Thursday, June 7, 2012

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Anyone who has owned a pet that died has probably wondered, "Will I ever see my pet again?" Well, perhaps the Bible offers some hope for all you pet owners out there.

In the Apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he goes to great lengths to correct false beliefs about bodily resurrection. In the midst of Paul's discourse, it seems as though he implies bodily resurrection of animals! Read the passage below:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lord of the Dance - The Noble and the Ignoble

(written in February of 2011)

A dear friend of mine invited me to see the the Lord of the Dance with her and her family, and we went to see the show yesterday afternoon. The show was wonderfully done and was very inspiring. (It made me want to learn how to tap dance!) As I was enjoying the musicality and precision of all those tap dancers on the stage, I noticed that most of the dance pieces had a main "star" (or stars) that led the activity. These stars brought life, personality, and meaning to the entire production, carrying the story along. As I pondered this (in the midst of Irish jigs and synchronized lights), I had a new thought about the meaning of "special use" verses "common use" in relation to mankind as described in Scripture.

Paul uses the metaphor of clay and kitchen utensils to teach us something about how God accomplishes His purposes through mankind:
"Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?" -- Romans 9:21, NIV

"In a large house there are not only utensils made of gold and silver, but also those made of wood and clay. Some are for special use, while others are for ordinary use." -- 2 Timothy 2:20, ISV
He points out that some things are designated for special purposes while other things are designated for common (or ordinary) purposes. What does this mean? Does it mean that God likes certain people better than others? Does it mean that he gives certain people all the attention and turns a cold shoulder to the others? No, I don't think so. And that became clear to me as I was watching the Lord of the Dance yesterday.

On the stage, there could only be one lord of the dance. In the midst of many dancers flawlessly weaving and intermingling in strict arrangements, one free spirit fleeted aberrantly among them. Though this one was apparently moving against the grain, in due time it became clear that this dancer was special. Sure enough, it was then that the lord of the dance showed off his solo skills to the amazement of the crowd. He pranced around, rallying support from the audience, and provoking a few laughs with his sense of humor. It may seem as though this one special dancer is the most important part of the show, but actually, the beauty of the production depends both upon the special dancer and the common dancers. The special and common dancers each have different roles to play, but they are both dependent on one another for the act to be perfect and complete.

I think that we can make some parallels here to our world at large. There are billions of people in the world today, and they are all part of a grand story. They all play a unique role, but some are called to go against the grain of ordinary life. Some are called to be leaders--to initiate change, to rally support, and to give direction. Each role comes with a different set of responsibilities, and yet none can fully operate without the others.

"Special" and "common" does not denote worth; rather, it denotes role and responsibility. There is a lot more attention on the lord of the dance because of his lead role, but he also has a lot more responsibility than the other dancers to perform with excellence so as to create fans and draw large audiences to the show. I think it is the same with God's appointment of certain individuals for "special" and "common" use. Some people need to be selected to create large pockets of influence in and beyond the church so that God's Kingdom can spread effectively, in an orderly fashion.

It also occurred to me that while one person may play the role of "lord of the dance" in one performance, a different person may play that role in another performance. I think it is that way with God's appointments, too. God can (and does) appoint individuals to play certain roles during certain seasons.

Certainly, God is always looking for people who are willing to be His star performers (Isaiah 6:8, 2 Chronicles 16:9). His auditions come in the form of tests and trials (Job 1:8, James 1:2-4), and He is looking for anyone who is ready to take on the responsibility of the roles He has available to assign.

Don't worry whether you have been made to be special or common. I think that is the wrong way to think about it. Everyone is designed for great things..... But the real question is, are you ready for what God has dreamed for you?

Are ALL the Gifts for Every Believer?

Some Christians cite 1 Corinthians 12 to support the claim that the gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, healing, tongues, etc.) are not for all believers. Specifically, note the following verses:

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 
1 Corinthians 12:27-29 (NIV)

The answer to these rhetorical questions is naturally, “No.” So, many Christians determine that, therefore, all Christians won’t have every gift that the Spirit offers, and neither should they expect to receive every gift that the Spirit offers. Besides, the Spirit “distributes [the gifts] to each one, just as He determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Do I Have Enough Faith?

Imagine that you are walking along a dirt path in the woods admiring nature and communing with God. As you are enjoying God's presence, you see in the distance that a large tree branch has fallen across the path ahead. You reach the branch and realize that there is no way to pass unless the branch is moved. Thus, having the faith that God has the power to move mountains (let alone a tree branch), you fall to your knees and plead that God would remove the branch so that you can continue on your walk and get back to enjoying God's presence without hindrance. After a few uneventful minutes, you recall the story of the widow and the unjust judge (see Luke 18:1-8), and you decide that it is God's will for you to persevere in prayer until He answers. So you pray for 10 minutes. 30 minutes. 1 hour. 10 hours. ...