Closed-Minded or Open-Minded?

Open-Minded-Closed-Minded

Christians are often accused of being closed-minded. That is, they won’t budge on certain moral issues. However, the only reason why they are closed-minded is because their minds have been opened. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, we read that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

It is understandable, then, why Christians come across as closed-minded: they hold to the unchangeable truths of Scripture. The Scriptures speak clearly about the sanctity of life and the sovereignty of God and the sacrifice of Jesus and sexual purity. On these items, their minds have been made up. But the reason why they think this way is because their minds have been opened to the Scriptures.

So, are Christians closed-minded or open-minded?

The Last Words of Buddha

Buddha

Buddha is the common name of a monk who lived in ancient India hundreds of years before Jesus. He was a philosopher and teacher. His teachings are the foundation of Buddhism.

He spent many years of his life traveling and teaching. At the core of Buddha’s teaching was the way to escape the endless cycle of suffering, dying, and rebirth to experience it all again. The escape comes through following the right path of moral virtue and meditation and wisdom.

It is no surprise, then, that Buddha’s last words express the same importance on your own efforts to find liberation. He said, “Work hard to gain your own salvation. Do your best.”

These words stand in stark contrast to the last words of Jesus Christ.  While dying upon the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Not only was the life of Jesus finished, but his work was finished as well. His death was the final sacrifice for sin. We no longer need to work for our salvation. We need to believe in the work of Jesus, accomplished on our behalf.

These words demonstrate the difference between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism is about working and striving and seeking to obtain your own salvation. Christianity is about trusting and resting in the work of Jesus, who obtained our salvation for us.

Joy Turned to Sorrow

AngenetteMarieWelk

I read this morning of the tragic story of Angenette Marie Welk. On May 10 2018, she was drinking and driving. Around noon, she failed to brake in time to avoid hitting the stopped Hyundai Elantra in front of her. The driver of the vehicle survived the crash, but the mother of the driver, 60 year-old Sandra Clarkson, suffered critical injuries and died four days later in the hospital.

After the crash, the police arrested Welk and charged her with DUI, as her blood alcohol level was 0.172%, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08%. In her mugshot that afternoon, she projected a large smile on her face. The mugshot went viral as she appeared to show little remorse for what happened.

Welk isn’t smiling any more. On May 16, 2019, she entered the courtroom with a very different demeanor. She sobbed in sorrow as she addressed the family of the woman she killed in the crash. She said, “I am so sorry. Your mother is woven within my DNA. I think of her every single day. I dream about her every single night. And I am truly, truly sorry. If I could change spots with your mother, I would in a heartbeat.” Soon afterwards, she was sentenced to 11 years in prison and 15 years of probation. Further, she must write a letter every year in May to document what she has learned from the crash.

It’s a very sad story. I couldn’t help but to think of joy turned to sorrow. The pictures above tell it all.

The pictures of Welk will be the pictures of many for eternity. Jesus spoke about how this happened in the days of Noah. “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27). Jesus gives the picture of a joyful people, enjoying the pleasures of life. Smiles all around. But this changed in a moment when the flood came. The joy in those days was quickly turned to sorrow.

And Jesus warns that such will happen again. He said, “Just as in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). There are many today who are eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. But there will be a day when it all changes. No longer will there be joy, but sorrow. It will change on the day when Christ returns.

The good news is that we can avoid the sorrows of the day by trusting in Christ, giving our lives to him. Jesus promised, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33).

Tumbleweeds and Trees

TumbleweedsAndTrees

Tumbleweeds and trees are as different as can be. Tumbleweeds are short. Trees are tall. Tumbleweeds are blown about by the wind. Trees stand their ground. Tumbleweeds have no roots. Trees have deep roots. Tumbleweeds are seasonal plants.  Trees undue damage through the seasons. Tumbleweeds plant their seeds for further tumbleweeds.  Trees bring forth fruit.

Psalm 1 uses these sorts of images to describe the righteous and the wicked. The righteous are described as the tree, firm, established, immovable, and fruitful.  The wicked are as tumbleweeds (or more technically, chaff), unsteady and driven about by the wind.

“[The righteous man] is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:3-4).

The righteous have nothing to fear. The storms of life may blow, but they stand secure. The wicked have everything to fear. That’s why they they flee at the rustling of a leaf (Leviticus 26:36).

While this is true of life, it is especially true of the judgement. The righteous have nothing to fear when it comes to facing the Lord. By God’s grace throughly Christ, they will experience forgiveness and the abundant life. They will stand secure. However, not so with the wicked. They will face the wrath of God, apart from grace. They will not stand.

“The Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).

Prison Saved My Life

PrisonSavedMy Life

We recently invited Louis Dooley to come and speak at our church. He wrote a book entitled, “Prison Saved My Life: I Recommend It For Everyone.” The book details his life story, from growing up in a life of crime to his life sentence for attempted murder to his conversation to Christ during his first week in prison to his unexpected release to his ministry to prisoners today. I commend his book to you. You can purchase it on Amazon. His message to our church was encouraging to us all.  You can listen to it here: Ambassadors for Jesus.

His story isn’t unique. There are many who have been brought low and turned to God in their distress. Psalm 107 speaks of the prisoners who found themselves in trouble, who cried to the Lord, and found mercy.

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress (Psalm 107:10-13).

The Psalmist continues on by telling those who have been delivered what they should do. He writes, “Let them thank the Lord for this steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” (Psalm 107:15). This is exactly what Louis Dooley has been doing. He has been giving thanks to the Lord in churches and in prisons.

Black Friday Lines

BlackFridayLines

Black Friday is the name that has been given to the day after Thanksgiving. It signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It is the busiest shopping day of the year, with tens of billions of dollars being spent on that day in the United States.

Stores often open early on Black Friday morning. The deals are so good that lines begin forming the night before the stores open. People are willing to spend hours outside waiting in lines in the hope of securing the best deals possible. Why are people willing to do this? Because they know the value of what’s in the store.

In a similar way, if people knew the value of Jesus, they would line up to secure a place in his kingdom. The would be willing to give all to know him. This is what the apostle Paul says. He writes, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Alarm Clocks

AlarmClock

Nobody likes alarm clocks. They rudely awaken us from our sweet slumbers. They command us to get up when we don’t feel like it. In some ways, we can consider them to be a curse. “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing” (Proverbs 27:14).

Yet alarm clocks serve an important function in our lives. They tell us the truth, regardless of our feelings. They tell us that we need to get up now in order to fulfill our responsibilities. Without the alarm, we might miss class or work or some other important meeting. For this reason, we endure the alarm clock.

The Bible is like an alarm clock. It tells us what we don’t want to hear. It tells us of our sin. It tells us of the coming judgment. We don’t like to hear these things, but they are true.

Now thankfully, the Bible tells us how to avoid the judgment. Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).