At the center of human history stands the Christ Event, and at the center of the Christ Event stands the Cross.
You can learn a lot about a person from the things he chooses to say in his dying moments. From February 21 through April 4 (Easter Sunday), RCC will take a long look at the person and work of Jesus Christ as understood through the "Seven Sayings from the Cross." In Scripture, seven is the number of completeness, and it’s probably no accident that the Bible records exactly seven utterances of Christ while He was hanging on the Cross. Each Sunday, we’ll feature one of those, and its significance for us. We hope this will help you in your observance of the Lenten Season and your preparation for Easter.
- Feb. 21 — Christ’s Intercession: "Father, forgive them…"
- Feb. 28 — Christ’s Intervention: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
- Mar. 7 — Christ’s Interests: "Woman, here is your son. Here is your mother."
- Mar. 14 — Christ’s Isolation: "My God, my God, why…?"
- Mar. 21 — Christ’s Identity: "I am thirsty."
- Mar. 28 — Christ’s Invincibility: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
- Apr. 4 — Christ’s Intentions: "It is finished!"
I hope the last three Sundays have given you a strong sense of the real heart of RCC. If any of my messages have raised questions or concerns for you, please let me know!
Healthy churches are the real hope for the world. These last few days, we’ve all watched with heartache the unfolding story in Haiti. The needs are overwhelming, to say the least. But it’s also been gratifying to see people from many lands giving and serving in order to relieve the suffering. I trust that these missions of mercy will continue well into the future. But I have a prediction. A few weeks or months from now, after the initial wave of media attention has subsided, the needs will go on, and it will be predominantly churches who stay the course and continue to pour themselves into that work. It’s not that government agencies and other relief organizations won’t still be present there; but if the Hurricane Katrina experience is any barometer, and I think it is, it’s Christians and churches who will persevere for years to come. And that’s because of that principle I talked about Sunday . . ."Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of servant-leadership." He’s our inspiration for loving our fellow humans and sacrificing for their needs. To His glory, let’s be faithful in praying for our fellow Christ-followers as they "wash feet" in Haiti.
On January 24, 2010, we are launching a new worship series, called "We Are Family." Each week, we’ll explore a specific aspect of family life in a fun and practical way, of course basing the entire experience on the principles of God’s Word. There’ll be something for everybody! Here’s the lineup:
- January 24 — "We Are Family . . . When Life Gets Crazy" Young children are gifts from God; but that’s easy to forget when they seem to make so many demands on our time, energy, and sanity. Let’s take a time-out from the craziness and just celebrate the blessing of kids!
- January 31 — "We Are Family . . .When Conflict Occurs" Disagreement and personal friction are natural parts of family life. The difference between a healthy family and an unhealthy one is how we handle conflict. We’ll do some helpful Biblical teaching on this topic.
- February 7 — "We Are Family . . . When Making Choices About Marriage" Whatever our marital status, it’s vital that we know and apply timeless Biblical principles about this God-given institution. We’ll provide some down-to-earth insights on whether, when, and whom to marry.
- February 14 — "We Are Family . . . When Commitment Wins Out" True love is an unconditional commitment by an imperfect person to an imperfect person. We’ll celebrate the great things God can do when we live by that principle.
From the Why? Worship Series:
Q. Why does God let bad things happen to very good people?
A. This might be the most frequent question that Christians get asked. I refer you to the podcast of my September 27 message, “Why Is the World So Messed Up?” for some possible responses. The Book of Job and the 37th Psalm give some perspective. Until we’re in Heaven, most of the reasons will remain clouded in mystery. Maybe the most powerful answer, and the one that gives me the most personal peace, is that God Himself, in the person of His Son, has experienced the ultimate in this sort of injustice, so He can sympathize with our feelings (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16). Also, keep in mind that from a Biblical perspective, no human being other than Jesus can fully be called “good”, since we’re all sinners, and the pain of this world comes as a natural consequence of our many sinful choices.
Q. Why does God love us?
A. Because that’s His nature. (I John 4:7-8) I know that’s not a very satisfying answer, but it’s the best I can do. I definitely know He doesn’t love me because I’m so loveable! If you find yourself taking the Christian life and message for granted, try asking yourself, “What would lfe be like if God WASN’T loving?” Seriously, start making a list of all the ways your life would be different if you didn’t have the assurance of God’s unconditional love and your ultimate salvation by His grace. A few minutes of that should get you excited again about living for Him!
From the Why? Worship Series:
Q. Why were Christ’s apostles able to do miracles and we do not today?
A. Good question! I should first note a built-in assumption here, and that’s the assumption that “we do not today”. Some Christ-followers, of course, would say that we can and should expect to do miracles today (or more accurately, that God can do miracles through us). This is a matter of controversy in many Christian circles.
My own position is that God can do any miracle He wishes, through any person He wishes, whenever He wishes, but that Christ’s apostles were specially chosen as channels of God’s power at a critically important juncture in salvation history. A close study of Scripture reveals that in the many centuries of Biblical history, miracles didn’t happen randomly. There was a pattern. The three great outbreaks of miracles were
1. Moses and the Exodus (Book of Exodus; 15th century B.C.)
2. Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets (I and II Kings; 9th and 8th centuries B.C.)
3. Jesus and the Apostles (The Gospels and Acts, 1st century A.D.)
These three outbreaks account for the vast majority of miraculous phenomena recorded in Scripture. I don’t believe that’s accidental. In each case, the miracles very strategically accompanied and confirmed a new written revelation from God . . .
1. Moses – The Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
2. Elijah, etc. – The Old Testament prophetic books
3. Jesus and the Apostles – The New Testament
God seems to have a special interest in confirming the truth of His newly-written Word through signs and wonders. One of His greatest miracles is the fact that we now have full and free access to the Bible. Personally, when I hold the Holy Scriptures in my hand, I feel no need for any further miracles.
Can God do miracles through Christians today? Absolutely. Do we have a right to expect Him to do this? I don’t think so.
Q. I find no discrepancy between the Bible and evolution, because I believe there is a Designer who used a tool we call evolution to create His perfect world. . . . I feel like you limit God’s creative ability if you say He couldn’t have used evolution. . . . I feel like I can’t be considered a good Christian . . .here at RCC if I also believe in evolution. Am I wrong?
A. My short answer, I’m happy to say, is “yes”. Now for the longer answer.
This questioner might well represent quite a few other people at RCC. The belief that the God of the Bible uses some form of macro-evolution to accomplish His purpose (“theistic evolution”) is common among Christians. God is God, and nothing is too hard for Him. I wouldn’t try to limit Him by claiming He couldn’t use evolutionary processes over the course of many years, any more than I’d try to limit Him by claiming that He couldn’t get it done in six 24-hour days!
I urge you to treat God’s Word as your primary information source, and scientific research as your secondary source. Scientific models come and go. The Evolutionary Hypothesis may be obsolete within a short time. But the Bible isn’t going away.
In studying the Biblical account of creation (Genesis chapters 1 and 2), two words tend to receive a lot of appropriate attention:
“Day” – Does the Hebrew word here have to mean a 24-hour day, or can it be interpreted figuratively (“an undefined long period of time”)?
“Kind” (1:21, 24, etc.) – If this word is equivalent to our scientific term “species”, then it would seem to exclude a macro-evolution (species to species) process.
I do not believe that God uses macro-evolution. However, I respect the fact that many true followers of Jesus disagree with me on that point. They’re very welcome at RCC!
As I see it, this is just one of many topics on which we can disagree agreeably, and still love and serve the same Jesus.
Q. Why did God make people? (From Benjamin Borges)
A. Great question, Ben! I can’t say for sure, because as far as I can see the Bible never exactly tells us. What it does tell us is that “God is love” (I John 4:7-8). It seems to me that it would be very frustrating to have all that love and not have some people to share it with. Just like your parents wanted you as a son because they loved you, so God created us because He loved us. That’s the best I can do. I happen to know that you’re a very smart boy, so if you’ve thought of a good answer, let me know!
From the Why? Worship Series:
QUESTION: Why do we get so angry with God that we start to hate him?
ANSWER: Sometimes life hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. For centuries, believers in God have wondered and speculated about God’s specific role in this harsh reality, and whether we have a “right” to be angry with Him. In any case, many (most?) of us have been angry with Him at one time or another. Read the ancient Psalms, and you’ll see some examples (Psalms 44 and 74; also Job 3). God has very big shoulders, and I don’t think He’s dismayed about our temporary anger directed His way.
But anger that turns into hatred? Maybe that’s a different story. Without knowing the specific circumstances of the person who wrote this question, I guess I can only say, “Let’s talk it over.” If your life is painful enough that you feel hatred toward God, it’s probably important that you have a trusted Christian friend who will listen to some of your story and help you think and pray your way through it. Maybe you already have such a person in your life. If you don’t, I encourage you to seek one out. In the meantime, I suggest that you read and reflect on Romans 8:31-39.
QUESTION: John 7:37-39 – “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” Why does this not seem to be happening?
ANSWER: First, let’s look at Jesus’ statement closely, in its context. That context is the Feast of Tabernacles (Autumn Harvest Festival) in Jerusalem. Jesus seems to have chosen the most public setting possible to say, loudly, what He says here. He really wants to make an impression! (There are some details about this festival that make Jesus’ metaphorical statement about water especially fitting, but I won’t go into those specifics here.) This is similar to His conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4), where He speaks of “living water” which, if a person drinks it, will cause him never to thirst again, and will “well up, or burst up, to eternal life” (John 4:14). John helps us out by explaining here in chapter 7 that Jesus is talking about the Spirit (Holy Spirit of God). In essence, as commentator William Barclay writes, “It means that from Christ there flows the strength, power and cleansing which alone give us life in the real sense of the term.” What should such strength, power and cleansing look like in the life of a Spirit-filled person? I guess that’s subject to some interpretation!
An important word in the question being posed here is “seem”. The question is based on a personal impression that may be accurate or inaccurate, or maybe some of both. If we expect a person who has experienced the water of life to stick out in the crowd so that any casual contact will reveal him to be unmistakably Christian, if we expect him to experience frequent miracles, if we expect his passion for Jesus to be consistently at a fever pitch, we’ll probably conclude that there’s a decided lack of living water in the contemporary church. If, on the other hand, we assume that the water of God’s Spirit can flow in the form of sacrificial love, humble and heartfelt joy, peace of mind and heart, quiet patience with challenging people, and other such traits (Galatians 5:22-23), we might come to a different conclusion. I guess you can tell where my leanings are. In my judgment, the living water of God’s Spirit is very much in evidence in many contemporary Christians.
However, I hasten to add that we could use a lot more! I think that, generally speaking, American Christians are too timid in their expressions of joy, and most of us could use a booster shot of passion and holy boldness. Pray for more of God’s Spirit in your life. Ask frequently, “Come, Holy Spirit, and fill me to overflowing.” He loves to answer such prayers!