Awe

One of contemporary Christian music’s early stars, Barry McGuire told the following story on his 1975 album To the Bride. One day, while touring northern California, one of the members was reading the Bible and getting all excited. “Ohhh! Man!” Barry asked, “what’s going on there?” He replied, “Oh, oh, look, look here man.” Barry asked, “what are you reading?” He replied, “Oh, Genesis.” Barry asked, what’s happening?” Well God just created the world, that’s what’ happening!” I thought of this story the other day when my oldest son told me he read Psalm 22 and then Isaiah 53 that afternoon. He said, “it was cool!” I was thrilled to know that my son had the same type of awe for God that guy did almost 30 years ago.

The Bible records several circumstances when someone is in extreme awe of God; Abraham after God supplied the ram as a substitute sacrifice for his son Issac; Moses, when God told him to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground (in other words, he was in the very presence of God); The Israelites after God led them across the Red Sea and destroyed the Egyptian army; and God’s people when God sent fire to consume the sacrifice, the altar, and the water on and around the altar when Elijah asked God to prove he was indeed God and that the gods Baal and Asherah did not exist. how about Peter, James, and John when they witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration; the two on the road to Emmaus when they realized Jesus had been with them and he was alive, again; John when he witnessed the revelation Jesus gave him to show the followers of Christ that God is in control and that they should simply remain faithful to the end, no matter what.

I sometimes wonder if every person should have what I call a “mountain top experience” with God where they come into his presence in the same ways that we read about in Scripture. It would be cool, yes, but it is unnecessary. God has given us his revelation. He has given us everything he intends to until he gives the final revelation, the return of Jesus. It is all found in the Bible. Our awe for God is found in his creation and in his revelation. Creation points to the maker. In the Bible, which is God’s full revelation, he reveals himself to us. The most vivid picture, the most perfect presentation is found in Jesus. “For he is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” Colossians 1:15. There have been many beautiful songs which approach God with a sense of awe, like my son and the dude from 30 years ago, God of WondersLIke God Above, and others. Do you stand in awe of God? All of creation and all of Scripture declare his glory.

This first appeared in the May 15, 2002 LaPlata Home Press

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Being a Biblical Christian (Casual Christian Part 5)

Life is filled with persecution:

  • At the very least you’ve got the Devil harassing you with temptations . . .
  • You’ve got people who are against Christians.  They want you stopped (to be quieted, to shut you up) by bullying you, and by taking you to court (Examples: Christmas and Easter displays; Christian objects on your desk at work; etc.), and even by legislation against you.

Because of these persecutions, we should understand then some of the distress that is written about in the book of Psalms.  A lot of the Psalms deal with the trouble that is brought on by the enemies of Israel, enemies of the king, and enemies of God.  It is no wonder that the Psalms mean so much to modern Christians and speaks to the struggles we encounter, whether persecution, doubt, fear, physical ailments, attacks from unlikely sources, weaknesses, grief, and even personal sin.

Among the Psalms we can reference that would apply in our lives in many ways, Psalm 119 should speak to us today.  “I Don’t Want to be a Casual Christian!  I want to be a Committed Christian!”  Here’s why, there is passion, zeal for God’s Word.

I’m going to start the invitation right now.  You have got to consider this and evaluate your life and your standing with God!  Is this your conviction?  That you do not want to be a casual Christian?  That you WILL be a Christian of zeal and faithfulness and obedience?

______________________________________________________________________________

What life does to the Christian depends on the characteristic of each Christian’s faith.  What life does to you depends on the characteristic of your faith.

  • The cares of life are capable of pushing against you and if your faith is weak or struggling, that can push you into the realm of inactivity or even unbelief.  Doubts about who God is, what Christ’s life and death means, what the church is about, doubts about communion and baptism, about other Christian’s and their motives and even what Christianity is.

And so we encounter three types of Christians who struggle in their faith

  1. The Christian Atheist who lives like they don’t belong to Christ
  2. The Cultural Christian who lets the world guide their thinking
  3. The Lukewarm Christian who has no desire as a Christian

The pressures we encounter come from outside and from inside the church, weaknesses in some Christian’s faith can discourage other Christians.  Legalistic attitudes and unmerciful Christians can undermine or wipe out other Christian’s faithfulness.  Hypocritical Christians run other Christians off.

How do we move from being a “Casual Christian” to being a “Committed Christian” in whom God’s strength is manifest, where we stand firm on the Rock of salvation?

It begins by becoming a Committed Follower of Jesus Christ as we began with Sunday.  And, we become committed Christians by being “Biblical Christians.”  That is where we are today, and Psalm 119 comes into our view-finders.

Psalm 119 the longest of all the Psalms, and is one of the most unique pieces of Hebrew poetry and it is full of wisdom.  Why?  Because it is about the wisdom that comes from commitment to God’s Word.

Let me fill you in on this Psalm a little bit.

  • The Hebrew language has 22 letters and Psalm 119 has 22 stanzas (strophes) of 8 verses each and each verse of each stanza begins with each successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
  • The Psalm is considered a part of the “wisdom literature” along with Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs.  You learn Godly, Biblical, spiritual wisdom from it.  But there are several other literature types evident in the Psalm; There is the individual lament (v. 107), a song of trust (v. 42), a song of thanksgiving (v. 7), and of course a hymn (vv. 71-72).  It strikes at several aspects in the mind, heart, and soul.  And it is practical.  There is valid, up-to-date application to your life.
  • The key word in the Psalm is torah.  Usually translated “law.”  But there are seven synonyms to the word law that are found in the Psalm: Promise . . . Word . . . Decrees . . . Commands . . . Ordinances . . . Statutes . . . Precepts
  • The essence of the Psalm contains a couple of characteristics that we should highlight in view of the characteristics of God’s Law:
  1. The capability of God’s Law is a lot farther reaching than even we can go in our life.  It covers all of life and the glorious life of the one who live according to God’s Law.
  2. The torah, God’s Law is the only way toward a personal relationship with God.

I recognize that the common element that makes a person a Christian atheist, or a cultural Christian, or even a lukewarm Christian, that is, “Casual Christians,” is that they lack a personal relationship God.

It is revealed to us then that the key to possessing this relationship with God is knowing His Word, loving His Law, and Living His Way in our life and to do so we must put God’s Word into our lives knowing it is God’s living Word.  It is not dead letters but God’s life input into us through faith and obeying God’s Word.  Paul encourages you to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).  Let’s go there!

There are two stanzas in Psalm 119 that we want to access today.  The first one begins in verse 57 and the second in verse 105.

  1. 1.     I Promise to Obey @PSALM 119:57-64

The greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37-38 tells us to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds.  Jesus is telling us that this is the way it is to be in our lives.

Love is a relationship word.  It is about relationships where commitment and devotion are supreme, the most important aspect of who we are in relation to who God is.

This is how I became a Christian.  I was laying in my bed on a Saturday night and was thinking and had questions, so, I went upstairs to Dad who was at the dining room table studying the Sunday School lesson for the next day.  I walked up to Dad and asked, “What do I need to do to be saved?”

Dad had me to sit down next to him; he pushed the books he was studying aside and moved his Bible over so I could see it and opened the Scripture to teach me what I needed to do to be saved.  The next morning, I made a public commitment to Christ and was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins.

The Word of God!  Dad showed it to me.  Mom and Grandma told me about the stories in the Bible.  Brother Kenny, our preacher, preached and taught the word of God to me.  My SS teachers, Dorothy Barlow, Opal Harvey, Jack Hight, Ed Burndt, Mr. Bugg and others taught God’s word to me.  God reached my heart and soul with his word.

Think about the moment you became a Christian and what led you to believe in Jesus and accept his salvation by faith.  Wasn’t the Word of God the underlying element in leading you to faith?  God’s word was brought to you by a person or several people.  Your parents, or a preacher or Sunday School teachers, maybe a friend, or possibly you heard a Bible preacher on the radio or TV, or maybe you just picked up a Bible and the Scripture touched your heart and you heard God’s call to you to come be saved through Jesus Christ.

When you accepted Jesus, your belief, your repentance, your confession, and your baptism were commitments to God . . . to love and obey him with all of your being, inside and out.

This particular stanza of Psalm 119 (vss. 57-64) is referring to your promise to obey God in spite of anything else, in spite of everything else.

The writer of this Psalm has been through the ringer of persecution.  He has experienced adversity as well as the joys of life.  We all have to some extent so we can relate to him.  Look at this:

1st – V. 57, God is his portion.  All of his hope and inheritance is found in God.  That is the source of his hope, his life, all that he is about and he has invested his whole life and hope in God.  Therefore he promises to God that he will obey God’s Word.  “Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be” @Matthew 6:21.

I think that if you really looked closely at God’s Word you will find that it is much more than a source of information and knowledge (If it is only knowledge, then we’re not better off than anyone else).  It is the source through which God not only gives you life, but he continues to live through you by your obedience.  Obey is a hard word, a word people do not like to hear . . . however . . . it is a matter of doing, of action.  Everything has a right and wrong way.  When we try to live life as Christians without God’s word to guide our life, than we will certainly do it wrong!

Are you 100% committed to God, to living his Word?  That is what your commitment was about when you gave your life to God, when you became a Christian!

2nd – VV. 58-60, because he has committed himself to God (“I have sought your face”) he asks God to fulfill his promises to His faithful one, which is God’s grace continuing to be active in his life.  He has taken account of his life and directed it to follow God’s way, obeying his statutes and commands.

There is the need of constant examination in your life.  You ask, “Am I totally obeying God?  How do I know when I am?  How do I know when I’m not?  He has been gracious to me, am I honoring that with thanksgiving and joy?”

So if I take a misstep in following God, because of my commitment, I will redirect it according to God’s word.

3rd – V. 61, and if the wicked, his enemies and God’s enemies that are against him were to tie him up with ropes even, he will not forget God’s law, he will not forget God’s direction for his life.

To many have given up hope and despaired or they have fought back in ways contrary to God’s teaching when people come against them because of their faith.  Can you honestly say, that if you were bound and imprisoned for your faith, that you would remain constantly faithful to God’s word, to the direction he has set for your life as a follower of God?  Sometimes that seems to be the most extreme case of following Jesus, but I think there are harder ways.  Yet this kind of trial can lead to fear and doubt.

4th – VV. 62-63, because of his devotion to God, his dedication is found even when he gets out of bed at night, praying and giving thanks for God’s law which guides him as well as his close association with those who love and follow God’s law.

Your relationship to God and to God’s faithful people is evidence of your devotion to God.  Not just devotion to God, but devotion to God’s Word and to God’s people.  Let us see this in you.  Let us see your commitment to God’s word by your commitment to God and his Word.

  1. 2.      I Am Determined to Obey à 119:105-112

Ancient Israel’s memory was short.  Not that they forgot, they just wouldn’t remember.  When they were in difficult circumstances they doubted God and his servant Moses, even if it was just days before that God had done some super-impressive, miraculous thing to save the Children of Israel.

We get that way too, short-sighted and short-memoried.  God has done wonderful things in our lives, through the lives of other Christians, even through the church, and the first crisis that comes up, we can forget God and complain, or we can look for a solution that doesn’t include God’s word and will.

Making our way through life requires vision.  Understanding what is right and what is not.  Realizing what is of God and what is not.  Sometimes there are possible solutions that seem good or may even seem Godly, but are not.  How do we see the way that makes sense from God’s perspective, according to our commitment to Him?  It is by God’s Word given to us, the BIBLE!

The writer of Psalm 119 brings his difficulty before God.

  • V. 107, I have suffered much (they’re against me, they continue to try and stop me)
  • V. 109, I constantly take my life in my own hands (I am constantly threatened)
  • V. 110, the wicked set a snare for me (they are trying me to stop me).

The constant in all of this is his reliance upon God’s Word and his commitment to God’s word.

  • Though I have suffered much, I simply ask that you preserve my life according to your law.
  • Though I take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law
  • Though the wicked set the trap for me, I haven’t strayed from your precepts

Do you see trust in God’s Word?  A faith that relies on what God’s Word says and the way it guides through the snares and troubles of life.  That’s the character of the writer of this Psalm.  He is trusting in God’s Word of guidance.  And so he begins this stanza:

“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.”

Don Dewelt paraphrased this sentence using the word “flashlight.”  A lot of people use the same metaphor.  It is a good analogy because the words “lamp” and “light” in verse 105 refer to the little clay bowl containing oil and a wick they burned in that day that put out a just little light like a flashlight only puts out so much light.  The little clay lamp makes me think of a candle.  I think it is the same sort of thing.

God’s word illuminates each step we take.  It’s as if, we come to this moment of crisis, or the time of decision even if it isn’t trouble and we ask “what do we do?  What step do we take?”  That is when we remember God’s precepts, do this or don’t do that.  That is when if we don’t know the answer already, we search and study the Bible and pray to determine what God says.

V. 106, reminds us of the commitment to God’s Word from back in V. 58.  I have taken an oath, I have promised; does it sound familiar?  I will follow your “righteous” laws.

Here is the voice of commitment.  Verse 112: “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.”

That is the Biblical Christian.  The one who commits to God’s Word and lives His word in all of their life.  God’s word answers every question, it guides every step, and directs us to trust and worship God in everything and every way.

So how does becoming a “Biblical Christian” convert the Christian Atheist?  A Biblical Christian lives life like they belong to Christ, because they do.  They found life in the Son of God and the Word of God taught them that, taught us that.

How does becoming a “Biblical Christian” convert the Cultural Christian?  A Biblical Christian lets the Bible teach, guide, and command our lives.  We then reflect the glory of God as imitators of Christ.

How does becoming a “Biblical Christian” convert the Lukewarm Christian?  A Biblical Christian lets the Bible fuel their life and inspire them to faithfulness and good works.

Maybe the thought from this passage should be your devotion this week…1 Peter 1:22-25

Will you say with me, I am NOT a casual Christian; I am a Committed Christian?

I am NOT a casual Christian; I am a Committed Christian

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Why It’sTrue

Just because a person believes and says something to be true, does not mean it is.

For instance, twenty years ago, OJ Simpson was on trial for murder and was not convicted. It seemed most people believed that he was guilty. Without definite proof, how can anyone know? Just because I think he is does not mean that he is.

I believe the Bible is true, but just because I believe it doesn’t make it so. The Bible is true, so I believe it. The evidence in immutable that the Bible is true. Examine Josh Mcdowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

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The Christian Atheist (Casual Christian Part 2)

The chorus of Casual Christian:  “I don’t wanna be, don’t wanna be a casual Christian.  I don’t wanna live don’t wanna live a lukewarm life.  But I want to light up the night, with an everlasting light.  I don’t wanna live a casual Christian life.”

That song ought to be one of the themes for Christians.  It needs to be our theme because too many Christians have become just that, casual in their Christianity, casual to point that many Christians have failed in what it means to be a Christian.  The song can help remind us of our commitment and the level of our commitment to Christ.

I asked by Facebook friends “What do you think it means to be a casual Christian?”

I received several responses:

  • There are the jokes, like, getting to dress casually at church
  • Others responded with things like lukewarm, lazy, informal in their faith, lacking intensity or zeal for their faith
  • But Robin Sigars, formerly with CIY, now senior minister with the Carterville Christian Church (Carterville, MO) responded that casual Christians are Christian Atheists.

So what exactly is a Christian-Atheist?

That term is an oxymoron.  It just seems like you are putting opposites together.  Like Democratic-Republican, or Socialist-Democracy, or Kansas-Missourian.

What is a Christian-Atheist?

  • Well, a Christian is one who has faith in God.  Someone who through conviction has put their faith in God and Christ.
  • And an Atheist is one who doesn’t believe there is a God.  They have no faith in God, no belief in Christ as Savior.

They are opposites, but the term Christian-Atheist is a descriptive term.  What does it describe?

Wipedia, an online dictionary defines Christian-Atheist as “one who doesn’t believe in God but attempts to live by Biblical morality.”

In other words, they are atheists whose values are Christian-like in character.  But that’s what the world’s definition is.  We are Christians.  We are believers so that doesn’t even begin to make sense to us; Not from a Biblical point of view, but that is what the rest of the world thinks a Christian-Atheist is.

Here is what a Christian-Atheist is and I hope that you’re not one; “Putting your faith in God, but still living as if everything is up to you, as if everything depends on you!”  “Believing in God but living as if he doesn’t exist.”

Old Testament Israel is living in much the same way and Jeremiah is praying to God about their faithlessness.  He says to God in Jeremiah 12:2 – “You are near to their lips but far from their mind”

What does that line “(God) You are near to their lips but their mind is far from you” (NASB) Mean?

[Excerpted from The Christian Atheist, beginning on page 17]

Hi, my name is Craig Groeschel, and I’m a Christian Atheist.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve believed in God, but I haven’t always lived like he exists. Today my Christian Atheism isn’t as large of a problem as it once was, but I still struggle with it. Like a recovering alcoholic careful never to take sobriety for granted, I have to take  life one day at a time.

You might think it’s odd for a pastor to struggle with living like there is no God. However, in my corner of the world, Christian Atheism is a fast-spreading spiritual pandemic which can poison, sicken, and even kill eternally. Yet Christian atheism is extremely difficult to recognize — especially by those who are infected.

My story illustrates the symptoms. I was born into a “Christian” family. We believed in God and attended church when convenient — and always on Christmas or Easter. And when we did attend, it was always boring. Some older man wearing what looked like a dress would stand at the pulpit for what seemed like forever, talking about stuff that didn’t make any sense to me. I remember counting how many times the preacher raised one hand in the air — fifty-three in one sermon may still be the world record. Even though I never carried a Bible to church, we did own a yellowish-gold Bible that was the size of a small U-haul truck and sat prominently on our living room coffee table. The pictures gave me warm, tingly, spiritual feelings, but the words were an impenetrable web of thees and thous. Two of my friends’ parents always made us pray before meals: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food.” It always bothered me that this prayer didn’t rhyme, even though it seemed like it   should, and wondered if it bothered God too. At my grandparent’s house, we prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed.”  Neither prayer mattered to me, but at least the second one actually rhymed.

He goes on to describe how he learned at age 8 in a VBS that he was going to hell and supposedly accepted Christ at that time.

  • In High School he was a hypocrite, going to church by himself, listening to messages and encouragements to be holy, but when Friday night rolled around, well…you know how it is.
  • In college, a Christian school, he had a great spiritual awakening, starting a Bible study in his dorm, passionate about leading people to Christ, and it was in those years that he for the first time believed in God and began to live like he is real.

Does any part of Craig Groeschel’s story resonate with you?  If it does, you might be a Christian-Atheist.

You’ve confessed Jesus as Lord, you’ve been baptized, you might have been full of energy and zeal for Christ and the church, but now it’s just religious ceremony and boring ritual, it’s obligation with little feeling and virtually no meaning for you anymore.  You’re just Christian in name but not in action?

That’s what it means to be a Christian Atheist.  You believe, but you don’t live like you believe.

Maybe Paul’s words help us understand better – Titus 1:16: They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him.” NASB

Welcome to Christian Atheism, where people believe in God but live as if he does not exist.  Here’s why a person is a Christian-atheist.

 1)    They Don’t Know God

We know that roughly as many as 90-some percent of Americans say they believe in God.  But do that 90-some percent know God?

You can tell when someone who claims to believe in God, that they don’t know him when they call him the “Big Guy in the Sky,” or the “Man Upstairs.”  They believe in God, I guess, they know about God, some, I suppose, but they don’t KNOW God.  There is no closeness to God. No relationship with God.

Maybe you were closer to God than you are today?  You started out full of zeal and desire, pleasing God, serving him with excitement, learning God’s ways with every sermon and Bible study, but, your Christian life is like a slow leak in your car tire.  It takes a while, but eventually, your tire goes flat.  As it leaks and flattens, driving becomes more difficult, your gas mileage suffers, and your car drives squirrelly on the highway.

Slowly but surely over time your spiritual passion has quietly slipped away.  You pray less.  You barely read your Bible.  You are disinterested when people bring up spiritual things.  Church becomes a bore and a bother.  You just go to church and that’s all, if you go to church at all.  In fact, if you live with Biblical morals and values you do so out of habit, not out of faith.

We have got to face believing AND knowing God.  We have got to cross the line where we KNOW God and are close to him.  Right away, we want to look at three levels of closeness with God.

The 1st level, only knowing God by Reputation

You’ve heard stories from friends or your parents and you can tell a little about Noah and an Ark, or Moses crossing the Red Sea, or maybe Jonah and a big fish or a whale, or something, and of course Jesus birth and death but the details are a bit sketchy and maybe that’s about all.

You only know God by Bible stories that don’t really mean anything to you, but you don’t know God personally.  He is not your Father in heaven.  He is not even just a god out there.  He really means very little to you.  And so you gage and judge God by his reputation according to the stories you have heard.

The 2nd level, only knowing God by Memory

You have memories of church.  I can visit with you about church and you can tell me the day you were baptized, and about attending camps and revivals, maybe you’re an elder’s kid, or you were a deacon, or your grandma was a Sunday School teacher, or you taught SS, or the preacher’s kids were your best friends, but these are all just memories of the past.

And something upset you so you dropped out or even quit.  Someone said something, or did something and you left the church.  There was a church split and your parents took you somewhere else and you haven’t been back to church since you were 15 and that was 30 years ago and you just lost touch.

You say, “Oh yeah, I have good memories of church.”  But see, they are just memories of the past and you don’t know God today.

The 3rd level, Intimately Knowing God

The Bible talks about intimacy, especially the old KJV.  Adam knew Eve and she conceived and gave birth to a couple of babies, Cain and Abel.  The idea of intimacy is being one in marriage.  It’s more than I know about you, but I am now joined with you and you become one with the each other and you KNOW each other.

God wants us to know him with our whole life with that level of intimacy.

2)    They  Don’t Know God, but God is Near

Look at Deuteronomy 4:29

At the time when this passage was written, there is going to be a time when Israel will be going through great difficulty.  They will not be in their own land, they will be captives to other nations, having been taken away from their homes and their land and separated from the Temple and from God and in that day of captivity God says that when you look for me, you will find me.

God wants you to search for him wholeheartedly; as Jesus said, “with all your heart and soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Look at Jeremiah 29:12-13

Israel is in captivity now and the Israelites are supposed to do what it takes to get along with their Babylonian neighbors and God wants them to know that he is there, he is with them.  “I am there.  I want a relationship with you.”

He wants to be close to you.

Go to Acts 17:27

Here is a sermon that is relevant today, right now.  God wants the nations to come to him.  But the nations have problems with Christians.

But you say to me; “I believe!  I believe Jeff. Isn’t that good enough?”  That is a fair question and it deserves an honest answer.

Turn with me in your Bibles, James chapter 2

Let’s hear the context.  There are scattered Christians that are saying all you have to do is believe.  Belief is all there is.  You’ve heard that, there are those who make the same claims today.  James has learned this and James is addressing their mistaken belief.

@James 2:17-19

What are we getting at here?  If you think you’ve got to have just an intellectual faith, you know, just possessing knowledge, God is saying to you today, you’ve got to show me your faith.

The demons believe in God and they’re scared.  They shake in fear of God and his judgment.  They are afraid.  They know their fate and they should be afraid.

Let me be totally up front with you right now.  If you only believe and that’s all, you don’t believe you have to be baptized, you don’t carry out acts of mercy, and you don’t and won’t reach out to others with the Gospel of Christ, if you have friends that are like this too, the demons are better off then you.

Let me tell you there are no atheists in hell (literal atheists or Christian-atheists).  Philippians 2 tells us that the day that Jesus comes back EVERY person will bow down and worship him and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and that means that those who are not saved, even those who were atheist in this life will believe in who Jesus is.  But, it will too late for them.

If all you do today is say I believe, my friend, you’re in trouble.

If you are a Christian, are you who you say you?  You believe, James says you do well, so do the demons.  But that’s not good enough.  What have you done more than the demons?

CONCLUSION – THE SOLUTION

I’m not trying to condemn you, but you may be feeling guilt and shame at this point.  Let me help you here because you are wondering “how do you get out of this, out of being a Christian-Atheist?”

The answer is simple, but following through may be difficult.  Here it is: Show your faith, live the life of faith God has given you.  Here is how your faith is seen.

Show mercy

  • James says it’s about mercy.  @James 1:27.  True religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.
  • Micah told us what the Lord God said (6:8), the Lord REQUIRES that you act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

Be holy

  • Peter emphasized we are to be holy as the Lord our God is holy @1 Pet. 1:15.
  • Purity, righteousness, being sanctified, consecration, and being separate (from the world) are words that describe holiness.

Be evangelistic, reaching out with Jesus to make disciples of all people

  • Jesus commanded the apostles to teach us to obey what he had commanded them @Matt. 28:19, and he commanded them to go, make disciples and those who were scattered with the persecution preached the word wherever they went @Acts 8:4.

Are you obedient?

  • John says we know we have come to know God if we keep his commandments @1 John 2:3.

If the fruit of faith and obedience are not evident in your life, you are living a Christian Atheist! You can claim “I’m a Christian” all day long, but if you live as if there is no God and in fact you live as if everything depends on you, you are a Christian Atheist!  I should be able to see your faith by your actions and so should everyone else!

Being a Christian-Atheist is as if you are living in captivity.  You are a Christian, but for whatever reason you have settled into a faith without action, you are captive to a Godless way of living and doing.  God was with the Israelites in their captivity, and when they were ready to seek God with all their hearts, God would hear them and they would find him.

If you are living in the modern captivity without obedience, without the fruit that shows you are a follower of Christ, a child of God, God is still there.  He is waiting for your total surrender to him and his commands, to live the way Christ showed.

And that is the invitation.  To commit yourself to Christ and get busy being Christ-like.

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Inadvertent Wisdom

I love what you might hear when you switch stations on the radio. One person is talking, a DJ, or a commercial spokesman, or someone, and you get one part of a sentence from one and another from the next. Makes for some good laughs.

It happened today. Here’s what I got.

Voice #1, “The great thing about retirement is…,” and voice #2, “the warranty.”

At first I literally laughed out loud. Most people going into retirement probably feel that their warranty is about to run out, but, after I laughed I thought, that’s just it, that’s what it means for the faithful Christian.

One of the promises for the Christian, our future hope, is eternal life with God.  Usually, when we age, our parts wear out. My folks have new joints, Mom new knees and Dad new hips. A lady I work with who is my age (55 this year) has a new knee. This life has no guarantees. Our bodies wear out, our emotions can be injured, our minds grow tired, and eventually, we die. Our bodies in the material state in which we live will not last forever. We will die and be transferred into the spiritual realm, completely.

I had a friend who went to be with the Lord in January 2010. I wrote about his faith while he was dying (https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/dying-mans-faith/ and, https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/faith-journeying-toward-heaven/ and, https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/the-king-is-coming/, these are all about Jim). Often, when you would ask Jim how he was doing, he would respond, “I’m vertical. It’s better than the alternative.” Jim loved to laugh and tell a good joke, and that was one of his funnies. But a lot of people really believe that living is better than the alternative. The alternative being death.

Death is the last vestige of this life. It is when Christians move into heaven with God. Like Jim, though he died with peace, uncomfortable in his earthly body because of age and cancer, he died going to the better alternative, eternity with God.

Why? Because of the warranty.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

There’s your warranty info. No more of the bad and evil and harmful and sinful things of this life affecting our life with God. A new home, a perfect indestructible home, and an eternal Father who loves and cares for us.

The great thing about retirement (dying as a Christian) is the warranty (eternal life with God and Christ).

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 67,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Nothing is What it Seems

The movie “The Recruit” starring Al Pacino and Colin Ferrell is an interesting story of a CIA agent who recruits and instructs prospective CIA operatives. The story has its twists and we learn from beginning to end the reality of the training and the real world of espionage is that “nothing is what it seems.” Al Pacino’s character Walter Burke repeats this truth throughout the movie and in the end is caught in his own farce and is told by James Clayton (Colin Ferrell’s character) “nothing is what it seems.”

What appears on the surface to be true is not what is real.  It may seem real, it may seem to be true, and everyone believes that it is, but reality lies somewhere else, somewhere underneath, it is buried beneath the surface of life and is manipulated by someone who is controlling reality.

One of the problems with modern Christianity is that we have ceased to fight a spiritual battle. We are fighting individuals and organizations and governments and movements and joining movements and organizations to fight all of these where they differ from or we believe that differ from our Biblical and religious beliefs and practices.

So we fight against the organizations of abortion, homosexuality, economic irresponsibility by the government, sexual immorality on TV and in the movies, pornography on the internet, liberal feminism, and so much more. But attacking the establishments of these values is that where the battle for Christians and the church is at?

Before I go further, please don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those who go to battle in the courts and before congress to protect Christian values and rights and work hard to overturn or enact legislation to set things right. It is needed and certain individuals and groups such as Focus on the Family and others are certainly called by God for that purpose, but is that where the Christian and the church is to focus? The government? The courts? Abortion clinics? Is it? Should I complain to television producers that I am offended by almost every TV show that is on TV now? Should I lobby for greater restraints on the Internet so that people cannot access immoral sites? What?

Here’s the truth of scripture. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

Our fight is not the immoral or misguided organizations, or even individuals who believe and/or follow these belief’s and practices. They are not the enemy. As one preacher I heard say more than 20 years ago, they are prisoners of the enemy. The devil has them trapped. Our fight is with the the powers of sin that influence our world. Satan, the devil, his demons and evil spirits, their influence in individual lives.

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