Christianity 201

February 4, 2013

Children of Two Worlds

Exodus 2 (NIV)

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Christians Live in Two Worlds

Our online friend Clark Bunch at The Masters Table blog posted this a couple of weeks ago under the title Child of Two Worlds.

Moses was born during the time the Hebrews were enslaved to Egypt, and male children were being thrown into the Nile.  Because Pharaoh’s daughter had found Moses floating in a basket and raised him as her own, he grew up in the house of Pharaoh.  Moses became the product of two cultures; his adoptive mother immediately identified him as Hebrew and found a Hebrew women to nurse him.  (Which just happened to be, if you believe in that sort of thing, his real mother.)  But he was raised as a prince of Egypt.  He had a crisis of identity when he saw a Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, one of his own people (Ex 2:11) and he struck and killed the Egyptian.  The very next day he tried to resolve a conflict between two Hebrews and was asked who appointed him as judge.  ”Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”  The Hebrews rejected his leadership because they identified him as a member of Pharaoh’s house, and after learning of the Egyptian’s death at his hand Pharaoh sought to kill him.  This is when he fled Egypt for Midian, where he laid low for the next 40 years.

Moses was a child of two worlds that was rejected by both.  All of the events of Moses’ early life were of course orchestrated by God, in order to prepare him to lead the Hebrews from Egypt.  Despite Moses’ objections, God explains to him at the burning bush what he plans to do.  (Moses vs. God lists each argument and God’s response.)  Moses appeared before the Egyptian Pharaoh many times, and was eventually embraced by the Hebrews as their leader whom they both respected and feared.  After the signs and wonders started many Egyptians feared him as well.  It was Moses’ understanding of both cultures that aptly suited him for the job.

Consider the Apostle Paul.  As Saul, he was a citizen of Rome and a Pharisee; highly educated in the Hebrew faith; read and spoke at least two languages and probably more; was zealous in persecuting the Christian faith.  As Paul, his knowledge of the Hebrew scripture and training as a Pharisee made him an excellent defender of the faith.  He debated with the Greek philosophers in their temples, defended himself before Roman governors, and reasoned with Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.  As a child of two worlds chosen by God for the task, he would write half of the books we identify as the New Testament.

Perhaps the most obvious child of two worlds is the Son of God/ Son of Man Jesus Christ.  But what about… yourself?  As citizens of the United States (or Canada, Israel, Australia, etc) we identify with a particular nation.  Within that nation we may relate to one particular culture.  But Jesus told the Roman governor Pilate he only had authority because it was given to him by his Father.  God has established kings and kingdoms, and in a very real sense we all answer to a higher authority.  As a citizen, Jesus yielded to earthly authorities.  He paid his taxes; but he also said give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God.  As Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom.  We are each children of two worlds, with an earthly father and a heavenly father.  Christians have been described as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land, and also as heavenly ambassadors.  One thing to keep in mind: we will spend a very short time in this kingdom but eternity in the next.  

While Jesus came to earth with a specific mission, Moses and Paul each heard and responded to God’s call.  They were citizens of two worlds that God used to build a kingdom.  In Moses’ case it was a physical one, in Paul’s it was the Kingdom not made with hands.  We are children of two worlds, and should think about what we are building.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19-20)

April 26, 2012

Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Today we introduce you to award winning writer Amy Sorrells, and I especially want to urge my female readers to click through on this one and then look around the rest of Amy’s website in the hope that some of you will become regular readers.  This appeared at her blog under the title Choosing the Better Gate.

If you’ve read The Secret Garden, you remember well the day Mary Lennox finds the garden gate. Covered in overgrown vines thick as the apprehension we feel as she turns the key for the first time, the door opens to a wonderland which eventually blossoms with joy and healing.

Not every secret gate opens to such blessings.

While mosey-ing along in writer-reasearch-mode this past weekend, I browsed various web sites and books about a couple of controversial, faith-related subjects. When I stuck close to well-respected, proven Christian authors and websites, I felt peace and confidence. But as soon as I veered onto web pages touching on pagan and non-scripture-based views, I felt darkness and doom like a cloud covering my soul.

Quick! Click away from that page! I thought.

Sometimes I did.

Other times, the lure to investigate other viewpoints kept me in those dark places much longer than I should’ve been.

And afterwards, I felt slimed.

In hindsight, I thought I was “Christian enough” not to be impacted by the evil. I thought my shield of faith and all the other armor was enough to ward off any residual ick.

For the most part, I’m okay.

But the experience opened my eyes to just how thin the tightrope is between good and evil in the world. Sometimes, as in the case of my purposeful research, it’s pretty obvious when a door is opened into places we shouldn’t peek into.

Other times, we find ourselves in dark places without realizing we’ve been lingering in them for a good, long while.

It made me realize, as a writer sharing words, how important it is for me to check what I’m inputting into my mind. I don’t want anything coming through my pen which could leave even the slightest smudge of information that could mislead anyone through a gate of trouble and darkness.

Needless to say, I ran back through the gate and into the arms of Philippians 4:8, which is my prayer today as I write and live:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Phil. 4:8-9 The Message)

Sometimes it’s good to be re-awakened to things in the world which need God’s light and truth, so we can be torch-bearers for others who might be stuck there.

Sometimes, it’s just plain scary to learn about them, and it’s better to run the other way.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself knee-deep in dark places without realizing you’ve gone there? How do you protect yourself from such moments, and/or what do you do if you find yourself lingering there?

Amy Sorrells

March 7, 2012

Living in Two Worlds

This poem, Pilgrim Reflections is from the blog Pilgrim Song by David W. Fisher:

Pilgrim Reflections

Reflections as I close another day on life’s pilgrimage:

The journey’s long, the going tough
And oft’ the pathway’s very rough
But sovereign grace will be enough
‘Til I get home.

The storms may rage, the billows roll
And fears assail my troubled soul
But I won’t let them take their toll
While here I roam.

The Lord is strong and holds my hand
And while I sojourn in this land
A member of the pilgrim band
I’m nearing home.

Encouraged by my brother’s prayers
That lift me o’er my daily cares
Every burden Christ now bears
‘Til I get home.

When I arrive on heaven’s shore
The cares of life concern no more
I’ll praise my God and Master…for
I’m finally home.

David Warren Fisher, 2007.

What does that home look like?  At Right From the Heart Ministries, we read this:

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”John 14:3

What do you suppose heaven is like? I think most of us have our preconceived ideas about it to some extent.

The most common image is a place of clouds where people wear white robes and halos, and do nothing except play harps with goofy smiles on their faces. Well, that certainly is NOT what it is like. What a bore!

But, what is heaven really like? Jesus spoke very little of it, but He did say this, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. I go to prepare a place for you.” What is heaven like? It’s like home, with a loving Father. It’s a place of security, a permanent place to live, and a place of refuge. A place where there is no sorrow, no pain, but rejoicing and praise for our Heavenly Father. There’s a longing within all of us to find home. Heaven is like home with a Father and loved ones as they’re supposed to be.

How can you be sure you’ll get to that home? Is there a map or rules to follow? No, it comes through a person, Jesus Christ. As He talked about a heavenly home, He added that He is the only way for us to truly come home.

Finally, Gina Han, writing at Gracepoint Devotions looks at what it means to live here, but as Citizens of Heaven.  This devotional is based on Philippians 3:12-21, where Paul is talking about those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Click the reference before reading what follows.

What are the characteristics of  “those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ”?  What are the characteristics of those whose “citizenship is in heaven”?  Which group do I belong to and how does my life show this?

The characteristics of those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ are that they live for their appetites (“their god is their stomach”), they take pride in dishonorable things (“their glory is in their shame”), and they live for the rewards of this world (“their mind is on earthly things”). These are what it means to live as an enemy of the cross of Christ, because Jesus on the cross is the exact opposite of these things. It’s Jesus denying and emptying Himself of all His own rights for the sake of saving others. It’s Jesus denying his own appetites and physical desires; it’s Jesus choosing the honorable values of sacrifice and humble obedience to God whereas an enemy of the cross would take pride in stepping on others to push himself to the top, or would take pride in using others to satisfy his own desires; it’s Jesus becoming obedient even to death on a cross because of the “joy set before him” – choosing the eternal rewards of heaven knowing the true joy that awaited him over the fleeting and temporary counterfeit rewards of earth.

Apostle Paul is also an example of one whose citizenship is in heaven. He says that he “presses on” to fulfill the purpose for which Christ redeemed him. He says that he forgets what is behind and strains toward what is ahead – “to win the prize for which God has called him heavenward in Christ Jesus”. Apostle Paul is all about citizenship in heaven. Through all of his imprisonments, floggings, shipwrecks, labor, toil, going without food, water and sleep, and the daily pressure of his concern for all the churches – he said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace,” (Acts 20:24), and he was able to indeed say at the end of his earthly life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing,” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

We don’t have many of these kinds of persecutions that Apostle Paul faced, in these times and in this country. But we do have the gods of this age that seek to blind us to the reality of heaven and lull us into living for this earthly life alone – for the comfort-seeking, pleasure-seeking, self-aggrandizement and self-centered life that is lifted up as glorious, when really in light of heaven and in light of the cross of Jesus, this is shameful. That’s the kind of life that would stand in stark opposition to the cross of Christ. But how often and how prone I am to actually live as an enemy of the cross many moments throughout the day, when I give into my self-centered perspectives or emotions about something, instead of submitting them under God’s perspective and God’s Word.

One aspect in which this plays out is that as Apostle Paul thinks about his citizenship in heaven, he does all he can to take hold of the purpose God has for him. I imagine that he often thought about seeing his Lord face to face on that day, and longed to say that he lived his life for the purpose Jesus had for him, the purpose for which Jesus took up the cross. I long for this; this is what I strive for and strain toward. But how many times am I tempted to think thoughts like, who am I kidding, how can I live this kind of life of love and joyful sacrifice which is His purpose for me when I am just full of my own sins and insecurities and fears; or I need to go through a shaping and pruning process in terms of my character flaws and sins, and I feel hopeless that I will ever change and be able to fulfill God’s purpose for my life.

But those are the times that I can actively choose to say I will look ahead to my citizenship in heaven, where there will be no more sin, where I will finally experience God having completed His work in me, instead of throwing in the towel, following an earthly perspective that says I should not need to struggle with myself in this life but be physically and emotionally comfortable. That kind of thinking is still centered around me – what I can and cannot do; what I can and cannot have; how I can or cannot change; instead of a surrender and obedience to a life of denying myself, a life of the cross. As I push through these kinds of doubts and fears, daily I am committed and challenged by the example of Apostle Paul to strain toward what is ahead – my citizenship in heaven.