The Ring

Sixteen year old Adriana Malone has been best friends with Abraham Desmond for as long as she can remember, but ever since she’s started seeing Duke, Abe’s been acting strange. Can she balance the needs of both of the guys in her life, or will she have to chose between popularity . . . and her own convictions?

adriana.pdf

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Sixteen year old Adriana Malone has been best friends with Abraham Desmond for as long as she can remember, but ever since she’s started seeing Duke, Abe’s been acting strange. Can she balance the needs of both of the guys in her life, or will she have to chose between popularity . . . and her own convictions?

A light came on and my next-door neighbor’s voice boomed, “Adriana Wesley Malone, get out of that bed! It’s time to go and I’m not leaving without you. If I don’t go, our moms and Eliza don’t either. And you know what they’ll do to you if they don’t get to go to church.”

I turned over in bed and hid underneath my pillow. “Abe! Who let you in? Go away; it’s too early, I’m asleep!”

Abe grabbed for the pillow and a tug of war ensued. He won. “Dear, it’s almost ten. Get up and shower, or I will pick you up and put you in the car and you can go to church barefoot and in your PJ’s. Your choice.”

“You wouldn’t!” He would. Abe never made idle threats.

Eliza came in. “Hurry up, Adriana. The big lug refuses to leave you behind.” At fifteen, patience wasn’t her strong point.

Groaning, I sat up and pulled myself out of bed, every muscle crying out in protest. I looked around, bleary eyed and sleep-sand crusted.

Abe steered me towards the bathroom. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

I glared. “Abraham Desmond, you are a royal pain, you know that?”

“You’ll thank me later.”

I stuck out my tongue. My cheek anticipated a smart-aleck kiss even though Abe put that sort of behavior to a stop over three years ago.

By the time we reached the church five minutes after the services were to start, I was fully awake. I should’ve known better than to stay out so late. I needed to stop letting Duke talk me into these things. If Abe knew how late I was out the night before, he’d be furious. Thankfully, I was often difficult in the morning, so he didn’t seem to find my behavior out of the ordinary.

As we entered the sanctuary, Abe grabbed my left hand. “Where’s your ring?”

I blinked. “Eliza stole it out of the bathroom a month ago.”

Hurt flashed through Abe’s clear blue eyes. His mother frowned. “Abraham, come sit next to me.”

Sending another hurt look at me, Abe trotted to her side, clear on the other side of our party.

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Keystrokes

by Andrea Graham © 2003-05

My writer’s block began about six months after I met Eli, though it wasn’t until several months after our wedding that I stepped off cloud nine and realized I hadn’t written anything besides love poetry in a year. I was happy, but that was the problem.This gnawed at me until Eli figured out my jealousy over his writing wasn’t just because of the time it consumed. He confronted me and we discussed it. My practical Eli focused on troubleshooting the issue. His solution was to begin a story for me to write as “a creative exercise to get the juices flowing.” Desperate, I let him.

When Eli finished, however, I took one glance at the monitor and handed back the keyboard he just gave me. “I’m sorry, I can’t finish this.”

“Why not?” Eli asked.

I blinked back tears. “Because it’s yours.”

He tried to hand me the keyboard. “But, I wrote it for you.”

“This story is the cry of your heart. It was born of your dreams, nurtured on your hopes, and fed by your fears of failure. It’s your voice. Not mine. This piece is from your mind and I can’t work in it. I appreciate your efforts, but I need a vision of my own.”

Eli was crushed, but he focused on my needs and not the hour he spent working on a story that I couldn’t use and he didn’t have time for. “What’s changed, then, to make you stop writing?” He paused. “It was me, wasn’t it?”

“It’s not your fault. Now that the old dreams have been fulfilled, I don’t know what to write.” I paused. “But I wouldn’t trade you for all the stories in the world. It is better to live than dream.”

“Life without dreams is dead, and a dream unfulfilled is unrealized….” He stopped and we both laughed. He started over. “Surely you haven’t stopped dreaming.”

“All my wildest fantasies either came true or paled in comparison to you.”

“Thanks, Tricia, but what about our dreams? Don’t you dream of owning our own home, raising a family?”

“Yes, but that’s all so….”

“Boring? Unoriginal?”I thought, then admitted, “Well, in a word, yes.”

“Tricia, writing isn’t about dreaming a new dream. It’s about expressing the desires and fears of your heart so that the reader not only relates to them, but comes to a better understanding of their own. We start with the ordinary and create the extraordinary. Start with what is in your heart. Don’t underestimate prayer and sitting alone with God. He is your inspiration. Trish, you shared your loneliness with the world, now share your joy.”

A slow smile curled across my face as the thrill of inspiration rushed through me. I took the keyboard, opened a new document, and soon the room was filled with the happy sound of keystrokes.

Following Christ

Requirements:

Mattew 10:34-38 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn `a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Mark 8:33 Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Luke 14:25-27 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

John 12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Promises:

Mark 10:28-30 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

John 10:24-28 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Examples (positive):

Mark 1:16-20 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Examples (negative):

Matthew 8:19-22 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Mark 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth

Luke 9:57-62 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Related teachings to consider:

Mattew 12:46-50 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mattew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

John 15:20 Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

Fear

There are several types of Fear: the Fear of the Lord, things we ought to be afraid of, and things we ought not to be afraid of. When we finish discussing these things, we will look at what you can do to overcome the Spirit of Fear in your life.

I Fear of the LORD
Deut 10:12-22
A. Fear God-means to respect and honor him, to realize and confess how awesome and holy and righteous God is and how insignificant and sinful and wretched we are without Christ in comparison to His glory.
B. This Fear of the Lord is what drives us into the embrace of His grace.
C. For the Christian, this means recognizing that we are nothing (powerless) w/o God and not taking His grace for granted; again, revering and honoring God.

Romans 7:24-8:3
A While we possess a sin nature, God sent his son to rescue (free) us from our sinful nature. Because of this, there is no more condemnation for Christians.
B Condemnatory thoughts are from Satan, not God. The devil condemns, but God convicts us so we will come to him in repentance. To test a thought, ask yourself what is the end? Does it inflict “sorrow unto death” or “sorrow unto repentance”?

II What you should be afraid of.
Matthew 4:5-7
A) Do not put the Lord your God to the Test–if you are standing in the middle of oncoming traffic, you should be afraid of getting hit by a car!

B) Sin is like crossing the street when the light is green w/o a cross walk during rush hour. Even when forgiven, sin will often still have temporal consequences on this Earth.

III What you should not be afraid of

Psalm 27:1-3
A When God is with you, you need fear no more!
B) If you are afraid, most likely you either a) Don’t think God is with you (willing to help) or b) don’t believe that God is strong enough to help you.

Proverbs 29:25 Fear of man is a snare–Trusting God is the opposite of being afraid!
Isaiah 51:7-8 don’t fear men’s insults, they will be destroyed
Luke 12:4-7 don’t fear those who can destroy your body but can’t harm your soul

1 John 4:15-18 & 2 Timothy 1:7
A) Fear is a satanic strong hold
B) Fear robs you of your freedom in Christ and keeps you from bearing fruit.

IV Prescription:
Rebuke Satan with scripture and hand your fears over to the Lord in Prayer Example:
Acts 4:13-31–Sanhedrin orders Peter and John to stop preaching the gospel and threatens them.
A. It’s natural to be afraid in those circumstances. How do the Apostles handle the situation?

1) They say no to the Sanhedrins’ orders–they do not give in to fear!
2) They tell the Church what happened to them
3) They pray with the church,
What they pray:
a) They praise/worship God
b) They relate their circumstances to scripture
c) They tell God what is happening to them while acknowledging that God willed it to happen
d) They petition God for help-“enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”
4) God responded!
a) The meeting place was shaken
b) They were filled with the Holy Spirit
c) They spoke the word of God boldly
God granted their petition, and he will answer ours too– John 14:14-Jesus promises us that we may ask him for anything in his name and he will do it! (provided the request is righteous)

Jesus, Paul, and Ethics

by Andrea J. Graham

The question has been raised, in essence, “Is what Jesus teaches and does the same as what Paul taught?” This is asking if whether the two major sources for Christian ethics are telling the same story. My faith declaration is an automatic, “Well, of course!” But that isn’t enough for an academic paper, so I will have to prove my point. However, there are a few side issues that need to be dealt with first in order to understand the issue.

First, the bible is either the infallible word of God, or it is just a collection of old stories written by men in different cultures over the centuries. If it is the latter, then obviously there is no point in writing this paper. And yes, I realize either or statements are generally considered a fallacy. But there are generally few choices when the issue involves God.

The reasoning is simple. God is good, omnipotent, omniscient, transcendent and eminent. More importantly, God cannot contradict himself. If the bible is the Word of God, then it cannot contradict itself either, and accordingly, neither can Jesus and Paul. This is not to say that it can not be interpreted incorrectly, as that happens all the time.

Another important note to be made comes from the following scripture: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…. 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 1:1-2, 14). Jesus is known as the Living Word of God, the fullest revelation of the Father. Being one with God, Jesus also shares his qualities.

This goes to say, Jesus is sinless, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21. This is important to keep in mind when discussing Jesus’ attitude towards the law, that the Pharisees allegations of his sinfulness we hold to be false. If he had sinned, then he would no longer be the pure spotless lamb that was sacrificed to save us for our sins. While Jesus may have violated the precious traditions of the Pharisees, he most certainly did not break God’s law. As well meaning as the Pharisees may have been, indeed they were the “religious right” of their day so to speak, to say they have gotten a bum rap is to accuse Jesus of being over critical of them.

Jesus did defend his actions on several occasions, for instance, Matthew records:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, `Honor your father and mother’ and `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to `honor his father ‘ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “`These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ “” (Mt. 15:1-9)

When accused of breaking the traditions, Jesus responds by pulling them back to the problem they should be concerned about: nullifying the word of God for the sake of their traditions. I would also like to add, however, that it is quite laughable to think Man expects God to play by Man’s rules, but that is precisely what we do! Hence, it is quite hypocritical of us to come down on the Pharisees for doing the things we ourselves do, so this is where the wisdom in the warnings not to be quick to judge the Pharisees harshly lies. While Jesus was in the position to judge them, we are not. What is most important is that here Jesus is explaining why he doesn’t keep their traditions, because, “their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

People, like the Pharisees, often question why Jesus had to cure ailments on the Sabbath that were not going to kill the person within the next twenty-four hours. Of course, who are we to question God’s perfect timing, but there is also a more legal answer for it: Proverbs 3:28, which counsels, “Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”–when you now have it with you.” If Jesus had said to the ailing person, “Come back after the Sabbath, I’ll heal you then” when he was capable of healing them at that very moment, he would have broken the spirit of this law.

On a side note, Proverbs 3:27 says, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act,” which not only reinforces what is said in 3:28, it also has a serious implications for those who emphasize avoiding what is wrong to the point of deemphasizing sins of omission concerning what’s right.

That said, this moving to the spirit of the law is highly related to the virtue theory nature of Jesus’ ethics. Jesus often, in the Sermon on the Mount especially, took the law and moved from the letter of the law to the spirit (virtue) behind the law.

Some say this sermon is merely a list of unattainable ethical ideals meant only to show us how sinful we are and that any attempts to actually do them would be foolish. While one of its functions is certainly to show us just how sinful we really are, the high standard it sets does not mean we are free to ignore it. Instead, we should be striving to obtain (especially by making room in our lives for the Holy Sprit to endow us with) the virtues that the Sermon preaches and to rid ourselves as much as we can of the vices it warns of.

For the moment, let’s return to the comment I made earlier that “While Jesus was in the position to judge them, we are not.” This statement actually comes from the passage where the Leaders try to trap him by bringing an adulteress woman to him and saying, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5) It is here that Jesus says the famous, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7). Of course, everyone leaves and Jesus doesn’t condemn her, though people using this in their arguments have a tendency to ignore the fact that he also commanded her to leave her life of sin.

This has two significant things to note that have to do with Jesus’ ethics. First, while Jesus does not cast the first stone and condemn the adulterous woman who is meek and lowly (i.e., oppressed and humble), he is not at all hesitant to verbally cast the first stone at the Pharisees for their hypocritical questioning, such as how his ethics works. This is just Jesus practicing what he preaches.

This leads to the second significant note. Jesus said elsewhere, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it,” and he lives this out with both the adulterous woman and the Pharisees. This will come as a surprise, as thus far we have only looked at this statement out of context. In length, it is much more interesting:

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:44-50)

This is actually a key passage in scripture. For one, it affirms both Christ’s divinity and the authority of his word, which is only vaguely of importance to us at the moment. For another, it contains Christ’s mission statement. He said he came not to judge (nor condemn) but to save, while contending that these same words will condemn those who reject him (and they, the bible tells us, will be cast into the Lake of Fire after the final judgment). This is also, as I said, the very thing he practiced in the situations mentioned before.

Before I’ve rattled on for ten pages, lets move on to juxtaposing this with Paul.

Paul is tied into Jesus initially by his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, in which Jesus speaks to him from a bright light. This is the primary evidence he has for his status as an apostle.

The teachings of Paul and Jesus have many key commonalties. The Sermon on the Mount’s function as revealing the depths of human sin (which is so deep that the standards God sets for us often seems impossible to grasp to us) is easily juxtaposed to Paul’s statement, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23).

Neither are their positions on the law contradictory. Despite not once preaching on the subject, Jesus through out his life made it clear through his teachings that it is impossible to earn salvation through our own righteousness. One particular place is where he says: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20), and the rest of the sermon on the mount only takes the stake even higher.

If ever there was a command in the sermon on the mount that our sin condition makes it impossible to fulfill, it is this one: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (vs. 48) You don’t need to have read Paul’s writings to know that you will never be good enough to deserve Heaven on your own no matter what you do.

Jesus and Paul also have similar positions in this regard: Jesus taught the importance of humility, Paul chastised his readers time and time again not to boast about how righteous they are (not even about how righteous God has made them to be).

Paul is in fact analyzing Jesus’ teachings, the Jewish Law, the sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross and the following resurrection and then concluding what this all means for us. And this is what he concluded: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Ro. 3:23-24) Having drawn his conclusion from his understanding of Jesus, how then can Paul’s position be in disharmony with Jesus’?

Furthermore, as I began our discourse, even if apparent contradictions were found, then either 1) The bible isn’t the word of God—since God cannot contradict himself—and our faith means nothing, 2) Paul’s writings are in fact not actually not true scripture but rather ancient commentary (which would prove nearly as disastrous) or 3) There is some way to reconcile the apparent contradiction that our limited minds are having trouble grasping, or perhaps the problem can be resolved by taking the elements in the context of the bible as a whole.



Copyright 2000, All Rights Reserved. You may not copy this article in its entirety for any reason whatsoever. Plagarism is not only illegal and could earn you a big fat F, it is also a sin. If you wish to quote this article I highly encourage you to find a more authoritative source. If you insist, you can contact me for permission.

Understanding the Ununderstandable: God’s Character.

by Andrea J. Graham

I don’t remember very many sermons preached at University Church, but one I do remember surprisingly well is one I heard last spring, where the preacher informed us that many of the problems he’d encountered in the people he’d counseled were rooted in a misperception of the character and nature of God. Almost exclusively this was due to an unconscious confusion of God with their father or another dominant parental figure.

However, the reasons for this common problem aren’t my concern here. As many of the major blocks to a person entering into a saving personal relationship with God are due to a lack of understanding of who God is, it is his Character that I am here to discuss. The question then becomes, where do we begin? How do you describe a God who himself declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways… as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) How can anyone ever fathom a God that is so higher than us?

There is the approach of taking the best of human qualities and multiplying them by a thousand, but that has been criticized as making God too human. This approach is really an attempt to reconstruct the broken Mirror—as we were created in the image of God; we originally had a close family resemblance to Him. The fall hasn’t destroyed that mirror, but it has cracked it so badly to render it, for all intents and purposes, utterly useless. Considering such reconstruction in this and other fields of study has left many with highly destructive and unbiblical ideas, I would say it is best to avoid this.

We don’t really need it anyways. God has already revealed Himself to us, through the written Word and the Incarnate Word. While the work of Theologians can at times prove to be valuable tools, and I may consult a few here, I believe ultimately our arguments should be grounded in these Self-Revelations from God.

The first and most obvious aspect that scripture reveals about God is the first one that Shirley Guthrie discusses in his theology, “God acts, speaks, knows… can be angry, compassionate, jealous, merciful. All such language assumes that God is not something but someone, not just a “spiritual force” but a person. Biblical-Christian faith is faith in a personal God.” (p. 99) Indeed this is so. Scripture reveals God as a character and not just some cosmic force out of which the world exploded.

From the very first sentence, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” God’s personhood is assumed. God creates, loves, punishes sin, redeems, and enters into contracts and covenantal relationships from Genesis to Revelation.

Having established that God is personal the next question asked is the pertinent one: What is God like?

There are a million places to start. The most logical place to begin, however, is occupation. Our basic and initial understanding of a person is often the pragmatic, what do they do?

God first is Creator. But this characteristic reveals a few more. As God created the universe, he exists outside of it, that is, he is transcendent. And since he created the universe and everything in it, he is the sole ruler over it. All other contenders are part of his creation, and can a creature ever be more powerful than his Creator? And elsewhere in scripture, repeatedly, God is revealed as “The Almighty.”

So, thus far God is the Creator and Sole Ruler of the Universe. We realize another occupation he has when we read how God created the universe: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3). God spoke and it happened. The entire universe came into existence because God said the word.

If God’s word created the universe, it stands to reason his thoughts sustain it. Read on into Chapter three of Genesis, and we find another of God’s main occupations: he is the Redeemer of the Fallen. And in the Revelation (and throughout the biblical witness), we see another important occupation: Judge.

To put them all together, we have God as the Transcendent, All-powerful Creator, Ruler, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Judge of the entire universe. The last two occupations, Redeemer and Judge, at first glance seem to point to a contradiction in his character. So where do we begin?

By throwing up our hands and saying, “He’s a mystery!” perhaps? Well, that is true. God can be very mysterious and his nature boggles and confounds our limited human minds. But that seems an inadequate response to an apparent dichotomy at the heart of God’s nature.

On one hand, God is the LORD God Almighty, the Sovereign LORD, who strikes down the wicked nations. The definition of holiness, justice, and righteousness, He is so holy and we are so sinful, no one may see God and live. In fact, in Exodus 33, God tells the Israelites to go on up to the Holy Land without Him because, as He explains, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you.” (vs. 5)

But even in that harsh Judgment, there is a hint at God’s other side. The fact is, the Israelites were insolent enough to tax anyone’s patience to the limit and He would have been quite justified in condemning them. That he didn’t just destroy them shows how much He really cares about His people. Despite how sinful, insolent and “stiff-necked” we are, God still loves us and looks on our plight with compassion and mercy.

Even though He is the all-powerful, all knowing, Sovereign above and beyond all, who exists outside the universe and time, God does not stay there but enters into it, for what is History but the story of the interactions between God and Man? Indeed, God intensely desires to enter into a close, personal, meaningful relationship with each of us.

One of the keys to a proper understanding of God’s character can be explained by the tight rope image. That is, the trek to an understanding of God and Christian doctrine begins by walking the tight rope of his character and not falling off to the left: Guthrie’s “Great heavenly Granddaddy…. God, who was there to answer all our questions, solve all our problems…. The god who made no demands of us but was there to do everything for us and give us everything we want. The God who automatically forgave us, no matter how we disobeyed that god and ignored or hurt other people.”

Or to the right: Guthrie’s “Great Heavenly (male) Tyrant—the “sovereign” god who could do anything he wanted and arbitrarily being sometimes cruel and sometimes kind, loving some people and hating or simply ignoring others, according to the whim of the moment.”

But how do we keep our balance? By holding together the two seemingly contradictory sides of God’s personality: His Justice, Holiness, Sovereignty, and Wrath on one side, His Mercy, Compassion, Love, and desire for relationship with us on the other. We must recognize and equally glorify both sides of God’s personality, realizing they are not two different sides as it appears to us but one unified whole that works together. We must not read God’s Love by God’s Justice or his Justice by his Love, but allow each to exist as what they are, yet in communion together as one unified whole. God’s character, as such, reflects His mysterious Triune nature.

Both sides are clearly shown throughout scripture, and there are many vivid examples, but in the Person of Jesus Christ, some of the best examples are to be found, particularly in the pertinent application of God’s relations with us. God longs to have a relationship with each of us, to walk and talk together face to face as he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden, but this is not possible as we are now because of our sinfulness.

This is ultimately why Jesus came, to restore us to that relationship. An integral part of that restoration is his witness here on Earth to God. While on Earth, Jesus stood to reveal to us through His example what God is like and what Man should be like. He Himself has become the bridge between Man and God. In the time of Jesus’ earthly Ministry, God once again walked with Adam and Eve and talked with them face-to-face, a mere teaser of the relationship to be fully restored at his Return.

One of the important scriptures where Christ reveals God’s Character and Heart for his people: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (Matthew 23:37-39)

Here Jesus’ sorrow almost screams off the page, and we see the face of His Father. He has sent hundreds of messengers to plead with Israel to come back into relationship with Him, and they have killed all of them. His desire to bring blessing and restoration to Jerusalem is almost flowing off the page. But there is that last phrase, “but you were not willing.”

God wants a relationship with us, but He does not want it under compulsion, but rather He desires a relationship with us where we have freely entered into it. He offers us Grace and has already paid the penalty for us, and has taken the first step in initiating a relationship with us on the Cross, but he will not force us to enter in, for he desires that we willfully enter into fellowship with him, to obey and worship him freely, not by force or compulsion.

God has done all the work to make this possible and paid all the penalties we owed for us. He has issued us an invitation to the Banquet, now all we have to do is enter in and let Him transform us. But we must do so, not by our strengths and merits, but His, lest we be like the man who was not wearing wedding clothes, and hear the King say of us, “Tie him hand and foot and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:14)



Copyright 2000, All Rights Reserved. You may not copy this article in its entirety for any reason whatsoever. Plagarism is not only illegal and could earn you a big fat F, it is also a sin. If you wish to quote this article I highly encourage you to find a more authoritative source. If you insist, you can contact me for permission.

How To Find God, Lesson 1

This is a “work sheet” so to speak, designed for new Christians and anyone else who feels they need to exercise their meditation muscles. Feel free to save this page to your desktop, if you wish. I also recommend printing these pages out, both for personal use and use in a discipleship setting. While I still prefer that you notify me first, you do have my full permission to share and or distribute this booklet (provided you’re not charging the recipient, that is. You don’t have to share the $, I don’t want people charging for this in the first place is all) If you really find these exercises helpful, you can use these same methods to study other passages from the bible.Instructions:

Before each lesson (there are six in all, each using a different passage from the bible), pray for God to speak to you through His word what He wants you to learn and ask him to open your heart to understanding the word. Then, read the passage. After you have read the passage, ask the Lord to reveal one particular verse to focus on. Write the verse down on a sheet of paper. Then meditate on that verse (read it over several times, prayerfully seeking the truth in the verse) for several minutes, then, with that verse in mind, reread the passage, praying for God to show you how the passage as a whole impacts this special word. Write down anything the lord shows you in the passage. Read what you have written, praying for the lord to show you anything you’ve written that is not from him. It is suggested that you then prayerfully re-read the passage, but this is optional. Some exercises include supplemental readings that you are encouraged to read that could be useful in your seeking. If you seek Him honestly in this, He will speak to you this way!

LESSON ONE:

An easy (but nonetheless important) one to start31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

33They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, “You will be made free’?”

34Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

—John 8:31-36, NKJV

Heaven’s Tears

 Seems extra appropriate after the latest school shooting.

The Lord bemoans his forsaken Lambs
Long ago a brother killed a brother
Now our children carry on his legacy
Pain, destruction, desolation, revenge
These are the things Cain gave them

A civil war takes place in our streets
Brother against brother our Children fight
For the right to destroy themselves
They mock their mother’s crying heart
And mimic forgotten fathers lost

The rain falls as tears from above
Washing Abel’s blood from the street
Yet the dark legacy lives on still
In our children’s angry hearts
Where even Heaven’s host won’t tread

Their guardian angels stand by helplessly
As the children rage on against their advice
All of Heaven cries out for our children:
When will the bloody streets be cleansed?
When will Cain’s hidden war so end?

– Andrea J. Graham

December 1998

Biblical Authority

  Commandments on:

Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
Consequenses of:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
James 1:22-25
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
John 12:48-50
[Jesus said] 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Defenses of:
2 Corinthians 4:2-5
2 We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake
Luke 1:1-4
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled [1] among us,2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
2 Peter 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2Peter 3:15-16
15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Defining:
2 Timothy 3:14-16
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

by Andrea Graham © 2005

Annie and her little sister, Chrissie, sat on the floor as they watched Macys’ Thanksgiving Day Parade because the couch was piled high with boxes of dusty old magazines and lawn decorations. Annie only liked the last part of the parade where Santa Claus appeared, but watched the rest anyway because there was nothing else to do. Without cable, the little black-and-white TV only picked up one station.

Their mother roused the two girls before dawn that day. They slept in the car on the way, then in the bed where their mother now folded laundry as she grumbled under her breath.

Grampa sat at his workbench, a blank stare frozen on his face. His tools laid unused, as they had for months. The smelly old lady lay in the other bed. Off and on, the bed shook and squeaked, followed by some moans and groans. Annie’s father would then say, “Speak up, Mom, I can’t understand you.”

Despite his angry tone, her daddy never left the bedside. That funny look on his face had been etched there for months now

Annie could remember a time long ago when the old lady didn’t just lie in bed, but that was her real grandmother: the sweet, kind Grandma who took care of her, baked yummy goodies, and gave her candy and presents. But Grandma was gone, replaced by the smelly old lady. She knew intellectually the woman in that bed was her grandmother, but she seemed like a stranger. It’d been so long, poor Chrissie could barely remember their real Grandma.

Seeing a clear place on the bed her mother was working on, Annie got up and planted herself in it. She leaned in to hear the old lady’s weak voice. “Joe, as soon as I get better, I’m going to make you and the girls a pineapple upside-down cake.”

Annie turned to her mother. “Mom, what’s a-”

Her mother cut her off. “Go watch TV, Annie. I’ll tell you later.”

Annie got up and settled back down next to Chrissie, folding her arms in a pout.
Three days later, after dinner, Annie played in her room with Chrissie and their dolls. Off and on, muffled voices in the living room came up through the furnace vent. Chrissie looked troubled. Maybe she had a bad day at school.

After several minutes, one voice grew louder. “Joe, I am sick and tired of this! The next time your father asks for help cleaning his house, YOU do it! I’m not doing it any more. I work, too…” She lowered her voice after that. In a moment, the other voice responded, but Annie had gone back to concentrating on playing with the dolls.

Again, shouting interrupted them. “Oh, just go to bed, Joe. That’s what you always do.” This was followed by a muffled roar and pounding feet. A moment later, the door to her parent’s bedroom whipped open and slammed shut again.

With a funny look on her face, Chrissie turned back to the green doll in her hand. He had been arguing with Mrs. Gardener just a moment before, and now Chrissie took his right hand and began to beat the poor rabbit.

Annie picked up her red doll and had him casually stroll by and glance in the pretend house. She then flew the doll in, and pulled the green doll away from Mrs. Gardener, who lay motionless on the floor.

In the red doll’s voice, she said, “No, Patty, no. Don’t do it, don’t do this.” Her sister let go of the green doll and burst into tears.

A few months later, Annie’s mother put the little girls into black dresses and took them to a funny parlor. They visited old friends and family members, many people introduced as “cousin so-and-so” that she didn’t know and didn’t care to know. They also had to look at a funny-smelling old lady asleep in a brown box. She resembled neither Annie’s real grandma nor the sick one.

At least this time her mom remembered to bring a bag of their favorite storybooks and two sets of crayons and coloring books. Her sister wanted to take some of their dolls with them, but their mother refused because the last time she let them bring their dolls, they left one behind. This time, their mom only let them take quiet things. Otherwise, their Dad would spend the whole time yelling at them.

Annie’s parents took her, Chrissie, and Grampa to look at the old lady. Why was everyone so sad? It’s not like she’d done anything besides lay in bed, whimper, groan, shake, and drool.

Her father said, “Mom looks good. Don’t you think so, Dad?”

The old man began sobbing. Her father hugged him, tears streaking down his cheeks, too. Even her mother had tears in her eyes.

Annie stared at her father and grandfather.

Chrissie started sniffling. “Gramma?”

Annie pinched her sister. “Now don’t you go starting that, Chrissie.”

Chrissie sniffled again, but stopped up her tears.
The following evening, some ladies from the church brought over boxes of food and goodies. Excited, the girls rushed to look through all the boxes. Annie discovered a funny-looking golden cake. Instead of frosting, it had a honey glaze and six large pineapple rings. Gasping, she lifted the cake over her head. “Momma! Daddy! Look! Isn’t this a pineapple upside-down cake? Isn’t it? Isn’t it?”

Her mother took it from her just as her father entered the kitchen. She tried to hide it, but it was too late. He took one glance at that cake, turned ashen, and then took off down the hall. A moment later, his bedroom door slammed shut.

Shrugging, Annie gazed up at her mother. “Can I have a piece?”

Her mother frowned. “Go to your room, Annie!”

Annie pouted. “Why? What’d I say? Can’t I have a-”

Her mother pointed. “Go!”

She stomped to her room, slammed the door, and slumped down on her bed.

Chrissie whispered, “We can’t have any?”

“Apparently not.”

“Why, Sissy? Because of Gramma? I thought she was happy in Heaven, and that we’ll see her again someday. The preacher said so.”

She shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know either. I thought cake was for eating.”

Her sister nodded. “So did I.”
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them and said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
–Matt.18.2,3 KJV