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The Work of the Holy Spirit (Part II)

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THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Part II)

Text: Romans 12: 6-8

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

– Romans 12:6-8 (NLT)

Last week I launched a six part blog on the Holy Spirit.  My purpose in taking on such a daunting topic had to do with disconnect and firepower.  The disconnect is that standard practice in most churches does not even remotely resemble standard practice in the early church.  The firepower issue has to do with orthodox theology.  If we don’t believe God can actually change people, we have nothing to offer.  The rest of this series will be spent unpacking these two ideas.

You are going to get some of my journey with this, so with a short trailer from last week, let’s crack at it.  I was raised in a tradition that taught the active presence of the Holy Spirit in time and space essentially concluded with the completion of the Bible.  But as I grew older, my parents morphed toward embracing a more active view of the Holy Spirit.  They were swept us in the “Charismatic Movement” that started around 1960.  The basic tenant was that ideas concerning the Holy Spirit that had formerly been exclusive to Pentecostals, were making their way into Mainline Protestant, fundamentalist and Roman Catholic congregations.  Charismatic comes from a Greek word denoting something given by God that is unattainable any other way.  It is what you know that you were not taught and what you achieve that is beyond you.  Charismatic expression combined a rediscovery of the spiritual gifts with a strong belief that people needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit as a second act of grace after salvation.  In a theological sense, an ecclesiastical shift occurred from emphasizing the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace) as the highest Christian aspiration, to the gifts of the Spirit.   In an era where the Mainline church was just beginning its decline and Vietnam era America was shifting rapidly, some Christians began to wonder if there might be “more” to Christianity than they were experiencing; they certainly hoped so.   As many began to lean into the gifts of the Holy Spirit; they started reading the New Testament through new eyes and that is where the disconnect occurred.  “Why does what we do in our churches look nothing like what they did in the Bible?  They didn’t even have bulletins!”  This movement, like all historical revivals, caused significant disruption in many theological traditions and local churches; not to mention the careers of many professional clergy.

I was a bad fit for a 1980’s style charismatic.  Because the theology seemed shallow; the use of Scripture selective and the methodology manipulative, I rejected the movement in whole.  I would not go forward with them but I couldn’t exactly go back either.  I was in the theological no-man’s land at the age of twenty-one.  Perfect.  My journey was further complicated by my marriage to a woman with more spirituality in her little finger than I had in my whole body; graduation from college and my first big boy job in Louisville, Illinois.  Leaving home to start my life seemed like a good time to re-approach things and hopefully find a place to land.  What did I do in the meantime?

Like all significant historical revivals, great music was emerging that soon was called Contemporary Christian Music.  This genre took the sights, fashions and sounds of the Woodstock era and refocused the themes of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” to “holiness, worship and rock and roll.”  Melissa and I received spiritual sustenance through musical ground breakers like Larry Norman, prophets like Keith Green and poets like Rich Mullins.  The message was clear, “This isn’t your grandpa’s Christianity.  This is fresh, new and relevant.” 

Determined to find a faith tradition Melissa and I could call our own, we visited every church in Louisville which took three Sundays.  Mainly because there were other young couples our age, we ended up being a United Methodists.  After teaching history and coaching baseball and basketball for two years, I accepted a Teaching Assistantship at SIU-C, focused my Master’s work on 19th Century Revivalism hoping to figure some stuff out and took a staff position at the Herrin Methodist Church.  At Herrin I met a retired missionary and product of the “decidedly non-rock and roll” Wesleyan Holiness movement named Sylvia Culver.  Sylvia would have been in her seventies and she seemed to gracefully embody everything I believed the Holy Spirit should do in a life.  She had a warmth and a glow about her but most of all there was a spiritual force in her that was undeniable.  She was what I wanted to be in the unlikely event I ever grew up; she had something I both lacked and needed.  When I took a class she offered about the Holy Spirit; she taught in a methodical fashion that spoke to me and I found my heart strangely warmed.  For the past thirty years, I kept her notes in a file labeled “Holy Spirit” that I carried with me through seminary and my subsequent years of ministry.  I never preached or taught on them; I just kept them in the file.  And then early this year, I got them out again.

So what you are getting is a morphing of Sylvia’s stuff, my stuff, Methodist stuff and especially Bible stuff.  I am also drawing off some of my dad’s experiences because he was on the tip of the spear in a very influential historical movement.  I believe the movement is over but the sustained revival that it torched may still forming.  The Mainline American church is on hospice right now and I don’t see that as a bad thing; it ran its course and I would like to be a part of whatever is next.  I am not advocating a return to the Charismatic Movement, I wasn’t crazy about it when it was here.  I am advocating a Wesleyan and Biblically based openness to the Holy Spirit concerning our beliefs and our practices.  I want to eradicate the distance between what we do and what Jesus and the early church did and tap into every ounce of the power available to us as the New Testament church.  Some of the things we discuss might make you a bit uncomfortable; I assure you they make me uncomfortable.  My prayer is that God makes us all uncomfortable in the ways we most need to be uncomfortable.

Let’s meet the Holy Spirit:

THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

  1. The Holy Spirit is a person. Orthodox theology describes God in terms of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is God and equal to the father and the son.  The Holy Spirit is a person in substance though not in body and is not an “it” or an “influence.”

The United Methodist Articles of Religion describe the Trinity in this way: 

Article I — Of Faith in the Holy Trinity

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

  1. The Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and Son
  2. The Holy Spirit is everywhere present
  3. The Holy Spirit doesn’t stay where not welcome He departed from men when disobedient. David “Take not thy spirit from me”
  4. The Holy Spirit is all powerful In the Old Testament he empowered men for service.
  5. The Holy Spirit is eternal He is seen in the work of Creation in Genesis.
  6. The Holy Spirit came in a new way at Pentecost
  7. The Holy Sprit interacts with the church in the same way until the return of Christ

The letter to the Romans was written around 58 AD by Paul from Corinth to a Roman church he had neither founded nor had visited.  My guess is the church at Rome was started by people who had experienced the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem and had returned home.  Paul wrote the Roman church to outline the emerging theology of the Christian movement.  Paul’s theological conclusions have changed the world at least three times when the will of God, a great leader and new technology formed the perfect conditions for long term change.  All true revivals are initially torched by movements and are disruptive forces to the status quo.  I pray a fourth will happen in my lifetime.

First, aided by Roman innovations in transportation, Paul helped Christianity emerge from a localized Jerusalem movement by spreading the Gospel all over the Mediterranean world.  Hundreds of thousands of first century Gentiles were converted to Christianity as they responded to his message of salvation by faith.

Second, Martin Luther’s encounter with Romans in sixteenth century Germany touched off a revolution called the Reformation in Europe.  Challenging the corruption and works based theology of the Roman Catholic Church, Luther argued that salvation was found through faith in Christ alone.  Luther translated the Bible into German and aided by the technology of the Gutenberg Press and put the Bible in the hands of regular people for the first time.

Third, in nineteenth century England a discouraged young Anglican Priest named John Wesley was reading Luther’s preface to the Romans when he found “his heart was strangely warmed…I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation and an assurance was given to me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”  Wesley’s willingness to go outside the church building, Spirit fire and methodological leadership nurtured a revival of feeling in the midst of the industrial revolution and connected the church to the culture through cutting edge music, bold preaching and the formation of small groups.  Methodists were standardized, preachers were interchangeable and the Holy Spirit burned like wildfire.

I believe we may be on the threshold of a fourth movement of God that is going to ride the waves of the World Wide Web.  My heart’s desire is to be a catalyst in that revival.  Such a revival will not happen without a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and our collective openness to be a part of it.

Personal Revival Positioning (PRP):

  1. Receive Christ
  2. Receive the Holy Spirit
  3. Recognize your gifts
  4. Put your gifts into play

6 God has given us unique spiritual gifts to be used in accordance with our faith You are gifted. You may not currently know what those gifts are so let’s precede Paul’s list of seven gifts with a prayer: 

Holy Spirit,

Awaken my heart to the gifts you have given me.

And give me the courage to use these gifts

For the good of the church and the glory of God.

In Jesus’ Strong Name…Amen!

 Seven Spiritual Gifts

  1. Prophecy (v. 6) Proclamation of the Gospel with authority and effectiveness. Do you love apologetics, Bible study and Biblical proclamation?
  2. Service (v. 7) Practical service; doing what needs to be done. Do you love the feeling of doing necessary things?
  3. Teaching (v. 7) Explanation of the Gospel with clarity and conviction. Do you love to preach, teach and instruct?
  4. Encouragement (v. 8) Lifting up other people in life giving ways. Do you love helping people see the good in themselves?
  5. Generosity (v. 8) Sharing resources with a simple kindness that flows from a generous spirit. Do you love to give of your tithes and offerings?
  6. Leadership (v. 8) Leading with zeal, passion and willingness to sacrifice for a greater good. Do you love strategic planning and seeing a plan come together?
  7. Kindness (v. 8) Acting toward others in faith nurturing, loving and non-judgmental ways. Do you love being there for others, especially in their difficult times?

 

The question isn’t whether or not you have gifts, the question is will you use them for the work of the church and the glory of God?

Tie Black and White

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

 

 

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Part I)

BAPTIZED BY FIRE:

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Part I)

Acts 2: 1-6

 

You may wonder why I would write on a topic as historically controversial as the Holy Spirit.  For me, it is an issue of disconnect and firepower.  The disconnect is that standard practice in most churches does not even remotely resemble standard practice in the early church.  The firepower issue has to do with orthodox theology.  When I say Orthodox Theology, I refer to what most Christians have generally believed for two thousand years.  If we don’t believe God can actually change and remember people, we are open to every single criticism the culture hurls at us.  The rest of this series will be unpacking these two ideas.

 

Throughout this six part series, you are going to get some of my story so let’s begin that journey.  I was raised in a tradition that valued Scripture above all things but taught the active presence of the Holy Spirit in time and space essentially concluded with the canonization of the Scriptures.  This is loosely based in I Corinthians 13:10 that states when the “perfect comes (Bible), the partial (Gifts) will pass away.  But as I grew older, my parents morphed toward embracing a more active view of the Holy Spirit that strongly impacted American churches of all kinds.  That paradigm shift changed the trajectory of their lives…and mine.  When mom and dad got “filled with the Holy Spirit” in the early 70’s, I didn’t precisely understand the implications but it soon became clear that life as we knew it was going to change.

 

Big Idea #1: Encountering the Holy Spirit is Life Changing

 

As the years rolled on, my parent’s understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit was the single most significant variable in the faith life of our family.  I remember dad experiencing an increasingly bad fit with the Baptists, briefly exploring the Assembly of God tradition, helping plant a charismatic church, attending a non-denominational church and leaning into Full Gospel Businessmen and other Holy Ghost focused para-church groups and events.

 

This “Charismatic Movement” came in direct response to the “just starting to decline” lifeless and increasingly liberal Mainline churches and threw more energy into the mix than most could tolerate.  Many sociologists think the movement started around 1960 and the basic tenant was that ideas concerning the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that had formerly been exclusive to Pentecostals, were making their way into both Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations.  It wasn’t just that it took you off-bulletin, this new kind of expression sometimes featured tongue talking in church, interpretation of said tongue talking in church, the concept of a private prayer language, bold attempts as faith healing, prophetic words and a strong belief that people needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit as a second act of grace after salvation.  Church people began to wonder if there might be “more,” some clergy embraced a new understanding and began to practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit and many churches had no idea what to do with them other than to let them go.  This movement, like all historical revivals, caused significant disruption.

 

In my experience, many churches split over the Holy Spirit and splits were often led by Charismatic pastors, who took a part of their congregations and bought a building in the same town.  I make no value judgement here, Protestantism was a schism and has always grown by schism.  When one church of 100 splits into two churches of 50; in ten years you normally have two churches of 100.  It is a difficult way to grow but it is not uncommon.

 

Swept up in a much larger movement, I was a bad fit for a 1980’s style charismatic; I grew to really dislike the emerging methodology of the movement, didn’t resonate with the loose and haphazard way they used Scripture and never believed you had to speak in tongues to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  It seemed to me many Charismatics were flying about like an untied balloon and rejecting any sense of rooted rationality or sound theology that would slow down the emotional roller coaster.  Not only that, I saw a lot of church power politics being played in the name of the Lord.  It was amazing how many prophecies from the Lord and interpretation of tongues supported the agenda of the person offering them.  “Thus saith the Lord, the carpet should be BLUE, not TAN.”  After a short while it got to me.  I developed a bad attitude toward the movement and when that happens, you just hit the stopwatch because exit is now a matter of when; not if.  Once I was called out in a church service for quenching the Spirit.  The guy was probably right.  Another time they mistakenly let me preach my first sermon.  What it lacked in substance, it made up for in passive aggressive frustration and sheer length.  Terrible.  Primarily because the methodology and practice seemed manipulative to me; I rejected the movement in whole.  It was like running away from home for good but not having anywhere else to go.  It did not land me in a good place.  I was unsteady, depressed and without a theological home.  I would not go forward with them but I couldn’t exactly go back either.  I was more resentful than confused and more sarcastic than resentful.  I was done.  But what had I lost?  I hoped not my faith.

 

Those of you who know and trust me as a pastor, know that I don’t treat scripture like fast food establishments used to treat chicken nuggets.  They used to take every part of a chicken you wouldn’t want to eat, blend it, add gelatin, season it, add some “chicken-ish” coloring, deep fry it and serve it up as though it was an actual food.  I am not going to take pieces and parts from all over the Bible, jump from out of context scripture to out of context scripture, blend it, season it, dye it, deep fry it and call it theology.  We are going to dig into passages in their context and let them tell us their own story.

 

Our best Christian insights into the work of the Holy Spirit come from the book of Acts.  In fact, the Holy Spirit is the central character in Acts.

 

The Acts of the Apostles

 

  1. Part II to the Gospel of Luke
  2. Luke was a Gentile, a doctor and Paul’s helper
  3. Dates somewhere between 60 and 85 A.D.
  4. Snapshots of the early church
  5. Continues the life of Christ through the ministry of the Church
  6. Holy Spirit is the primary character

Luke ends his Gospel account of the resurrection of Christ with Peter staring into the tomb, wondering what had happened.  He then shifts to a conversation a risen Christ has with two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  Luke says their hearts were “strangely warmed.”   Jesus opens the scriptures and points to the resurrection, charges them to take his Gospel to all nations and promises to send the Holy Spirit.  Jesus then travels to Bethany outside of Jerusalem and is taken up into heaven.  Luke concludes with the people worshiping Jesus and returning to Jerusalem with great joy where they worship at the Temple and praise God.  Acts begins with the disciples convinced of the resurrection and waiting for a gift of the Holy Spirit.  There is great anticipation and excitement…

 

Big Idea #2: Obedience places us in position to encounter the Holy Spirit!

 

  1. 1 On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the resurrection, the believers were meeting in one place Along with Passover and Tabernacles, Pentecost was one of three Jewish observances in which Jews living within 20 miles were required to travel to Jerusalem. Jewish pilgrims from the Roman Empire joined them in great number. Both animals and unleavened bread were sacrificed at the Temple as they celebrated Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and the gathered harvest.  It was held annually in early June and no Jew was allowed to work; it was a holy day.  On this particular Pentecost, the disciples were living in obedience to Jesus who had told them, “Wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Ghost comes upon you.”  He told them to wait and they were waiting.  Obedience places us in position to encounter the Holy Spirit!

 

Big Idea #3: When the Holy Spirit shows up you are going to know it! 

 

 2 Suddenly a sound like a mighty wind filled the house where they were meeting When the Holy Spirit shows up you are going to know it! You don’t have to wonder if a church or a person is Spirit-filled! There is an undeniable energy, optimism, electricity and enthusiasm about them. 

 3 Then tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them Not some of them but all of them! The disciples knew Jesus personally but they did not have the power of the Spirit until Pentecost.

 4 And everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they had not learned Let’s take a closer look. As I study scripture there appears to be at least three variations of tongues. There is a gift that is spoken in New Testament worship that needs an interpreter, there is a personal prayer language and there is an ability to witness in languages you have not learned.  The gift of tongues at Pentecost was unquestionably the latter.  There was nothing unintelligible at Pentecost; the miracle was that everyone heard the Gospel in the language in which they could best understand it!  The gift of tongues was not the ends at Pentecost; it was the means.  The “ends” was that the Gospel went from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth.

 5 An international crowd of Jews were in Jerusalem for Pentecost It is of interest that tourism is a five billion dollar a year industry in Israel to this day. Jews living throughout the Roman Empire dreamed of personally experiencing God on his holy mountain. Since Pentecost featured the best sailing weather of any of the Jewish holidays; Jerusalem was at its most international during Pentecost.  The fire received at Pentecost would go back home with all the pilgrims who personally received Christ that day and wildfires began to break out all over the Mediterranean. 

 

Big Idea #4: When the Holy Spirit is active in the church there is evidence of it outside the church. 

 

 6 They came running toward the sound and were bewildered to hear the Gospel being preached in their native languages When the Holy Spirit is active in the church there is evidence of it outside the church. John Wesley said, “When you set yourself on fire, people love to come to watch you burn.”

 12 The crowd was amazed and perplexed, “What could this mean? but others thought the disciples were drunk It is the first thing in the morning on Saturday when the Spirit shows up and people are preaching in languages they have never learned and the best counter the devil could think of is that these people were drunk. I am surprised he didn’t lose his job. I have seen people get slurred, silly, sloppy, surly, stupid and sullen when they get drunk but I have never seen anyone break into fluently speaking a language they had never learned!  How many of you have ever known one person in your life who got smarter when they got drunk?  I rest my case.

 

So let me close by offering a metaphor:

 

In my first church job, a guy donated a brand new movie type popcorn popper and taught me how to use it.  The only thing that I didn’t see coming was that you needed to add oil to the kettle with the un-popped kernels.  The oil does two things; 1) It keeps the kernels from burning and 2) It super heats the kernels.  Now let me tell you why popcorn pops.  Inside the hull is a tiny amount of water.  When the kernel is super-heated, the water turns to steam, builds up pressure and explodes.  The explosion completely changes everything and turns a small “harder than a rock” kernel into something fluffy and entirely edible.  In church tradition, anointing with oil has been an emblem of the Holy Spirit.  To my way of thinking, the Holy Spirit super heats the Christian, pressurizes our baptismal water and takes us to a whole new level of Christian living.  It is called sanctification.  Our Methodist Church Doctrine defines it this way:

 

“Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or holiness.

Through God’s sanctifying grace, we grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived. As we pray, study the Scriptures, fast, worship, and share in fellowship with other Christians, we deepen our knowledge of and love for God. As we respond with compassion to human need and work for justice in our communities, we strengthen our capacity to love neighbor. Our inner thoughts and motives, as well as our outer actions and behavior, are aligned with God’s will and testify to our union with God.”

-United Methodist Book of Discipline

 

View this blog as an introduction.  The first steps on a journey.  The first page in a journal.  What lies ahead will be really hard work.  Many of us will have to face our own issues and our own inadequacies as Christian people.  The kind of hard work that can highly heat us, pressurize us and transform us.  It is the kind of hard work that can change…everything. POP!

Tie Black and White

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

A Prayer for Nurses

A Prayer for Nurses:

Almighty God,
Thank you for the vocation and ministry of nurses.
Thank you for their gift of healing.
Thank you for their willingness to be available in times of great need.
Thank you for their sacrifice.
Thank you for their willingness to do humble but necessary tasks.
Thank you for the gifts you have given them in medicine.
Thank you for their compassion.
Thank you for their service to you.
Thank you for their caring service to your people.
Bless them for they are blessings to many.
In Jesus’ strong name,
Amen!

Thank you nurses!

You are appreciated!

 

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist in the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Height, Illinois since 1997.

NURSES

Seven Life Changing Concepts (you can put in play right now)

In many ways, life is a battlefield…of the mind.  What we think and the attitudes and understandings that accompany those thoughts determine the quality of our lives in very real ways.
Seven Life Changing Concepts 
1. WIN THE MOMENT
Winning a whole day is too hard.  Think of your life as a series of crisis moments where you could do the right or the wrong thing. Turn each crisis into a prayer and receive God’s strength for victory! String wins together and get on a roll!
2. DEAL WITH CONFLICT
The more effectively you deal with conflict, the more functional your life becomes. Very few things are as bad as we imagine they are going to be. Handle difficult things directly with an attitude of reconciliation if possible and an attitude of closure regardless. Talk to people, not about people.  Run toward your fears and not away from them.  Eradicate dread by taking decisive action.  Be proactive.
3. CONTROL YOUR INPUTS
The better your inputs, the better your outcomes.  Fill your life with healthy, worthwhile and beautiful things.  Log off of Social Media and log on the Bible.  We are all full of something and we all leak.  Get full of Jesus and leak good stuff!
4. FORGIVE AND BE FORGIVEN
When we forgive, it is us who is set free. Forgiveness breaks the power of those who have hurt us.  We finally get them out of our heads!  Jesus reminds us that when we forgive others, we are in position to be forgiven ourselves.  Ask God to forgive you.  Make restitution where you can.  Forgive yourself.  Move on.
5. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
Learn to see the good in people and celebrate the bright side of life.  What we focus our attention upon is illuminated in our lives.  Focus on problems and they are illuminated.  Focus on solutions and they are illuminated.  Focus on the negative and it is illuminated.  Focus on the positive and it is illuminated.
6. RAISE YOUR BAR
As we incorporate healthy ways of seeing the world, our potential is unlocked!  The glass ceiling shatters!  Changing what we focus upon changes how we think.  Changing how we think changes what we do.  Changing what we do changes everything!
7. LIVE A LIFE OF PURPOSE
Pursue happiness and it will elude you. Pursue purpose and you will find happiness! Life is a gift and we get one shot at it.  Why not choose to live a life that matters?
We can always change but life does come with an expiration date.  By putting these things into play before the sun goes down, we can anticipate a restful night and a glorious next day tomorrow!
Sunset.jpg
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois
(Photo by Jon Montgomery)

I Believe in God…

 

 We believe in one God
The Father, the Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth
of all that is seen and unseen

-Nicene Creed

 

Over the centuries, the Christian church has endured threats to its core beliefs.  That should not be surprising.  Churches are located all over the world and exist within diverse cultures, political structures and religious systems who have very different understandings of life, freedom, faith and order.  These basic challenges were not disagreements on things like worship style, church music, social issues or politics; you will always have that stuff.  These threats represented a dire need to clarify what Christians around the world believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the authority of Scripture or the nature of the church.  In these times of theological crisis, church leaders have sometimes assembled to determine what determines correct belief or “orthodox” and their work was generally stated in the form of a creed.  “Credo” in Latin, “creed” simply means “I believe.”  The purpose of a creed is to offer a clear and correct statement of what we believe.  Not just your individual beliefs, but the beliefs we share collectively.  The idea was that a given person, regardless of era, culture or context; when asked what Christians believe, could relay a creed that would land them in the middle of established Christian thought.

 

A huge problem in our culture is that many Christians simply have not drilled down into what they really believe about the Christian faith.  They may attend church, pray, give, serve and invite but they have never truly owned their faith.  As a result, they take things they have spent far more time developing, like their politics or stances on social issues and misinterpret their fervor around them for faith in Christ.  Their search then becomes a quest for a “Christian position” which results in all kinds of positioning and a near evangelical need to get others to accept their politics or stances.  This is a part of the reason many Christians today struggle with engaging in civil discourse, because they consider those who differ from them not be wrong but to be blasphemers.   One huge downside of a culture that moves at the speed of insanity is an unexamined faith and we experience symptoms of that disease everywhere.  So what is it that Christians actually believe?  And upon what sources are those core beliefs based?

 

For me, the basic question is, “Who is God?”  Obviously writers, philosophers and theologians have done much work on the concept of God over the centuries.  Over the years, I have read innumerable books on the person of God but for me they all fall short.  How can finite and imperfect humans accurately capture the essence of the infinite and holy?  Apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I don’t think they can, so for the purposes of this blog, I am going to give all writers, philosophers and theologians some time off and we are just going to explore the Bible.  Obviously, the sixty-six books of the Bible were also written by people, but Christians believe that this particular collection of books have been uniquely inspired by God.  Since I believe the Bible is the best and most accurate testimony to God, let’s look at what the Bible says about God.  So let’s dig in and discover some characteristics of God as revealed to us in the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament:

 

Nine Old Testament Witnesses to God

 

  1. God is the Creator (Genesis 1:1) – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. We believe God created everything. Creation is no more God than a painting is an artist but clearly a painting offers us unique insight into the painter.  I see the beauty, wonder and intricacies of nature to be a witness to the imagination and sheer intelligence of God.
  2. God is a warrior (Exodus 15:3) – The Lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name! If you get nothing else out of the Old Testament you will get this, God is not docile.  God has an agenda and God is not waiting for it to come to Him; God is going out and getting it!
  3. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) – “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Though there are infinite aspects to God, God is one. There is unity in God.  We often speak of the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to help explain this mystery reminding us that God isn’t just randomly swirling all over…God is one.
  4. God keep His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9) – Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.
  5. God is merciful (Nehemiah 9:31) – But in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!
  6. God is good (Psalm 34:8) – Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! We can personally experience the goodness of God.
  7. God is our salvation (Isaiah 12:2) – See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” God as rescuer.
  8. God is holy (Isaiah 29:23) – For when they see their many children and all the blessings I have given them, they will recognize the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob. They will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Set apart.
  9. God is worthy of our Praise (Isaiah 42:8) – “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols. Praise and worship is a proper response to God!

 

But that is the Old Testament right?  In the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, the concept of God seems to get warmer.  So, let’s drill down into some New Testament understandings of God.

 

Seven New Testament Witnesses to God

 

  1. God is living – (1 Timothy 4:10) – This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. At it!
  2. God is love (1 John 4:16) – We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. God’s grip on us…
  3. God is all-powerful (Luke 1:37) – For the word of God will never fail. God is able
  4. God is all-knowing (Romans 11:33) – Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!
  5. God is knowable (Ephesians 1:17) – asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.
  6. God has a plan (1 Timothy 6:15) – For, At just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. God is watching the world…
  7. God is the origin and consummation of history (Revelation 1:8) – “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

 

In Exodus, God is calling Moses to be the deliverer of the Israelites who have been enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years.  Moses is understandably hesitant and says, “If I go to my people and say, ‘The God of your ancestors has called me’ they will not believe me and when they ask, ‘Which God?’ what should I tell them?”  God replied, “Tell them, I Am Who I Am has sent me to you.”  I like that!  God’s name is “I Am Who I Am” or “God is God.”  So here is the big question: Do you believe in God is God?  I can tell you this: I do.

 

You may wonder just why I believe in I Am Who I Am and here is my theologically weighted answer, “I just do.”  I believe humans are hardwired to believe in God.  That is why children do it so effortlessly.  Obviously many talk themselves out of belief as they get older but faith comes as standard equipment in the human model and we either retain it or have to work pretty hard to have it removed.  My belief in God is not the result of the successful application of skilled apologetics or someone answering all my questions or the end result of a soul trek through world philosophy and religions.  There is just something inside me that witnesses to the reality of God.

 

If you ask me why I love my wife Melissa, I would answer, “I just do.”  I suppose when we met, someone could have tried to convince me of how wonderful she was, assured me of how pretty she was or what a good wife she would become but it would not have worked.  I may have gained appreciation for her or gained insights into her nature but facts, even winsome ones, do not produce love.  No one could have possibly argued me into loving Melissa no matter how persuasive.  I just came to love her and that love just keeps on maturing on one hand and increasing on the other.

 

So here is the deal, “I believe in God.”  I have found many reasons over the years to better understand who God is, sharpen my theological understandings; grow in my knowledge of how God works and what demands the God may place upon my life but in the end, “I just believe.”  The Bible word for such simple belief is called faith and Hebrews 11: 6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  God will NEVER reveal Himself to us in ways that negate the need for faith.  So at the end of the day, you are going to determine that human existence is explained by random chance or that there is a Creator; a cosmic intelligence, a divine Father and a larger narrative.

For me, the heavens and the earth, the mountains and the plains; newborn babies and ninety year old couples still in love are far too complex and wonderful to be explained by random chance in an impersonal cosmos.  I believe in God.

 

Western Wall

 

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

Why I Believe What I Believe… A Seven Part Blog on Hebrews, Orthodoxy and Hope in Christ (Part VII)

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.  14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

-Hebrews 12:1-4, 12-15 (NLT)

 

In the sports world these days there is a hashtag called #GOAT: Greatest of All-Time.  It is a lot of fun to discuss who the greatest baseball, football, basketball or hockey players are of all time may be and discussions can get heated.  (I have no opinion on any of this: Ruth, Brady Jordan and Gretsky.)  For the author of Hebrews, there was but one Greatest of All-Time: Jesus Christ and he is greater than all who had gone before him.  He is the ultimate high priest and stands as the single point of union between a fallen world and a holy God.

 

As the author of Hebrews concludes his letter, he paints a glorious final scene.  It is an image with which anyone in the first century Greco-Roman culture would have been most familiar.  It is a packed coliseum where people are enthusiastically gathered to watch an athletic contest in the Olympic tradition.  Anticipation and enthusiasm are high.  Old timers tell their grandchildren about the greats of yesterday and grandchildren dream of being the greats of tomorrow.

 

For me, this feels like Opening Day at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.  Generations of fans roar and remember, the current players are introduced and honored above all are the heroes of yesterday in Red jackets.  Gibson, Brock, The Wizard, Herzog, Sutter, LaRussa, Carpenter, Edmunds and the list goes on.  Standing with them are heroes we see no more; Stan the Man, Mize, Boyer, Hornsby, Schoendienst, Slaughter and Dizzy Dean.  And then the players on today’s roster line the field in perfect rows for the National Anthem and in that one moment, Cardinal Nation; past, present and future stand together in a Red Sea that smells like beer and hot dogs and cheer for this one team, in this one place; on this one day.  It is such a compelling picture that the author of Hebrews paints for his audience.

 

V. 1 Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses The author of Hebrews loved to talk about the saints of the Old Testament. In a very real sense, he is using the Salvation History Hall of Fame to try to motivate the lackluster, soft and weary modern players to whom he writes. Now near the end of his letter; he recalls saints like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Joshua and Enoch; they are the great cloud of witnesses.  In that same way, we too are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.  Mary, Peter, John, Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Teresa and Billy Graham.  They root with the angels for us to be effective in our mission; they root for salvations to be won, people to be loved and disciples to be made.  When we get it right, they roar from the heavens!

 

Christ Church exists for only one reason: To Connect People with Jesus Christ. That is our sole objective; it is all we do, it is our win.

 

Since the saints are rooting for us, let us:

 

  1. Strip off what slows us down What is slowing you down? What is occupying your mind other than Jesus?  Whatever it is, let it go!
  2. Lay aside the sin that trips us up There are many ways to miss God’s mark in a human life but for most people, there is one sin that is their stumbling block. Is it your love of sin, money, anger, lust, dysfunction or your love or loathing of self?  It is your fear, doubt, past pain or apathy?  Lay it aside.
  3. And run God’s race with endurance The Greek word for endurance, does not just mean to finish a race without quitting; there is a learning curve attached to it.  Endurance is the long haul stamina required to keep us on mission, not give up and to lead us to victory.  You don’t win without endurance.

 

V.  2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus Like Peter climbing out of a boat during a storm on the Sea of Galilee; we will walk on water to the extent we stay focused on Jesus. We are effective as a church to the extent we keep our eyes on Jesus.

 

Now the author reminds us of who Jesus is:

 

  1. The Champion Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sin on a cross, won the victory over death on resurrection morning and is coming back for his church. He is the #GOAT! He is the champion!
  2. Initiator With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, God made his play to win the salvation of the world. Jesus would have to succeed in the worst of conditions where Adam had failed under the best of conditions.  And because Jesus was the one who started this, he is the only who one who can finish it!
  3. Perfecter Perfect does not mean flawless, it means functional. A perfected faith is one that gets more grounded, more focused and more transferable as time goes on.  Jesus is the champion, the initiator and the perfecter of our faith!

 

3-4 Don’t be weary or tempted to give up, after all you have not been killed standing for truth I love this. The author knows his audience if facing hard times but none of them have become martyrs…yet.  Cowboy up because if hard times make you lose your faith, you have lost everything.

 

A great question to close any series is, “What now?”  What do we take forward that is going to keep impacting our lives?  As is common with the Bible, I don’t have to make anything up.  The author of Hebrews tells us most directly and by expanding our view to Chapter Thirteen, I close with Ten What Now’s!

Ten “What Now’s”

 

  1. Square Up     V. 12: 12 So get a grip, widen your stance and get your balance  If you are spiritually off balance or double minded right now, get back into alignment with the mission.  Refocus your mind, spirit and emotions and get back to Jesus!

 

  1. Live Intentionally    V. 13 Plan your course Intentional living is rejecting the things in our lives that take us off mission and embracing things that put us on mission.  What is your game plan to get closer to Jesus?  A failure to plan is a plan to fail.

 

  1. Live Peaceably    V. 14a Live in peace the best you can In these days when people are so quick to vilify anyone who disagrees with them, we must remember that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek.  Always remember, anybody can decide they are your enemy but it takes two enemies to have a war.  I am going to do my best to make sure that those who decide to become my enemy come up one enemy short of starting a war.

 

  1. Live Differently   V. 14b Live holy “How are we different than those who don’t know Christ?”  My answer is most simple, “I live by my understanding of the clear and consistent teachings of the Bible.”  That is why I worship, pray, tithe, engage in group study and witness.  That is why I hold the positions I hold and why I love people regardless of their past, lifestyle or position.  That is why I endeavor to speak truth in love.  To be holy is to be set apart.

 

  1. Live in Community   V. 15a Watch out for each other Some in the Hebrew audience has ceased going to church and with their withdrawal they removed themselves the blessings of both spiritual leadership and the accountability of walking with brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Christian walk in a fallen world is just too hard to go at it alone.  I assure you that they church doesn’t need you or me nearly as much as we need the church.

 

  1. Don’t Get Twisted   V. 15b And whatever you do, don’t grow bitter Bitterness is a sin.  It begins when harbored animosity toward someone or something takes root in our spirits.  Bitterness is a parasitic disease toward an exterior element that destroys the interior of its host.  If you feel yourself growing bitter or if bitterness has set in, repent for you are in a much worse place than you know.

 

  1. Keep Worshiping   13: V. 15 Continually offer a sacrifice of praise Through repentance we pour out the bad; through worship God pours in the good.  In difficult times, singing just won’t do; we must become worshipers.

 

  1. Be Generous   13: V. 16 Don’t forget to do good and be generous Correct belief does not excuse us from warm hearts.

 

  1. Be Blessings to the Church   13: V. 17 Give your leaders reason to lead joyfully.  This is in your best interest. Yesterday I received a text from a colleague in another faith tradition.  He asked how I was doing.  I told him leading a congregation through a denominational crisis is not for the faint of heart!  He replied, “That is exactly why I wrote.  You have helped me so many times and I want to be there for you.”  It was appreciated.

 

  1. Pray for God’s leaders and God’s work  13: V. 18 I am sure this is not the most difficult time to be a Christian leader in American history but it is the most difficult time in my lifetime.  Leaders need your fervent prayers for protection, peace and power.

 

Jesus is Greater!

  • Greater than your fears.
  • Greater than your hopes.
  • Greater than your doubts.
  • Greater than your certainties.
  • Greater than your addictions.
  • Greater than your disciplines.
  • Greater than your disappointments
  • Greater than your successes.
  • Greater than your pain.
  • Greater than your happiness.
  • Greater than your life.
  • Greater than your death.

 

Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world! -I John 4:4

 

Hebrews (1)

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

 

Why I Believe What I Believe… Hebrews, Orthodoxy and Hope in Christ (Part VI)

 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.  By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.  It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.  It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.”  For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

-Hebrews 11:1-6 (NLT)

 

For those of you whose favorite subjects in school were English and Literature; Hebrews eleven is a Greek literary masterpiece! It is not only a poetic summary of Jewish history, it is an anaphora, which is a rhetorical device in which each thought is introduced by the same words; in this case, “By faith.”  The author of Hebrews was the kind of writer that others writers read and said, “That guy can write!”  Here is what we know; Hebrews was written just before 70 AD by a scholar who was addressing a Jewish Christian audience in an unknown location.  And with that going for us, let’s jump in.

 

I think some of the most seminal moments in our lives are when we first meet someone who is going to be a part of our lives.  Imagine your adult daughter comes home from Omaha and brings a young man you have never met with her named Dirk.  You shake his hand and wonder why is Dirk at your house, what kind of name is Dirk, what is the relationship between Dirk and your daughter and in some way is Dirk going to cost you money?  Immediately upon entering, your daughter literally gushes and says, “Dirk proposed on the way here, I said ‘yes’ and we are going to be married.  AHHHHHH”  The first thing you think, “Dirk IS going to cost me money.”  The second and you wish it was the first is, “Is this guy who my daughter thinks he is and is he the kind of man I can trust with my daughter for the rest of her life?”  You didn’t choose Dirk, your daughter did, but the old “Dirk-ster” is now  going to be a part of your life in a significant way.  Meeting Dirk was a big moment in your life.

 

When we initially meet someone that we will eventually include in the orbit of our lives, we have two questions that must be answered:  1) Who is this person?  2) Can this person be trusted?  The first is a question of character and the second a question of faithfulness.  When both of those questions are answered to our satisfaction, we are ready to begin shifting a new acquaintance into a more permanent relationship.  When it comes to our faith, we must ask the same questions, 1) “Who is Jesus? 2) Can Jesus be trusted?”  When I became a Christian I made a conscious decision to live my life by my understanding of the Bible.  Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not to your own understanding.”  This means I have chosen to regard the clear and consistent teaching of Scripture above all things.  If me and the Bible disagree, it is me and not the Bible that is in error.  Do I always live into the highest aspirations and expressions of that ideal?  Of course not but the fact I miss that high mark doesn’t change the ideal in itself.

My Understanding of Biblical Teaching

  1. God made us
  2. God loves us
  3. God gave us instruction
  4. We can trust that instruction
  5. Our best life is lived following that instruction

 

The author of Hebrews wrote to an audience who was losing their grip on Christ.  Being a Christian wasn’t as easy as it used to be, going to church wasn’t as fun as it used to be, serving wasn’t as rewarding as it used to be and the intentions of God weren’t as clear as they used to be.  Things were difficult and getting more difficult by the day and it is hard to hang on when there appears to be no end in sight.  The question being addressed was, “When things are really tough and getting tougher; when the storms of life are raging, what tethers us to God?  The answer is faith.  The hymnwriter wrote, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!”  Let’s dig into faith.

1 Faith is certain hope in the absence of evidence The Greek word we translate faith means a “conviction based on hearing.” It is not far from meaning “to persuade.” Faith is the one human attribute that most pleases and impresses God.  Character is good but faith is better.  Ethics are good but faith is better.  Solid theology is good but faith is better.  Everything we know began when God appeared to a wanderer named Abram and made him a promise that his heirs would be blessed and bring salvation to the world.  There is no evidence Abram knew God before this encounter.  For years, I read this Genesis narrative and wondered, “Why Abram?  He does not seem particularly devout, ethical or moral.  Why did God pick him?”  But the Bible answers my question with a single statement, “Abram believed God’s promise.”  Somehow in some way, Abram had within him the capacity to believe the impossible promise made to him by an invisible God.  And with his believing, a new concept was birthed that redefined the relationship between God and humanity.  Faith.  Straight up faith.

 

Grit is a word that has reentered the American lexicon.  The formal definition is “Courage or resolve; strength of character.”  I have been introduced to more than one audience using the word “Grit.”  Another definition of grit is “passion plus perseverance.”  Grit is the moral fortitude to stay passionate and on mission despite setbacks, disappointments, criticism and even failures.  Grit keeps us centered on mission and moving forward without growing angry, apathetic, callous, burned out or defensive.  The audience of this letter were losing their “Jesus Grit” in the face of increasing persecution and the author is encouraging them to get back to their initial love of Christ.  Faith is Jesus Grit.  It is what keeps us praying, worshipping, in the Bible, giving, serving and witnessing when the going gets tough.

 

I have often wondered why it is so easy for some to believe in God, the work of Christ and the testimony of the Bible when it is so difficult for others.  I believe it has everything to do with faith.  Maybe that is why Jesus always used children as examples of those who would inherit his kingdom.  Children naturally seem to believe in the love of God and in the Bible.  I grew up singing Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children and the BIBLE without a doubt in my mind that every word was true.  I was loved, we were all loved and the Bible told us so!  Children believe; it is only as adults we talk ourselves out of such wonderful things.  Romans 10: 17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  I believe the more time you spend in the Bible, the more faith you will have.  That is why over 700 of us are reading the New Testament in 2019.  That is why a few hundred of you are doing a Mark study right now.  That is why I preach the Bible and not current events, politics, social issues or moralistic, therapeutic deism.  I find the deeper I get into the Word, the more unshakable my core faith and convictions become despite any persecution they may bring my way.  Faith is not an inclination; it is an utter certainty that God is who the Bible says God is and that God keeps his promises.  Now the author jumps into a history lesson for his Jewish Christian audience.  It would have been as expected as an Illinois history teacher talking about Lincoln.

 2 Faithful people of old have gained approval This literally translates “gained testimony.” Stories of the faithful back then enable us right now to hold fast to what we know to be true about God. They remained faithful in tough times, so we can remain faithful in tough times.  The idea is not so much they gained approval from people; that is always temporary.  It means they gained approval from God which is always eternal.  The author is assuring his audience that standing for their faith, which is causing grief and even doubt in the present; will land them on the God side of the ledger.   

 3 By faith we believe in creation Orthodox Christians believe God created the heavens and the earth. It is an incredible claim! As a person who spends some time outdoors, I believe it takes infinitely more faith to believe the earth and the laws that govern it were formed by impersonal chance than by a personal God.  To my reckoning, nature’s wonder and complexities scream in their testimony to a divine creator.  For me, saying that the intricacies of nature happened by accident would be like throwing ten sticks of dynamite into a big box hardware store and the explosion resulting in twenty perfectly functioning houses in a sub division.  How can I believe in a creating God?  By faith.  What informs that faith?  Everything I see and the more I learn.

 4 Abel pleased God by faith In a time when Christians were being persecuted in the Roman Empire, the author points to the first martyr. Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Abel did what God wanted when he worshipped and Cain did what he wanted.  Abel pleased God.   Cain displeased God. The first motive for the first murder in the world was the righteousness of Abel was too great for Cain to bear.  The righteous will always irritate, exasperate and agitate the ungodly for they stand as testimonies to their wickedness.  Standing for God is going to bring some persecution but sometimes you just have to cowboy up and realize that is how it is.  One of the promises Jesus gave us was that we will be persecuted.  He also promised our persecutions will bring greater glory.

 5 Enoch was taken to heaven without dying by faith Enoch had the faith to befriend an invisible God and in his primordial time, such a relationship was exceptional. When others were worshiping and sacrificing idols made of stone or wood, Enoch no doubt appeared to be talking to himself as he walked each day praising his creator and communing with his friend. And then one day, Enoch went on a prayer walk with God and was no more.  The Hebrew text suggests he simply stepped from one dimension into another.  Enoch reminds us that we can have a sustained, personal and life giving relationship with God.  “And he walks with me and he talks with me and tells me I am his own and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” 6 It is impossible to please God without faith Many people stand on the precipice of faith; waiting to get enough circumstantial evidence to take a flying leap into a relationship with God. You might be there today. You are thinking, “If only God would explain about the dinosaurs or set my mind at ease about all those who have lived and died without every hearing of Jesus, I would gladly receive Christ into my life.”  God is infinite and we are finite.  We will never get our heads around an infinite God.  Jesus does all kinds of miracles in the Gospels but he didn’t do miracles when Satan tempted him in the wilderness and he doesn’t do miracles when his critics ask for a miracle. The reality is that you will never get all your blanks about God filled in because that would negate your need for faith. 

 

          Anyone wanting to approach God must believe that God exists and rewards those who seek him What an incredible idea, that we can approach our creator.  In fact, God desires us to come boldly before his throne and be in relationship with him through Christ.  What are the criteria?  We must believe God is who the Bible says God is and that God can be trusted to keep his promises.  And we can only believe such wonderful things by faith.

 

The Work of Jesus Christ

  1. Fulfillment of the Old Testament
  2. Born of a virgin
  3. Lived a sinless life
  4. Gave his life for our sins
  5. Rose from the dead
  6. Offers forgiveness and salvation
  7. Entrusts his work to the church
  8. Will one day return

 

The final concept is that “God rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”  What is that reward?  A relationship with the Creator of the Cosmos through Jesus Christ our Lord!  And in that relationship we will discover a life of purpose, power, peace and passion…and not just for right now but for eternity.

Hebrews (1)

Rev. Shane L. Bishop is a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church.