Christianity

Christianity does not exist in a vacuum. That’s not to say it couldn’t exist in a vacuum, it most likely can.  God is capable of that.  But we live in a world in which religious pluralism is prominent. It has been that way since people have occupied the earth (sometime after Adam and Eve’s children had children). There are many religions and many of those religions possess some good and beneficial characteristics and qualities. Yet, without the differences, a vacuum would exist. The differences however, are the points when sense awakens to the variance that exists between the religions.

Christian colleges and schools of religion have studied comparative religions for generations. Comparing religions, honestly and fairly, can bring a wealth of knowledge and certainly understanding, and hopefully wisdom.

Some religions value peace, while others promote love. Some religions emphasize mankind’s role while others are more concerned with god’s position. Some religions are focused solely on this life and others are concerned with the future life in another sphere of existence. And yet, though most religions have a thing or two in common with Christianity, Christianity offers a few unique perspectives that are not found in any other religion whatsoever.

First, Jesus who is the Christ (Messiah) is the only source of salvation for mankind, for every person. The Hebrew people of the Old Testament times were looking for salvation from God through the Messiah he would send. Jesus fulfilled all 300 plus prophecies that foretold who the coming Messiah would be. Things like where he would be born @Micah 5:2; that he would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey @Zechariah 9:9; that he would suffer and die @Isaiah 53:5, and more.

Jesus arrives on the scene in the first half of the first century and fulfills all the prophecies, revealing himself gradually over a period of roughly three years. Toward the end, a few days before he was crucified, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” @John 14:6.

Peter with John the apostle beside him, having been arrested for telling people that Jesus is the Messiah told the court “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” @Acts 4:12.

Paul encouraging Timothy, a pastor of the Ephesian church reminded him “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given at the proper time” @1 Timothy 2:5-6.

Second, mankind’s need is God himself. Pascal, centuries ago noted that every man has a God-shaped vacuum that can only be filled by God. Yet, since sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience, humans have tried to fill that vacuum or hole as some have interpreted it according to his own will and means coming up with all sorts of things that remove God from the equation, even by some who believe in God and his Messiah, Jesus. It’s sort of the spiritual form of trying to put a round peg in a square hole. It won’t fit. It won’t fill the void.

Mankind’s need is God. As people try to fill the void in their lives, they try any one of a number of religions that do not include God or vary from God’s revealed word, the Bible. Some people try to fill the void through addictions, drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, food, money, work, objects, etc. But, it is God that fills the void. He does so through our faith in Christ Jesus’ death on the cross.

With Easter 2012 upon us, Good Friday being tomorrow, when Jesus died, it wasn’t that some really great man died who brought wonderful teachings to the world. Jesus wouldn’t be any better than Ghandi, Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson or any others. He wouldn’t be greater than any prophet like Elijah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah. But he is the Son of God and God has proved that he is through Jesus deeds and miracles and teachings (cf., John 20:30-31; Acts 2:22), he died and rose from the dead.

There is such a wealth of religions and religious teaching that confusion about what is real and true and what isn’t. How do we sort through it all? Look at the similarities? Compare the differences? If I am talking with someone from other religions I will find the similarities and some them the truth from what we have in common, deconstructing their argument and disproving the untrue by means of truth and reality.

There are many religions, but there is only one that leads to God and salvation. It is Christianity and that was God’s plan all along. Those who believe in Christ through faith and obedience would possess the name of Christ and be called Christians.

They are people who acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God as well as believe in the fact and are completely committed to Christ @Luke 9:18-27 (cf., Romans 10:9-10; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:1-7). They believe and live by faith.

No other religion makes the same claims, no other religion makes such bold claims and no other religion can back their teaching with actual truth. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.

Larry Norman who was Christianity’s first rock musician popularized the term “One Way” with the forefinger pointing to heaven. Why? Because Jesus is the only way! It is a bold claim, but it is truth. And because Christians receive grace, there is no arrogance to the claim that Christianity has the only answer to life’s questions and is the only way to God.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because if he had not raised to life, Christianity, no matter how nice, or how good it is, has no value. Jesus has raised to life and he lives and sets at the right hand of God in heaven waiting for the day that God will send him back to judge the world.

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Visiting Day

This devotional first appeared in the LaPlata Home Press, August 7, 2002

He was looking forward to this moment all day long, after six days of labor, it finally arrived-Visiting Day!! The man with the keys arrived to swing open the large, heavy doors. The cold, grey hall springs to life in the warm glow of light. He could hardly control his emotions.

The families began to arrive. He peers from the corner of the room longing for the first glimpse of his loved ones. He lives for the weekends. He lives for the visits.

As the cars arrive, he watches intently. Then finally she arrives, his bride, for whogs used to be. At one point, they break into singing, with interruptions of laughter and applause.

But all too soon it is over. A tear comes to his eye as his bride departs. Then the man with the keys closes the doors. He hears the key turn in the lock marking the end of a special day. There he stands, alone again. He knows that most of his visitors will not contact him again til next week. As the last car pulls away from the parking lot, Jesus retreats into loneliness as He waits until next Sunday-Visiting Day. [Borrowed from the Knob Noster Christian Church Newsletter, The Door Knob, David Jordan, Minister].

I share this story with you to ask you these questions. How much time do you spend with Jesus? Has Sunday just become visiting day for you? Is it the only day that you spend with Jesus? And is it only for an hour or two? Does visiting day come around less frequently than it used (maybe once a month or even less)? Or do you spend time daily with God as you should?

My wish is that you take of Jesus’ promise that He is always with us (Matthew 28:20). The truth is that our lives have become so compartmentalized that we have our life at work, our life at home, our life at school, our life at church, etc…and we conform to the image of the situation rather than conforming to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). The result, the weakening of faith and convictions. The power of the Holy Spirit is in the life of the Christian and yet not utilized and Satan wins another battle in our lives.

My challenge to you is to let the presence of Christ permeate every aspect of your life. Let Christ dwell in your hearts and fill you with his power so that daily you are becoming more and more like Christ. Let’s live every day for him. Let’s strive to be like him. Don’t miss the opportunity to be near him all the time, to hear his voice, to love his people, to remember our first love (Revelation 24-5).

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Let the Blood Flow

This devotion first appeared in the October 9, 2002 Laplata Home Press.

Not long ago, during a time of personal prayer, praise, and meditation, singing songs of surrender and the meaning of the cross, I realized I was overlooking a portion of the truth and reality of Christ’s atonement for me. I suddenly turned and was facing the communion table at Church. In the dark of the Church auditorium, with only the outside street light shining through the frosted windows. I saw the communion table clearly and the words engraved on the front, “This Do in Remembrance of Me.” It struck me, when I am sharing in the Lord’s Supper each week, I am awestruck by the death and resurrection of Jesus, but I’m not sure I was letting the character of awe bleed into every other aspect of my life.

When a person has clogged blood vessels, their heart doesn’t work to full capacity. The blood doesn’t get into every part of the body, or at least not enough blood. When this is the case, sometimes heart attacks, strokes, the loss of extremities and other negative conditions can result and often do. To open blood vessels so that blood flows to all the fingers, toes, and other extremities, often surgery, and or medicine, exercise, change in diet, and lifestyle are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, debilitation and death occur.

So, it is with the meaning of the Lord’s Supper in the believer’s life. In that moment as the auditorium became a sanctuary, I considered how the blood of Christ is to flow into all areas of the Christian’s life. In all relationships; family, friends, business, work, neighbors, and church. In all our financial considerations and activity; choosing government officials, in the meals we eat, in very choice we make, including TV, movies, computer and Internet, video games, our choice of friends, even in the Lord’s supper each Lord’s day.

To let the blood flow into all areas of our life means, total commitment to Jesus Christ, commitment to and participation in the Church, commitment to obedience and service, commitment to Bible study, meditation, and prayer, commitment to obedience and service, humility, forgiveness, and love.

About 20 years ago, at the Christian Church in Welch, Oklahoma, one man gave a communion meditation pointing out that the time we have to prepare for each communion service begins immediately after we have completed the last communion service. In other words, total commitment. Or to state it in modern popular lingo, 24/7. As Christians come to “the Table” each week to share in the breaking of bread and partaking of the cup, we remember the Scriptures tell us this is done to remember what Jesus Christ has done for us. Not just for a few hours a week, or whenever we feel like it, but always. A total commitment of our lives to the cause of Christ for which he died.

Have we let the blood flow into all areas of our life?

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Memory

This first appeared in the LaPlata Home Press September 11, 2002 in a weekly devotional called Flowing From the Mouth of the Jordan.

When I was 3 1/2 years old, my parents, my Grandma Dillman, and I took a trip out east.  We went to Gettysburg, Niagra Falls, and other special places of interest. The next year we went to the Rockie Mountains, the Grand Canyon, and Knotts Berry Farm as well as other places of interest of interest to us.  I remember blotches of these moments. For instance, the only thing I remember at Knotts Berry Farm was riding the train. I sat in a seat by myself (remember I am 4 1/2 years old) and two guys dressed as western bandits sit behind me and tell me to “stick-em-up.” My parents told me I told them “NO!”

Most of what I’ve told you I barely remember. In fact, the details of what I could tell you about each situation have been filled in by my parents, especially by the pictures they took of these two trips.

Every Sunday, when God’s church gathers in each church building, the church shares together in the Lord’s Supper (i.e., Communion). The Lord’s Supper is a sharing in remembering what God has done in Christ on the cross. We were not there when he nailed and died and taken down and laid in a tomb (John 19:17-20:10). We were not there when he bore our sins on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). But, when we came in faith to Christ in baptism, we participated in Jesus’ death for our sins (Romans 6:3-8) and the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the depth of love God has for us, and the forgiveness we’ve received in Christ through our faith and obedience.

Just like the pictures of my family’s trips fill in the blanks of my memory, reminding me of what happened in Gettysburg, and Colorado, etc., the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the work of the cross in our lives. The cross brings forgiveness of sins to those who have faith. For the Christian, participating in the Lord’s supper is as if we are participating in the cross, because Jesus experienced our sin in his suffering.

All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version.

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The Flush Toilet

What innovation had the most impact on life n the twentieth century? A popular survey asked this question when (sic) we approached the year 2000. Many conveniences were suggested; washing machines; hair dryers; canned food; improved communications; radio; TV and more. However, the number one response was indoor plumbing, specifically, the flush toilet. People are most grateful that not only do they not have to carry in water from an outdoor well but they do not have to visit the outhouse. Of all the great technological marvels of the twentieth century, indoor plumbing captured the hearts of most Americans.

What will be the number one innovation in the twenty-first century? Voice activated computers; cars that drive themselves or air travel like on the cartoon The Jetsons; cures for disease or something else? Who really cares? Stuff happens and things change. Who would have believed that the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903 would have led to air travel being such a major source of transportation, or that the first computer (which was as big as a house and had millions of parts) would lead to computers being so important.

Innovation and invention are the result of God-given abilities (thinking, creativity, and ability to produce ideas). The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8.* Things and times change, Jesus doesn’t. The Hebrew writer continues with a warning to not be carried away by many and strange doctrines (verse 9). Beliefs change and deceive many people. There are many gods, materialism, sexual addictions, drugs, alcohol, and more. Innovations come and go. Religious beliefs come and go and many are rehashed. However, Jesus never changes. Christianity under Jesus’ rule is never altered. Whatever comes, whatever goes, there is one we can trust who does not come and go, who never changes, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

* Scripture reference is from the New International Version of the Bible

This first appeared in the July 31, 2002 LaPlata Home Press

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Distressed

A few years ago, I transported a pre-school child to Macon (Missouri) and back for school. She had mental and learning disabilities and needed special teaching, but was a very, very sweet girl. She was curious about everything, asking a lot of questions all the time. She thrived on all the attention she received. I believe her smile could melt any heart.

She had difficulty pronouncing my name correctly. One day on the way to school, she asked, “Jeff Jord you goin’ pick up me?” She was really concerned that someone other than myself would be picking her up that day.

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwellings-for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself. That where I am, there you may be also” John 14:1-3. Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room when he spoke these words to them. He had washed their feet (John 13:1-20). He identified who would betray him, which baffled them (John 13:21-30). Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed (John 13:31-38). He even gave them the Lord’s Supper which represents his death (Matthew 26:26-29). Before all this happened, Jesus predicted his own terrible death (John 12:27-50).

All of this troubled and confused the apostles. Jesus’ words had dashed all of their kingdom hopes. He was going away and was going to die. They didn’t like what he said as well as not understanding what he was telling them either. In their troubled hearts they were in essence asking the same thing little Julia asked that one day. “Are you goin’ a pick up me?”

Jesus reassured them that in fact, he was coming back for them. They were even going to stay with him in his Father’s place. How like children we are with questions and doubts, seeking reassurance from Jesus that he didn’t just leave us but will for those become children of the Father through faith in Jesus.

This first appeared the August 10th, 2002 LaPlata Home Press

(Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible)

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Disturbing Dream Because of Disturbing Religious Trends

I had a vivid dream the other night. I don’t often remember dreams and when I do, I rarely remember details. Until now, there are only two dreams I have had that I remember and one a recurring dream.

In my dream I was walking with a man I knew from the town I ministered at a few years ago, Theo Goodding. Theo was one of the patriarchs of the town at the time. He attended a different church than I ministered too, but I respected him and am pleased to have counted him as one of my friends.

In the dream, Theo and were walking down a country dirt road and talking about the land. He would point out this piece of land and that one and who they had belonged too. A lot of the land had belonged to him. Walking and talking with him I began to emphasis with his distress and pain. He was troubled because he and the others sold the land we were viewing because the generations following them were not interested in the land that they wished to pass on to their heirs.

Two disclaimers here. First, I am not trying imply that Theo Goodding’s heirs rejected to accept what he had to pass on them. I know several of his family and they are believers and I believe faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Second, I don’t put a lot of stock in the idea that every dream has a meaning. That would be inconsistent with the randomness of thought and honestly, we wouldn’t be able to keep up with all our dreams and their meanings. Yet, I do believe some dreams have meaning and I do believe that God uses dreams to help us understand some things and/or gets our attention by means of some dreams.

Here is what I have come to understand. I have read two books, the analysis of 20 years of polling and surveying about religious belief and the washout of a standard of belief and faith in God, Christ, the Bible and the Church, and an editorial about how today’s teens have no moral intuition to  base anything value on.

Book 1: The Vertical Self by Mark Sayers, http://www.amazon.com/Vertical-Self-Biblical-Discover-Obsession/dp/0849920000.  Sayers explains that modern culture directs people to want to be famous (thus, American Idol, that I sarcastically and maliciously call American Idiot, and similar shows, like American’s Top Model and so forth. I really don’t like these type of shows, they disturb my Biblical sense of morality and fairness) and how that is a problem from a Biblical and Christian perspective.

Book 2: Uncompromised Faith by S. Michael Craven, http://www.navpress.com/store/product.aspx?id=9781600063626. This book really disturbed me. Craven documents the how our society and culture has had its moral, religious and values foundation has disappeared and the future of America because of this.

The polls and Surveys were Barna Groups’ research for the past 20 years called the State of the Church Series (6 in all), http://www.barna.org/faith-spirituality/504-barna-examines-trends-in-14-religious-factors-over-20-years-1991-to-2011, in which Barna examines the trends of 14 religious factors for the years 1991-2011. The two biggest elements that hit me is that among the whole American population Church involvement and Bible reading and Bible study is significantly down in almost every category and that each generation is moving away from the beliefs and values that Theo’s generation possessed.

And finally, I read an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning (9/14/11) that is not religious or spiritual in nature but highlighted how today’s teens have no ability to determine what is moral and what is not. It has disintegrated, http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/.

The editorial prompted this post. It is apparent that the values, beliefs, and hopes that people like Theo Goodding, my parents, myself, and so many others is not being received by the next generations. And that will have a negative effect in the church, for faith overall, and will affect the whole world and already is

That dream was emphasizing to me the problem and the need to search for a solution to our culture failing to accept what God wants each person to have and as it is passed on from one generation to the next. In fact, this factor was an issue in Israel’s history. When a generation of Israel had been faithful to God, after a revival of sorts, such as documented a number of times in the book of Judges, that same faith and trust in God eroded more and more with each succeeding generation until there was virtually no one who trusted in God anymore.

That very factor has been growing in our society and it is now evident. I don’t have the practical solution to this issue except to say, I will continue to pray, and to preach Jesus, and be genuine in my faith and witness to Jesus in my life.

I must really leave the other answers up to people with more wisdom and ability and will watch and listen to learn from them in this matter.

May God and his ways return to our culture before it is too late for America and the rest of the world.

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