A Lenten Reflection (John 1-2)

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A Lenten Reflection. Reading of John 1-2. Humility.

“That man is truly humble who neither claims any personal merit in the sight of God, nor proudly despises brethren, or aims at being thought superior to them, but reckons it enough that he is one of the members of Christ, and desires nothing more than that the Head alone should be exalted.”

–John Calvin

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When Christians Love Their Religion More Than Their God

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Instead of promoting Christ, Christians often promote …

their theology

their culture

their values

their creeds

their traditions

their spiritual practices

their specific type of baptism

their required form of communion

their style of sermon

their church

their denomination

their definition of salvation

their philosophy of evangelism

their form of ministry

their brand of worship

their interpretation of Revelation

their interpretation of the Bible

their favorite leadership model

their social customs

their laws, rules, and regulations

their political beliefs

their moral values

Imagine if Christians introduced people to their God instead of their religion.

Unfortunately, we often evangelize our own specific type of Christianity to other Christians rather than sharing the Gospel with unbelievers — preferring to convert, criticize, and attack our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because we feel their version of Christianity isn’t as good as ours.

In a pluralistic society obsessed with consumerism, marketing, entertainment, and comfort, it’s tempting for Christians to endorse unique attributes of their specific church, community, traditions, and faith instead of actually introducing people to God.

When this happens, the Gospel of Christ gets manipulated from something profound into a superficial sales pitch that’s commoditized to fulfill an array of selfish desires.

A particular brand of Christianity is propagated above all others — being worshipped and valued even more than God. We lose focus on the centrality of Jesus and obsess over the infinite differences within Christendom.

Instead of being unified in Christ, we’re divided by our distinctions — our beliefs become a form of idolatry.

Rifts are created, fractures occur, and theological wars are waged. Opinions are stated, agendas are pushed, accusations spewed, and allegations of heresy declared. Churches are disbanded, communities are broken, and relationships are lost — many abandon their faith altogether.

As a follower of Christ, do you ever feel like you’re still trying to be converted by other Christians? As if your faith isn’t quite good enough — being constantly critiqued, debated, and judged by other believers?

Christian evangelism has become inward focused, obsessed with internal factions where various sects of Christianity jostle for power, recognition, and control.

Instead of focusing on the unreached world with the transformative message of Jesus, churches, theologians, pastors, and parishioners spend their energy and resources trying to convince other Christians — or shame them — in the hope that they’ll reform to their better, more holy, righteous, and perfect “faith.”

Upon learning that a friend, coworker, or acquaintance is a Christian, we tend to immediately ask ourselves: Exactly what kind of Christian are they?

It’s not sufficient that they profess Jesus is Divine and rose from the dead, or that the Bible is inspired, or that they believe in the Trinity. That’s a start, but it’s not good enough. We want to know if they’re exactly the right type of Christian — our preferred type of Christian.

So over time we try to gather the necessary information and intelligence we think will reveal everything we need to know about their faith: What church do they attend? What music do they listen to? What books do they read? What political party do they support? What social causes do they support?

Inevitably, 99 percent of humanity fails to fit into our ideal picture of what a true Christian looks like. But instead of following Jesus’s commands to gracefully love our neighbors — even our enemies — and refrain from judging others, we do the exact opposite.

Is this the type of live-giving, hopeful, joyous, and loving faith we want to share with the world? Is this the message of the Gospel: I’m right and you’re wrong?

Instead of comparing versions of the Bible — tell us what God has been speaking to you.

Instead of complaining about worship styles — tell us about a time you experienced God’s presence.

Instead of criticizing a particular theologian — tell us how God is moving in your life.

Instead of questioning a denomination — tell us what you love about God.

Instead of condemning someone’s beliefs about eternity — tell us how God has changed you.

Instead of arguing over the proper way to facilitate the sacrament of communion — tell us about the ups and downs of your relationship with God.

Instead of preaching about a right or wrong method of baptism — tell us your faith testimony.

Instead of talking about religion, introduce us to God.

Christianity is extremely complex. Thousands of years of varying traditions, practices, events, experiences, and interpretations have shaped, informed, and influenced an infinite number of cultures, communities, and individuals in an incredibly unique way.

This doesn’t mean that Christians should accept everything as being morally admissible. It doesn’t mean that all beliefs and practices have equal merit. It doesn’t mean we live in a world devoid of absolute truth. It doesn’t mean we ignore false teaching and sin. On the contrary, followers of Christ must adhere to truth and orthodoxy.

But we shouldn’t be naïve enough to believe that only our particular church, pastor, and favorite theologian is the sole holder of truth, wisdom, and God’s favor.

The most important truth within all of Christianity is God. God exists. God’s real. God’s alive today. So why do we as Christians seem to talk about almost everything related to God without actually talking about our relationship with God?

Amid a world with unlimited spiritual choices, Jesus is distinctly unique! By introducing Jesus, instead of spewing the ugliness of yet another empty religion, we will reveal the wonderful glory of God.

This piece is being published on Sojo.net here:  http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/03/16/when-christians-love-their-religion-more-their-god

Ministry Opportunity Near Atlanta, GA.

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A few years back, my very good friends Ian and Ruthie encouraged me to write and blog. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about writing or blogging (and I still don’t know that much:-), but through their patient guidance, encouragement, and inspiration they empowered me to begin the journey.

Then, feeling called by God, they moved across the country and devoted their lives to starting and facilitating a ministry called ‘Refugee Beads.‘ It’s an amazing thing that has grown and matured over the years and has entered a brand new exciting phase!

If you live anywhere near Atlanta–are excited about ministry within that city–or are passionate about creating sustainability and supporting refugees from Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Burma, and Nepal you should check them out.

Their website is:  refugeebeads.org

You can read about the impact their ministry has had here: atlantaintownpaper.com

A little bit about how you can help can be found here:  How You Can Help

There Is No Such Thing as Perfect Christianity

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There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, and there’s no such thing as perfect Christianity.

They don’t exist. One of the biggest lies Satan can tell you is that perfect spirituality can be achieved — it can’t.

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The World’s 4 Most Popular (Non)Religions

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For Christians, it’s sometimes hard to admit believing in the supernatural, the legitimacy of miracles, an afterlife, and following an ancient text written thousands of years ago by numerous authors that have been divinely inspired by an all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent God.

At first glance, Christianity seems at odds with an increasingly “secular” culture that views spirituality as old-fashioned and irrelevant, but our society reveals that everything—and everyone—is spiritual on some level.

Humans are naturally religious and spiritual whether they like it or not. Here are four of the most popular (Non)Religions of the world:

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Christianity Is More Than Just Being A Good Person

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When someone does something nice, kind, or even loving for me or my family, I think, “Wow, what a great person!” or “That’s so nice!” or “What a wonderful thing to do!”

Here’s what I don’t think: “That person must be a Christian” or “I want to learn more about God” or “I’m inspired to visit a church!” or “I think I should read a Bible.”

The problem with simply “living out our faith”—showing people we’re Christians through loving acts of service and kindness—is that it doesn’t communicate anything beyond basic goodness. At some point, Christians must actually talk about Christ.

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Satan Is a Theologian Who Doesn’t Love God

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Satan is a master theologian. He’s talked to God, interacted with God, believes in God’s existence, and knows more about God’s attributes and abilities than most…and yet Satan doesn’t love God.

 

Knowledge about God doesn’t equal faith in God.

Just because you have a vast understanding of God, expert knowledge of Biblical Law, intimate comprehension of Biblical History, and an encyclopedic grasp of all scripture still doesn’t mean you love Jesus—Satan certainly didn’t.

Satan isn’t frightening just because he’s so evil, but because he’s so similar to us!

We crave power, control, recognition, fame, success, and the authority to judge others—obtaining them via religion, often under the false pretense of holiness.

We attend church, participate in spiritual activities, pretend to love others, and even talk to God, but sometimes we’re just fulfilling our sinful desires—appearing to be very “Christian” in the process.

Meanwhile, we accuse others of being sinners. We condemn our enemies to eternal damnation for not believing the right things, not holding the correct theology, attending the wrong churches, participating in the wrong lifestyles, voting for the wrong politicians, having wrong opinions, and not perfectly complying with our perception of holiness.

Maybe this is why God instructs us not to judge others—because we’re often completely wrong.

Even though Satan looked the part, the Fruits of the Spirit were non-existent.

We have no idea. Even when we think we do—we don’t.

Our faith isn’t dependent on correct theological beliefs, intellectual knowledge, or even our ability to interact with God—these things are important but utterly useless without a loving relationship with Christ.

If you don’t have all the answers, don’t worry, because you never will. Christianity isn’t about a quest for answers. Theology is really meant to reveal the Divine truth that God is love, ultimately helping us love God better, and love others as we would love ourselves.

Humility, grace, peace, hope, patience, kindness, and love have everything to do with a desire to passionately follow Christ and emulate His life.

It won’t be a perfect. We’ll have our ups and downs and will often fail. But the point is to keep trying to love. Loving God and loving others—this is what Christianity is all about.

Let’s be less like Satan and more like Jesus.

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