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The Intermission: John 6:22-59
Cam
 February 13 2024 at 11:53 am
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During one of the more unique conversations that Jesus has with a group of people in Capernaum, He shares what God commissioned Him to do. In some ways, we could describe this as God the Father’s job description for Jesus – and we could measure the effectiveness of Jesus’ ministry through His words during this conversation. The big statement Jesus shared is this: “The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them. I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do. Here is what the One who sent me wants me to do: I must not lose even one whom God gave me, but I must raise them all on the last day. Those who see the Son and believe in him have eternal life, and I will raise them on the last day. This is what my Father wants.” (John 6:37- 40 NCV) A few verses later, Jesus summarizes this idea again by saying, “The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me, and I will raise that person up on the last day.” (John 6:44 NCV) Jesus’ job description is simple: (1) Don’t lose any of the people who God has given Him, and (2) raise these people on the last day. The significance of this statement is amazing and challenging to what many of us have as a preconceived notion regarding how God interacts with His people following Jesus’ resurrection. The first part of this description is easy for us to grasp, because for those of us who believe Jesus is God, there is absolutely nothing that anyone (Satan included) could do to steal from Jesus. But with that said, Satan has done a masterful job of blurring the significance of this second part of Jesus’ job description. Jesus has been called to resurrect God’s followers on the last day. The only way for this to happen is through the sacrifice He gave on the cross. It is through this sacrifice that we are able to accept the gift of eternal life. However, most people today among Christianity believe that death is not in their future. This idea runs counter to what Jesus shares here because if they never face death, how could Jesus “raise them up” on the last day? As Christians, we have the assurance that we will be saved and brought to heaven, and we know through Jesus’ sacrifice that death is not the end of our story, but for all but a few of God’s followers who live during the final days of earth’s sinful history, death counts as an intermission to our lives, stories, and relationships with God. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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Delving into a Hindu Myth: Sacrifice and...
Sadhika Pant
 January 28 2024 at 08:28 am
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The Myth: The tale of Bhagiratha and Ganga, found in the epic Ramayana and the Puranas, is a significant story in Hindu mythology and is associated with the origin of the river Ganges (Ganga). King Sagar, a powerful ruler and ancestor of Lord Rama, performed the Ashwamedha Yajna (Horse Sacrifice) to establish his supremacy. During the ritual, the sacrificial horse was stolen by Indra, the king of the gods, who wanted to interrupt the ceremony. Sagar's sons, led by Anshuman, searched for the horse and found it near the hermitage of Sage Kapila. Misunderstanding the sage to be the thief, they accused him, disrupting his meditation. In his wrath, Sage Kapila burnt them to ashes with his fiery gaze. Anshuman's son, Dilipa, and later his grandson, Bhagiratha, were unable to perform the last rites (funeral rituals) for their ancestors. The ashes of Sagar's sons remained restless, so Bhagiratha took it upon himself to find a solution. Only the waters of the Ganga (the Ganges), then in heaven, can bring the dead sons their salvation. Bhagiratha undertook intense penance and austerities to please Lord Brahma, the creator. Impressed by his devotion, Brahma granted him a boon but advised him to seek Lord Shiva's help to contain the force of Ganga's descent to Earth. Bhagiratha then prayed to Lord Shiva, who agreed to break the fall of Ganga on his matted hair, minimising the impact on Earth. The river Ganga, pleased by Bhagiratha's efforts and Lord Shiva's intervention, agreed to descend to Earth. As Ganga flowed down, her descent was so forceful that it could have disrupted the earth. Lord Shiva, however, skillfully trapped Ganga in his locks, releasing her in a gentle stream. Ganga then flowed over the ashes of Sagar's sons, bringing them redemption. The river continued her journey on Earth, purifying everything she touched. The river Ganges is considered sacred in Hinduism, and bathing in its waters is believed to cleanse one of sins. Parallels: While the specific details of the Bhagiratha and Ganga myth are unique to Hinduism, the motif of a sacred river and its purifying properties is a common theme found in various religious and cultural traditions worldwide. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the Nile River was considered sacred and played a crucial role in the religious and cultural life of the people. The annual flooding of the Nile was associated with the goddess Hapi, symbolising fertility and abundance. The river was believed to be a life-giving force, similar to the sacred attributes associated with the Ganges in Hinduism. The Jordan River is mentioned in the Bible, particularly in the context of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. According to Christian beliefs, the act of baptism in the Jordan River symbolises spiritual purification and rebirth. The river is seen as a sacred space for rituals of cleansing and initiation. Symbolism: The Ganges River is often seen as a purifying force, capable of cleansing individuals of their sins. Bathing in the Ganges is believed to wash away sins and impurities, signifying spiritual rebirth.. In the myth, the descent of the Ganges is associated with the redemption of King Sagar's sons, who were turned to ashes due to a curse. In Hinduism, the river is considered auspicious for performing funeral rites, and its waters are believed to aid in the transition of the departed souls. Lord Shiva's role in trapping Ganga in his matted locks represents control over powerful forces. It symbolises the need for balance and restraint in handling intense and potentially destructive energies. This intervention highlights the importance of divine guidance in navigating the challenges of life. Bhagiratha's intense penance and austerities represent the importance of devotion and sacrifice in Hinduism. His unwavering dedication to the welfare of his ancestors, as well as his perseverance in seeking divine intervention, reinforces the idea that sincere devotion can evoke a positive response from the divine. The myth shares thematic elements that resonate with Carl Jung's psychological concepts, particularly the archetype of the hero's journey and the symbolism of salvation or rebirth. There are parallels between Bhagiratha's quest to bring Ganga to Earth and the archetypal motif of extracting one's father (wisdom of the ancestors) from the belly of the whale (chaos), a concept often associated with psychological transformation and reconciliation. In Jungian psychology, the father represents authority, tradition, and the collective unconscious. Bhagiratha's quest to redeem his ancestors, mirrors the hero's journey to confront ancestral issues or unconscious elements. The redemption of the ashes signifies a transformative process, aligning with the hero's quest for self-discovery and individuation. The Message: The Ganga is not just a river but a spiritual and cultural lifeline for millions of people. Its waters are considered sacred, and the river plays a central role in various religious practices, rituals, and festivals. Cities along the Ganga, such as Varanasi, Haridwar, and Rishikesh, draw in tourism, fostering economic opportunities for local businesses and communities. Pilgrims travel to the Ganges to perform rituals, take holy dips, and seek spiritual solace. This cultural significance remains a vibrant aspect of modern life in India. Bhagiratha's pursuit of redeeming his ancestors mirrors humanity's yearning to rectify past mistakes and instigate positive change. The human relationship with time is intricate; while we cannot alter the past, we possess the capacity to negotiate with the future. The religious concept of sacrifice, deeply embedded in this temporal relationship, stands as a significant contribution of religion to the systems that benefit us today. By forgoing immediate pleasures, we can aspire to create a more favourable future—a principle underpinning the entire banking system, where saving for the future is paramount, akin to how squirrels save nuts for winter. In modern life, the myth encourages individuals to take responsibility for their actions and for those committed by their fathers, and seek to redeem rather than resent them for it, even if it means sacrificing the comforts of the present. Only by doing so, can the future be “purified” for the next generation. “I love him who justifieth the future ones, and redeemeth the past ones: for he is willing to succumb through the present ones.” - Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra.
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Is Religion Historical or Allegorical?
Sadhika Pant
 February 21 2024 at 12:23 pm
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To what extent can you read religion as you read history (depicting events) or as you read science (explaining the workings of the universe)? Although I hold my own views on these matters, they hardly serve as answers that conclusively resolve such inquiries. And perhaps that is for the best. It is this kind of perpetual questioning that keeps conversations surrounding religion alive. Some people view religious texts primarily as historical documents, containing accounts of events that actually happened in the past. They interpret these texts literally and believe that the stories and events described within them are accurate representations of real events. For these individuals, religion is closely intertwined with history, and the two are inseparable. On the other hand, many others interpret religious texts allegorically, seeing them as containing deeper symbolic meanings rather than literal truths. They believe that the stories and teachings found in religious texts are meant to convey timeless truths and moral lessons, rather than being strictly historical accounts. From this perspective, religion is more about the metaphorical and spiritual interpretation of events rather than their literal truth. In other words, science made certain questions redundant when it demystified some of the workings of the universe. We turned to books or experts in search of answers to the questions that flooded our curious minds, not unlike how we turn to Google in today’s day and age. But before knowledge became scalable with the advent of the education system or the printing press, we had historically turned to prayer for the answers. Somewhere in the transition, scientific scepticism became indistinguishable from the spirit of inquiry that had preceded the era of scientific exploration. That spirit is very much alive and kicking, but, beyond scientific inquiry, are other outlets considered valid sources of knowledge? If so, can a modern perspective accept truths derived from sources that lack objectivity or empirical evidence? An attempt to answer such questions would be wanting, without a discussion on the composition of ‘truth’ first. The post-Enlightenment era has influenced how modern people approach religion, emphasising rationality, scepticism, and empirical evidence as the criteria for truth. There's a tendency in modern societies to prioritise objective and empirical truths over subjective or metaphysical interpretations. This perspective has led to increased scrutiny of religious claims and interpretations, as well as efforts to reconcile religious beliefs with scientific discoveries and historical evidence. However, this doesn't mean that all interpretations of religion must conform strictly to empirical standards. In trying to determine the truth of a statement or an idea, it is important to consider the goal that one wishes to achieve with the statement or the idea. For example, does the truth of a knife solely rest in its existence, or does it also depend on its capacity to cut sharply? Of course, the object knife exists regardless of whether it is sharp or blunt, the category ‘knife’ only exists insofar as it is usable for the purpose designed — its ergon and fulfilment of its telos, so to speak. To be categorised as a "knife," an object must possess certain recognizable traits, including a knife-like appearance and a sufficiently sharp blade, although some degree of variation is permissible. For the human brain to be able to abstract out the category ‘knife’ from the object, it must prioritise the object's purpose as the essence of its identity. And the truth in abstraction cannot be dismissed; numbers and words are abstractions, and play essential roles in running our world. Extending the analogy forward, the truth of an idea must also rest on its usability. Ideas laying claim to truth must, to some extent, address the problems they aim to resolve, thereby enduring long enough to be preserved and transmitted to future generations. Science addresses the question: Science seeks to answer the question: How does the universe operate? History, on the other hand, aims to answer: What occurred? Ideas failing to furnish satisfactory answers are not recognized as scientifically or historically accurate. Religion, on the other hand, addresses a distinct inquiry: How should we conduct our lives? Knowledge that optimally facilitates human survival and reproduction, providing meaning amidst chaos and tragedy, provides responses to this question. Religious systems have mobilised whole populations on more than one occasion. The abstraction of human experience, the nature of reality and the meaning of life as described in religious frameworks is true because it is meaningful and improves the odds of survival of the human race. Many would disagree, but I believe that religion is allegorical, and this abstraction makes it a fundamental truth as it surpasses time constraints and the specificity of historical individuals.
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Answering the Atheist: Why does God Allow...
Sadhika Pant
 February 09 2024 at 10:56 am
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Among the plethora of arguments that atheists might give to contest the existence of God, a particularly understandable one is: If God indeed exists, why does he permit the existence of suffering? Does God permit suffering due to a lack of omnipotence, or is it a deliberate choice, suggesting a level of mercy inconsistent with believers' perceptions? This argument delves into the longstanding question known as the problem of evil. It grapples with the apparent contradiction between the existence of a benevolent, all-powerful deity and the presence of suffering and evil in the world. Some argue that God's omnipotence and benevolence can coexist with suffering if there is a greater purpose or plan that transcends human understanding. This perspective posits that God allows suffering as a means to achieve a higher good or to teach moral lessons. While I do not disagree with this viewpoint, let’s come to it later. A more compelling argument for me is the priority God puts on free will rather than on ‘happiness’ by default. Assuming that we live in a world where free will is not only possible, but also desirable, the option for individuals to engage in cruel, unfair, or inherently evil actions must remain on the table. It is only in this scenario that true morality can emerge — when individuals possess both the opportunity and capacity for malevolence yet consciously choose not to act on such inclinations. It follows then, that evil and suffering must exist —firstly, to allow the choice of abstaining from such actions and, secondly, as a consequence of those who do enact them. It is here that my atheist comrade would say: “Fair enough. But what about those who endure suffering not as a direct result of their own actions? What about the little children who die of cancer? What evil did they do?” From a theological perspective, various explanations may be offered, such as the concept of a greater divine plan that is beyond human comprehension. On the surface of it, such a response may seem overly optimistic, evasive, or even facile in the face of tragedy, I think that is often because it is often not understood well enough. One might say: “A divine plan beyond human comprehension seems like a convenient explanation whenever one lacks an answer or when faced with intense evil or tragedy, casting doubt on the mercy of God.” The answer’s in the question, here. An encounter with malevolence or tragedy is enough to make some believers question their faith, yet it can also be a humbling experience that leads even the most sceptical individuals to contemplate the divine. That is not to say that little children do not die of cancer every day, or that a faith sufficiently strong can shield oneself from witnessing such tragedy. The path of faith is portrayed as a choice, perhaps the ultimate one, as asserted by many religions. To enable individuals to make this choice, God cannot constantly manifest in an unequivocal manner. It is the enigma presented through tragedy and the elusive nature of God that transforms faith into a conscious choice rather than rendering it redundant. So, God could have created every human as an inherently moral being, eradicating suffering from the world. Additionally, he could have manifested in a visible, tangible, and unambiguous form, making faith in God the only logical and evident path. However, a world free of deprivation and longing would also be devoid of free will, morality, and the concept of redemption. It could be a place with endless cake for everyone, but we'd be oblivious to its sweetness, for we would not have known hunger. “I believe in it, I answer for it, for the whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key! It may be at the cost of his skin, it may be by cannibalism! And this being so, can one help being tempted to rejoice that it has not yet come off, and that desire still depends on something we don’t know?” - Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground.
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Government Assisted Suicide Programs
amusedtodeath
 February 14 2024 at 03:37 pm
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These government assisted suicide programs have existed in Belgium and some other European jurisdictions for some time. But the last few years have seen the introduction of the MAID (Medical Assistance In Dying) program in Canada and the VAD (Voluntary Assistance in Dying) program in Australia. I am not as aware of what is going on with these programs in Belgium and Australia. However, being of Canadian origin, I am following the evolution of MAID in Canada. And at least to me, it looks like it is going off the rails. It is being pushed aggressively by the Canadian Federal Government, and it is constantly expanding. Will there be any limits to this program? When will common sense and ethics and basic decency and morals and good judgement prevail? It was initially sold as a painless easy convenient way for the terminally ill to pass away peacefully. But that was just the start. More than 60% of the people who apply for MAID are approved for termination, with very little oversight or vetting or restrictions. At this point, tens of thousands of Canadians have been eliminated through the MAID program. Because Canada has a smaller population than the US, the number who have been exterminated in Canada is equivalent to about half a million people being killed in the US. The MAID program is now advertised constantly in the Canadian media (and almost all the media are completely controlled by the government in Canada, now). It is being implemented and recommended for injured veterans, so that the government does not have to support them any longer. It is being pushed for the homeless and the addicted and the unemployed. There is a massive effort now to extend the MAID program to children and the depressed and anyone mentally ill. How long before those who are demented or just elderly will be pushed into committing suicide? What about someone with a contrary political opinion, like Jordan Peterson? That is what used to happen in the USSR. If someone had a different political opinion, they were deemed mentally ill in the USSR. And then they were locked up in asylums, in horrible conditions. The Canadian government and some provincial governments are now encouraging addiction by essentially legalizing methamphetamines and fentanyl and other toxic addictive substances in many jurisdictions, and in some cases, providing them. Of course, the overdose rates have sky-rocketed upwards, as well as killings associated with drug dealing. [1] So the government has no problem getting the citizens addicted, even children without their parent's approval or permission, and then to cope with the situation, the government also has no problem effectively executing the people whose lives they have destroyed. This is sort of startling considering that there is and has been a widespread discomfort with capital punishment in Canada, for many years. What on earth is going on? No one seems to be asking many questions since the Canadian Federal Government seems to be evolving into an effective totalitarian dictatorship of sorts. Can anyone question it? Can anyone question anything ? You see what happened to Jordan Peterson when he questioned these woke Canadian policies. Prime Minister Trudeau has spoken admiringly about the Cuban Government and the Chinese Communist Party and has said repeatedly he wants to impose that style of government in Canada by force. Canadian doctors have objected for the last 2 years to Canadian Federal Government plans to start executing the mentally ill. So, in response, the Canadian Federal government is going to implement a 3 year retraining period to force Canadian doctors to start killing the mentally ill. This is somewhat analogous to the retraining program that is being forced on Jordan Peterson. This is particularly problematic because there are no standards for who can recover from mental illness. Many people can recover, given time. But will they just be killed to speed up the process and for "efficiency"? Over 40% of Canadians are chronic users of anti-depressants. Will they all be deemed mentally ill so they can be slaughtered wholesale? What about the trans community, which has a very high suicide rate and depression rate? The Canadian government is aggressively pushing trans surgeries on the population, particularly young people. But if the surgeries go wrong, or the patients are not satisfied with the outcomes of the trans treatments, will they just be put to death? Perhaps even requesting transitioning would be enough to get you classified as mentally ill, so they would not even go ahead with the medications and surgeries, but just put those requesting a transition to death right away. It is much more cost effective and more efficient that way, right? There are rumors that the government wants to use MAID to exterminate the indigenous peoples of Canada. It would be convenient, from some points of view. They just cause a lot of problems, after all. And it can't be classified as racist because the Federal government is doing it, and they are super woke and compassionate and tolerant, you see?
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Focus on the Father: John 15:18-16:4
Cam
 February 14 2024 at 12:22 pm
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Whenever I read this passage, I am struck by the words that Jesus says right at the beginning, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 NASB95) Jesus then goes on to share the truth that servants are not greater than their masters, and that the person who hates Jesus also hates the Father as well. In the New Testament time period, religious people were the ones that seemed the most opposed to Jesus. The world outside Judea largely ignored what was going on in that region. With that said, was Jesus just talking about church people hating His true followers or is there more to this teaching? As is often the case, I believe there is more to this teaching – a subtle hidden layer beneath the surface. We can find a clue to one of these subtle truths in John 15:21 and it is restated a second time in a different way in John 16:3. This subtle truth is that the world does not know the Father. We could expand this truth to say that the world might include everyone – both sacred “Christians” as well as secular atheists – who do not know the Father. Those who do not know the Father will never understand who Jesus was and why He came. These people will minimize Jesus’ role and His significance to being someone who had some good things to say but who probably should have kept better company since one of those in His inner circle of twelve betrayed Him. This leads me into a big theme/idea that I see in this passage: I should be more focused on growing closer to Jesus and the Father than on caring what others think about me. My focus should not be on getting others to like me, but on modeling the Father’s love for humanity as demonstrated in Jesus’ life and ministry. I will never be greater than Jesus, but I can be an example of who He is to today’s world – specifically to the little corner of the world that I live in! This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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After Our Failures: Mark 14:27-31
Cam
 January 30 2024 at 12:04 pm
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During the supper Jesus shared with His disciples on the night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus shares a prophecy with them that makes them all a little uneasy. Jesus also tries to point them towards His resurrection, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears because of the earlier statement. Both Mark and Matthew record this conversation. Mark tells us that Jesus said, “You will all fall away, for it is written:” “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” (Mark 14:27 NIV) But before they could interrupt Him, Jesus concludes this statement pointing towards His resurrection saying, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Mark 14:28 NIV) Peter is stuck on the earlier statement Jesus made, and we tend to focus in on Jesus’ prediction about him, but if we look closely, Mark tells us that Peter was not alone in his vocal commitment to Jesus. Both Mark and Matthew tell us that Peter insisted, “‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.” (Mark 14:31 & Matthew 26:35 NIV) We tend to focus on Peter and his big denial, but all the remaining ten disciples said the same according to both Mark & Matthew. They all vocalized their commitment to Jesus. At this point in the night, Judas had already left and was headed to the Jewish leaders and to round up the mob that would arrest Jesus. The remaining ten disciples shared Peter’s commitment to Jesus; they just weren’t as vocal about it. This makes me wonder if this passage, and what ultimately happens, hints at how easy it is for people to silently fall away. One disciple, Peter, went down in a big way, but the other ten loyal disciples all scatter without a word. While John and Peter follow from a distance, and John doesn’t have the same big failure Peter had, the other nine are silently gone, and we only see them later together, gathered back in the upper room. In our own lives, while we may fail God in a big way, it is also possible to fail in subtle and more silent ways. Staying quiet when we should speak is often just as bad as saying the wrong thing when we should have been silent. Both are missed opportunities. This passage cautions me to be wary of the subtle ways I can mess up – but it also gives hope that regardless of how public or silent my failure is, Jesus is ready to forgive and accept me back. He wanted to meet the disciples at Galilee after He had risen, and that was to welcome them back after their failures. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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Never Ashamed: Luke 9:21-27
Cam
 February 06 2024 at 11:51 am
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Probably the most clear and direct statement about Jesus comes immediately after He shared about His upcoming death and resurrection. While Jesus sets the bar for following Him really low, in some ways it is ridiculously high as well. Luke tells us that after Jesus shared about His upcoming arrest and death, He tells all those who are present, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but are yourself lost or defeated? Of course not! If you are ashamed of me and of my teaching, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26 GNT) On one hand, the requirements Jesus sets for us are really low. They are not based on social status, financial status, or popularity. These things have hierarchy and they are ways of measuring people in relation to other people. But everyone has the breath of life in them, and it is this life that Jesus refers to. While the cross Jesus took up was a literal cross, and while many of the disciples and first followers of Jesus also ultimately took up literal crosses, Jesus is speaking figuratively of challenges that come against our faith in Him. When we choose to go with Jesus, the first thing He says is that our “self” should be left behind. If we are trying to bring our lives and our stuff along on the trip with Jesus, we will not be able to keep up. Jesus tells us, “if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it” (Luke 9:24 GNT) This sounds backwards, but it speaks to the focus we should have for our lives. If we focus on building ourselves up, or on acquiring all we can in this world, it won’t mean anything if we miss this one point. When time ends, the only decision that will have mattered is whether we have placed God/Jesus as first in our lives. And Jesus finishes this idea out by saying another easy-to-understand idea that is also challenging to apply. “If you are ashamed of me and of my teaching, then the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26 GNT) When we have chosen to follow Jesus, we should never be ashamed of our decision. We can expect to face challenges, and we can expect that there will be those who don’t understand, but if we hold on tightly to our faith and belief in Jesus, and we are never ashamed of our association with Jesus, then He will stick up for us when He returns in His glory with the Father and His angels. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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“And” is Better than “Or”: Matthew 23:1-36
Cam
 February 02 2024 at 12:25 pm
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Tucked within Matthew’s chapter full of Jesus’ challenges to the scribes and Pharisees, we can find an interesting concept played out regarding what God wants from His people and how the religious leaders missed it. In these challenges, Matthew tells us Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24 NASB95) This section describes how the scribes and Pharisees were incredibly detailed and meticulous, but in their laser-like focus on certain religious instructions, they had missed the big picture of what God wanted. When reading this section, it is easy to get caught in an “either/or” mentality. We see how these religious leaders were exceptionally detailed with their tithing, but they missed out on the justice, mercy, and faithfulness aspects of the law. If we are not careful, any four of these sections can be focused on at the exclusion of the others. Just like tithe can become the primary focus, so could justice, mercy, or faithfulness. If justice is focused on like these leaders focused on their tithing, then we will find a group of believers who are critical of others and any sins they see present in those around them. If mercy was focused on like these leaders focused on their tithing, then we will find a group of believers that resemble a support group, and while it is a prime place for people to go to be accepted, they may not actually grow out of their challenges or towards God. If faithfulness was focused on like these leaders focused on their tithing, then we might find a group of believers who have such high personal standards that others may be turned off and think that they would never fit in or be welcome. Focusing on only one of the four areas Jesus describes misses God’s picture for His people. Jesus finishes by emphasizing the importance of all four areas when He says, “These are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23b NASB95) Moving forward with our faith, trust, and belief in Jesus should balance these four areas. We should focus on being faithful, extending mercy, displaying justice/justness, and giving generously. When we have these areas of our lives and character in balance, then we are living as Jesus lived, and being the people God created us to be. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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The Call For Us All: Matthew 8:18-22
Cam
 January 31 2024 at 12:19 pm
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A theme among many of these passages is that as I read each segment while preparing these journal articles, I am amazed at what is said, and what is not said. My brain likes to fill in and assume some of the missing details, but in reality, the opposite could have happened. This passage is a clear example of one where my brain has filled in details that are not present. Other places and invitations Jesus gives say that the invitee goes away sorrowfully or chooses to leave instead – but this passage is clearly silent on this. It is an assumption to think that the man left to bury his father just as it is an assumption to think that he seized the opportunity and followed Jesus. After verse 22, Matthew switches gears and the disciples leave the area in a boat with Jesus. Why would Matthew have not included a few words to indicate the man’s choice? It could have been as simple as “He joined.” or “He left.” Let’s look again at details included in the passage – perhaps Matthew does give an answer. Verse 21 gives us a solid clue, because it clearly says that the one asking Jesus was one of His disciples. Now think with me for a minute: Would Jesus say “Follow Me” to someone who was already currently a disciple? Maybe, because we do see Him say this a second time to Peter following His resurrection (John 21:19) but I am inclined to believe that Matthew tips us off to this being the call of a less prominent disciple. It would be interesting to know which disciple asked the question, but perhaps the point in this passage is not teaching us about one individual’s call, but instead about a call to follow that we all receive. We are all called to follow Jesus, and while I don’t think Jesus wanted to insult the memory of the disciple’s father, I believe He wanted to shift our focus onto the things that really matter – specifically towards the future life for those who believe in Him. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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SPECIAL WEEKEND THOUGHT: 👉 Trusting a Holy...
Cam
 February 24 2024 at 12:27 pm
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“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4 NIV) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV) “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’” (John 15:4-5 NIV) This morning, as I get up to write this short weekend thought, trusting God is on my mind. While there is no shortage of craziness happening in our world, those who have read the Psalms, Proverbs, and the gospels understand that even while life can be crazy, hectic, and even hostile, it is helpful to realize that God is in control. However, why would Someone in control allow this world to continue as it is? It seems counter-productive to let the world push God away, even while God’s character may be the only thing that can save it. I suspect that what is happening right now is far from what God wants, even if it is what God has allowed. Just like delaying pleasure today can help us have more in the future, God might allow today’s world because He knows it will become something even greater in the future. While skeptics will hold up today’s world as their primary exhibit to dismiss a “loving” God as a fraud, a Christian can choose to trust God while recognizing that we don’t have all the answers from our limited perspective. While the Bible describes God as love, it also describes Him as holy. Once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament, we find descriptions of angels emphasizing the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Both these verses repeat the word “holy” three times when describing God. This is the only term the Bible repeats three times when describing God. God’s descriptions present a dilemma: a holy God must punish those who sin. However, a loving God must offer forgiveness. The accuser knows this and has held up this contradiction in his case against God. But Jesus solved this dilemma by taking our sin onto Himself — by dying the death we deserved and offering the life He deserved to all who will accept it. When faced with God, those living outside of His will have two choices: humility or hostility. One option is humbly turning to God; while the other is hostility and fighting against Him. In each case, God is the same. The difference is how our hearts respond. The choice before us is humbly trusting a Holy God, even while we don’t have all our questions answered. Or rejecting Him with hostility because He doesn’t fit into the frame we created for Him. I humbly choose trust, and I humbly invite you to do the same! 🙏 📖 ✝️ 👍
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Balancing Backstage Living with Onstage...
Cam
 February 16 2024 at 12:08 pm
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Early on in Luke’s gospel, following Jesus healing a man with a skin disease, we learn a secret Jesus used to strengthen His private life. In this secret, we discover a principle Jesus used to guide the “hidden” area of His life, and it is one that we can use in our own lives as well. After healing a man who had been suffering from a skin disease, Luke tells us that “the news about Jesus spread even more. Many people came to hear Jesus and to be healed of their sicknesses, but Jesus often slipped away to be alone so he could pray.” (Luke 5:15-16) Jesus had requested that the healing remain more subtle and hidden, but that seemed to accelerate the news spreading. However, Luke tells us that as the crowds got bigger, Jesus became more intentional about slipping away to places where He could be alone to pray. Prayer away from the crowds was Jesus’ secret to remaining connected with God. While Jesus walked with the Holy Spirit throughout His ministry and while Jesus let God lead and direct His life, He knew that a living only in the spotlight is not healthy. He also knew that it was just as unwise to live entirely out of the spotlight as well. Luke’s gospel helps us catch a glimpse of how Jesus balanced living on the stage of life with how He balanced life backstage. In many ways, Jesus’ “backstage” prayers strengthened His connection with the Father so that His “onstage” life could better glorify the Father. Jesus’ secret for His personal life was prayer, and through prayer, Jesus remained connected with heaven. Prayer helps us be connected to God as well, and if we neglect prayer when we are alone, our lives will soon drift away from God – both backstage and onstage. Prayer helps keep our connection with God alive, strong, and healthy. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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SPECIAL WEEKEND THOUGHT: 👉 Receiving God’s...
Cam
 February 03 2024 at 12:11 pm
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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Mark 11:24 NIV) “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 3:14 NIV) I’m not sure if this is just me, but the more I pay attention to what is happening in the world, the stronger one specific realization becomes. While this might be an insight that comes with age, it seems as though life is structured in a way that steals peace — growing in intensity as time moves forward, especially within the last ten years. Ninety-Eight percent, or more, of everything news media tells us seems to feed the anxious parts of our conscious, while also stealing away any potential peace that may have settled. Perhaps this is simply something I’m noticing now, while it has been happening for decades or centuries. However, within the last 10 years, my perception is that most forms of media, the political landscape, and extending down to even day-to-day conversations have amplified events and stories that cause anxiety — stories that steal peace. Pushing away the sources of anxiety is almost a God-sized task in our lives. Actually, pushing anxiety out of our lives is a God-sized task. Multiple times, the Bible promises us God’s peace. However, God’s peace that can push anxiety away has one small condition: we must intentionally focus on it in order to receive it. If we spend ten seconds each day focused on God’s peace, while we spend ten hours worrying about [insert any topic you can think of here], it’s no wonder that God’s peace is absent. Jesus models this in His own life, most clearly on the night before facing the cross. While anxiety could have filled that night, Jesus intentionally filled it with prayer, and on helping His followers by sharing promises with them to get them through what was about to happen. If we follow Jesus’ example and drastically limited the time we focus on the challenges in the world — especially challenges we cannot affect outside of prayer — then we free ourselves from the biggest cultural parasite in our world today. The more we open our Bibles, even if it is to read it rather than to study, the more we open a door into our hearts for the Holy Spirit to bring God’s peace. Anxiety grows when we focus on things that feed it (i.e. all the chaos in the world we have little control over). God’s peace can enter our lives when we intentionally spend time with Him and let Him bring peace with Him — peace that assures us that even while the world is going downhill, He is still bringing history to a close and to the ultimate defeat of sin. 🙏 📖 ✝️ 🕊️
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Government Assisted Suicide Programs
amusedtodeath
 February 14 2024 at 01:47 pm
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These government assisted suicide programs have existed in Belgium and some other European jurisdictions for some time. But the last few years have seen the introduction of the MAID (Medical Assistance In Dying) program in Canada and the VAD (Voluntary Assistance in Dying) program in Australia. I am not as aware of what is going on with these programs in Belgium and Australia. However, being of Canadian origin, I am following the evolution of MAID in Canada. And at least to me, it looks like it is going off the rails. It is being pushed aggressively by the Canadian Federal Government, and it is constantly expanding. Will there be any limits to this program? When will common sense and ethics and basic decency and morals and good judgement prevail? It was initially sold as a painless easy convenient way for the terminally ill to pass away peacefully. But that was just the start. More than 60% of the people who apply for MAID are approved for termination, with very little oversight or vetting or restrictions. At this point, tens of thousands of Canadians have been eliminated through the MAID program. Because Canada has a smaller population than the US, the number who have been exterminated in Canada is equivalent to about half a million people being killed in the US It was initially sold as a painless easy convenient way for the terminally ill to pass away peacefully. But that was just the start. More than 60% of the people who apply for MAID are approved for termination, with very little oversight or vetting or restrictions. At this point, tens of thousands of Canadians have been eliminated through the MAID program. Because Canada has a smaller population than the US, the number who have been exterminated in Canada is equivalent to about half a million people being killed in the US. It was initially sold as a painless easy convenient way for the terminally ill to pass away peacefully. But that was just the start. More than 60% of the people who apply for MAID are approved for termination, with very little oversight or vetting or restrictions. At this point, tens of thousands of Canadians have been eliminated through the MAID program. Because Canada has a smaller population than the US, the number who have been exterminated in Canada is equivalent to about half a million people being killed in the US.
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SPECIAL WEEKEND THOUGHT: 👉 The Gift of Rest 📖
Cam
 February 17 2024 at 12:35 pm
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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2 NIV) “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV) Several times a month, my schedule chips away at my nightly sleep. Those evenings, I have meetings to attend that run late, and the following morning, I still must get up at my normal time to prepare for work. On the mornings that followed fewer hours of sleep, I am less efficient with my time as the mornings that follow nights with enough sleep. The idea of rest, or perhaps the idea of lacking rest, is fresh on my mind at the end of this week because several days this week contained evenings where I did not get to bed as early as I would have liked. For me, we are ending a week that has reminded me we all need rest. Those familiar with how the Bible describes rest cannot escape the idea that rest is a gift from God: • During creation week, each day begins with the time set aside for rest (evening, then morning). Creation week also concludes with a day God blesses and sets aside for rest. • When God frees the Israelites from Egypt, one of the first extended stops they make is by a mountain where God reminds them of His law. Tucked within this law is His gift of rest, found within the commandment that begins with the word “Remember”. • During the first century, Jesus invites us to come to Him to receive rest. The rest Jesus offers is one more extension of God’s gift of rest. Rest is a clear gift from God. Rest also reminds us that God supplies our needs. While we still have work to do, regular rest — especially rest that focuses on God — helps us remember that God is our Provider. God invites us into His rest. God’s rest not only supplies rest for our bodies; His rest also includes our souls. When we come to Jesus, we experience a rest that comes from the religious requirements already being done for us. Unlike most other “religions”, where your status with God is based on how much you’ve done for Him, Jesus presents us with a relationship where He accomplished everything needed for our redemption. Within Jesus’ model, our responsibility is accepting His invitation and accepting His gift of wedding clothing (Matthew 22:9-13). For those who enjoy studying, the last portion of this parable is filled with material. In Jesus’ parable, we find an amazing gift — a gift that includes the rest God offers to all who come to Him! 🙏 📖 ✝️ 👍
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Coming Back Empty-Handed: John 7:37-52
Cam
 February 23 2024 at 12:34 pm
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During the final days of a major festival that happened in the middle of Jesus’ ministry on earth, the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus. Jesus had chosen to finish the festival teaching and preaching in the temple, and the leaders saw this chance to arrest Jesus. So they sent guards to arrest Him, but the guards end up returning empty handed. The Pharisees demanded to know, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” (John 7:45 NIV) The guards responded, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (John 7:46 NIV) It is here that the Pharisees reveal their motives and their character. The Pharisees believe Jesus to be an imposter and a liar. We can see their thoughts through their response: “You mean he has deceived you also? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” (John 7:47-49 NIV) The Pharisees and chief priests have incriminated themselves. They accuse the crowd of being cursed, but the crowd’s true thoughts are divided. A curse on the crowd could cause confusion, but this statement simply shows how closed-minded these leaders have become. They claim the mob knows nothing of “the law”, and in the context, they are referring to the Old Testament scriptures – but just a few verses earlier, John points out one cause of the crowd’s division being over something that was prophesied in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophecy stated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and Jesus was raised in Galilee. The crowd’s division over this apparent contradiction shows that they all knew the Old Testament writings. And this leads into a big truth I see displayed in this passage: When someone has closed their minds to an idea, they will then begin to justify their decision in often irrational ways. The Pharisees and chief priests irrationally claimed the crowd was cursed just to emphasize their point to the guards. All this ended up doing is confirming that they had chosen to stand against Jesus and what He was doing, and regardless of what happened, they were closed-minded towards anything that didn’t confirm that Jesus might be the Messiah people were believing Him to be. While the chief priests had closed their minds to believing in Jesus, the guards returning empty-handed tells us they were still undecided regarding whether Jesus was the Messiah. We are in the same position as the guards today. If we are still on the fence regarding who Jesus is, it is worth wrestling out this question for ourselves because our choice on this matter has eternal results! This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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Unwrapping The Earth: Matthew 24:26-35
Cam
 February 21 2024 at 12:21 pm
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Sometimes when reading passages in the Bible, my imagination takes over, wondering what the scene or event that is being described will be like. Often times, I imagine myself living at the time of this event, but in today’s passage, Jesus describes an event that has not taken place yet – at least in the way that He seems to describe it. (Matthew 24:26-35) Four things will happen immediately after the distress of those days (days that included the persecution of God’s church):The sun will be darkened.The moon will stop shining.The stars will fall from the sky.The heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then to conclude this traumatic, earth-shattering event, Jesus appears in the clouds, and angels gather all of His people together to be with Him. Some scholars point to some specific days in history when the sun stopped shining, when the moon was covered up, and spectacular nights filled with falling stars. They say these events may fulfill what Jesus is describing here. However, in my probably overactive imagination, I see a different event described here. I see the setup for the climactic conclusion of earth’s history. Currently, the earth is a round sphere floating in space. Jesus tells us that when He returns, every eye will see the event, but unless you use a series of mirrors, you cannot see all parts of a sphere, and from the sphere itself, there is not ever one stationary point in space that is visible to everyone at a single point in time. To explain it another way, if we imagine the sun as our stationary point in space, it is not visible to the half the earth that is experiencing night at this point in time, while it is visible to the half of the earth that is experiencing daylight. So when Jesus returns, for every eye to literally and physically see Him come back, the earth’s round structure may have to change. God might have to set the stage by “unwrapping” and flattening out the surface of the world. If this is the case, what would it be like from our perspective?The sun would be darkened – if the earth unwraps with everyone facing in a direction opposite to where the sun is;The moon would stop shining – if it no longer has access to the sunlight to reflect off of (or if it too is behind the direction the flat earth is facing);Stars would fall from the sky – when we see a “shooting star”, it is a rock, or some object in space, breaking through the outer layers of our earth’s atmosphere and burning up. If the earth itself breaks apart and flattens out, I’m sure there would be hundreds, if not thousands of objects that would collide with our atmosphere and be burned up –> which would appear like shooting stars.The heavenly bodies would be shaken – not only would there be lots of burning up debris from the earth’s structure changing, every star in the sky would move and appear to change position. However, in this case perspective matters because while it looks like they are moving, we are the ones who really are moving. In my imagination, Jesus is describing how God will set the stage for His return by unwrapping the outer layer of the earth. A “flat” earth would allow God/Jesus to return so that every eye could see Him. So why would Jesus tell us this? In my mind, it’s for one clear reason: Jesus wants us to know that when this event happens and when the stage is set for His return, we don’t have to be afraid. When the world feels like it is breaking apart, God is still in control – and the future of all His people is safely in His hands. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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Calling the Sick: Mark 2:13-17
Cam
 February 09 2024 at 12:02 pm
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During one of the meals Jesus ate with people that society had rejected, we find a fascinating and profound statement. After Jesus has invited Levi (Matthew) to be one of His disciples, Levi invites the group over to his home for supper. It is during this meal that some Pharisees notice what is happening and they are quick to challenge the situation. The Pharisees call some of Jesus’ followers over and ask them, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16b NCV) In some ways, this was meant to be a trap for the followers, but Jesus was too aware of what was happening to avoid jumping into the challenge. Overhearing what was being asked and implied, Jesus replied to the Pharisees saying, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NCV) This statement could easily be seen as an insult to Matthew, all of Matthew’s tax collector friends, and even all Jesus’ current followers. By making the comparison that He does, Jesus is identifying those who He is choosing to associate with as sick and sinners. Not only that, but in a subtle way, Jesus actually gives the Pharisees a compliment, implying that they are healthy and good. This might be the only “compliment” Jesus ever gave to them, but it wasn’t because they truly were healthy or good. The Pharisees only believed they were healthy and good, and while they tried to put on a good show, hidden sins and hypocrisy were decaying their characters on the inside. In this statement, Jesus actually makes a key distinction that is worth us paying attention to. Jesus separates the two groups of people present throughout time in His simple analogy, and it is these two groups that will be present at the judgment. Jesus came to be our Healer, but the only way He can heal us is when we acknowledge our need. People who claim to be healthy don’t go to the doctor because they don’t feel they have a need. In the same way, someone who is living a “good” life won’t believe they need any help being better. But the reverse case is true as well. People who realize they are sick will go to a doctor they believe can heal them, and those who are sinners realize that they don’t measure up to God’s standards. These people then are open to receiving outside help. Jesus came to invite those who are open to receiving outside help and it is this simple distinction that separates people throughout history. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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Curing Cold Love: Matthew 24:1-14
Cam
 February 07 2024 at 11:59 am
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When reading Jesus’ life from the four gospels, I am often fascinated at the details that one writer includes that the others don’t include. Sometimes it is a detail that is changed, while in other cases, it is a new detail that the others simply didn’t share. In Matthew’s version of this teaching, he shares a verse that is unique to his gospel message, and it stands out to me because I think it is relevant for our point in history: “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12 NASB95) Both Mark and Luke include all the surrounding verses in their teaching, but only Matthew gives us this one little detail – and it is a detail that I find fascinating. First off, this is in a prophecy portion of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is looking forward into a future time. It is possible the time He was pointing to has already happened, or it might be the time period we are in the middle of, or it could even be a time period that still is in the future time for us as well. However, what made this verse jump off the page was not wondering when this would happen. Instead, I was fascinated at the implications. In this verse, we find two different (and supposedly unrelated) ideas: law and love. Jesus connects the two by saying that the lack of law in one’s life and/or in society will have an effect on one’s love. This is opposite to the allure of “forbidden love” that we see throughout society and culture. We have the Romeos and the Juliets choosing each other over the social norms present and we conclude that true love can exist outside of the area of law when both partners consent and when no one gets hurt. But Jesus, in this verse, pushes back. He says it is only through obedience that we can experience true love. What is it about obedience (the opposite of lawlessness) that might be so important? When I ask myself the question, only one thing comes to mind: humility. In order to obey someone or some rule, one must humble himself/herself and view themselves as less than the person/idea they are obeying. In contrast, viewing oneself as being above the law is about as prideful of an attitude as one can get. Pride, which means a focus on oneself, destroys relationships, and it is rampant in cultures where people think that laws are important – but only for other people. In places where people think that their common sense or situation warrants an exception to obedience, this is when a culture shifts from being lawful (or law-minded) and towards lawlessness. And when people have this attitude, their focus on self erodes their ability to truly love other like God loves others. When our love grows cold, our hearts harden, and it makes it hard for anyone (including God) to reach in. It seems backwards to think about, but the only way to soften a hard heart is for the person holding that heart to choose to move towards God. By moving towards God, He can soften your hard heart, or give you a heart transplant. Why do people choose to move towards God – especially when they are completely self-focused? It is only after they choose to realize and admit that their lives are empty of meaning and purpose. Stuff doesn’t bring lasting satisfaction. Disobedience can define someone’s life, but it is a shallow definition. When people think about their legacy, what their life is worth to others after they have died, then there is an opening for God to point them in a new direction – which in all cases is towards Him. Disobedience hardens our hearts. When we choose to obey Jesus and move closer to Him, only then is He able to melt our hard hearts, which allow us to fully experience true God-like love for Him and others. God is able to write the most amazing legacy imaginable for our lives when we choose to follow Him. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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SPECIAL WEEKEND THOUGHT: 👉 Careful...
Cam
 February 10 2024 at 11:54 am
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“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 10:19 NIV) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV) “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26 NIV) One of the easiest things for us to do is talk. This includes both the words we say and the words we write. However, talking is not always helpful. Talking is not always wise. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to avoid saying anything at all. This is one big theme found in the three verses above. However, staying silent is not always wise. Staying silent allows those with a voice — whether good or bad — to have a bigger platform. Staying silent subtly tells others you do not disagree with what is being said. But speaking up invites criticism. Speaking when you disagree rarely strengthens relationships. Speaking, especially when done emotionally, often leads to regrets. To speak or not to speak is a dilemma we all face. The area where speaking matters the most is within our families. This includes communicating with our spouse, our parents, and our children. Some people see the family connection as a license to communicate emotionally, even if it hurts. However, that is a recipe for ending relationships. A carefully thought-out, loving word to those we are closest to strengthens our relationship. A hastily spoken, emotionally charged word damages our connection. As Jesus is responding to some religious leaders, He shares a powerful truth worth paying attention to: 📖 “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:18-20a NIV) Each one of these thoughts has emotions attached to it. Letting our emotions dictate our speech is a recipe for regret, and according to Jesus, this category of speech is evidence that our hearts are defiled. The solution is not more words. More emotionally charged words simply lead to more damage, more separation, and more “sin”. (Proverbs 10:19) Instead, the solution is silence, reflection, and refocusing on what is true, wholesome, and pure. The solution is practicing self-control, delaying responding while we are emotional, and to take criticism less-personally. While each of these ideas could be its own weekend thought, let’s end with a challenge: 📖 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) 🙏 📖 ✝️ ✅
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The Judge of Humanity: John 5:16-47
Cam
 February 20 2024 at 12:20 pm
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During one of the times Jesus is confronted by the Jewish leaders over something He did, Jesus shared some amazing truth with everyone present about the final judgment – and in this truth is a powerful idea regarding who is the judge in this event. While sharing about His role and the Father’s role, Jesus tells those present, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” (John 5:22-23 NIV) This in itself is powerful because Jesus shares that the only way to truly give honor and glory to God is by also giving honor and glory to the Son. But before we miss seeing the other big thought in these verses, we should pay attention to the fact that Jesus also said that the Father entrusts “all judgment” to the Son. The purpose of this transfer of judgment is that the Son would receive our honor. In case we miss this idea, Jesus continues by sharing it in a slightly different way. He continues by saying, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:24-27 NIV) Jesus shares in this statement that not only are those who believe in Him not going to be judged, but that by believing in Him, they have crossed over from death into life. This life is not just a figurative expression about living a full or satisfied life, but it is instead about receiving the assurance of life with God both today as well as following the resurrection. This isn’t because we have life in ourselves, but because God and Jesus have life in themselves. But Jesus also touches again on the topic of judgment – and He gives us the reason that God the Father has entrusted all judgment to Him by saying, “And he [God the Father] has given him [the Son] authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:27 NIV) Jesus doesn’t say He has the authority to judge because God is His Father, but because He is the Son of Man. Jesus has received this authority because He became human. Jesus’ humanity validates Him as the only one worthy of being the judge of our race. God the Father could easily judge, but He doesn’t have the same perspective that Jesus has because God the Father is not “one of us”. However, Jesus also shares a few verses later about how He will ultimately judge humanity. Before thinking that He pardons everyone regardless of what we have done (i.e. siding with us and against the stereotypical “angry God of the Old Testament), Jesus tells us, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30 NIV) God gave Jesus the right to judge humanity because Jesus is human and because God the Father wants us to give His Son the honor He deserves. With this responsibility, Jesus isn’t interested in making us happy, but in pleasing God the Father who gave Him this role and responsibility. Jesus’ judgment is valid and just and the way we can receive God’s gift of eternal life is by putting our faith, trust, hope, and belief in Jesus, who is our Judge, our Juror, and our Redeemer. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.
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Giving Anonymously: Matthew 6:1-4
Cam
 February 27 2024 at 11:56 am
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During Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He covers a number of broad topics. Matthew, one of Jesus’ followers and the author of one of the four gospels, dedicates a good portion of his gospel to sharing the details of this famous message. In this message, Jesus taught briefly on the subject of giving, and about the significance of giving anonymously. One statement that strikes me as interesting is when Jesus says, “When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3 GW) While this statement is most likely figurative – representing the “body” of the church (also called the “body of Christ”), is there a practical reason for being anonymous other than simply to avoid receiving praise from others? As I think about it, not only does anonymous giving help keep one clear of the appearance of hypocrisy and pride, it also keeps the giver in control regarding the giving. A gift that is received anonymously is harder to track and it can deter the one receiving the gift from becoming entitled. Perhaps if many people anonymously gave to the one individual over the course of time, they could become entitled, but they really wouldn’t know who or where to go to receive more help. Giving anonymously makes it harder for the one receiving the gift to become entitled and try to “milk” the generosity by asking for more. But while this is very practical, Jesus is talking to those who are the givers in the crowd. He concludes by telling us to “Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” (Matthew 6:4 GW) When we give and help others privately, it changes us as individuals. Jesus (i.e. God) wants us to be givers by nature. He wants giving to be a central part of our character. If our good deeds always became public knowledge, and they were a part of our character, then we may become a target for those with an entitlement mentality. Our good deeds should be common place in our lives, not one or two big fanfare-laced events for the crowds to look and speak in awe. Many of those who glorify their good acts are likely to have very few good acts, because if their acts become too regular, then they would lose their audience because it will have been expected. If you do something in secret, then there is no limit on what you can do (only your available resources would limit you then). You may even have more fun giving as well. This post first appeared on ReflectiveBibleStudy.com What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts below.