What Is Life?

We look at life as that which fulfills our souls, things that reach to our deepest of parts.  In doing so we miss the very thing we think we’re looking for.  We miss it because life isn’t about us, it’s about God.

Although life will fulfill our deepest parts, we’ll never find life by attempting to be satisfied.  True satisfaction and fulfillment come as by-products of finding life… by-products of finding God.  May we enjoy this benefit of life, but more importantly, may we truly live!

John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

God be praised!!!

Book Review: Sir Dalton & The Shadow Heart- By Chuck Black

BookI was invited to review “Sir Dalton And The Shadow Heart”.  It’s book three of Chuck Black’s series “The Knights of Arrethrae”.  I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, or any of Chuck’s other books, so I can’t speak to how it fits in the series.  However, I do have some thoughts on this work.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Chuck Black provides a Q&A section at the back that teaches outright the spiritual lessons he tries to bring out in his story.  Each chapter has a set of questions that ask the reader to reflect upon their own life and upon the truth of God.  It felt to me like it would be best used by a group doing lessons together over a period of time.

That’s not a very exciting setup for a book.  And when I first started reading Sir Dalton’s tale, I really wasn’t into it.  It seemed like a generic story forced into the form of a lesson.  But with the shortness of the book, and feeling that the author was really trying to do something good here, I read on.

And to my surprise, I found that I was slowly drawn in.  Even though simply reading straight through may have been more entertaining, I stayed faithful to checking the questions after every chapter.  I wanted to experience the book as the author intended.  It’s a good thing too, because at the end of the book I found I really appreciated it as a whole.

I don’t know if it’s just me or what, but the book seemed to really take on life later on.  The characters seemed more alive, I was experiencing the world in a deeper way, and the story became more engaging.  And while many of the book’s elements have been overused by other writers over the years, there were some refreshingly new elements.  Well, we know there’s nothing new underneath the sun, but they were new to me.

As long as one can take the book for what it is, I think it will be enjoyed and appreciated.  I haven’t read anything Chuck himself says about the book, but I have a feeling he didn’t intend for the readers to take it as just a story.  He probably wanted them to use it as an entertaining and engaging way to go deeper in their faith.  Whether he wanted that or not, it’s how I’m going to recommend the book.  Use it with fans of fantasy, who are open to both direct and indirect study.  Go through it, and then lead a group in a study.  If you lead a devoted youth group then I think you could use this book with them.  I imagine it would be great for parents to go through with their younger children.

There’s a need to consider the doctrine of the book, since the author outright declares some things as truths.  Overall, I really appreciate what Chuck wanted to get across.  There are lessons in there that are sorely needed.  I don’t agree with everything he had to say.  I’d encourage readers to look EVERYTHING up in the Bible.  Don’t just take his word for it, and don’t just take my word for it either.  There are a few things he has assumed, which may or may not be right, but make sure you look to what God says in the Bible and have that as your only foundation for truth.

As long as one is willing to trust COMPLETELY in the Bible, this is a good book for them.  If they aren’t, then it’s possible that it may encourage them to reconsider.  Again, just as a work of fiction I don’t think it’s anything grand.  And as just a lesson it’s valuable but not necessarily a “life changing experience”.  But putting it all together it sure seems to me to be worth while and useful.  I’m very glad I finished the book.

Thanks, Chuck Black!

 

Information from the publisher, Multnomah Books…

Summary:

Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.

But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.

When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes—life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?

Young adults will be inspired to strengthen their faith along with Sir Dalton, as they follow his exciting and action-packed journey to overcome his doubts and renew his commitment to the King and the Prince in this third installment of Chuck Black’s popular Knights of Arrethtrae series.

Author bio.:

authorChuck Black traveled with the Air Force as a communications engineer and F-16 fighter pilot and began a career as a product design engineer. Chuck and his wife, Andrea, homeschool their six children and have a family music ministry that travels throughout the region. He is the author of nine novels, has been published in The Old Schoolhouse e-zine, and has received praise from parents across the country for his unique approach to telling biblical truths. Chuck and his family live in Williston, North Dakota.

But if they don’t like me… John 12

How many times do we shy away from sharing Christ, from spreading light in the darkness, from standing up for The Lord and what’s right, simply because we love praise from men?  And we make up all sorts of excuses.  Among the worst of those reasons is this one… if they don’t like me I won’t be able to evangelise them effectively.

How dare we blame our shortcomings on God.  It’s one thing to honestly misunderstand, but to lazily settle for less and say someone else is to blame… shame on us.

While we must become all things to all men, that does not mean they must like everything we do.  Indeed if they are not a Christian then there will be things they simply won’t like about us.  There’s no getting around that, for the flesh does not like dying to the Spirit.

God did not call us to “Go unto the world and be liked.”  There are enough people who are liked, that’s not what the world is starving for.  God called us to love, and to speak the truth plainly in that love.  He called us to be like Christ.

In our passage, starting in vs. 42, we see that while some denied the plain truth of Christ, others believed.  Even some among the leaders believed!  But they fell short.  They would not confess their belief out of fear.  Fear of being put out of the synagogue.  Fear of losing the praise of men.  They loved that praise, more so than praise from God.

But Jesus encourages them.  He tells them, and indeed us, that those who believe in Christ believe also in the Father.  He tells us that He came to give us light, so we won’t have to remain in the darkness.

Jesus even says that He did not come to judge us.  No, He came to give us life.  Now there is judgment, and it will come by the words Jesus spoke to us.  But those very same words lead to eternal life!  We only need to heed them!  It isn’t God’s goal to cut us off and leave us in darkness.  Quite the opposite!  He came for our good.  And all that He did is for our good.  All that He continues to do is for our good, if we love Him and His calling.

God’s commands lead to true life.  And He has commanded every vessel of His Spirit to go and show the world that there is indeed light.  We need to warn them of the darkness they’re in by showing them that light.  Even if it means they don’t like us.  It’s not their opinion of us that will judge us on that Day, it’s the words of our Saviour.  The Saviour we claim as Lord.

And it’s not their opinion of us that will get them into heaven or hell.  It’s their standing with the Lord.    Are you living for yourself, so that hell will be full of people who like you and were never offended by the light you didn’t bring to their eyes?

You may enjoy your time in the synagogue that is the heart of the lost.  But will it be at the cost of Jesus not coming into their place of worship?  Has it become a place for the worship of you?

But they won’t listen to me if they don’t like me…

I desperately need to be different in this, and I fear I’m not the only one.

Hard Life for the Hard Heart- John 12

Jesus did so much to prove who He was. 

Many people today say that if they could meet Him face to face then surely they’d believe.  I doubt most people who say that, that is those who continue to say such a thing,  have been honest with themselves.  Even people of His time, who saw (in person) real and undeniable MIRACLES, did not to believe in Him. 

Verse 39 says “for this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn- and I would heal them.””

This is not the easiest passage to understand.  It seems to have a lot in common with Pharaoh’sheart being hardened.  Some people try to explain it by saying that God pointed fingers at random and decided who would and would not be capable of believing.  We know that’s a fallacy however, for many reasons.  One reason being that God Himself said through Paul that He “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

The quote in verse 40 of our text is from Isaiah 6:10.  Let’s go there.  God is sending Isaiah unto Israel with a message.  There’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to go back and read it carefully (noting in vs. 9-10 what Isaiah is told to “say” and what he’s told to “do”).  I’m still working on that one myself.  But in response Isaiah asks how long.  God says (to sum it up) until Israel’s cities are destroyed and the Israelites are sent far away.  All of this is because of Israel’s unfaithfulness.

Also quoted in our John text is another passage in Isaiah.  John says it’s a prophecy fulfilled by the people not believing in Jesus.  This quote is from Isaiah 53:1, and again you really should go to it and consider it in relation to our John 12 text.

While I have some ideas about what the entire meaning of this passage in John is, I won’t lay out my speculation here.  I’d hate to lead someone astray.  But what I can say is this…

Every person presented with Christ has a choice to make.  Choose Him and you will live.  You can ask your questions, but do not do so proudly.  You’ve been shown clearly enough that God exists and you have been shown that you have indeed sinned.  God does not expect you to say you believe in Him if you really don’t… He expects you to really believe in Him.  So leave no stone in your heart unturned and throw your all at His feet.  Consider everything with eyes wide open… He will answer you.  And the humble in heart will love His answer.

But a person could also choose to be proud and arrogant.  They could choose to close their ears, and turn their eyes, and harden their hearts.  This is not a correct answer to a math problem that they’re making, it’s a decision of what the answer is regardless of the equation.  It is not a whole hearted honest response, it’s a choice to reject the evidence before them because they want to believe something else.  Such a response may have results you didn’t plan on though.

A warning to any such person is found in John 12:37-50.  Go down this path, just as Pharaoh foolishly did, and you run the danger of having your heart hardened.  This hardening may last until you come to your last breath, in which case you will have ruled out for yourself any possibilityof hearing the truth with your heart.  Or the hardening may last until the false kingdom in your heart is destroyed, and you experience a pain and suffering for which you only have yourself to blame.

Lamentations 3:31-33 says “For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.  Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.  For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”  It is not God’s desire to make you suffer.  But He will do it to open your eyes and ears, to soften your heart.  The pain is your own doing, for it would not hurt to tear a thing from you unless you yourself stitched it into your own flesh.

Tear it off He will though, if you dare to let it go.  Better still, believe on Him when He comes to you, and save yourself the heartache of seeing your lie destroyed.  Believe on Him, that He might save you from the wrath to come.

Verse 41 brings up some more interesting thoughts, and again I can’t tell you I have it all figured out.  Likely it’s simply referring to the event described in the beginning of Isaiah 6.  Whether it is speaking of that event or something else, it’s clear that seeing the glory of Christ will change a person.  For better or worse, believe that you will be changed.  And know that you will have to answer for your response to Him.  Don’t chance eternal suffering for the sake of keeping your heart calloused.

Praise God!!!  Believe in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of man!!!

A Servant’s Honor- John 12

The hour had now come for Jesus to be glorified.  The Jews said their Hosannas, and now even the Greeks who came to worship God wanted to see Jesus.

And in this hour of glory Jesus states that He must die.

It may be hard to think of this as glorious, but remember that His life was not taken from Him.  He laid it down willingly for his people.

We too shall be honored by God when we lay down our own lives; when we go where He goes, and live as servants of Christ.  It may trouble our hearts to go through the hardships He calls us to, but remember it troubled Jesus’ heart too (v27).

But shall we say “Father, save me from this hour?”  Jesus didn’t.  It was for this very reason that He came to the hour of glory, the hour of death.  If God brings us to a place that requires a cross, then we must remember that He brought us there for that very reason.  If we love our life we will lose it.

If we can lose our life… we will find it.  And it will be something better than we could have ever imagined!

Hosanna!- John 12

The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for deliverance from Rome.  With that in mind, if we look at Zechariah chapter 9 it’s not hard to see why they were so excited when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.

Zechariah 9 speaks of Jerusalem’s deliverer, and it is powerful!  It’s exciting!  Verse 8 says “But I will defend My house against marauding forces.  Never again will an oppressor overrun My people, for now I am keeping watch.”  That’s just one verse of it, the rest is in the same vein.

This “Triumphant Entry” of John 12 was the same event in which Jesus said that if the people didn’t worship Him then the rocks would cry out.  These people were pumped.  But when it turned out He wasn’t making a physical kingdom, we see a shift in the crowds.  It wasn’t long after this entry that the crowds shouted “Crucify!”

Do we do the same thing?  We see the behaviour of these people as foolish, but then we go about our lives expecting God’s deliverance for us to be an earthly one.  And when He doesn’t overthrow the Romans people get upset, they doubt Him, and they even put Him on a cross with their sins.

Read Zechariah 9, but recognize the truth of it.  The real deliverance.  We can, and certainly ought to shout “HOSANNA!”  Our King has come, righteous and having salvation.  He is gentle, and proclaims peace to His own.  We will still face the hardships of this world if we live but a bit longer.  Thank the Lord that His salvation for us is not simply from the temporary things, but from that which wages war on our souls.

Hosanna!

What’s that in your hand?- John 12

After withdrawing from the public for a time, Jesus comes to a dinner in Bethany (where Lazarus lived).  The dinner was to honor Jesus.

Martha served, Jesus and Lazarus were among those reclining at the table.  Mary was on the floor, pouring expensive perfume onto Jesus’ feet and wiping His feet with her hair.

And Judas was there, Judas Iscariot.  When he saw what Mary was doing he objected, saying that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.  But as verse six tells us, Judas didn’t say this out of concern for the poor.  He said it because he was a thief.  He kept the money bag and liked to help himself to it.

How horrible that someone would do that!  Steal money from the bag that belongs to their Saviour, and use it for their own desires.  I don’t know why we do it.

God gives us so many talents.  Though the Bible says not many of the called were of note, it also says that God gives to each one as He sees fit.  And He gives to us for His own glory.  We are to use those gifts to serve Him and His people.

Yes there are things God gives us for our enjoyment (and indeed our enjoyment should be in using those things for Him).  But we’re no better than Judas when we dip into the treasury of the Lord in order to serve ourselves.  This includes not only money, but every gift from Him. 

There’s a story of a group of men who were told they would die if they didn’t turn bad.  For some of them this was no problem at all.  Some thought for a few moments before giving in.  But one man would not do it.  He feared his Maker more than those persecuting him.  He declared his stance for what’s right, and he told them God was his reason.  They killed him right then and there.

One of the men later looked back on the situation and wondered why the man died like that, saying that it was a wasteful choice.  He thought the man should have lied for the moment, so that he could escape and then go on living and find opportunity to use his good faith.  He thought “Now the man will never get a chance to use it.”

But the observer was wrong.  It was in that very moment that the martyr had opportunity to use it.  Though it cost him, he used the gift God gave him.

We cannot pass up opportunity to dip into God’s “money bag” for the purposes of God.  We should not think selfishly, as Judas did, and horde the goods for ourselves.  We need to give of our time, money, talents, and whatever else He’s given us.  We need to give these things to His service.  We should not steal for ourselves.  And we should certainly not discourage others from using those things for God’s work, especially not for the purposes of serving self.

What’s that in your hand? 

Whose purse did it come from?

Everyone Will Believe in Him- John 11

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin got really worked up.  They knew that things had gone too far.  They said “If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him”.

While they weren’t inspired when they said this, I can’t help but think that there was some truth in their statement.  If Jesus were to keep on doing His work today, then a lot of people would believe in Him…

So did His body stay in the grave?  No, we know He resurrected.  And we also know that His body remains on this Earth.  That is, the Church remains on Earth.

And His body continues to raise the dead.  His body continues to heal the blind.  But we could do much better.  Obviously not in the physical sense.  But then our call isn’t to fix the temporary.  We are called to the deeper things.

If we were truly living as Christ called us to live, there would be a drastic difference in the world.  There would likely be more persecution of Christians, but more importantly there would be more people freed from the bondage of death.  We do so many good things by His power now, it shouldn’t be hard for us to believe in His power.

Caiaphas told the Sanhedrin in that meeting… “You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”  He didn’t say this because of some craftiness of his own.  He said it because it was a prophesy directly from God.  And I can’t help but think about His body at this point.  While it’s not a prophesy telling us to kill our physical bodies, it was a prophecy about Christ dying for our sins.  And we are His body.

We can’t die for the sins of others.  But in dying to ourselves we can have an impact on this world that continues to shake it as Christ shook it by His death.