Christianity 201

April 6, 2018

What Sort of Person Are You?

NIV 2 Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.

Today we’re returning to the writing of popular Christian author Neil Anderson whose unique writing helps us focus on we are in Christ (positionally) and what manner of people we ought to be (in daily practice). This is his 5th time at C201, but the first in four years.

Living Today

I believe in setting goals and making plans. But biblical vision for the future and godly goals for ministry or work have no value if they don’t provide direction for our steps today. Goals for tomorrow that don’t prioritize present activities are nothing more than wishful thinking. We make plans for tomorrow in order to establish meaningful activities for today. We need to ask the Lord each day if we are still on target, and give Him the right to order mid-course changes in direction.

Some people don’t like to set goals because they feel goals only set them up for failure. But a goal should never be a god. It should be a target, not a whip. Other people become obsessed with goals for tomorrow. Biblically, the will of God is almost entirely directed at living responsibly today. Legitimate goal-setting should support that.

“Are you trying to tell us that we aren’t to make any plans for the future or establish any goals for our ministry or work?” No, I’m trying to say that the primary focus of God’s will is that we seek to establish His kingdom by becoming the person He wants us to be today .

Most people want to know what God has in store for them tomorrow. That’s why prophecy has always been a popular subject. Most prophecy teachers know that the critical issue concerning the Lord’s second coming is “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness(2 Peter 3:11). Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow(Matthew 6:33, 34). Biblical prophecy is given to us as a hope (the present assurance of some future good) so we will have the courage to live righteously and confidently today.

Prayer: Father, help me live in the present and not worry about tomorrow, accepting only Your will and guidance for my future.

Seated With Christ

NIV Ephesians 2: 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

The New Testament clearly reveals that Christ’s power and authority over Satan and his kingdom have been conferred to those of us who are in Christ. In Ephesians 2:4-6, Paul explains that when Christ was raised from the dead, those of us who have believed in Him were also resurrected from our condition of spiritual death and made alive “together with Christ.” It’s only logical that the head (Christ) and the body (His church) should be raised together.

Furthermore, when God seated Christ at His right hand and conferred on Him all authority (Ephesians 1:20, 21), He also seated us at His right hand and conferred on us through Christ all authority because we are “together with Christ.” The moment you receive Christ, you take possession of what God did for you 2000 years ago. Your identity as a child of God and your authority over spiritual powers are not things you are receiving or will receive at some time in the future; you have them right now. You are a spiritually-alive child of God right now . You are seated in the heavenlies with Christ right now . You have power and authority over the kingdom of darkness right now . We have the authority because of our position in Christ, and we have the power when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul also related this life-changing truth in his letter to the Colossians: “In Him [Christ] you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10). Notice again that the action is past: We have been made complete. When? At the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. And since Christ is the God-appointed head over all rule and authority, and since we are seated with Him in the heavenlies, we have the authority and power to live responsible lives.

Prayer: Father, help me want to live responsibly, to claim my position as Your child, and to grow to full stature in You.


Related song: Seek Ye First, The Imperials

March 29, 2017

The Three ‘R’s of Baptism

NLT Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.[1] So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened[2] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

[1.] 3:15 Or for we must fulfill all righteousness.
[2.] 3:16 Some manuscripts read opened to him.

One of the ideals we’re committed to here is allowing what I call next generation voices to be heard. Katie calls her blog The Hipster Ginger, and I loved her take on what her denomination teaches about baptism. Click the title below to read the full article at source.

Renounce, Reject, Repent

I love baptisms. I love the stories, the memories that are made, and the amazing promises that happen at a baptism.

I am a United Methodist through and through. My experiences are pretty freaking Methodist, so this post will be mostly Methodist.

When we make our initial vow in front of the body of Christ when we are presented for Holy Baptism, to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin,” (Standard Book of Worship) we are not just renouncing the spiritual forces that we struggle with as individuals. We are also rejecting the evil powers that are loose in the world. Likewise, we are not just repenting of our sins as individuals.

We are also repenting of the sins of humankind as a whole.

Today we are going to have a VERY brief review of the three promises we make in baptism; renouncing, rejecting, and repenting.

To RENOUNCE is a fundamental act of treason. It is to break allegiance to a power or authority to which one had previously given allegiance and service. From the earliest examples of baptismal questions we have, renunciation of Satan or the devil (spiritual forces of wickedness, we say) always comes first. Because you cannot make new alliances until your old ones are broken.

This step follows biblical precedent. The very first story we hear of Jesus after his baptism in the wilderness is his renunciation of Satan. Jesus makes it clear where his allegiances lie, and he shows the way for all who would follow him. (Luke 4:1-13)

It also follows the pattern of centuries of practice when you seek citizenship in a new realm or country. You first breaks allegiance to the realm or sovereign of the people from which you have come from and only then you pledge allegiance to the new realm or sovereign.

To REJECT the evil powers of this world is a phrase that kinda makes me think I’m watching the exorcist. The English word “reject” comes from the Latin “reicere,” which means “to throw out”– and so translates the Greek verb “ekballein,” which is often used to describe what Jesus does to demons (to cast out, to throw out). When we pledge to reject evil, we are promising to do more than just not do evil things. We are promising to throw out, to cast out, to shut the door behind any evil powers that seek to control with us or use us in anyway. So we not only break allegiances, we also commit not to allow evil any sway in our lives. (Psalm 51:10) John Wesley’s first two simple rules cover this when he says “do good” and “do no harm.”

To REPENT of our sin (yeah, SIN. I did it on purpose) means more than feeling sorry or guilty for bad things we have done in the past. The Hebrew verb behind repent (shuv) means “to turn from.” The promise we make is not just to turn from “sins” (actions that bring harm) but “sin” itself.

The singular points less to individual actions and more toward whole patterns of life. So we here commit to turn and walk away from those patterns of life, habits, and behaviors that damage others and/or our relationships with God, with the earth, and with our neighbors. (Luke 5:31-32)


A few days later, Katie’s friend Melissa weighed in on a topic that often trips up Christians: Why should Jesus need to be baptized? We join that article in progress; click the title below to read it in full.

Jesus Got Dunked

…It is important to note that baptism is not exclusively a Christian ritual. Jesus and John were Jews, after all. Christianity gets the ritual from the Jewish cleansing rite, which symbolized a person’s changed nature – a new identification, new status, new creation.

People got baptized as a way to symbolize their repentance, or turning away from sin, and to be symbolically cleansed. So why did Jesus get baptized if John was only preparing the way for him?  Did Jesus need to repent and be cleansed from his sin?

Nah.

My suspicion is that Jesus was not baptized because he needed to repent, but because he was eager to show his devotion to God through baptism. He also was affirming the truth that John was preaching: The Kingdom of God is near, and Jesus would be the one to establish that Kingdom on earth.

After Jesus was baptized, the sky ripped open, God the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and God the Father spoke, affirming Jesus as God the Son. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

Because Jesus was baptized, we get baptized today as a way of following him and to remind us that when we live in the kingdom of God. We have a new identity, and that identity is in Jesus Christ. It is through the water that we experience God’s grace and enter into the Body of Christ.

The beautiful thing about the Kingdom of God is that all are welcome to this new identity. Our identity in Christ defines us more than what we look like, smell like, dress like, or talk like. God uses people as wild-looking as John the Baptist–the dirty, matted, smelly man with a weird diet.

How will you remember your identity in Christ today? How will you celebrate God’s grace in your life, and how will you offer that grace to others, regardless of what they look like?

March 14, 2013

Given a New Name

This is from a blog,  Into The Foolishness and appeared earlier this year as A White Stone and a New Name.

One of the things I find beautiful in the book of Revelation is when Jesus says,

“To him who overcomes I will give a white stone and on that stone is a name known only to the person who receives it and to Me” (2:17).

The white stone signifies victory and could very well hint at purity. The significant thing to me is there is a name on that stone that is the name Jesus knows me by. My mother does not know me by that name. My friends don’t know me by that name. No one in this world, including myself, knows who I really am. I think that when we see ourselves in the light of Jesus, which will only happen when we give up ourselves and begin to seek Him wholeheartedly, then we will eventually grow into the person that He meant for us to be. When we see our name on that stone we’ll say, “Wow, thats me! How did You know me when I couldn’t even know myself?” For me, that’s part of the goal of spiritual maturity.”

~Rich Mullins

This verse in Revelation is one of the most intriguing and beautiful passages in all the Bible for me, and one of the most mysterious. A white stone with a new name? One that is uniquely ours that no one understands but God and myself? To think that God knows me in a way I don’t even know myself and will reveal that identity to me one day gives me goosebumps. Whenever I read this passage I think “I want to know what my stone says!” Imagine your most true self summed up in a name and handed to you by Christ Himself. It staggers the imagination.

For the time being, we are citizens of a fallen world, but it doesn’t change who we are. We all have a true self that God created us to be. We strive and work to become better people in many ways, but I think growing into who God actually made us to be is one of the holiest things we can do. It’s not about becoming perfect or working harder – it’s about embracing our weaknesses and faults and handing them all over to a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. What if we stopped trying be so many different people and focused on discovering more about our unique calling?

We have an identity in Christ that is unique. This should be an encouragement to all of us to seek only His will for our lives and let everything else fall to the wayside.

I actually like that no one is able to figure out the exact meaning of this passage. There is an excitement and wonder in it that should make us long for the truth of who we are in Christ. We get a taste of it here on earth and see the fulfillment of it in heaven. For now it is, as CS Lewis once wrote, “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” 

I try and instill in my kids that they need to be who God has made them to be, no more and no less. I need to remember that myself. Find your identity in Christ and you won’t need to find it anywhere else.

“To him who overcomes I will give a white stone…”  What an unbelievable gift!

January 27, 2013

Who We Are In Christ

Today’s thoughts — and suggested song — are from the blog Weeping Into Dancing. (She began with the song, but we inverted the order.) The post at source — and this blog came recommended so I hope you click through — was called Remind Me of Who I Am.

Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness in to his wonderful light.

Dear Reader,
Do you ever ask God the following question? “Who am I to You?”

The Word tells us that we are many things to God, all of which are important, useful, and precious in His sight. Let’s begin with the awesome realization that we are the adopted children of the Most High, thanks to  the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. Yes the one and only God, the Creator of the universe is our Father!  That makes us royalty. Princes and princesses, every little girls dream come true. A kingdom, treasure, and highways paved with gold all come with the deal of being adopted into His family. Best of all, we get to interact with an Almighty King who loves us and wants to know us intimately.

A child of God, Check! Royalty, Double Check! Now consider the scripture verse I placed at the top of this post.  We are called a CHOSEN PEOPLE. That means you were preordained to be a part of God’s holy family. You have many brothers and sisters and more will be joining our spiritual family too. The time has not yet arrived when all whom He as preordained truly know Him as their Beloved.

Since we don’t want one family member, friend, wounded soul, or stranger to miss out on joining our family, we must hold on for a bit longer. He has already chosen them but they need a bit more convincing to lay aside the old for the new (so keep praying for the lost) What a gift it is to be a part of the people belonging to God!

The verse also calls us a Royal Priesthood. We are given the responsibility to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:5) How then are we to offer “spiritual sacrifices” up to God? One way is by singing His praises with a thankful heart, even when every bone in our bodies is depressed and we don’t FEEL very happy or thankful. Leaving a comfortable and successful path in order to pursue a deeper and more meaningful life serving God is also a spiritual sacrifice. Trusting Him with our futures when the path is fuzzy and unclear qualifies and so does forgiving those who have wounded us.

We wounded individuals; a motley crew of social class, education, backgrounds, and survivors of many different hardships are united by the Love of one God!  He no longer calls us servants but friends, because a servant does not know the Master’s business. Yes,  you and I are His friend.  Jesus is teaching us everything He learned from God.  He is making all of His knowledge known to us, so we better listen up!

There are so many more ways you are connected and special to God. For now, I will close with the fact which states that we His workmanship. This is critical because I know there are many of you reading this post and feeling like you are worthless, untalented, ugly, unworthy, unforgivable, or hopeless and beyond repair, or of any use.

Hear me Dear Reader!!!!!! GOD DOES NOT CREATE JUNK! I HAVE SAID THIS BEFORE AND I WILL IT SAY IT AGAIN AND AGAIN. HE MADE YOU AND YOU ARE PERFECT IN HIS EYES. He is the master craftsman. You are a work of art, unique and valuable…priceless.

Isn’t it time you start seeing yourself as God’s ROYAL ADOPTED CHILD, FRIEND, WORKMANSHIP, MEMBER OF A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, CHOSEN AND DEARLY BELOVED, AND A TREASURE AS DEUTERONOMY 7:6 REMINDS US.

DEUTERONOMY 7:6  For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession.

EPHESIANS 2:10  
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

EPHESIANS  1:4-5  
For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will-

JOHN 15:15  
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his Master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.

When I lose my way and I forget my name
Remind me who I am
In the mirror all I see
Is who I don’t wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places,
When I can’t remember what grace is…..

TELL ME ONCE AGAIN
WHO I AM TO YOU, WHO I AM TO YOU.
TELL ME LEST I FORGET WHO I AM TO YOU.
THAT I BELONG TO YOU.

When my heart is like a stone,
And I’m running far from home,
Remind me who I am.
When I can’t receive Your love,
Afraid I’ll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.

If I’m Your beloved, Can You help me believe it?
TELL ME ONCE AGAIN WHO I AM TO YOU.
WHO I AM TO YOU
LEST I FORGET THAT I
BELONG TO YOU.

December 25, 2011

Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen on Ministry

This is from Abba’s Child (p 52)

If I must seek an identity outside of myself, then the accumulation of wealth, power and honors allures me.  Or I may find my center of gravity in interpersonal relationships.  Ironically, the church itself can stroke the imposter by conferring and withholding honors, offering pride of place based on performance, and creating the illusion of status by rank and pecking order.  When belonging to an elite group eclipses the love of God; when I draw life and meaning from any source other than my belovedness, I am spiritually dead.  When God gets relegated to second place behind any bauble or trinket, I have swapped the pearl of great price for painted fragments of glass.

Two pages later, Manning quotes from Henri Nouwen’s  Life of the Beloved (p.26)

I came to see that it was in my brokenness, in my powerlessness, in my weakness that Jesus was made strong. It was in the acceptance of my lack of faith that  God could give me faith.  It was in the embracing of my brokenness that I could identify with others’ brokenness.  It was my role to identify with others’ pain, not relieve it.  Ministry was sharing, not dominating; understanding, not theologizing; caring, not fixing.

Best wishes for December 25th from Christianity 201.

September 7, 2011

What Do People Know You For?

Dan Navarra guest-posted this at Shawn Stutz’ blog where it appeared under the title…

Get Filled Before You Fall

Not so long ago, I was a college student.  I remember those years vividly; they were marked with extreme amounts of fun, plenty of turmoil in my romantic relationships, lots of pizza, and three years of working with high school students as an intern.  It seems like every college student goes through this phase of discovery at some point once they leave the birds nest of ‘home’ – and I was no different.  Questions about identity, self-confidence, and doubt often filled my mind in between arrogant and prideful thoughts about my own scroll-sized list of accomplishments.  In fact, if I were to take my accomplishments and list them out on a scroll, I’m pretty sure I thought that scroll would never end; but instead it would just flow into the adjacent room and catch the attention of everybody else over there.  After all, I was pretty awesome.  Who didn’t want to be me?

Well, the short answer is: me.  I didn’t want to be me because I wasn’t sure who that was.  Who was I?  What was my actual identity in?  I was searching.

My senior year of high school I read an incredible book entitled Abba’s Child, The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging by Brennan Manning.  One paragraph in particular became a guiding beacon of light in my search for who I was.  As I was asked to guest blog on the website for a college and young adult pastor, I felt like perhaps some of the readers of this post might find themselves in a similar debacle as myself and in need of a guiding principle to be their beacon of light.

“And so, like runaway slaves, we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy.  We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing.  We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public.  And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like.” – Manning, 22

I was running.  That was for sure.  I was manufacturing a self that everybody responded to; and not manufacturing a self that revolved around the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross.  And i knew it.  So I slowly did the best job I could to correct myself towards what I thought was the right thing to do.  I prayed, spent tons of time in the word, started volunteering my time more, saw needs and met them for the Kingdom, and slowly was feeling like I had finally begun to hit my stride as a man.  I felt affirmed by my community of friends and co-workers because on the surface I was giving my everything to the Kingdom.  Hey, that’s what Christians are supposed to do, right?

Well, yes.  But…

I actually discovered an important truth during this time of my life: we can make our identity revolve around good things, like serving the church or learning everything one can about the Word.  And even though our identity is wrapped up in “good” things, it can still not be a healthy place to be.  My self-worth became wrapped up in being able to answer accountability questions properly.  If I had a rough week with my small group, I took it personally.  If I wasn’t practicing that great new worship song, I felt out of place.  My identity got wrapped up in doing what the church wants us to do as Christ-followers.  The problem was, my self-worth and identity was not in Christ: it was in the work I was doing for Christ.  I needed an intervention.

Going into my senior year of college was when God started to break me.  My internship ended at my home church.  Instead of promoting me for a third year of interning, the leadership informed me that I was not going to be brought back.  I thought it may have been a money issue, so I offered to work for the same wage for another year.  They declined.  I offered to take less money only to hear the same result.  I offered to merely volunteer in the ministry as a small group leader, but was turned down.  Finally I got the memo: my time there was over.  The following two months were a complete waste of my life.  I wasn’t doing ministry, so I stopped following God.  Once I had nobody holding me accountable for doing all the “good” things, I stopped doing them.

After two months of staying out too late and waking up after lunch, one night God spoke to me.  2:00 AM, I was laying on my bed in the heat of a hot summer night.  I remember this so vividly.  I was laying on my bed, staring at my high ceiling when it clicked for me: my life lacked purpose because I was not doing ministry.  God and I had a back and forth conversation that night.  I felt Him tugging on my heart: to just be in relationship with Him, and then minister out of that fullness.  Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in chapter three came to my mind:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19

I rediscovered that I needed to minister out of my own fullness that comes from what God is doing in my life; not from somebody else’ expectations for my faith.  My ‘runaway slave’ mentality was running towards doing validating ministry where people affirmed my gifting: it had nothing to do with my own walk with the Lord.  Now, with my mentality quickly changed, and renewed commitment to walk with God first before I chose to walk with other people, I asked the Lord what he wanted me to do to get back to my purpose of making a difference for the Kingdom in people’s lives.

God: “Do anything. Start a Bible study in your backyard even!”

Dan: “OK, with who?”

God: “Guys”

Dan: “OK, when?”

God: “Tuesdays”

Dan: “Tuesdays?  What time?”

God: “You pick”

Dan: “Got it.  Thanks.”

That was the dialogue that followed.  I asked God what I was supposed to do, and out of that birthed one of the greatest displays of the Church I’ve ever been a part of.  That night, at 2am, I text-messaged ten of my closest students, friends, and former students asking them if they wanted to meet for Bible study.  I heard back from eight of them within minutes affirming my invitation.  We set our meeting time for Tuesday night at 8pm.

From that first gathering a few men, birthed a group of guys who gathered weekly to study the Word, pray for each other in incredibly vulnerable ways, worship together at the top of our lungs, and a warmth of fellowship I don’t think could ever be matched.  The group exploded.  Within six months, I had some twenty-five guys meeting in my backyard every week.  The weather was turning cold, so it wasn’t unusual to see guys in snow gear huddled around the fire pit.  But they kept coming.  Eventually we shifted to the garage with space heaters.  It was an incredible revolution that happened that summer in my heart and life.  I began to minister out of my own fullness: and God harvested fruit because of my obedience.

I tell this story because perhaps you find yourself “doing the Jesus thing” and not actually experiencing the fullness that comes from a relationship with the God of the universe.  If that’s where you are, quit running.  Don’t resist.  Submit your life to a partnership with the ultimate companion, and then go about your business with that fullness as the primary fuel that sustains and enables you.

~ written by Dan Navarra

July 12, 2010

What is a Christian?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:38 pm
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We got together with a group of people last night and someone asked this question:

What does it mean to be a Christian?

What’s your answer?

Click on the comments section for mine, followed by another one that was suggested.