So, what exactly is a Christian?

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Image        I am alarmed at the amount of comments I have seen in the last year as to what people think Christianity is. I believe people are so confused as to what a christian really is. Not trying to slam anyone or sound like a know it all but I am concerned so, would like to take some time to blog about it.

What is a Christian? I mean, when you boil it down, we are still pretty flawed individuals just like the rest of the world. The major difference is that our flaws are already forgiven and our sins are as well. This changes our perspective on life. We no longer feel God’s judgment bearing down on us. That burden has been lifted, so we no longer need to run from God, we want more of Him because he has accepted us. He has done this through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. It’s not a contradiction as many have claimed, but rather a paradox. The way this happened is that Christ was pre-existent. That’s a fancy word to explain the fact that he has always existed, just like God, the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, the 3 persons of the Trinity; One God, existing in 3 persons. He submitted to the Father, like any good son and laid aside the fullness of his divine privileges, left heaven, and was morphed (Phil. 2:6-8) into a seed and miraculously implanted in a virgin named Mary (it was not sexual luke 1:35). Then, he was born, both fully God, and yet fully man. Because he bypassed the sinful nature that is transmitted to every human being through their DNA (trace back to Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden Genesis 3), he did not inherit the tendency to disobey, do evil, and sin. He had his Father’s dna which is holy and perfect and free from sin. So, the fact that he lived a perfect life does not really surprise us because he was God (although it still boggles our minds because of how hard it is for us not to sin). That is how he lived a perfect life and unlike Adam, did not disobey his father. As, you can see, Christianity isn’t really so much about us. It’s all about Him. All about Jesus. He is the one whom we worship, we haven’t done anything spectacular. In fact just the opposite, we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Jesus never sinned. He always glorified the Father and he gave his life for you and for me, sinners. Not only that, he was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the 3rd day, rose again from the dead to give us eternal life…more on that to come in a later post…

So, Christians are they who have quit trying to work their way to earn Gods’ favor and have begun to rest in Christ’s work on the cross. Tim Keller has summed it up well stating that the way into the Kingdom of God is “a door that leads to a long road, and not a long road that leads to a door.” That door is Jesus. He frees us from the power and burden of our sin and gives us free grace (unmerited favor) to walk the road that leads to life.

Christianity is One Nasty Plague…

Blob     In Acts 5:34-42 we have the account of some of the Apostles of Christ being persecuted and flogged by the Jewish court authorities. We find at the end of the verses that the Apostles rejoiced that they were “counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name.”

What do you do with that? Seriously.

Beat them so they will shut up. They love it.

Jesus instituted his church and formed it in such a way that it would survive and thrive in any environment in the world. Persecute it and it rejoices. Beat them up and they multiply. Squash them and they spread.

Jesus must have foreseen the brutality that would come from the Roman Empire when he formed this plague.

Let me illustrate: The Roman Empire is a man, standing over a spore. Looking down on it he squashes it with his foot, and it turns to a puddle of slime. As he is standing there rejoicing in his “victory,” the slime begins to bubble and move, crawling up his leg. The slime then infects him traveling deeper into his blood stream. It takes over the heart, organs, and brain. Rapidly, it overtakes his entire being, now controlling his brain function and entire body and soul to do the will of the slime…

This is what the Roman Empire tried to do to the Church and this is what the Church in turn, did to the Roman Empire-in about 300 years time. This is more than an institution, more than an organization, it is a living, breathing organism. Glad I’m a part of it and not fighting against it…

Here are the Verses:

34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

36 “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.

37 “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.

38 “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;

39 “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it–lest you even be found to fight against God.”

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus [as] the Christ.

The Funeral of Santa Claus

I attended the funeral of Santa Claus last week. No, not the mythological jolly man who rides a magic sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Darrell Williams  was an extraordinary man who looked like Santa, and was asked by a little girl in the mall once if he was in fact St. Nick! This prompted him to buy a suit and start playing the part every Christmas. Darrell was a graduate of my alma mater Baptist Bible College and was a very theological thinking man. He was also very sweet in his attitude, demeanor and would literally give you the shirt off of his back. He was described as an “anchor” for the family. Darrell was talking with his son about the pagan holiday associated with Christmas and how it had been perverted from the original story of St. Nickolas, who would take gifts to the needy children in his country. His son said at the funeral that his dad had told him he intended to “steal back Santa Claus” for the Lord. He would play the part at the local mall and use a candy cane to witness about Jesus. He would turn the cane upside down and show how the “J” represents Jesus, and how the red is the blood and the white represents the cleansing of the soul that Christ does that makes us white as snow. I heard that one family in our church took their kid to the mall to see “Santa” and it wasn’t Darrell, so the kid responded, that’s not Santa, I want the real Santa! Referring to Darrel. Silent Night was played at the funeral. It was touching to be a part of the funeral of Santa Claus, I plan on teaching the true story of St. Nick to my child, and in the spirit of “Santa” use the candy cane illustration. Thanks for the inspiration Darrell! And for the legacy you have left, Santa!

If it feels good…

The next big thing, toy, song, gadget, date, food, etc. If it feels good do it. Isn’t that the motto of our post-post-modern day? The digital age is in full swing. I am guilty as charged! I find that I’m constantly looking for things to make me feel a certain way-food, a good read, the next best gadget, the euphoric buzz of a nice shot of dark roast. It’s the same kind of appetite that if left uncontrolled can turn beastly. That’s the same devil that drove me through the “heart like a hole hills” of drug addiction.

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            Appetite is not necessarily a bad thing, after all God gives to us “food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart” (Psalm 104:14,15). The problem comes when we let our appetites become our masters, rather than mastering our appetites. It essentially can become our idol-“whose God is their belly” (Philippians 3:19). We must be careful not to let our desire for things replace our desire for God. But isn’t that easy to say and hard to do? I have found even in the Christian life it is easy to long for a previous time when our hearts for burning brighter for God, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But what if we long for that more than drawing close to him now and doing the necessary steps for restoration to begin? We can in a sense, live so much in the past that we are no good for the present. I want to go to heights and depths of Christ that I have never been to before. I believe God has put in the heart of man a longing for eternity, a longing for Him, that only being in his full presence will bring. Therefore, let us long for that and look to that rather than the “leaks and garlics” of this world. Let us long for His presence with more desire than we long to live, knowing that nothing in this world can fulfill our deepest longing like Christ the Son, the Father, and His Holy Spirit can do. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

Romans 8:19

How do I walk in the Spirit?

Walk in the spirit and you shall not fulfill the desires of the flesh. What does it mean to walk “in the spirit”? I’ve often wondered that and contemplated just what it means. How does one walk in the spirit? I love formulas. I love easy instructions. Do a.b. & c. And voila there you have it. What I’ve come to realize is that there is no formula for walking in the spirit. Sure there are the scriptures in the Gospels that tell us if we pray and ask for the Holy spirit we will get Him. And there is the command to be filled with the spirit in Ephesians. So, we know we can get Him by asking or praying but how do we walk in Him? Well what I have learned is that you have to start with Him. You have to begin your day with Him in order to walk in Him. It is really simple. There is no formula for this, no legalistic rule to follow, but in your own way, you must get face to face with the Spirit of God each day. Here is what I do: when I awake I brush, take a vitamin, and read a chapter or less of a Gospel, chronologically. Then I praise His divine qualities, pray to be filled with the spirit, pray for my walk and my family. That is the beginning of my day. It works for me for now, but that may change, I need to notice if it gets stale and tweak my method accordingly. Jesus said as the wind blows so is the spirit (John 3:8) you can’t tell from where it comes or where it goes. Then he says that so is everyone born of the spirit. You can’t see where it comes from but you can see and feel its effects. It also changes directions frequently and brings sudden change at times. We must be aware that this is how He operates and get on board with where He is going and what He is doing in order to keep in step with the spirit. So do it in your way and do what works for you to get face to face with Him early in your day. I suggest some reading of the Word and prayer to help, but the important thing is that you do what is fresh and works for you, not neglecting the basic Christian disciplines at some point in your day, preferably early.

Sidewalk Prophets

Seems funny to me that Noah preached 120 years with no converts to talk about but his immediate family. Poor guy. One can almost empathize that he “planted a vineyard, got drunk, and layed in his tent naked,” after it was over. But God was pleased with Noah. Why is this? He was faithful to his calling despite seeing the immediate results. In fact “results” were not even what God had in his plan for Noah. Noah was to be a sign, a warning. He was warning the world of the judgment to come, he was faithful to do that and he left the results to God. Noah did what he was called to do, period. That’s all that matters. We are not called to produce results we are called to pray, compel them to come in, preach the gospel, and leave the rest to God. In the words of Paul one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. Don’t get caught up in results; sometimes you can’t see them! Just be faithful to your calling, do the work of the ministry, and be the right person God has called you to be. In the end, this is pleasing to God. Oh and try not to laugh at the guy on the sidewalk with an “end is near” sandwich board, he just might be sent by God.