Leading a recent zoom book discussion on "When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference" by Carolyn Custis James reminded me why I have given away and recommended this book more than any other.
Let me introduce my guest writer: a worker with my agency serving in the Balkans. She originally wrote this for her own newsletter, but it is so good I want to share it with my readers with her permission.
I love a good benediction. There is something about the blessing spoken over me that I appreciate. I feel prepared to go out and do what the Spirit has directed me to do. However, Jude doesn’t conclude his letter this way. He directs us upward toward God. Our appropriate and only response is a doxology—an expression of praise to God!
"How do I know the Bible is true? Is God real? Is Jesus really God? I think the morality standards in the Bible no longer apply today. God loves everyone, so he won’t send any to eternal torment. The Bible is a book of nice stories but not the foundation for truth so it doesn’t matter how I live my life." Help for dealing with these questions and comments from my friends and loved ones can be found in Jude’s short New Testament letter.
As a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, I loved to sit in the creek near our village home and play with the multi-colored rocks. While the rapids swirled around me, their roar drowning out my voice, I sang at the top of my lungs, "This world is not my home." This song kept me grounded when I wasn't sure where my home was, but I never recognized the importance of keeping heaven in my sights—until I studied Jude's short letter.
“This is your trunk. These are your gowns. Lady Catherine will never know,” Elizabeth Bennet said to Maria Lucas in the 1995 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Upon hearing the great lady’s “directions as to the best method of packing,” Maria began a frantic redo of her trunk. Elizabeth sought to convince her that how she folded her gowns was her own private affair. Elizabeth Bennet’s words ring in my ear, tempting me to abandon my study of Jude’s letter and the writing of this post. "This is your study. These are your thoughts. No one need ever know!"
Disturbed and heartsick, I grieve to learn of yet another respected Christian leader’s secret immoral life, especially for the wounded victims shattered in his wake. Perhaps Jude—the half-brother of Jesus, the younger son of Mary of Nazareth—would have discerned this because he wrote the book (literally) on how to spot ungodly people, as he calls them. So I turn to Jude’s tiny New Testament letter to help me make sense of what I see in the world.
Conspiracy theories, alternate realities, rash prophecies, disinformation, and big lies are ancient techniques used to create fear—and subsequently claim the only solution to calm it—thus gaining followers. While disturbing in the sociopolitical sphere, I find these especially troubling when supported, spread, or believed by those representing Jesus. How do I respond? What do I focus on amid the myriad speculations, half truths and fake news?