John 16:33 Tiananmen Leader’s Divine Cause

Today’s post was written by Rusty Wright.
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Chinese student Chai Ling helped lead the massive 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that drew the world’s praise and her government’s wrath. Twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, today this Harvard MBA is a successful businesswoman who still risks persecution to bring reform to China. Her current activities might surprise you.

For weeks during spring 1989, global attention focused on massive protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Chai Ling says the protests were “for a better, freer, and more loving China. …We wanted to know the truth about our country, our lives, and our beliefs.”

Love, Hope, Dreams of Freedom
She recalls that “the whole country, and the whole world [were] touched by that energy of love, hope and…glorious dreams that we could be free. Free from hatred…violence…separation… fear.”

“Even the thieves in Beijing called a strike,” she notes, “and stopped stealing to support the movement.”

Government leaders reacted differently.

Tank Standoff
Who can forget the iconic image of that lone protestor standing down a tank? The military crackdown took lives.

“When we offered [China’s leaders] love and peace,” observes Chai Ling, “they handed us death and massacre. None of us could believe it at first. How could I believe the People’s Liberation Army would kill its own people?”

“I grew up with them. They were uncles and aunties to me. We love them and they love us. … I raised my head to the sky and asked in silence, ‘Why? Why? Why? Why do they have to kill us for wanting to have a dialogue?’”

Stealthy Escape
High on Communist leaders’ most-wanted list, Chai Ling escaped to Hong Kong in a wooden crate. Her planned eight-hour journey became four days of dark isolation. She eventually traveled to the United States.

She married, had a family, built a successful software company, and donated funds for Tiananmen victims in China. Upset with her activism, Chinese authorities threatened her and her family. Over time, telephone eavesdropping, a hacked computer and mysterious deaths of Tiananmen dissidents brought her confusion and panic.

Unexplainable Peace
Then a friend gave Chai a film based on the biblical Gospel of John. John records Jesus as saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “Each time I watched the movie,” she recalls, “and heard the words of Christ, it brought an unexplainable sense of peace and calm into my burning heart.”

At a congressional hearing about China’s forced abortion practice, a victim said finding faith in God had sustained her. That woman’s story would influence Chai Ling’s personal and professional passions.

One afternoon in 2009, Chai knelt in her office and said a simple prayer: “Dear Lord, Jesus Christ, I now accept you as my Savior and my only God. Please forgive all my sins, known or unknown, please come into my heart and guide my life.” Expecting fireworks, instead she experienced “an amazing sense of peace.”

All Girls Allowed
As her faith grew, Chai found a strong desire to present God’s love to China’s leaders and nation. She found a new revolutionary cause, rescuing victims of China’s One-Child Policy and bringing dignity and respect to China’s women. She founded a nonprofit, All Girls Allowed, to help counter cultural preferences for male children that lead to abandoned female babies and aborted female fetuses.

Emphases include “ending gendercide, educating abandoned girls, rescuing trafficked children, defending mothers,” and celebrating “the work of God in bringing life, value and dignity to girls and mothers.” Her 2011 book, A Heart for Freedom, relates her journey and mission.

Definitely a revolutionary worth watching.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

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I Peter 3:13-14 Not All Blessings Are Joyful

Christians suffer all around the world for no reason other than their Christian beliefs. Even in countries where religious freedom is a part of the law, as in Canada and the United States, Christians can be bullied, tormented and even killed by those who have differing opinions. There are some people who believe that if you don’t believe the same way they do, you don’t have the right to work, speak or even live. It’s not always that way, but there are many cases in which it is. To be honest, Christians haven’t always been the most gracious towards others with differing beliefs either, and some could really benefit by following Jesus’ example a little more closely. Ideally, differing beliefs should be the basis for reasoned debate rather than violence, but unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world. (Genesis 6:11-12)

That is why I don’t believe that Peter, in I Peter 3:13, thought that followers of Christ would remain unharmed simply by always doing what is good. Peter had already seen suffering among Christ’s followers, and of course he had witnessed the torture and crucifixion of Christ Himself. I believe what is meant by Peter’s words in this verse is that what happens on this Earth is not the last word. I Peter 3:14 supports that by saying that if you do in fact suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Jesus said something very similar during His sermon from the mountain: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:10) Paul also knew this to be true. Paul started out as one of the most successful persecutors of Christians; his name was Saul then. (Acts 8:1-2) But after Jesus revealed Himself to Saul, (Acts 9:1-9) and changed his name to Paul, Paul suffered much for the sake of Christ. (Acts 9:16, II Corinthians 11:24-27) And yet, Paul was the one who said that nothing, nothing, could separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:31-39)

Jesus Himself promised us that in this life we would face suffering (John 16:33), but He also told us to have courage because He has already conquered the world. He has already been declared the winner. Anything we encounter on this Earth is just temporary, and it cannot harm our eternal souls. Knowing that fact should help us to follow the advice in the second half of I Peter 3:14, the same advice that was given to Judah in Isaiah 8:12 from which Peter is quoting: Do not be afraid, and do not be shaken.

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Psalm 127:3 Moms’ Night Out movie: Laughs, plus hope for frazzled moms

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
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Want laughs, plus a way to tell a mother she’s loved? Take her to see Moms’ Night Out, opening Mother’s Day weekend.

When I visited this film’s set last year, actors and producers promised it would be a hoot. They’ve delivered, with loads of family fun. I laughed out loud.

Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Rudy) and Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond; ABC’s comedy The Middle) highlight a cast portraying the chaos of parenting.

Heaton and husband David Hunt executive-produced. Says Hunt, “None of us [parents] would survive a minute without a sense of humor….” “Because if you don’t laugh, you will go crazy!” Heaton adds. “And then the kids know they’re winning.”

Dream life; dejected wife

Allyson (Drew) has her dream life – three adorable kids and a terrific husband, Sean (Astin) – but she’s not happy. Her own lofty self-expectations are shredding her.

Sean comes home one evening to find the house a mess and Allyson sitting on the closet floor watching her DVD player and eating, semi-catatonic from the day’s stresses. She needs a night out with her girlfriends.

Husbands will care for the kids while moms enjoy a dressy evening at a fancy restaurant. Sean implores Allyson to have fun: “Promise me that you’ll do whatever it takes to unplug and just breathe.” (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

Unplugged and exploded

Everything goes wrong. Allyson unplugs…and explodes, triggering a wild night. A trendy restaurant ejects the mommy friends, who desperately search for a missing baby at a tattoo parlor, embark on a “don’t-try-this-at-home” car chase, and more.

Country singer Trace Adkins plays Bones, a tattoo artist with a checkered past who leads a biker gang that joins the baby search with volunteers from First Baptist Church, led by Sondra’s (Heaton) pastor spouse, Ray (Alex Kendrick, Courageous, Facing the Giants). Can you spell i-n-C-O-N-g-r-u-i-t-y?

Mouths wide open

Twists and goofs galore keep you laughing while characters drop morsels of family wisdom down your wide open mouth. Sondra advises Allyson on parenting’s craziness: “Life is…about finding the meaning and the joy and the purpose in…all the chaos and the crazy. It’s knowing that God is with you on the good days and the bad days. Does my faith give me that? Yes it does. Am I always happy? No, that’s a fantasy.”

In his Mother’s Day sermon, Ray cites a biblical Psalm: “‘Children are a blessing from the Lord.’ That’s why the position of mother is a high calling, and one that should be honored and protected.”

Bones on life

Even Bones contributes some pearls, remembered from his mother who throughout his youth reassured him of divine love. “I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did,” Bones assures the despondent perfectionist Allyson. “So you just be you. He’ll take care of the rest.”

There’s much more to make you laugh and think. Watch for Sondra’s secret; cops’ consternation; Marco’s (Robert Amaya, “Snake King” from Courageous) obsessive/compulsive fears; and Sean citing a famous poem.

On set last year, Heaton promised “Every woman in America is going to wish that she was married to Sean Astin,” warning men in the assembled press corps, “You’re screwed!” After a year holding my breath – and now that she’s seen the film – I’m happy to report that my lovely wife Meg is still glad she married me, though she appreciates Sean’s wisdom and example.

A tip: don’t skip the credits at the end, or you’ll miss more fun. Moms’ Night Out is a Kevin Downes production of an Erwin Brothers film, shot on location in Birmingham, Alabama, and distributed by Sony Pictures/TriStar.

Rated PG (USA) “for mild thematic elements and some action”
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

A note from LC:
I think this movie looks like fun even for those who aren’t moms. Here’s the trailer.

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John 17:19 What Is Enough?

I spent a lot of years working in elementary and secondary schools. The schemes and ideas that students thought were fresh and new, I would see year after year. They thought they were being clever; I thought they were being kids. The one issue that was a constant is what I call “pushing the line”. Students wouldn’t necessarily cross a line that I had set, but they would always push it. Not so much that it would seem like a big problem, just enough to get a little more free time, do a little bit less work, or maybe get a few more marks. (To be honest, I often allowed time, after essential work was done, to do something fun but still subject-related, and I usually allowed some way for them to earn bonus marks on tests.) The problem is that once you allow the line to move a little bit, the students know it’s moveable. The next time it moves a little more, then a little more…. Before long, you can’t remember where the line used to be. The solution that I shared with my teacher candidates at the beginning of every year was to set your line where you’re comfortable with it, and don’t let the students move it. If you stick to it for the first month or two, they’ll realize it doesn’t move, and the rest of the school year will be much more pleasant.

I have known some Christians who treat God’s standards the same way. They try to push the line on whatever rules they have in their mind as “God’s rules”, taught by their parents, their church, their school, or even possibly the rules they have just imagined in their own minds. This often happens when young people leave home and go off to university or take what is now commonly known as a gap year. Things they didn’t do while they lived in their parents’ home, they can now make their own choices about. They try something, or a few things, for the first time. That wasn’t so bad. The sky didn’t fall. No one even had to know. But then the line moves. And before long they don’t remember where the line used to be.

So many of those things that they made choices about aren’t spelled out specifically in the Bible. The rules aren’t clear. What is a person to do? How much is okay? That is not the right way to approach the issue. The question should not be, “How far can I push the limits before God’s grace doesn’t apply to me anymore?” Our perspective should be, “God sacrificed His only Son. Jesus was willing to give His life to pay for all of my sins—past, present and future. What can I do to show God how grateful I am, how much I love Him?”

In Jesus’ last words to His disciples before He was arrested, tried and crucified, He said that He set Himself apart on behalf of His disciples, so that they may be truly set apart. (John 17:19) The word translated as “set apart” derives from the same word as sanctify, saint and holy. It means to be completed dedicated to God. Jesus was so dedicated to God that He was willing to suffer and die, so that we wouldn’t have to. Because He did, we can have the same status with our Heavenly Father that Jesus does. John 17:20 very clearly indicates that Jesus is praying this prayer on behalf of all who believe. Jesus prays that we will separate ourselves from the world and be one with Him just as He is one with the Father. (John 17:21)

If we want to do just enough to “get by”, we need only accept the gift of Christ’s sacrifice. Our soul and spirit will be sanctified—set apart and made holy by His effort. But we still make the choices of what we do with our body—our words, actions, attitudes. Do you love Jesus enough, appreciate Him enough, to want to glorify Him with what you do? To glorify Him means to make Him known to the world around us. Does the world see a difference in us, or are we giving in to the pressure to be just like them? Jesus set Himself apart so that we too may be truly set apart. (John 17:19)

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Proverbs 17:3 Refiner’s Fire

There is a prayer I have been praying for many years, decades even, and it hasn’t been answered yet. Well, it hasn’t been answered with a yes anyway. Now I was brought up to be unselfish, to not keep asking for what I want, to take no for an answer. But because of the story of the persistent widow, (Luke 18:1-8) I feel I should keep asking.

Over the years I’ve tried to reconcile that parable with my upbringing. Whereas it is not okay to ask your parents for the same thing over and over again, it is okay to ask God. Not only is it okay, but He invites it; He recommends it. And frankly, this is the kind of prayer that He wants to say yes to, but He has also granted the members of the human race the right to make their own decisions.

So I’ve been wondering lately: what value is there in my continuing to pray? God already knows my request. He knows the desires of my heart. Will my prayers change anything? The story of the persistent widow tells me they will. But maybe the subject of my prayers is not the only thing that will change.

Yesterday I read Proverbs 17:3. Perhaps, God is working on changing me through this process too. This proverb talks about refining precious metals by heating them up and removing the impurities. God purifies us through the tests we endure. Similarly, James 1:2-4 says that we become perfect by going through trials. It’s not instantaneous. It takes time, and I’m guessing that, at least where people are concerned, some impurities take more time than others. Sometimes we have to work through anger, resentment, unforgiveness. The harder we hold on to something, the longer it will take. Sometimes we have to realize that God may be doing something that we don’t understand. Just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t for the best.

Thinking through this brought to mind the words of a worship song by Brian Doerksen: “Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy.” It’s possible you have sung that song yourself. I hope you meant it, because it is inviting God to bring the heat of trials into your life. We will be better for them in the end, but it could be a little uncomfortable along the way. Be encouraged though; God does this because He loves us, and because He wants what is best for us. (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:6)

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I Corinthians 1:18 Foolishness

There are school children who are about to enjoy a four day weekend, and many of them have no idea why. A student once asked me, “What does Easter celebrate? Bunnies?” There was no knowledge of this country’s Christian heritage or traditions. And if someone asks you a similar question, and you try to explain Easter to them, what do you expect them to think? Jesus, the Son of God, came to Earth, lived for 33 years, and then was crucified. But He rose again. Why? So that we could live forever and never die. Really? Do you believe in little green men too?

In I Corinthians 1:18, the Apostle Paul reassures us that we are not crazy. He tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but is the power of God—life and hope—to those of us who believe and are being saved. In I Corinthians 1:19, Paul refers back to Isaiah 29:14, a passage that his wise listeners would be familiar with. Paul’s assertion that God’s wisdom went far beyond human wisdom and understanding was not new. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Paul referred to the scribes, the Jews who were experts in Mosaic law, and the debaters or philosophers, the Greeks who were—and still are—regarded for their wisdom. These were the people who were considered the wisest by human standards, but they did not understand the ways of God. The Jews expected their long-awaited Messiah to be strong and heroic, not a small-town carpenter who would be executed in one of the most horrific ways possible. They wanted a sign to prove that Christ was indeed the one they were expecting, and crucifixion just didn’t seem to meet their preconceptions. The Gentiles, the Greeks, couldn’t get their minds around a god who would interact with humans and then allow himself to be crucified. That wasn’t the kind of god they were used to. (I Corinthians 1:20-25)

God requires us to have some faith. (Hebrews 11:6) We will probably never completely understand God or His ways, but the more we search for truth, the more we seek to understand Him, the more He will reveal to us through His Holy Spirit. (Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:12-13) Salvation—eternal life with God starting now—is not something that we can achieve through our own efforts. (Ephesians 2:9) Our wisdom, understanding and good works will all fall short, but the work of Christ—His sacrifice on the cross—is sufficient. It is a gift to us, and all we have to do is accept. God does not want any of us to perish. (John 3:16, II Peter 3:9, Matthew 18:14, John 10:28) Difficult to understand? In our own wisdom yes, but it is the perfect plan of God.

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John 11:25 Heaven is for Real, movie claims

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
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The kid says he sat in Jesus’ lap. In heaven.

And that angels sang Sunday School songs. He asked them to sing “We Will, We Will Rock You,” but they declined.

Colton Burpo, age 3, had a near-death experience (NDE) during a 2003 emergency appendectomy. He claims he rose above his body and saw the doctor working on him, his parents each praying in separate rooms, and his mother speaking on the phone.

Astounded parents

Four months after surgery, Colton told this to his astounded parents, Todd and Sonja. Todd affirms, “There was no way he could have known” some of it. “We had not told him what we were doing while he was in surgery, under anesthesia, apparently unconscious.”

The Burpos’ gripping story became a bestselling book, Heaven is for Real, and now a film opening in the US April 16. Randall Wallace (Braveheart, Secretariat) co-wrote and directed the TriStar production.

Meeting his unborn sister

About seven months post-surgery, Colton said, “Mommy … you had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” Todd and Sonja had never told him about the miscarriage preceding his conception. Colton said his unborn sister – whom he met in heaven – was eager to meet her parents there.

Colton said in heaven he also met his great grandfather “Pop,” who died in 1976. Though he didn’t seem to recognize Pop from an age-61 photo, he later identified age-29 Pop in another photo. “Nobody’s old in heaven,” Colton explains.

Legitimate experience?

I have longtime personal and professional interest in NDEs. My late mother had one. I’ve written, lectured extensively, and broadcast about them. Was Colton’s experience legitimate?

Physiological NDE explanations consider factors like head trauma and oxygen deficiency. Pharmacological theories posit drugs or anesthetics. Psychological explanations propose defense mechanisms, wish fulfillment, misinterpretation. Spiritual explanations see NDEs as afterlife previews, either genuine or distorted. Applications of these theories can be complex.

Certainly Colton had anesthesia. And his church upbringing – Todd’s a pastor – could have planted mental images that influenced his interpretations.

Careful method?

But Todd feels Colton had no previous exposure for some of his reported visions. Todd and Sonja carefully asked Colton mostly open-ended questions – not leading ones – to minimize bias.

Todd told me that, not anticipating writing a book, he and Sonja didn’t write down Colton’s 2003 NDE accounts back then. The book released in 2010. Memories, of course, can shift over time.

It’s difficult to dismiss Colton’s accurate account of his parents’ whereabouts during his operation. Alas, we don’t have a mind/spirit-reading machine to validate NDE accounts. And anyway, these events usually aren’t controlled clinical situations; they’re medical emergencies.

Is there life after death?

Can we know if there’s life after death? As somewhat of a skeptic, I concluded there is, not based on NDEs but on evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. He predicted his own death and return to life, and then it happened. This gives me confidence to believe his claim, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”

Heaven is for Real is an entertaining book and film that engages heart, mind and spirit. Both portray this ordinary family coping with life’s daily challenges, plus – they feel – a supernatural encounter. You may not agree with every detail; I still have questions. But I predict their story will get you thinking. And if you’ve ever been confused about life or angry with God, you’ll find passionate – and compassionate – kindred spirits.

Colton Burpo remains a regular kid, now a teenager. He attends school, plays sports, and has normal sibling relationships. During family brainstorming for the book’s title, his sister Cassie suggested He’s Back, but He’s No Angel.

Is heaven for real? Absolutely. Did Colton Burpo see heaven? Perhaps; maybe even likely. But can we really be sure heaven exists? For ultimate confidence, my money’s on the one who predicted his own resurrection, then pulled it off.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
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Rated PG (USA) for “thematic material including some medical situations”

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Genesis 6-9 Noah movie: courage, faith, hope

Today’s post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
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OK, how would you feel if you thought you heard God telling you he was going to destroy every living thing on earth with a great flood?

Except he wanted you to build a boat to survive the tumult with a few relatives and a slew of creatures.

Would you jump at the challenge? Run and hide? Ask – as Bill Cosby did in his classic comedy routine portraying Noah – “Right! Who is this really?”

Perhaps you’ll sense how the biblical Noah felt. Paramount Pictures and director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky bring Noah to the big screen in North America and worldwide throughout late March and April. The cast includes Russell Crowe in the title role, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.

With breathtaking cinematography, this film imagines some intense struggles for Noah and his family. We see sorrow for lost masses, interpersonal conflicts, and practical realities of living on a creature-packed craft.

Taking Liberties

Paramount says Noah’s story “inspired” the film, but that “artistic license has been taken.” Too much license, feel some. I’m reminded of TV’s iconic psychiatrist Frasier Crane, concerned that an employee was “taking far too much liberty with the liberty-taking!” Readers of the biblical Noah story won’t find there, for instance, the film’s multi-armed fallen angels, its pronounced environmentalist message, or hordes of people fighting to board the ark.

The biblical account is short – mostly Genesis 6-9 – with little detail about ark life. So, yes, the filmmakers took liberties – many. Aronofsky recently told The Atlantic he views the story “as poetry and myth and legend” that helps us understand the world and ourselves.

But the essential framework of the biblical flood story – human evil, divine judgment, hope and salvation – remains in Noah. Consider these facets of that story and their modern implications.

Human Evil; Divine Judgment

Genesis says humanity was a mess: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. … It broke his heart.”

Human corruption prompted him to “destroy every living thing.” But “Noah was a righteous man … [who] walked in close fellowship with God.” God told him to build a large boat, specifying precise dimensions and design.

Filmmakers took pains to follow biblical specs for their ark. The production designer had many ideas for the ark’s appearance, but Aronofsky, who is Jewish, insisted, “No, the measurements are right there.”

Salvation, Hope, Promise

Noah built his ark and took aboard his wife, their three sons with their wives, plus pairs of animals, birds and crawling creatures. Elaborate computer-generated imagery portrays the animals for film.

Rain poured, underground water erupted, and floodwaters covered the earth. Every human, bird and land animal not in the ark perished. The waters receded, the earth dried, and the ark inhabitants disembarked. God promised never again to destroy the earth by flood, offering the rainbow as a pledge reminder.

Faith; Future

If you attend the film, I suggest reading the biblical account first, then again after the screening. Noah’s story has much for a 21st–Century audience, including two nuggets about faith and the future.

The New Testament lauds Noah for his faith. He was not perfect. “Wickedness is…in all of us,” he tells his wife in the film. His own drunkenness – depicted in the film – led to embarrassment and family conflict. But his faith in God mattered. I came to faith as a skeptical university student. It has made all the difference in my life.

Concerning the future, Jesus indicated his second coming would be “like it was in Noah’s day” with people carrying on their routines and unaware of impending peril. “You also must be ready all the time,” he continued, “for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

I want to be ready.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
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This movie is rated PG-13 (USA) for “violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content”

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Hebrews 13:8 Is It Spring Yet? Change is Coming

Today’s post was written by and shared with permission from Ann Mainse.
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Spring is in the air. At least that’s what they say. To be honest, as I look outside MY window, what I see is SNOW in the air! But Spring is definitely on my calendar. Yep, there it is, written in big stylized letters: Spring Begins. Those two words mean that the blanket of frigid fluffy white surrounding my home will soon be replaced by a carpet of fragrant pastel petals. The arctic winds rattling my windows will soon settle into refreshing breezes ruffling my hair. And the lonely skin-and-bones oak tree standing guard in my backyard will soon be draped in a robe of intricate living colour. Are you beginning to feel it? It’s coming. You can count on it.

It’s the time of year that I can just imagine God, with delicate strokes of His majestic paintbrush, adorning colour-starved landscapes with heavenly hues. You’ve seen it, haven’t you? Primrose red. Daffodil yellow. Forget-me-not blue. The Creator literally lavishing us with His creativity. Makes you wish that every day could be lived in Springtime, that the calendar would never turn. But we know that sadly, like many things in life, the colour doesn’t stay. The winds once again turn cold and all too soon the freshness of Spring shrivels into the looming decay of Autumn. But isn’t that what life is all about? Doesn’t everything in our lives fall prey to change? Children grow. Parents die. Bodies age. Like the windswept leaves on a blustery Fall day, our world is full of change.

But that presents a problem. I don’t know about you, but I need stability. Well, actually, I do know about you- we all need stability. As human beings, we have an undeniable longing to depend on something that will never change. Something we can count on. There has to be some anchor of safety from which we can brave life’s storms. Someone who stands the test of time, even as time marches on. And the good news is … there is! Just look at this promise from the book of Hebrews:

For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down. ~ Hebrews 13:5 (The Amplified Bible)

Wow. I think God is trying to tell us something. Read over that verse again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. =) God said it: I will not leave you. And just in case we need it said in a different way:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8

Jesus is God the Son. He is stable. He is unchanging. He’s not going anywhere and He wants to be your life’s Anchor. Take it from someone who has weathered a storm or two in her day. When it comes to stability in the midst of chaos, there is no one like Jesus. No one.

Okay- I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering, what if my life contains no major storms just the gentle passing of the seasons and the occasional manageable gusting wind. Do I still have the need to be connected to the never-changing One, Almighty God? You know what I’m going to say. Of course you do.

For although it may not happen tomorrow, we know that the paralysing death of Winter is coming. The final season is near. And while that knowledge in itself may cause some people to finally do much-needed business with God, I can’t help but grieve over all the beauty they’ve missed. The fragrance. The colour. For in coming to God through the Cross of Jesus, we are actually starting the seasons all over again. The fresh new life of Spring. The wild unhindered growth of Summer. The beauty of life’s ebb in Autumn. And finally the blanket of God’s eternal Presence in Winter.

As the snow melts outside my window, I’m reminded that Spring will eventually come. And along with the pictures on my calendar, so will the seasons dramatically change. But the one truth I hang onto through it all is that the Creator of those seasons will not. He guarantees it. And that, more than anything else, is definitely something we can count on.
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You can see more blog posts from Ann Mainse at Crossroads360 Contrtibutors. Crossroads360.com is a multi-channel service providing entertaining, informative and transformative content. In addition to blogs, there are episodes of past television shows as well as exclusive web content. Their channels include KidsSpace, God Stories, Music, Explore Faith, Nostalgia, Everyday Life and News.

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Luke 10:25-37 Compassionate or Condemning?

Often, in my posts and in my conversations, I have mentioned that Jesus really only had two rules—to love God and to love others. Matthew 22:35-40 tells us that all the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. When we think back to Old Testament Law, we often think of the Ten Commandments, but Jesus’ top two are the essence of all the law handed down from God through Moses. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18) Therefore all the religious experts who challenged Jesus with questions would not only be aware of this, but would have memorized the scriptures that say so. Many of them would have carried these verses in phylacteries that they wore to remind them to keep their religious law.

So it was no surprise that when a religious expert stood up to test Jesus by asking “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, he actually answered his own question by quoting that scripture. (Luke 10:25-28) The expert wasn’t sure he wanted to make such a large commitment, so he decided to see how narrowly he could define the term “neighbour”. (Luke 10:29) In response, Jesus told him the story of The Good Samaritan, (Luke 10:30-37) probably one of the most familiar stories from the Bible. A man walking down a long, steep, narrow, winding road, with lots of places for bandits to hide, is robbed, beaten and left for dead. A priest and later a Levite, two people who would know God’s laws better than most, both crossed the street as they approached the victim to avoid the possibility of becoming ceremonially unclean by touching him. They essentially condemned him to death. Finally a Samaritan came along. Samaritans were despised by the Jews, hated because of their race and because of actions taken by their ancestors generations before. If the victim had been in his right mind, he probably would not have even spoken to the Samaritan. Why should the Samaritan waste his time, and his money, to help this man out? Nevertheless, he did. He carried him to the closest inn and gave the innkeeper the equivalent of two days wages to care for the man. That would have been enough money for about a month’s lodging, but it came with the promise to make up the difference the next time he came by. He would pay whatever it took for the care of this stranger.

Jesus finished the story by rewording the religious expert’s question—not, “who is my neighbour?”, but “which one was a neighbour?” The expert answered, “the one who showed mercy”. And like the Samaritan did, Jesus tells us to go and show mercy to those in need. (Luke 10:37) Compassion has a price, and it is inconvenient. Jesus was well aware of that when He told us to love each other. We may not be able to do this in our own strength, but if our hearts are willing to love and obey God, and therefore love others, God will give us eyes to see their needs, and the strength and resources to meet them. (Philippians 4:13)

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