Cause and Effect

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'” (John 9:1-3)

By Scott Armstrong

I am not a scientist, but I do remember a few things from my physics class in high school.  I recall that the Law of Cause and Effect is very important.  In chemistry, when I mixed chemical A with chemical B (cause), there was a small explosion (effect).  Cool! When we are sick, we take medicine (cause) so that we will feel better (effect).  The Law of Cause and Effect is all around us, and it helps our crazy world make sense.

tumblr_inline_nxbob2UOPL1sdpb3m_1280.png

So we should not be surprised when we want to boil everything spiritual down to simple cause and effect.  You’ve heard it before: if you trust in God, he will make you rich with houses and cars and lots of money.  On the other side, if a Christian develops cancer (effect), there has to be some spiritual cause, right? She lacks faith.  Or maybe she has been secretly sinning (gasp!)!

In Jesus’ day, people took this law even further. In John 9, Jesus and his disciples pass a blind man on the road.  He obviously was blind because of his own sin—or even his parents’ sin, correct (v.2)? That makes more sense—if people only suffer or experience difficulties in life because of the stupid things they do, that fits our idea of what is just and right.  He or his family has sinned (cause).  Therefore, this man is blind (effect).

Jesus blows that theory out of the water.  Neither he nor his parents have done anything wrong. This man was born blind so that people could see God work in his life (v.3)!  There was a divine purpose even in this man’s inability to see.

I wonder if we view the hardships in our life the same way. Sure, many times we bring bad things upon ourselves as a result of our stupid decisions or because of sin in our lives.  But sometimes bad things happen to good people simply so that God’s work may be displayed in their lives.  We do not always understand it.  In fact, sometimes those around us will react with disbelief or shock (see the rest of chapter 9).  But God has a plan.  I don’t know about you, but that makes the darkness of the moment seem a whole lot more manageable. He will be with us and work in us until his purpose is displayed in our life. 

*This reflection is part of a series of devotionals written for youth by Scott and Emily Armstrong.  The series will continue in the next 6 entries.

Advertisements

Being Like Them

By Freya Galindo Guevara

“ . . . I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22

When the message of salvation has changed our lives, we become passionate about sharing it.  That implies that we must find better ways to share it, both energetically and effectively. The Apostle Paul had an intense desire to share the Word of God and his own testimony with other people.  He realized something important.  Even though he wanted to share with everyone, when he traveled to different cities and towns he found that each one was different. They looked, thought and behaved in different ways.  Is it possible to share the same message with people who are so very different from one another?

G3B44V4AJ5FBPHEXKMYGFCICJE.jpg

He gives us the answer to this important question: the answer is yes. Paul mentions that he voluntarily chose to act as a servant and, by doing so, win the most people possible.  The principles don’t change, and neither does his identity rooted in Christ, but he tries to enter the distinct environment of each group of people. His only purpose is to share the message of the gospel, not only with words, but also by living among them. Paul is not toying with his Christian behavior, but he does try to understand the perspective of different groups, not from afar but rather up close, even becoming like them.

We are all surrounded by people who are different but share something in common.  They all need God.  Maybe they don’t look or speak much differently, but they assuredly think differently from us. Are we trying to understand their perspective?  From a safe distance, do we try to share the only message that can change their lives? Or do we make an effort to draw close to those who are in need?

The urgency and importance of speaking the gospel compels us to get close to people.  We must choose voluntarily, without losing our Christian identity, to become like them so that they can hear the salvation of God and also see it through our testimony.

*Freya Galindo serves as a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene and is Global Missions Coordinator in the Central Field: Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Tear Down Every Barrier!

By Luz Jimenez Avendaño

“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  When they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3 

The Christian church was mature enough to make the biggest of decisions.  They agreed, after deliberation, to take the message of the gospel to the entire world. It was a decision they made under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The men of the early church did not follow their own will, but rather the will of God.

In Acts 13:1-3, the scripture talks about prophets and teachers. These two groups served different functions. The prophets did not belong to a single congregation.  They were itinerant preachers who gave their lives to hear the Word of God and share it with their brothers in the faith. The teachers belonged to an individual local church and their job was to instruct those who had accepted the Christian faith.

This list of prophets symbolizes the universal call of the gospel. Barnabus was a Jew from Cyprus, and Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa. Simeon was also a Jew, but the passage gives a second name: Niger. Niger is a Roman name meaning black, which indicates that he would have moved in Roman circles. Manean was a man with connections to the aristocracy and at court. Paul himself was a Jewish rabbi from Tarsus in Cilicia. This group is an example of the unifying influence of Christianity.  Men from different lands and with different backgrounds had all discovered the secret of serving together. They discovered unity in Christ.

dia-de-la-diversidad-cepaim-820x410.jpg

God calls all believers to proclaim his word around the world. We are all called to share the good news of salvation. There is much to tell. Nevertheless, our prejudice towards a culture different than our own, along with customs, traditions, legalism and vain excuses, creates a problem.  Anything that inhibits the call of the Lord serves as a barrier to us obeying His command to “go.”

The truth is that we are believers, and in response to a heavenly call, we must share the marvelous love of God so that others can know him. These men accepted the call of the Lord. They were from different cultures, but they joined together in a single team to accomplish a single goal: to preach the message to those who were dead in their sins and needed to be saved.

Now is the time to break down every barrier and preach the good news!

*Luz Jimenez has served for five years as a volunteer missionary.  She is currently serving as the Global Missions and Genesis Coordinator in the Mesoamerica North Central Field, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

How the Holy Spirit and Fire Overcome the Negative Winds in your Life

By Rev. Rob Prince

This Little Light of Mine is a beloved children’s song that is known around the world. The anonymous song is an old negro spiritual that has been sung in Sunday schools and in cathedrals. The lyrics simply sing the truth that while we may only have a little candle light, when we don’t hide it, letting it shine and not allowing Satan to blow it out, then the darkness flees!  I can appreciate that truth. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

Don’t throw stones at me (or hide me under a bushel? No!), but there’s a problem with little lights. The little candle’s flickering flame is easily blown out. It doesn’t take Satan to “poof” it out.  Any nasty wind will do. I’ve seen enough funniest home videos to know that everyone from grandmas losing their dentures to babies covered in frosting can blow out the little candle lights on a birthday cake. Little candle lights are fragile. They blow out easily.

A booming campfire, on the other hand, the type of campfire that has lots of wood, lots of flames and perfect for s’mores can’t be blown out by grandmas, babies or any other windy happening. In fact, wildfire experts know that forest fires are not reduced by the wind, they actually grow stronger by wind. Wind extinguishes a candle, but it energizes a fire.

pexels-photo-167701.jpeg

Throughout the Bible, fire represents the power and presence of God. Moses encountered God at the burning bush, and later God appeared in a pillar of fire to lead his people in the wilderness (Exodus 3:2; 13:21). On Pentecost, following the sound of rushing wind, Luke tells that something like tongues of flame rested on each of the disciples gathered. They were immediately filled with the Holy Spirit, and their lives and the world were changed forever. All of this fulfilled John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). That’s what we need too—to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and fire, even the hardiest winds can’t blow us out. Winds are going to come to everyone. Winds of discouragement. Winds of negativity. Winds of temptation. Winds of heartbreak. Winds of grief. Those winds are generated in some cases by the stuff of life, but other times those cold gusts come via the blowhards in our way. Difficult circumstances and negative, carnal people can try to extinguish your little light. But people who are consumed with the Holy Spirit and fire aren’t frail and failing like a little candle when the winds are blowing.  Instead blazing Holy Spirit filled believers look at the wind and those people in our life who are full of hot air and quote Paul, “We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

Don’t simply be a fragile, little light in a dark, dark world; instead be empowered by the all-consuming Holy Spirit and fire! Even tornadoes are no match for the Spirit’s fire. Maybe a change of lyrics is in order. “This BIG light of mine is Jesus and “even the wind and waves obey him.” (Matthew 8:27). It’s not a catchy tune, but it’s true!

This article was originally published at: robprinceblog.wordpress.com.