Tag Archives: Bible

Biblical Justification

A little over a year ago, I had a coworker who was the closest thing to an enemy I have ever had. There is no need to go into antics and attitudes; it is suffice to say that we did not get along or like each other. One day, he wanted to run out to grab some lunch. Our office was a few blocks, walking distance, from a number of restaurants, but he didn’t feel like walking, so he asked me if he could borrow my car to run and grab some lunch. With my whole being I wanted to tell him “no” in many different ways, most of them of the not-very-nice variety.

If it had been someone I got along with, someone I would refer to as a friend, there wouldn’t have been any hesitation. I probably would have tossed them the keys and made a joke about making sure they filled it up before they returned it. As I handed the keys over, presuming that any joke would be met with a snarky remark, I didn’t say much, if anything, as he headed out the door.

Another coworker, who was very aware of my “displeasure” with working with this individual looked at me in shock and said, “Why didn’t you just say no?” I turned to her and said, “I couldn’t think of a good reason not to let him.” The only justification I had for my actions was that the Bible instructs to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

Using Scripture to justify one’s actions isn’t a new phenomenon. Throughout history, including events recorded in the Bible, people have used God’s word to justify their actions, both good and bad. While I am sure you can think of many examples, at least one has been in the news recently, the truth is that if you are using the Bible to justify your actions, it should only be because you are showing more mercy than was to be expected, or more grace than others would, or more love than is required. The Bible should never be used as justification for hate, causing harm or treating others in any way that you would not welcome on yourself.

We have all heard the “Golden Rule”, and while there are many different wordings, Jesus made sure to give us the example we should follow – “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). What makes Jesus’ phrasing unique is that, while other versions of the Golden Rule focus on not doing harm, Jesus opens the door to going above and beyond the norm. In other words, Jesus is not just saying “don’t be mean to each other”; He is saying “go out of your way to be nice to each other.”

Now, my story above is not the norm for me. It is the most extreme example from my life I could think of, and even at that, it wasn’t like I did it with a joyful spirit. In truth, I try to be nice and treat others with respect, but I seldom find myself doing something that others would react to as more than what is expected. So as I reflect on the world around me, I am resolved to make sure that I am erring on the side of love so that I might be a light in this world. That way if I am ever asked why my actions were out-of-line with what was anticipated, I can gladly say “because the Bible says…”


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Walk By Faith

One of my favourite things about volunteering with the high school students at my church is getting a fresh perspective of the events and people of the Bible. When I am teaching, either Sunday School or our weekly Bible Study, the passage we are studying is usually one I have known for as long as I can remember, and the events that are recounted are ones I have pondered before. When a teenager, especially one with limited exposure to God’s Word, asks a question, it is often one that makes me stop and consider things in a new light.

As we dive into answering the question, I often say “remember, these were real people, living real lives”. When reading the Bible it is easy to read it like a movie script and forget that these “characters” are not fictional and the “scenes” are actual events. Last week, we were covering the first kings of Israel, Saul and David, in an overview of the books of Samuel. As we were talking about the different events, it came up that, even though we look at the events as happening all at once, the books cover about 80 years of history, as both Saul and David reigned for about 40 years each.

I believe every word of scripture serves a purpose (2 Tim 3:16), and each event and person mentioned is there to tell us about God’s love. Because there is roughly 4000 years and dozens of main characters covered in its pages, the Bible is not an exhaustive account of history. While this makes practical sense, it does lead to us forgetting that these people dealt with life’s ups and downs, the mundane day-to-day and the uncertainty of how it all would play out.

Sometimes I take for granted that the heroes of scripture knew how the story would unfold. I don’t consider that they were acting and reacting to everything in real time, much like we do today. They were not certain of how everything would turn out, as evidenced through the many times people took things into their own hands and tried to change the situation in their favour but ultimately caused more problems than they solved.

When I approach God to ask Him for guidance, I often hope that He will lay it out before me with step-by-step instructions. I wanted to read the script before I start the action. Didn’t Daniel refuse to stop praying because he knew the lions wouldn’t eat him? Didn’t Jonah demand to be thrown overboard because he knew a fish would take him safely to shore? Didn’t Nehemiah ask the king to allow him to return to Jerusalem because he knew he would gladly allow it?

Of course, the answers to all these is “no, they didn’t know”. The Bible is full of stories of people who stepped out in faith, with no guarantees it would work out for them. Even those who had angelic intervention in their lives didn’t have foreknowledge of the details. They all had to walk by faith.

We have to walk by the same faith in our lives. We don’t get to know how things will work out. The examples of faith in the Bible are there for us to follow. They are as much to show how God works through His people as they are that God’s people must trust in Him. God will accomplish His will, we must walk by faith.

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All the Evidence I need

Last week, I read an article on how scientists working at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research, famous for the giant hadron collider) had stated that according to their findings, the universe should not exist as we know it. In a meticulously controlled environment, their hypothesis of how the universe came into being has so far been unsubstantiated.

When I first saw the headline, my immediate reaction was that this is further evidence that God created the universe. In reality the findings, or lack thereof, do not provide any proof that God did or did not create the universe. I firmly believe that we will never have proof, at least scientifically speaking, of how the universe came into being. The reason for this is quite simple – scientific proof involves repeatable experimentation and observation. There is, of course, no possible way for anyone to observe the beginnings of the universe. There is also no way to know what exact environment and circumstances were present at that time. Even if scientists could find a way that the universe may have come into being it would never be more than a theory because there is just no way to know for sure that is the way it happened.

That got me to thinking about my own beliefs. I believe that the Bible tells us that God made the world, but it doesn’t tell us how. The Genesis account reads more like a baseball boxscore than an instruction manual. You can read how things progressed and what happened when, but there is very little on how it was done; even when there is some description, it is an overview and vague. The focus of Genesis 1 is on the “who” not the “how”.

The Genesis account, in some ways, is similar to many ancient stories of how the universe came into being. I remember learning about an Aboriginal creation story when I was in grade school. My classmates all got a laugh (and then a lecture on respect from our teacher) out of the story of how the world was created on the back of a turtle. Origin stories have been passed down for generations and to the skeptic the Genesis account could be viewed in the same light.

So why do I believe the biblical account? What about it makes it so compelling that I stand firm on my belief without the proof that my curious mind demands in just about every other area of my life? Why do I come back to it after every doubt I have that it is true?

Maybe the best place to start is the Gospel of John. John states in chapter 20:30-31 that the purpose of his writing is that we may know that Jesus is the Messiah so that we may gain eternal life. John 1 starts at the beginning, or more accurately, before then. John declares that through Jesus, who is God, all things were made.

Of course, this is no more proof than the original account in Genesis, but it does give another piece of evidence. The Creation story written down by Moses is corroborated by John. John’s Gospel is corroborated by the other Gospel authors. Those writings fit together with the Old Testament writings of Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and David; you see that they point to the fact that Jesus is who John declares Him to be. The evidence keeps mounting.

You could argue that I have only used one source, the Bible, for all the evidence. That is true, but remember, the Bible is not just one book by one author written over a short period of time. Every book can be looked at as a different source. The fact that they have been compiled into one is because together they tell the whole story. It is no different than having several witnesses in a court case. The more of them that give the same story, the more credence the story has. It is not like a jury would say, “well, all their testimonies seem to support each other; so, we really can’t trust any of them.”

There are also many outside sources that confirm the accounts of the Bible, from other ancient writings to recent archaeological finds. In other words, there is plenty of reason to believe the individual parts of the Bible on their own as well as part of a complete story.

Does this evidence meet the burden of proof? That is what each one of us has to decide for ourselves. For me? It does.

Scientists will continue to keep looking for how the universe was created, and along the way, they will make great discoveries of how magnificent and mysterious the creation is. My prayer is that in the searching they will give some thought to the question of who – and find the Creator.


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Timeless Lessons

Last weekend, I had to get a new cable box for our television. For the most part, it was working. The on-demand feature wasn’t, and we do use that a lot. Not that I am a big techie, but it would seem that the technology of our old box was out of date. It’s common in our world that, with new advancements in technology, equipment can get old pretty quickly and phased out.

I got to thinking about how that can be true of our attitude towards the Old Testament. When God established His new covenant through Christ, the old was done away with, at least in terms of sacrifices and communication with God. Much like the advancements in telecommunications allow me to talk to pretty much anyone around the world who has a phone, Jesus gave everyone access to talk straight to God; no more need to go to the priest or the prophet.

The temptation is downgrade the Old Testament to something less important than the New Testament, and that would not be wise. Sure, we should and need to embrace the fact that we live under grace and not under law, but we also need to understand God throughout all of history and maybe more importantly, learn the lessons that He has preserved for us from thousands of years ago to help us as we navigate our lives. Often, as I am preparing a lesson or thinking of an example, I find myself in the pages of the Old Testament. It isn’t that Peter or Paul (or, you know, Jesus) haven’t given us many words of wisdom, it is that God has given us so much more to help us along the way.

Some of the passages of the Old Testament can be hard to read; not making a lot of sense in today’s world. It is tempting to skip them, or gloss over without concerning yourself with the message. I have been there many times, and only my stubborn commitment to read every word has made me take a deep breath and read with the intent of learning. Often times, however, I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to pause and pray for God’s wisdom as I read. I don’t always come away with a life lesson, but more often than not, I am struck by something that I can apply in my life. It isn’t usually profound; just a reminder of God’s love or His concern for His people.

I can’t say that I will always remember to seek out God’s message to me. I mean, I am the guy who will reset the cable box about a million times before I figure out that it just can’t keep up any more. My hope is that the next time I start to forget the importance of all of God’s Word that I catch myself quickly, open my heart to what He is trying to teach me, and learn His timeless lesson.

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What do you do with Jesus?

The Christian faith splits from all other religions at Jesus. It is the belief in Him that defines it. Actually, it is accepting the gift of forgiveness, believing Him to be the Son of God, the redeemer of the human race, and saviour of the world that defines Christianity. So, what do you do with Jesus?

First, you can deny His existence. This would be a fairly easy thing to do if the Bible was the only record of Him. Simply discount the Bible as nothing more than legend and the question goes away. Even though the New Testament has been shown over and over again to be historically accurate, there are many books written today that place fictional characters in historical events. The issue with doing this is that Jesus is referred to in other documents from the time, thus making a strong case that Jesus, the man, did walk this planet around 2000 years ago.

So, if Jesus did walk the planet, that doesn’t mean He was God. There are currently around 7 billion people on the face of the Earth, and none of them are the Son of the Most High. So what makes Jesus so special? Couldn’t He have just been another good moral teacher? Simply stated, no.

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, lays out the argument that Jesus could not have said the things He said and have been a good moral teacher. Very clearly Jesus proclaims Himself to be God. This leads Lewis to state “But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

So what do you do with Jesus? According to Lewis, you have three options.

First, you can write Jesus off as a lunatic. Claiming to be God is not something sane people do. If someone was to walk up to you on the street and say he or she was God, you would not offer to take them to lunch for the sole purpose of learning as much as you can from him or her.

Second, you can deny His claim and consider Him a liar. This is again possible, but a lie that great, and in fact so detrimental to the human race, would not come from a man who was a great moral teacher. The best reason I can think of is to direct people away from the True God; and that person would be working for, or in fact, Satan himself. Again, the title “great moral leader” would hardly be the right one.

The third option is that Jesus is Lord. He is what He claimed to be. His life an example for us all, His death our only hope and His resurrection our saving grace. He was a great moral teacher, and He is God.

So, we are back to the original question: What do you do with Jesus? This is the most personal question there is. It is a matter of faith – and not faith that He is a historical figure, but that He came to give you the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  So, what do YOU do with Jesus?

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It Only Matters if He Loves

Science will never prove there is not a God because it is the study of natural things, and God is supernatural. Religion shouldn’t be afraid of science because God set up the world with natural order and precision. Using one to argue against the other is a little like using history to argue math. The one fact we can all agree on is that we are here. No matter how we got here, there is an earth, a heavens and intelligent life.

The question shouldn’t be simply “Is there a God?” it should be “If there is a God, what is His nature?” Because if God is not a loving God, does it really matter if he made the universe? If a god simply wound up the clock of time and set the universe in motion, not caring for its creation, what difference does it make today that he exists. If the creator isn’t loving, and there is no eternal place for the soul, then for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter how we got here, or really, what we do while we are here.

If God is loving, if the God of the Bible is true, then it does matter. A loving God who cares about His creation and has an eternal plan for it is the opposite of not only atheistic views but theistic ones as well.

What would be the evidence of a loving God? There are miracles; events that happen outside of the natural order of things. Miracles do occur; I have been witness to more than one miraculous healing. You could also point to chance happenings that would suggest that there is someone looking over us and bringing into our lives the people we need, just when we need them. Of course, you could brush them away as just coincidences, but I have had them happen in my life more often than I can recall.

What better evidence would there be to the nature of God than to have Him tell us? For that, God gave us the Bible; throughout the scriptures, God reveals His love for His creation, especially humans.  The testimony is written down and has been kept safe throughout the ages. Every generation and culture can relate to it; its message is timeless.

We are again presented with a choice; we can look at the evidence and decide that there is a loving God who cares for us and longs to have a relationship with us, or we can reject it as fairy tale, folklore and coincidence. It takes faith to believe either way. To believe in a loving God is to take the scriptures as true and see the miracles that are around us as acts of love. For the atheist or theist, you must believe that the scriptures are not absolute truth and believe that miracles are nothing more than random luck. The key question is “what do you do with Jesus?”

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Still Challenge Part 2

Three weeks ago, I issued an invitation to join me in 21 days of stillness, or at least 10 minutes a day of stillness. I would love to sit here and write that I was able to complete the mandate, but I came up short. I started strong, finding time to just be still for the first half of the time, but the last half of the 21 days has been a challenge. I make no excuses. Some days, I got to the end of the day and just had not had time to stop. Other days, I passed up the chance early in the day only to find myself that night lying in bed having not spent the 10 minutes. (In case you were wondering, trying to be still and clear your mind for 10 minutes while tired and lying in bed is a great way to fall asleep!)

The challenge was not a total failure. I did spend some quality time with God and felt Him in a special way. At one time, I, in a very real way, felt as if God was embracing me. Even though I didn’t do what I set out to do, it is something that I want to continue to try. Maybe it won’t happen every day, but I want to continue making a point to set aside time to just be still and listen to God.

There were a couple unexpected side effects of spending this time listening to God. The first is that I found that I was hearing God throughout the day. In different situations, I could sense God’s voice, and I felt more connected to Him throughout the day. The second thing, very much related to the first, was that I started to take a minute or two during the day to listen. I could be still when a couple minutes presented themselves; I didn’t need to wait for the time set aside to do it, it started to become more natural.

I think that is the way it is supposed to be. If God is seeking a relationship, why wouldn’t He seek a natural conversation throughout the day? Maybe it is something that has to be practiced, but if you are willing to put in the time, you will reap the benefits. As the 21-day challenge comes to an end, my desire to be still is stronger than ever. I know that everyday won’t bring a natural time to sit and just be; I need to try and find the time. I also need to listen throughout the day and have a natural conversation with God.

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