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The Case for a Creator

If you’ve never heard of Lee Strobel, when he was a high school freshman, science convinced him that God didn’t exist. But since then, however, incredible scientific discoveries have not only helped restore Lee’s faith, but have strengthened it. Today Lee Strobel is author, journalist, apologist and pastor. He has written several books, including The Case for Christ and the Case for Faith.

Brand new to Zondervan are 4 exciting “student edition” devotionals; each based off of Lee’s famous titles; the case for Christ, case for the real Jesus, the Case for Faith and the Case for a creator.

The Case for a creator is not so much an argument to prove the existence of God, but more so to prove that the World did not just “appear” or “evolve.” Its during the teen years that I think many people develop these questions and doubts about “well, where did the world come from?” And for the most part High School science tries to answer that question.

And the by the time the students enter college, their faith gets harder and harder to defend.

Mr. Stobel makes a compelling argument for the science that proves their was a “designer” to it all. Looking at the world if cosmology, physics, biochemistry, and biological data, Lee Strobel argues that the world didn’t just appear, it was “created.”

I think this is a great book for Sunday School teachers, parents of teenagers and of course… teenagers themselves. Buy a copy for your son or daughter that has questions and then pick up an extra copy for your church library.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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You don’t understand the Bible…

I bet you didn’t know this but the Bible wasn’t written in English… (gasp!) That’s right, it’s a book from the Middle East and many of it’s original languages are no longer spoken. So that’s why when you hear Christians say, “well, the Bible says….” it’s kind of funny because unless that person has studied the text in the original languages, they are actually quoting an interpretation or a paraphrase.

What does the Bible actually say? It’s been the discussion of publishers, editors and theologians for decades. This is why there are so many English translations of the Bible in print, because everyone thinks “their” elucidation is the best.

But there is also more to translating a language than just the words on the page. There is also inflection, nuance, subtlety, artistic style, meter and so much more. How does all of that get translated into the pages of the Bible? Answer… a lot of times… it doesn’t.

It’s like being the only person in a room that doesn’t get the joke. You heard the words, you understand how the words came together to form a sentence, but… you have no idea why the joke was funny? What are you missing?

Context.

The Bible wasn’t written in a bubble. It was written in a specific time, from a specific culture in a specific corner of the world. For instance, the Bible often talks about Jesus being in Jerusalem for specific festivals. What do you think of when you read that? People dancing in the streets? Banners? Decorated trees? Long lines at the super markets? Wrapped gifts? The truth is, most of us have no clue what the significance of these Jewish celebrations were, but… the truth is… they were instrumental in why Jesus was in Jerusalem, and they often play a HUGE role in understanding the teachings that Jesus gives.

Maybe “You don’t understand the Bible because you are Christian.” Author Richard Gist has written a very humorous and down to earth book that explains a lot of the Jewish writings and traditions of the Bible. “… much was going on behind the scenes of our Gospel accounts, events about which the ancients were familiar, but of which we remain ignorant….we do not know all of what they knew, and so we speculate. There remains so much that we Christians will never know.”

This is a wonderful book, sure to grab the seasoned Bible reader and spin them in all sorts of new – and eye opening – directions.

Thank you to the author and Friesen Press for this advanced copy for a unbiased and honest review.

 

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Making the past – ‘the past’ / a look at Jude

So how do you make your past “the past?” How do you avoid being paralyzed by regret? How do you stop grieving over what’s gone and get on with your life?

Look at what God tells Israel in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God tells Israel that hope and welfare are in their future – and I would argue that this is God’s wish for your life as well. So if that doesn’t line up with your theology – then….

Change your theology. Because I think many people believe that God has one perfect plan for their life and as long as they stay on that plan they will enjoy God’s best. But if at any point they “mess up” badly enough, by sinning or by not seeking His guidance, or by making a foolish decision, then they are out of God’s plan, and they can never again enjoy His full blessing and that they’re basically on their own.

Like the Israelites- God had a plan “A” for their life to live free in the promised land, but they messed up and made wrong choices and now the plan “B” is to live under Roman rule. Do you feel like  you should be walking with God on a ‘different road,’ but because you turned left instead of right now you’re lost and God is just working with a plan B?

Here’s my theological summary of what the Bible has to say about that: “Baloney!” That’s not how it works. God knows us. He knows everything about us, our past, present, and future. And so he isn’t surprised by anything we do. He knows that we are going to mess up, and ….He knows when and how.

God would hardly be God if His plan for our life required your absolute perfect obedience and wisdom. Listen -  God’s plan for our lives, His one and only plan for our lives, includes our sins and our mistakes and our wrong turns and our foolish choices.

We – can’t – ruin – God’s – plan.

Does Jude tell his readers… ‘You can’t break free from the past and your doomed to repeat it?’ No, quote the opposite. He says….

17-22  But you, dear friends, remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the end time scoffers will come living according to their own ungodly desires.” These people create divisions. Since they don’t have the Spirit, they are worldly.

But you, dear friends: build each other up on the foundation of your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life.  Have mercy on those who doubt. Save some by snatching them from the fire. Fearing God, have mercy on some, hating even the clothing contaminated by their sinful urges.

Jude says – you want to change your future? Then, remember the teachings of Jesus and the disciples, steer clear of people who create division and build a foundation on faith.

The ladies in my house watch these house re-design shows all of the time. And it always starts out as a pretty remodel – “oh we’re just going to re-do your kitchen cabinets and give you a new floor…” But what happens?

During the demolition they always find rotting walls, rusted pipes, old wiring and an unstable foundation – and the designer has to go back to the family and say, “I know you wanted a pretty kitchen, but before we can do that – we have to repair the damage.”

But some people are content to live in a home with a broken foundation. They think “well, this is the house I bought, so I guess it’s just the house I’m stuck with. Serves me right for buying a cheap house.”

But Jude says it doesn’t have to be like that. Remember, Jude says, we have to “contend”

That means – no giving up no accepting the status quo.

So what do we do?

Well for one, we can Start over with a foundation built on faith.

Tell me something who is the architect of your life, you or God?

Because if you think it’s you – then you’ll never break free from the past and you will be doomed to repeat it.

But if you know it’s God – then we have to trust that he holds the blueprints…

Daniel 4:35 says God “…does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand…

Isaiah 46:9-10 “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

God’s the architect; and believe it or not, but you are exactly where God wants you, in spite of all the junk in your past.

All of your past sins and mistakes that you thought were detours, and exit ramps from God’s plan – SURPRISE! Those were actually all part of His plan. You are, right now, and always have been, precisely in the center of God’s plan for your life.

There was never a possibility that it would be otherwise.

You know Jude pulled open the closet door to a few skeletons, but let me ask you – What was the greatest sin in human history? What was the worst thing that any one person or group of people ever – ever did? What was the ultimate betrayal?

How about murdering the Son of God?

How about putting to death the most righteous and Holy man ever to walk this Earth?

And yet, as supremely evil and wicked as that act was, the Bible tells us that it did not thwart God’s plan. In fact, it was a part of God’s plan. It was written in the Bible hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost – Acts 2:23 This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Think about that, if the greatest sin in all of human history was part of God’s perfect plan, then your sins are included in that plan too.

Your past has not thwarted God’s plan for your life.

Does that mean we’re any less accountable for our sin? Of course not – we’re not off the hook –  We’re still guilty. We still need to receive God’s forgiveness for sin through faith in Christ.

But what it does mean is that even our greatest sins are not powerful enough to derail God’s plan for our life.

The story of your life has not been ruined, not by your sin or anyone else’s. God’s good plan for your life is not buried under the mistakes of your past. God has a plan for your life, a good plan, a wise plan, a loving plan, a sovereign plan, and that plan is still in effect.

You haven’t missed it.

God is working out that plan in your life right now, to give you welfare, to give you hope –  today.

Will you believe that? And will you renew your commitment this morning to seeking God, and to following Him, and to serving Him with your whole heart; free of the past, no longer weighed down by regret? Do you believe that your foundation is worth repairing so that you can begin again to live in faith and to abide in Christ? Then….

24-25 To the one who is able to protect you from falling, and to present you blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence, to the only God our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, belong glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, now and forever. Amen.

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Sorrow & Regret / a look at Jude

Do you think the Hebrew people were well aware of their shameful past?

Do you think they remembered their failings as a people?

Oh sure they did.

As an oppressed people group, living under Roman rule, how could you not forget? Rome’s presence was a constant reminder that they were not living “the plan” God had for them. This wasn’t the ‘milk and honey’ life that God had promised.

And so what does Jude do? He dredges all of that back up again and he shoves it in their faces. Remember that? ….Remember that?

The Past can be a scary thing can’t it?  Friedrich Nietzsche said “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”

Meaning if we stop long enough and think about it, the past, our history, our troubles will rob us of our todays.

Pastor Rick Warren says “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

Have you ever felt like that?

A prisoner of your past?

A story that you couldn’t run from?

A legacy that was held over your head as a constant reminder of failure?

That’s a hard shadow to escape from isn’t it?

And we’ve all experienced regret over the past. It could be anything from our story that we’re ashamed of.

· We have regret over marriages.

· Regret over divorce. Regret over any broken relationships of any kind.

· Regret over mistakes you made raising your kids.

· Regret over bad career choices, missed business opportunities, wondering how things would have gone if we’d only done something different.

· In general, regret over all kinds of sins and their consequences. [You fill in the blank].

Now, sorrow over sin can by healthy, up to a point. It can help us learn from our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them. Ultimately, that can lead to repentance and forgiveness. But regret is not helpful; it’s destructive and debilitating. It allows the sins and mistakes of the past to reach out and poison our present. And if it’s not handled appropriately, it will just lead to more wrong choices and more regret, it’s a vicious cycle.

As Paul writes,  2 Corinthians 7:10

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Regret is also unhealthy because it leads to hopelessness. You can look around at your life and ask, “What difference does it make now? I’ve already messed up. I’ve already destroyed God’s plan for my life. No matter how hard I work, I can never have anything more than ‘second best.’ So why even try?” This attitude leads to giving ourselves permission to do anything we want, including sin, with no attempt to obey God at all. Why follow God now, or why keep his commands now, when the good life that He had planned for us is out of reach, lost forever because of our sin?

Regret can also lead to apathy, paralysis, an unwillingness to seek God’s blessing – in our marriage, our family, our job, our ministry. Why try to love your husband or wife; why try to seek God’s best for your marriage when you know you’ve already messed that up by marrying the wrong person, or by getting divorced? Why try to honor God with your career, when you’re in the wrong career anyway? How can God bless you when you can never get back on the path of His will for your life?”

Is that how you feel?

Do you worry that your past has hopelessly wrecked the “story” of your life?

That the story of your life can now never become the way God intended?

That doesn’t sound like ‘good news’ – I thought the story of the Bible was ‘good news.’ So I would offer that is NOT the story of the Bible, nor is it Jude’s intentions to paralyze Israel by regret. The past doesn’t have to rob us of the joy and hope that God has promised us. Grace and freedom are a birthright in Christ. Jesus said, John 10:10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus said john 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

But those promises of abundant life and joy are for all of us…

….not just those who have never made a serious error in judgment or who have never committed a major sin.

Those promises are for every one of us, whatever your background, and for whatever sins or mistakes your past may have.

Find a way to turn sorrow into regret and embrace the promises of the Lord.

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NIV Spiritual Renewal Study Bible

The NIV Spiritual Renewal Bible—is the 1999 recipient of the ECPA Gold Medallion Award. The premise behind this volume is spiritual health and spiritual growth.

So why another Bible on the market? What’s special about this Bible? Well, what separates this Bible from many others is it’s focus – especially on the spiritual disciplines. Like most Bibles, this book contains a lot of great notes, but they aren’t written so much to give you Biblical history or insight, so much as they are a devotional and “take away” for spiritual renewal; and the various character studies and book headers of this Bible give the reader insight as to which area of spiritual development that will be focused on.

I think this is a highly needed resource; and would be a wonderful companion Bible to someone who already has a “study Bible” or someone who perhaps is a recent Christian and looking for some guidance.

I love the typeset and the layout of this Bible, it’s very elegant and has a very modern style. But like most Bibles, the more content you cram in, the more  you have to sacrifice font size, so those of you who run away from small typeface might not like the tiny words.

But it’s a great Bible and I would highly recommend it. Thank you to Zondervan for this advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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