Archive for December, 2009

The Forgotten Song

“The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed, that I am cursed and gone astray. I cannot gain salvation.  Oh, the devils singing over me, an age-old song, that I am cursed and gone astray.  Singing the first verse so conveniently, he’s forgotten the refrain:  Jesus Saves.”  – Embracing Accusation, by Shane and Shane

I’ve seen the two extremes of this song that the devil sings to our hearts. 

On one end, he tempts us to believe that no matter what we do, God cannot stand to look at us for we are covered in sin.  On the opposite, he tells us that we are saved, so it’s alright to dabble in sin, as long as you eventually turn back to God.  Both, in a sense, are true.  But they are not the whole truth.

We, in our own strength, cannot stand in the presence of God, because our lives are filled with sin.  As humans, we would flee the very presence of God.  God’s wrath and hate towards sin would burn us to the soul before we could flinch.  And there is nothing we can do to stand before the judgement.  Fortunately, we don’t have to.  Through Christ’s death on the cross, something we could not begin to understand, we have been justified before God.  He loves us so much that he provided the sacrifice that we could not give ourselves, so that we become washed clean of sin, and am able to stand before the throne, amidst the flames and not feel the burn.

We have been ‘saved’ from sin.  But we are human.  None of us are perfect, and I know that I will constantly struggle with sin.  There will be influences in our lives that tell us that it is alright to sin, because we have already been saved from it.  God has already forgiven us.  When we accept the call of Christ, we are called to turn away from the desires of the world.  If we turn back to what the world has to offer, have we really accepted the sacrifice of Christ into our hearts?  It’s a question that Satan puts in every Christians heart, especially my own.  Yes, there will be temptations in the world, but we are called to live above them, through the strength of Christ. 

The thing that I can’t seem to grasp is how amazing this gift from God is.  He knows that we will fall short, or doubt, or stumble and fall, but he accepts us as we are.  Don’t let the song of the devil invade your heart, for he only sings in half-truths.  The only way to stand before God is through Christ, there is nothing we can do.

Just some thoughts…

God Bless and PEACE

Back to the Meaning of Christmas

As we go through this chaotic time in the year, many of us lose focus on why we, as Christians, celebrate.  I was listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s album The Lost Christmas Eve and came across these lyrics from the song “Back to a Reason”

“Got to get back to a reason; Got to get back to a reason I once knew; And this late in the seasons; one by one distractions fade from view; the only reason I have left is you”

We all know the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem (Matthew 1:18-25 and  Luke 2:1-21).  We see the European images of Mary and Jesus in a barn.  We experience the hundreds of lights strung out over houses and trees.  Christmas cards decorated with red and green.  Evergreen trees placed in houses and adorned with thousands of small ornaments.  Angry shoppers grabbing the latest gifts to remind children of… what? 

As an American society, we have warped the meaning of Christmas around material things.  We tell children to be good so that they will get presents, toys and gifts.  We replace God, born as a child, with images of St. Nicholas and Santa.  We put presents under the tree in hopes that we receive as much as we give.  As each year goes by, we drift farther and farther away from God and closer to the material possessions that the world can offer us.

Early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Christ.  They believed that celebrating the birth of someone, anyone, was a pagan celebration.  At some point in the third century (200’s) certain sects of Christians began celebrating Christmas at different points in the year.  One of the first references to the nativity being on December 25th is in the Chronography of 354, an illuminated manuscript compiled in Rome in 354.   Throughout the Middle Ages, Christmas was celebrated as the Epiphany, which focused on the visit of the Magi, or Three Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12). 

The Modern celebration of Christmas is a combination of various ‘pagan’ festivals and rituals that have been ‘Christionized’ over the years into what it is now.  According to some people, the American Society has Paganized Christmas once again, but I believe we, as Christians, have lost focus of what Christmas is all about. 

Christmas is a celebration of God coming into the world as a human babe, fully human but at the same time fully divine. 

It’s not about the gifts.  It’s not about the holiday cards.  Or the cookies and sweets.  The parties.  Santa.  Carols. 

As Christians, we should not need one specific day to remember God’s greatest gift to humanity.  We should meditate on it everyday, and accept the fact that, although we don’t deserve it, He freely gave it to us in the form of His Son, Jesus. 

I have come to realize this as everything else seems to fade away.  It doesn’t matter what I receive from family and friends, I have already been given the greatest gift, and have received it with an open heart.

Remember the reason we celebrate as Christians.

God Bless and PEACE

Securing a Stable Future in Faith

Throughout the past year and semester, I have had many people asking me what I plan to do after I graduate in May.  The one thing that i have learned in the past couple years at Anderson University and through walking in faith is that God loves plans.  He loves to laugh at them and then just rip ’em apart.

My greatest fear after i get out of school: settling down.  I dont want to become another face in the workplace, sitting at a cubicle or doing something for someone else.  I want to live, and love what i do.

My dream ‘job’ would be a missionary in Uganda, living amongst the people and relearning how to see the beauty that God has placed in this world.  I would love to be free from the chains of money and just live through the word of God. 

Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works.  This dream is something people look at, then say “Yes, that would be great, BUT you have to … ” then they list off a hundred different things that our society tells us we have to do. 

We must secure a stable financial future for ourselves and our future family.  That’s all good and dandy, but that isn’t what God is calling us to do. 

One of the loudest voices I hear in my life is my dad.  I love the man, he spent 21 years providing for our family by serving in the Army.  He sacrificed a LOT to give us everything we have, to put three kids through college. 

Since I’ve been home for Christmas break, I’ve heard a hundred times that I need to have a back up plan, in case things don’t go through.  I have heard him tell me so many times that I need to find a job that will pay well enough that i can start saving up money for the future, even if that means not doing what i feel called to do.

I understand that he is concerned, because he sacrificed so much to give me the oppertunity to be where I am now, BUT his way of life is not how I want to live. 

I want to put all my trust in God. 

I want to rely on HIM, so I learn how to quiet my own self. 

I want to LOVE Him through how I LIVE my life. 

I want to YEARN for Him in everything that I do. 

Don’t get me wrong, I want to have a family, a wife and kids, but I never want to settle down into the norms of society.

I know it’s going to be a struggle, but I am willing to face it with all the Love in my heart. 

God Bless and PEACE

Healthy Evaluations of Faith

For an application for some missionary work, I had to get a physical evaluation at the local medical clinic.  When the doctor came in, he immediately checked off all the boxes, before he even checked out my health, almost as if he didn’t really care. 

I started to think, is this how we, the Body of Christ, treat other believers?  If we don’t open ourselves to inspection, will anyone know how we struggle?  Do we tell ourselves that, because someone accepted Christ, they dont struggle anymore? 

What happens when we allow ourselves to fall into this way of thinking?  On one end, we will never recieve the help we desperately need from community to conquer our stuggles.  On the other, there will not be real communtiy to turn to, just people that believe that others are fine and no one speaks up. 

The point of going into a Physical Evaluation is to make sure we are healthy and that there are no small health problems that may catch us by surprise.  We make sure our bodies are healthy, and we should do the same with our Spirits. 

God Bless and PEACE

The Christian Cult of Religion

When Christianity came onto the scene all those years ago, as seen in the book of Acts (right after the Gospel of John), it was a Sect of the major religion of the Jewish people, Judaism.  In essence, it was a cult that was forced underground by the persecution of the Jews and Romans.  Up until the 4th century, it was just a sect of Judaism, a cult of believers that followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.  They had faith and they needed nothing more.

Then something changed, that brought the beginning of the fall of the Christian Faith.  With Emperor Constantine I’s Edict of Milan, religious tolerance was issued throughout the Roman Empire and by the end of the century, Christianity was proclaimed the official Religion of the Holy Roman Empire. 

When Christianity went from being Faith that people believed in, to an official Religion, it tore apart what Jesus spent preaching against.  He criticized the Religious leaders of his day (the Pharisees and Sadducees) and the Jewish Religion because they turned their backs on their Faith in God and began following the legalities of the human spirit.  By turning back to Religion, Christianity lost its focus on God (just like the Israelites of the Old Testament) and replaced Him with human ideals. 

From there, the Christian Religion spread with force and the calling of Jesus Christ (aka: Faith) was lost. 

As the years have gone by, we have seen the Religion of Christianity split into many different sects, each one claiming to be the truth through the way they interpret the teachings of Christ and the sacrifice He made for the world, but with each split, the Religion got farther and farther away from the Faith of Jesus Christ. 

After the Protestant Reformation and the spread of Christianity to America, the explosion of denominations in the ‘Protestant’ sect of Christianity gave creation to hundreds of thousands of different, individual Churches and Religions, all with the same misguided goal of finding the correct Christian Religion. 

In recent years, there have been groups of people fleeing the Christianity of Religion and seeking out the raw Christianity of Faith as Followers of Jesus Christ.  On campus’ throughout the United States (and probably the world) you will find groups of students who would rather engage in community and not a church building.  There are communities of believers who have rediscovered the Faith of Christianity and are discipling others, bringing back the practice that was handed down to the disciples by Jesus Christ, who in turn spread the good news of His resurection by discipling and leading others. 

While there are those seeking out Faith, others are running in the thousands to churchs to follow the pastor or leader of the congregation with an infatuation that blinds them of Jesus Christ.  This is the downfall of the Religion of Christianity.  Some people (not all) are flocking to mega-churches and loosing sight of Jesus and replacing him with the human ideals of the church. 

The Religions of Christianity are now becoming cults of individual churchs and leaders, no matter how good their intentions are.  Look at the congregations of churches, people defend their leadership, believing that they (the leadership) can do nothing wrong and any that oppose them (their church) are speaking out against the Body of Christ.  

With this trend going at such a rapid pace, those who are following Faith will soon be out numbered by those following specific ideals of churches and leaders of those churches.  As leaders of the Body of Christ, we are called to do more than stand on street corners, before altars, on soap boxes, or in the crowd and shout the Glory of God.  We are called to disciple and spread the Faith of Jesus Christ, standing before the gates of Hell itself and go unflinching before inspection.   

Christianity is more than a Religion, a church building that we attend every Sunday (or if we are really holy, on Wed. also).  Christianity is a way of Life.  A Faith in the unseen.  And a Love that will capture hearts.

God Bless and PEACE

What makes one a Pastor?

After certain events have happened (read for yourself) between the leadership of NewSpring and James Duncan, i noticed a couple of comments about the leadership of not just this Mega-Church, but Christian Leaders around the world.

As it was pointed out to me, Perry Noble, the head leader and Senior Pastor of NewSpring, never went to Seminary.  Does this discredit him as a leader of the church? 

What about all the other leaders of the Body of Christ?  Do they all need to spend 2-4 years of their life studying the Word of God at a Seminary just to get a slip of paper? 

Do leaders need to be the ones that possess the most knowledge?  Or can argue the best?

If so, then i am no leader.  Nor are over half the leaders on the Campus of Anderson University. 

Leaders are people we look up to, because they live their lives in a higher standard.  I look around campus and see a bunch of leaders who dont just sit around and argue the text of the Bible, but they LIVE it out.  Their lives are filled with joy and chaos because they have made a commitment to God that they will Love Him and Serve Him with everything they are. 

People look up to them because they know that they dont know everything, but they are stiving to learn it by living it out.  Yes, some of them could spout out scripture and fill the room with a bunch of words, but instead they will sit there and engage the person in converstation, and lead them through what it really means. 

Pastors and Leaders of the Body of Christ should be the ones who LOVE the most.  I was once told that to be a leader, you need to be the one in the group who loves the most and will sacrifice the most. 

We need to redefine what it takes to be a leader of the Body of Christ if we are telling people that they need to have gone to Seminary or Bible School.

Just a thought…

God Bless and PEACE

Don’t Know Where To Start…

Early this morning (ok, at lunch) I heard rumors about possible conflicts between a well known professor and a local mega-church.  While not one to listen to rumors, when it comes from solid guys that usually know what’s going on, I listened.  Not wanting just to take their word for it, and mostly so I could not say that I heard it from someone who heard it from _______, I started to investigate.

While I had heard it from a good friend, they pointed me to another really solid guy who has a good head on his soulders (and had links to both statements of the parties).  I agree with Micah, that we should consider all the facts, and respect the people involved by looking at all the details. 

Before you go out and start slinging insults and mud at either party, you must see both sides of the issue.  NewSpring, a local Mega-Church in the area, made a public announcement and then James Duncan, a well liked and respectable professor on campus, replied with all the facts. 

While i have never personally met James Duncan, I have read many of his blogs and have had good friends take his class and enjoy him as both a teacher and a person.  I may not agree with everything that he writes in his blog, but he has solid teaching backed by scripture.

I have attended NewSpring once, and did not feel comfortable there, not because of the teachings or the way they acted, but because of the sheer size of the congregation.  I have many friends that attend on a regular basis, and I will not speak out against the people that attend, because they are friends and brothers and sisters.

It scares me that something like this would happen in the Church of Christ.  As leaders, we need to be aware of what our ‘flock’ is doing.  Ignorance is not an excuse. 

I do hope that all those that are involved pray and seek the advice of Christ.  My prayers are with James Duncan and his family, that healing will come to this situation.  I pray also for NewSpring and for the Church and all its leaders, that they may act as Christ to the world. 

God Bless and PEACE