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Faith & Reason Ministries

Writings From JPL's Christian Newsletter 1986

by John D. Callahan, Copyright © 1998 by Faith & Reason Ministries.

Christ Praying

In 1981 John D. Callahan founded a "Christian Newsletter" at JPL. Throughout the decade, John wrote a number articles for the newsletter; the year 1986 is given below.

WHO EVER BATTED 1000? (Feb 1986)

Who ever batted 1000? Who ever never made a mistake? Who never said anything wrong? Who never offended anyone? Who never disobeyed God? Why no one of course. The only perfect man was Jesus Christ, but he had the advantage of also being God incarnate. Everyone else is imperfect and makes mistakes.

We should, therefore, treat ourselves and each other with this understanding. We should show compassion instead of judgment, mercy instead of harsh words, and patience instead of accusations. We all know that the "Spirit" of Jesus' life was such, and we all know the mercy He has shown each one of us.

There is a time for righteous indignation and anger, but when we express it we need to be very sure it is of God and not ourselves. If we truly seek Him, we will find that most of the time our anger is of ourselves or the Devil and not of God. We will find that God wishes us to be humble, patient, and trusting in Him when we are frustrated with our failures and that of others.

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? Seven times?" "No, not seven times," answered Jesus, "but seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:21-22).

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND YOU (Mar 1986)

Within the Body of Christ there are different opinions as to the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. This article is not intended to offend anyone, but to give a Biblically supported position which many can agree on. Anyone wishing to give an alternate view is welcomed to write the editor.

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the third person of the Trinity. He is a person, divine, and very important in Christian life. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about things of common knowledge which he, as a spiritual leader, should have understood (see John 3:10).

Therefore the Spirit is present in all saved people -- both New and Old Testament. This is further supported by the fact that Simeon, "a good and God-fearing man" (Luke 2:25), was "assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's promised Messiah" (Luke 2:26). There are several other such comments in the New Testament, such as this one from Luke, "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1:41).

Perhaps the biggest contention among Christians is whether there is a "second work of grace" in addition to salvation. This "second work of grace" is referred to as "the baptism in the Holy Spirit." Well, there is definitely an empowering of the Spirit of God which is special and does occur. When Jesus was baptized by John "the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in bodily form, like a dove" (Luke 3:22). Also Jesus Himself instructed the apostles to go to Jerusalem where they would be empowered with the Holy Spirit.

In the above two examples, the more powerful presence of God's Spirit was given to prepare Jesus and, later, the apostles for ministry. It was not given because Jesus and the apostles actively sought it, but rather it was given by direction of God for His work. Jesus and the apostles were seeking God and His will, and through this they received more power.

Common sense should tell us that we should not expect to become another Billy Graham a week after we are saved. Therefore we should think of our Christian walk as one of obedience and sacrifice -- working towards God's plan for our lives. And along the way He will give us a greater manifestation of His power through the Holy Spirit, as He directs and more than once.

Speaking in tongues is a valid gift, but it is not to be given an improper place. Paul calls the gift the least of all. It is more important to speak God's message, which implies a deeper understanding and walk with God (see 1 Corinthians 14). Loud displays in tongues, claiming great power and privilege with God, are to be avoided. Rather, as Jesus said, "when you pray, go to your room and close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen" (Matt. 6:6).

WORK, FOR THE NIGHT IS COMING (May 1986)

"We must keep on doing the works of him who sent me, as long as it is day; the night is coming, when no one can work" (John 9:4). Jesus make this statement just before he healed the man born blind. Not only was it an admonishment for the apostles at the time, but for us as well.

Jesus was stressing the fact that the final judgment has not occurred, and while most people may be lost, almost no one is without hope. And how many more people eventually reach heaven is largely up to our willingness to be used by God. Once the judgment has happened, those in hell can no longer be reached by us.

Often those around us seem just as happy and healthy as we are, and we forget that if they do not know God, through our Saviour Jesus, they are in dire circumstances. Let's constantly be sensitive to the Spirit's leading to labor for their souls, by praying for them and being an effective witness in our words and actions. We may not see them come to the Lord, but the seeds we plant may someday help make the difference.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED (July 1986)

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" This old and famous saying holds several truths for the Christian. First, for the Christian the words "in God's will" should be added after "succeed," for we must always be attempting to do God's will. It is not easy to live in this world and always discern correctly the will of God (due to the Devil and our own flesh), but we must always keep tying -- so "try, try again!"

Second, any positive thinker will tell you that persistence is one of the most important keys to success. Often the main thing that makes a successful man is his unwillingness to give up. For instance, it took Thomas Edison great effort to invent the electric light, and he failed many times. Many people ridiculed him. One such person told him that he had tried 1,000 ways to make an electric light and learned nothing. Edison, undaunted, replied that he was wrong, because he, Edison, now knew 1,000 ways an electric light wouldn't work.

You see, Edison knew enough about science and "what he was doing" to know that he was going to succeed. In the same way, we as Christians can be sure of success, because we know what the Bible has promised and what God has spoken to our hearts. What stronger evidence can anyone have for success, no matter what the circumstances may look like?

Recall these words from the Gospel of Luke, just before Jesus told the parable of the widow and the judge: "Then Jesus told them this parable, to teach them that they should ALWAYS pray and NEVER become discouraged" (Luke 18:1). Also, the woman who touched Jesus' cloak (Luke 8:43-48) tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to be healed and "had spent all she had on doctors." Her determination and faith led her to Jesus, and He approved of the medicine she had chosen: "My daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace."

Once I visited privately with a very successful pastor/Christian song-writer (he has written a well-know contemporary Christian song), and I asked him if he ever failed as he matured in the Lord. To which he replied, "Oh yes, I've failed so bad that many people would say I shouldn't be in the ministry."

Lord, help us never to become discouraged but, in you, to "try, try again."

JESUS COMPARED? (Sept 1986)

Have you ever heard Jesus compared to other great men of history, such as Buddha, Socrates, and Muhammad, or even Lincoln or Gahdhi? The world often likes to classify Jesus with such men, and make statements like, "Jesus was another great and good man sent to help us understand. Such men have appeared several times throughout history."

Yes, Jesus was another great and good man if one forgets the following "minor" points: (1) Jesus was God, claimed to be God, and is the only person who has ever convinced a large portion of the population that he was God. (2) Jesus did countless miracles, including raising the dead. Why do you realize that of the five other men mentioned in the first paragraph, none ever did miracles?

In addition...(3) Jesus promised eternal life to his followers. (4) And only Jesus can claim an empty tomb by means of resurrection from the dead. (5) Jesus allowed his death to happen for our sakes as payment for all the sins of mankind. Of the other men mentioned above, only Socrates allowed his death, and none of the deaths had any life-giving significance. For example, Buddha died at age 80 from a meal of bad pork.

Jesus was just another great man -- if one ignores everything significant about Him. Jesus compared?

DON'T BE BOUND BY THE PAST (Oct 1986)

It is sometimes difficult as Christians to give our lives to God TODAY -- not yesterday or last month or last year or last decade. Yet we are repeatedly exhorted by the Bible to do just that, understanding that God knows what is best for us now and for our future. Let's look at a few reasons Christians refuse to let go of the past and let God have His way.

For many of us, we spent a long time in the world and sin, and it just doesn't seem God can fully forgive us and use us. Therefore, when God is encouraging us to seek Him and serve Him to help others, we are discouraged and can't believe it. However, from 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 we read, "When anyone is joined to Christ he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends, and gave us the task of making others his friends also."

Another problem is constantly thinking about what we might have had or obtained if we had not become Christians. We want to follow God but we have some important business to attend to first, so we tell God, "Just let me do this or that first, then I'll trust you with my life." Jesus tells us from Luke 9:62, "Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God." From the parable of the sower of seed, Jesus tells us, "Other people are like the seeds sown among the thorns. These are the ones who hear the message, but the worries about this life, the love for riches, and all other kinds of desires crowd in and choke the message, and they don't bear fruit" (Mark 4:18-19).

The promise of God is clear, however: "For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35). And even in this life we will obtain more, in addition to eternal life (Mark 10:29-31).

Once we are wholly dedicated to God and serving Him, our past failures in serving Him can discourage us. We may think, "I knew what God wanted me to do, but I still didn't do it. Why should God try to use me in the future?" Or we may think, "God gave me a great opportunity, and I blew it. If only I had obeyed Him! There is no point in trying to serve Him now. I'll never have another chance like that one." We forget that God is infinite in His knowledge, ability, and mercy. Not only does He still want to use us mightily, but He will make the most out of even out failures -- if we let Him. Peter did not let his denial of Christ prevent him from accepting God's mercy and the important work God had for him. Even Paul called himself chief of the sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), but writes in Philippians 3:13, "The one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead."

THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS (Dec 1986)

The most celebrated holiday of the year is Christmas. And, although it may be argued that Easter is more important, because Jesus died for our sins and completed His mission on the Earth, still, for most of us Christmas holds even a dearer place in our hearts.

It is not hard to understand why, for in Christmas, we celebrate the entrance of the true God into the world. It was Him intervening to show His love for us, to bring light into darkness, and to save us from this world. In Christmas, there is the joy of new birth, new beginnings, the presence of God, and hope.

In Christmas we celebrate all that Christ is and came to accomplish in this world.

LOVE: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8). UNDERSTANDING: "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness" (John 12:46). "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:37). "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). LIFE AND ETERNAL LIFE: "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly" (John 10:10). "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). THE PERSONAL PRESENCE AND POWER OF GOD: "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you" (John 14:16-17). Without God's entrance into the world we would have remained hopelessly without understanding. But with it, we can have abundant, eternal life and know God in a personal way. All of this was made possible because Jesus was born on Christmas day 2000 years ago. This is the meaning of Christmas, and what we celebrate.

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