Tag Archives: life

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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Discipleship Marathon

I hate running.

Even as I type those words, I’m not sure they’re strong enough to express the emotions I associate with that self-inflicted “sport” (read: torture).

Yet, I know that running is good for me.

So, in order for me to run – to do that which is good for me – I need motivation. For some people, good health is motivation enough, but I’m too stubborn for logic. I love to eat sumptuous food, and I love to be busy with other things, and I love to be comfortable. None of that will help me achieve the healthy body I need for high quality of life. So I need motivation.

When I have a goal set before me, I run. I’ve done a marathon, a Tough Mudder, and numerous other runs including, most recently, a long journey through the Grand Canyon. I trained for each of these events, and the training served me well each time. The upcoming events motivated me to do that which was uncomfortable in order to achieve success in an endeavor I had yet not attempted.

But when the race or hike or journey was over, I went back to laziness. Because it’s easier.

We all have areas in our lives where laziness, a lack of motivation, keeps us from training for upcoming journeys, whether physical or mental.

So many Christians live lazy Christian lives. There is little knowledge of the book they claim to live by. They aren’t exercising their evangelistic muscles. Their faith is weakened by their trust in their finances. It seems there is no motivation to step out and do the uncomfortable to achieve a greater reward.

In our grace-desiring Christian culture, we want God to give us grace, and we relish in that grace, so we reason that the grace we’ve been given entitles us to a lackadaisical approach to our Christian lives. Grace is good, but we are called to not only receive grace but also train ourselves to live “worthy of our calling” (Ephesians 4:1-2). We are called to continually train in the ways of Jesus to achieve the prize of salvation (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14).

Does this mean we don’t have salvation if we aren’t working? We like to say we don’t earn our salvation by what we do, but James, the brother of Jesus, tries to clarify that concept. He expresses, in his treatise on faith, that it is impossible to have faith without deeds (James 2:14-19). Faith without action is dead (James 2:17).

We are called to train daily. It’s like living in an apprenticeship. We are trying to be like our Rabbi, Jesus. We can’t do that on our couches and hidden away in our church buildings. We can’t do that in ignorance of the scriptures and without talking to the Father. We can’t do that alone.

So we need to fellowship with the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:25). We call that “going to church”. Yes, it’s required.

We need to study the word of God, for that is where we will learn who God is and how we should live as His children (Matthew 22:31; 2 Timothy 3:16). That requires reading.

We need to tell others about the goodness of Jesus and the Kingdom of God the way Jesus did (Matthew 28:18-20). That requires engagement. Introversion is not an excuse.

We need to spend time with the Father the way Jesus did (John 5:19; 10:30; 15:5). Prayer is essential.

We need to give generously, trusting in the Father for sustenance (Mark 12:44). He wants to provide more, the more we trust Him.

So will you train? It will mean reading. It will mean time spent. It will mean giving financially in order to learn faith in the Father. It will mean uncomfortable situations and conversations. This is discipleship. It’s what you signed up for when you were baptized. Are you in? The prize is much bigger than a medal at the end of a marathon – it’s eternal life.


Where is Hope

Where is hope if I do not believe in God? 

What good is it to live this life with all its hurts and struggles and frustrations if there is nothing beyond? People may remember me, but how long? Does that really even matter?

I’m not getting out of here alive, and neither are you. 

If there is nothing beyond this physical realm, then I should simply do whatever makes me feel good at the time that I may enjoy at least moments of happiness before I perish. 

If there is no hope, then there is no true reason to behave according to anyone’s preset standards. Morality is lost if this is all there is, for no one will remember me anyway, and there are no lasting consequences for my behavior beyond this short span we call life. 

Where there is no hope, there is no peace, and fear reigns. 

Where is hope if I believe in God?

To believe in God is to believe in someone and something grander than this physical world. If I believe in God then there are promises from that God which bring hope in this life and the life to come. 

To believe in God is to believe in the afterlife – heaven – an eternity of rest and joy in the presence of the Creator. It is to believe that this measly life is only a trifle compared to the glory that awaits us. 

This gives us hope in every circumstance. If life is crumbling all around and storms rage inside us there is hope because of the temporary nature of these experiences. If loved ones who know Jesus are near death there is hope that more grandeur awaits them. If I near death, my hope can provide peace instead of fear. 

This hope isn’t just for heaven. This hope is in the best of others around us. It is in the workings of God in this life. It is in the idea that I can be better tomorrow than I was yesterday. 

If there is hope, then there is a standard by which we live to achieve that hope. There is a moral code introduced by the One who Created us and gives us hope. 

When I have hope, I find that I want to do what the standard requires because the outcome of my hope is everlasting rather than temporary. 

Without God there is no hope. Hope comes through relationship with the Creator. 

Where is hope? Do you have it?


Destination Determines the Journey


I’ve never been much for organized sports. (Some of you may want to stop reading after that statement, but please hear me out.) I see the value in all kinds of sports, but my interests have alway been in the outdoor sports like hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, mountaineering and the like. This is one of the reasons I love living in Northwest New Mexico – there is a myriad of outdoor opportunities all around waiting to be experienced.

So I hike as often as I can. Sometimes I hike to summit a mountain. Sometimes I hike to see a grand view or special place. Sometimes I hike to get to the place where I can find my rock hounding goals. Each time I hike there is a goal in mind. I must overlook the discomfort in order to reach the goal. I must be willing to carry the necessary equipment to achieve success and keep from harm. I must be willing to take step after step no matter how tired I get for the sake of success in the end. It is in the journey to the destination that I grow stronger. Growth is rarely found at the destination.

It is like this in our spiritual life as well. We are given certain goals in our life as followers of Jesus. One of these goals is to be transformed into the likeness of the Son, Jesus himself. It is the goal to live a righteous life expressed in love to one another. 

Back to hiking…

What if I gave in to my discomfort? What if I wasn’t willing to take the necessary supplies? What if I constantly lowered that goals I have set? Would I grow? No!

But this is what the church has done over the centuries. 

In Christianity today there is a lack of desire for the word of God (we aren’t willing to carry the right supplies). There is a justification for our continuation to sin using grace as a license more than as a gift (we have lowered the goal) which gives us an excuse for our lack of righteousness. We choose personal pleasure (the lake, sleeping in, shopping, hobbies, etc.) over spiritual disciplines like gathering with the beloved and celebrating communion and many other such disciplines. 

When you read the New Testament you see a high bar of expectation for the lifestyles of those who claim to be followers of Christ. When you look at churches today you see people with the moniker “Christian” but their lifestyles don’t look anything like the church of the bible. 

Why is this so? 

As a minister, I see the need for the church to come together in community. We have gathered for study for so long that we have forgotten that the study was supposed to teach us how to live in community better. We choose to come together to open our bibles and look at the preacher while ignoring the spiritual needs of the person sitting next to us. 

There was a lifestyle of accountability in the New a testament as the church did life together, coming together in the larger gathering as often as they could – eager to do so. This accountability helped them stave off the temptations to fall back into a lifestyle that looked just like the world. They were encouraged to save one another from falling back into sin(Jude 22-23). They were warned that a person could lose his or her salvation by continuation in sin (Hebrews 6 and 10). Their standard of lifestyle was that of Jesus, and they were warned not to use grace as a crutch excuse to continue to sin (Romans 6).What if our churches went back to the desire for righteousness we find in the New Testament writers? We would lose some people who want Jesus while continuing their lifestyle of sin. But the church would become stronger as lives changed for the better, and conversions would actually be conversions rather than just professions of faith. If the church looked more like Jesus she would love everyone – even her antagonists. If the church looked more like Jesus every member would be an evangelist. If the church looked more like Jesus there would be more joy and celebration of the forgiveness and grace that came through his sacrifice. If the church looked more like Jesus it would be a place where sins were forgiven, but change would be cultivated so that sin could be exterminated. 

This is not a call to legalism. Legalism kills. In our rejection of legalism, however, we have reacted to the point of selling cheap grace in the name of Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus, makes it clear that your faith should be showing itself in your life by producing fruit. So let’s come back to the middle – celebrating grace while expecting a higher standard of righteousness. 

Jesus said “you cannot serve two masters.” Let’s remember this as we choose between our sin and the call of Jesus. 


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.”


What is the church of Christ?

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For over a hundred years there have been churches that refer to themselves as the Church of Christ. These churches have that sign on the door or out by the street, and many people recognize that there are certain things that make these churches unique.

However, the name that is used was never meant to be a name. It is and has always been a description of the people. The people are the church that belongs to Jesus, the Christ (Romans 16:16).

So what does the church that belongs to Jesus look like? The following is a list of ideas that Jesus presented which should be attributes of his followers. I encourage you to read this with your bible open following along with the passages referred to.

What is the church of Christ?

The church that belongs to Christ understands its need for forgiveness and is anxious to be able to extend that forgiveness to others. It is not a church that holds grudges. (Matthew 6:14-15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the Holy Spirit in the lives of each believer. They follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives as they live each day – not just on Sunday. This creates within them a fire, a passion, as they experience life in the presence of God who lives within them. (John 14:15-17, 26-27)

The church that belongs to Christ understands that belief in Jesus and connection with Him in baptism (immersion) are essential to salvation. They don’t try to argue this away. They accept it and are willing and eager to follow Jesus’ instructions and example in this manner. (Mark 16:15-16)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that unity with one another is essential to life in Him. They believe that this unity is key to their ability to evangelize to the world. They are not known for their division. (John 17:20-21)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that faith is essential to a person’s ability to follow Jesus. They recognize where their faith is weak and ask Jesus to strengthen their faith through the Spirit at work within them. They understand that without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Luke 17:5-6)

The church that belongs to Christ is a praying church. Prayer is seen as powerful and necessary to the connection and relationship between the church and God. They understand that it is through prayer that much of the power of Christ is released upon the world around them. They follow Jesus’ example of being constantly in prayer. (Luke 5:16; 11:1-13)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that He has called each one of us, no matter our past, to evangelism – to tell others about Him. This is not just the preacher’s job, but it is the role of each follower. A follower excited about his or her Savior cannot help but tell others about Him. (Mark 5:19)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that communion – partaking of the body and blood of Jesus – is essential to the life of the believer. They believe it is in communion with Jesus that relationship with Him is fostered as often as it is taken. (John 6:53-56)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t make it a practice to stand in judgment of others. They are accepting of all people because they recognize that all have sinned, and everyone has need for the same Savior. (Matthew 7:3-5)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the reign of God, His kingdom, in their lives each day. This is not relegated to once or twice a week in a certain building but is shown by a lifestyle devoted to following God in every decision and action daily. (Matthew 6:33)

The church that belongs to Christ is full of flawed people who haven’t got it all figured out. They are broken people who are trying their best to allow God to change them, but it is a daily process, and some days are better than others. This creates an atmosphere of equality among all people regardless of race, age, gender, or class. (Matthew 9:12-13)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to obey Him in all things. They see their obedience as part of their faith. (John 14:15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to show mercy and grace to all whom they come in contact with. They understand that they have been shown mercy and grace by Jesus and seek to reflect Him to others. (Matthew 5:7; 9:13)

The church that belongs to Christ is in the business of disciple-making. They aren’t interested in merely inviting someone to a weekend service. They want to help one another grow in their understanding and ability to follow the teachings of Jesus. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The church that belongs to Christ is compassionate. They seek to show that compassion in the world around them and seek nothing in return. (Luke 10:33-37)

The church that belongs to Christ is generous because it understands that everything it has has been given by the One who owns everything. It understands that the money and possessions it acquires are to be used to glorify God by helping others. It gives generously as an act of worship. (Mark 12:42-44)

The church that belongs to Christ focuses on what Jesus said are the most important ideas: Love God and Love your neighbor. This church is recognized by its love. The world all around knows there is something different about the church that belongs to Jesus because it loves like no other entity does – masses of followers banding together to be an example of love to everyone around them. (Matthew 22:35-40)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t worry about names on building or denominational association. This church is boundless. It has no borders. It is found in every church as people claim allegiance to the Savior who died and rose again. (John 10:16)

The church that belongs to Christ follows Jesus. No. Matter. What. (Matthew 10:38; 16:24-26)

This is the church of Christ. It’s not a name on a building but a way of life. It is all people who choose to follow Jesus – his examples and his teachings. Are you a part of that church?


An Immovable Object Meets an Unstoppable Force

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Change is inevitable. If you look around you’ll see change everywhere. People change as their bodies grow and they age. Nature changes from day to day due to weather and usage. Minds change as they see a new way that makes more sense. Churches change as they encounter their culture in a new and relevant way. The Word of God doesn’t change, but people constantly change.

Except when they don’t.

Sometimes people look like they are changing, but on the inside they are just putting on a false show. They are doing what is necessary to manipulate the reactions of others around them. They say they want to change, but in reality change is too difficult or scary for them to actually do what is necessary to change. Perhaps they want to put on a show so that others won’t see the selfishness that looms just behind their facade. This is not change. This is putting on a mask in order to stay entrenched in that which makes you comfortable.

Maybe you’re there. Maybe you say you want to change – maybe you really do want to change – but the experience of doing so seems impossible. Maybe you only want to change because you want to see different results in someone else. Maybe you only want to change because you want to get something extra that you see others get. These motivations won’t grant you the success you secretly desire. They will be seen by those you seek to impress as manipulation and covetousness and hypocrisy.

So how do we actually change? We have to want with a different motivation.

I cannot create true change within myself as long as the desires within me are selfish. That word, selfish, defines a certain way of thinking that will only provide temporary strength needed to make change. To truly change, a person must look for strength beyond the superficiality of selfishness. To truly change a person must love.

Love is not self seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5).

When you begin to love then what you desire truly begins to melt away. When you love God, you strive for what He desires in you. You change not because of the benefit to you but out of love for Him.

When you love others you stop doing things to manipulate and coerce your own way. You begin to see and seek the way of others so that you can help them and serve them in whatever capacity needed. This is not for accolades. This is because you love them and have died to self.

When you love God and love others you will begin to do your best in all things. Laziness melts away for there is always something to be done for someone. You find yourself finally doing all the things you’ve been putting off for procrastination is selfishness. You become a model worker, spouse, parent, child.

When you learn the way of love you finally begin the journey of the life you were meant for. You begin to find satisfaction within yourself that cannot be taken away. Even when others chastise you, they are not able to tear you down for you are on a journey not guided by selfishness but by love…even for them.

This way of love mends all relationships: marriages, workplaces, families, churches.

When we find the way of love we will change. For some it will happen almost overnight. For others it may take a while. But in every case the people around will begin to notice that we’ve changed. We no longer look like our old self (that was supposed to be crucified when we came to Jesus). Now we begin to look more and more like Jesus to the world around us.

May you find change, and may the change be motivated by love as you grow into the image of Jesus.


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