestly reconstruct the past nor can we accurately produce the future. “Today is the day of salvation. Now is the accepted time.” Forgiveness and grace as well as beautiful memories enable us to live with our past. The kind of hope that produces a positive attitude enables us to move graciously into the future. It is the disposition of the present moment that controls our appraisal of both.
Let us, therefore, never minimize this present breath of life, this existing heartbeat of love, and this moment of consciousness. Indeed the psalmist gave us great insight when he wrote, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
As our Christian lives develop, patience becomes the key to the caliber of our commitment. It determines the depth of our perseverance. It controls the quality of our thoughts and actions. Through patience we acquire the skills to face life’s annoying circumstances. Patience creates an inner tranquility that adds smoothness to life’s ruffles. It defeats fear through faith. It controls dissension with love. It conquers despair with determination. It offers hope in the midst of that which seems hopeless. Patience combines the energy of trust with the spirit of obedience to create a godly attitude and lifestyle.
At no other time are we nearer the Lord’s dream for our lives than when we express patience. He calls us into the kind of life which requires us “to wait upon the Lord.” When patience is absent we often move ahead of God with devastating results. We hurry through life unwilling “to be still and know that He is God.”
Our prayers quickly evaporate in selfishness and futility. We lose our quiet moments of unhindered worship. When patience is absent we lose the spiritual stamina to keep God as the focal point of our lives. Our thoughts focus on the trivial and our energy is wasted in meaningless pursuits.
Without patience we run the risk of losing control of all our virtues. In haste we say things we do not mean. In moments of anxiety we do things we later regret. In anger we hurt those we love most. In restlessness we create problems for everyone with whom we share a bit of life. In bitterness and rage we lose the ability and the desire to forgive. Without patience the vision of grace escapes us. Our nervous energy plays havoc with our health and our only hope is for patience to save us from ourselves.
The calming effect of our own personal commitment to God is no doubt the answer to our struggle for patience. In Christ Jesus we experience the ingredients for a patient mentality and the prospect for an unfaltering spirituality. In Him alone is the peace of patience. May our prayer be for the “gentling” power of the Holy Spirit to be obvious in our lives at all times and in every crises.