“But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Karl Marx is infamous (or perhaps famous depending on your perspective) for his observation that “religion is the opium of the people.” As you can perhaps guess, he wasn’t a fan of it. That disdain lives on in our culture today in a variety of places including the church on occasion. It is trendy for some churches to talk about how religion is bad, but a relationship with Jesus is good. In this passage from Amos, God seems to agree. Let’s talk about why and what’s really going on here.
“See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We love the idea of going on a quest. We may not necessarily want to go on one ourselves, but we love the idea. Every good story is based around some kind of a journey. We have to get somewhere in order to do something, overcoming some obstacles along the way. This concept pulses so deeply in our hearts that it lies at the root of our religion too. Every religion is about people going on a quest to obtain the blessing or the power or the presence of the divine. Every religion, that is, save one.
“If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of the trends over the last few years when it comes to self-identifying religious preference is for folks to say they are spiritual, but not religious. This has in some ways been a partner to the rise of the “nones.” Many folks from this media darling social group don’t want to identify themselves as associated with any particular religious group, but at the same time, they don’t want to give the impression that they are claiming to be atheists. So they’ll say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” How should Jesus followers respond to this?
“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Hell is hard. Perhaps no orthodox Christian doctrine is as difficult for folks to get their hearts and minds around as is the notion that those who finally reject God will, upon final judgment, spend an eternity separated from Him in Hell. And, I’ll say this as gently as I can: If the doctrine doesn’t give you at least a bit of unease, you may not be paying very much attention to it. Read the rest…
In this final part of our series, Reasons to Believe, we take a turn. We are still talking about reasons to believe, but this one is different from all the rest. At the end of the day, a person can listen to solid answers to all of their objections to the life of Christ and still not be willing to make Him their Lord. The reason for this is that their primary objection is not logical, but relational. This is last and most important hurdle to overcome. When someone becomes a follower of Jesus, the most powerful reason they do so is a relationship. Keep reading for more.
Yielding to Relationship
There was once a man who hated Christians. He hated them. He hated everything they stood for. He hated the things they believed. He hated the impact they were having on his culture. There was nothing about them he liked. It was so bad that he dreamed about hurting them. He thought up ways he could harass them and interrupt their activities and keep them from accomplishing their goals…all within the means of the law of course. Now, you might be thinking, “Well that guy was dumb. It doesn’t really do any good to focus that much effort on hating a group of people. What was his deal with religion anyway?” But, religion wasn’t his problem. Christians were. He had no problems with religion. In fact, he was a very religious guy. He just didn’t like Christians. Furthermore, he was no dummy. Actually, he was brilliant. He had gone to the best schools and studied under the best teachers. He was routinely at the top of his class. The level of success he had attained for his age was simply astounding. When peers looked at him they routinely saw big things in his future. This guy was leadership material. There were few positions which were going to be off-limits to him. He merely had to apply himself in the relevant directions. With his big brain, then, and as committed as he was to the way he saw the world working, he knew all the reasons Christians and their Christianity could and should be rejected. He could have given you a list with sources. He had a reason for every argument. But then, something unexpected happened. And that something was this: he actually met Jesus. Not literally met, of course, but he encountered Jesus in a personal, powerful way. And all his reasons went out the window. Instead of reasons, he now had a relationship. Read the rest…