Good Advice from the Apostle John

In our devotion today my husband and I read the New Testament epistle 1 John.  Written by one of the disciples of Jesus the letter is, of course, giving advice about spiritual matters.

However, in light of today’s constant barrage of information from cable news, newspaper and magazines, twitter and Facebook accounts, I find his advice very timely and practical for our daily life.

His words:

My dear friends don’t believe everything you hear.  Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.  

Oh, that we would all be careful and examine what we hear.  I see many people on Facebook sharing something they see that expresses their own view on a subject and they post it on their wall without ever checking to see who the post was from and if it is accurate.

Then, sadly, people begin repeating things they heard or saw as if it were true.

Let us follow St John’s advice and check for facts behind what we see or hear.

Something my husband says a lot applies here too:

Be careful of listening to half-truths.  You may have heard the wrong half.

 

Faith vs Reason

Throughout my life I have read arguments for and against having faith in the Christian God – or any god for that matter.

Some say to question our belief is wrong.  To express any doubt will definitely displease God.

Others say to believe without positive proof of a god is simply showing a lack of intellect.

I have always found myself in the middle.

I do not believe God gave us a mind and then did not expect us to use it.  I do not believe that God cannot handle our questions, our doubts.

At the same time, to assume that anyone who believes in God without being able to “prove” His existence lacks knowledge is so unfair.

In this back and forth argument I read this week from the book “Deliver Us From Evil” by Ravi Zacharias and found this quote expresses so completely how I personally feel about faith vs reason.

One of the most startling things about life is that it does not start with reason and end with faith.  It starts in childhood with faith and is sustained either by reasoning through that faith or blindly leaving the reason for faith unaddressed.  The child’s mind has a very limited capacity to inform it of the reason for its trust.  But whether she nestles on her mother’s shoulder, nurses at her mother’s breast, or runs into her father’s arms, she does so because of an implicit trust that these shoulders will bear her, that her food will sustain her, and that these arms will hold her.  If over time that trust is tested, it will be the character of the parent that will prove that trust wise or foolish.  Faith is not benefit of reason.

That pretty much describes my faith journey.  Born into a home where I was taken to church every week and taught about God from my parents, I believed in the Christian God and committed my life to Him at a very young age.  No questions asked.  Simply the faith of a child running into her father’s arms.

As a young adult I experienced some difficult times.  At the same time as these problems arose I was also attending college at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.  In one of my classes the professor was advocating strongly that creation by God was not true.

I reached the point where I began to question if all I had believed all these years was really true.  Was God real?  Sitting on my front porch one night I looked up into the sky and said, “God if you are truly real, if what I have believed all these years are true, I need you to reveal yourself.  I need you to help me out of these difficulties.”

There was no lightning or thunder or a great voice of God.  But slowly over the next few weeks I began to see drastic changes in my circumstances that reason alone could not explain.

I also began to research my Bible, read books on archaeology, evolution and Christian apologists.  Slowly, but surely, my belief in God was increased by what I learned.  It was during the next couple of years as I studied, prayed and learned that my faith was made stronger by my questioning.

As the years have gone by and I have seen both good times and bad, I have also found myself running into my heavenly father’s arms and the character of God has proven my trust to be a wise one.

If you have doubts about God, do not deny them.  Do not be afraid to express them.  But do more than that.  Read, pray, research.

But also don’t be afraid to be that little child and run into His arms.

He said “You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart.”

I have found that true.

 

 

To Speak or Not to Speak

When I was a child I was very shy, found it difficult to engage in conversation except with family and very close friends.  While I had my own opinions, I was reluctant to ever state them or enter into any discussion where people were debating different viewpoints.

Somewhere along the line I changed.   Looking back on my life I think the change came when I moved into a community in  southeast Missouri and found a group of people who had recently become believers in Jesus Christ and were trying to organize a church in their community.  They had been reading their Bibles and searching for truth and came to an understanding of faith in Jesus Christ.

Not sure what to call their experience, one of the members found a book by Billy Graham called “How to Be Born Again.”  After reading the book, they concluded that they had been “born again” and wanted to establish a church where they could learn more about the Bible and grow in their faith.

Unfortunately, there was a woman in that group who was very domineering and did not want an organized church.  She saw herself as some kind of “Savior” and wanted complete control of the group.  She reminded me of persons like Jim Jones or David Koresh who created a cult following.  It was clear if allowed she would lead these new believers down a road of falsehood.

So – shy, scared and certainly not what I would choose for myself, my husband and I quickly took a stand against her and advocated for contacting a legitimate Christian organization that could offer us candidates for a pastor and assist us in organizing a church that would be based on solid evangelical beliefs.

Thankfully the truth won out and today there is a strong evangelical church in that community reaching out and helping others in their walk with Jesus Christ.  I long ago moved from that community but I rejoice in having the courage to speak out.

So – now I find it easy to speak out and give my opinion.  But somemtimes I struggle wondering if I have become too vocal.

I see all kinds of words of wisdom about the importance of not speaking:

Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”   Mahatma Gandhi

It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”   Maurice Switzer

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”   Mother Teresa

“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”      Xenocrates

Sometimes friends who are not as verbal as me make me feel like I am somehow not as wise or loving or kind as they are because I do speak out so much.

But then……I read these words of wisdom about the importance of speaking out:

“To say nothing is saying something. You must denounce things you are against or one might believe that you support things you really do not.”    Germany Kent

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”    Martin Luther King Jr

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”   Mahatma Gandhi

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”    William Faulkner

As a Christian, I look to the Bible for direction.  And I find:

 

But then there is this:

So – what’s the answer?  Do I speak or not speak?

Guess the answer is to ask myself the motive behind my speaking?

Is it to correct a wrong?  Help someone from following in a wrong direction?  Am I speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves?  Am I speaking up against false doctrine – for the truth?

OR

Is is because I just think I’m right?  Just being a busybody.

My prayer is that I will always speak up against wrong but also know when to keep silent and always remember that God’s Word has said:

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”   Matthew 12:36

 

 

 

Beatitudes with Modern Disciples

Moving On and Cleaning House

I recently wrote about Moving On and Cleaning House where I shared that I was  ending a life time of teaching and assigning my years of notes to the recycle bin.  Before I could get the waste can out to the recycle bin in the garage, a young woman who teaches and preaches asked me to pass them on to her.  So I was thankful someone could use them.

However, I kept a few handouts I had that really spoke to me.  I want to share one with you.

Please note:  This is NOT my writing.  I would give credit to the author but I do not know who the author is.  This has been around for years and if anyone knows who wrote this, please let me know so I can give credit to the proper person.

Modern Response to the Beatitudes

The Lesson

Then Jesus took His disciples up on the mountain and gathering them around Him, He taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Blessed are they that mourn
  • Blessed are the merciful
  • Blessed are they that thirst for justice
  • Blessed are you when persecuted
  • Blessed are you when you suffer
  • Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Are we supposed to know this?”

And Andrew said:  “Do we have to write this down and take notes?”

And James said:  “Will we have a test on this?”

And Thomas said:  “Do we have to get this signed?”

And Phillip said:  “I don’t have any paper.”

And Bartholomew said:  “Do we have to turn this in?”

And John said: “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.”

And Matthew said: “May I go to the boys’ room?”

And Judas said: “What does this have to do with real life?”

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired of Jesus:

“Where is your anticipatory set, your aim (long-term goals), your objectives in the cognitive domain?”

AND JESUS WEPT!