The Bridge Chicago is a way to offer the resources of Mission:USA to help people do good ministry.
The next in our Spring Hymns Series. “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” done for fans of Muse and Radiohead.
In John 15:15 Jesus says “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus is so many things to us who believe: savior, shepherd, king, high priest, counselor, comforter, and keeper. One of the ways He describes himself is as our friend. For the God of the universe to not only come down and walk among us, but count himself among us, is an amazing thing.
If you are having a tough time this week, feeling alone or rejected, remember the great friend you have in Jesus.
What does it really mean to keep the Sabbath?
Some folks talk about “keeping the Sabbath” which, as you correctly point out, is kind of vague and confusing. The verse they are referring to, Exodus 20:8, says “remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy”. That may seem just as complicated, but the word “holy” is a huge help. The word holy basically means to be set apart, to be different. So to keep this day holy is to set it apart from other days.
The concept of the Sabbath comes from Genesis when God is creating the universe, the seventh (sabbath) day was different. The reason it was different was because God rested on that day. So it makes sense that that is how God wants us to set the day apart, by resting. Some people take this to the point of doing all their cooking on saturday because cooking might be work and you don’t work on the Sabbath.
I don’t think God will smite us for technicalities, but I think the concept of rest is very important. God commanded the Israelites to let their land rest by lying fallow every seventh year. They ignored that for 70 years, so God made the land not produce for 10 years to fulfill that law. We work in the same way, getting a little bit of rest every week is much better than going until you collapse and have to rest just to catch up.
The idea of taking a day of rest is in itself set apart from the thinking of the world. Worldly thinking says that rest is wasted time. Since you aren’t earning money, or studying, or gaining a skill, then it is worthless. But God says differently. God says that your rest is important and you should put in the effort to making sure you get it.
The Christian ideal is to have the Sabbath on Sunday. Which is perfectly fine, though not an iron clad rule. For people in ministry for example, that is impossible because they work on Sunday. In the Bible, Jesus healed people on the Sabbath even thought the religious leaders said He was sinning by doing so. Most pastors have a day off during the week instead of Sunday, which is perfectly fine.
You are much better off in your walk with God, and in life, to take a day of the week to rest. It will make the rest of your time more productive and more focused. God designed us that way.
-Matt from The Bridge
Do I have to have complimentarian beliefs to be a Christian? How do I deal with churches and popular evangelical ministers with these beliefs when I have doubts, questions, and disagreements? Do I stay silent and/or find other Christians who think like me? I’m having a hard time understanding the New Calvanist movement and its strong alliance with complimentarian views. It’s as if the gospel also has “male lead ministry only” in fine print. Am I less of a Christian if I accept egalitarianism?
Firstly, let’s define the terms in play here. Complememtarianism says that men and women are equal, but that they have different roles from God. Egalitarianism says that men and women are equal and there are no God-defined separate gender roles. The different theories mostly manifest around two topics: the man as spiritual leader of the marriage/household and female church leaders.
Complementarians take their view largely from Ephesians 5 where Paul talks about dynamics of marriage and 1 Timothy 2 where he says that women should not have authority over men in the church. Egalitarians point out that Jesus and the early church where both very progressive in their views toward women. Jesus appeared to women first after the resurrection, women are often thanked by name, alongside men, by Paul for having an indispensable role in his ministry.
There is no 100% definitive answer on the issue, and even among people who subscribe to one view or the other there is a huge range of practical ways to apply that to real life. One important thing to point out is that what both schools of thought agree on is that men and women are created equal in God’s sight, that is not a debatable point. That needs to be said because it is not unheard of for people who are just plain sexists to try to hide behind theological smokescreens. That is not complementarianism.
The real issue in your question is the idea of being “less of a Christian”. What makes someone a Christian is a relationship with Jesus. That doesn’t come at the end of filling out a survey of every little bit of theology, it comes from saying “yes” to the offer of His death for your sins on the cross. The major points are: God created you, Sin separated you from Him, and Jesus took your punishment for Sin on the cross so that the relationship could be restored, and we are called to love others because of that great love we have been shown.
As for disagreeing with public figures and ministries, you may have to just agree to disagree. And that’s okay, if you are on the same page with the foundational stuff. Quite frankly I am a little suspicious of a person in ministry who has a platform and uses it to talk about things other than the love and grace of God.
Let me add the note that I am aware that I, as a man, am looking at this through privileged eyes. No one is telling me that I can’t be a pastor, or have any other job. I know it’s not fun to hear, but the people who disagree with you on this have a valid interpretation of scripture. While it is a good thing to question and to pursue your calling, if you do that at the expense of serving and loving, then it can be a tool for division within the body of Christ. The important thing is not to lose the sense of perspective on what is eternal and what is earthly.
-Matt from The Bridge
I just need some answers. I’m just so confused. I thought we’re preaching equality. But why is it in Matthew 15:21-28, there’s a big difference between a Jew and a Canaanite? Does that mean that if that woman is not that faithful, He will not help her, but when a Jew with a low faith, He will gratefully help that person? I’m not questioning our faith or what. I’m just shocked into what I’ve read. Thank you for answering. :)
“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” -Matthew 15:21-28
The key to understanding what is going on in this story is that Jesus knew how it was going to end. Jesus knew that He was going to heal this woman’s daughter and that she would respond with faith. I think this exchange of words is for the disciples.
Jesus was very open about loving ethnicities that were shunned by the israelites, such as the Samaritans with the woman at the well, or even the hated Romans, such as the centurion. This was a revolutionary part of Jesus’s teaching, especially to his followers, who were Jewish. Their understanding of the messiah was that he would come to save the nation of Israel, not necessarily the world. That is evident in them trying to send her away. I think Jesus was showing them that her faith in Him was no lesser than theirs’.
Often when Jesus healed someone he commented on their faith. I don’t think it is a case of a Canaanite has to have more faith than a Jew. I think faith in Jesus being who He says He is is, by definition, a great faith.
One of the teachings of Jesus that shocked people in His time, and continues to shock today, is the idea that your spiritual identity trumps all other identities. It doesn’t matter your race, or class, or past; to be in Christ is to be in Christ and that is what defines us above all else.
My friend once asked me this question but I didn’t know how to answer it. If God know’s everything past, present, future, and everything we will do. How is it that we have free will?
It is a very interesting question. It’s actually more two separate questions that aren’t necessarily related. So let’s look at the time thing and the free will part individually.
Your friend was right that God knows our past, present, and future. It actually goes beyond that, He knows them all at once. God is outside of time. He is eternal, so God relates to and experiences time differently than we do. We are so constrained and defined by time that we can’t begin to wrap our head around how God experiences it.
As for the free will thing, that is one of the biggest theological questions ever. There are certain things we can pull out of scripture. God does have a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11), though apparently it is possible to run from that plan, for at least a while (look at the life of Jonah). God can use all outcomes and circumstances to the good (Romans 8:28). Now as for if He makes things happen to script or weaves a tapestry from the choices we make, I don’t know.
That’s the short answer to your friend’s question. I don’t have a definitive answer, no one does. There are theories and proposals and ideas, but no solid answers. When talking to people about your faith, one of the toughest things can be to just say “I don’t know”. But since we are dealing with a God who is infinite where we are finite, it is just the tough truth. What that means is that we need to focus on what we do know: that God loves us, offers us free forgiveness, wants a relationship with us, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives. If we can embrace that, the rest takes a back seat. They are interesting to think about, theorize about; but they are not what is essential.
-Matt from The Bridge
What is the difference between God is righteous and God is faithful? Why God is righteous in making the sinner righteous?
This is one of those age old theological questions. It is normally phrased a little differently: how can God be loving and be just. It is a fundamental question to the Christian faith and it is a great thing to take a long look at.
The two ideas that have to be reconciled are that God is just, so Sin has to have a punishment; and God is loving, so we have the opportunity to avoid the punishment of Sin and be with him forever in Heaven. The answer to that is that Jesus took our punishment on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus took the punishment for our sin, which He could because He was sinless, and because of that our sentence has been paid and we can be free.
Your second question is fascinating: Why is God righteous in making the sinner righteous? It’s not that God increases His righteousness by making us righteous, righteousness is a yes or no thing. God is and people, without intervention, are not. God is righteous whether or not He saves us. God saves us out of love. Righteousness is the vehicle. It is because Jesus was sinless that his sacrifice makes us righteous. Romans 4:24-25 says “God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
So God’s righteousness and faithfulness are the key drivers behind our salvation. Because God is righteous He can credit the righteousness of Jesus to us, and because He is faithful, he followed through on His promise to fix the problem of Sin through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
-Matt from The Bridge
I recently started a new job & already noticed how different I am from my coworkers. They usually invite me out to bars for drinks, but I’m always hesitant. I don’t think there’s anything wrong w/having one drink because my intention isn’t to get drunk. My relationship w/God has grown a lot lately & I’m loving what he’s done. I want to be able to connect & eventually share the love of God no matter the environment. How can I stop from feeling uncomfortable or afraid of being seen as hypocritical?
It’s good that you notice differences between yourself and people who are of the world. It’s also really good that your response to that difference is to want to connect and share with people who don’t know the Lord. It sounds like you are totally on track, but you are letting fear knock you off a bit. Which is something that happens to everyone.
You are right on that there is nothing wrong with drinking. According to the Bible, it is getting drunk that is the problem (Ephesians 5:18) and if you are underage, then drinking illegally is a problem (Romans 13). However, just because it isn’t a sin doesn’t mean that you have to do it. If you have no interest in drinking, then don’t drink. It is not something you have to try, or a sign of maturity or anything. I know people who don’t drink because they don’t care for the taste, because they think it’s ludicrously expensive, or for any number of reasons.
The thing you very well might find if you go to a bar and order a diet coke, or a water, or whatever, is that people don’t care. People get pretty wrapped up in themselves and often don’t worry too much about what other people are doing, especially after a long day at work. Someone might ask why you aren’t drinking and normally a “just not into it” will suffice for normal, decent people. If someone really makes you feel uncomfortable about it, then you can bail on the bar trips and know that you gave it a shot. And if you feel like saying it is because of your beliefs, then that might plant the seeds for conversation down the line.
It seems like the thing that’s making you uncomfortable is the fear of the unknown. Wanting to maybe give this a shot but having misgivings is perfectly natural, especially if you’ve never done anything of the like before. The best way to get rid of that discomfort is to try it. If it works out and you have fun, then great; if you end up not liking it, then you continue not going, but at least you know, no big deal. As for the feeling hypocritical thing, I don’t know how anything you are doing or thinking is hypocritical. You aren’t doing anything wrong, you are just trying to figure some stuff out. That’s not hypocritical and anyone who judges you for that is not someone who’s opinion should care about anyway. Some people just want to find fault in other people, particularly their spiritual life.
Figuring out how to walk as a Christian is tough, especially in worldly environments. There is no rulebook for these gray areas where nothing sinful is going on. You just need to find out what’s right for you and making some false starts and missteps along the way in perfectly fine. That’s how you learn.
-Matt from The Bridge
When I was young, my parents filed for separation due to infidelity. The divorce was messy and I despised my dad for ruining my life. Though I no longer see him anymore, I now fully forgive and love him, because he’s still my biological dad. We all make mistakes. I now live with my mom and my step dad whom I’ve known for about 6-7 years. And I’m ashamed to admit that, even to this day, I still can’t accept him as a father figure. It’s gone to the point where I avoid talking to him and even eye contact. I have nothing against him as a person, but as a father figure, I can’t accept him. I pick out every single flaw he has and hold them against him. I don’t get why I’m still holding on to these feelings of bitterness, antipathy and anger. How is it that I’m able to forgive and love my dad, but I can’t even accept him as a member of the family? I know I’m supposed to love and forgive everyone like Jesus does, but this is impossible for me to do when it comes to him. What’s wrong with me?
There is nothing wrong with you. It’s just that this forgiveness thing is a lot more complicated than it seems. It seems like you may be taking some emotions about your parent’s split and focusing that negativity on your step dad, instead of your dad. So what makes those situations different in your eyes to cause that? The things that make it easier for you to forgive your biological father are: you want to forgive him, and he is not around.
You point out that the reason that you can forgive him is “because he’s still my biological dad.” You have the the motivation to forgive him because you want to have peace about your relationship with him. It seems like you feel that you owe your father forgiveness because he is your father. You appear to not have found that motivation about your step dad. And that doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you a bad Christian, it’s just something you need to look at and try to understand and work on.
The other big difference between your biological father and stepfather is that you don’t have to be around your father everyday. It’s probably not that your stepfather has annoying quirks whereas your dad doesn’t, it’s that you don’t have to be around your dad to notice his. When you have to be around someone on a daily basis, and you have decided that you dislike them, it becomes easy to project negative feelings onto whatever they do. It is a little easier to have affection for someone when you aren’t exposed to the little grating daily things about them (that everyone has). Not having to deal with those messy details and the messy emotions that come with them makes it easier to forgive someone and focus on what you see as the positives.
It is a very mature and powerful statement when you say “I know I’m supposed to love and forgive like Jesus does”. We need to think about how Jesus loves us. Jesus loves us even though He is under no obligation to, His is a love of choice. He also loves knowing full well our mess and weaknesses. Jesus doesn’t love an idealized, best version of us. He loves the real you. Those are the things that make the love of Jesus so unique and so different from others.
One important thing you can do is keep in mind the kind of love and forgiveness that Jesus has shown you, and try to hold on to that when you feel negativity welling up towards your stepfather. It might also be good to make sure you have totally dealt with the emotions towards your dad about his infidelity and his leaving. Just deciding you have forgiven is not the same as going through the real work to get there. You have the right heart, you have the strength to do it, you just need the right perspective.
-Matt from The Bridge