Why Did Christ Die for Me?

The Bible tells us that when God first created people, they lived and walked with Him. Adam and Eve were the first two people on earth and they didn’t have any separation between them and God. Because they chose to disobey God and do the one and only thing that God told them not to do, they were kicked out, not only of paradise on earth, but also the direct presence of God.

Ever since then, humans have walked on earth apart of the presence of God. Our human nature is one that is selfish and sinful. We always do our own thing first, no matter the consequences.

God’s nature is perfect, separate from our selfish human nature. To find our way back to being in the direct presence of God, we must find a way to be with Him again: to be made pure again.

Adam and Eve chose to be separate from God because they didn’t believe that God would do what He said. God said if they ate of the fruit, they would die. They ate, and they did die. First, spiritually in that they were separated from life with God, and second, physically, after years of sweat and labor to live outside of paradise on earth.

We have a choice as well. We can choose to enter back into the presence of God and become pure again by believing that God will do what He says He will. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the way to the Father. By believing on Him, we can be saved spiritually. We can be returned to the presence of God and be made one with Him again.

God didn’t have to make this way back to Him. He could have left us out there on our own. But there’s a reason He didn’t: He wanted to be back with us. God missed us and wanted to have us with Him in eternity. He made a way for you to come back to Him and be with Him again. Jesus Christ, the perfect son of God, died on the cross so you could choose to believe that God will do what He said He will do.

What Do I Owe to God?

From the ground up, we have been made by God. He created us, spiritually and physically; He designed everything about us. He knows us and knew us while we were being created in our mother’s body (Psalm 139).

After our creation, we entered the world as a squalling mess of bodily fluids with nothing but our God-given instincts to survive on. Unable to live on our own, we depend on everyone around us to live and grow, whether born into a loving family or a mess called a family. The first years of growth and development led us to finally be able to talk, dress ourselves, and eat by ourselves, for the most part.

Mastering our body, connecting with our mind, and learning the process of interacting with others takes up most of our childhood years. Teenage years come, and we start to branch out and find out who we are and how we are going to live our own life – a life away from the environment that has been our support, good or bad, until then. Young adult years find us building a life with others, finding purpose and working to add value to the world.

Somewhere in these teenage, or young adult years, we begin to truly believe that we are the ones building this life – that we have scratched out our own way and this world created is ours. While it’s true that some people have worked harder than others, we all would have died in the first few hours of life without other people.

It is good to build a solid life, and it is good to work hard at work you enjoy. The trouble begins when we give ourselves credit for our life, our circumstances, and, most often, our successes. We did not choose our circumstances, whether they are good or bad. We did not choose our families, again, whether they are good or bad.

We also did not choose our talents and abilities. Part of life is discovering what you are good at, or at least what you enjoy. These are not abilities that you gave yourself; they are abilities that were innate in you when you were created, and you are now discovering them.

All of these things are from God: our lives, our bodies, and our talents. Everything we have is from God and given to us to build a life that connects with others He’s placed in our lives. It is important to keep before us that we are living as caretakers over a life that was given to us out of His plan.

Whether we like our life or not, whether we’re happy in our circumstances or not, God is the author of our days and our ways. He planned our good works  in advance (Ephesians 2:10); He is faithful to finish a good work in our lives (Philippians 1:6).

Trust, honor, and walk with Him, and come to know Him as the author of your story.

What Is the Meaning of Life?

The meaning of life is an age old question. What’s our purpose for this time on earth? Do our days and our choices mean anything? Our reaction to these questions can range from a resounding response of purpose and connection to a heartbreaking sob of hurt and separation. Knowing that life has a purpose, and that we can find it, brings us peace when life and its struggles can feel meaningless.

Struggles are a part of living. We are not perfect; we have all fallen from God (Romans 3:23). We also live in a cursed world that is waiting for God to free it (Romans 8:20-21). In that freedom we will find a place that is perfect and full of peace and rest, but it is not in this world.

When we meet God at the end of our lives, we will find out in that moment whether we have spent our time preparing for our time with Him or spent our time defining our own system of living (Matthew 7:21, Jeremiah 2:13). Instead of seeking our own way, we should be trying to build up a relationship with God in order to have eternal life with Him in the next life. (John 17:3).

Living within God’s system or purpose is to help others and seek peace for all people. This is the result of the two greatest commandments: love the Lord with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).

This seems so very simple, but living love out can be very complicated. Relationships are hard and people can be difficult. Listening to God daily is the only path toward connection with people and action in line with your purpose. Reaching out to others is the heart of connection. Action in line with your purpose is living out God’s will. Listening to God is the joy and power that allows us to understand our role as well as accept others and love them.

Part of loving others is to see them through God’s eyes. You will see their struggles. You will be able to accept God’s purpose behind their actions. You will also be able to accept who was brought to walk with you and who was brought to leave. Not everyone stays in your life, but each one can help you see God better.

God will never leave you. He is chasing you and wants you to find Him. Time spent with Him, whether in this world or the next, is what life is about.

Find him. Find your purpose.

What Does it Mean to be a Christian?

There are many answers for what it means to be a Christian: following the teachings of Christ as taught in the Bible, following the Holy Spirit, or loving others. All these are true, but these can be simplified even further: being a Christian means experiencing God’s love for you.

God calls us to Him. All have fallen away from God and need to be saved by Jesus to return to Him. (Romans 3:23). For some of us, this is a new idea, but others have heard this their entire life. Whether you grew up in church and know all the answers to every Bible trivia question ever asked, or if you are hearing these ideas expressed this way for the first time, the truth is the same for each of us. We need to experience the love of God in our lives everyday.

We need to experience the forgiving love as we repent and turn our lives to Him, each and every time there is a need for repentance. We need to experience His redeeming love as we grow into an understanding of His purpose for our lives. We need to experience His bountiful love as we learn to trust that He provides for us.

As we learn to be more and more aware of His love for us, we can then experience an awareness of God on a deeper level, as God is love. This new awareness transforms our moments, and enlivens our lives as we learn to see things through His perspective. Being a Christian is about walking day in and day out in this awareness. We can fill our days with a fullness of life and the power of God based on knowing Him more.

Part of this process of growing more aware of His love is learning to believe what He says about us. God says we are loved, we are valuable, we are precious, and we are eternal. Not only do we believe this about ourselves, but when we look at others, we should believe in their value as well.

When we see God’s love and experience how it flows from Him to everyone, we see their value and we know that we are all children of God, equal before Him. He shows no favorites; He loves all of us.

Where Do I Serve?

When we think of serving, we often think of missions in far off places with grueling surroundings. Serving at its core, however, is simply being useful. We don’t need to be in any particular place or doing any particular thing. We need to be useful wherever we are.

Service to your Family

Our usefulness starts at home. It wasn’t just a coincidence that honoring your father and your mother was a part of the original ten commandments God gave to His children. Service to the world at large is wonderful, but falls short if you aren’t useful to the family God put you in.

Service to your Church

The next family God put you in is a church family. Being helpful to your church family is the next place to focus on being useful. Community is vital to a healthy life and supporting our community is how we can contribute to the health of our immediate surroundings. The church is there to help protect and serve others that we can’t reach on our own or who don’t have a family to help them. Serving at our church is the best way we have to create a connected environment for everyone.

Service to your Neighborhood

The phrase, “Location, location, location!” is usually referring to real estate and the prime locations that go for lots of money. Our location, where we live and where we spend our time, impacts our friendships and relationships. Being useful in our neighborhood allows us to connect and support the people we spend the most time around.

It is good to support friends and family that live far away; however, supporting those in our immediate surroundings help us build  strong connections that return and support us when we are in need.

Service to the World

After our local connections, we can offer support to the world. This is usually done by connecting with a large mission or service organization that allows us to contribute to causes around the world. Sometimes this is in person with skills or labor, but often this is with money.

We can feel connected with others at a global level when we offer this kind of service. Seeing the goodness and blessings that are being worked out all over the planet can help us remember how big God’s power and plan are.

It is important to remember, though, that this kind of service isn’t a replacement for being involved locally. God put us where we are for a reason of His own; let’s build up our community within the circles of people that God has placed us in.

Who Do I Love?

God wants us to love everybody. Easier said than done, and what even are we saying? Loving your neighbor is a foundational truth of Christianity, so how do we practice being aware of our love for them?

Love is the connection that brings us together. Love lifts us up and builds us up with strength and joy. We see our love in how others respond to our words, our actions, and even our presence.

Seeing Love

We know when we feel loved. We feel connected, important and supported. It is much more difficult to know if other people feel loved by us. Each person needs to be loved in slightly different ways. How they feel most supported  is different for each person in our life, just as we are different in what we need. The more deeply we know someone, the more deeply we can express our love for them. We can speak to them with our actions, (the loudest way to speak to someone), and they can understand our care for them.

Love comes in so many forms that it can be difficult sometimes to see it as love. We might call it politeness or being a good neighbor. Sometimes it’s civic duty or being a responsible citizen. All the ways  we live and act to benefit others, individual or groups is love. Even being a good worker and honoring your boss is an act that supports and lifts up; it’s an act of love.

Love doesn’t have to mushy, gushy and make someone cry. Love can be anything that supports and helps. It builds connections and creates bridges between people.

Practicing Love

To fully love others, we must consciously practice love, both in our actions and in our thoughts. Focusing our thoughts on building others up, on supporting the community that is around us, makes love a priority in our lives.

Practicing love may look different from person to person because God has given us all different gifts. Some are gifted in words, others in organization and execution, others in celebrating beauty in people and nature. Whatever your gifts are, God has given them to be used to support and build up.

Building Bridges

Love is the force that brings people together. It is the bridge that allows us to connect to others to help and find joy in life together. This connection can only start when one person reaches out. Love flourishes when hearts and minds are open to other people. If you’ve ever felt alone in a crowd, you know the barriers that can be between people. Love breaks those barriers so we can feel connected, whether we’re in a crowd or with an individual, far away from the crowd.

Love is the connection between us that allows support to build up our community. It is so vital to love everyone because anyone in our community that doesn’t feel connected or important is a hole in the cloth that makes up the community God has created for us to live in. Holes create weakness in our world and loss and hurt creep in through these areas.

Let’s work together to create a community of connection and support to everyone that God brings into our lives.

What Is Love?

Love is broadly used in our culture, but not often specifically defined. The Bible tells us that it’s by our love we will be known as Christians (John 13:35). Applying the broad definition of our culture to such a specific Biblical purpose can lead to confusion about how we are supposed to be living. Defining exactly what we mean by love, in the sense of how it defines us as Christians, can be very helpful.

Love Can be an Emotion

Love as an emotion is arguably the most connected form of love. We feel love towards dear people in our lives. We seek out romantic love in a partner. We find material things that we love-our new favorite thing from lip balm to new houses.

All of these  feelings revolve around the emotional sensation of connecting with someone or something. This emotional side of love is a legitimate experience of love, and is important when we need to connect with things and people we value.

Love Can be an Action

Taking action to do something good for another person is also called love. It’s the expression of the emotion that we feel. We feel love toward someone and so we do something good for them, or we help take care of a need they have.

Expressing love as an action is an important part of love because it tests the mettle of our affection and determines how much we mean it. It makes our connection tangible.

The Balance of Love

We walk in love when we keep emotions and actions feeding each other. In some cases, the feeling comes first and the action comes later. Romantic love often, not always, falls into this pattern. Other times, we do what we know we should for others and the action fills us with a feeling of good-will to them. Serving others usually follows this pattern. Both ways are important and living in love means we are experiencing both sides of the love: the action and the emotion.

The Love of Christians

As Christians, there’s more to the love that others should see in us. Most people have love in them, Christian or not. It might be only a small amount of love, it might be highly conditional love, it might be damaged and manipulative love. It’s not that Christians have love and nobody else does; it’s the type of love that Christians have that sets them apart.

The type of love that Christians have is a selfless love. The love we offer others is a love that came to us through God by the sacrifice of Jesus: ultimate selflessness. What sets us apart is that our love doesn’t come from us and fill our needs first. We have a love that starts with the needs of others, not the needs of ourselves.

Being known by our love means we become filled by something so clearly that it becomes what all people see when they encounter us. Our ultimate defining feature should be an overflowing of God’s selfless love for everyone.

Does God’s Word Relate to Today?

The Bible is old. Really old. Scholars estimate that the Bible is between 3,000 and 2,500 years old, give or take a bit. Some of the references are so old we don’t even know what they’re referring to. For example, we don’t know what some precious stones referenced in the Old Testament are in modern names. Some of the cultures that played roles in the stories of the Bible no longer exist; in a few cases, didn’t even leave a trace behind.

Knowing the Bible is that old, it can feel so distant or irrelevant at times. What did these ancient authors know about how it is to live in these modern, technology-driven times?

The first thing to realize about the Bible is that it isn’t meant to be a history book. The Bible is meant to highlight the transformation of people, both individuals and cultures, as they learn to trust and live with the Lord. The Lord is interested in calling His children to Him and the Bible is His guidebook on how we can know Him. God has given us examples of people who have come to know Him and serve Him – not for the purpose of understanding history, but for the purpose of seeing Him more clearly.

God Doesn’t Change

As we read through the Bible, it is important to know that God doesn’t change. He is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, the Bible says (Psalm 90:2). Cultures change and even go away. Languages go extinct; languages change over time. But God, the one that the Bible is about and by, doesn’t change. Today, His business is salvation just as it was from the moment sin entered the world.

People Don’t Change

There’s an old saying: the only thing that never changes is change itself. People are the best example of this kind of fickleness; they change like the wind. People are people and have been for a very long time – ever since our creation, in fact. It’s easy to start seeing the fickleness in God’s word, but what we’re seeing is the trouble that people cause, not a failure of God’s word.

(If you remember, we are choosing to believe in God’s word as a standard of living and our guide for our choices.)

God’s Plan from the Beginning

The plan God has for salvation through Jesus and His return were planned from the beginning (John 1:1). The Bible keeps a reminder before us that God knows what He’s doing and has known forever. Life can feel random and purposeless when only looked at through our own personal frame of reference. When we take a step back and remember the long-term purpose of God, we can reconnect with the joy of living and find peace in finding our own place and purpose in life.

How Do I Read God’s Word?

Before thinking about study plans or anything like that, let’s talk about the mindset that we have coming into reading God’s word. Do you expect to talk to God about what you’re reading, or do you just read what’s on the page and move on? Do you expect to find treasures that will help and support you through the day, or is it just a task to get through? Expecting to get value from reading the Bible will make a huge difference in what you take out of it.

The most important part of our approach should involve talking to God about what we’re reading. If we don’t feel like we can be open with Him about it, it can stifle our ability to learn from the passage or hear what He’s teaching us. It might be easy to talk to Him about passages we like or our favorite verses. But, what about passages we don’t like? What about passages we don’t understand? Are we just as likely to go to Him and talk to him about those?

One temptation that many of us fall into is the idea that we have to either understand or love every passage that we read. There are passages that I read that I don’t love. There are stories that I wonder about and struggle through. I don’t feel bad about that; I acknowledge it to God and we talk about it. Just because I don’t understand it or like it doesn’t change that it’s scripture and that it’s good for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16).

If there’s something I struggle with, I talk to God about it. In some cases, He’s opened my understanding to see what amazing truths there are to apply to my life. Other times, I leave it with a prayer for understanding and trust that His plan for His word is beyond me and good for all of humankind. That’s OK, too.

Worse than pretending we understand or that we  like a passage is our tendency to ignore what we don’t understand. We quote what we know and stand behind what we understand and we don’t try to include anything other than that. All of God’s word is valuable for us. Yes, all of it. Maybe not in the same way, but we can’t ignore what we don’t understand. Trying to work through difficult passages is important to deepening our relationship with the Lord, no matter how difficult it can feel at times.

Reading the scriptures for ourselves is vital. It is so easy to fall into the habit of letting someone else do the work of digging into the scriptures and telling us how it is. There are many amazing teachers and preachers who are very good at this and bring amazing insight into God’s word. We need to be able to have a handle on what the Bible teaches for ourselves. The more you lean on someone else’s insight, the more of a copy of them you become. That may be a good thing in that they are a good starting point, but we are trying to be made into the image of God, not the image of your favorite Bible teacher.

Keep the power of the Word of God close by, doing your own reading of it. Talk to God about it and find your own understanding. Then, the insights brought by others’ teaching will confirm, support and build up the understanding God is working in your heart.

What Is God’s Word?

The Bible is the defining handbook of Christianity. Others may say that they are Christians without believing the Bible, but that is a strange argument. If you don’t agree with the foundational ideas of the book, why do you claim affiliation with it? For many, not all, but many, it’s so they can find all the good and beneficial things and ignore anything they don’t like or find offensive. That’s not really believing the Bible, though. That’s believing yourself and collecting things which agree with you, including a few things from the Bible. It can be difficult to believe in the Bible, especially in today’s doubt filled days.

Let’s start off by defining what we mean when we say “Do you believe in the Bible?” When we say, “Do you believe in Santa Clause?”, we’re asking if you expect to find a jolly man in a red suit living way north in the cold making toys. We’re asking if you believe Santa exists. However, that doesn’t make sense when we think about whether or not we believe in the Bible. Of course it exists. What we’re really asking when we ask about the Bible is, “Do you accept that this is from God and should be used to influence your choices?”

Breaking that question down, it consists of two things: is it from God and should we live by it? The first question is really one of faith. You can use evidence from archaeology or study the prophecies, or any other intellectual pursuit to try to parse out the book. However, in the end, it all boils down to one question, a faith question: Do you believe this book is God’s guidance to us? You have to choose whether or not you think it’s a divinely inspired book of writing or a trumped up book of history.

The second part of the question is whether or not you believe that the Bible should influence you. It’s good to know if you believe it’s from God, but that’s only half the equation. The next piece is are you willing to change based on what you read there? If not, what have you gained by reading it? You may have more understanding about history or religions as a result, but have you changed as a person? If not, then how is that different than any other historical book?

I would challenge you that authentic Christianity that pursues the truth of God must be changed by the Bible. If you are the same person today that you were before you started studying the Bible, then I would question the depth of your walk, or, if nothing else, the level of understanding. That may sound harsh, but the Bible claims to have life-altering powers if you connect with God. That’s a powerful statement.

If you have read the Bible and say that nothing life-altering happened from it, I return with this: Did you believe it to be the divine word of God, or did you just curiously look at what it said? Take this situation to God and ask Him about it. Expect that He will teach you about His word and how to live it. God is there and real and will help teach you about His Word and its truth.