Tag Archives: Christ

Discipleship: Bridge Between The Heart And The Hands

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
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Discipleship, says Pastor Todd Wilson, is the bridge between the foundations of the Christian life and the external evidences of that walk.

Given the foundations of gospel rootedness and God centeredness and the outward actions of community engagement and missions mindedness, the connection is discipleship.

Too often we see conservative churches engaged in a narrow-minded navel-gazing piety. They know the truth and they hold to it with strength. They probe the depths of Christian ideas and unearth rare jewels understanding. They are rooted in the gospel and centered on God, but they are sitting in their chairs, hunched over their desks, nose in a book, ignoring the world falling in about their ears. So heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.

I’ve attended a couple churches growing up that were this way. One was stuck in the mire of a pastor filled with anger, and the church suffered horribly for it. The other was not enslaved so to a personality, but they were content to occupy a beautiful corner of the city lightly without changing that corner. Keeping their light so close about themselves there was no redemption occurring outside their walls.

And then too often we see churches engaged in their communities, with minds for mission and outreach, and yet they are unfilled cream puffs. There is not substance or reality girding their vaunted structures. They will as easily share their pulpits with wildly divergent and incorrect teachings as they will refrain from preaching the exclusivity of Christ. These churches occupy many prominent street corners and are pillars and bastions in their communities. But there is no real heart change occurring within their walls. The light they shine can only be their own for they can get it nowhere else. They are neither rooted in the gospel nor centered on God and are no more likely to bring one to true salvation than they are to hold to the truths in the Bibles they place alongside the plethora of other holy books they aspire to.

Discipleship, taught Pastor Todd Wilson, is the bridge that connects the foundations of what would otherwise be a pious but ineffective church with the actions of what would otherwise be an engaged but worldly church, and the result is a church both rooted and effective.

Discipleship requires a continual attentiveness to the voice of Christ and a shunning, a pruning, and possibly even a purging of those habits that distract from the Commission handed to us from Christ.

Discipleship is worked out both singly and in community. It is focused on preparing others for the active ministry as much as it is on preparing ourselves. It is an unselfish and unapologetic pursuit of God in the truest sense of the word.

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Quake In Chile

First thoughts on the 8.8 quake that just struck Chile: Is this it?

The earth is heaving as if it is in labor.

The quake hit about 100 miles from Santiago, the capital of Chile. But reported death toll right now is only 78 people.

My thoughts and prayers are with those on the ground in Chile.

But back to the initial thoughts.

How long ago was it that seismologists were screaming the world was heading towards “the big one”. A massive quake level 9 or higher on the Richter Scale that would decimate a significant area of even highly developed and well constructed buildings.

A disaster of biblical proportions, it would be called, even by atheists and agnostics and dont’-careists.

I don’t know if this is it. I don’t have a crystal ball or special word from God that the end is here. But I know that God wants us to be vigilant, ready, always choosing our next steps based on His greater glory and with the continual awareness of the impending end of days.

The constant reminders in the New Testament, especially, though they are the words of men expecting a return of the Christ within their lifetimes or very shortly thereafter, are included nonetheless at God’s behest. God wanted us living between Christ’s first and second comings to live always in the hope of His imminent return, both as a justification for the struggles we deal with on earth as His ambassadors, and as a guide to our thoughts and actions.

Christ is returning, of that we are sure.

Whether He comes through the upheaval of earthquakes shattering the sure footing of this earth we each trust too much, or through the twisting terrors of tornadoes scarring the skies, or hurricanes or typhoons or the soft, sweet winds of a summers’ afternoon, He will still come.

And for the people in Chile now dealing with the aftermath of such destruction and ruin, I pray their succor will not just be of their physical homes, but also include a rebirth in their own lives in the salvation of Christ.

The Christ, The Prince of Peace

Christ did not come to bring peace but to bring a sword
Christ did not come to bring peace but to bring a sword

“Glory in the highest” the angels sang, “and on earth peace, goodwill to men.”

From this first joyful proclamation of Jesus’ birth to this day, Jesus’ name has been used by advocates for peace of all kinds regardless of those advocates belief in and surrender to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Pastor Todd preached Sunday on the hard thought that Christ did not come to bring the peace we men expected. In Matthew 10 Jesus proclaims something seemingly directly contrary to the angel’s words:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring peace? After all, the angels could not be lying, could they? I’m so confused!

Elsewhere Jesus seems to confirm the angels and contradict Himself:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

The Jews Jesus was preaching to in Matthew 10 were expecting a Messiah who would wage one final war and end all conflict with Israel as the masters of the universe. They were expecting the Prince of Peace to beat the Romans into submission and enthrone their own county in the seat of eternal power. Forget Pax Romana, they wanted Pax Iudeah.

The Jews were correct, in once sense: the peace Christ brought would be achieved through final conflict.

In John 14 Jesus is speaking specifically to His disciples, and by extension, to those who believe in Him as their Savior and Lord. He reinforces the distinction between His peace and the peace the rest of the world claims by stating He will not give His peace the same way the world gives.

There are two different kinds and times of peace that Christ is bringing to mankind. The instant and constant kind enjoyed only by those who have fought Christ and lost and surrendered and now live in subjection to His will and in His protection. And the future, hoped-for peace which will only come about when all mankind ceases it’s striving with God, the vice-grip of sin is broken from every heart, and the deceiver and tormentor and death are cast, along with all their minions and followers, into the pit of eternal destruction in God’s wrath.

The peace Christ  brought at his birth was the instant and constant peace available to those who put their faith in Him. In that same birth He began the final process up to the final day with the final trumpet shall sound, ushering in that final, lasting, and universal peace.

Wishing and hoping for universal peace on this earth is a hopeless and pointless task. Sin is the dominant force in the majority of people’s hearts, and sin is selfish. Sinners will not even agree together, and even God had not sent His Son to bring even greater conflict, the sinners themselves would find conflict enough among themselves.

Christ’s presence in this world brings even greater reason for conflict. The coming of Christ brought not the peace we men hoped for but the seed to greater conflict due to the presence of truth and those who would not and will not accept it.

Christ brought truth and truth wars against the lies which hold so many captive. Those who remain captive to the lies of the world also war with vehemence against the truth and those who have surrendered to it. The conflict is mutual and inescapable.

Peace on this earth is reserved only to those who surrender to Him and live in allegiance to His will. Peace in eternity is only given to the same.

This is not an exclusive claim because the means of salvation is freely available to all. There is no person alive not permitted to surrender to Christ, and God makes clear throughout the bible His will that no one should perish. This is the goodwill to men, that God, who worked with man despite his sin, provided the way out of the penalty for that sin.

More Important Things: Christmas Greetings

A Holiday Tree?
A Holiday Tree?

It’s Christmas time, or the holidays are upon us, again. And predictably, Christians and traditionalists are duking it out with many in the broader culture regarding whether or not the correct greeting is “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”.

Technically, in common usage a holiday is any day free of regular work or school. Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving are all holidays. So to use “Happy Holidays” only for Christmas and New Years could be said to apply an undeserved exclusivity to the greeting.

“Merry Christmas” does more accurately convey any season-specific good wishes with this particular season. Due to cultural norms, to say “Merry Christmas” is not necessarily to admit an obeisance to and acceptance of the Christ, the historic and real reason for the season.

But is it an issue big enough to build a stink over?

I would argue it is not.

In the same way as Christians we can see our culture building itself into the biggest frenzy every Christmas as a tacit recognition of the primacy the event of Christmas is to our world, we can see the use of the term “Holiday” as a tacit recognition of nature of the day as a Holy Day.

This is, admittedly, an “I’ll take what I can get” perspective. However, I would balance that with a question: Can we expect the masses of non-Christians to act in a Christian way or recognize Christian position beyond what is habitual and cultural in their life?

Culture changes. It just happens. That is an amoral principle of the world and human existence. It is not inherently evil that change occurs. Sometimes change is good, and sometimes it is bad.

We live in a post-Christian culture in America and in much of the rest of western civilization. We are surrounded by remnants of Christian influence but for the broader culture, these trappings are tradition, and either do not have religious significance or are thought less of because of their religious roots.

The fact that Christmas is still celebrated with such gusto, even if much of it is driven by cynical and selfish pursuits, should be heartwarming to all Christians.

There are bigger and more important things than that Walmart or Target allow the Salvation Army bell ringers outside their doors or greet you with “Merry Christmas”.

A person can enter heaven without once having uttered the word “Christmas” or having rung the bell or put spare and paltry change into the red pots.

A person cannot enter heaven without having accepted the Christ’s sacrifice as a human and God to pay the just penalty for their sins.

Christmas is an option. A good option. But it is not essential to salvation, nor even to evangelism.

I fear that by arguing over non-essentials, we Christians marginalize ourselves in the eyes of the surrounding culture. If the culture wearies of our crying over small things, when we cry over something big, they’ll disregard it. Yes, the boy who cried “wolf!” is a parable applicable to evangelism and salvation.

One final argument is taken from Jesus’ own words that Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The person and their intent and action is more important than the name we use for a given holiday.

Respond to “Happy Holidays” with “And I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too”, showing by your genuine love and care that you are a person with their best interest at heart. Only you will know deep inside your heart that their best interest through the river of the blood of the baby born so long ago whose birth we celebrate globally today in the biggest, most amazingly awesome birthday party, who walked this earth teaching and who gave up His own life willingly, dying so the rest of us can live in His righteousness.

Don’t send someone else to hell because you are quibbling over how they recognize a holiday.

Short Reflections On The Nature Of God

What is the nature of God?
What is the nature of God?

It can be said that it is easier to accurately define and completely understand the concept of infinite that to even begin to comprehend God. Something I have wondered about for quite some time is how did God decide what the 10 Commandments were to consist of? Did He arbitrarily decide that these 10 rules were the ones He’d support? Are they so practical because He said so? If so, even despite their correctness and practicality in practice, their necessesity in all productive human interaction, they’re still arbitrary, and it would seem that God is cheaper than He really is. But God is not arbitrary. Just as He gives purpose to everything and everyone, He Himself embodies purpose. For us it is His will that guides our purpose, for Him, there is no higher being to guide His purpose. He is self-contained, unneeding. Instead it is His nature that defines His purpose. God is truthful, therefore we ought not lie. God does not covet (though, arguably He has nothing to covet, all things belong to Him, and anything existing apart from Him is against His nature), therefore we ought not covet. The 10 Commandments are Gods best portrait of Himself in the form of His basic will for us. God’s attributes are to be our goals.

Nothing true can contradict the nature of God. This is the most powerful argument we have against falsehood in the church and among believers. If it is against the nature of God, it is not true. And the admonition that we dwell on whatever things are true takes on a whole new meaning.

God is jealous. He can bear no equals, whether percieved or actual. God does not accept any sin in any form, no matter the reason. Men can only see the outside, the physical manifestations, the actions. But God knows the hearts of all mankind, He judges intentions. This is both a relief and a burden. There are actions that are misunderstood and maligned, causing pain and suffering to the actors, but which stem faithfully from correct intentions. There are actions hailed as heroic, but which stem from motives unpure, capricious at best and malicious at worst. God is the Just Judge and He will determine the reward or punishment.

Voltaire said: “It took 12 men to start Christianity, and one will destroy it.” He was referring to himself. God replies: “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. (1 Peter 1:24-25 NASB)” And Voltaire died, and Christianity continues.

Why is the battle so fiercely arrayed against the Christian standing firm in their convictions, faith, and belief? Because we have the Word, Christ in us, and “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)”