Ambassador of Reconciliation

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Posted 3/15/14 at 11:02 AM | Diane Castro

Resurrection, the Series

abc.com

I was intrigued by the title and the clips in the ads for the new ABC series, Resurrection. Only one episode has aired so far and I don’t know where the producers are going to go with it, but I think it taps into a deep-seated human longing to be reunited with loved ones. Who can watch a boy who died decades earlier being restored to his parents without at least a little leap of joy in their heart? Who wouldn’t imagine what it would be like to have one of their own loved ones come back from the dead?

Of course, we know that it’s just fantasy. Nobody comes back from the grave after being dead and buried. It’s just delusion or wishful thinking to believe that someone might be raised back to life.

But wait! Jesus did come back to life out of the depths of the grave, and He makes us alive together with Him (Col. 3:13). How? Through faith in the powerful working of God:

You have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead (Col. 2:12). FULL POST

Posted 3/12/14 at 6:07 PM | Diane Castro

By the Righteousness of One

The epistle reading in church on the first Sunday of Lent was Romans 5:12-19. It made me take a closer look at the whole chapter to see what Paul is trying to communicate in this pivotal passage. I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (v. 2), and what it is we are proclaiming when we celebrate the Resurrection.

In a recent post I explored the question of whether God loves everybody or just the elect or just those who love Him and keep His commands. Romans 5 reinforces the conclusion that God indeed loves the whole world (Jn. 3:16), that is, all humanity, and that Jesus died for the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2).

6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Rom. 5:6-10). FULL POST

Posted 2/1/14 at 12:44 AM | Diane Castro

Does God Love Everybody?

Ephemera, Inc.

I became a Christian through Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru), with the use of “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Law #1 stated:

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.1

This message is appealing, and I’m sure it has helped to draw many (like me) to faith in Christ. But is it true? Is it biblically accurate to tell unbelievers “God loves you”?

There are some who flat-out say that God does not love the whole world—that God’s love is reserved for the elect, that only the saints are the recipients of His love. For example, a commenter here on Christianpost, Reformed Baptist, quotes “Objections to God’s Sovereignty Answered” by Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952):

One of the most popular beliefs of the day is that God loves everybody, and the very fact that it is so popular with all classes ought to be enough to arouse the suspicions of those who are subject to the Word of Truth. God’s love towards all His creatures is the fundamental and favorite tenet of Universalists, Unitarians, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Russellites, etc…. So widely has this dogma been proclaimed, and so comforting is it to the heart which is at enmity with God, we have little hope of convincing many of their error…. FULL POST

Posted 12/28/13 at 10:05 PM | Diane Castro

A Word to the "Elect"

From time to time I reprint on my blog the public domain works of authors from the past. This poem is by Anne Brontë, the youngest of the famous Brontë sisters. It was first published in 1846 in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, a collection of poems by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, using pseudonyms because of the prejudice against female writers at the time. Anne’s life was cut short by tuberculosis in 1849 at age 29, within ten months of the death of her brother Branwell at age 31 and her sister Emily at age 30. The work expresses poetically Anne’s response to the Calvinist-Arminian debate. If she were alive today, what would you say to her?

A Word to the “Elect”
by Anne Brontë FULL POST

Posted 11/21/13 at 12:43 PM | Diane Castro

Teacher, Teacher, Make Them Stop It!

“Mom-meeee, Ella called me a tattletale!”

Oh, really? What on earth made her say such a thing?

The quibbling of my granddaughters makes us smile, but all too often we are just like little children—accusing and tattling on one another. Jesus had to deal with this problem when John complained about someone else who wasn’t doing ministry the “right” way:

John: Teacher, Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop because he isn’t one of our group.

Jesus: Don’t stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name will turn around the next minute and say something bad about me. Whoever is not against us is on our team. (paraphrase of Mark 9:38-39)

Baloo

When one of my kids would point the finger at another, I used to tell them, “Never mind about your brother or sister. Just take care of yourself. That’s a big enough job.” Similarly, Jesus has to tell John to take care of himself and not try to be the policeman of others. God has many people in many places doing His work in many ways. The Lord Himself is fully able to deal with His other children who may get off track. Our job is to keep our eyes fixed on Him and follow Him in obedience. FULL POST

Posted 11/5/13 at 8:49 AM | Diane Castro

“Don’t Toss the Children’s Bread to the Dogs”

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone (Mark 7:24-30).

This incident has always troubled me. The poor woman comes to Jesus trying to get help for her little girl, and Jesus speaks scornfully to her, even insinuating that she is no more than a dog. The account in Matthew is even worse—at first He completely ignores her. Modern psychology would say that the woman now needs therapy to heal her wounded spirit, and Jesus needs lessons in how to interact with people without damaging their self-esteem! FULL POST

Posted 10/6/13 at 10:07 PM | Diane Castro

Always Be Ready to Give the Reason for Your Hope

Image by Amir Taqi www.toonpool.com

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, the first volume of which was published in 2010 on the hundredth anniversary of his death, is a collection of anecdotes, reminiscences, and essays about a vast range of topics from the fertile mind of one of America’s beloved authors. The recently published second volume reveals more about his life and thoughts, with his characteristic humor, inquisitiveness, and incisiveness.

In the entry for June 19, 1906 in Volume 2, the author gives his thoughts about the character of the God of the Bible. You can read the full text of his essay here. It quickly becomes apparent that Mark Twain has little use for this God:

In the old Testament His acts expose His vindictive, unjust, ungenerous, pitiless and vengeful nature constantly. He is always punishing—punishing trifling misdeeds with thousand-fold severity; punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending populations for the misdeeds of their rulers; even descending to wreak bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and lambs and sheep and bullocks, as punishment for inconsequential trespasses committed by their proprietors (Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2). FULL POST

Posted 9/29/13 at 8:33 PM | Diane Castro

A Child's Testimony

Several years ago a woman who is now in her thirties wrote this story about her childhood and sent it to me. It brought tears to my eyes.

The following is an example of an understatement: I am not a proponent for the teaching of brimstone and hellfire. My childhood was riddled with anxiety over my fears of hell. I had been told that if Jesus saves you, you are safe for all of eternity. This never quite quelled my fears. I was always terrified that Satan had been lurking in the shadows of my subconscious when I asked this Jesus into my heart, rendering my acceptance of him useless and blocking him from saving me. For this reason, I accepted Jesus into my heart frequently, praying that he would save me and praying that this time would work, even if on none of the previous times I had been sincere. I watched older kids who had once been like me, devout little Christian children falling away from this Lord and the church and imagined they had suffered the fate I was so scared of: Satan had blocked Jesus from getting into their hearts when they had asked. Due to this I was afraid of growing older, afraid that I, too was headed for this same fate. FULL POST

Posted 9/26/13 at 11:24 PM | Diane Castro

Ambassador of Reconciliation: The First Two Years

A year ago today, on the first anniversary of starting my blog, I posted a list of all the essays I had written over the course of the year as “Ambassador of Reconciliation,” a name suggested by my husband from 2 Corinthians 5. Many of the essays were about my favorite subject—the great work of reconciliation that God is accomplishing in the universe, to save the world and bring all things together under Christ. I also wrote about other themes, including unity, joy, faith, justice, heaven, creation, Christmas, Easter, peace, gratitude, wisdom, and love.

This past year I have continued to write on many of these same themes as well as posting on new subjects, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, a special memory from my daughter’s wedding, Thanksgiving, the Sandy Hook tragedy, heresy, godly and ungodly speech, and servant leadership. I have also posted book reviews (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and The Great Divorce) and a movie review (“Hellbound?”). Often my essays are prompted by something I have learned in Bible study; the first year I wrote articles inspired by Hebrews, Job, and James, and last year it was Paul’s prison epistles. We have just started Mark, which was the subject of my most recent post. FULL POST

Posted 9/17/13 at 12:55 PM | Diane Castro

Fine, Have It Your Way

docstoc.com

Two Christian leaders were engaged in a heated conflict over a decision regarding their ministry. Years earlier, one of the men had been instrumental in helping the other gain acceptance in the Christian community, and they had been ministering together in the power of the Holy Spirit for some time, but now they were unable to come to agreement. They exchanged some sharp words, and finally one man said, “Fine¸ go ahead,” and the other said, “Fine, I will,” and they parted ways.

Maybe I’m being unfair to Paul and Barnabas, but this is the way I envision their conflict over whether or not John Mark should accompany them on their second missionary journey. John Mark had been their assistant on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:5) but had left them abruptly for an undisclosed reason and gone back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). When it came time to go out again, Paul had no desire to take someone who had quit on them before, while Barnabas saw potential in him and wanted to give him another chance (Acts 15:36-38). FULL POST

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