Category Archives: Christianity

Where Does God Live, and How Can I Get There?

Do you know where God lives? Although the vast majority of people all around the world believe in God (when defined as some higher spiritual power), most people have only the vaguest conception of where God might live.  Heaven? Nirvana? I think deep within most of us is the longing for a blissful eternal life with God after we die, although it may seem unattainable, or at least nothing we can be sure about. While studying the topic of “where God dwells,” I found a treasury of verses from the Bible that explain where He dwells, with whom He dwells, and how we can attain eternal life. So . . . if you’re interested in knowing where God lives, what it’s like, and how to get there, please feast your heart on this verses:“Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1).

“The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high,Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” (Psalm 113:4-6).

O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles” (Psalm 43:3; in the Bible, God’s “tabernacle,” his “temple,” his “courts,” and his “house” all refer to where He resides; these names are used literally and metaphorically).

“Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence” (Psalm 140:13).

Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” (Psalm 65:4).

I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:13-16).

 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof . . .?” (Job 38:19).  If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles” (Job 11:14).

He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psalm 101:7).

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (Psalm 5:4).

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore” (Psalm 37:27).Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (Psalm 15)

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).

Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah” (Psalm 84:4).

For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).“He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off” (Isaiah 33:15-17).Jesus said:He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).

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

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:9-11). “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

“And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).

My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Ezekiel 37:27).Jesus taught: “Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; so how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, [a]I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:1-6, Amplified Bible, AMP)

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:3-7).  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isaiah 32:18) God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring (Acts 17:24-28).

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings” (Psalm 9:11).

He Lives

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care,
And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;
I know that He is leading thro’ all the stormy blast,
The day of His appearing will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.
(—Author: A.H. Ackley, 1933)

PS—So many things about God do seem mysterious. If you’ve read all the verses about where God dwells and still don’t have a clear idea of how to get there, Jesus explained it in John 3, which I’ll be writing about this coming Sunday. In a nutshell, we can only get to heaven through repenting of our sins and believing in Jesus as our only hope and Savior: [Jesus said] “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Happy New Year! I hope this is a year of many wonderful new beginnings for each of us. Have you made a few thoughtful goals or resolutions? I have, and I sincerely hope to be able to accomplish them. One easy one to share (but hard to do) is my goal of finishing the new addition to our home, then furnishing and decorating it . . .  and then getting rid of all the unnecessary leftover junk that’s been cluttering our basement since the kids grew up!

In that vein, I was sorting through some boxes of my father’s writings and notes.  I always thought he was a pretty staunch atheist until he was 86, when he had a change of heart and mind and entrusted his life to Christ as his Savior. Part of the constellation of beliefs he espoused up until about the year 2,000 A.D. was faith in evolution and the Big Bang Theory, so I was amazed to find this card in his file box:

I’m not exactly sure when he wrote that that note, but it was close to this one:I had heard the story that my father was a believer as a child but lost his faith in college . . . back in the 1930’s. For nearly seventy years, there was precious little evidence of faith in my father that any of us observed. And yet, tucked away in his file box of writing ideas were these little sparkles of faith! First, an acknowledgement that he wasn’t present at the beginning of time and space. “In the beginning”  . . . he wasn’t, but the Bible says that God was. To me, this is a humble recognition that it would be foolish for him to try to deny God’s existence. Second, a prayer asking God to help him accomplish His will, dated January 2, 1974. It has a stain from tape, and so I think it must have been a New Year’s resolution of sorts, placed??? somewhere in or on his office desk??? . . . written almost 30 years before he embraced the Gospel publicly.

This may not seem thrilling to you, but it is to me, because it tells me that the seeds of faith, planted in my father’s heart during early childhood, had lain dormant for many years but had never completely died. Have you been praying for a loved one for years and years without seeing visible fruit from those prayers? Please don’t stop!! I prayed every day for my dad for almost 40 years before he told me one day that he wanted Jesus too.

Or, perhaps somewhere in your own distant past, you believed in Jesus as your Lord and Savior but have since drifted away, thinking the world is such a mess that there must not be a God . . . or feeling that you, yourself, are so hopelessly messed up that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about you. Please turn back to God and ask Him to heal you. God does exist; He is not dead; He does care about you! However, it is possible that “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). If so, I beg you to give up wanting your own way more than you want God. Repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus! He can—and will—save you! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV).

Will you join me in starting this New Year with renewed faith and hope? Let’s start at the very beginning by embracing the love and mercy of God. Will you pray with me?

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

How Jesus Came Into My Life

The story of Philip’s conversion and consequent enthusiasm to share his faith is precious to me because it reminds me of my own experience. Many Americans grow up learning John 3:16 by heart (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life), but that was not true of me! In fact, my mother wrote in my baby book—in her list of funny sayings I’d uttered as a toddler—that I thought I should learn something about the Bible. My father was an atheist and my mother agnostic, so the only time I heard God’s name in our home was as part of an angry outburst if my father was upset.

For whatever reason, I never thought about God at all as a child and never had philosophical debates over whether or not He existed. I was totally ignorant and totally thoughtless. All that changed when my older sister won a trip to Washington D.C. and heard Billy Graham preach back in 1962. My sister was as irreligious as I was, but she’d never been to D.C. so entered a Bible verse memory contest with the prize being a free trip to Washington D.C.

She came home utterly transformed. Instead of fighting all the time (as we were wont to do), she became supportive and kind, even offering me use of her favored jewelry if she thought it would look pretty with my outfit, etc. The crowning confusion to me was that she stopped dating her current boyfriend, who was a minister’s son, because he didn’t believe the “gospel.” I wasn’t sure what the “gospel” was, but I figured you couldn’t get any more religious than being a minister’s son, so I was completely baffled by some of her decisions.

She couldn’t really explain things to me, either, at least in a way that penetrated my heart, so she invited me to attend a Youth for Christ rally with her. That evening I heard for the first time in my life that there is a God! That was news to me, but it rang true in my heart, and I believed it. Further, this God who created us and the world, loves us all . . .  including me! I was overjoyed! But, God wants us to be good, not bad, and all of us intentionally choose to do evil sometimes. (That was easy for me to admit as true of myself.) God so ordained life on this earth that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together) had provided a remedy for sin so that all of us could “come clean” and be reconciled to God through accepting the death of Christ as payment for our sins and asking the resurrected Christ to reign within our hearts.  I was mesmerized, and when the invitation was given to come down to the front to learn more or pray with somebody, I practically flew down the aisle, crying tears of joy to know that God loved me and that Jesus died for me. I never stopped to wonder if it was true. It was like a light turned on in my heart and brain, and I was all in! I asked God to forgive me for my sins and for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I was flooded with joy and light!

Like my sister, I was full of enthusiasm but not very able to explain the transformation in my heart. My father (an extremely liberal professor), patted me on the head (not literally) and declared it was just a passing phase, pontificating that no thinking adult believed in God.

I’ve had many “adventures” in sharing the good news of Jesus since, but I don’t think I’ve ever become the excellent “fisher of men” that some are. Nevertheless, I will keep sharing my faith wherever I go, not because I’m a thoughtless (or thinking) adult, but because I’ve experienced the love of God, and it is better than anything else in the world to me. The power of God’s love is even better than a cure for cancer, and to know Jesus is to be born again into eternal life that will never end, not even when our physical bodies die!

If you’ve never come face to face with God, I invite you to “Come and see,” just as Philip encouraged Nathanael. Come and see for yourself! Read the Bible. Visit a church where they believe the Bible is true and teach from it. Talk to friends who believe in Jesus. Ask God to forgive your sins, and ask Jesus to save you and make you into a new creation: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5;17).

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”
(Psalm 34:8)Since Jesus Came Into My Heart
(by Rufus H. McDaniel, 1914)

  1. What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.

    • Refrain:
      Since Jesus came into my heart,
      Since Jesus came into my heart;
      Floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,
      Since Jesus came into my heart.
  2. I have ceased from my wand’ring and going astray,
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    And my sins which were many are all washed away,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.
  3. I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure,
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.
  4. There’s a light in the valley of death now for me,
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    And the gates of the City beyond I can see,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.
  5. I shall go there to dwell in that City I know,
    Since Jesus came into my heart;
    And I’m happy, so happy as onward I go,
    Since Jesus came into my heart.

 

 

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (6): Follow Me, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men

It’s striking to me that the progression of Christ’s commands as recorded in the New Testament is not simply a history of what happened two thousand years ago; it’s also perfectly appropriate for each of us in our individual spiritual journeys! First, “Repent and believe the gospel,” and next: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Or, as the event was recorded in Mark 1:17, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

The context was Jesus calling his first four disciples, men who would later become the leaders among “the twelve apostles” of our Christian faith. All four men were fishermen, two sets of brothers. Simon and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea; James and John were mending their nets in preparation for more fishing.  I don’t know what made these men so special, or why they were chosen, but they were offered a job following Christ, and they all immediately accepted! It’s comforting that Jesus didn’t ask them to do something totally foreign to them. He told them to follow him, and I think it’s reasonable to assume they were already used to following. This is specifically implied about James and John, of whom it’s noted in both accounts that they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants and followed Jesus. These young men left their father and his profession in order to follow Jesus and his profession . . .  a profession with which they were familiar. They were fishermen, and catching fish in the sea had been their life. Now Jesus was calling them to become fishers of men. They could use all their carefully honed skills to go from pursuing a worldly career to engaging in a spiritual career.  What about us? Have we repented and believed the “Gospel”—the good news that Jesus, the son of God, came to earth to teach us how to live, died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God, and rose again in victory over death, ensuring that we too, by faith, can experience resurrection from death and eternal life with Christ?!

If so, the very next step in our faith is to accept the calling to discipleship. Jesus asks us to follow him and learn from him how to become fishers of men—how to share the good news with those around us, who also need the life-giving message of God’s love, redemption, and hope. I left my “nets” fifty-five years ago . . . my dreams and aspirations for where I wanted to attend college and what I wanted for a career. Life has been very different from what I imagined before becoming a Christian, but it has been a blessed adventure, and one that I wouldn’t change for the world. It was scary to say, “Okay, Jesus, I give you my life. Take it and use it as you will,” but it was also one of the most freeing moments of my life. No more feeling totally alone and unsure about what to do next. Having God as my father and Jesus as my savior is incredibly stabilizing and fills me with joy. I can pray and ask for guidance. No need to be anxious because I’m not sure about the future, and I don’t have to have the wisdom of the ages. I am now in the care of The Wisdom of the Ages.

If  you’ve asked Jesus to save you but have never taken the next step—forsaking your own pursuits in order to follow Jesus and let him teach you how to become a fisher of men—then you’re missing out on life at its best. Please, please throw down your nets and chase after Jesus! Follow him. Become his willing disciple. It will be change your life—in the best ways—forever!

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
(—Author Anonymous)

1 I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

2 Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

3 The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

 

Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” Matthew 4:18-22).

16 “Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.19 And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him (Mark 1:16-20)

 

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (5): Repent and Believe the Gospel

In the book of Mark, Christ’s first public imperative: “Repent” was coupled with a second command: “Believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Sounds simple, and it is for some people, but for others, faith in the gospel seems nigh unto impossible. Why? Well, until a person repents—humbly examining himself, admitting to sin, feeling saddened by his failures, and wanting to change—he probably feels satisfied with his life as it it and perceives no need for help or the good news of the gospel. Is that where you’re at? If so, faith will come very hard for  you.

The first time I heard the gospel, I was overjoyed! To think that God created me (even thinking that God existed was novel), loves me with an everlasting love (as He loves all of us), and came in the person of Christ to die in my place for my sins (yes; by age twelve it was easy to recognize that I was a sinner in need of a Savior) . . . well, that was absolutely good news of great joy, and I felt like I had wings on my feet as I practically flew up the aisle to receive Christ as my savior when the invitation was given. I’ve been overjoyed ever since and have never for one minute regretted becoming a child of God that night fifty-five  years ago!

On the other hand, one of my profound early memories of sharing my joy with others was one night passing out gospel tracts with the young people from our church. We lived in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and would sometimes go down to the Soo Locks to share our faith with the many tourists who came to watch the locks operating. We usually walked down the sidewalk from Ashmun St.(the main street in our little town), passing out pamphlets and engaging tourists all along the Locks Park, and then on our way back, we’d cross the street and pass out tracts to tourists visiting the shops, restaurants, motels, and bars across from the locks. One night, someone very drunk was literally thrown out of a bar onto the street right in front of me as I was walking by. I hurried to help him up and then asked if he’d like a gospel tract that explained how he could become a Christian.

“Why would I want to do that?” he slurred.

“Well, because God loves us and wants to help us! Jesus came to save us from our sins,” I answered enthusiastically.

He hardly looked at me as he stumbled off, mumbling loudly, “I don’t need nothin’ cause I’ve never sinned.”

I was dumbfounded, but he was oblivious! Until we repent, we won’t see a need to believe. On the other hand, those of us who are willing to face the fact that we intentionally do things wrong sometimes: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), believe that the good news that Jesus died in our place so we can receive forgiveness for our sins and be reconciled to God is the best news ever! Forgiveness for sins and the gift of eternal life is better than a cure for cancer or hearing that we might live forever here on this earth (which will never happen, and could you imagine how awful that would be . . . growing older and feebler year by year but never able to die?)!

So, if you ever get to the place where you’re ready to admit that you’re not perfect, would like God to forgive you for your sins and make you his child, guiding you through this life and giving you the gift of eternal life . . . then I pray that you will believe in Jesus! As Jesus taught: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What exactly do you need to believe to be saved? Paul explains it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”   Most people believe that Jesus was a real person who lived two thousand years ago and died by crucifixion. The hard part is to believe that Jesus rose again from the dead. There are some great books dealing with evidences for the resurrection, such as Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. (If you need a list, just ask me.) During the first few centuries after the death of Christ, the church fathers wrote what is commonly known as the Apostles’ Creed, a concise statement of what is pretty much universally accepted as the basis for the Christian faith:“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.” Another ancient creed from the fourth century that has almost universal acceptance is the Nicene Confession:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.” (— Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer (1979), The Book of Common Prayer(PDF). New York: Church Publishing Incorporated. 2007. pp. 326–327.)                          I hope this helps, and I hope you come by faith to Jesus!

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears,
Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief”
(Mark 9:24).

Meditating on The Commands of Christ

I know the Ten Commandments were given by God Almighty to Moses during the world’s most awesome mountain top experience, and that orthodox Jews honor 613 Mitzvot (laws derived from the Old Testament), but in the New Testament, did Jesus ever command us to do anything?  I mean, did Jesus ever command anybody to do anything?  I always think of Jesus as perfection incarnate, Immanuel, God with us…full of grace and truth, mercy and humility…the first to forgive and the last to condemn…and that doesn’t seem like someone who would be quick to order people around. But, when I started reading through the New Testament to answer that question, I discovered that there are over 400 accounts of Jesus commanding somebody to do something, and I know that in each history lesson there are spiritual truths God wants us to understand and apply to our own lives today, not because he’s bossy, but because he wants us to be good…to learn how to love the Lord above all else and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Ultimately, obeying the commands (or imperatives, if you’d rather) of Christ will not only bring glory to God but make us happy too. So, I’m embarking on a study to meditate my way through the commands of Christ, which I hope to publish each Sunday, and I hope you will join me. Please, please share your thoughts too, so that this study will be as rich and complete as possible!

Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Hidden Treasury of Religious Art at Scrovegni Chapel…Lost in Padua

The baby was due Wednesday, and Michael predicted that it might be a photo finish between Baby Cakes and me as to who would arrive first. We had a “Plan B” in place while I was in transit from America just in case the baby came and Michael couldn’t meet me at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport. However, Mike was there smiling when I emerged from the baggage claim area. That was Friday.  By Saturday, Grace was more ready than ever to deliver, but Baby was unwilling to participate in a premiere showing, so Michael valiantly offered to take care of their four kids so Grace and I could visit the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, about a 40-minute drive from home. “Intrepid” is perhaps a modest understatement of Grace’s enthusiasm for life, and she’d really been wanting to visit this acclaimed masterpiece of Western Art before they left Italy, so we decided to take our (a?) big chance and go. Having GPS is one of the world’s finest exploration conveniences…when it works. The first time Alan and I visited Venice (about fifteen years ago), our GPS kept telling us to exit off the highway where there was no exit (all new construction), and we had a terrible time finding our way to our hotel. That particular terror was in the back of my mind when Michael warned us that the GPS wouldn’t really bring us to the right spot. He said we’d have to cross the Brenta River, so that we did. Then, our GPS said we were just three minutes from the chapel, but it didn’t seem able to direct us further, so we found a parking space (which is definitely a driver’s pot of gold  in this area of Padua) and began to walk. Many Italians know a little English, but few with enough facility to actually give adequate directions, and we quickly became completely disoriented on the twisty streets. I should have thought to take photos on my camera every time we turned a corner, but I didn’t. For future reference, if you’re traveling and unsure of where you’re going, take photos, and record where you’ve parked your car on your phone’s GPS if you have a smart phone. This works great for recording trail maps, too!At one point, we saw a young, professional-looking woman and approached her, thinking at last we’d get help. She’d never even heard of the Scrovegni Chapel (aka Cappella degli Scrovegni in Italian) and wondered if it might be downtown. After bumbling about like the blind leading the blind for half an hour, we finally found the chapel, which is part of the “Museo Civico of Padua.” Whew! The Scrovegni Chapel is filled with frescoes painted by Giotto in 1305 and is the forerunner to the exquisite works that Michelangelo painted two centuries later in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Although it’s virtually unknown relative to the world-famous Sistine Chapel, people do come from all over the world to visit, and we were give a twenty-minute slot with a small group in a carefully temperature and humidity-controlled environment to view the life of Christ as depicted in this chapel. (If you’re going to visit, reservations ahead are almost mandatory! We were late, but they graciously allowed us in with the next group. Thank you, Italy!)One of the most famous scenes is Joseph kissing Mary at their wedding. I was told that this is the “first kiss” ever depicted in Western Art (perhaps the world?).The Museo Civico of Padua is filled with literally thousands of pieces of artwork.                       They even have their own Pieta, by Antonio Bonazza.Grace and I spent hours marveling at all the gorgeous religious art, and it made us all the more amazed that so many people within a few blocks of this world-class treasury seemed to have no knowledge of its existence. How could that be? Did we fail to ask the right questions? Use the right words? It reminded me of my son Jonathan trying to find an evangelical church in Germany. He lacked the vocabulary to explain what he was looking for and so stumbled around for a long time before he found a very vibrant congregation of spiritually-minded believers.                 (Thankfully, he did, because that’s where he met his wife!) At any rate, we spent a glorious day standing in reverential awe of God as we experienced this beautiful chapel/museum hidden away in the heart of Italy.I fear that all too often Americans (myself included) fail to help others find their way to Christ. It’s easy to be like those busy Italians who lived and worked outside the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel but were oblivious to its existence. They never visited, had no clue what was inside, and couldn’t tell anyone how to get there…yet people from all over the world are seeking.  Can we open our eyes to the gospel message, believe it, receive it, and share it with others? For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).

(P.S.—The end of this story will have to be told next time. Do you think we found our way back to the car? Before Grace went into labor?  Tune in next week… 🙂  )