I hope you are well.
I read this and I enjoyed it. Your writing is full of passion and insight.
Your line about being a Christian when “everything is rosy” is spot on. In fact, I do worry for people who have a fragile faith, who expect God to shield them from all calamities and make them rich and successful. I thought your view on God having “conditions” was very bold and unorthodox. Most churchgoers would shout you down for saying such a thing but, I agree with you and, more importantly, I believe that the Bible says the same thing.
You capture the essence of faith very well in your article, to see beyond our normal vision. That is deep trust – faith in God's promises isn't it?
I love the way you deal with an uncomfortable topic – Satan, head on and, once again, you say what the Bible says. We can't have Jesus without Satan, they are linked – one, as the superlative example of love and loyalty and the other as the example of hate and selfish ambition. Unfortunately, he is also “The ruler of this world” and “misleading the entire inhabited earth” as Jesus warned. The world certainly is “dancing to his tune,” as you put it. Like you, I find it very bizarre that so-called Christians can doubt the existence of the Devil. Maybe they should try actually reading the Bible! You are right about God giving us the wisdom and power to resist Satan's “Crafty acts.” Sadly, as I mentioned before, even Christians can succumb to his ploys. I have a real battle with old weaknesses that I am still trying to purge from my old personality but, I do get help from God's spirit - when I ask for it and when I use it!
So true about fear, Patrick, it does destroy faith and it is a strong weapon of Satan's. The only other weapon just as strong, in my opinion is – doubt. Doubt leads to a lack of faith, and can ultimately end in despair.
Your best line, in my humble opinion, is “Trust Jesus, and find out who you are.” - So very true, mate! The Bible, which, like Jesus, is the “Word of God,” compares itself to a mirror. Only by looking into that divine mirror, can a person see what God sees, both the potential for good and the weakness for bad.
Your powerful call for action is very persuasive and, I would imagine, will help some who are faltering in their faith.
It's an interesting word Jesus used, that confused Martha and Mary - “sleep.” Yet, they should have known what he meant because they would have known the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, where it reveals that death is, in fact, very similar to a state of seep sleep, unconsciousness - “The living are conscious that they will die but, the dead are conscious of nothing at all.” says the Bible in Ecclesiastes. But Jesus has been given authority to wake people from the sleep of death.
Good observation, about Jesus weeping “for them”, a massive difference.
You are right about death crippling people and destroying faith. I have seen many people turn away from God because of the suffering of others. No wonder the Bible calls death “The last enemy.” Yet, what people often don't realise is that one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to demonstrate the future power of God's kingdom, even over death, which will be thrown into the lake of fire. I still mourn for my dear mum and dad, and my younger sister, who died too young. But. My faith in the resurrection is strong – unbreakable, because of the promises of Jesus.
It's true that not many knew, until the end, who Jesus really was. Can you imagine what would happen today if Jesus walked among us again? Most people would want to lock him up, or study him or charge a fee to see him!
I like your phrase - “Growing pains.” That is a good description of our heavenly Father teaching us, and us sometimes falling down or stepping backwards. I have a lot of those pains!
Sadly, “seeing signs” is a still a requirement for too many people today and, they are often disappointed.
I read the verses you cited, they are one of my favourite accounts. I try to read and study the Bible every day of my life, to get God's thoughts into my life. I find it a real protection and comfort.
I have a bit of background information you might like to hear, Patrick. The Jewish people of Jesus' time did believe in the physical resurrection, which is taught in the Hebrew scriptures. However, they, as Mary said, believed that this would happen “on the last day” - God's day of judgement. By raising Lazarus and others from the grave, Jesus was showing everyone that he had the power and authority over death. Lazarus would have still died later, perhaps of old age, so he would still have had to wait until the final day to be brought back to life forever.
The other thing was that Jesus delayed going to Lazarus. Many have wondered why. Did you know, Patrick that, according to local tradition and superstition, (not scripture), a person's dead body would not give up the soul for four days? So, in waiting two days before setting out for Bethany, Jesus arrived on the fourth day of Lazarus' death. Could he have done this to dispel the myth about the soul? He certainly demonstrated power over death, even after this crucial period of time. Could anyone looking on doubt that Lazarus was truly dead?
Your article is powerful, sincere and encouraging. You are a rallying call of faith. Well done. We all play our part in directing people to God's love and the hope he offers.
I had two observations about spelling and content, if I may? You spell the word “their” as in – belonging to them, as “there” as in over there.
You and I seem to agree on most things about God and the Bible. One of the only differences in our beliefs is something that I understand differently from God's word. People often consider me to be unorthodox because of it and I have been accused of blasphemy on many occasions – an accusation that is deeply insulting to me. I won't elaborate on the issue. Suffice to say that you did mis-quote one scripture in your article. I think you were referring to Isaiah 9.6 where you quote it as saying “Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, God Almighty.” With respect, the verse says - “Mighty God” not “Almighty”, there is a difference, and it can distort people's view of Jesus and his Father. Just a thought, hope you are not offended.
Take care. I will try to read another one of your articles when I can. Am going through some difficult trials at present but, I will survive.
I wish you peace.