Tag Archives: christianity

Four Reasons

Sometimes I wonder why things are the way they are. I question why people do the things they do in the ways they do them. This questioning has led me to a great understanding of many things in my life as I don’t take things merely at face value. But what about Christianity?

What makes Christianity so great? Here are four things I see as invaluable about Christianity.

1. Eternal Life

This week a good friend of mine died. It was hard to watch him go, and now that he is gone, I miss him. Yet, to watch him while he lived, and to listen to him, was inspiring. He couldn’t wait to be with the Lord in heaven – face-to-face with Jesus. He couldn’t wait to see the Garden of Eden. He couldn’t wait to be healed of his cancer.

Eternal life is a central belief of Christianity. We believe that when we are saved, we are granted eternal life. This life allows us to have direct access to the Creator of the universe who above all things and in all things. We believe that through Jesus there is no longer separation between God and man necessitating a human mediator like a priest, for we are all priests, through Jesus, who have direct access to God.

This access begins when we are saved. At that time, the Holy Spirit is given to us (Acts 2:38) – God’s Spirit living inside us – and that Spirit is the deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5 and Ephesians 1:14). This promise of heaven gives us hope beyond this life. It is a hope for something more than simply becoming dust again to a purposeless end.

This hope allows for a perspective shift among Christians. This world is not all there is, so everything is temporary.

2. Family

When you receive salvation, you are granted entry into not only the presence of God but also his family. He created all of us, but we chose to live our own way like runaway children. Through Jesus, he invites us back into the family along with other believers. What this means for us each day is this: we don’t have to live this life alone. When we try to live life alone, it is very easy for temptations to overcome us, and we walk away from God again and again. But when we are doing life together with other people who are trying to live the ways of Jesus in their everyday life, it becomes easier to stay on the narrow path ourselves. Some people claim they don’t need the church to be a Christian. This is totally in contrast to what the Bible says (Hebrews 10:25). The greatest commands are these: Love God, and Love Others (all others – even your enemies). In fact, in 1 John 4, John says that we love God BY loving others. The Bible also says we are to do good (read: love) to all people, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:10). I know that some churches are filled with Jerks. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. At times everyone can be mean – even you and me. The church is full of broken sinners in need of the grace of God through Jesus. Hurt people hurt people. Latch onto the good people. Do life with them. Let God sort out the bad, but don’t cut yourself off from the family because of one or two. And in today’s culture, if you are in a church that isn’t loving, you can probably find one that is loving just down the road, or maybe across town.

3. Purpose and Direction

Of the things I have mentioned so far, this may be the one not understood the most by well-meaning Christians. When you give your life to Christ, you are pledging devotion to be His follower, His disciple. That means you are pledging to live according to His teachings. You don’t have to live life haphazardly. Through the teaching of Jesus, there is a direction for your life – a code by which you should live. This code gives a standard. It allows us to evaluate our lives to see whether we are doing good or bad. In atheism, there is no standard of good or bad – those ideas are subjective to the person. In Christianity there is a standard (2 Timothy 3:16).But this direction isn’t just a set of rules to govern our lives. It is meant to help us live out our purpose as well. What is that purpose?We are called to help the kingdom grow through evangelism (Matthew 28:12-20). Every. Single. Christian. Is. An. Evangelist. Or at least they should be. Here is where Christianity is falling by the wayside. The majority of Christians don’t live out their purpose. We are supposed to love other people, and through that love, we show them the way TO Jesus and the way OF Jesus. When you don’t understand your direction and purpose, it is easy to become the kind of Christian people run away from rather than toward.

4. It’s free

So many religions around the world expect you to do certain things to achieve relationship with their deity of choice. Christianity is not this way. The purpose and direction of Christianity are there to help you live a better life and enjoy life more. They are meant to help this world become a better place. They are not meant to help you achieve some sort of status before God.

We are all sinners. We have all walked away from God and His ways. We have all broken his commands to love. So what can we do to undo what we’ve done?

Nothing.

We can’t undo wrong by doing right. The merit system doesn’t work that way. In order to undo our wrong, there has to be a substitution for our life. This is where Jesus comes into play. He lived perfectly, and at his death and resurrection, his perfect life was exchanged for broken, sinful one if we would receive it.

We can’t live good enough to deserve to be in the presence of God, but through Jesus, we are granted entrance into God’s Kingdom and into his family in spite of our wrongs (Romans 5:6-8).

Christianity is the only religion where salvation is given freely. All these blessings listed above are free. You don’t have to earn them (Galatians 5:1).

The way to connect with the blessings of God is to be connected to the Cross of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4). That’s it. We ask God to cleanse our consciences (1 Peter 3:21), and we trust that He has saved us. We cannot save ourselves.

I’m glad to be a Christian. There’s so much hope here. I hope you will consider joining the family too.

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Dinosaurs and Epilepsy

When I was a child, the world looked so much differently than it does now that I am older. My education and experience grant me a perspective that a child cannot fathom. As a child, this perspective of the unknown, which was way bigger than the known, created a dependence on our parents, who knew much more about the world than we did.

When we became teenagers, we began to stretch our wings and try things with an attitude of invincibility, figuring that we knew enough of the world to get by. This attitude of independence led many of us into trouble and poor decisions that we still deal with the consequences of to this day. Once we survived through a few years of this ignorant independence, we began to realize that our parents knew so much more than we did, and we turned back to them for advice and perspective. This was a healthy turn in many of our lives.

When we read the Bible, we get a glimpse into a culture that is far removed from our own. So much of what we understand due to the maturing of the world and cultures was not know when the Bible was experienced and then explained in writing. The Bible speaks of dragons and monsters, but they didn’t have the word, dinosaur, to describe these large beasts, nor did they have the scientific understanding of their natures that we do. The word, dinosaur, wasn’t coined until the mid-1800s.

They also didn’t know how to explain certain ailments. When a person fell to the ground in convulsions beyond their control, they said the person had a demon or an unclean spirit. Jesus healed a few such issues when he walked around Palestine. However, today we know this ailment as epilepsy. Our scientific understanding allows us a perspective that is greater than that of the ancient near-east.

[I am not denying the supernatural events that happened in scriptures. Jesus raised the dead. Samuel was summoned from beyond the grave. The epileptic was completely cured without medicine, so were the lame and the blind. Yet, there is still an understanding today that differs from that of the Bible-times.]

It is amazing to consider how humanity has grown in their understanding of the world around them and how it works. Science is a blessing, and through science we have made tremendous advancements in technology, medicine, and psychology. Some of the science we understand today, like water cycles, underwater springs in the ocean, and the solar system, were hinted about in the Bible long before they were discovered. Science and the Bible are meant to accompany one another – not oppose one another.

There is one thing that science has caused, however, that is not healthy. When the world was immature, like a child, the people looked to God (or other deities) for help with the unexplainable. There was a general faith among people that brought peace and help in time of need. There was a trust that God would help in the ways needed. And He did.

Through science, much of the world has come to the conclusion that the unexplained is explainable, therefore we do not need God. In our daily lives we rely on ourselves and our understanding to make it through the day without much thought of our relationship with the Creator of the universe. Even Christians, who pledge their devotion to God through Jesus, live daily more like atheists than Christians as they exercise their independence from the Creator.

This is not to say we should go back to the ignorance of the dark ages and before. We live in a grand age of understanding.

Yet, we must not be so arrogant in our education that we assume independence from the One whose foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.

In your daily life, how often do you pray? How much do you know of God through the Bible? How many times per day (or year) do you make a decision based on faith rather than an educated guess? How much trust do you put in the promises in the Bible and the personality of Jehovah?

Our knowledge of the world has puffed up humanity to the place of humanistic atheism. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had just such an attitude, and he had to be humbled by God. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) May we enjoy and grow through science, but may we not be so puffed up by our knowledge of science and the workings of this world that we forget there is so much more we don’t understand that can only be explained and controlled by God. And may we not forget that God wants to work in our lives, for our good, everyday (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 13:5-6) – He’s that personal.


Is Church Worth It?


Is church worth the time and effort?

No.

If you only attend once a week just to make sure you’ve done your Christianly duty, then it has no true benefit to you.  If you hear the sermon but never put what you heard into practice, then what’s the point of showing up? If, during communion, your mind is everywhere except on the sacrifice and grace of Christ and the family with which you are communing, then why participate?

So many people wonder why they don’t get anything out of their church experience.  They complain that the messages are boring.  They complain that the church members never visit when they’re in need, yet they aren’t around enough for people to get to know them and their needs.  They complain that there aren’t enough programs for their kids.  They jump from church to church never planting roots, and they wonder why church doesn’t bring any true benefit to their life.

Does this sound familiar?

Is the church worth the time and effort?

If you come to the assemblies to give (not just to get), then you find that you are blessed beyond measure, and your life will be changed.

If you spend more time than simply during the worship assembly once a week with your brothers and sisters in the church, then you will build relationships that allow for many great benefits in life – not the least of which is real family. So many people are questioning the necessity of Sunday and Wednesday evening gatherings.  I, too, have wondered about their relevance.  However, when people overlook those assemblies, they miss out on a much more intimate time of fellowship and discussion that brings relationship growth in the body of Christ.  Those who attend the peripheral gatherings (Sunday morning class, Sunday evening assembly, Wednesday evening classes and others) find much more fulfillment in their church membership. This is due to the relationships that are fostered in these gatherings and the discussion that happens which brings spiritual growth.

If you come to experience the presence of God through worship and a message from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, you will find God, and He will bring healing to you.

If you come to commune with your savior and your family in Christ, you will find renewed salvation and unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you come to offer love to those you encounter, you will leave feeling loved by others and by your Father in Heaven.

If you come to fellowship, you will find relationships that help drive out loneliness and can even help heal depression. You will find connection to something bigger than yourself.

If you come to volunteer, you will find that there are ample opportunities to serve, and those programs you wished were there could be manned by your involvement.

If you come looking for ways to connect – not ways to simply exist – you will find that church is well worth the time and effort.

Are you finding fulfillment and spiritual growth through your involvement in a church gathering? If not, I would like to suggest you try two things in this order:

  1. Get involved.  The more involved you get, the more you will find yourself in the middle of the relationships in the church.  This will bring community and connection that will help foster purpose and fulfillment in your calling to be a disciple of Jesus. This will allow you to experience the love of the body of Christ.
  2. If you’ve gotten involved, or tried to get involved, but the church is obviously lacking in its ability to love, then talk to the leadership of the church about your experience.  Don’t be shy.  They need to know.  If they listen and change things, GREAT! If not, it may be time to find another gathering where you can attempt number 1 again.

Church shopping shouldn’t be a trend, yet it seems to be. Instead of jumping from place to place looking for the coolest worship or the hippest preachers or the most energetic children’s ministries, get involved where you are, and see if you can help the church where you’ve been planted grow into the church it should be.

One last thought: A church that isn’t loving is not a church that is of Jesus.  If the church doesn’t follow the greatest commands (love God and your neighbor), then finding a church that does love seems to be the only viable option.

I know a great church in Aztec, NM that loves one another and seeks to invite others into that love.  If that’s what you’re looking for, then come be a part of our family at Aztec church of Christ.  God bless you all.


Arrogance Perpetuates Ignorance

When I first became passionate about sharing my faith with others, I had a prepared presentation I would give anyone who would listen. If you were with me for more than a couple minutes, I was asking you questions to try and spark an opportunity to share the good news of Jesu with you. 

This zeal was fun, but it wasn’t balanced with humility. 

I had God’s plan of salvation, and I was certain it was the only way. I had it figured out, and there was nothing more to know concerning salvation. Because of this attitude I often became harsh, judgmental, and sometimes even angry when people challenged my ideals. 

Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

I still agree with much of what I tried to cram down people’s throats back then, but now I have a much more full view of the gospel message. The significance of Jesus is deeper than I knew in my early 20s. Baptism is so much more than a momentary ritual. Salvation means so much more than forgiveness of sins.

I now realize that to claim that I have full knowledge regarding Jesus and religion is arrogance that blinds me to further truth. 

I believe many of the things I did when I started into ministry, but if I had stopped my studies then, I wouldn’t understand grace and live the way I do now. I would have more experience, but I would be just as ignorant.

To know Jesus, and to walk in Him is to live a life of growth, learning more every day of the goodness that comes from life in Him. We should be ever striving to better ourselves through a more intimate relationship with the Father. We should be hungry for His words to help us know Him more and help us change to become more like Jesus. 

When I settle in my arrogance to think I know it all, I put myself above my brother. Pride brings about destruction. Many places in the scripture speak of this. The word is living and active. As I grow as a man, it shows me new things concerning my life and ministry. 

I hope to continually grow in my knowledge of the goodness of God, His grace and love. I pray you hunger for the same kind of growth. May we never become conceited, thinking we know all we need. May we never become arrogant, looking down on a brother who understands differently than us. May we choose love and grace over division based on understanding. 

May we be defined by our oneness in Christ as we seek to be more like Him every day. 


On Christians and Halloween

About two thousand years ago, the Celts in Ireland celebrated the beginning of the new year on November 1. This was typically the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the cold months usually associated with death. The eve of this day was called Samhain.

On Samhain, the Celts believed that the veil between the physical and spiritual world was thin enough that ghosts and ghouls could travel across the veil and devour crops and make all sorts of mischief. On this night, everyone would put out the fire in their fireplaces, and they would light large bonfires in the villages to help ward off these spirits. They would also put on animal skins and animal heads to create costumes so that the spirits would be tricked into leaving them alone.

As the Roman Empire made its way into Ireland, some of the superstition regarding Roman deities became part of the Samhain celebration. They would sacrifice crops and other items in these bonfires to seek good fortune from these spirits.

By the 700s, the Catholic Church held high power and sought to change the focus of Samhain and give it a more Christian tone. So they came up with a day to honor all those martyred for the sake of Christ. This day would also serve to honor the saints who had gone before (their definition of Saint was much more complex than the biblical definition). They called November 1 All Saint’s Day or All Hallows’ Day. That would make October 31 All Hallows’ Eve. This would later get shortened to Halloween.

Even though they had changed the names, much of the superstition of the holiday still retained its practice.

By the 1800s, Halloween finally made a surge for acceptance in the US. The puritans had rejected the day as evil, so it took a while for this holiday to catch on here in our nation. As it began in the US, the practice was to “Trick or Treat” on Halloween in lieu of the bonfires and sacrifices. Most of the time there were more tricks than treats due to the lack of prosperity in much of the culture.

By the 1950s, Halloween had transformed into the holiday we see today where children dress up in costumes and go door to door receiving candy and trinkets. Today, Halloween is the second most profitable holiday for retail in the US; only Christmas sees more spending for decorations and food and periphery.

So, should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Well, there’s a difference between holding to the customs of the spiritual side of the holiday’s origin (which I’m not sure there are many who still do) and dressing up in costumes for a night of make-believe and diabetes.

If you cannot separate the current practice of this children’s holiday from the pagan, mystical origins, then I would say you should sit this one out. If you don’t want your kids to be exposed to frightening images and experiences, then you should find an alternative to walking streets filled with teens who get their kicks by scaring young children. If you’re a health nut, and the idea of a night of cavity-creating, diabetes-inducing indulgence make you more afraid than a teenager dressed as a clown, then you should  probably abstain.

Is this a matter of salvation or getting kicked out of the church-club? No.

Nowadays, Halloween holds to little of its roots and can even teach kids to not worry about the monster under their bed or an inflatable in someone’s yard.

Can’t it get dark and evil? Yes. That is the part we should refrain from participating in. We are called to be children of the light. God is light. There are many scriptures about Christians not participating in deeds of darkness.

So, dress up in fun, silly costumes of favorite superheroes or Disney movie characters and find places that are kid friendly. There are many of these where you live. And let us have fun on this imaginative night without having to give in to the darkness.


Modern Day Sanhedrin

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Have you ever heard of Passion Play Ministries International? It is an organization that tells the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus to thousands of people in many nations and cities in the US and around the world through a live-action drama. The play is a large production with hundreds of people in the cast and part of the crew. The headquarters for this ministry is in Farmington, NM of all places. Yet, with such a humble headquarters location they are doing great ministry in spreading the gospel of Jesus around the world.

I was privileged to get involved with the Passion Play of the Four Corners last year for the first time. My wife saw an ad somewhere stating that they needed singers, and that is something I love to do, so I decided to join. I was part of the choir last year and sang in the opening song as a trio with a couple other ladies. I was also the host pastor for a night where I got to lead the opening prayer and then invite people to respond to the gospel message at the end.

It was an amazing experience, and I can truly say they are changing lives – not only lives in the audience, but even lives within the cast and crew itself.

This year I went back to audition, and I was told that the choir was going to be practicing on Tuesday evenings. Well, I am solidly booked on Tuesdays with my position as den leader for the local cub scout pack, so I decided to do some reading and see if God wanted to use me for a speaking part this year. Apparently He does. I was told that night I was to report to the Sanhedrin block when rehearsals began.

The Sanhedrin? I was to be one of the bad guys who connived to have Jesus crucified. These were the legalists that had missed the heart of the message of the Messiah and therefore missed Him when He came to them.

Oh well, if that was where God wanted me to be then so be it. I began to read, and after a few nights the director of the Sanhedrin block of the cast informed me that he wanted me to play the part of Caiaphas. Really? Not only was I going to be a bad guy, but I was to be the worst one – the High Priest!!

As I have been learning my lines and preparing for my role it has really weighed on my heart the severity of the role I must play. I have to be angry at Him. I have to accuse Him. I have to reject Him. I have to be all the things I preach against each week as I minister. Sure, this is only a play, but the weight of the things, I must sa,y hang no less heavily on my heart.

The one idea that keeps coming back to me, though, is this: The religious leaders of the day – the Sanhedrin – rejected Jesus and everything He stood for because they didn’t understand Him, and they were threatened by His doctrine as they saw it required a change in their way of life and livelihood.

Don’t we do the same thing?

Don’t we reject Jesus as we decide day after day to give in to our selfishness instead of allowing Jesus to reign in our lives and call the shots? Don’t we ignore Jesus as we get caught up in our lives or even worse, our religion? Don’t we reject Him as we feel that following Him would require a change of lifestyle that will threaten our comfort on every level, even fincially? Are we not just as guilty as the Sanhedrin?

When Peter preached the first sermon about Jesus in Acts 2, he finished by saying, “You, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross…God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:23,36)

That verse is for us too. We crucify Jesus when we put our selfish desires above His. What does Jesus require in response? Repentance and Baptism (Acts 2:38). When you understand what you’ve done and keep on doing to Jesus it should bring about remorse that leads to repentance. When you see what He has done for you by willingly dying for you in spite of your rejection it should inspire a desire for allegiance to Him that leads you to baptism.

Don’t stay like the Sanhedrin. News is that even Caiapha, after the resurrection, became a follower of Jesus. It’s not too late for you to follow Him either.

If you would like to know more about Passion Play Ministries International you can find them on the web at www.passion-play.org.


The Chaos of Influence

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My kids have been introduced this year to basketball. We signed them up at a church in the next town for Upward Sports.

Having never done basketball before, there is a pretty sharp learning curve when someone is thrown in with other kids who have played for the last two years. Each practice and game is filled with input from both coaches as the kids try to learn the skills needed to win.

Game times are extremely chaotic. There are usually two basketball games going on simultaneously with only a double-row of chairs separating the two games. Kids on one court hesitate when the referee on at the other game blows a whistle. Parents are stacked on top of one another to watch their kids. There is yelling from parents and coaches alike as they all try to encourage their kids to take this shot or pass the ball or block that person.

In the midst of the chaos it is difficult for the kids to hear the voices that are speaking to them and trying to help them excel at what they are doing.

Isn’t this so true in each of our lives as well?

We have voices coming at us from all sides daily. There are voices on the television and radio. There are voices from our bosses and coworkers. There are voices from our friends and neighbors. There are voices from our families. There are voices from the books we read and the internet. There are even voices within our own heads.

Each voice is trying to earn the right to influence your actions.

Once, Jesus was talking about his followers, and he called them his sheep. He referred to himself as the shepherd. He said that others would come and try to lead the sheep away, but the sheep would not follow because they didn’t recognize the voice of the shepherd. Then he said this about his sheep:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

if you consider Jesus your shepherd, then his voice should be the one that rings out through the chaos of noise in your life. You will come to recognize that voice more easily as you spend time with she shepherd in his word, through prayer, and as you spend time with others who are listening to and following the shepherd. It will also be easier to recognize the shepherd when we whittle away the other voices in our lives that stand in stark opposition to our shepherd’s voice. We may not be able to get away from the voices, but we don’t have to give those voices any rights within our lives to dictate feelings, choices or actions.

We each have a choice as to which voices we allow to have authority in our lives. Jesus wants us to make his voice the priority, and his voice is saying “Come, follow me. I love you.”


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