Tag Archive: what it means to be a Christian


Personal,but not private

Night Light

Night Light (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 6:1

Ever try reconciling the above?  Seems, at least at first glance, that they contradict one another. The best I can figure out the first is about our lifestyle, the second is about our financial choice.

Either way it seems to make clear in the first case that my relationship with God is meant to be personal, my actions impacted by who I am in relation to Christ. But that within that relationship, my actions are to be public otherwise others could not see and glorify God.  Too bad what others all too often see would not reflect very well on the Father.

But those are my marching orders

My actions are to be done in such a way that they glorify God.  When I was younger that was rarely the case.  Rash, brash, and self-absorbed, I would rush head long often doing the first thing that came to mind.  Actions that would often not bring glory to God.  Want I needed to do was slow down, stop and think about how what I am about to do and how it will reflect on God.  Still I far to often still jump in with both feet without asking how does this show the Father, what will people think of God if I take the action I am thinking about?
Just like me, most people probably identify you as a Christian.  It probably doesn’t matter if you’ve told them or not.  The question is do you let your light so shine that people look at you and glorify your Father?

What are you doing to make your light shine brighter?

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You can give without loving, but not love without giving.

Christians should be wildly generous because God has been radically generous with us by giving himself freely.  When I did not deserve it God loved me.  When I was not only apathetic but out right hostile, God came to this world to show His love to me.

Who does that?

Or the even bigger question is why.  Why did God choose to give himself to us?  Why would he choose to love us?  I’ve heard some speak of God loving his creation because he made us.  That doesn’t sem to satisfy me, does it you?  Never the less He does, which then leads me to consider how then should I live my life?
As much as on one level I tend to be selfish and self centered I have to ask myself how can I not be generous with others.  Since God loved me how can I not love others?  After all they go hand in hand, being generous and loving people.
But being generous isn’t just about money.  What about time or talent?  I don’t know about you, but I get just as much if not more out of investing my time and energy in other people.
Now that’s all well and good when it comes to people I like or at least tolerate.  It’s easy to be involved with people who are like me, or people I like.  But what about people I don’t?  It’s easy enough to say love your enemies, even easy enough to say “yes I love those that persecute me.”  But what about actually being generous with yourself towards those people?

God’s love is radical, His generosity is incomprehensible so I must be generous, not just with other Christians but with

those that are hostile.  After all His love was radical, so I need to be as well.

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Faithful Unto Death – Christianæ ad Leones (Ch...

Faithful Unto Death – Christianæ ad Leones (Christians to the Lions). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Notice I didn’t say like.

Our command, our marching orders are to love.  Not because it’s easy, or even fun, but that’s the Christian ethic.  Sometimes we have to love people we may not even like very much.  We are not told to revolt, rebelling against the rightfully, God established government.  Neither are we to collaborate, trying to reach some weak-kneed compromise.  And don’t even think about withdrawing, if Jesus wouldn’t pray that we be taken out of the world, then why would we ever think that’s the best answer.

I am still hearing all kinds of goofy talk about revolting against the authorities in place.  Not sure what part of Paul instructing the early Christians to submit to the magistrate some people are thinking does not apply to them.  Lets be honest any kind of “persecution” you or I face today as a result of our Christianity is little more than a pinch compared to what the early church went thru.  I don’t know about you but I have not heard of a single Christian in America being used as a living torch for an executive BBQ.  No reports that I am aware of a circus lion noshing on anyone for claiming the name of Christ.  So let’s get real about persecution.  Let me be blunt and probably irritate more than a few, but the Church in America should be so lucky as to come under real persecution.  Before you rant go look at what is happening to the church in China.

Love isn’t compromise

The another option is to collaborate.  I know some would say let’s find the common ground and work on that.  Now I’m not saying be antagonistic for the sake of argument.  But what is going on when a church leader is ignoring the Christian ethic we are commanded, not a suggestion by the way, to tell and show the truth.  For example what the heck is the snuggling up to Hinduism, Buddhism, or some other ism because there is 10-15% similarity.  Are you really going to try to convince me, or worse yourself that God is going to someday in the future tell you that since you had good intentions that is good enough?  I would love you to show me where you read that in the Bible.
Finally, disappearing into the mountains in Montana with freeze-dried food and a handful of guns isn’t the answer either.  If Jesus wouldn’t pray for his disciples to be taken out of the world, what makes you think your special?  What’s more the world needs you, your salt, your light.  You have an obligation, a duty to show people Jesus, in word and in deed.  If you’re not then what value does your “Faith” really have?

Not easy doesn’t mean hard.

What the heck made you think it was going to be?  Maybe someone told you when you came to Christ the suffering would be over.  “Just come to Jesus and it’s all going to be  rainbows and unicorns.”  I hope not, but if they did I’m sorry.  It’s not easy, but compared to the alternative what else are you going to do?  Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart.  On the upside the one who runs the show has said he will be there no matter what happens.
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The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beauty, Creativity, Arts, & Science

 

The very best in all of these disciplines should be coming out of the Christian community.  We have access to the biggest and best creative pool anyone has ever known and additionally we are tied into the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

So why is so much art generated by those who would call themselves by the name of Christ mediocre?  Now before you go getting all defensive, I did not say all but much, and before you comment go turn on a Christian radio, TV, or movie and honestly evaluate and compare. Are the production levels, the performances, the sense of it up to what the rest of the world produces?  Or is it more like comparing a Hollywood blockbuster with a 14 year olds hand-held production.  Is the musicality there or is it akin to listening to an 8-track from the 70’s?
We, the church, used to lead.  It did not matter if it was Art: the David, the Sistine Chapel, or countless others, Music: Bach, Brahms et al, Science Newton, Galileo, and others.  So what happened?  When did it change?  And when are we going to reclaim our place of leadership?  It’s way past time for those who would call themselves Christian to stop shying away from or even being antagonistic to art and science and realize our God-given talents.

Lead, Excel, Be Great

Do you really think we should just put it out even if it’s only mediocre?  I have to wonder even with this blog and some other things I am working on if it is the best it can be.  Am I just phoning it in?  Is it good enough, or am I short-changing not just you, but also God?
I believe that the Christian ethic demands to do what I can to produce the best product I am capable of creating.  That includes taking the time and effort to become better.  This blog, the classes I teach, if they’re not better this month than they were last then what value are they?

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” – Colossians 3:23

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As a Gentile by birth, but a Jew by adoption, see Galatians 3:29, how do I interpret the Old Testament?  Is it to be viewed as history?  Or better said history only?  After all we are no longer under the law.  Is it only instruction in the New Testament that is required, such as dietary?  Or should I be dualist in my approach, strive to live by the law while being aware that:

1- I will never be able to fully obey or live up to the law.
And
2- realize that I can not earn God’s approval on my own no matter how good I become at following the law.

But shouldn’t I do the best I can because I desire to please God?

Isn’t that part of loving God?  I love my sons and because I love them I enjoy pleasing them.  For those of you that are married, if you love your spouse don’t you experience joy when they are pleased with your actions?
These are fallible humans capable of being greedy, self-serving, even wrong, but is it possible for God to be any of these things?  of course not.  So how much safer to strive after pleasing God?  Not in order to win His favor, or earn salvation, or force Him to bless us.  But because of loving God.

Because I love God I desire to please Him

And I please Him when I do His will.Do I fail?  Oh much more than I care to admit to anyone else.  I think I have one area down cold, and BAM, I screw it up.  Or I actually get one area of my life under control, in-line with God’s standard only to have Him point out something else and ask, “That’s great, but what about this?”

Will I ever get there?

It doesn’t seem so, but it’s not about what I am achieving as much as it’s about what I am becoming.

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“But God commandeth his love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God commands his love for us.  Not suggests, not hopes for or wishes, but commands his love for us.  Unshakable, unmovable, unchangeable.  His love for us can not go away.  His love for you, for me is immutable.  It doesn’t diminish when we put on a few pounds, or 50. It doesn’t fade when our hair turns to grey, or falls out.  And his love doesn’t turn to another if I become wrinkled, feeble, lose my job, or any other thing you ca do or even imagine.
And when did God love us?  When we were yet sinners. Our God, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, the God of Jacob doesn’t demand that we stop sinning and then He will love us.  God does not say to you or I “Be perfect, get your act together, and THEN I will love you and care for you.”  No, No, No.  He says to you and I come to me all you who are weary, carrying a load that is too much to carry and I will give you rest.
He could have said, Russ once you do X then I will care for you, then I will love you.  God could have said show me you love me, then I will love and care for you.  But instead God says to mankind, I will love you no matter what.  I will love you day or night, summer or winter, when you do right or when you do wrong.

God’s love for you is not dependent on your past

I can hear you now, “But Russ you don’t know what I have done.  If you only knew the inside, if you could see my thoughts, my heart.  My own family won’t have anything to do with me.  My marriage is in shambles.  I can’t find my way out of the bottle.”
Your right I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you’ve done.  I don’t know your faults, your failings, your foibles.  I don’t and maybe if I did I wouldn’t like you much.  But God knows.  God knows each and every lie you have ever told.  God knows every porn movie you’ve ever watched, every curse word that has come out of your mouth even when no one was around.  And every wicked thought that you have ever had.  And in response God says- “I love you.”
I love you when you don’t deserve it, when you haven’t earned it, even when you have abused it.  For you see God says “my grace is sufficient for you.”
Grace: Gods unearned favor, blessing, love.  The gift of Gods grace can not be earned, it can not be bought at any price, for any amount.  You and I can never do enough good things to earn or deserve it.
So you say “I don’t deserve it, God would never give it to me.” So who does God give His grace to?  Who are the heroes and saints God poured out his grace on.
Genesis 6:8- “but Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.”- Noah a drunk
Genesis 19:19Lot says “behold now thy servant hath found grace in thy sight.”  Lot a man who less than 48 hours earlier was ready to turn over his daughters to be gang raped by a mob outside his home.
Exodus “For thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Who is God speaking to?  A hot-headed, spoiled, murderer by the name of Moses
Or Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication.”   David war-monger, adulterer murderer.  David who had a loyal soldier murdered because David had seduced his wife while he was risking his life in battle for his king, David.

So what is it again that you think is so bad that God’s grace is for others but not for you?

God’s grace is a gift given freely from God to anyone who asks.  Not something you can earn and certainly not what you deserve.  But just because it is free does not mean it is cheap.
Romans 3:4 “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”  So what does God say?  Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin IS death.”  Justice requires death, someone must die.  Justice was satisfied by death, just not your death.  God came in the form of man as Jesus. He paid that price so that God the Father can give you and I grace.
This isn’t just going to Macy’s with the credit card to pick up a bunch of Christmas gifts.  These aren’t a few trinkets purchased at the Dollar Store.  This is the biggest gift, this is the most costly gift of all.  This is the gift to end all gifts.  The gift of grace is free but is not cheap.  Make no mistake it cost the giver dearly.  And grace alone, God’s grace alone is enough.

God’s grace is sufficient, no matter what.  And best of all it is your’s for the asking.

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I’m not talking about deserters but those walking wounded that have stepped on a landmine and need a caring, gentle hand to nurse them back to health.  Yes the great physician may have amputated a hand, maybe even a leg, but are we then court marshaling our brothers for being damaged?

We all are walking wounded.  Your limp, my missing limb, we all are damaged.  Yet I see time and time again we look at someone failing, and that being used as a reason to shoot our wounded.  I’m not talking about those instances like those referred to by Jesus in Matthew 18 where a brother is in opposition to God.  But what about the sister who way back when did X, and so today she is still being shunned?  The recovering addict, the former gang member, the ex-con, or even the divorced.

Those people

“People will know you are my disciples because of your love for one another.”  Sometimes we, yes we, get so caught up in what someone else might think, that we lack compassion for those around us.  The congregation(church) I attend used to be known as “the drugie” church.  I almost wish we still were.  Not because I want to see people addicted, but because it is up to us to make God known to those who need Him.  It’s all well and good to belong to a congregation where everyone comes dressed up in their Sunday best.  But there also needs to be a place for the hurting, the damaged, the lost, the Christian ethic demands it.

Love others well.

Expect the best of people.  Raise up God’s standard.  But don’t go adding to it.  Yes Jesus said “Go and sin no more”  but He also made a point of reaching out to Peter after the resurrection.
We, you and I, are not suffering from an abundance of love, and grace towards those around us. Maybe it is time to change that.

Perhaps we should try to love too much.

Would it be enough?

I see and read the story of Moses and see him being propelled forward because of glimpsing the tiniest sliver of God’s glory.  After losing his place of prominence in the court of Egypt Moses sees the burning bush.  He watches as plague ravages the land.  A walking stick becomes a serpent.  The Red Sea parts, and water flows from a rock.  All this and more happens in Moses life.  And yet Moses says ” And he said unto him, If thy presence go not [with me], carry us not up hence.” Exodus 33:15.

How easy to say “What a loser, how weak in faith”.  And yet am I any different?  I’ve seen miracles, heck I am a miracle.  Still I dare to pray to God for a glimpse of his glory.  A sign to confirm what I should do.  I have the audacity to cry out, “God just show me you, not just what you can do, not your miracles, your favors, but You.”
If what God has done is not enough, what would be?  Walking on water?  That wasn’t enough to stop Peter from denying Jesus a short time later.  How about talking to God face to face?  Didn’t stop Adam did it?
So what would be enough?  At last I must say that the problem isn’t with God the problem is with me.  I must get up,everyday and seek God. Persue him relentlessly.  Make the decision that

Moses before the Burning Bush

Moses before the Burning Bush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

whether or not I see Him today I know He is there and because of that I will do what I can to live a life that pleases Him.

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The wrong perspective

I sometimes find myself judging a book by its cover.  I live in a little town and like most little towns, we may not all know each other, but you see everyone.  I can’t speak for all little towns, but he there are a handful of, shall we say, less than attractive, at least by modern standards, people.

When I lived in a city of over 100,000 I didn’t notice, or perhaps because I didn’t go to “that” side of town, I don’t know.  But it reminds me of something Jim Rohn used to say “You can say people shouldn’t judge you by how you look.  But here’s a hint, They Do.”
On the other hand God judges people by how they look, the difference is that God looks at the soul.  He loves all of His creation, but he sees the horror and repulsiveness of the soul that is wrapped in sin.  God looks at these souls kind of like a dentist looking at a decaying tooth, and doesn’t think tear it out.  He loves with a depth that I can not begin to comprehend.  A love that is overwhelming in its depth, breadth, and intensity.  And God sees? Beauty? Potential?

Worthy of Love, and needing it

So how can I not see the soul of the person in front of me at the grocery store?  How can I not look at the heart, perhaps scared, torn beat-down, and not simultaneously ache & see the beauty of one formed by God.  One who Is loved so much by the Creator, that God’s desire is to hold, heal, help.  How can I not see the beauty God has created in someone?  I struggle, but none the less I try to see the beauty thru the eyes of the Creator.  What’s more I need to not just try to see the soul loved by God, but to also feel and act as the one who created them does.
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Is there a win?

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ

English: John the Baptist baptizing Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1-3

 

As a Christian what is the ethic?

I have a responsibility to others to live a life that encourages.  Not that risks discouraging a brother in the faith.
Am I free to consume alcohol as I choose, providing I am not drunk?  Yes, I see no teaching or precept in the Bible that requires abstaining.  Nothing that says I can’t enjoy a cigar now and then.
But what about what is does to those around me?  What if someone around me can’t handle seeing me with a bourbon in my hand?  Should I care, or change my lifestyle because of what it might do?  How does this tie into the lifestyle of Jesus?
Jesus was reviled because he associated with publicans and drunks.  On the other hand people also took issue with John the Baptist who led a life of abstinence   So it is obvious that outsiders will find fault no matter what we do.

So what do we do?

The best we can.  If you have an issue with having a glass of wine then don’t.  If on the other hand it doesn’t prick your conscience then don’t worry about it.  Because trust me someone will find fault no matter what you do.  If it is your church leadership, then be willing to be humble and submit to their authority.  But otherwise use your mind, seek great council from the people around you.
And above all pray.
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