A.L.I.V.E.—The “L” Is For Lives Changed

A man named Paul was visiting Athens. While he was in the marketplace, he began to talk with people about Jesus Christ, specifically how Jesus had been crucified and then raised back to life.

His comments caught the attention of two groups of philosophers: the Epicureans who thought all religions were made up and were simply a crutch for the weak-minded and superstitious, and the Stoics who said that a divine power was in everything but wasn’t a Person that could be personally known. These groups said to Paul, “You are presenting some new teachings and strange ideas that we have never heard before! Would you come and address our next meeting?”

In 2004, renowned atheist Anthony Flew announced something that was a “strange idea” to the ears of his followers. Flew presented one of his first papers on atheism at the Socratic Club at Magdalen College, where the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis served as the chairman. Over the years Flew had sharpened his rhetoric to become one of the best known and most outspoken atheists on the worldwide stage.

Yet in 2004, an 81-year-old Anthony Flew remarked, “I simply had to go where the evidence led,” as Flew announced to the world: there IS a God.

“My discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” wrote Flew in his book There Is A God, which is why last week I shared the first way we can know Jesus is alive in “A” is for apologetics. Today I submit to you the second way one can know that Jesus is A.L.I.V.E.: Lives changed.

Paul, who was asked to speak to the philosophers in Athens about his “strange ideas,” had been given the name Saul by his parents. When it came to religion, Saul took a backseat to no one! He was a purebred Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (which gave Israel its very first king, who was also named Saul). Saul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” because he kept the Law of Moses and the strict rules of the Pharisees absolutely faultlessly.

When he heard about Jesus (who claimed to be God), and about the followers of Jesus who claimed He had been resurrected from the dead, Saul persecuted these Christians so vehemently that he not only had many of them thrown into prison, but he had many of them killed as well.

That all came to a complete stop when Saul met Jesus for himself! You can read how Saul retold this story in Acts 22:1-16. After this encounter, Saul’s life was 180-degrees different! He even changed his name to Paul to signify his new outlook. Now he was just as adamant to tell people about Jesus as he was previously to harass and persecute Christians.

Paul’s conversion came at a steep price. The Jews with whom he used to associate now turned violently against him. Numerous times they attempted to kill him. In addition, Paul’s newfound faith in Jesus caused him to be persecuted by the Romans as well. The Roman Emperors wanted people to say, “Caesar is lord” but Paul and the other Christians were declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul ended up being executed under Emperor Nero.

Paul had numerous opportunities to recant, but he never came close to doing so. His life was one that was under constant duress and distress and danger preciously because he refused to back down from his claim that Jesus was alive!

Paul isn’t alone. Millions of people around the globe have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many, like Paul, have been harassed for their faith and some even violently persecuted and martyred, and yet they so firmly believed that Jesus is alive that they were willing to go to their early grave with “Jesus is my Lord” still on their lips!

What about you? Have you met Jesus for yourself?

Check out this video where my friend Scott tells his personal story of how an encounter with Jesus has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

Join me next Sunday as we continue with our 5-part series I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of… where we will be looking at the letter “I.” You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. If you missed the previous lesson, check out “A” is for apologetics by clicking here.

Demolishing Antichrist Strongholds

“This week we pray that God will demolish Antichrist strongholds We are surrounded by systems and strongholds that oppose Christ the Lord and King. There are social, political, economic, and legal structures and schemes that try to disparage God. We are not for or against a particular political system. We are Bible-believers, Christ-worshippers; and we come from all walks of life and backgrounds. We seek the glory of God and His alone. We align ourselves with His Word. We should not harbor enmity or hatred toward anyone. Even if they oppose us, deride our faith, doubt our God, and insult our Savior and King, they are not our enemies. The real enemy is satan who manipulates them. Our war is against satan and his strongholds. Such people are poor humans who need love and compassion from us, and mercy and forgiveness from God. We do not depend on human methods or material weapons, because this is spiritual warfare against satanic powers. Rather, our method is prayer, and that is all.

“O Lord our God, may You be praised for ever and ever! Why do the nations rage? Why do the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against You and against Your Anointed One (Psalm 2:1-2). Help us arm ourselves with the weapons You gave us in Your Word: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17). He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord derides them. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Psalm 2:4; Philippians 2:10-11).” —Sobhi Malek, in Praying For Muslims

If you haven’t already, check out my review of Praying For Muslims here. I shared some other prayers from this book here, and I also shared some quotes here.

What Does It Mean To Be “Worldly”?

A lot of Christians struggle with what is considered “worldly,” trying hard to avoid such things. In our last Q Series, this was a question that was asked by a couple of people: what exactly makes something “worldly”? Check out this short video clip…

In the video I reference the following Scriptures:

You can check out some other topics that we addressed in the Q Series like an apologetic for the Bible, parables, end times events, and prayer.

Silent Night? Holy Night!

A little boy wanted to do something special for his family, so he thought he would do something he had seen his mother do dozens of times: bake a cake. Quickly he looked through a cookbook and got to work.

Dad was the first one to come home and heard an unusual clatter in the kitchen. Peeking around the corner he saw his son wearing his wife’s apron, slightly dusted in flour, and vigorously stirring a big bowl of batter.

“What are you doing, son” Dad asked.

Without looking up from his work the boy proudly answered, “I’m making a cake, Dad!”

Dad looked around the kitchen and saw all the proper ingredients out, so he was somewhat assured when he asked, “So how’s it going?”

The little boy paused and looked up at him, “Pretty good I think. I’m just having a little trouble with the ‘tbls” and ‘tsps.’”

For those of you who have done any baking, you know that “tbls” are tablespoons and “tsps” are teaspoons. If you get those mixed up, the cake might not turn out very well. For instance, adding a teaspoon of baking powder when the recipe calls for a tablespoon might result in a flat cake. Or adding a tablespoon of salt when the recipe asks for a teaspoon might making a rather salty cake.

Abbreviations only work if everyone is on the same page with you. If they’re not, it could be rather unsavory or maybe even dangerous.

In 1816, Joseph Mohr penned the words to what some have called the best-known Christmas carol in the world: Silent Night! Holy Night!

I’m not really sure how “silent” the night Jesus was born really was: a village so filled with people that no bedrooms were available, a mother in labor, a crying newborn, animals in a stable disturbed by the mother and child, singing angels, and curious shepherds. But let’s leave that part alone for a while.

Although it may not have been a silent night, it most assuredly was a Holy Night! That full title gives us the full impact of what happened at Christ’s First Advent.

Holy means something unlike anything else; someone or something devoted to God; something divine; something with God’s fingerprints all of it. I see at least three divinely holy things in this carol.

  1. The virgin birth of Jesus. 

Not only was the birth of Jesus a fulfillment of prophesy (see Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:18-25), but it was also an indication of God’s miracle-working power. The fact the Luke gives so many specific details about that birth night (see Luke 2:1-2) also lets us know that this isn’t a “once upon a time” myth.

  1. The involvement of angels in the affairs of humans. 

Angels bring messages to key people before the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:11, 26; Matthew 1:20) and on the night of His birth (Luke 2:9-14). John also gives us a peek behind the scenes of the massive spiritual warfare taking place the night of Christ’s birth (see Revelation 12:1-5). Paul tells us that we, too, are involved in this spiritual battle, but that because of Christ’s Advent we’re more than conquerors through Jesus (Ephesians 6:12; Romans 8:37).

  1. The full deity and the full humanity of Jesus. 

Jesus was fully Man and fully God (see Philippians 2:5-7; Matthew 26:63-64; John 8:54-58). This is so important, because without this we would be lost. If Jesus wasn’t fully Man, He wouldn’t know how to help us; if He wasn’t fully God, He couldn’t help us.

So when you hear this carol playing, ask someone if they know the title. More than likely they will say, “Silent Night.” To which you can easily reply, “Actually it’s Silent Night! Holy Night! and I’d like to tell you three amazing, holy things that took place!”

Let’s never abbreviate away the miracles. It may or may not have been a Silent Night, but it most certainly was a Holy Night! These supernatural miracles surrounding Christ’s First Advent provided us freedom from sin, and a rock-solid hope of our eternal reward in Heaven at Christ’s Second Advent.

The Power To Turn Worry Into Worship

Anxiety makes people feel overwhelmed. We over-burden ourselves with worries like…

  • Can I do it?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Do people really like me?
  • What if I fail?

Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Jesus went on to say that this type of worry and anxiety was exactly the opposite of what His followers should be doing: “People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things.”

Instead, Jesus said, we are to turn our focus on Him: “Your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” (see Luke 12:22-31)

Instead of worrying … pray!

My friend Josh Schram said,

“When we worry, we communicate to God that we don’t really trust Him to take care of us.”

OUCH!

You might be saying, “If I’m supposed to pray every time I worry about something, I’d be praying all the time!” You know what? That’s actually a good thing because it’s exactly what the Bible instructs us to do—

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. (Philippians 4:6)

“We have the power to turn our…

  • anxiety into prayer
  • worry into worship
  • struggles and trials into testimonies.” (Josh Schram)

Are you using that power God has given you? Don’t let worry cause you to feel overwhelmed. Keep turning your worries over to God again and again and again and again….

A Surprising Way To Relieve Stress

Paul writes some pretty straightforward words to the Christians at Philippi about how to overcome anxiety.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a problem-free nor a stress-free life. That’s simply not possible. Our bodies were created to deal with stress in a healthy way. But stress that is unhealthy, or unnecessarily prolonged, or not flushed properly from the body becomes anxiety. Anxiety is the culprit responsible for a whole list of bad things!

When we face a stressor, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. The main function of this hormone is to prepare us to fight or flight. Sometimes this looks like over-engaging in problem-solving, and sometimes it looks like complete withdraw from life. Sometimes cortisol leads to sleeplessness and a diminished appetite, and sometimes it makes people sleepy and craving comfort food.

But the bottom line is the fight-or-flight response is very me focused!

The strategies Paul lists for us take the focus off me and put it on God. He especially counsels us to pray to God and to praise God. Between these two healthy responses is something unexpected. He writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

What in the world does gentleness have to do with relieving stress?!

First, let’s consider the motivation: The Lord is near. I think this could mean:

  1. The Lord’s name is near, as in we are called “Christians” and so we should act in a way that glorifies God.
  2. The Lord is near to help us.
  3. The Lord’s return is closing in where we will have to give an account of how we have lived our lives.

Then there is this word gentleness. This word means:

  • moderation
  • considerate of others
  • patience toward our situation and toward others
  • or as The Message says: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.

Cortisol is naturally removed from our physical bodies through rest and exercise. Anxiety is naturally removed from our emotional lives the same way—resting in God’s presence (honk!) and gently and considerately exercising a blessing for someone else.

THE BEST WAY TO DE-STRESS IS TO BLESS! 

When anxiety builds:

  1. Honk
  2. Bless
  3. Repeat

Don’t let stress win by making you self-centered. Defeat stress and anxiety by praising God and blessings others. And then make that a daily habit!

Who’s Driving Your Bus?

“So who’s driving your bus? You … or your what-if thoughts of cancer? Feel free to have a conversation with the disease and put it in its proper place. …

“If you want to empty your mind of those awful cancer what-ifs, you need to find something else to put in their place. Because if all you do is try really hard not to think about something, you’ll think about it all the more! … You need to crowd cancer what-ifs right out of your mind by pouring in much more productive thoughts. …

A mind filled with the best doesn’t have room for the worst. A mind filled with the beautiful doesn’t have space for the ugly. A mind filled with things to praise doesn’t have a spot for cursing.” —Lynn Eib, in Peace In The Face Of Cancer (emphasis mine)

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

For some other beautiful things on which to meditate, check out some other quotes from Lynn Eib here and here.

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