A Christianly Response to Harry Potter

I have read all of the Harry Potter books and found them to be entertaining and wonderfully written. I was sucked right into the world of Harry Potter and the rest of the cast. I will not pretend to be able to write a clear and concise summary of the series and how it relates to some of the concerns that some Christians have put out there. What I will do is point you toward two that have. The first is by Jim Hamilton and the second is by Andrew Peterson, contributor to The Rabbit Room.

I came across this great review of the series and its response and rebuttal to some of those concerned about the series.

Here is another very well written defense of Christians reading the Harry Potter series.

Faith is… Caring for the People of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 12

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10, ESV, emphasis added)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (1 John 3:11, ESV)

Faith is not just what we have inside of us. Faith must find its way out of us into the world in which we live. One of the areas where we must not forget to extend the grace that we have received is to those who are a part of our community of faith. Paul plainly tells us that we should love one another and that we must not miss the opportunities to do good to those of the “household of faith.” It would seem that Paul believed that it was easy to miss. As in most cases, the most familiar things are most often taken for granted.

If we cannot help one another, whom we know and see on a regular basis, how are we ever going to convince anybody else that we care for them? What we will create is a consumption-based relationship. People will come and receive from us because we are willing to give, but true and deep relationship will not be a part of our time together. The heart of the church is the joining of the hearts of its members.

This truth of our faith is an outgrowth of what Jesus taught the disciples. Without a caring church there will be no power in the testimony of the church in and to the world. Jesus’ clearest example shows that if we are not growing and participating in loving actions toward one another, our witness will amount to nothing.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, ESV)

Paul also joins in and expands on this point and lets us know that it is possible to fulfill God’s law when we love one another as Christ loves us. The idea here is not that we can do now what we could not do before without Jesus. What this next statement points to is that the purpose of the law was to help us love one another. Unfortunately, the law had the opposite effect on us.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8, ESV)

And again Paul says,

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10, ESV)

John goes so far as to say that our love for one another is evidence of the very existance of God when he says,

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4:12, NLT)

God has chosen to use the bonds of love between members of the body of Christ as evidence of the Gospel, his existence and his ability to change the human heart. Too often we stop short of saying this. If we accepted this as a part of our faith and calling much of the bickering that we see in our churches would have to stop. But, this would mean that we had to live out the love that Jesus demonstrated toward us. We cannot fake this kind of love. We cannot behave our way into loving people like Christ loved the church. That is impossible.

Genuine love can only come by a radically changed heart. Only when we are willing to surrender our own desires to do what we want and to choose whom we will love can we begin to love biblically. An this may be where many of us falter. We want to be able to choose whom we love. But, Jesus had something to say about that (Matthew 5:43-48).

There is a question that I now find myself asking regularly. It is based on a Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:20. This is the question:

Whose life am I living?

If I cannot answer this question I will not be able to move forward into what God desires for me in my life. What is worse is that if I cannot answer this question I have to ask some other questions about the “change” that was borne as a result of my profession of faith. There is a struggle to live a life of faith. This is natural, but which side appears to have the upper hand? Who keeps winning?

The second verse that started our discussion makes a subtle claim that I do not want us to overlook. John is declaring that the message that he and the other disciples took to the world and the nations was and is the same message that was delivered “from the beginning.” It would be somewhat naive to believe that John was thinking only of Jesus’ ministry. John, in his Gospel and in the letters, tends toward an eternal perspective. John, I believe, is pointing us toward the fact that God has always desired to express his love toward his creation. But, that is not enough. An important component of God’s plan was also to have love be the defining reality of all relationships.

The way that the Bible seems to describe the connection between our faith in Christ and our love for one another, there does not appear to be a way to separate the two. If we claim to have faith in God and there is little-to-no evidence of love for those that are also God’s children, then we are walking on dangerous ground. John said in his first letter that this is, in essence, an impossibility. If we love God then we must love one another.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20, ESV)

Read that verse again. John calls us liars for saying that we love God and then fail to show love toward our brothers!

Based on this verse, how are you doing? You cannot at the same time love God and hate your brothers in the faith. Love is a positive, intentional action toward those you see. There is no such thing as “passive” love. Love is action. Love is movement. Love is alive. Anything less than this betrays the condition of our own hearts.

In closing, I want to offer this prayer for you to consider and pray for yourself. Let it be a guide.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your love for me is perfect. You demonstrated your love by sending Jesus to live, die, be buried and to rise again on the third day. Help me to feel deep within my heart the weight and power and breadth of your love in Jesus. Help me to take what you have put within me by the power of the Holy Spirit and share it with those who are a part of my family of faith. I know that I may not always like or approve of what they do, but that does not change that I should love them as Christ loved the church.

Father, help me to prove your love for me by loving others. I no longer want to be a liar. I desire for my life and testimony to agree. The only way that this will happen is by trusting in you to transform my heart. I recognize now that this is a daily act and a life-long process. Give me the strength and courage to surrender to your will, your plan and your purposes for my life.

In the name of Jesus the Savior I pray, Amen!

Faith is… Standing on the Word of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 11

1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, KJV)

This is, according to Paul’s own understanding, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the things that I am amazed by is that there are a lot of things “missing” from what we have commonly come to believe the Gospel is. There are many things that we must understand about the Gospel, but these come after we have received this simple message and believed what it says.

There are four key aspects that Paul says must be present in order for the Gospel to be “THE” Gospel. Those four revolve around the resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Christ Died
  2. Christ was Buried
  3. Christ rose again on the third day
  4. All this is was done “according to the scriptures.”

Over the last several months I have been coming back to this simple definition of the Gospel. I think that I have found that many time the message that proclaims the redemption of the human soul is not complicated. It is profound. The heart of the Christian faith is a miracle of unprecedented proportions. The entire Christian faith depends on the resurrection being true. If there is no resurrection there is nothing. Paul tells as much when he explains that if Jesus did not rise from the grave, then we all should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). If any point of the resurrection account is questioned the entire thing falls apart.

Let’s take a few moments to look at each of these.

1. Christ Died

There are many who do not believe that Jesus actually died. The mystery of God becoming a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth has been a point of contention for many people. But, to think that God would allow himself to be subjected to the humiliation and horror of death is not something that many are willing to accept. What we have to realize is that if Jesus did not die, we cannot live! His death had to be real and total.

2. Christ was Buried

The death of Jesus was like every other dead. It was total and complete. There was no life left in Jesus body. If it were not true, then Jesus would not be able to provide for us what we needed. Without a substitutionary death, I would not be able to experience the fullness of Christ’s life in me. The reason I can share in Christ’s righteousness is because he fully, completely and perfectly shared in my death.

3. Christ rose again on the third day

If Jesus did not come out of that grave, there is no hope of heaven and fellowship with our heavenly Father. Jesus comforted the disciples by telling them that he was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-3). When was that going to take place? After his death and resurrection! That is why the disciples could not make sense of what Jesus was saying. They wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus let them know that the path that was laid out for him was not one that they could travel with him.

4. All this is was done “according to the scriptures.”

Of the four aspects of the Gospel that are necessary, this last one stands out. It stands out becuase Paul is essentially saying that God has staked his reputation and his “worthiness” as God on his ability to predict and fulfill the resurrection. Everything that happened to Jesus happened exactly how God said that it would. Everything that the Bible has to say about anything hinges on the Resurrection of Jesus having taken place! That seems like a big risk unless it actually happened.

As we have traveled on this exploration of faith, I have found that many times we do not understand the place of God’s Word in the development of faith. God’s provides his word to us to verify and to support everything that he is doing in, through and around us. Whenever we forgo using the word of God as God designed we will find that what we are trying may not work as well as we have planned.

I am thankful that God has awakened me to a this powerful truth. The Word of God, all of the the scriptures are not only sufficient for all that I need, they were designed to fulfill my every need in preparing me for living a life of faith. Paul tells Timothy to never lose sight of this amazing reality.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)

With each passing day I grow more convinced that the reason the Word of God does not have the effects that it describes is not because it does not work, but because we do not allow it work in us.

Worthy is the Lamb! (and other things we have forgotten)

The story is told of two Moravian missionaries who heard of a colony of slaves who had not yet heard the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their hearts were burdened within them. So, they sought some opportunity to go and preach to them. They soon discovered that the slaves owner did not allow Christians to come because he was afraid of the effect of the Gospel on the slaves. These two young men finally came to the realization that the only way to preach to them was to sell themselves into slavery.

That is exactly what they did. They sold themselves into slavery and as they bade their families and friends goodbye, it is said that one of them looked over the rail ofthe ship, as it pulled from the dock, and screamed to those they would probably never see again,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to
receive the reward of His suffering.”

I think we have forgotten that there are worse things than death, suffering or even slavery. The fires of hell and the people who will find themselves there because they did not repent and turn to Jesus are just two reasons to go into all the world!

Worthy IS the Lamb!

Only when our sense of calling is higher than our own comfort will we be able to forsake present pleasure for future glory. We have to see that ALL that this world pretends to offer is not the worlds to give.

Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV).

Amen and amen!