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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Friday, July 20, 2018

CrossTalk: Fight Family Strife God's Way

We live in unsettled times. Everyone, it seems, is at everyone else’s throat. It’s not just politics – although the political world has become especially ugly. We also see it in the community, at work, and in homes. It even affects the church.

One thing that happens to us is that we forget family connections. Family affection is a powerful emotion for the good. The love between mother and child, husband and wife, brothers and sisters in the home can cover over “a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

When we remember that we are family, we remember that we are deeply connected despite the frustration of the moment. It re-centers us to think long-term. Friends may come and go, but family will always be family. Familiar memories and familiar roots bind us together.

This is even true when you first meet distant relatives. The very fact that they are family automatically opens our hearts to them. Family relationships provide a built-in starting point of love and connectedness. Remembering family relationships can help us treat one another with love, respect and forgiveness.

The Bible, in fact, reminds us that we are all one big family. Each of us can trace our ancestry back to Noah. Beyond that, we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. These are more than fairy tales. It is our history, told in the Bible and proven by recent scientific studies of mitochondrial DNA.

The false claims that we evolved from primates have made many forget our family connectedness. When we forget our common genealogy, we forget to treat one another as family. That’s a tragedy.

But we can do something about it. We can teach our children the truth that every person they have ever met is a relative. We can also remind ourselves of this fact every day.

Before you act out in anger, before you bad-mouth your boss, before you write a rude comment, before you dismiss someone as a Neanderthal, remember that he or she is family.

Here’s another pro tip to fight against the seething anger of our world: Repent.

That’s right, repent! Anger and hostility toward others is always felt in proportion to our own unrepentant sins. When Cain killed Abel, it wasn’t about anything Abel did, it arose from Cain’s own sins against God. “So, Cain was very angry, and his face fell” (Gen. 4:5 ESV).

If you look honestly at your own anger, you will find that the more you confess your own sins to God and receive His forgiveness in Christ, the more peaceful and calm you can be in the face of family that sins against you.

The flipside is also true. The more unconfessed sin you are harboring within, the more easily you lash out at the littlest thing that happens to you. I am convinced that the reason our world is so filled with seething anger is because there is so much unconfessed sin.

Every day we are told by Satan not to confess sins. In arguing we are told “never admit you’re wrong.” In living we are told, “if it feels good it’s not sin.” When we follow Satan’s advice, we do not confess our sins. That makes our own anger seethe like Cain’s.

So fight back against anger in both ways: 1) Remember that everyone you meet is a member of your own family. 2) Spend a lot more time confessing your own sins than dwelling on the sins of your relatives.

The forgiveness that comes from Jesus’ cross is forgiveness that rebuilds the human family.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Friday, June 1, 2018

CrossTalk: Where Is the Creator of the Universe?

Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t make Himself more visible? After all, if He is truly interested in saving the whole world, you might think He could do a better job of it by making His presence a bit more obvious.

This is a thought that most, if not all people, entertain. So, let’s think it through together. Never mind the fact that it is rather blasphemous to suggest that you know better than God how to save the world.

God is gracious enough to set that aside for a moment, because He knows that we don’t really mean it. He knows that our minds are just too puny to figure out a better way to phrase the question.

Of course, if He was the kind of God to use His almighty power to destroy anyone who glanced sideways at Him, we would already be dead by now. So, I guess that rules out one mistaken notion.

But as long as we’re still alive to think about it, let’s thank God for His mercy and ask permission to go a little farther. We can adopt the posture of Abraham who said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).

So, here’s a hypothetical. If you were the Creator of the universe and you wanted to prove it, what exactly would you do? It’s a simple question. But when you seriously try to answer it, strange things happen.

The true Creator of the universe made it because He wanted to--not in order to prove His existence to the things that He made. So, if you were a God who really liked making the things that you made, wouldn’t it be the most natural thing in the world to just keep on making them?

After all, we all do what we like to do. If you like playing baseball, you take every opportunity to play ball. If you like cooking, you cook whenever you can. If you like hunting, you live to hunt.

So, it would be perfectly natural for the Creator of the universe to keep on creating. He would do things at the subatomic level that boggle the mind. He would miraculously cause plants to grow in the most unlikely places. He would make so many different kinds of life that it would be impossible to count them all—much less to know all their secrets.

Like a master magician, He would do all of this out in the open, right in front of your eyes, and yet you still wouldn’t be able to say how He does it. At the end of the day, if the Creator of the universe wanted to be more impressively visible, I can’t think of a single thing He should do differently.

If anyone wants Him to act differently than this, they are not wanting a sign from the universe’s Creator, but from an imposter. They’re not wanting God to show Himself, they’re wanting a god who will submit himself to their whims.

No. It’s not that God is not making Himself visible. It’s that His creatures have become blind. We can’t see what’s right in front of our eyes.

If I were the God who created the universe and My creatures became so stupefied that they could no longer recognize me, I would do everything I could to save them from such a terrible blindness.

That’s why “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Where’s the Creator of the universe? He’s the Man on the cross, dying to create all things anew.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

CrossTalk: Already Been Bit

It seems the Israelites of old were always complaining about one thing or another. One time, God responded by sending vipers into the camp. “They bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.  And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.  And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’” (Numbers 21:6-8)

The first thing to notice is what happens when someone gets bit. We don’t know what kind of snakes these were, but their bite was incurable. Everyone who was bitten died. It was just a matter of time. That’s why the people came to Moses for help. There was nowhere else to go.

In the New Testament, Jesus uses this as a picture of our problem with sin. We have already been bit. The poison is already working death in us. It’s not that Jesus comes to condemn us for this or that sinful act. Rather, like people who have been bitten by a deadly snake, we are “condemned already” (John 3:18). Sinful acts are symptoms that the poison is already at work.

Unless the antivenin is administered, the venom will run its course and leave us dead. That’s the reality of deadly snakes, and that’s the hard reality of sin. You don’t do anyone a favor by denying reality. If your child was but by a deadly snake, you would stop at nothing to give them the antivenin. The same is true for anyone we love.

Living in denial never saved anybody from anything. A doctor who knows you have cancer does you no favor by denying it. In fact, he would be prosecuted for malpractice and should lose his license! The first step in getting help is in admitting the problem.

Of course, it is bad news! Nobody likes to hear bad news. But your friends will tell it to you anyway. Not because they hate you, but precisely because they love you. Only those who don’t care about you will withhold life-saving information just because they don’t want to deal with your static. That’s not friendly. That’s just mean.

It’s the same with sin. It would be uncaring and hateful for those who know about the snake bite to keep the diagnosis and the cure a secret. That’s why Christians talk about sin--in order to talk about Jesus! Anything less is selfish in the extreme!

God’s cure for the bites was to, “make a fiery serpent and put it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” Fifteen hundred years later, Jesus compares Himself to that snake.

Just as Moses lifted up the Serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15). The venom is already at work and all the denial in the world will not make it go away. But there is one thing that will.

When Jesus, the Son of Man, is crucified He is taking away the sins of the world. He comes to be the antivenin for the bite of sin that would kill us otherwise. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Look to Him and be saved.