Archive for the ‘Touchpoint’ Category

Bible Lesson #12 – Bold Claims, Bolder Promises

TouchPoint 12

Ok, I’ll admit that in our last conversation in TouchPoint 11, I came on pretty strong. I pressed you to consider making a decision to serve the Jesus that I have been introducing you to. The Bible drives the sense of urgency I have about pressing you on this because of some bold claims contained in it. This is so important that I am going to give you several texts to read. Some of them are words that Jesus spoke, others are words that his closest followers spoke about Him.

Jesus is not just one way of getting into heaven, Jesus is the only way.

It would be arrogant for virtually anyone to say something like this – except for God. And remember, we have already seen that Jesus is indeed God. Though it is a bold claim, it does seem fair that God does have the prerogative to define the pathway back to Himself. He has clearly spoken of the path. His name is Jesus.

I realize that in today’s post-modern world it’s not “proper” to make claims of exclusivity when it comes to truth. But here the Word of God leaves little room for negotiating.

Think back to TouchPoint 2 where we talked about the introduction of evil on planet earth. The essence of the serpent’s temptation of Eve was to choose to believe that God’s warning against eating of that fruit because death would come in its wake was not, after all, absolute. They bet their lives on it. They lost. When God makes a bold claim of truth, history always backs up God. In spite of the serpent’s claim otherwise, what God said would happen did happen. Absolutely.

So I have made the personal decision to believe God has the right as ruler, creator, sustainer, and spiritual heart of the universe, to proclaim whatever He chooses to be truth. I have decided to believe that the path He has designated is indeed the path to life. Which brings me to the important things I want to say to you in this, our last TouchPoint.

If you’ve taken some time to read in the Gospels, you may remember that Jesus talked a lot about the “kingdom of God” and “eternal life.” As Jesus developed these themes in His life and teachings, we can begin to see that Jesus has a dual intent for following Him: it is to affect our lives today, and our lives later on. Jesus wants to become an intimate friend, savior, lord, and influence in your life right now. But He didn’t go to all the trouble of coming down here and dying for us just so that we’d be impacted by it only while we live our few years on earth.

Jesus also came here to proclaim that when God fully has His way in our world, one day things will return to the state of innocence, loveliness, and purity that used to mark earth. He also wants to live with you face-to-face. Forever. Remember, sin is about separation. God is about reconciliation. And when that day comes, we’ll be completely unencumbered by evil, evil people, decay, hatred, selfishness, and greed. Personally, I’m really looking forward to living without those things around!

One of the questions that’s often asked about Jesus’ way of doing things is, “Well, if Jesus died on the cross to save us, why aren’t we in heaven right now?”

There’s a sort of divine calculus that’s not obvious until you really probe into spiritual matters a bit. Here’s what’s at play. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, who together make up what we call the Godhead, made this argument at the cross of Jesus: God is love, God has taken the steps necessary to save mankind
and allow us to be reunited with them, and we are invited to respond by giving our lives to them.

No other argument could be made that would make those facts any more clear than seeing the innocent Jesus hanging on a Roman cross, dying for you and for me.

And for awhile, and only for awhile, God will allow Satan – a.k.a. the devil, the enemy, the serpent, to make his best case, too. That’s why there’s still evil around. Actually, that’s why our world seems to keep getting worse and worse instead of better and better.

There’s a false notion being foisted on humanity these days that says we’re getting better and better and one day our world will reach some utopian state by the sheer advancement of our species. Nope. Don’t buy it. You know better anyway. 30 minutes watching CNN or on your favorite news web page and you’ll find all the evidence you need to see that we are getting anything but better.

It’s all because Satan still has permission to make his argument. But only for just a while longer. How much longer? I was afraid you’d ask me that. I’d love to tell you, I really would. But Jesus wouldn’t even tell His closest friends about that one. He did, however, give a parable to teach the lesson He wanted His people to learn. It was about an ancient practice surrounding a wedding. In Jesus’ day, weddings lasted a week!

The parable portrayed a wedding which was about to happen and the attendants were supposed to watch carefully for when the bride groom came to claim his bride. Turns out some of them were alert and watching, and others dozed. When the bride groom came, those who were watching were taken in to enjoy the wedding celebration, while the others slept right through it! When they realized what had passed them by, they banged on the door, but to no avail. Jesus ended His story by coming directly to the point:

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13.

Jesus’ whole point in sharing this was to let them know that when He came was not the important thing to know. What was important was to just always be ready, so that whenever He comes, you will be there to greet Him.

According to the Bible, Jesus will return one day, and when he comes, it will be a big deal. The biggest thing since – well – actually there’s nothing to use here as a reference point because it will be bigger than anything that we’ve ever experienced! Look what Revelation 1:7 says about it:

“He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him…”

Talk about special effects! Jesus will come riding on the clouds, and it will grab the attention of every living person! Let me get even more graphic. Here are some words from Revelation 6, which depict what it will be like for many when he comes:

“…There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

“Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” Revelation 6:12-17.

What you are reading about here is the experience of those who have not chosen to follow Jesus. To them, this will be a horrific event. In that terrible moment they will remember the opportunities they had to choose to follow Jesus but didn’t. Instead, they are faced with the searing purity and holiness of Jesus coming in majesty and honor, no longer a sacrifice, but now as God enthroned on clouds brighter than an August day in Texas! Those who choose Jesus are undone by the holiness of Jesus, so much so they’d rather have the rocks fall on them than face Jesus.

But for those who have loved Jesus and followed Him, this will be a day of joy and deliverance! No more will sin have any impact on your life! No more will you be tempted to hurt someone else or yourself. For on this day, Jesus will fully, finally, implement the full victory over death, evil, sin, and everything tainted by it that He won when He died for us.

Listen to how exciting it will be for God’s people on that day:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Notice what’s completely missing. Fear. There’s no dread for God’s people. We will be caught up in the air along with Jesus. What a way to start forever!

I know this sounds good, but you still might be wondering why Jesus didn’t just end things right after His resurrection 2000 years ago. Well first off, if He had done it that way, I wouldn’t be writing this to you and you wouldn’t be reading it! So His delay at destroying sin once and for all meant that you and I have been given the incredible gift of life.

But there’s something else afoot that I’ve been stating as fact, but want you to see it from the Scripture for yourself. You read these words early on in our conversations together, but I want you to see something else in them today. They are some of the last words in Scripture, from Revelation 21:1-4:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

I am so glad that God included words with the distinct aroma of finality: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” No more. Ever again.

Part of God’s great goal in His way of dealing with evil is to make sure that everyone alive in the universe is convinced beyond any doubt that sin is a bad deal. Evil will have proven itself so destructive and so repugnant that no one will ever again choose it. Ever.

That’s why God allows Satan a little time. Somehow, God will know when enough is enough, and then He will come and it will all be over for Satan and everyone who hasn’t chosen Jesus.

But that means that between now and then, there will be challenges to face. Some “Christians” (and I put that in quotes because their lives don’t back up their claim) will tell you that if you just follow Jesus’ life will suddenly become dreamy for you and everything will always turn out right like the end of every Lucy show on TV.

That’s not what the Scripture teaches. It’s pretty clear that God’s people are going to get caught in the crossfire of the battle God and Satan are fighting with each other. We’re going to get sick. We’ll go bankrupt. We’ll have disappointments and problems. Jesus said it Himself in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.” He’s honest about that. But the verse doesn’t end there. Here’s the whole thing:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Even when your life is still touched by evil, because of Jesus, you can rest in the knowledge that evil’s power over you is only temporary, because of what Jesus did on the cross for you. No matter what you face, you will face ultimate victory because Jesus shares His life with those who choose Him.

The apostle Paul, the person responsible for most of the New Testament books, said something pretty incredible in Romans that should become the motto of every true believer.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all– how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:28-39.

Told you it was incredible. Bold claims. And bolder promises. Promises meant for you.

Our conversations are finished, yours and mine. But if these bold promises have caught your imagination, the really important conversations, the ones between you and God, have just begun. He’s anxious to tell you how He can make a difference in your life now. And He wants to tell you that what He wants most of all is take you home to be with Him forever. I think that’s a conversation worth having. From the deepest place in my heart, I hope you do, too.•

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Bible Lesson #11 – Keeping The Ember Glowing

TouchPoint 11

Welcome back, my friend! I want to thank you for taking time in your buy life to allow me to open up for you some of what the Bible says about who God is, why He is important, and how He has done some pretty selfless and wonderful things to restore humanity to our originally intended position and stature.

Along the way we’ve learned the Bible’s history of creation, the cause of evil, and what it has done to our planet and the human race. I’ve shown you how evil impacts our lives and how sad God was that we ever had to even learn about it.

Knowing about the presence of evil helps to explain the horrible things that happen in this life: disease, death, pandemics, war, selfishness, greed, hared, bigotry, abuse, and the rest.

It’s not uncommon for people to use the existence of such terrible things to question God. “God can’t be a God of love if he permits these kinds of things,” his critics say.

Actually, it’s part of the dual-edged sword that God’s plan allows for. Remember John 3:16? I hope this is one of those texts that you commit to memory. I’ll quote it one more time for you:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

What I want you to see in those words today is the choice that you are offered. Everlasting life is given to those who believe in Him. To those who choose to believe in Him.

Now hear me clearly. This is important. This text is not talking about a mere belief in the Son of God – just a mental assent to His existence. Rather, it is speaking of the belief that results in your trust in what He has to offer for giving you this everlasting life, of your allegiance to Him, of giving your life over to Him, to follow Him.

You have the choice to follow Him. In fact, God is only willing to give you this everlasting life if you choose it willingly. That’s how much God honors your choice. He won’t give you everlasting life against your will! God paid a premium with His own life to provide you this choice. Your personal free choice is very important to God.

But here’s the other edge of the sword. God also freely allows someone to not choose Him. And if He doesn’t allow that choice to be made, then He is a liar and we cannot choose Him freely! So in essence, if God prohibits evil to be active He would actually be taking away our freedom of choice! So evil will have to be a reality for now in order for God to allow humanity to freely choose Him or not choose Him. But the good news I’ll be sharing with you in our last TouchPoint is that God will not allow evil to stay around forever.

So What Would It Mean?

So, what would it mean to choose to be a follower of Jesus? What are the steps one would have to take? Is there a contract to sign? A promise to make? What are the “rules of engagement?”

Since this is the core of the beginning of life with Jesus, I’ll use another text to say in essence what John 3:16 says to underscore it:

“…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13 (NIV).

You start by declaring your belief in Jesus, and you tell God that you accept Jesus’ incredible sacrifice on your behalf. You allow yourself to believe that though you are a sinner by nature and by practice, that the blood of Jesus is enough to cover your sin.

This means that you talk to God – Christians call it praying – and you tell Him of your desire to follow Jesus, that you ask for His forgiveness for your sinfulness, and that you accept His offer to give you eternal life.

From here, life takes on a different meaning! No longer do you need to feel you are on your own! No longer do you have to guess at how you should live your life. You need never worry again about the ultimate meaning of your life, or feel that death will be the end for you. All those issues are wrapped up in Jesus now. They are now his concerns, and no longer yours. There’s a lot that comes with this package!

Nourishment is Important!

Any life needs nourishment, including this new life you have started with Jesus. You will need to spend some time every day with Jesus. How do you do that? To start with, begin each day with a prayer of thanks and then offer yourself to God’s service for that day. Ask him to inhabit your day, your thoughts, your relationships, your work, your mind and heart. And then just go about living your life and see what happens!

Any life needs nourishment, including this new life you have started with Jesus. You will need to spend some time every day with Jesus. How do you do that? To start with, begin each day with a prayer of thanks and then offer yourself to God’s service for that day. Ask him to inhabit your day, your thoughts, your relationships, your work, your mind and heart. And then just go about living your life and see what happens!

If you are really serious about nourishing this new life, you’ll probably want to spend time learning more about who God is and what He is doing in your life and in this world’s life. Your curiosity will get the better of you, and you’ll want to find out all you can!

There are lots of good books written by Christian authors, and many of them are worth your time reading. But your most worthwhile time will always be spent reading the Bible. There is so much in there yet to be discovered that we couldn’t possibly cover in our TouchPoints but which you will want to delve into. I suggest that you start with the Gospel of John. Read it all the way through in one sitting if you can. It’s a lot shorter than the current New York Times Bestseller, but it will change your life like no book from their list ever can! See Jesus through the eyes of a personal eye-witness. John was the youngest of all Jesus’ disciples, and I love his perspective on watching Jesus live here on earth as God/man.

After you finish John, try Luke’s Gospel. There are a lot of stories in there about Jesus, a lot of his parables. You’ll learn a bit more about his philosophy there. Then finish up with Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels so you will have read the entire set.

When you are ready to explore further, I suggest Philippians, then Ephesians, the book of Psalms, and then perhaps 1 & 2 Peter and 1 John.

Take the Scripture in any order you wish, but dive in! Learn to know your God better! Don’t wait until you think you are good enough to be accepted by Him (that time will never come). Instead, do what He suggests: come as you are, and let Him begin to work things out in your life.

Here’s the cool thing. As you actively pursue learning about the things of God, God will begin the process of remaking you from the inside out. He will change your desires, even your behaviors. Once you give Him permission to come into your life, He will do all sorts of incredible things in you. Here are some words from Galatians that mark the distinct differences that are between your old life of sin and your new life in Jesus as nourished by the Holy Spirit:

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:19-26.

Don’t worry if you don’t recognize very much of yourself yet in the 2nd of the two paragraphs from Galatians above! Fruit takes awhile to grow, to ripen, to mature. So will you. These are things you will become as you and Jesus spend time together. And the things in the first paragraph are things that will begin to describe you less and less. All this comes from the Holy Spirit living in you as you and Jesus walk together.

One More Thing – And This Is Important!

Jesus laid out a very critical principal in some of His last words to His followers just before He was taken away to be crucified:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…Remain in me, and I will 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 a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8.

Jesus asks us flat out to stay connected to him. Your personal commitment to talk with Him and to continue to learn of Him is indispensable in staying connected.
And there’s one more thing He has in mind for you.

You can’t do this alone. You will need partners in your walk of faith. You’ll need people who are learning just like you are. You’ll want to have people around you who can encourage you and teach you and pray for you. Remember, when God created us, they created us for community just as the Godhead shares community. We are better together than we are alone, especially as it comes to our spiritual life. As you already know, this world can be pretty hostile to people who choose to follow Jesus. We need a loving community to help keep us going!

This is where church comes in. Oops – sorry! I know that church has a bad name these days. It’s not hard to find news of one church or another failing or some church leader failing. Here’s the headline below the headlines, though. Churches are made up of sinners! We are all sinners, even in church.

It will be true that even in a church community that you will experience disappointment from time to time. Our frail humanity almost guarantees that! Actually, I find that most of the times that we are disappointed happen when we have put our eyes on each other instead of Jesus.

In spite of her failings, the church is still the bride of Christ (according to Revelation). She is the object of Jesus’ special affection, because He gave His life for the church. It is through the church that the work and person of Jesus gets expressed in the world. It is because of the church that word of the life of Jesus has been preserved down through the centuries. It is because of the church that I can write you all the things I’ve written to you!

If you really want to stay connected, if you want to keep growing, you should check out the church. You can know and worship Christ outside of the church, but it will be a different kind of struggle. We need the community of a spiritual family to share our common experience of learning about Jesus and dealing with this life. Going it alone is really harder than you think. And actually it’s dangerous,
in a way.

An old story will illustrate this better than just saying it. A church member who had previously been attending services regularly, suddenly stopped coming to church. He was missed in the community of faith, and after some weeks, the minister decided to visit the absent member.

It was a chilly evening, and the minister found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire in his den. Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair by the fireplace, and waited. The minister made himself comfortable but said nothing. In grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, he took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth, all by itself. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination. As the lone ember’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow, but then its fire was no more and soon it was cold and dead. Not a word had been exchanged between the two men since the initial greetings. But as the minister rose to leave, the host said, “Thank you so much for your visit, and especially for your fiery sermon. I will be at church next week.”

Now I know I’ve said a lot in this TouchPoint, and I’ve been very direct about some things that call for you to make some decisions.

But as always with Jesus, the choice will be yours. I just hope that you’ll take His invitation to new life seriously, and that you’ll decide to dive in, learn about Him, and stay connected to Him.

I’ve already told you about the gift He has promised for doing it. Everlasting life. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I’ve decided that it’s worth making
the choice. That’s my choice. Nothing would make me happier than to hear that it is yours, too!

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Bible Lesson #10 – The God Who Stayed Behind

TouchPoint 10

In Acts 1, a physician who was loyal to Jesus wrote about what happened about 40 days after Jesus burst out of the grave. Verse 9 says that as Jesus was talking to His friends, He began to be carried up into the air, soon obscured by the clouds, and left our planet to return to heaven. Romans 8:34 says that Jesus is now in heaven, sitting at the right-hand of God, interceding for us.

It’s hard for me to fully imagine what Jesus’ leaving did to the disciples. The closest I can come is to think of someone who was very important to me who died, then came back to life again, only to leave after six weeks!

Because Jesus had actually come back from the dead, it may not have occurred to them that He would ever leave, even though He told them clearly that He would. John 14:1-3 is one example of when He tried to let them in on it.

Actually, Jesus had told them something else recorded in John’s Gospel that they probably dismissed out of hand because they really couldn’t imagine it could ever be true. In some of His very last words to His friends before His death, Jesus said:

I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now TouchPoint 10

Jesus told His friends that it was to their advantage that He leave! Sometimes Jesus said things that left them scratching their heads, but this was off the deep end! How could things possibly be better if He left them?

For awhile Jesus had been trying to introduce them to something, or rather Someone that was sort of hard to explain. In John 16 He referred to Him as “the Counselor” and also as “Spirit of Truth.”

In reality Jesus was trying to introduce them to something both completely distinct from and yet also something fully a part of Himself. Now, I realize that this is about as hard to fathom as Jesus Himself being God/man, but hang in there with me for awhile longer. The Christian Bible teaches (and most Christians agree) that there are actually three distinct “persons” that make up what we think of as God. The theological term for this is “Trinity,” the 3-in-1 God.

We’ve already read several passages along the way where Jesus talked about His Father. John 3:16 said that “God (the Father) so loved the world that he (the Father) gave his only Son (Jesus) that whoever believes in him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Now Jesus makes concrete what had been hinted at many times in Scripture – a third part of what we call the Godhead. The Counselor, the Spirit of Truth.

One God. Three Parts. Three “persons”, if you will. Each different, each perfect, each holy, each fully God. Perfectly unified, yet each one distinct.

Actually this helps some things make sense. For example, you might wonder why God would bother to create planets and people and stuff anyway. Well, for starters, the incredible community of pure love and holiness that this 3-person God experiences they sought to share with other beings.

I believe that when God said they wanted to create people in their image, part of the image stamped onto our very being is the desire to be with and a part of the life of others. We have families. We have friends. We love to be with certain people because they give us a sense of wholeness, of completion.

When we feel those things, we are feeling, in an imperfect way, the sort of community that God enjoys within themselves. They enjoy it so much they shared that part of their nature with us when we were created. Pretty cool, eh?

So when you want to be with good friends, when you want to spend quality time with your children or your spouse, you are, in a very real sense, acting like God! He delights when your relationships work well.

Without getting too deep into theology here, a careful study of the New Testament reveals that it was actually Jesus who was the active agent in our creation (see John 1:1-4 and Colossians 1:15-17). And it was Jesus, our very creator, who was the One who chose to come to this earth to live our life, die for us, and He is the one who is planning our exciting future right now.

God the Father stayed behind, giving a part of Himself, His son, and He was the one who directed and protected Jesus while He was here. Every Gospel writer records the close and constant relationship that Jesus had with His Father every day He was here.

The Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, was also present with Jesus while He was here, but His presence was to be felt in a whole new way when Jesus left this earth. This Counselor, or the Holy Spirit, as He is also called, would be the presence of God to the church throughout the entire world – at the same time.

While He was here, Jesus was always somewhere specific. Always in one place at one time. No funny magic here allowing Jesus to be present in more than one place at one time. Jesus was physically limited to the same sorts of limitations we have – there’s just one of us and we can only be in one place at one time.

Now granted, Jesus at times would disappear and then reappear somewhere else, but even those episodes were few and far between. Mostly He walked around like everyone else. But always only in one place at any one time.

Part of the incredible power of this Holy Spirit is the ability to be present in the lives of people all over the world simultaneously! This is one of the most powerful aspects of the God of the Christian Bible.

Most “gods” have to be approached in their location because they are in one place. Only this Spirit of the living God is “omnipresent” throughout the world, living in and with each human who declares their allegiance to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the very presence of Jesus on this earth, and He is responsible for teaching us, convicting us of what is right and wrong, of building into us fruits that make us changed people. Did you notice how central the Spirit is shown to be in those texts you just read to the good things that happen in a person’s life?

And this Spirit is an incredible comfort when needed – in fact Comforter is one of His names, and He is the force of the Godhead that directs and empowers the people who make up Christ’s church. He is, in fact, your direct link to heaven. I love how Romans 8 puts it:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27.

The Spirit is so closely linked with us and with God the Father and Jesus, that when we pray, He literally takes our prayers, translates them into a language for heaven, entreating God in ways we cannot.

This God Who Stayed Behind is one of the most important gifts ever given to humanity. Especially now, when we are still facing life down here before Jesus’ final plan for us has been fully put in place. We need to know we are not forgotten. We need to know that God will guide us. We need to know that He will provide the gifts and tools and direction we will need to live until Jesus is ready to make everything right again.

For all of these things, the Holy Spirit is our great gift. And since He’s everywhere at once, He’s with me as I’m writing this for you today. And, most importantly, He’s there with you while you are reading it. I am praying as I write this that this gentle Spirit will settle into your life. He’ll come in if you ask Him. It’s up to you.

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Bible Lesson #9 – The Day Death Died

TouchPoint 9

“Jesus wept.” Those two words make up the first Bible trivia question every child who grows up in church learns. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, and it comes from John 11. It may be short, but there’s a lot we can unpack from it.

The notion of God weeping is startling to some people. What on earth (or in heaven, for that matter) would move God to tears? Shouldn’t God be above emotion? And who usually cries tears, if it’s not someone who’s on the bad end of some tragedy or in pain?

The story in John 11 is a very personal one for Jesus. Seems one of His best friends, a guy by the name of Lazarus got sick – sick enough that his sisters, Mary and Martha felt he wouldn’t live through it. And they were right. Lazarus ended up dying.

Before his death, however, they sent an urgent message to Jesus to come heal him right away or they felt he’d die. When Jesus got the word, He was strangely sanguine about it:

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days. Then He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” John 11.5-7 (NIV)

Jesus had quite a history with this family. Their home was where He’d go when the Messiah business got to be too much. He could spend a few days with them for some much needed R & R, and then hit the road again refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Because of what Jesus wanted to teach everyone,

He was willing to live with the anger and frustration generated by His delayed response
to his friends’ request. When He was ready to go, He said this to His disciples (His closest followers):

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of His death, but His disciples thought He meant natural sleep. So then He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe…let us go to him.” John 11:11-15

When Jesus finally got there, Lazarus had been dead for four days. In fact, they’d already wrapped Him in burial clothes and put Him in a tomb (a rock-cave with a huge stone place in front of it). He wasn’t just dead. He was really dead!

When Martha heard Jesus was just around the corner she went out to meet him. She was respectful but clearly frustrated: “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21. A few verses later when Mary came out to meet Jesus, she said the same thing. “If you’d only have been here…”

They obviously had great faith in Jesus. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that had He been there, Lazarus would have been cured of his illness, and they’d all be having dinner together right now instead of entertaining the mourners down from Jerusalem to help them grieve.

It never occurred to them that Jesus might have something up His sleeve. It never occurred to them that maybe, just maybe, death wasn’t the final thing it seemed to be after all. And it never occurred to them that Jesus was there to prove it.

Mary and Martha are no different than people who live in any generation. Death seems so violently final. There seems to be no argument that will hold up against it. Every parent knows the moment they first hold their newborn that he or she will die, too. Death always wins every argument. Well, almost always…

It was in response to Mary and Martha’s broken-hearted, anguished cry that God broke down and cried. But it was also when Jesus made a very bold statement. This is the kind of statement only one who is God could make:

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:23-26

I am the resurrection and the life, He said. Told you it was bold. And He proved it. He asked for them to roll the stone away, which they did over protest (four days is plenty of time for a dead body to start smelling like one). When Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, they wondered who would go in there to carry him out. But that’s not what Jesus meant!

After a few awkward moments, a fully-wrapped, now-living human mummy appeared trying to inch along using legs tightly bundled in grave clothes! As people gasped and fainted and shouted and laughed, Jesus asked them to please unwrap the poor guy so he could be free!

The unthinkable happened! At the voice of Jesus, death slinked away with a whimper! I wish I could have been there that evening to listen to the conversation
they had over supper. I’ll bet it turned their world upside down!

Authority Over Death

So why did Jesus weep? It wasn’t because He was broken Himself. It wasn’t because He was powerless to do something about what He saw. And personally, I’m glad God isn’t above emotion, because it means He is touched by the needs of His creation.

Jesus cried because this was the very thing He had warned the first humans about. He said if they ate the fruit He forbade, that death would be a part of life. And Jesus did not create us to die!

When He was with His friends and saw how heart-broken they were, He was moved by their emotion and by their despair. He never wanted us to experience this. Because death is common to every life, sooner or later every one of us will feel the searing tear death causes in our lives. He is touched by our brokenness. Jesus was there to show them that death isn’t the last word, but He first paused to acknowledge and share in their grief. I’m just glad He didn’t stop there!

From where did Jesus get this authority over death? As I’ve read the Bible over the years, I’ve begun to understand that it’s not just that He was God that He could do this. But because He was God who sacrificed Himself for us, that He now claims ultimate victory over death.

Here’s what happened. When Jesus was condemned to die, He was placed on a Roman cross, a hideous and awful instrument whose only purpose was to kill with malice. It was the express desire of the hated Romans that anyone bent on causing enough trouble to merit death would be used as an example to scare anyone else tempted to misbehave by delivering punishment in the most inhumane way possible.

Jesus died after only six hours on the cross. The authorities were surprised because it was not uncommon that death on a cross – where your wrists and feet
are literally nailed to a cross of heavy wood – could take upwards of a week in some cases. You die slowly and painfully, with constant fire-like surges of nerve pain shooting all through your body. You have trouble getting your breath. So much so that many people who died on the cross did so from suffocation.

The cross never lost an argument. No one ever walked away from the cross. Except once.

I don’t know what struck you, but I couldn’t help but notice how much this caught everyone by surprise. Even with prior notice by Jesus that this is exactly what would happen, they didn’t figure on His death, and they were totally surprised that He rose again! It wasn’t until later that they would remember some of the things He said that talked about this.

There was something that happens when a God lays down His life and then comes to life again! It’s as if He’s put the final word on death – and that word is ENOUGH!

I don’t know if the thought that death isn’t the last word was new to you or not. Most of us have wondered about death and have grappled with its apparent finality. Whatever you may have thought about it before should be informed now by what the Bible says about it because of Jesus.

One final image. It comes from the very last book in the Bible, Revelation. One of Jesus’ most dear friends and followers had lived a long and sometimes difficult life as a follower of Jesus, and he’d been exiled to an island prison colony called Patmos. John is his name, and Jesus chose him to be the conduit for the message of Revelation. In the very first chapter, Jesus appears to John in a vision-dream and underscores his authority over death. Here’s the account:

When I (John) saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said:

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:17-18.

John didn’t have any trouble recognizing Jesus because he’d spent more than 3 years with Him in close association. John knew he was talking to a living Lord. Jesus spoke the by-now obvious: I hold the keys of death and Hades (a translation of a Hebrew word for the grave). Jesus holds the key! Jesus is the one in charge – He holds all the cards.

But there’s something else I like. John is seeing a living God. John is once again witnessing the fact that Jesus is not dead, but fully alive, and is there to tell John all about the joy He is already plotting for the future for His followers.

Other so-called gods can’t make the claim that Jesus does. When He arose from the dead, the Bible says that more than 500 witnesses confirmed that Jesus is alive. Just a few hours after breaking the hold of death, Jesus sat down and ate a fish dinner with His close friends. Jesus was no ghost, no illusion. He was real. Really alive.

There is something powerful beyond words to think of a truly living God. A living God with full understanding of our lives here. A living God with full understanding of what the human struggle is like. A living God who died, but who, through His resurrection, broke the domination of death on our world.

That’s THE GOD who deserves my loyalty and allegiance. You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. But choosing to worship this living God was the best choice I’ve ever made.

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Bible Lesson #8 – More About Jesus, Part 2

TouchPoint 8

In our last TouchPoint we explored more of the life of Jesus together. He was a master storyteller whose words created vivid images in the minds of the hearers that conveyed the things He was anxious for the people to learn. We also saw Him as a compulsive healer – it seems He could never leave anyone in the same pain in which He found them! It’s almost as if He couldn’t wait to remake people into what He originally wanted them to be like. In this TouchPoint, we’ll talk about two more facets of Jesus: Jesus the philosopher, and Jesus the submissive.

Jesus the Philosopher

Even people who don’t accept Jesus as God/man generally agree that Jesus was a philosopher whose ideas have influenced life on this planet for 2000 years. I almost laugh whenever I hear someone talk like this! Because I accept Jesus as God in the flesh, the ideas Jesus expresses are not just the musings of a renowned philosopher – they are the ideas of God!

Think of the difference between your standard-issue, every day philosopher and Jesus, assuming along with me that He’s God. It’s like when a few people who drive Buicks get together and wax eloquent on how Buicks work and how they should work and how they should be treated and cared for expound on their ideas about Buicks.

These opinions are not without merit because after all, these Buick drivers have put themselves in a position over the years to really get to know Buicks. What they share is from hard-won, first-person experience and knowledge.

But if the designers of the Buick sit around the lunch table and talk about Buicks, their conversation reaches levels the ordinary Buick user never appreciates. The Buick designers know what went into making the Buick a Buick. They know Buick secrets that no one knows unless they tell them. Because they know the Buick like nobody else can, when they talk, Buick owners should listen. When Jesus shares his philosophy about life, our place in it, how we should relate to God and each other, it only seems prudent to listen, and listen closely. He knows how He made us. He knows how we tick even better than the brightest of us.

The problem Jesus faces is that so much of the way He thinks we ought to be living runs counter to many ideas that we live and die by in this modern world.

Read the following verses and, as you do, write down the issue, how we behave relative to the issue, and how Jesus thinks we should live. But I’ll warn you, you are about to meet a Genuine Counter-Culturist! Consider:

  1. Matthew 5:21-22
  2. Matthew 5:27-28
  3. Matthew 5:38-42
  4. Matthew 5:39-47
  5. Matthew 6:19-21
  6. Matthew 6:25-34
  7. Matthew 22:15-21
  8. Luke 10:25-36
  9. John 13:1-17

The remarkable silver strand that runs through them all is that Jesus thinks it best if people live their lives with the interests and needs of others a little higher in our priorities that our own. He says it’s just as bad to think bad thoughts as carry them out (that means He’s as concerned as much about our motivations as our behaviors). He says we should love our enemies, go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, stop worrying, watch out for our neighbor, and serve each other rather than searching for ways to make others subservient to ourselves. He also wants us to be good citizens.

And those 12 verses at the very beginning of Matthew 5, wow! How many of the traits listed there are seen in the top CEO’s of the day? Hollywood’s best and brightest? The heroes of war or politics?

I can sense the uneasiness you are feeling about this. This is a rough world. And you don’t get ahead unless you take care of yourself first. So am I saying that we should abandon reason, walk away from taking care of our families, or allow just anyone to come in and run over us?

No, and even Jesus didn’t do that. He stood up to some pretty nasty and dangerous characters, and He did defend Himself on occasion when it was necessary.

But Jesus is asking for an extreme makeover that starts in the deepest corners of our thinking and motivations. He asks us to begin thinking of others, taking seriously our need to be a part of helping meet their needs. He asks us to look to things other than wealth or success or the number (and value) of our cars and vacation homes as the indicators of real success in this life. He asks us not to depend on them, or become so attached to them that we overlook our responsibility to each other and to Him to use those assets in ways that bless others.

That’s a lot to ask of anyone. It’s a lot to ask of you, my new friend. But everywhere you hear Jesus teaching in the Gospels, these are the kinds of things He teaches. And like any good teacher, He’s not just spewing theory. He asks it of us because, well, He’s doing it Himself.

See, some royalty ask their subjects to do all kinds of things they would never consider doing themselves. Royalty are above some things, after all. But not for this King.

Jesus the Submissive

In a prior TouchPoint, I used a passage from the New Testament book of Philippians that said that though He was God, Jesus did not hold on to His “God-ness,” but rather emptied Himself of it and took on the human form of a servant, and submitted to a cruel and unjust death.

This wasn’t a failure in Jesus’ plan in coming to earth. It was, in fact, following His plan to the letter. I’m going to print some startling words from Scripture. They come from the pen of a prophet named Isaiah who wrote a book included in the Old Testament. He predicted what Jesus would be like about 700 years before he came along:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we consideredhim stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:2-7 (NIV)

These words are hard to understand in light of Jesus’ position as God! When He came, his eternal beauty was hidden – otherwise we’d only be attracted to Him because of His good looks!), and there was nothing in His bearing that would have made Him especially attractive.

And if you read the account of Jesus’ treatment at the hands of the Jews and the Romans on the last day of His life, you’ll see that every word of Isaiah’s somber prediction came true. Matthew 26:47 through Matthew chapter 27 tells the story. I hope you’ll open your Bible right now and read this before going on. You will be amazed at how accurately Jesus’ treatment was predicted. And you’ll be amazed at the willing submission of Jesus, who could have killed everyone present with a single word!

Why Would He Do All That?

Three reasons. As we have said already, in this He demonstrates His unmatched love for us. And He atones for our sin so that we can be reconnected to God. As if either of those were not enough, His life here, and His submission to death provide a bonus. It’s an important one, too.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16.

Jesus somehow lived after all that you read about in Matthew 26 & 27! That story is our next TouchPoint. The Hebrews verses tell us that Jesus is our representative before God the Father with some compelling and excellent qualifications.

First, He remained pure. He didn’t sin. At all. Not once. He lived a perfect life, yet died a sinner’s death.

But don’t think for a moment He wasn’t tempted! The Hebrews text says it flat out. And Matthew 4 tells the story of temptations that He had that you and I will never have! (Reading that story is an extra-credit assignment!)

But in every case He passed the test. Instead of using His superior success at facing evil as a reason to put us down, He uses it for an entirely different purpose. When we pray and tell Jesus about our difficulties, He truly understands them because He submitted Himself to the very same kinds of things that we face. It’s His direct point of connection to our everyday lives! When you’re hurting, it’s so much better talking to someone whose been hurt like you have!

Been abused? So was He. Been betrayed? You read what happened in Matthew 26 and 27. Lost everything you ever had? I don’t know how much more you can lose when you hang naked on a Roman cross, famous for killing its victims in the most unimaginably painful way. And about the worst thing someone can experience: the loss of a child. Talk to God. He’ll tell you that He once lost a child to death, too.

When you come to Jesus, you are coming to someone who really understands. And when you do, somehow, in the middle of all that you are going through, you’ll sense that you aren’t facing whatever it is you face alone.

This is one of those things that followers of Jesus figure out at some point, and when they do, it changes their lives in ways that leaves those who don’t have Jesus in their lives scratching their heads.

Because right there in the middle of pain, suffering, difficulty, betrayal, and loss, there’s this inexplicable peace and sense of trust, and sometimes even hope in the bearing of a person who’s figured out that Jesus really, truly, understands.

If you need to, you can talk to him now. He’ll listen. You’ll be surprised how much He understands.

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Bible Lesson #7 – More About Jesus, Part 1

TouchPoint 7

I’ve been telling you about Jesus in the last few TouchPoints, but mostly in the context of His unique position as God/man, and also that He is the one who found the way to break the separation between God and persons that evil has caused. He did it by dying in our place for our sins, so that we can once again be given the righteousness of God, thus restoring us to our initial purity and innocence.

This time, I want our conversation to be about the life of Jesus, so that you can get to know Him as the people who were around Him knew Him. Of course, we can’t do the biography of Jesus justice in a couple of TouchPoints, but at least we can get you started discovering Him in more of the dimensions in which He operated.

So, I’ll tell you about Jesus the storyteller, Jesus the healer, Jesus the philosopher, and Jesus the submissive one.

Jesus the Storyteller

Most stories are told today on the screen, the big screen or the small one. Movies are how our modern generations tell their stories. Were Jesus alive today, he might well be a filmmaker. He would use the best medium available to let people know what he was about.

Of course in Jesus’ day, about the only option available was story told by Jesus Himself and heard by those curious enough to come listen to Him. Sometimes Jesus would talk directly to issues and people, but often He told people about Himself and what He was on earth to accomplish by the use of stories. The word for story that’s used in the Bible is “parable.”

You have undoubtedly heard of some of them, even if you don’t know the stories themselves. For example, when you hear the term “the good
Samaritan,” that’s referring directly to a story Jesus told. Other well-known phrases lifted from Jesus’ words or concepts include things like “turn the other cheek” or “go the extra mile.” Some of His stories were real zingers meant to harpoon the stale religious hypocrites of his day. Jesus had little time for these kinds of people, and He seemed to love to skewer them whenever possible. It wasn’t that He had a mean streak –

He was frustrated at them because of all the spiritual heaviness hey heaped on the shoulders of the people. The people were worn out from practicing the minutiae of this religion forced upon them, but they didn’t know how to get out from under it. (see Luke 11:39-46).

But mostly His words were meant for people who really longed for the same kinds of things that you and I long for: freedom, peace, joy, escape from evil, a good family, a good home, good health. Space permits only one story here. It’s one of His most famous, and I’m personally glad beyond words that He told this one. It’s from Luke 15:11-24 (NIV):

Jesus continued:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.“When he came to his senses, he said,

“How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.“

Some of his stories were real zingers….

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

So they began to celebrate. This story is known as “the prodigal son” and is one of Jesus’ clearest statements about God the Father and the way He loves us. God gives us our free choice, and even when we decide we don’t want anything to do with God, he lets us go. But every minute we’re gone, he watches for us, hoping against hope that we will return. And when we do, we are welcomed back home with love and affection we don’t deserve, but that’s just the way He is!

Jesus the Healer

As you begin to read more and more of the four books that talk about Jesus’ actual life – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – known as the Gospels in the Bible’s New Testament, you’ll see that a lot of Jesus’ activity centered around healing people. In an age where medicine was primitive by our standards, someone who could heal disease was bound to attract attention. But Jesus didn’t do it for that reason. In fact, He often asked the people He healed not to tell anyone about it because it would end up actually hindering the larger work He came to do (see Mark 1:40-45).

I just have to show you this one, because it says something really important about Jesus. It comes from Mark 7:31-37.

A deaf/mute is brought to Jesus to see if there was anything He could do for the man. After He took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (verses 33-35).

While the whole healing incident is miraculous, what grabs me are these words: He looked up to heaven with a deep sigh. Why the sigh? Was Jesus maybe tired of healing? Was He bothered that somebody interrupted His day and caused Him to lose a little time on His journey from one place to another?I think Jesus sighed because He never got used to seeing people who were sick, crippled, blind, deaf, leprous, or who had any number of other ailments. Jesus remembered the day He got down on His knees and with His own hand fashioned the human body (Genesis 1:7). He molded us in perfection, and how His heart ached when He saw what sin and evil had done to people.

Now don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying that there’s a direct cause/effect relationship between our physical state and our sin (though there are some cause/effect relationships we do know exist. If you insist on a high fat, high sugar diet, you might as well learn the name of a good cardiologist in your area because sooner or later you are going to need one).

When Jesus told Adam and Eve to leave the fruit alone on the one tree He asked them to avoid, it was precisely because He knew the nature of sin would cause real trauma to our bodies over time. He hated to see what sin, passed down from generation to generation, would actually do. He hated that this man had been deaf for his whole life. Can you imagine never hearing the laughter of children, the sound of waves on the shore, or the voice of your lover telling you that you are loved?

He sighed because our plight touched Him in the deepest parts of His own heart. He never planned for our lives to be this way. That’s why He spent so much of His time healing. He tried to put right again as many as He could while He was here.

I don’t know what you noticed in these stories, but I want to end this Touch- Point with a couple of observations that strike me.

In the Mark 5 reading, there were two stories. In the story of the little girl who was raised from the dead, I loved that Jesus isn’t bothered at all by death! What is so horrible and final to us does not affect Jesus the same way. His life was all about breaking death, so He was only too happy to show it every chance He got!

The woman in the Mark story intrigues me most, though. Jesus gave her two kinds of healing. When she touched His garment, her disease immediately stopped. But it was His words to her that gave her the healing most needed. It happened with Jesus’ first word to her! He said,

“Daughter, you faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering.”

All of His words were important, but that first word gave her the healing she craved. The word “daughter” is a word that denotes family. It’s a word of belonging. It’s a word of personal connection.

In her day, a woman with a chronic disease was perpetually kept out of the synagogue and the temple because she was “unclean,” as the Bible called it. A person who is sick for 12 years “with an issue of blood” (as Holy Scripture named her disease), probably had few social interactions. The constant drain of iron meant she may have been anemic, so she had no energy to carry on normal life. She was dirt-poor because all the docs of her day just took her money but couldn’t fix her problem. No money to dress well, eat well, live well. She looked a mess. There was no way to solve her problems.

She was probably used to people turning their backs on her when she came their way! A social outcast, a woman without a spiritual life, no money to fix herself up, no way to mix with “polite” society. The fact that she had lowered herself to ground level at Jesus’ feet, content with touching the hem of His clothes so that she wouldn’t have to meet His gaze says volumes about how she felt about herself.

So when Jesus called her “daughter”, it meant that she was noticed, that she was valued, that she mattered to Jesus. Jesus had a knack of finding the people that society had thrown away, and helped them see that they belonged. Jesus told her in one word that He didn’t feel about her the way she felt about herself. And something pretty amazing happens to a person when they realize how Jesus feels about them!

That last story from John 5 is there because of what it says about Jesus. There were lots of sick that day around the pool. I like how Jesus noticed the one man, picked him out of the crowd.

Now this isn’t to say that the others there were not as important – only that Jesus felt he was the one most important to heal on that day in that place.

It does a lot for me to realize that the same God who’s in charge of creating and running a whole universe still notices the little people – people like you and me. We are not lost in the crowd. Our needs are known to him, and He has a plan for our healing. That’s what a healer does.

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Bible Lesson #6 – The Great Paradox

TouchPoint 6

I (Mic) hope that you are finding these TouchPoints captivating! The more I learn about who God is and what He really intends to do, the more I want to live in response to Him. I hope it turns out that way for you, too.

As I said in TouchPoint 5, God’s choice of a solution for humanity’s inherent evil was totally unique and unexpected. Most people would probably just come in with a heavy hand and whip everyone into shape if they had the kind of power God has!

But Jesus’ intentional affect was different:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3; 14, New International Version)

I like the adjective John used here in the first verse. Jesus is described as the “Word”, which was made flesh and lived where we live. He was full of grace and truth.

The word “Word” says a lot! John is telling us here that Jesus’ very life speaks of who God is. Jesus is the very expression of God, of His character, of His love. What questions we might have about God can be answered in Jesus!

As God, Jesus could have intimidated everyone into being good. But that only works for awhile. If your heart’s not in your actions, at some point you’ll stop acting how you’re being forced to!

But God seems to have this thing about free choice. He wants to win you to His side, not force you there. Because of this, to some people Jesus looked and acted like anything but God.

To still others, mostly those deeply invested in the organized religion of His day, He didn’t seem very God-like because Jesus seemed to flout the rules of “proper” religious behavior. “Surely no self-respecting God would behave like this,” they thought over and over again. One example will show you what I mean.

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was
there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over
and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her forward
and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then He put
His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to
the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days,
not on the Sabbath.’

“The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath
untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then
should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound
for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’

“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were
delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing” (Luke 13:10-17).

Fascinating, isn’t it? The religious types were so offended that Jesus didn’t play
by their “rules”, they actually could not allow themselves to be wowed by the
miracle of a woman who’s been bent over for the last 18 years being instantly
healed!

A Strange Equation

What I’m about to tell you now is very important. I can’t tell you exactly why things are this way, I can only tell you what they are. When God decided to solve the problem of evil in our world,He used a two-pronged approach. First, He would give His life in place of those who had sinned (and that’s pretty much everybody), and He would do it in such a way that we would be convinced of His love. Remember, He wants us to be with Him because we want to be there, not because we have to.

Now, I can’t say for sure why the very Son of God had to die. As one theologian put it, “This is the strange and miraculous equation devised by God and worked out on the cross.” Evidently sin demands a price. Remember Romans 6.23 from a few TouchPoints ago? “The wages of sin is death.” That’s what we deserve, and that’s what we’d get were it not for Jesus.

That Jesus paid the price for our sin is a foundational belief of the Christian faith. If this is not true, if this is not at the center, then there is no point in hanging around with Jesus any more.

Jesus, though He was actually God, gave up his God-ness to take on our human frailty, and submit Himself to death. He did this because we had no righteousness
of our own (that means we are no longer pure and without sin as Adam and Eve were when they were first created). We cannot live as evil, sinful people in the presence of God, so God provided a way that the righteousness we need, we can get from Him because He Himself atoned for our sinfulness by dying the death that we should have died because of our sin.

The act of his willing death is accepted in the mind of the Father God and sinners
who profess their belief and loyalty to Him may receive total pardon for their sins.

God was willing to do all this before we cleaned ourselves up! While we were still in our sinfulness, Jesus died for us. By His death, we can exchange our depraved
and willful state for His perfect righteousness.

And to top it all off, all this is given for free to anyone who is willing to believe in Him and follow Him with their lives! Yes, you read that right. For free.

To not accept His generous offer is about like hearing the doorbell ring, opening your front door, seeing the van and balloons and TV cameras that go along with the awarding of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes and slamming the door in the announcer’s face!

Maybe that’s because we’re so mixed up about what’s best, that we are willing to sell out our future to make ourselves more comfortable in the present.

But let me remind you of where this is all heading. I’ve surfaced it before in prior TouchPoints. When time wraps up on this planet (yes, the Bible says such a time will come), Jesus will take His people off this planet, transport them to heaven, heal every scar, every sore place, every defect of your body, your mind, and your soul.

When He takes you away, it is the beginning of what the Bible calls “eternity”, a return to the Edenic wonder, purity, loveliness, and innocence that we were created to live in. And it will be that way forever – for we will have all learned our lesson about evil, and it will never again be chosen as an option.

And like the prize in the Cracker Jack box, because the righteousness of God is ours when we accept him, we can once again be in His presence. We won’t be afraid any longer. We won’t be suspicious of Him or each other any more. No one will be selfish, no one will have any inclination to harm someone else. Time with God Himself will be so precious to all of us, that we will never choose the way of alienation ever again.

This is True Love

We’ve all heard the phrase “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” This is the one exception to that maxim. It’s almost hard to conceive that anyone would walk away from believing in God’s Son Jesus with all He is offering– for free.

I’ll end this TouchPoint with two more texts, but this time I’ll spell them out for you. I think it would be great if you marked these two in your Bible (yes, it’s ok to do that…), but for now, I just want you to hold this TouchPoint in your hand and read the words, and let them wash over you. Maybe you’ve never really know true love before. If you hear what these words are saying, you do now.

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:8-11, NIV).

“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that e, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your alvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:5-14)

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Bible Lesson #5 – The Name Above All Names

TouchPoint 5

It’s Mic with you again. Glad you are reading this important TouchPoint!

While hunting deer in the Tehema Wildlife Area near Red Bluff in northern California, Jay Rathman climbed to a ledge on the slope of a rocky gorge. As he raised his head to look over the ledge above, he sensed movement to the right of his face. A coiled rattler struck with lightning speed, just missing Rathman’s right ear. The four-foot nake’s fangs got snagged in the neck of Rathman’s wool turtleneck sweater, and the force of the strike caused it to land on his left shoulder. It then coiled around his neck.

He grabbed it behind the head with his left hand and could feel the warm venom running down the skin of his neck, the rattles making a furious racket. He fell backward and slid headfirst down the steep slope through brush and lava rocks, his rifle and binoculars bouncing beside him. “As luck would have it,” he said in describing the incident to a Department of Fish and Game official, “I ended up wedged between some rocks with my feet caught uphill from my head. I could barely move.”

He got his right hand on his rifle and used it to disengage the fangs from his sweater, but the snake had enough leverage to strike again. “He made about eight attempts and managed to hit me with his nose just below my eye about four times. I kept my face turned so he couldn’t get a good angle with his fangs, but it was very close. This chap and I were eyeball to eyeball and I found out that snakes don’t blink. He had fangs like darning needles…I had to choke him to death. It was the only way out. I was afraid that with all the blood rushing to my head I might pass out.”

When he tried to toss the dead snake aside, he couldn’t let go. “I had to pry my fingers from its neck.”

When I first heard this graphic story, I couldn’t help but compare evil with that snake! It seems to be wrapped around all of us, flailing away at us, striking to inject its poisonous influence on our thoughts and actions on a personal level, and on a societal level. It has us caught real tight!

God was so disappointed in the choice Adam and Eve made to violate the boundary He had established for them in their perfect world because He knew that once sin came in and took over, it would infect everything about their world. God’s own heart was heavy with what His new creation would have to go through because of it.

In his book “The Secret Message of Jesus,” Brian McLaren pretty well summed up what both God and the first people lost: “Adam and Eve lived in a primal human connection to God, an original fellowship and natural friendship with God. But their noble status quickly deteriorates as they disconnect from God and reject any limits placed upon their freedom by their Creator. The results of their disobedience are visible as the story unfolds – a sense of shame and alienation from God and one another, violence of brother against brother, disharmony with creation itself, misunderstanding and conflict among tribes and nations…” (p. 27).

Banished from their perfect home, no longer able to eat of the special fruit of the tree of life, their bodies would begin to know gradual decay and degeneration, and finally, horribly, death.

It would have been well within God’s rights to simply allow humanity to die off from their own evil. But there’s this thing about God. He loves that which He creates. And for whatever reason, He seemed to love people especially. So He would not be content to just let them die. He wanted to find a way to re-establish what had been lost – the natural friendship and closeness that He had once had with people but which sin made impossible.

He had another problem too. The longer history progressed, the more confused people got about God. Their ideas about Him, how He acts, and His intentions became confused and erroneous. God had to find a way to tell the people of earth who He really was and what His true intentions are toward them.

God managed to find a way to solve both issues – showing his true nature of love (and not the selfish God the serpent claimed he was), and a way to save people from the penalty their actions called for. What he chose to do is unparalleled in history in its uniqueness, in its effect, and in its boldness.

God chose to come to earth. Himself. Personally. Ok, so maybe that doesn’t sound earth-shattering at first. After all, just a couple of TouchPoints ago I did point out the verse in Genesis that says that God came to visit the earth in the cool of the day. So what’s so unusual about God coming to earth?

It’s the way He did it. In fact, His approach was so unconventional, so unexpected, that it took nearly everyone off-guard.

To solve a problem as huge as evil/sin, most of us might be tempted to come down with a very big stick! We’d shape up this place in a hurry. After all, if God’s got all this power, why not use it to whip everyone into shape?

But God chose a different plan. He chose to make Himself – are you ready for this – vulnerable to humanity! What an incredible thing to do! Let me show you just how vulnerable.

“…God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’

“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’

“‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’

“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” (New International Version)

Though these words from the book of Luke in the New Testament might raise more questions than answers in your mind right now, there are a couple of things I want you to notice. First, a young woman named Mary will become pregnant by supernatural means. The Spirit of God would come upon her, and she would be overshadowed by God’s power. Without a physical connection, Mary would become the earthly mother of the Son of God.

Imagine! God as a baby. A helpless child who needs cuddling and caring and nurturing and the breast. A child as needful as any other of his parents’ protection and love and nurture and guidance.

I just shake my head in amazement that the God who had the power to create everything we know, made Himself a baby, and placed Himself in human hands to be raised as one of us.

See the huge difference between how God was back at the beginning and now? Back then He came as God. Now He comes as God in human flesh. He is God-Man. According to the Bible, he was 100% human but also 100% divine. I realize that doesn’t equate in our normal mathematical models. Remember, I told you this was unique!

This Son of God has a name: Jesus. It means Savior. And He came out of a heart of love, the heart of God.

Remember the end-zone shot in every Super Bowl you’ve ever seen when the team that just scored is kicking the extra point? Somewhere in the crowd somebody is always holding up a sign with “John 3:16” on it.

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Bible Lesson #4 – Careful What You Wish For…

TouchPoint 4

“The devil made me do it.” ’70’s comedian Flip Wilson made a career out of that line. Geraldine, one of his comedic alter-egos used that line whenever anyone called her n something she did wrong. Even when we knew it was coming, whenever Flip delivered the line, we all laughed. Even though it’s no laughing matter.

We left our last conversation where God had come to personally visit our little planet in the evening. I think He did this every afternoon because He wanted to hear from Adam and Eve earth’s first two people, how their day had gone. Newly created in a gorgeous, unspoiled world, every day was chock full of incredible discoveries. God wanted to hear he excitement in their voices, and read the delight in their faces as they told Him about the surprises that day had brought. God is actually interested in stuff like that!

God came as usual, but found Adam and Eve afraid and hiding. The unthinkable had happened. Evil somehow managed to penetrate God’s perfect world. How did it happen?

Well, God had set Adam and Eve up in paradise – literally. The original Garden of Eden was their home. Everything in it was perfect and designed for them to freely and fully enjoy, except for one thing. God had placed many trees in the garden, but two were the most important: the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
He told them they could eat anything in the garden they wanted except for fruit from the one tree – the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

You can read about it in Genesis 2:8-9. And you can read the world-famous encounter between Eve and the snake in Genesis 3.1-7.

A serpent, who was really Satan in disguise (also known as the devil), got them to think that God had been holding out on them. He got them to think that if they’d just ignore God’s warning they’d become like God themselves. He made them think that God was selfishly keeping some big secret from them, and eating the “apple” would reveal it to them. He conned them into wishing for something they shouldn’t have. And you know the old saying, “careful what you wish for…you might get it.”

The Serpent Was Right

Well, the serpent was right. Sort of. They did become like God – but only in a tragic sense: they now knew evil. The serpent made it sound so exciting, but once they had personal knowledge of evil, the realized how much they’d lost instead of finding anything they’d gained.

Its first fruits were separation because of fear and shame, then came blame, then followed a curse from God because of their disobedience: hard work (yes, that’s a result of sin – read it for yourself in Genesis 3:17-19), tension between the sexes and pain in childbirth (Genesis 3.16). Later as evil continued to spiral, mistrust, hatred, envy, murder, and utter selfishness began to mark humanity’s profile.

The deep tragedy here is that they didn’t just acquire knowledge of good and evil. Like a virus, evil had become a part of the fabric of their life – and not just their life, but ours, too. I’m going to quickly quote a few verses of Scripture that tell how extensive evil is. The Bible uses the word sin as the resulting actions of our evil. Here’s a little of what the Bible says about sin:

“…sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12)

Like a virus, evil had become a part of the fabric of their life…

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

I’ll weave together what the Bible is saying about sin. Because the first humans became infected with sin, we all inherited the infection. There is no one uninfected, and because of our sinful self, none of us achieve what God had created us to achieve. Even our best efforts come up short, amounting to nothing more than a pile of dirty rags.

There’s an experience from my younger days that brings this home to me. I went to a boarding high school in the beautiful hills of western North Carolina, and there met a fellow student who had come to school that year who had obviously never been away from home before. His parents sent him with 10 brand-new packages of underwear and T-shirts, each with 3 to a pack. I suppose they did this so that he wouldn’t have to wash clothes too often.

What they hadn’t accounted for was the pile of dirty laundry that would be stacked up after a month! 30 pair of underwear and 30 T-shirts made a pile about 3 feet high! The number of visitors to his room plummeted in tandem with the rise of the pile of dirty underwear! When I read the Isaiah text, I can’t help but think of my friend and his ever-growing pile of dirty underwear and T-shirts in the corner. The Scripture says that my good stuff amounts to such a pile of dirty laundry! If that’s my good stuff, what’s my bad stuff like?!

One more text. And it’s a sobering one.

“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

Whoa! That’s an arresting thought! All this time we thought that sin and evil was just an inconvenience to be worked around, or a tragic but natural part of life we all have to live with. But a death sentence? Isn’t that a little over the top?

Some think they can mollify God by claiming that they don’t do everything bad. Some think they deserve God’s wink because they are trying so hard to do better and maybe even are successful much of the time. Some even think that God is just too kind, if there’s a God at all, to really demand death for sin.

But they miss the point. Evil is not just what we do, it’s what we are. And to God’s pure character, sin is an anathema. It simply cannot co-exist in a universe that God created for perfection. God’s goal is the total eradication of evil, not just its abatement.

Once every couple of months our pest control service comes around to spray house to keep our bugs at bay. The service and we both know the service can never really kill all the bugs. The bugs are never really gone – so we settle for abatement. God will not.

God cannot stand for relationships to be defined by separation and mistrust. His or ours. He hates sin because it is so abhorrent to Himself, and because of what it does to us.

Every story of mistreatment or torture or abandonment or thievery or murder or molestation or selfishness or manipulation causes such pain in the heart of God – both for how it violates His own character, and because of the pain it causes us. God simply cannot live with the pain of evil and what it does to himself and to his creation.

So that means drastic steps will have to be taken. God will have to destroy evil as it exists in every form in order to return everything to Revelation 21/22 condition. Sobering dilemma we face. If it’s true that God is real and that evil is real and that He cannot exist with evil and that we are evil both in what we do and in what we are, then we who are evil must be destroyed in order for the universe to be made right once again.

There is nothing in the Christian Scriptures that will refute this awful fact. Sin will be destroyed. That’s the only way God can make Revelation 21 and 22 happen. Before you begin to think that things are so bad that there’s no point in sending

it’s what we are. for TouchPoint 5, I want you to read all Romans 6:23:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

If you think that maybe there’s a window of hope after all, you’re right! God will destroy evil. These words don’t mean He won’t do that. But they do mean there is a way through this to live forever. That way is Jesus, the Son of God. He’s who I’ve been anxious to tell you about. But now that you know the mortal problem sin is to God, I think you’ll appreciate Jesus more! So on to TouchPoint 5!

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Bible Lesson #3 – Just Imagine!

TouchPoint 3

Hey, Mic here again. I have much more to say about the personal God that I spoke to you about in our last TouchPoint, but I think you’ll appreciate what I’ll tell you a lot more if I use the next couple of TouchPoints to open up something else first.

In a sense, you already know a lot about what I want to bring up first – at least experientially. There’s almost no way to be alive and not know about this! And I think you will want to know why and how things got this way. What I’m referring to is the painful reality of evil. You don’t have to live long to realize that it’s everywhere. Read the news. Flip on CNN. Listen to the latest in pop music. Watch virtually any movie on the big screen (and the small screen, too). Read a few blogs. You can’t escape it. Evil is everywhere.

And it’s not just the huge, big stuff that’s easy to recognize like the latest corporate embezzlement case or investor fraud probe or war or rise in gas prices that defines evil. It gets more personal. Evil is manifested in the slap of your lover’s hand across your face, in the silent treatment spouses give each other, in the latest price increase your family

budget cannot afford, in the anger you feel toward someone who just cut you off on the freeway, and in the disappointment you feel when you find evidence of drug use in your child’s dresser drawer.

Evil is not just a problem that other people have. It hits directly home in each one of us in almost every aspect of our lives. It’s what tempts us to overeat, oversleep, overstep, under appreciate, under cut, undermine and all the rest. It’s what’s responsible for the everyday, internal struggles between right and wrong that all of us have. One author puts it like this:

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate…I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway… I have discovered this principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.”

You’ll be surprised when I tell you who said that.

It Wan’t Always This Way

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. There’s so much to tell you! But I want the Bible to tell you the story. Remember our first TouchPoint? I said that spiritual things are discerned on God’s ground. The Christian Bible is God’s primary way of explaining himself to us.

Genesis 1, the very first chapter in the whole Bible, records how the earth came to be. The account there is going to be different than what you’ve been told!
In the creation of the earth, God put into play all the good stuff we enjoy – earth, sky, and sea, and all the accoutrements that go with each. He made gorgeous landscape vistas, incredible animals with almost unimaginable variety, plants and trees and fauna of almost every description. And He also made people with his bare hands (as we saw in our last TouchPoint).

The cool thing is that when He created everything, He made everything perfect – including people. Read the entire first chapter in Genesis. It will only take a few minutes.

Imagine a world where nature is always in harmony – no killer tornadoes, no rising rivers that cut off and destroy homes and lives, no killer bees, no mad cow disease or e-coli tainted vegetables. There is enough water when it’s needed, no heat waves that bring on wild fires, and no one needs SPF 50 sunscreen! Imagine a place where only the best behaviors and motives described people. Imagine living in a time and place without anyone acting selfishly. Imagine a world where everyone actually
valued everyone else, where no one would crawl over another person to try to get ahead or feel the need to make another person look bad just so you could look good. Imagine living in a world where no children were abused, no spouses are abandoned, no one was hungry. A world with the total absence of evil!

Almost unimaginable to us now, that’s exactly what our world once was. And that was the way God had intended us to live our whole lives! People would be born, nations would be created, the earth would be developed for the proper and unselfish use of people. And all of this would happen without wars, border skirmishes, pillaging and kidnappings, economic plunder, or environmental disasters.

Dream for a few minutes about what a perfect world would be like in your imagination.

Unfortunately, it’s the evil world we have inherited, not the ideal one. So what went wrong? The first evidence of the pall evil would cast on our world became evident when this God I’ve been telling you is so personal, personally paid a call on Adam and Eve.

“…the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid’”(Genesis 3.8-10, New International Version).“

Image a world where everyone actually valued everyone else Naked! Not the warm and safe nakedness one feels with one’s lover, but the nakedness of unwanted exposure, the kind that terrifies and humiliates. Think of the worst thing you’ve ever done to another person – and then imagine standing
in their presence with the full extent of everything you did wrong fully open for them to see, and you get a little of how devastating was the exposure of their nakedness that day.

We can infer from the text that God had visited often with Adam and Eve before this, but from this moment on, things would be different. Something painful and unfamiliar had wedged itself between God and his two friends: separation. Alienation is a powerful, destructive force. The difficulty you and I have with relationships of almost every kind directly descends from the painful

separation that was experienced between God and Adam and Eve because of what happened that day. The great paradox here is that our nakedness makes the association painful, but the separation, instead of providing relief, is just as painful.

I made a curious statement in our very first conversation together: “You are longing to be connected to God.” Even if you never realized it before, this longing
goes back to our creation and to a time when people were able to directly connect with God. We share the lost connection with God right along with Adam and Eve. That’s where our deep longing comes from.

All this from just eating the apple? Well, there was a bit more to it than just that, but we’ll save the full story of how it happened for our next TouchPoint.
ExplorationPoint: As we finish this conversation, I suggest a little exploration in the Bible. Read Genesis 1 and 2, and then flip to the very end of the Bible and read Revelation 21 and 22. I realize that some of what you read, especially in Revelation, will sound a little strange, but you’ll easily recognize enough there to make your time worthwhile. Here’s why I want you to do this:

Even though this TouchPoint and our next TouchPoint are pretty grim, I want you to know up front how the story ends. You’ll see remarkable similarity between the world that was and the world that will be. You’ll be reminded how personally available God was and one day will be.

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