Pick a Fruit…

 

fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such there is no law.”  – Galatians 5:22-23

Read these verses and it is easy to get overwhelmed.  I once graded myself on each fruit using the A-F scale.  Let’s just say my self-grading showed I needed to go to the remedial fruit of the Spirit class.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is what shows up in our lives as God works.  What if instead focusing on every fruit and being overwhelmed, we focused on what we needed right now?

For example:

  • If I am dealing with an annoying person in my life, I need to ask God for the fruit of love (You know, that whole ‘love your enemies’ thing).  I can start by praying for God to bring good to that annoying person.
  • If I feel stuck in a rut, I need to ask God for the fruit of joy.  Maybe he will open my eyes to the joy he is bringing through his work in the world.
  • If I am struggling with a destructive habit or an addiction, I need to ask God for the fruit of peace.  All destructive habits and addictions start with a lack of peace in our souls.
  • If I am feeling overwhelmed, like there is too much life and not enough me, I need to ask God for the fruit of patience.  Patience comes from trust that my God has me and will help me get done everything he asks me to do.
  • If I am struggling with anxiety or depression, I need to ask God for the fruit of kindness.  Anxious and depressed people are not kind to themselves.  As you fill up with the kindness of God, he teaches you to be kind not just to others, but to yourself.
  • If I struggle with money (and who doesn’t), I need to ask God for the fruit of generosity.  I only win over money, my wants, and my desires, when I let go.  Generosity is an expression of faith –that God will supply all my needs through Christ Jesus.
  • If I am stuck in a dead-end job, I need to ask God for the fruit of faithfulness.  The way to advance is to be faithful in what I do, as if I am doing it for Jesus.
  • If I am struggling with my temper, I need to ask God for the fruit of gentleness.   To live a gentle life is not to be a weakling, but is to gain control of myself so my strength is used wisely, not harmfully.
  • If I feel like I am drifting through life, I need to ask God for the fruit of self-control.  Most people who drift through life aren’t lacking direction; they are lacking self-control to move in the direction they need to go.

Imagine you are standing with Jesus in the spiritual fruit section of his gift store.  Think about what’s going on in your life.  What fruit do you need to ask for?

 

 

Rules…

rules

Rules make promises they can’t keep.

A rule promises if you keep it, you won’t get in trouble.  But my brother Steve would break something, then blame me.  It wasn’t fair!  I kept the rules, but then I got punished.   You’ve experienced the same thing.  Something went wrong at work.  You got blamed even though it wasn’t your project.  Life isn’t fair.

A rule promises if you follow it, you will be successful.  The guy who breaks the rules in the company seems to be achieving amazing numbers.  He gets the promotion.  You get passed over because you did your work with integrity.

A rule promises it will apply to every situation. Do you remember learning the rule “’i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c.’”   What about the word “weird?”  Or “beige?”  Or “caffeine?”  Or “their?” Or “weight?”  Apparently, there are exceptions to rules.

A rule promises to make you somebody.   We were told to keep the rules and we would be good little boys and girls.  That worked until the teacher walked out of the room.  Our character transformation fell short as soon as the door closed.  Rules alone didn’t make us good.

A rule promises to keep you from running off the road.  We all know this doesn’t work.  Ever touched something even though the sign next to it said “wet paint?”  You  can know the rules and still decide to plow through boundaries.

Rules make promises they can’t keep.

Why, then, make rules?  People make rules because it helps them feel in control.  Rules make us feel like we can hold people accountable.  “Don’t you know the rules?” we ask.

We generally make rules we can keep.  Alcohol has never really been an issue of me.  It’s easy for me to make rules about it: “Not in my house.”  Anything sweet, however…  So naturally I fight and resist every rule about sweet things.

Rules can even set a trap.  Before we know it, rule piles onto rule and we feel like we can never keep them all.  We come to believe we are failures.  We either sink into depression or lash out in anger.

Should we just do away with the rules?  No. They are necessary.  They just can’t deliver what they seem to promise.

That’s why Jesus did not come to give us more rules.  He came to offer relationship.  Jesus knew that more rules would not be the answer.  Rules never provide the power needed to change our souls.

This is why Jesus gave us himself.  He said, “Follow me.”  The meaning gets pretty clear: stick close to Jesus and the rules will take care of themselves.

Relationship before rules.  Simple.  And also one of the greatest challenges of life.

18 Things It Means To Be an Easter Person …

Easter People

To be an Easter Person means:

  1. I know Jesus has already fought and won my battles for me.
  2. I live in confidence, because no matter what happens, Jesus has me.
  3. I spend time each day with this mental picture in my soul: I’m standing with Jesus, looking back over my life (even the parts I haven’t lived yet).  Jesus is pointing out where he fought for me and I didn’t know it and I will see all the anxious energy I expended in worry over nothing.
  4. I live without shame, because I am forgiven for everything I have ever done, am doing, or will ever do.
  5. I don’t have to live up to someone else’s standard; all I have to do is follow Jesus.
  6. I stop defining myself as a “good” or a “bad” person.  I am simply a forgiven follower of Jesus.
  7. I give generously because I trust my God will supply all my needs in Jesus.
  8. I want to bring resurrection hope to other people.
  9. When someone I love dies, and that person was a follower of Jesus, I rejoice even though I grieve.  I know all followers of Jesus are enjoying His presence.
  10. When I approach death, I will be confident, because I know I am going to my Father’s house in heaven.
  11. I love my enemies, because I know they are merely acting out their own darkness and pain.  I pray for them to know Jesus.
  12. I don’t have to the smartest, the best, the most attractive, the strongest, or the center of attention.  I am simply the loved child of my Father.
  13. I take time to be still and know the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.
  14. I see signs of resurrection all around me.
  15. I can be patient.  Everything doesn’t have to be done today because my God will redeem all my time and make it count.
  16. I don’t have to win.  Jesus already did.
  17. Whatever tempts me, its power pales in comparison to the power of the Risen Lord.
  18. I don’t have to worry about my life counting for something.  Jesus already decided it did.

My goal each day of life is live as an Easter Person, living in the power, grace, and hope of the Risen Lord.  How about you?

The Last Will and Testament of Judas Iscariot…

“I, Judas Iscariot, a troubled soul, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament.  In a few moments I will end my life, because I have committed the most despicable deed and I can no longer live with myself.

Just eight hours ago I betrayed my Master, the one I believed would deliver my people from the Roman oppressors.  Now he hangs on a cross, beaten, sure to die before the sun goes down.  I will die before him, though only God knows what waits for me on the other side of death.

I began to follow Jesus three years ago.  I had heard of him, of course.  His teaching was like no other: plain, understandable.  A power radiated from him.  When he beckoned me to follow him, I cast aside my labor, left my father and mother, and went with him.  Something in him kindled hope in my own heart.

The miracles amazed me; such power!  Could such power be used against the Romans?  Could Jesus drive them out and restore the Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of God?  That was my hope, my dream, my passion.

I knew Jesus was closest to Peter, John, and James, of course.  But I knew I was special to him.  Soon after our journey together began, he approached me with the sack of money given to him by some well meaning women.  ‘Look after it,’ he said.  He trusted me.

Why then did I betray this man?  I thought he was losing touch with reality.  During the past three months, he talked about his death and then coming back to life.  The words were clear enough, but we did not understand what he meant.  For all his talk about the Kingdom of God, it was plain he was not going to raise an army to fight the Romans.  The hopes I had for our people began to dim.

During this last week, it obvious Jesus was on a collision course with our leaders.  It was on Tuesday, when he was teaching in Temple, that something in me broke.  He spoke of being a judge, of coming back at an unexpected time.  I saw him turn his back on financial security for his ministry and watched perfume worth a great sum flow onto the floor, wasted with the dust.

The thought entered my mind: ‘What if I told the Religious leaders where to find him?’ They would reward me.  Jesus would have the chance to show his power and be the Messiah I expected him to be.  Or I would realize my dreams had been placed in the wrong man.  Either way, I could force him to reveal who he truly was.

I made my deal with the religious leaders; I sought my chance; I led the soldiers to the place I knew he would be.  Then I called him “Master” for the last time and kissed him.

The soldiers pushed me aside; I stood on the fringes of his trials.  A sinking feeling began to overtake my heart.  Why was he not displaying his power?  As I watched him stand before Pilate, a wave of nausea hit me.  He was going to let himself be killed.  I knew nothing he had done was deserving of death.  A rush of memories flooded my soul: the time he calmed the storm, the way he smiled at me, the compassion in his voice when he told me last night “Do it quickly.”

As they led him off to Skull Place, I charged the smirking priests.  ‘He’s innocent,’ I cried.  ‘Stop this!  Take back your money.’

With cynical smiles they smirked, ‘It’s out of our hands now, and yours.’

I threw the money at them, ran from the plaza.  I passed a rope dealer and a plan leapt into my mind.  I purchased a length of rope, enough to do the job.

Now, I sit under the shade of this tree, penning these words, in hopes that whoever finds them will learn from me:  I should have stayed with Jesus, even when I did not understand.

I leave my cloak, my sandals, and my all my possessions to my brother Justus.  May my shame not touch him or my parents.

A hangman’s noose awaits.  God have mercy on my soul.”

Will you stay with Jesus even when you do not understand?

Courage to Come to Church…

I want to tell you a story that didn’t happen to you.

On Palm Sunday you got up, made some coffee, and skimmed your Facebook.  You got dressed with a little fear in your heart.  You drove to church scanning the cars you passed for signs of trouble.  You parked some distance away from church just in case.

You walked several hundred feet to the building and joined a line that was fifty people long.  You thought, “It’s taking a long time for people to clear through today.”  Your wait today was 15 minutes; longer than last Sunday, but not as long as it will be on Palm Sunday.

You come to the metal detector and wait for the signal.  You pass through with a nod to the Security agent.  Making your way into the church, you see smiling familiar faces.  There is a warmth and peace among these people that can’t be found on the streets.  Finding your seat, you see with fresh eyes the cross.  You’ve seen it hundreds of times before, but for some reason, today it touches your soul.

The service begins.  Someone on stage reads the story of Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  You know the story.  It is the first bookend of Holy Week.  Holy Week is a week that begins in triumph, falls into tragedy, and finishes in victory.  Today is all about remembering the most important week in human history.

The scripture reading is finished.  The music begins.  Then a flash.  Deafening noise.  Dust.  Screams.  You pass out.

You come to, and dare to open your eyes.  You are on the floor, under a pew.  Looking down, you see blood flowing from your leg.  Screams of pain continue.  You roll from under the pew and try to stand.  The pain is intense, but you see a mother trying to lift a piece of a pew off her child.  Despite your busted leg, you limp over rubble to help.  Both of you strain, the pew moves, and the child cries.  At least the child is alive.

After helping the Mom, someone grabs you and pushes you toward a hole in the wall that wasn’t there before.  “Get help,” they yell.  You step through the hole into a tangle of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.  Still in shock, your mind barely registers a policeman’s voice saying, “Must be 40 or 50 people dead.”

You knew this was a possibility.  You knew it could happen.  You knew someone could sneak through security and detonate a bomb.  That’s why there was that stirring of fear before you left home.  But your love of Jesus overcame your fear.  That’s why you were there when the bomb exploded.

This story didn’t happen to you.  But it happened to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt.  Two Coptic Christian Churches were bombed by suicide bombers on Palm Sunday.  Forty four people died; over a hundred were injured.  ISIS is claiming responsibility.

Can you imagine the courage it took to go worship Jesus on Palm Sunday for our brothers and sisters in Egypt?

Stories like this remind me to quit my whining.  I do not know the threat of death going to church on Sunday or Monday.  No one has attacked me for preaching the gospel.  What kind of songs we sing, what translation we should use, who we should vote for – it all seems pretty silly and petty.

There are people courageous enough to go church and chance death all over the world because they love Jesus

Maybe I need to ask God to make me courageous too – courageous enough to follow Jesus.

170409075550-06-egypt-church-bombing-0409-super-169

The Best Reason TO Believe…

 

During this recent series, “The Best Reasons Not to Believe,” I’ve spent a lot of time reading blogs and writings of people who don’t believe.  I’ve tried not to condemn or judge, recognizing God gives people the privilege of unbelief.  I’ve been surprised at the number of people who no longer believe who started out as believers.  They grew up in church.  Some went to seminary and served in ministry.  Somewhere on their journey, they decided they did not believe and walked away from God.  Most did not embark on a life of debauchery.  They continued to live normal, American, moral lives.

From what I can tell from their stories, their faith did not suddenly disappear.  It eroded over time.  What caused their faith to erode?

  1. They were hurt by church or church people.  They saw people who claimed to be followers of Jesus act in very non-Jesus like ways.  They saw hypocrisy.  After a long period of hoping for things to get better, they walked away from church and faith.
  2. They were disappointed by God.  They were out to change the world and prayed for miracles and the miracles never came.
  3. A nagging doubt grew.  The doubt was often fueled by some tragedy, either personal or global, they could not explain or excuse.  So they turned away from God.
  4. For some, they couldn’t swallow everything the Bible taught or related.  Science and faith battled and science won.  Or they were troubled by the stories of war and bloodshed.  How could God order things?  They had a picture of who God should be and the God of the Bible didn’t measure up.
  5. They put their trust in rational thought.  They believed that everything in life must be explained in a rational, non-mystic way.  Because religion in general and Christianity specifically call for faith, it does not fit their way of seeing the world.

Two things struck me as I read:  First, universally people would describe their life journey of unbelief like this: “I decided I would make my own decisions about life and God and the afterlife instead of relying on someone else.”  Respectfully I would respond we all do this.  Everyone must decide for themselves whether or not they believe.  But I also believe we must ask a follow up question: “Can you adequately see the entirety of your life, your soul?”  The only rational response is “no.”  Who will tell you about your blind spots?  Who will tell you about the dangers you don’t see?  The non-believer would say to me, “You are in danger of spending your entire life worshipping a God who doesn’t exist.”  They are right.  I would say to the non-believer, “You are in danger of living life apart from the God who does exist.”  In these stark terms, this is highest stake issue a human can face.  It requires thought, careful consideration, and full consideration of the consequences.

The second thing that struck me was how many non-believers still admire Jesus.  Charles Templeton, a believer who became an agnostic, said in his old age he missed Jesus.  There is something that is magnetic about Jesus, his character, his teaching.

So what’s the best reason to believe?  Jesus.

If church hurt you, if you have doubts, if you struggle with evolution versus creation, if you agonize over tragedies in the world, if stories in the Bible make you uncomfortable – focus on Jesus.  He is so amazing, so magnificent.  Fall in love with him.

Ever noticed how love can make something make sense that didn’t make sense before?  Fall in love with Jesus and you will find the reasons not to believe go away; the reason to believe falls in place.

Roland and Carolyn’s House Burns Down…

Skipper House

 

Roland Skipper, married to Carolyn, is my distant cousin who lives in my hometown of Wauchula (actually, everyone in Wauchula is my distant cousin).  His son James is my age and part of the gang of cousins I grew up with.

I went to the ranch last week to do take care of some things.  While there, my brother called with awful news: Roland and Carolyn’s house was on fire.

According to the fire marshal, the fire started in the dishwasher (!), spread up through the wall, and into the garage.  Roland was resting in his chair, recovering from a recent fall that busted his arm.  Carolyn was busy around the house.  Neither of them noticed the fire at first.

By the time they realized the house was on fire, they had just enough time to escape.  Roland made it out in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms.  Carolyn did what any country woman would do: she turned on the garden hose and tried to put the fire out.  Might as well tried to clean a house with spit.

Roland and Carolyn live out in the country, a long way from fire hydrants and fire departments.  By the time the fire department came, the fire had spread up into a dead space between the old roof and the new roof added when the house was remodeled. With no way to get at the fire, the only thing left was to watch the roof burn and collapse in on the house.

I went by the next day, just to let them know I cared.  The kids and grandkids were going through the remains of the house.  Odd what survived and what didn’t: two cars, burned to a crisp; one Stetson hat, intact; old flip phone – works.  The list went on and on.

I hugged Carolyn and she said, “I watched fifty years of memories go up in smoke.”  Roland sat there, looking at brick walls and wondering how an 87 year old man goes about building a new house.  My cousin Margaret, their daughter, told me, “It could have been a lot worse.  I could be planning two funerals today.”

The insurance adjustor came by.  He rolled out his standard condolence speech, then told everyone he would take pictures to assess the damage.  I told him I could save him some time:  it was a total loss.  He gave me a dirty look.

I could sense I was in the way and they needed to get about their work.  I asked if they would like me to pray with them, and they said, “Please.”

I’ve prayed for a lot of things in my life: for healings and strength; for people to come to know Jesus.  I’ve prayed for God to send resources for the doing of his work and for Jesus, the Lord of harvest, to send laborers.  I’ve even prayed for dogs that were sick and for cows to go the right direction.  But as we held hands, it dawned on me I didn’t know quite what to pray.

When you don’t know what to pray, sometimes God will give you the words you never thought of before.  The Spirit put these words in my mouth:

“Lord, thank you that Roland and Carolyn are all right.  As for the rest of this, God, it was just stuff.  I know it was important stuff, but its gone now.  Father, one day, we will all leave all our stuff behind.  You’ve reminded Roland and Carolyn what really matters – the life and the hope we have in Jesus…”

I prayed some more, but what stuck with me was the thought that one day, we will all leave behind our stuff.  Roland and Carolyn got a head start.  Yes it hurts and I’m sure there is grief because of memories lost.  But on that Thursday morning among the smoky ruins, Jesus was teaching me one more thing:

 

Who you love is more important than what you have.

Who Weeps with You?

Jesus weeping

It was one of those uncomfortable moments in the store.  A young mother with three small children was trying to get her shopping done.  The middle child by size (about two, I’d say) was not happy.  She was ready to go home.  I understand that feeling.  After about thirty minutes in a store, I’m ready to go home, too.

Two year olds have surprisingly big voices in little bodies.  This little girl started to tear up, and scream, “I want to go home!  I want to go home!”  Everyone in the store heard her.  Everyone in within a ten-mile radius heard her.  Everyone knew she wanted to go home.

Her mother tried all the standard techniques: “Shhh!  Be quiet.  We will go home in a few minutes;” “If you stop crying I will buy you some candy (that would work for me);” and, as the mom felt the stares, “Will you stop crying!”

None of the strategies worked.  The little girl upped her decibels.  Dogs began to howl outside the store.  I think I saw a jar of pickles start to vibrate.  More people were coming around the corner in search of this awful sound.

The young mom had reached her limit.  She pulled out the nuclear option phrase: “If you don’t stop crying this instant, I will give you something to cry about.”

The two year old looked at her mother with non-comprehending eyes.  You could read her thoughts on her furrowed forehead: “I already have something to cry about!  That’s why I’m crying.  What part of “I want to go home Momma” do you not understand?”

My heart went out to the little girl and to her overwhelmed Mom.  How do you reason with a two year old whose emotions have torn her away from whatever reasoning  ability she has?

Jesus once encountered people who were weeping because their friend Lazarus had died.  Jesus, who could have healed him, didn’t come in time.  Now Jesus was on the scene.  He could feel the accusing eyes and read their message: “He was your friend.  Where were you?  You could have done something.”  Jesus does not tell them “Don’t cry.”  He does not tell them he will give them something to cry about.  Instead, he joins their grief.  In the shortest verse in the Bible, we told one of its great truths: “Jesus wept.”

Jesus understands the moments in your life when you are overwhelmed with emotion.  Jesus, with infinite patience, stops to feel with you.  He shares your tears.  But he also will share your joys, your anger, your anxiety.  To your joy he brings song; to your anger, perspective; to your anxiety, peace.

I give the young mom credit.  Realizing what she said and how it sounded, she stopped her shopping, picked up the two year old up out of the buggy, and held her while she cried.  She let her daughter cry out her frustration.  Then she tickled her and made her laugh.

I think that is what Jesus does.  He holds us when we are flooded with emotion.  He cries when we cry.  Then, when we least expect it, he brings something good, he brings joy.  Jesus is the God of the morning when night turns to joy.  Whatever your tears, he will hold you.

A Sunday at Pocalla Church

pocalla church

Jock preached this past Sunday, so I took advantage of the opportunity to go to Pocalla Church for the first time.  I admit it felt a little strange; after all, I’ve been preaching to these folks for the past eight weeks and haven’t met some of them.  I’m learning to pastor one church in two locations.

What stood out:

  • I got there at 9:20.  Greeters were already in place, rooms were already set up, and were ready to go.  No last minute volunteers getting in place.  No last minute scrambles.  Impressive when you realize at 7:30 that morning, nothing was set up.
  • I saw parking lot greeters go out to open car doors and assist people into the building.  They were getting know people who were coming for the first time.
  • The preschool area was well set up and the kids were having a ball.
  • I went to the older children’s class.  They were very engaged.  I joined them in a game.  We got beat but turned tables on the teachers and won the next game (Lead pastor pressure).
  • I sat in a LIFE Group and loved the sharing of hurt, pain, and worry.  These folks were learning to do life together.  Some in the group were educated, some were not.  The Jesus they had in common was stronger than what separated them.
  • Worship music was acoustic, with two vocalists.  You could hear people singing.  Cameron Gaddy, the worship leader, has a gift for engaging people in worship.
  • The crowd looked just like the crowd at Loring Mill.  There were people in shorts and sandals, young women in Lily Pulitzer dresses, teens in jeans, different races, different ages.  Being a “Place of Grace” lives at Pocalla!
  • I didn’t think I would like watching Jock on a screen, but honestly, after about 20 seconds, I forgot he wasn’t there in person.  It works really well.
  • I loved the smaller feel.  There was more relational space and time.  People were not rushing to get from here to there.  The whole day had more of a “Sabbath” feel.
  • Chris Moore was hosting the service since Jock was over at Loring Mill.  He communicated warmth, care, and grace.  He was the face of Jesus.
  • People lingered to talk.  The pack up crew changed into t-shirts and started stacking chairs, undoing sound equipment, etc.  Within 30 minutes, everything was ready to roll back into storage.
  • The people who have volunteered to go and launch this campus are truly faithful.  They have said yes to the adventure.  People who never felt needed at Loring Mill have stepped up to a new level at Pocalla.
  • God is showing us the future at Pocalla.  There are huge opportunities to go where there is not progressive, outreaching church and provide a different experience.  People get to enjoy all that is good about a large church in a mid-size setting.

In short, I had a great time.  It is a little strange, however, when someone at Pocalla Church says, “You look a lot better on the screen than you do in person!”

How can Christian Claim Jesus is the Only Way?

one way

The argument usually goes like this:  All religions are the same.  Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism are different paths to the same god.  Human beings have gotten it all confused with religious mumbo-jumbo and cloud the picture of who God really is.  If you press someone who is making this argument by asking who is the god behind all religions, they will tell you god is a loving spirit who wants all humanity to live in brotherhood.

This argument has appeal.  It eliminates exclusivity and rivalry between religious systems.  Believers in any faith could no longer judge others who believe differently.  It seems tolerant. But the argument has a dark side.  It rejects the idea of exclusive truth.  Those who advance this thinking end up creating a new exclusivity in the name of tolerance.  They judge those who speak for their faith and act on their faith’s teachings.  They cut off moral conduct from an objective standard of truth.

All religions claim exclusive truth.  Judaism claims keeping rules, laws, and instructions is the way to intimacy with God.  Islam claims the essentials of salvation are the five pillars: confessing Allah is the only god and Muhammed is His prophet; participating in daily prayer; giving alms to the poor; fasting during Ramadan; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.  Buddhism doesn’t believe in a personal god at all.  Hinduism does not believe in one god, but many gods.

Ravi Zacharias, the great Christian apologist, points to the four great questions that every religion seeks to answer: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.  Only the answers of Jesus to these questions match the reality of life.

Origin:  Christian faith says we are not identical with God.  We are made in His image, yes, but we are a different order of being.  Hinduism claims we are the same as the gods and through the process of reincarnation, it possible to ascend to the plain of deity (Mormonism also claims it is possible for humans to be become divine).  Because we share the image of God, but are not identical with Him, we have a sense of right and wrong (morality), but we cannot act morally on our own one hundred percent of the time.

Meaning: The God of Christian faith does not ask us to have meaning by being “good.”  Only through true worship – submitting ourselves to Him – do we find the meaning of our lives.  We worship by acknowledging that He is greater and different than we; and we seek His involvement and help in daily life.  This is contrary to Islam and Judaism, which teach your life’s meaning is based on your conduct.

Morality:  This is the oldest and hardest question of humanity: Do I get to make the rules or are the rules made for me?  Contemporary Judaism often finds itself at odds with different interpretations of moral law.  To paraphrase Dallas Willard, Judaism struggles to define who is a good person.  Christian faith is clear: No one is good.  All sin and fall short of God.  Morality and the definition of who is a good person arise from God’s character.  Unlike the Hindu gods, goodness flows out of God himself.  Because no human being is good, only God and God’s power can make a person good.  This is why Jesus had to die on the cross, so we could be made good, righteous.

Destiny:  Buddhism offers Nirvana, an escape from the cycle of reincarnation.  Islam offers Paradise for those who believe and do good deeds.  Christian faith says our destiny is based on the resurrection of Jesus.  This historical event open the door to life change.  Grace can flood our lives.  Barriers that our goodness could never remove are removed by Jesus’s power.

On this, all world religions agree:  If Jesus really did rise from the dead, this means He is God, then Muslims, Jews, and Hindi fail in a serious way to love God as God really is.  On the other hand, if Jesus is not God, if did not rise from the dead, then Christian fail in a serious way to love God as He really is.

So why did God make Jesus the only to Him?  Only through Jesus can our moral failures be forgiven.  Only through the power of His resurrection can our powerless lives be empowered.  Only through Jesus can we find the true meaning of our lives – loving our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and body.

*I’m very indebted to Tim Keller and Ravi Zacharias for their wisdom.  Their thoughts flow through this post.