theROCK

Faith

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Faith. If God loves us, why do bad things happen? That isn't an easy answer. Some of the bad things that happen are the result of God loving us enough to give us free will. We are free to choose what we do and what we don't do. God created us with a conscience, reason, and gifts us with a whole lot of grace, so that we hopefully choose options that are in line with His will. Working counter to God's will results in actions with less than great consequences. That makes sense.

But what about those things that randomly happen. To this I would say, especially as it related to natural disasters, that the Earth has been doing what it has been doing for millions of years. Plates shift and move, air masses collide, stuff happens. People get in the way. The Earth is bigger than people. That makes sense. God has empowered people to develop ways to track storms and warn people so choices can be made.

Then the questions of illness, pain, suffering pop up. Indeed, these are the toughest because one can't reason it away. That is where faith steps in. When we struggle to understand why, our faith compels us to action. There's a reason in the suffering somewhere. It can be hard to find what the reason may be but faith leads us to it. This level of "bad" is to compel us toward God; to a dependence on Him. It doesn't make sense but it will if you have faith. It is said that hindsight is 20/20. When a person takes time to think back to a time of suffering, the fruit can be seen. What was to be learned? What was the reason? In fact, long suffering is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. How is suffering good? It brings us to dependence on God. Faith.

Post-Christian Era?

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From time to time I find myself listening to Relevant Radio. On several occasions, I have heard their various guests use the term "Post-Christian Era". Evidently, we live in the Post Christian Era. When did that happen? At some point in recent history, we went from an era that was Christian to one that no longer is. That is really scary to think about. At some point, our culture shifted from one that was dominantly filled with people who lived and conducted life in relationship to Jesus to one that doesn’t.

So, when did it happen? Rather than think on it too long, I’d rather consider how do we get it back? Why would we want to? For me, looking at a world that has turned away from God – a world that is angry, mistrusting, hateful, in pain, in sorrow, in distress, in all essence, lost – my faith can demonstrate how a life with God is loving, peaceful, gentle, fruitful, kind, focused, centered, and disciplined. For every aspect of what a life without God can reflect, a life with God can dispel. Knowing that there is a God, a very powerful and loving God, who wants the very best for me no matter what I do, provides a reason, a hope. A reason to keep at it. A hope for things promised yet to be revealed. Indeed, if it were easy, everyone would do it, but being a believer is not easy. Jesus has even said so. "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Luke 18:25) The world is proving it to us right now. Since not everyone is doing it anymore, it clearly is not easy. More people are giving up than taking it on. I am comforted that I am among others who are taking it on. As a student of Scripture, it almost feels as if we are returning to our roots – there are more who need to be convinced of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life than those who are already convinced.

Therefore, this is truly what makes us different. We are standing on the shoulders of Saints. We have the opportunity to learn from history and continue to make the future something better. We are in the Post-Christian Era that could become the Pre-Christian Era part 2 if we all live and work together for God’s greater glory.

All In!

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“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” ~Luke 14:26

Did Jesus just say that? Has the Lord become an advocate of hate? Hate my wife and children? I think what Jesus is trying to teach us is the cost of true discipleship. A few chapters later in Luke’s gospel (18:18), a wealthy official asks Jesus what he must do to inherit the kingdom. Jesus tells him to sell what he owns and give to the poor, and then follow him. Perhaps what Jesus is saying is that true discipleship is difficult if one is significantly bound to the things of this world. If we are tied to earthly things we cannot fully take up the cross of discipleship. It’s not that Jesus wants us to abandon our families, but rather to make Him a priority in our life. He wants us to be “all-in” in this discipleship thing. Unlike the wealthy official, let us not sadly walk away from the Lord because of our love of the transitory things of the world. Let’s cling to the cross and walk the road to a more perfect discipleship. Let’s be ALL IN!

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