Archive for the 'Getting Real – Not Religious' Category



08
Jan
10

The House

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:24-25

AGREE? or DISAGREE? 

 

You never know how well a house is built until it is tested by the weather. Rain reveals the character of a roof.

Friends of mine in Houston experienced this first hand as the remnants of a hurricane dumped sizable amounts of water on their homes and businesses. Wind and cold temperatures reveal how well a house is insulated. Anyone who has sat next to a drafty window in a windstorm knows this. Heat and sun reveal the quality of the paint and outer siding.

 All of these are external elements. What isn’t necessarily seen is the foundation. Whether it’s solid or insubstantial, it will ultimately reveal if you have a secure and lasting dwelling on your hands.

Similar arguments can be said to apply to our relationship with each other as members of the body of Christ. You never know how strong a relationship is until it is tested by the pressures of living. The seasonal rains of sorrow and pain can reveal how well a relationship will withstand conflict. The wind and cold of those times when you’re not speaking to each other reveal how well a relationship is insulated against the selfishness we are all capable of at times. The heat and sun of the day-to-day pressures of life reveal the quality of a relationship to the viewing public, who seem to always be looking for our Christian paint to start cracking and peeling off.

Then there are those little things that creep into a house or a relationship that reveal its security.

         

You may have the best Schlage or Kwikset locks on all the doors, but until the typical pests like ants, cockroaches, rodents, etc. challenge a house, you don’t know its true internal integrity. We’ve fought with ants before; they are a given where I live (the running joke is that the old Indian name for our community roughly translates to “built upon ant hills”). I look at them like the occasional irritations that come into our lives and friendships. You certainly don’t like them around, but aside from the inconvenience, they really are dealt with fairly easily and quickly. However cockroaches and rodents are something else. They multiply quickly. They do much of their damage in secret, but inevitably begin to drop evidence of their existence in the little messes they leave behind.

         

At one point we were attacked by cockroaches and rodents at the same time. We called the exterminator out and he set the traps and sprayed, but we share a common wall with our neighbor, so all we may have done was chase the little critters next door. The same situation can also occur in relationships, especially if as Christians we remember we share a common wall with brothers and sisters in the Lord.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Corinthians 12:26

 

If we let things into our lives that do not glorify the Lord, we obviously harm ourselves, but there is still great potential to damage our relationships within the Church. Each believer is a part of His body! Even upon confession and removal of a private sin from our lives, our previous actions may have succeeded in introducing our little pest into our friends’ lives. The Bible is specific in how we are to deal with sins in our lives (1 John 1:9). And there is no privacy with sin as far as God is concerned (Luke 12:2-3). Sin has significant consequences. And all sin is against God and the Church, Christ’s body. David understood this when he cried out after being confronted by Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba.

Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

Psalm 51:4

 

All our relationships, as believers, are to be examples of Christ-likeness. Do you really want to invite rats and cockroaches into your homes? Then why would we invite those things into our relationships that are just as secretive and just as destructive?

Take some time to examine the foundations of your relationships, especially with those you hold near and dear to your heart. Are they strong enough to the storms of weather life and all the natural assaults that will come along? How do we react when the trials come? Do we worry? Do we get angry? Do we take our lives into our own hands instead of committing them to Him, who should always be in control anyway? How do we handle sinful things that want to creep into our relationships? Are we hospitable to them or do we aggressively drive them out before they get a foothold? Christ uses these times in our relationships to help us recognize whether our foundations are upon sifting and changing sand or solid, immovable rock. 

GB&G2U

19
Dec
09

Hooking Up

In the summer of 2001, CNN reported on an Independent Women’s Forum study of college-aged women. The forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational group, conducted a nationwide study over an 18-month period of time, surveying the attitudes of 1000 young women. The results indicated that almost 40% of the women responding described themselves as “virgins.” At the time, the study cited an unspecified number of these young women preferred “hook-up” relationships to dating. Hook-ups were described as encounters that ranged from casual kissing all the way up to sexual intercourse, where neither participant expected any further commitment from the other party. The study also revealed that 53% of those responding thought it was a good idea to live with a person before deciding to marry them. Results from studies like these always disturb me, because they are a direct attack by the enemy, attempting to undermine God’s purposes for an entire generation. Today I am involved teaching a fellowship of Christian men and women from this generation who are now raising their own families and issues of purity are now important to them.

As I write this, the Christian world is caught up in the preparations for Christmas and focusing on Christ’s birth to a virgin. Whether in the Old Testament Hebrew or the New Testament Greek, the Bible defines a virgin as a person (either male or female) who has had no sexual intercourse. In today’s culture, staying sexually pure (in thought, word and deed) is looked upon as way outside the normal scope. Our world would have us believe that “everybody does it” and the study’s results (remember, not even four out of every ten young women asked describe themselves as virgins) supports that. We live in a society that believes casual sex is natural, healthy behavior. Over half the women questioned thought living with someone before you got married a good idea. When I read these things, I’m grieved by the spiritual ignorance exhibited. But then this has been the bane of Bible-thumping, Christians throughout time. Aren’t I over reacting, just a little bit? After all, this has been going on for a long time, and we’re no worse off as a people, right?

2 Corinthians 11:2

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

 

Paul expressed to the Corinthians his desire to see them presented as a wedding partner to Christ. As such, he wanted them to remain pure while waiting for the marriage day. To describe the passion of his feelings Paul uses a Greek term from which we get our word “zealous”. Paul had an intense fervor over them and their behavior. The responses of this study make me just as zealous for the purity and sanctification of the present generation! Studies, like the one above, remind me that I’m not doing enough.

In the passage above, Paul also uses the word chaste. This is an archaic word in today’s culture, but basically means inwardly pure, especially as it applies to conduct, how we act toward ourselves and others. It means untainted by sexual impurity, not just in action, but in desire and imagination as well. To be sure, sin has an external component, but purity and chastity have their inception internally. The Apostle John underscores this when he reminds us about the worldly enticements of the “lust or the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.”

2 Peter 1:13-16

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

 

One of our duties to this world is as defenders of what is pure and holy. Combating worldly attitudes and influences over things like casual attitudes about sex and relationships is our war. We cannot let the guard down for one moment. Yet, Peter calls on us who have accepted the name of Christ to be holy in our fundamental character and behavior as Christians so that we are peculiar, in contrast to the lifestyles of the unsaved. Not in a priggish, sanctimonious way, but in genuine distinction. We are to reflect the wholesome and winsome nature of holiness that causes the world to be genuinely attracted to us and the Lord and Savior we serve. We are to be holy, not just practice holiness, because we are now redeemed by God, the holy, just and pure creator of the universe!

GB&G2U 

12
Dec
09

Evolved or Created?

Hebrews 3:11

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

 

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

Time Magazine’s cover for the July 23, 2001 issue declared: “How Apes Became Human.” The opening paragraphs of the story, “One Giant Step for Mankind”, established Ethiopia as a harsh environment today, but a lush landscape some 6 million years ago, and went on to declare Ethiopia as the very cradle of the elusive “missing link,” all but completing the evolutionary chain: 

“…And it was here too that nature indulged in what was perhaps her greatest evolutionary experiment…” (emphasis is mine)

From that statement, some “higher authority” (nature in this case) conducted an evolutionary experiment that resulted in a new breed of ape that walked upright! Nearly 15 years after the term “intelligent design” came into the collective vocabulary of America (Edwards vs. Aguillard, 1987), everything I’ve heard since then in the great evolution vs. creation debate always rebukes we feeble-minded Christians for our staunch insistence that an intelligent being, out side of man (God, Almighty in our case), guided all of creation into existence. However Time Magazine was doing the same thing; giving nature anthropomorphic (or humanlike) characteristics (feminine in gender), with supernatural powers, in order to better depict the creation of human life. In this article, nature is described as giving into an unrestrained desire (to indulge) by exercising both will and intellect in performing a scientific activity designed to prove or discover a fact or law (an experiment).

This article, and many more since it was published, demonstrates even the secular mind is unable to escape the self-evident fact that all creation couldn’t just have happened through a trial-and-error happenstance of chance as proposed by the evolutionary theory. And let’s be clear right from the beginning, it is a theory; “an assumed hypothesis, unproven speculation, used to advance a set of principles for the sake of argument or investigation.” Nowhere in that definition do I see that theory is accepted, proven fact. It is, by definition, only assumed as true as to make an argument plausible.

This schizophrenic denial of God (an almost pathological hatred of anything that points to a creator, while acknowledging some external power at work in the creation of mankind) was brought back to me while I was channel surfing the other night. I paused on one of the CNN affiliated stations, where the Joy Behar show was airing (December 1, 2009). Ms. Behar, a comedian, writer, actress and now talk show host (thanks to her popularity on the ABC show, The View), was interviewing comedian Louis Black (careful, Mr. Black’s website IS NOT PG) when the topic of former 2008 Republican primary presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s stand on creation came up. Both judged Huckabee mentally unstable for his belief in creation over evolution. The attack was not only unwarranted, but in poor taste and left me profoundly saddened. Not for any affection on my part for Huckabee as a personality, but for the unequivocal rejection by these two souls of anyone who was deluded enough to believe in something as intellectually bankrupt as a literal, Biblical creation account.  

But it is that very account, in the first chapter of Genesis, which begins the entire salvation narrative, when it says that God created the heavens and the earth, the creatures of the sea, the land, the sky and mankind, male and female. How did God do it? Throughout the Biblical account, it states, “God said…” It was God’s word, His rhema, the spoken words of the Creator that declared creation into existence!

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

Just look at everything around you. God constantly supports, upholds and nourishes the earth and all upon it. Creation itself boldly proclaims God’s awesome power and glory. Remember, God started with nothing. The author of Hebrews underscores that the earth, eternity and time itself were all part of creation, brought about by God to fulfill His perfect will. And, as certain as we are that He did indeed create the earth and all the universe, we are just as certain He will bring it all to His desired conclusion. Nothing can inhibit the completion of what God started in creation and in you (Philippians 1:6). We trust in God’s sovereign power, as He created the world and then, through the saving power of our Savior, Jesus Christ, redeemed us to further carry out His will.

When was the last time you gave God praise and glory for His creation? How often do you stop to appreciate the delicate yet complicated way you’ve been created? Consider how you play an important part in God’s will. If that doesn’t give you a reason to be excited about the faith that is within you, I don’t know what will. Then, think of those individuals blinded by this world and its system of lies and rejection. Think of the Joy Behars and Louis Blacks, who cannot accept that an almighty, compassionate, and holy God created them. You may have friends or family in the same frame of mind. Pray that God will continue to soften their hearts to the Gospel message and redeem them as well. As difficult as that may seem to you, it’s not a challenge too big for the Creator of all things!

GB&G2U

04
Dec
09

Know God

 Agree or Disagree?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace…

Hebrews 13:8-9a

The Sunday School teacher held up a copy of a  magazine from a local Sunday paper.  The cover story asked, “Is God All in Your Head?”

The article went on to tantalized readers with the suggestion that science may have the first ever snapshot of God (proof of the existence of, as the author put it, a “higher reality”). The article went on to chronicle the work of a contemporary scientist who had studied the functions of the human brain, and quoted other scholars, scientists, a few mystics and even some nominal Christians on what it was to experience a higher reality.  However, the single most authoritative source that could have been used to support God’s existence, the Bible, was nowhere to be found in the article.

Can we really know God?  Can we personally know Him?  Ask anyone who’s had a fervent prayer request answered and they’ll tell you, God exists!  As the title of one of Francis Schaeffer’s works proclaims He is “The God Who Is There.”  Perhaps a better question would be what might we know about God?  In Deuteronomy 33:27, we’re told that God is eternal, without beginning or end, infinite, and unlimited by time.  How awesome to think that the God Who Elijah knew, Who led Joseph into Egypt, and gave Daniel incredible wisdom is still working in our lives today.  And there’s no chance that He’ll be leaving any time soon.

Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 4:19 that we suffer according to God’s will and confirms God’s faithfulness by calling his readers to “commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” By “souls” Peter means our very breath of life, our living beings.  By committing our souls or lives to God, we put them into God’s hands, on deposit, for safekeeping. The incredible thing to me is that He is there, everyday, ready for me to come to Him in prayer or for quiet time, even when I forget.  God never forgets us. He knows us like the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).

He’s is our faithful creator. Hymn writer Thomas Chisholm gets one of the lines for his hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” from James 1:17, telling us “there is no variation or shadow of turning” with God. From where we sit, everything changes. Nothing stays the same for long.  Friends become distant. Parents grow older. You’ve changed. You’re not the same as you were last year.  I’ve changed, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Everything on this planet changes, but God is constant: He is changeless.  He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow!

In Exodus 34:6 we find that God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth…” He shows us kindness without regard to our worth or merit.  Longsuffering means God is slow to anger.  God is patiently waiting for us to ask Him for His mercy, to partake of His grace, to be overwhelmed by His goodness and to be uplifted by His truth.

What may we know about God? Plenty! Have you open God’s Word lately just to consider that He has always been there and always will be there for us? Have you truly entrusted your life into His hands or do you constantly take it back, trying to do it all for yourself? Have you discovered, through His Word, the wonderful comfort that God does not change? Have you gone to Him in humble supplication to ask for His favor, even though you know you don’t deserve it? God wants you to know Him. He wants you to explore and discover the rich treasures of His perfect will. However you must be willing to take steps, daily, to meet and know Him better.

GB&G2U

21
Nov
09

Authenticity

I like this decidedly tongue-in-cheek poster displayed by Phil Johnson on his blog, as it pokes fun at what authenticity means to some.

There’s a great deal of talk today about bringing authenticity to our churches, to our witness for Christ in this world. That begs the question: what is meant by authenticity? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, authenticity is: being worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based upon fact. Conforming to, made or done in the same way as an original, reproducing essential features. In music it means progressing from a dominant chord. It also means being true to one’s own personality or spirit. Authenticity implies being fully trustworthy and painstakingly faithful. Interestingly, an “obsolete” meaning was that of being authoritative. In struggling to come to grips with the whole “emergent/emerging” church movement, I’m considering what it means to be authentic about my beliefs, my testimony for Christ, and how I live out authentic Christianity before my family, my co workers, my church and my neighborhood. But how do I go about it? Who determines if what I am attempting to live out is “true to the original” or not? Is it the post-modern world? Or is it the Word of God?

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

James 1:26-27

God’s word tells me my faith/religion is worthless if I haven’t learned to “bridle” my tongue. In other words, I need to watch what I say (not so easy to do, for me). God’s word tells me that I’ll give an account for every “idle” word I utter (Matthew 12:36-37). It further tells me to season my words with grace, preserving and purifying all who hear them (Colossians 4:6). Finally (although not exhaustively) Ecclesiastes 5:2 tells me to let my words be few (I wonder if this applies to my written words too). Furthermore, James defines authentic faith as that which demonstrates my love and compassion for those who have no capacity or means to repay me. And these few passages just scratch the surface. I need to work on many things to demonstrate my authentic love and faith in Jesus Christ. How about you?

25
Feb
09

The Name Game – Part 2

your-name-hereContinuing the discussion about how we go about naming Jesus to a person and culture who do not have the same frame of reference that we do: In any discussion, there are certain presumptions. If I say “Hello,” and you say “Hi,” I may presume you speak English and embark on a conversation. It’s my presumption you are going to understand what I say. Better still, if you’ve ever spoken a feeble, eighth-grade inspired “Buenos Dias,” to someone who fluently speaks Spanish and they then launch into a Spanish monologue, leaving you in the conversational dust, only able to sputter “Que?” you probably understand what I mean.

 

We often engage in conversations about Jesus thinking we’re all speaking the same language. I once wrote a little skit to highlight this disconnection of ideas, where the believer would use terms like “washed in the blood” to the horror of the non-believer. Jesus ran into similar circumstances as He spoke to Nicodemus, a religious scholar of his day.

 

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’

John 3:1-2

 

nicodemus_51Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of what constituted the then Jewish Supreme Court. As a political and social party, the Pharisees were zealots for adhering to ritual and took great pride in that they maintained religious purity based on the Mosaic Law and their own strict traditions. Notice that Nicodemus calls Jesus “Rabbi,” a term of honor and recognition for a teacher of God’s truth. He was willing to acknowledge, as would many scholars in today’s world, that Jesus taught important truths about God. Nicodemus was even willing to go as far as to recognize the miraculous things Jesus had done.

 

However, note how very candid Jesus is in His response. He does not, as some modern methodologies would advise, shy away from religious or church words or terms. He immediately addresses Nicodemus’s primary need: rebirth as a true son of God. Jesus knew what He had just said would both resonate and trouble the Pharisee. As a Jew, Nicodemus understood the birth analogy. Aside from the obvious reference to physical birth, Jews also understood this terminology to refer to a conversion experience; persuading one to a new, and obviously, better way of life. But Nicodemus chooses to challenge Jesus over the literal birth meaning.

 

 

you_must_born_againNicodemus repeats the same words Jesus used twice, but without the born “again” qualifier and that is key, because that little word, “again,” also means from above; a specific spiritual reference which Jesus goes on to explain to the man.

 

We are often coached, by those who seek to reach a post-modern, post-Christian society, to avoid “church” words, since they will have little meaning for our hearers and may even offend them. Jesus Himself purposely uses language that would provoke both thought and some confusion, causing the listener to question further. And those questions are a natural invitation for us to share our testimonies about Christ and His ministry in our lives.

 

Rather than fearing my words would offend a listener, I fear misleading or worse still failing to communicate truth to them. In fact, there are times when I would question if my words are not offensive, whether they are accurate and true. The message of the Gospel is at once offensive, to those in sin’s grasp, due to the convicting power of the truth, and on the other hand very appealing to a generation that is looking for something authentic. Our witness needs to express true devotion to our Lord and Savior, Who has something to offer this post-modern generation: the unadulterated truth that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for their sins and that trusting Christ is their only way to re-establish a relationship with the Holy God of all creation. 

to_be_continued_11

God Bless & Grace 2 U,

 

17
Feb
09

The Name Game – Part 1

It was an old song, made popular by Shirley Ellis back in the 60s, and went something like this: 

 

“Hannah, Hannah, Bo-Bannah,

“Banana, Fanna, Fo-Fannah,

“Fee, Fi, Mo-Mannah…Hannah!”

 

name-gameThe nonsensical Name Game song took a name, played with it, changed it, and then finally came out with the original name again in the end. I was reminded of this children’s son while reading an article on my favorite Christian hedonist blog, John Piper’s Desiring God. Written by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, New Testament Professor, D. A. Carson, the article discussed the theme of naming God in a pluralistic society: or more directly, talking about Jesus in our current world.

 desiring-god

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I’ve been doing some research lately on the whole “Emerging/Emergent Church” issue (I can’t keep them straight yet), Carson’s article caught my imagination. Just how do we, who trust Jesus, name Him to others who do not have the same familiarity with Him? According to Carson’s article, to some Jesus is one of long list of profanities employed; to another, He is an ideal but certainly not a person; to yet another He was a man who obeyed God, but not God, and so on.

 

Often when we engage our modern-day, Godless culture in a discussion about Jesus, there is little to no agreement about the terms we are about to use. I say “Jesus.” You say “Right.” I say “Savior.” You say “Sage.” I say “God.” You say “Good man.” And so it goes. We engage in what we think is dialogue, but in reality it is two conversations, going in separate directions, that just happen to be in the same vicinity: Talking at each other, rather than to each other.

 

Jesus ran into similar circumstances with those He interacted with and addressed: The woman at the well, Nicodemus, the rich young ruler, the list goes on. Each time, there were misconceptions about who they were talking about (on the part of those He engaged, certainly not on the part of Jesus).

 

In John 4:1-30, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman. In their exchange she makes an observation about Jesus that tells us her perspective of who she thinks she is talking both to and about.

 

The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet…’

John 4:19

 

womanatthewell013A prophet, in mere secular terms was a mystical person who could interpret hidden knowledge. However the woman was a Samaritan, so she had some knowledge of the God of Israel. So we might consider her as a “religious” person (but not a necessarily believer). Her frame of references in addressing Jesus as a prophet was that she was speaking to a man who, by God’s Spirit, could declare truth concerning the kingdom of God and the long sought for Messiah.

 

Many today are in the same camp when it comes to talking about Jesus. They recognize a holiness, or perhaps a wholeness, in which He appears to be an embodiment of a longed for spiritual perfection they seek to encounter. They recognize Him to be authentic, but His representatives here on earth as less than genuine. If we engage these modern seekers but are not aware of this gap in their presuppositions about Jesus and those of us who follow Him, we’re liable to think they accept our line of thought when in fact, they are moving away from us and closer to some mystical, spiritual “Christ-concept” that is antithetical to our purposes.

 

womanatthewell021As He addresses the woman, Jesus deals directly and unequivocally with her perceptions. He speaks to her need to understand worship and describes spiritual worship that pleases God. Since she was a Samaritan, Jesus knew she longed to worship God in a genuine and God-pleasing fashion (not unlike what some in the Emerging/Emergent movements seek today). When she takes the discussion to another level of inquiry, acknowledging a genuine faith in the promised Messiah, Jesus presents genuine truth, candidly and straightforwardly declaring Himself to be “Messiah.”

 

As we engage the current culture (the postmodern or, as some refer to it, the post-Christian era), we must bring the truth authentically, genuinely and directly. We are not to conform Christ or Christianity to look more like the culture. Christ is genuine enough for any era. He is inherently essential to every need. All we need do is represent Him as directly as He Himself did to this Samaritan woman. And we are fully equipped to do so as His disciples. Christ is not a commodity to be packaged and marketed to better appeal to a consumer. Christ is the Messiah, the Savior, and all we need do is let His Holy Spirit equip and enable us to proclaim His Gospel to the world.

 

to_be_continued_1

 

God Bless and Grace 2 U




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