The Control Freak And Jesus

Control Freak

There’s This Thirty-Something

There’s this thirty-something in my life who is always asking me these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but very interesting questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has got me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? For instance, prostitution is not illegal in the Old Testament, and neither is polygamy. I’m not saying that either of those are good, I’m just saying neither of those is illegal in the civic code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People are free to engage in these activities without legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences are still there.

God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. And it’s really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just deciding what to do for dinner (not that this question would ever result in a disagreement). Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we see the enormous respect Jesus demonstrated for the free will of others.

How Jesus Loved People: He Asked

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man sitting by the road near Jericho. (Luke 18:38-41)

“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the invalid at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:6)

“Shall I come to heal him?” Jesus asked the centurion with the paralyzed servant. (Matthew 8:7)

“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:7)

He asked. He asked people what it was that they wanted, or even if they wanted. He left the choice up to them.

He Let People Choose

Ever notice that Jesus never went out looking for individual Pharisees to engage? Nicodemus had to come to Jesus. (John 3:1-21)

And then there’s the guy driving demons out in Jesus’ name: “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. (Luke 9:50)

And there’s the synagogue official who told the people not to come on the Sabbath to be healed. But Jesus said, No! Let them come! (Luke 13:14-17)

Even his own disciples tried to constrain the will of certain people. They refused to let the little children come to Jesus. And when Jesus saw this, he was indignant. No! He said, Let them come! (Mark 10:14)

Finally there’s Judas objecting to Mary pouring her perfume out onto Jesus’ feet. How did Jesus respond? He said, Leave her alone! (John 12:3-7)

Even when it broke cultural convention, Jesus let people do what they wanted to.

Even Hostile People Were Given The Freedom To Choose

When the prodigal son (adult son) demanded his inheritance his tone was more bitter and cold toward his father than most people realize. In that culture, in that time, when a son demanded his inheritance in that way, what he was saying to his father was, “I wish you were dead. You’re being alive, your very existence, is getting in the way of my inheritance.” But what does the father, who represents God in the parable, what does he do? Amazingly, he lets the prodigal do what he wishes. (Luke 15:11-32)

How To Love Like Jesus

There are exceptions of course. With a stern countenance Jesus imposed his will on the demons he cast out of people. (Luke 4:35) And when Peter cut off an ear with his sword Jesus said, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51) Nevertheless the general pattern we see from Jesus is to allow people to do as they wish. Even when Judas came to betray him Jesus didn’t try to talk him out of it. He simply said, “Do what you came for, friend.” (Matthew 26:50)

So for me, and for you, to love like Jesus, we need to rethink our expectations of others. Jesus demonstrated a radical respect for the freedom of others to choose to do what they want to do. To love like Jesus we also have to show that same radical respect for people’s freedom.

Jesus did.

You can too.

After he finished a parable or a teaching Jesus would often say, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 8:8) In other words, Whoever hears hears, and whoever doesn’t hear doesn’t hear.

The choice is yours.

[Image via Matthijs - Creative Commons]

Framing Faith by Matt Knisely–Book Review

Framing Faith Matt Knisely book reviewWho Is Matt Knisely?

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award winning journalist who shares his life and his inspirational insights with the purpose of helping you to connect with God.

His book, Framing Faith, From Camera to Pen, An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried Worldwas written with artists in mind. By artist I mean bloggers, photographers, writers, painters, musicians, and filmmakers, or anyone who has a healthy appreciation for the arts.

The Main Message

Throughout the book I was inspired and occasionally amused–I found his interaction with George W. Bush especially amusing. The main message of the book might be summarized by what Knisely wrote in the introduction: “In this modern age, many of us fill every spare moment we have rather than taking an intermission to see the true works of God and realize that he is present in every moment.” That message resonates with me because for decades I did that, I scheduled every spare moment to the exclusion of the influence of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really prioritized my relationship with God and Christ and what a difference that has made. Framing Faith delivers a great message to anyone in the habit of over committing their self to the exclusion of their connection with Christ.

My Favorite Part

But easily my favorite part of the book was where he describes his disability. Matt Knisely doesn’t take in the world the way you and I do. Matt Knisely doesn’t process words the same as a normal person. His first grade teacher told his parents Continue reading

Patriotism, God, and the 4th of July–Does God Want Me To Be A Patriot?

Patriotism and God 4th of July

And they sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9

Not Of This World

“…persons from every tribe and language and people and nation,” they sang. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So patriotism is out right? I mean, Jesus died for every nation so, God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t put our country at the top of His list of nations and say, Yeah, they’re the ones to root for, they’re who I favor in the world, so you should favor that nation too. No, He doesn’t say that. So patriotism is out, right? Continue reading

Why Is That Christian So Appalling?

Why are Christians soToday I read about a Christian man who claims to have the ability to teleport, cure cancer, and repair avionics problems in flying airplanes–while he’s standing on the ground. He was eventually convicted of fraud for taking money from the relatives of deceased people with the promise that he would resurrect them. Wow. That’s a Christian for you. (At least I think he claims to be a Christian.)

There was this firefighter I worked with and I found him to be obnoxious–and he called himself a Christian. And I said to myself the words, “Man, how can this guy call himself a Christian.” (We’ll talk more about him a little later.) Maybe you’ve never encountered someone like the guy who says he can teleport, but I know you’ve experienced obnoxious Christians before. I know you have because I have. And I know you have because I’ve overheard people talking. People saying things like, “I just can’t believe she said that–and she’s a Christian!” Or, “Man that dude was obnoxious–and he’s a Christian!” Or, “That guy is such an idiot–and he calls himself a Christian!”

So why? Why do they behave that way, these Christians?

How Can He Call Himself A Christian?

When I read this one certain passage of scripture a certain part of me cries out: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

It’s the passage where Continue reading

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself? (and what that has to do with Blaise Pascal)

Why doesn't God show Himself“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” -Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and physicist who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probability. His father appointed himself as his educator and, curiously, decided to omit mathematics from Blaise’s curriculum, so Blaise could focus on the languages (especially Latin and Greek) and the classics. This had the opposite effect from that which was desired and young Blaise found all things mathematical to be irresistible. At 18 Blaise Pascal invented one of the first calculators. At 24 he began his work called The Generation of Conic Sections. He was only 31 when he discovered the fixed likelihood of seemingly random events based on probability. Nicklaus Wirth invented a computer language in the 70s and insisted on naming it after Pascal, in honor of Pascal’s calculator which was one of the very earliest forms of the modern computer. Blaise Pascal died of cancer at the age of 39. (biography.com)

Pascal was a genius. He was also a Christian. And I think his quote about faith offers insight into the question, “Why doesn’t God show Himself?”

How I Would Do It If I Were God

So Continue reading

So You’re Hurting

Sad Man by Andy Bullock - Creative Commons

So you’re hurting. You’re struggling. Every day you wake up in the morning wondering how you’re going to make it through. It’s so bad sometimes you can feel it, physically. You get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, or that intense ache in your chest, or that lump in your throat. When you’re around others you fake it as best you can, but the faking gets more and more difficult every day this thing drags on. And you wonder how long you can hang on.

Been there.

Here’s what turned it around for me. Continue reading

I Am Twice as Bad (And How God Used Skunks to Tell Me So)

Why do I sinLast Sunday I heard one of my heroes of the faith say he has offered opinions on topics that have compromised his effectiveness at reflecting the nature of Christ. Sometimes the topics were political, sometimes they were about what other churches are teaching, but what really struck me was that this guy–who I consider to be one of the best people on the planet at communicating Christ–sees himself as a failure in this way. I felt horrible after hearing that sermon, because I had to ask myself,

Where does that leave me?

I’m as nothing compared to this man. I remember him telling a story a long time ago about how he encountered a skunk walking next to him, and how he took it as a message from the Lord that he stunk.

A similar thing happened to me on October 7, 2013. I was angry that day, so I did what I often do when I’m angry Continue reading

Is Time Alone with God a Waste of Time?

alone with God

Alone with God

I was in church recently and heard this teaching:

Young Esther was to be presented to the king, king Xerxes, a great king who reigned from India to Ethiopia at the time. (If you look at a map you’ll see that’s a huge amount of territory.)

But before Esther could be in the company of King Xerxes, she had to “soak” for 12 months, 6 months with oil of myrrh and 6 with perfumes. (Esther 2:12)

Our God loves the smell of sacrifice. Beginning with Noah’s sacrifice after the flood we often see in scripture how sacrifice is pleasing to Him. (Genesis 8:18-22) So even as Esther sacrificed a year to soak, to prepare herself for her king, we can soak in Jesus, in prayer, in praise, in His word, to prepare ourselves for our King with a capital K. Soaking in this way is never a waste of time. Continue reading

How an Atheist Came to Know Christ

How Atheist came to know ChristThe following is a guest post from a friend and former atheist.

I was raised going to a Greek Orthodox church all through my childhood, and even began to attend Sunday services by myself when I was able to drive. When I got to college, I stopped going to church and slowly turned away from God over the course of about three years. I began to adopt an agnostic worldview–thinking God may or may not exist, but either way I needed to live my own life and look out for myself. Through my senior year of college, my weak agnostic stance turned into a firm atheistic stance on life. I was certain that God did not exist, and that Christianity was simply just one more religion in the world that was formed on stolen ideas and stories from ancient myths. Continue reading

93 Year Old Paratrooper Celebrates D-Day by Jumping Out of C-47 Airplane

Do without expecting thanks D-Day

D-Day Paratrooper Jim Martin

 

“I am humbled and embarrassed at the adulation because I don’t feel we did anything we weren’t supposed to do or anything exceptional.”

That’s what 93 year old paratrooper Jim Martin said about his part in D-Day, 70 years ago.

Then he jumped out of a C-47 airplane. And parachuted onto Utah Beach. Just like he did 70 years ago, when he helped to retake France.

I was amazed at the way Martin parachuted at age 93, but I was even more inspired by his attitude about doing his duty, without any expectation of recognition. Continue reading