Christianity 201

January 1, 2019

The First Month of Your Year

by Russell Young

A new year! The first day of the year is often considered as a new beginning. Reflection is given to the things in life that could be improved by change or by greater commitment. The LORD spoke of a new year to the Israelites. On the day they were redeemed (2 Sam 7:23; 1 Chr 17:21) from bondage in Egypt the LORD said, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (Ex 12:2) They had been given a new beginning with great promise. The LORD was to lead them through his servant Moses into a new life and into the Land of Promise, a land flowing with “milk and honey”.

Gentiles who have committed themselves to God through faith have been offered a similar promise and a similar hope. Although believers have not been set free from earthly kings, they do enjoy the hope of an eternal city and the presence of their God.

A new calendar year can provide opportunity for those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb to reflect on the progress of their own spiritual journey. We might do well to remember that although 600,000 men plus all the women and children left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua made it into that promised land. All had begun their journey with hope but after forty years of testing most died in the wilderness. “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut 8:2) Following redemption comes testing!

Contrary to the teaching of some, not all the redeemed will find a presence in God’s eternal kingdom. Perhaps the new year is a good time to reflect on the Lord’s admonition: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 Italics added) God’s righteous requirements (Rom 8:4) must be met through obedience to the Holy Spirit.

The journey of the committed, of believers, is not easy and is not without testing (1 Thess 2:4) and trials. (Mt 24:9) Like Caleb and Joshua, the person who would enter the Promised Land must be found authentic when confronted with faith challenges (Mt 10:22) and must pursue a walk of obedience. (Heb 5:9) Satan would tempt believers to coast along the road of life and to appease their own desires and interests. As Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say…?” (Gen 3:1) and like Eve many will be led astray. He will tempt those in the Lord to trust that the fruit of the world is desirable and to be enjoyed without cost. Confessors have been admonished concerning the need to die to self (2 Cor 4:11; Col 3:5; Lk 9:24) and to live for Christ, however.

Satan would encourage people to pursue their own worldly desires, comforts, and carnal pleasures and this world has bought into his deceptions; however, the goal of believers is to be much different. It is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Lk 10:27) (Such a statement should be taken as a requirement, and not accepted as an exaggerated proclamation.) Losing a few pounds might make a person feel better and the pursuit of other carnal interests might result in gaining compliments, approval and pleasure, but they will not further the believer in his or her journey to the kingdom of God. Time passes quickly and with it opportunity to prove repentance (Acts 26:20) and to reveal to God the confessor’s conformity to the likeness of Christ. (Rom 8:29)

The new year gives opportunity to honestly examine the nature of the confessor’s love for God. It may even stir the heart and mind to examine that which God truly requires of his people so that they will not suffer his condemnation as “evil-doers” and be commanded to depart from him because he had never known them (Mt 7:23)—known for certain their faith commitment. There are many false teachings prevalent in the Christian community. Each person will enjoy or suffer the consequences of their own spiritual convictions and practices. “Did God really say…?” Believers need to be certain of what God did say because there are a variety of “truths” being presented, even though there is only one truth.

Does your Biblical understanding satisfy the following questions: Do you know and understand the New Covenant? Do you appreciate that you will face the judgment seat of Christ for things done in the flesh, whether good or bad? Do you appreciate the consequences of a negative judgment? Is your love for God complete or have you been pretending and perhaps playing church? Are you producing fruit in your own life and for the kingdom? To what extent have you been making use of the gift(s) given you at your confession of faith?

A new year is beginning, and it offers opportunity for reflection and introspection. God told the Israelites that the Passover was the beginning of the year for them, perhaps it should be considered as an opportunity to honestly reflect on your spiritual journey and the progress being made. Believers are to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29) and are expected to walk as he did. (1 Jn 2:6) The confessor’s redemption gives new hope with both promises and requirements, but these can be lost. Use this occasion to set your path straight and make your hope secure by following the Lord’s call upon your life. (Jn 10:27; Rom 8:4, 14; Gal 5:18, 6:7─8)


Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

September 12, 2012

Life is Short, Some Lives are Shorter

Psalm 90: 12 Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise.  (NIrV)

The NIrV is a simplified NIV for children and people for whom English is a second language.

Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (NIV)

ooo

Psalm 139:6b    … all the days ordained for me were written in your book  before one of them came to be.  (NIV)

About six weeks ago we attended a backyard party that was hosted by a woman whose life was greatly changed by the ongoing influence of a group of people who took the time to enter her world — at the time a dilapidated motel in a factory district — and offer her encouragement and friendship. She wanted to say thank you to the people who had helped steer her life in a better direction, and that included my wife, who with two other women co-founded what has now become a community organization that provides all manner of support to people living on the margins. It was so encouraging to see the upward movement in this woman’s life, and to know the efforts of so many of us combined together to make a difference.

Then, today, we attended her memorial service.

She had no idea when she hosted that party that she wouldn’t be around weeks later, and neither did we. Her health took a very sudden turn, and suddenly we no longer have her smile to look at. For my wife, it was a shock that is still hard to fathom.

This particular memorial was more inter-faith than Christian and did not contain prayers or hymns, though there was a reading of Psalm 23 from The Message. However, the presence of people I know to be true Christ-followers in the audience today was a reminder of how much God’s people have been involved in the birth of various social service initiatives and agencies, and how much God’s people are involved on a continuing basis in giving compassion and concern.

But you never properly attend a funeral or memorial unless you use it as an opportunity to look in the mirror, to look at your own life. Am I making each day count? Am I moving closer to the cross? Is my life bearing fruit? Am I becoming more of a person who reflects the grace of the gospel? How would my life be remembered?

I had an English teacher in my senior year of high school who never specified the length of written assignments.  We would ask, “How long does it need to be?” and he would answer, “As long as a piece of string.” 

Life is like that. It’s as long as a piece of string. Your life. My life.

Later, I would learn the expression, “We should not talk in terms of long lives and short lives, but we should speak of small lives and big lives.” For kingdom people, for Christ-indwelt people, for Holy Spirit-led people, we should aim to live overflowing lives. Because life is short, and sometimes even shorter than that.

Eph 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),

16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. (Amplified Bible)

(same passage)  Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. (J. B. Phillips translation)

~PW

January 31, 2012

Defining a Sacred Journey

I usually don’t poach book reviews from other blogs, because my primary interest is promoting books I’ve actually read cover-to-cover myself.  However, I was impressed with Daryl Andrews’ comments about The Sacred Journey, and the space he gave back in October to some quotations which are worthy of consideration.  So while there’s no scripture text today, I hope you’ll consider the quotations from the book from Daryl’s blog, Be Love Serve.

I recently received a book, that is part of the Ancient Practices Series with Thomas Nelson publishing, titled The Sacred Journey. The book is authored by Charles Foster. I have no past experience with Charles Foster; however, the title seemed to resonate with where I have been 0f late. Over the last year, I have found myself on some unique travels. Also, I have been on the edge of moving to far off places like England, Seattle, and New Zealand, over the last year or so. So I have spent plenty of time living and thinking about the life of adventure. This book has given me a whole new appreciate for the theology of pilgrimage. Charles Foster has clearly spent some time wrestling with words like follow, kingdom movement and wandering. As Foster says, “Yahweh became a man, he was a homeless vagrant. He walked through Palestine proclaiming that a mysterious kingdom had arrived…he fascinated the people on the edge of things: the underdogs, the despised. He wasn’t a big hit with the urban establishment.” My Jesus is often too suburban and safe, to resemble the God I read in the Bible. Once I picked up this book, I couldnt put it down. It reminded me of how much I have grown in love with stuff, become lazy, and find myself suffocating for something real. However, the book did not stop there. Charles Foster challenges his readers to take Jesus’s words, “follow me” very seriously. The book actively inspires me to exercise my faith, take risks, and enjoy the journey. I highly recommend this book. I will share a few of my favourite quotes. However, you may need to read the book to really understand the context.

– “Pilgrimage can give a taste of Christian radicalism. In fact ‘Christian radicalism’ is a tautology: nothing that is not radical is Christian. That takes some grasping. The road can help us grasp it. A stockbroker on pilgrimage for a week will be able to imagine better what it means to leave everything and follow Jesus. He’ll be on the fringes of places and the fringes of society, and hence in the heart of the kingdom and the company of its elite. For that week he’ll be an ally of Abel, not an enemy. Those little tastes of the kingdom can be addictive.”

– “The Reformers lost the war against pilgrimage. You can’t root out something so fundamental to human identity. Christians of all denominations and none, and people with nothing other than the compulsion to walk, flock to Taize, Santiago, Rome, and Jerusalem. Their motives are perhaps more mixed, or less well defined, than some of those medieval pilgrims. Many would say that they are going to find ‘themselves’ or ‘what its all about’… Not everyone finds what he is looking for, but everyone finds something that he didn’t have before and that he needs and wants. Pilgrimage involves doing something with whatever faith you have. And faith, like muscle, likes being worked.”

– “I did a trail at my pastorate at Holy Trinity Brompton. Without indicating the source, I wrote down several doze quotations on the subject of pilgrimage culled from most of the main religions. I asked the theologically sophisticated Christian audience to identify the ‘Christian’ ones. They couldn’t. They were hopeless. When I told them which was which, they were amused and horrified. A rather intense girl had identified a sixth-century Hindu text as, ‘oozing the spirit of Jesus’ (And who am I to say she was wrong?)”

– “If the blood flow through your heart reduces, you have pain. If it stops moving, you die. If water stops moving, it gets foul. This seems to illustrate a general rule.”

– “Throughout the Bible (with a crucial last-minute twist) God hates cities. He is much easier to find in the wilderness. He takes the side of the itinerant shepherd against the factory farmer.”

– “The best-traveled people, the ones who have seen the most, are the ones who remain the most capable of seeing the world through the eyes of children. Children’s eyes dont have the spiritual cataracts that blir the vision of the worldly-wise. They see color, mystery, and excitement where we see only a parking lot. They are immeasurably richer than we are.”

– “The gospels smell of the road as The Odyssey smells of the sea.”

– “Pilgrimages do things. The travels of Abraham inked in the covenant and laid the foundations of a nation; the exodus transformed a people and won a land; the Baptist girl at my dinner got a husband, was healed of hay fever, and became a Jesus Freak. Then came the Sermon on the Mount, which is all about the people on the edges – the sort of people you meet, eat with, walk with, bed down, and become if you walk from town to town, but would never see if you drive along the freeway in your air-conditioned limo. By and large the Sermon on the Mount is utterly irrelevant to most modern churches. Our lives, our business, and our mission strategies are constructed very specifically according to precisely the principles so clearly denounced by Jesus. If we had been running his campaign, we’d have thrown money not at lepers, but at management consultants and lobbyists… And Jesus certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to walk. It’s dangerous, time-consuming, and sends out all the wrong signals.”

– “He loved the road because it honored adn enabled that community. He hated the city because it brutalized and suffocated it. But community itself has been redeemed; relationship has been redeemed. That is the meaning of the new city. It’s not that true fellowship of the road can somehow manage to exist within the Holy City; there is nowhere else that it can be what it has always really been. And that is the end of all pilgrimage. There is no other end. ‘The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’(Rev. 22:17)’”

– “Shane Claiborne talks about his Christian upbringing in eastern Tennessee. At evangelistic services, there would be the great call to the front; and every year he and his mates would go forward, singing ‘Just as I am’; and each year, he says, they would leave just as they were. Whatever your fastidious theological doubts about penitential pilgrimages, that never happened to someone who had walked from Paris to Rom in winter, losing toes from frostbite on the St. Bernard Pass, carrying a yoke forged from the club he’s used to beat his wife to death.”

– “We see the same syndrome again and again in conservative religion. The greater the evidence against its assertions, the greater the zeal with which they are preached, the greater the consequent isolation from the rest of the world, and the greater ease with which the cult members can be protected against the corrupting power of alternative worldviews.”

– “The early Christian Celts spoke about ‘thin places’ – places where worlds (I would prefer to say ‘dimensions’) were particularly close to each other. Places where, if you were quiet enough, you could hear the murmurings of God.”

– “Go. Don’t take much. Don’t worry too much about preparing. The journey itself will prepare you for whatever you need to be prepared for.”

– “Habitual tourists may be reading this and feeling left out. Good. Sorry, but what you do isn’t what we’re talking about here. A religious tourist in the holy sites is an invulnerable pilgrim. An invulnerable pilgrim is an oxymoronic creature, like a four-legged biped. Certainly pilgrims can read guidebooks, see the sights, and tick boxes on clipboards; but tourists cant get new eyes while remaining tourists.”

– “It’s not just pilgrims who make a pilgrimage: it’s pilgrims different from you. A pilgrimage is a journey to the ultimate otherness.”

– “Pilgrimage is a little pocket of nomadism. Many insecure societies notably the ‘advanced’ ones that have lost their connections with the land, and therefore fear it and its people, feel threatened. They worry that a little focus on pilgrimage might metastasize dangerously into settled life. They are right to worry.”

– “The nomadic people of God, if they’re on the right road, go from an oasis somewhere in East Africa, Mesopotamia, or the Jungian collective subconscious (depending on your exegetical preferences) through wild and barren places, progressively learning to smile, relate, and serve. And they end up in a city where none of their desert sensibilities are violated, where everything they have learned about self-giving and relationship is used and multiplied and transformed.”

October 27, 2010

We Breathe a Different Air

I ran into her when she left some comments at Thinking Out Loud.  She calls herself Cloudwatcher.  Her blog is called Meeting in the Clouds.   It’s a devotional blog that’s written in a style that would hook your kids or teens.   This one presents an interesting analogy dealing with one of the implications of being “strangers and aliens” in this world.   Analogies often break down at certain points, but I like the care went into writing this.

It turns out Cloudwatcher is in her 70s, was born in the UK but lives in Australia.   I’d say she’s a rather cool blogger, and I look forward to reading more…

One Essential

Q.  What is the ONE ESSENTIAL thing an astronaut needs to take with him when he ventures outside his spacecraft?

A.   An astronaut would be in deep trouble if he did not take with him the atmosphere of his natural environment.

Q.  What is the ONE ESSENTIAL thing that a born-again CHRISTIAN must take with him during his pilgrimage on earth?

A.  The atmosphere of his natural environment.

Q.  What IS the natural environment of a Christian?

A.

  • We belong to the kingdom of God.  Col 1:13
  • We are citizens of heaven  Phil 3:20, Eph 2:19
  • We belong in the heavenlies  Eph 1:3
  • We are pilgrims and strangers on earth  Heb 11:13
  • This world is NOT our home  John 17:16, 2 Cor 6:17

When we take the atmosphere of our heavenly home into the world, the devil and his forces will be defeated and the people of this world will see the living Christ in us.

When we do NOT take the atmosphere of our heavenly home and our spiritual life with us, we are doomed to defeat.

  • Nothing is more contrary to a heavenly hope than an earthly heart.
  • If we do not put the love of the world to death, the love of the world will put us to death.  ~ A W Tozer
  • The world is enemy-occupied territory  ~ C S Lewis
  • When we stand on the Word, we cannot stand with the world.  ~ Vance Havner
  • KNOW the Bible in your mind; KEEP it in your heart; LIVE it in your life; SHARE it with the world.

We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
We are the sinner’s Gospel, we are the mocker’s creed.
We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word:
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?