Christianity 201

October 14, 2018

The Pastor Who Wouldn’t Worship

“My ego always struggles with acknowledgment. I not only want my left hand to know what my right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3) I want them to get together and start an avalanche of applause because I’ve done it.”
~Jim Thornber at (the other) Thinking Out Loud.

The above quote isn’t directly connected to today’s thoughts, but it was contained in one of four posts I read yesterday at Jim Thornber’s website, Thinking Out Loud. This is his eleventh time here at C201. Click the title below to read at source, to read a small piece of Jim’s story, click here.

Got Character?

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3)

A few years ago, a church I attended in Arkansas hosted a Thanksgiving service to raise money for the ministerial alliance. The alliance asked our church to lead in the praise and worship, and I played the piano on the worship team. Looking over the congregation, I noted a pastor from another church who, no matter what we sang, refused to either clap his hands or raise them in worship. He simply sat in his pew with his arms folded.  That struck me as strange, because outside of church he was a happy, vivacious, demonstrative man.

I have never been known for my extreme subtly or bashfulness, so as we gathered for refreshments after the service, I questioned him his about posture. “Why, when Scripture instructs you to lift up holy hands to the Lord, and you have a chance to do so in a public service, did you sit with your arms folded across your chest?”

“Well, you see,” he began to stammer and laugh, “I’m a . . . .” and he named his denomination. I cut him off and said, “Are you a denomination first or a Christian first?”

At this point, he began to look around for help from the people who had gathered, including my pastor. He asked, “Is he always like this?” to which my pastor replied, “Hey, he’s going easy on you.” And everybody who had gathered around laughed.

I find it sad that many church members (or goers) around the world are more concerned with offending their denomination and the people in the next pew than they are in obeying the Word of God. The congregation led by the pastor in my story will have trouble obeying Scripture because he was not setting an obedient example. In a simple sense of the word, this pastor lacked character.

Regarding His eternal relationship to God, Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of his being (1:3). James Moffat says He was “stamped with God’s own character.” The phrase “exact representation” translates the Greek word charaktēr, which gives us our English word “character.”

Originally, this word meant to cut, to scratch, to mark. It indicated the tool or agent that did the marking, and eventually came to mean the mark or the impression that was made. It also indicated an impression made in a wax seal. Or, think of a coin: its image, numbers and letters bear the exact image of the raised numbers and letters of the original die from which the coin was cast. To see a dime or a quarter is to know exactly what the original die or stamp looked like.

Jesus said, Anyone who has seen me has seen the father (John 14:9). This is true, because He was the “exact representation” of God, “stamped with God’s own character.” To see Jesus is to see God, for He is the exact image of God, the perfectly engraved representation of the very nature of God.

This brings up a very difficult question, especially for me: “If to see Jesus is to see the Father, then, when people see me, do they see Jesus?” As I was looking for the Christ-like qualities in that pastor, I began to wonder:

  • When I am at my church, what do people first see in me —   ­­­­­­­­­the Kingdom of God or a denominational version of God?
  • Am I stamped with the very character of God?
  • Do people see Jim or Jesus?
  • As a disciple of Jesus, am I exhibiting the character of Christ the way that Jesus the Son bore the character of God the Father?
  • When people see the church out working in the world, whose character do they perceive? Are they seeing the compassion, mercy, patience, and love of God, or do they see the values of MTV, ABC, Wall Street, Hollywood, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Health?

We must all ask those tough questions if we are going to live the character of Christ and represent God in all we say and do. Jesus said,  Now I want to be able to say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen Jesus.” Maybe one day, at my funeral, some kind soul will say, “Jim was the most Christ-like person I’ve ever met.”  Then I’ll know I got character.


 

October 12, 2017

Grateful for the Christian Church?

Because Thanksgiving has already happened in Canada, our U.S. readers can consider this an early Thanksgiving article for them!

by Clarke Dixon

As people gathered around the Thanksgiving turkey with thanksgiving reflections, how many said something like “thank you Lord, for Christians”? It feels like right now, many would echo the thoughts of Gandhi: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” Do we, who call ourselves Christian, inspire gratitude? Are people grateful for the Christian Church? If you are a Christian reading this, are people grateful for you? You may wonder why I am sticking to the series from Romans for Thanksgiving Sunday. Read on, there is a connection!

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10 (NRSV)

As far as I know, people upon discovering their spouse is in an adulterous affair don’t say “thank you, Lord!”. Nor if they discover their family member is a murderer do they say “thank God for that.” And so on. People, whether religious or not, have gratitude when their loved ones  are righteous. Paul fleshes out for us in Romans 13 the kind of life that inspires gratitude.

A life full of love inspires gratitude: “love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”. Love naturally inclines us toward the righteousness that people are thankful for when they experience it from their loved ones. When we learn to love, we do not even need the law. One who holds to a high standard of love does not need rules saying “do not commit adultery”, “do not steal”, and so on. He or she would not want to. When I am driving my wife’s van on the highway, I need the occasional sign to remind me of the rule “thou shalt not drive faster than 100 km/h”. It is easy to speed when you have a smooth ride and a 3.6 litre V6 engine. When I ride my motorcycle, I need neither the signs, nor the rule. Having an engine smaller than your average lawn mower, it is “out-of-character” for my Honda 125 to go any faster. When we are so filled with the love and presence of God that His love is overflowing from us, we don’t need the rules to keep us from hurting people. Hurting others is out of character for a loving person. Doing anything but being helpful to others is out of character for the loving person. Keep in mind we are not talking about the “I love what you do for me” kind of love, but the Jesus-going-to-the-cross-for-people-who-do-not-deserve-it kind of love. It is a decisive, sacrificial, other benefitting kind of love.

Are we learning that kind of love that inspires gratitude? If people are not generally thankful for Christians, perhaps we Christians are not loving like we can and should?

Paul continues:

11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:11-14 (NRSV)

A life full of light inspires gratitude. To give a loose paraphrase of verse 11, “do this love thing we just spoke of, knowing the age we are in, the age of light breaking in on the darkness”. There is a progression in the Bible from God saying “let there be light” through spiritual darkness beginning with Adam and Eve, through Israel called to be a light to the nations but often having trouble finding the switch, to Jesus being the true light in ways Israel never could. John calls Jesus, the “true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9 NRSV). With Christ a new day has dawned and the darkness is receding. We are called to wake up and live in that new day. We are called to live as those belonging to the Kingdom of light, and not those who live according to the old empire of darkness.

The metaphor of waking up continues with the command to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” when we get dressed. In other words, when people see us, when they see what we put on in the morning, they will see Jesus. Here is also a reminder that it is not about our efforts. It is about God’s continual presence with us.

Let us be reminded of Paul’s original appeal:

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV)

People don’t like it when we are not conformed to this world. But when we are full of love, when we are full of light, the people close to us are grateful. If our nation is not particularly grateful for the Christian Church, then perhaps it is time for us to wake up and put on Christ. Are you up and dressed yet?

Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com

 

January 2, 2015

Let the Light Out

Today, an author who was recommended to us, Annie Birkelo. Click the title below to read today’s article at its source, and take a minute to look around her blog, there are some very in-depth articles to see.

The Light Speaks for Itself ~ Just Don’t Bury It

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Today friends, I wish to share something that has been rolling around inside of my heart, my mind a LOT lately. I wish to hear back from you ~ your thoughts, your heart, your learning from the Lord about this very subject. I am intrigued and smitten by this whole thing and I crave to hear how others who follow after Christ have grappled with this very same thing.

Because I do not yet have the answer ~ (I almost never have the FULL answer)!

But I have been given some of what I think the answer is…in my own life and learning and following after Jesus. I wish to share some of that with you today.

So here is the question:

How do we ensure that when others see things in us that they think are good, that JESUS is who they see, versus OURSELVES?

Things that make you go “hmmmm.”

Sometimes I find myself dumbing down (or dimming down, I should say), the light of Jesus inside of me. I don’t want to freak people out, so I start to dim it down a little ~ bury it.

It’s not because I’m ashamed of Jesus. It’s that I find myself starting to wonder ~ are they just thinking that they see “me” here? Do they think that Annie is “all that?”

Which leads me right back to the question I wrote up above.

It’s easy to study the Word and find much about humility, servant leadership, turning over self to the Lord daily and nailing it to the cross, and real love ~ real love in the midst of ugly ~ sacrifice in order to put God first and others right next in line ~ the struggle to kill self daily and fill ourselves with more of Him, less of us. It’s easy to find guidance about this in His love letter to us.

Easy to study. But in all fairness, I must say ~ Hard to do.

But what about how others respond to us and our following after Jesus? Can we “control” what their reactions and responses are? Is it possible to make sure that they don’t walk away from interactions with us seeing the awesomeness of who they think that WE are, and instead see that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ ~ one that they can have too if they seek Him?

Can we make certain every single time that they recognize Jesus is the only good that is within us?

That is the question, friends. That is the big and burning question! Here’s what I have found as I have prayed over this so very much lately:

  • It is not always possible to make sure that people know (from our words) that all they see in us that they think is good is not about us ~ some of that is to be left to the Lord.
  • It IS our calling to make sure that the rest of our life – the stuff they see when they are not able to interact with us face-to-face – IS giving all credit/glory/honor to Jesus Christ and IS bringing glory to Him, versus ourselves.

People watch. People study us if they see something in us that intrigues them. Sometimes they walk away and think “that person is so great”, or “I want to be like him some day”, or “that person is so special, wonderful, good.”

Sometimes they walk away and then they make their own judgement about what they experienced when they interacted with us.

Do they know? Do they know by what we do and say (the rest of the time) that is is not due to us, but due to what Christ is doing in us that there is a light that they see there?

Do they know? Can we make sure that they know?

We have the privilege of not trying to pretend that we are perfect, but simultaneously giving Him all the glory and honor and praise for ALL that happens to us ~ the good, the bad, and the beauty He creates out of the ugly.

Eventually they will see Him, and not us.  But only if it is Him that they seek.

They may not know it yet ~ they may not realize that what they see is Christ living inside of this person, and not an extra-dose-of-awesome that the individual possesses.

But if they hang around long enough, and if we are honest in how He has delivered us out of darkness and continues to work in our sinful flesh, they might see.

  • They will see HIM if their hearts are open.
  • They will see if they are seeking HIM.
  • They will see someone they do not fully recognize, but they want to get to know.
  • They will see ~ they will eventually see that it is not possible for one person to be so “good” without divine intervention.

But what if they never do endeavor to seek Him? Are we then wrong to be this person ~this light~ in their lives that they might look up to, admire, think is great and/or want to be like?

Are we leading them into temptation or a false path if we are examples of how God can work within a person when they don’t want to (or even know how to) attribute any of it to Christ at all?

I think….NO.

As Jesus walked among us, He presented the good news and allowed others to choose whether to believe or not. He then moved on, but not without continuing to shine His light everywhere that He went.

A young man once tried to point out the goodness of the man He saw that Jesus was…and Jesus replied;

“Why do you call me good?”  Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.”  Luke 18:19

Jesus is not saying here that He was not good. He is trying to help the man to recognize that He (Jesus) IS GOD!

He was trying to help the man to see that he should not recognize the man in Him as good, rather recognize that He IS God, and the good that He sees is because He is God!

Only God is good.

Unlike Jesus, I am not God. No Christian walking this planet is God either. But we are His children and He lives in us if we are following after Him with all our hearts and have accepted His gift of salvation.

The “good” in us (the real good) is of God, not of us.

  • Let’s remember that we are sometimes nothing but the planters of the seeds.
  • Let’s remember that God is the only One who can bring about growth.
  • Let’s never forget that just because we don’t see the full blooms that result from the seeds He allowed us to plant, that He continues to work in the garden of each and every individual.
  • Let’s remember that it may be a blessing beyond comprehension that we don’t always get to see the seeds bloom.

If we did, we might be tempted to take credit in some way for that, wouldn’t we?

What if we saw them die, or start to bloom and then get infected or filled with weeds? We might become discouraged, because we thought WE actually had something to do with the success (or failure) of how their garden grows.

And when others comment on our own beautiful gardens, what then?

If others attribute the beauty of our garden to us somehow, what about that, friends?

Tell them!

Tell them who is responsible for the beauty that they see.

Tell them!

Tell them through all the rest of what you do and say that the garden hasn’t always been pretty.

Tell them!

Tell them how you tried to be the best caretaker in the world ~ how you studied how to make things take bloom and grow ~ how you methodically tried to fully invest yourself into being the best de-weeder on the planet, but the weeds still came anyway.

Tell them!

Tell them how the beauty that they see is only because of the divine intervention and complete Lordship of the only One who can make beauty out of the ugly.

Tell the story of Jesus, friends! Tell them how His story is far more important than your story.

Tell them how His story is the One you are a part of ~ not the other way around!

And remember ~ our primary role is to love others and simply let the blooms tell His story.

The Blooms…

The Light…

And the weeds…

And the darkness…

The Joy…

And the Suffering…

And the GOOD that He has brought out in the midst of it all.

His Good.

Yes, I have the fullness of the answer that He wishes for me to have today….

We are responsible to let the light shine ~

What others “see” is up to Him.

Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16

July 3, 2013

Looking Like Jesus

John 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Today’s post is from thinke (the e is for eternity) the blog of Matt and Michelle Brown. You’re encouraged to visit. The original post title was What Does It Mean To Look Like Jesus?

The ultimate goal of every Christian is to look like Jesus. What I mean by “look like Jesus,” is not in physical appearance, but to follow Jesus in both the big and small areas of their lives, in order to be the blessing that He was on earth, and to receive the blessings of obedience to and pursuit of God.

This is what we all want, but so few of us feel we are progressing at the pace we’d prefer.

One the biggest challenges in striving to look like Jesus is starting with the wrong picture of what it means to look like Jesus

For many years I personally thought that being “radical” for God meant being really intense with myself and others, praying for exhausting amounts of time, sacrificing as much as possible simply for the sake of denying myself as much as possible, and other self inflicting practices that would ultimately lead to looking more like Jesus. To me back then, “zeal” was the epitome of what it meant to look like Jesus.

I thought this because of role models I held in Bible college, many of whom I now see were clearly poor examples of Christlikeness. I remember reading passages in the Bible back then about the importance of a Christian having compassion, love, kindness and scratching my head wondering why I was not seeing these in my role models or myself – it was starting to dawn on me that God had a different picture of Himself than I had of Him.

Larry Osborne in Sticky Teams shares a similar sentiment: “Spiritual maturity is a life that consistently exhibits the character of Jesus Christ. This means character – not giftedness, not Biblical knowledge, not zeal. And that shouldn’t surprise us, since some of the most divisive and self-centered people in our churches are those who are highly gifted, know the Bible inside and out, and exhibit a zeal that puts the rest of us to shame. They just happen to also be jerks.”

I can’t stop thinking about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 lately. God has given us a clear filter of what it means to look like Jesus in all areas of our lives:  in our thoughts, actions, words and relationships.

Is what we are saying or doing filled with a whole lot of love, whole lot of joy, whole lot of peace, whole lot of patience, whole lot of kindness, whole lot of gentleness? If not, it’s probably not of the Spirit. Scripture tells us “when the Holy Spirit controls our lives,” we will show these things in increasing measure.

The fruit of the Spirit in your own life is what helps you be fruitful in the world.

God didn’t just give us this clear picture of what it means for us to look like His Son, and empower us by His Spirit to do so, so that we would be a bland personality in the world. The fruits of the Spirit are not simple cardboard cutouts that we learned about in Sunday School, but powerful life traits that have the ability to transform every aspect of our lives and relationships, and give us success wherever we go.

These are the aspects of Jesus that we need to hold up as a standard for our own life. These are the characteristics that we need to rejoice in when we see them in our gospel-centered communities and role models. As we allow the Lord to transform our hearts, we pray that we will grow in these traits and see them more and more active in how we act and react to those on our daily path. 

This is what I want more of in my life. I hope you do to. I think it will really help us.