Christian (part three)

Christian (part three)

The topic of Christianianity is a BIG one. There is no way around it actually in our society, as it is in nearly every facet of life. Today, we will focus on the politics of being a Christian. It is pushed by both major political parties, some would say, “exploited” for political gain, touching on the surface, our need to be compassionate. It’s a double-edged sword if you will because politics are ugly and yet i do believe we have a civic duty to participate in it. But we can not separate the two. i know the constitution makes a distinction of separation between Church and State. However, that separation is intended to protect the Church from the government not the government from the Church.

If you are a politically active Christian you must do so from a perspective of the values found in the passages of Scripture in which we hold so dear. To separate your beliefs in some attempt to appease a group of people is not within the guidelines of being Christian. Nor can we separate it out from our lives in any aspect. To do so would be a denial of our values, our faith, our Christ. So far in our previous two weeks of looking at this topic, we covered Romans 12:9-10 which state:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Our next verse, 11, states:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Think of those in past times who basically risked everything in order to remain faithful to God. Namely, in this case, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these guys put God above politics in everything they did that’s why they were hated by the others and set up. Even to the point of not denying their God for any reason even their very lives. We should be so bold! “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!”

So, what are we to do when the climate is so split, compassion over what? When sizing up candidates does one issue rule over another? Where is grace or mercy when it comes to pass indiscretions? How about moral failings? Or the candidates stated belief versus their present actions? There is so much to consider how does one possibly vote at all? i for a very long time was registered, independent. i didn’t want the label of a political party, in fact, i still don’t but when we moved i somehow selected an affiliation and just haven’t gone to fix it. In my heart of hearts, i remain an objective independent voter. Who Votes his beliefs over politics, over issues, over a person. As a Christian, i take into consideration my own grace, mercy, love and the charge to love others, in making my decisions on casting a vote for someone or some issue.

May we take into account such things always and in everything that we do, not just politics, but also, work, friendships, relationships, even when we are alone.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part two)

Christian (part two)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is verse 10 of our passage in Romans 12:9-21 and our focus for the day. i am not sure if this will be a verse by verse or if at some point we will tackle a few but for now, this is it. Now, here me on this, this passage is on the marks of a true Christian as a whole, i want to, however, spend some time talking to you married couples. Then i will tie it all together for us in the idea of being Christian.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” We have talked at length before about marriage but i want to draw the parallel of the marks of being Christian into the context of marriage because the symbolism is referenced by Jesus himself as well as Paul here in Ephesians 5. Submission, to the greater work of the Kingdom, is paramount to being “Christian”.  This reference to wives is in no way my attempt to make women submit, far from. For just a few verses later Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” We, husbands, are to love our wives sacrificially, and righteously, based on and filled with the Word of God.

This goes to Jesus’ teaching, “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.” In this parallel, and in some was a paradox, we see that it isn’t impossible or absurd to think that this is possible. In fact, to think otherwise demonstrates a lack of faith in the ability of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is also a daily decision. When you wake up you must make the decision to love, unconditionally. To wait for “feelings,” or to wait for “reason,” i heard once an individual say, “I am waiting for my spouse to give me a reason to love them.” Let me give you a reason, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” There isn’t a stipulation in there nor in the passages in Ephesians, which is directed at the marriage specifically. It is simply commanded, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) And there is also a promise . . . “We will come to him and make our home with him.” That fact that Jesus says, “We will come to him” references the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the “Doer of God’s Word,” the “Disciple of Jesus,” the person of “the Way,” the “Christian.”

The parallel for the Christain and marriage is this if we are the body we are all the bride of Christ, therefore, our love for one another ought to be one of submission. It also, is that of Christ, as we are to be and do and go as He directs therefor loving each other just as Christ loved the church. It is both and, not either or.

To quote the great Jedi, Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” When we choose to love as commanded. To love like Jesus, we either do it or we don’t. It is that simple. Not to say that it will be perfect, but the more we “do” the easier it gets, the more fulfilling it becomes, and the more the Spirit fills us with His presence enabling us to love even more. So, i say to us today, LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part one)

Christian (part one)

Just put “Christian” in any search engine and you will end up with information overload! The good, the bad, and the ugly! Hit pieces, glorified pieces, historically flawed and accurate pieces, endless, endless information. What to believe? How can one tell? What is true and what is false? As i add yet one more piece to the web of information, i hope to at least shed light on how one can honestly tell truth from fiction. Our key text for this series is Romans 12:9-21. There will be plenty of supplemental scriptures as well as written works to look at as we travel this question together, Christian?

Let’s begin with the dictionary definition of Christian.

as an adjective

  1. of, relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
  2. of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Spain is a Christian country.
  3. of or relating to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.

as a noun

  1. a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.
  2. a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ: He died like a true Christian.

The actual definition of “Christ’ian” is little Christ. It was mainly a derogatory term in its early form. Early names for believers in Christ were, Disciples, referred to as people of “the way” or Disciples [Students] of Jesus. As there were many teachers who had disciples. What was the distinguishing mark of the early Church (the body of Christ)? In Acts 2 we read, “And they [the Church] devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” The signs of the early believers were evident in their daily life. Although, it quickly became watered down and tainted by false teachers and time. It is what we face today.

So now here we are, Disciples, of Jesus, People of the Way, the Church, 2000 years from its formation and struggling to define ourselves in a sea of “Christians”. How might we tell true believers from those who claim the title “Christian”? We read in Galatians 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the indwelling presence of Jesus] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .”  Which brings us to our Romans 12 passage.

9″Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” We won’t get any further than this today. First, true Christians love is genuine. It’s real, it’s from deep within, it’s Jesus centered because we are really incapable of genuine love in and of ourselves. The “genuineness” of our love comes only from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Second, a true Christian abhors evil. That’s right abhors, which is to say, “regard with disgust and hatred”. That is powerful and yet how many of us, for the sake of tolerance, tolerate sin? Whether it is in our own lives or those around us, within the Church even? i get the need for grace, mercy, etc . . . however, not at the expense of the soul! We are to ABHOR what is evil. Third and finally for today, a true Christain “hold[s] fast to what is good.” That is to say, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Let us have a genuine love for everyone, all people, everywhere. May we live from a heart of compassion. Let us abhor what is evil, there should be no tolerance for wickedness. That is clear. How we deal with it will speak volumes however of our “True Christianity.” Finally, let us hold fast to what is good. Fellowship with one another, strengthen one another, lean on and support one another in the Body of Christ that others will see our community and desire to be apart.

You are loved,

cj

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

Over the past several weeks we have looked at the three recorded instances where Jesus wept. By no stretch of the imagination do i believe, nor do i believe the Bible teaches, that Jesus only wept these three times. Just that these are the recordings given us as to peer into the heart of His [Jesus] humanity. The three recordings again, first, He wept over Lazarus recorded in John 11. Second, He wept over Jerusalem as we read in Luke 19. Finally, He wept over the world as the writer of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 4.

This idea of Christ’s humanity often gets lost i think in our retelling of these passages. Paul writes to the Romans in Chapter 12 vss 9-21  an eloquent and yet passionate plea to the church in Rome. His words echo through history into the future and here we are now listening in. May we take heed to its merits and begin to sync with the words of the page.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let me draw our attention to verse 15; “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” If i may remind us again of the humanity of Jesus and how in a world fallen, broken, lost, and confused, He sought to bring hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. In so much as He lived among us as an example, being tempted in every way we are tempted. Yet, Jesus overcame the world through His humanity that we might live through Him and for Him. The idea that Jesus rejoiced and wept reveals the heart of a God that both rejoices and weeps with us and for us. Therefore we ought to rejoice and weep with others as the time allows.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time to weep. Jesus reveals 3 instances that should bring a tear to our eyes. Although the Lazarus account may seem a bit murky, i believe it shows we ought to weep, not simply at the passing on of others but for the suffering of others and for the fallen for we know how great a reward awaits those who call on the name of the Lord. For our cities and our towns and our country as so many reject Christ. They deny the one Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords. Finally, for the world, for the many who are perishing. May our heartbreak and weep for the lost.

Next week we will look more into this passage and a few others as we begin a series, “Christian.”

You are loved,

cj

He Wept . . . part 3

He Wept . . . part 3

There are three instances in Scripture where Jesus is recorded as weeping. These instances reveal His heart and His humanity. In no way does it presume that He only cried three times but that these are the instances that are recorded for us, to glimpse in on His compassion. He wept over Lazurus. He wept over Jerusalem. He wept over the world. Hebrews 5:7 says, “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.” We connect this passage with Jesus’ time in the Garden prior to His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It is Jesus in the role of High Priest.

14 "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time  of need." Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

What would bring a high priest to tears of lament? Was it the cross that He was to bear? Was it fear of the cross? A combination of the two? Or was it perhaps the knowledge that although grace was to be offered free to those who desire it, that the punishment for sin, which is death and separation from God, was paid for, and yet still many would pass. They would simply refuse it, turning their back on God. If you were to go down to the corner and offer free hugs to anyone who would receive one, i am sure there would be those who would refuse. Their refusal would come from a place of doubt, misunderstanding, fear, pride . . . Those that would accept a hug would do so from a mindset of curiosity, a desire to be loved, feel loved, joy, they may not fully understand why but they would accept it just the same.

This may be a poor example but here is my thought. Grace isn’t always understood, some receive it and some don’t for the same reasons expressed above. Now add to it the knowledge that anyone who accepted the hug from you would be saved, all they needed to do was accept your hug. How much more would you try to give out hugs? Here Jesus knows that His loving sacrifice will not be accepted by everyone although offered to everyone. He knows that and He knows our humanity, our weaknesses, our temptations. He knows the pull of the world and the work of the advisory the devil. Now put the weight of the world on His shoulders, are those tears and cries of supplication for the cross? Or for the many that will choose to ignore the free offering of Grace?

i think in Jesus’ humanity, yes, if there was another way acceptable, He would have chosen it. However, in His time in the garden, His final words, “Not my will but Yours,” He chose obedience. We too must choose obedience. We must be willing to bear the cross and share the cross with anyone who would hear. For the great High Priest intercedes for us and for the world. So much so that His heart breaks for those who will simply walk by. As ours should. Our hearts should break for the passerby and our resolve to reach out for them should intensify, our prayers of supplication magnified, and our tears should be many. “O’Lord let us get one more!” Should be our rally cry everytime we are able to give out a hug.

You are loved,

cj

He Wept . . . part two

He Wept . . . part two

Jesus wept.” Known as the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 is part of the Lazarus resurrection account. We read here another instance in which Jesus was brought to tears. This time it appears to have been over the passing of a friend. As was observed by the Jews present at the graveside of Lazarus, “See how He loved him!” Then there are the naysayers, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” There is always at least one negative Nelly in the group. We all know one Church Curmudgeon who if given half a chance would complain about Jesus being talked about too much from the pulpit.

There have been a few thoughts tossed around as to what caused Jesus to tear up at this moment. Was it at the loss of a friend? The lack of faith of those who mourned Lazarus? Which could be two-fold in its understanding, they lacked faith that Jesus could or would raise him from the grave; and or, they lacked faith that they would once again see Lazarus at the coming of the Kingdom. There is also a wilder idea out there and that is that Jesus wept because He knew from where He was calling Lazarus back from. Could it be that Lazarus was in that “far better place” we often talk about our passed loved ones have moved on to?

Calling Lazarus back from his eternal reward, only to have to suffer and die again, would definitely be cause for tears in the one who knows best, Jesus. It still could have been the divine plan to give example to the power and authority of Jesus on earth. Even so, Jesus wept. He weeps for us, for our unbelief, for our lack of faith, for our doubt, for our weaknesses. Jesus’ deep concern for us is felt in the heart, it pours out in His words, and works. Is it true that He doesn’t take pleasure in seeing us mourn? Is it true He doesn’t enjoy seeing us greave or in pain? Yes, it is true. But i tend to agree that Jesus did not weep out of sadness for Lazarus, or for the lack of faith in this instance but rather for what Lazarus was being brought back from and what he would have to endure again.

i think it is revealed in His prayer, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” The Divine objective met in the revealed humanity of Jesus through His tears. His desire is that we all, everyone who believes, enjoy the eternity that was intended from the beginning, in the garden. His redemptive work is intended to restore humanity to its perfect relationship with the Father who walks in the garden and calls us by name, Lazarus come forth!

You are loved,

cj

He Wept . . . part one

He Wept . . . part one

And when He (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, He wept over it . . .” Jerusalem was a sight to see. Its magnificent temple, the buildings, and homes dotting the countryside, all surrounded by a great wall. The capital city of Israel since the time of King David. It was so beautiful, so compelling as a city, it beckoned on the weary Jewish traveler, ‘come home.’ Surely Jesus was not lost in the moment by its stately stature, no His tears were deeper than, for that i am certain.

Imagine coming to your own, as the prophecy had taught for hundreds of years. Finally, the long-awaited Messiah had arrived only to be rejected by a pious yet foolish people. Now on the eve of the most torturous event, on an undeserving man, the weight of it all begins to sink in. Here Jesus looks out upon the great city of Jerusalem a tear forms as He begins to weep “saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.'” (Luke 19:41-44)

We too even now often reject Jesus. Even in the church. We cuff Him and set time for Him. We structure our services “allowing” certain time for Him but in the end, we have our expectations, and our purpose, and our time frame. Oh sure we celebrate His arrival with shouts of praise but we limit His ability with our expectations. Oh that we would understand, “the things that make for peace!” or as the Message translations put it, “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you!” Jesus, clearly, makes a statement as to the heart condition of the Israelites of His day. Pious, yet foolish, caught up in “knowledge” but never coming to the understanding of the truth. As Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:7.

i fear that Jesus would look upon the USA, and many other countries, as He did Jerusalem, with a tear in His eye. May we begin to awake to His presence. To allow Him all the room in our lives, our homes, our families, our Churches, our friendships, and yes even our cities and towns, to move and be and do all that He desires, as we Worship Him.

You are loved,

cj