Pick Up Your Sword

The large majority of Americans are incredibly spoiled. This shows in every aspect of our existence, and especially in our faith.

The simple truth is that many believers just take their faith for granted. What we believe, why we believe, and what we ultimately must do about it seems to get lost somewhere–buried by the blistering pace of a life lived for self.

This is often taken so far that we all-together ignore some of the most basic tenets of Christian discipline. One of these that is so often neglected is the reading of the Bible.

Every year my pastor initiates what he calls Bible Sunday, if memory serves me correctly it should be just around the corner. This Sunday morning service is a public challenge to our entire congregation to read the entire Bible in a year. For the last several years I’ve accepted this challenge, and completed it.

I’ve been reading the Bible for most of my life. I started reading it regularly around the age of twelve. I started studying it as well in my teens. But for these last few years, challenging myself to read and study it with such an enthusiastic goal in mind has propelled my faith into brand new territory.

My passion for the Word is higher than ever. My devotion to sharing the eternal truths contained within is stronger than ever. My hunger for understanding is more heart-felt than ever. My capacity for Christian love and the fruits of the Spirit is more authentic than ever. My faith is better than ever.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. – Romans 10:17

To be the kind of creature God created us to be; we must pick up our Sword. We must learn it. We must love it. We must live it.

Holidays

Here we go again.  The holiday season.  I love it.  I love absolutely every second of it.  I love being with my family, all of them.  I love all that it entails.  I love the religious observances we attach to this time of year.  This is a very special and sacred time of year for me.
The following is a question posed to me by a dear friend online and my response.  Enjoy.
I’m already sick and hurt of the politically correct “holiday cheer”. Seriously people, if you’re not into Christ, the Saviour of the world (you) then why celebrate “Christ”mas??? –(just an after thought)– I wanted to add to afore statement by saying, “you don’t see Christians taking over other religions holidays and degrading their meaning.” But then an ironic thought hit me,…. Halloween was the Druid Festival of the Dead. Unfortunately, I know alot of Christians who play along w/that satanic religious rite by diluting it and making it “ok”, just like other religions do when observing CHRISTmas. hummm…..i think i may have a thought for you to follow through… i wonder how many false religion holidays christians observe vice versa….  *edited for readability, not content

You might not like my answer, but here goes.  Please, anyone who reads this, understand that I’m talking about the observance of holidays in a historical sense, and not strictly from what I believe or practice myself.  I just felt that this approach best answers the question.  Holidays are tricky when it comes to study and trying to define the narrow lines of what is a Christian or secular observance is not as easy as most of us would like to think.  The big two for Christianity would definitely be Christmas and Easter; but even those are congruent with ancient pagan rites. People get in a big huff about recognizing Christ at Christmas, and for those of us who are believers, it is a season for exactly that; but the historical facts are plain.  Holidays happen across all cultures, each one has their own tradition, belief, history, and values they associate with those days. Concerning Christmas, we don’t know the actual date that Jesus was born–through careful study we arrive at a time somewhere between late September and the beginning of November.  I just don’t have time to recount all the historical data to back this up; but the gist is that early Christians (most likely 2nd to 3rd century A.D.) took the pagan holidays they observed prior to their conversion and shoe-horned their new found Christian faith onto those holiday.

As a believer, missionary, and family man I observe all of our traditional American holidays with the people I love.  I do it according what I believe, and what those holidays mean to me.  The truth is that there are few, if any, traditional holidays which don’t have some kind of origins not associated with Christianity.  Does that mean we should stop observing them?  No! It means we should practice healthy communication about what these holidays mean to us and why we observe them.  A healthy understanding of the history associated with them would go a long way too in educating future generations.

We (the Church) are the worst about sending mixed signals at the holidays.  We don’t want anyone to hijack Christmas and so we get in a huff when we hear “happy holidays.”  Yet, we bring in all this superstition about a mythical fat man traveling around the world delivering toys.  We want to make sure that Easter is reserved for acknowledging the resurrection of Christ; but we buy our kids baskets, hide eggs, and talk about Easter Bunnies.  Most of this is done innocently enough, and I’m not writing this out of contempt, condemnation, or carelessness.  However, we need to appropriate a better understanding of our holidays.

Why would people who don’t recognize the lordship of Christ in the most essential parts of their lives acknowledge or celebrate His birth or resurrection?  We don’t own dates on a calendar and even if we tried to; we wouldn’t really know which dates to own.  Perhaps, the Church instead should cease to regulate observance of such monumental events to such a specific window of time. Instead we should teach and disciple people to acknowledge these holy moments through a regular practice of a life displaying the fruit of one who celebrates the birth, death, and resurrection of the Incarnate One.  I wonder, is God more pleased with our militant defense of the calendar–or with our passionate pursuit of Him?

Merry Christmas.

ABC’s of God

I wrote this some years ago and shared it tonight during my message.  Some folks asked me to post it, so here it is.  I hope it encourages you.
God is the
AbsolutelyAstounding Almighty Architect,
BeautifullyBenevolent,
CreativelyCompassionate,
DelightfullyDivine,
EternallyEmpathetic,
Forever ForgivingFriendly Father of Fate
Gracious Giver ofGrace.
Holy Healer ofHope and Hope for Healing.

InfinitelyIndescribable and Infallible Intercessor,

Jubilantly JoyfulJustification,
King of Kindness,
The Lone, Lamp,Light, Life, and Lord,
Mighty,Miraculous, and Moving Mediator.

Never leaving,Never forsaking,

The Only Outstanding,Otherworldly, Omnipresent, Omnipotent One
Powerful,Practical, and Priceless Prince of Passion,
of an Unquantifiable Quality.

RemarkablyRighteous Ruler,

Supernatural SoleSource of Soul Saving Sanctification,
Truly TriumphantTerrific & Trustworthy.

Upright UtterlyUnending and Unique Utterance of Unity,

Vivacious andVictorious,
Wondrous andWillful
eXaltedeXcellence.
Yearning with a
Zeal for Zion.

Stories

I’ve always loved stories. Once I start a good story it’s really tough for me to put it down until I’m finished. Clever plot points, character development, and intriguing situations keep me glued to the story.

The best authors always make you fall in love with their characters basically by tormenting them.  I read Amazing Spider-Man for years and even though the book switched scribes numerous times, the one thing that remained constant was each writer’s willingness to subject the web-head to tragedy after tragedy, heaped on happenstance after catastrophe. Most modern fiction is much the same, be it TV, novel, or blockbuster.

If you ever sat through an English or Literature class then you probably learned some of the basic elements of a story.  Notably the concept of building (or rising) action and the climax.  The most talented authors weave all of these different elements, not only into the larger story itself, but also into the individual chapters or segments of their tale.

From a theological perspective, I am so glad to know that what holds true in the realm of fiction couldn’t be further from the truth in terms of our relationship with God…or more accurately, His relationship to us.  He is above and beyond sovereign.

We can not altogether understand all of the good things He has lined out for His kids.  We just can’t.  And God certainly has good stuff planned for us.

I’m not the kind of preacher that will stand in front of an audience and proclaim that just because we’re Christians that God will shower us in fancy cars, fine homes, and fat wallets.  I believe that is a dangerous sort of dialogue that leads to disappointment.

However, I absolutely believe in the principles passed down through Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Corinthians 2:9.  God has great things in store for His people.

At the end of the day, every day, I rest well; knowing that my destiny is penned by the Creator of the cosmos, the Savior of the world, the author and finisher of my faith.

Excruciating

Cover of "The Case for the Real Jesus: A ...

ex·cru·ci·at·ing

[ik-skroo-shee-ey-ting]
adjective – extremely painful; causing intense suffering; unbearably distressing; torturing:

We have a penchant for embellishing things. Exaggeration is just kind of in-grained into the way we talk, the way we tell stories, and our humor.  It goes pretty well with it’s cousin sarcasm.  So, we say things like; “I’m starving to death,” when we’re barely even hungry and probably just finished a snack sometime in the last couple of hours.

One word that is definitely no exaggeration is the word excruciating.  Excruciating is quite the loaded word. In fact, it was coined to describe a type of execution so horrendously painful that an appropriate description had yet to be invented. The Greek version of excruciating literally means, “out of the cross”.

That’s the kind of experience Christ went through for you and I.  Something so terrible that when it was first dreamt up in the 6th century B.C. they needed to contrive a new word for just how bad it was.

Even so, the word might have come from the cross; but I’m not entirely convinced that it can altogether describe just how bad it might have been.

*For a better understanding of the agony Christ endured on the cross I suggest Lee Strobel’s “The Case for the Real Jesus”.  There is a chapter on forensics that specifically addresses the physiological torment Christ suffered in scientific detail.

BaRgAINS

A pseudo-theological blog might not be the best place to out myself in this respect; but I like zombie stories. I mostly blame George Romero. His “_______ of the Dead” series was already incredibly well established by the time I was old enough to know what it was really about.

BaRgAINS

It seems in recent years that zombies have finally usurped nazis as the most common cannon fodder in video-gamedom. Regardless of the media, nearly one thing is always constant where zombie literature is concerned…their insatiable desire for brains.

Yes, I know, this is disgusting and by now you’re hoping I reach a point soon.

Anyways, in the movies, games, tv shows, or comics–zombies are always looking for their next meal. They are inexplicably drawn to any collection of people; regardless of shape, size, or sex by their compulsion to feed.

On our way home from my grandparent’s Thanksgiving dinner we passed a local Walmart; and the sight before my eyes was much too similar to some old Romeroan film for me to be comfortable with. At 8 p.m. people were already flocking to a store that wouldn’t open for quite some time. And for what? “Bargains”

Like the denizens of some subpar zombie fiction, people all across our country are pressing into the mob, chasing the elusive sales whose demands always outlast and exhaust the supply. It’s true, they’re not out for flesh and brains, but I can almost here the groaning sounds of, “bargains….bargains” ripple through the atmosphere.

Meaty

I like meat. Actually that is a grievous understatement. I LOVE meat. It has just always been a staple of my life. Even the prospect of not eating meat just sounds alien and untrustworthy. Yeah, I just said that I find something about vegetarians and vegans to be abnormal.

I eat pretty healthy for the most part. My wife and I try to make fairly responsible dietary decisions, and more often than not, our meals include meat of some kind. Even my salad, which I also really love, generally includes some type of meat. I like a lot of protein in my diet.

Last night I enjoyed a scrumptious t-bone prepared by my mom. Even right now as I write this I’m sitting in my tree stand, waiting for a legal deer to harvest. And, In just a few hours people all over will start celebrating Thanksgiving by diving into all kinds of meaty dishes.

We love our meat. It is sustaining, it is filling, it is wonderful.

But you don’t give a infants a slab of roast when they’re hungry. You offer them something more in line with what their small developing body can consume, digest, and use.

I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, (1 Corinthians 3:2 ESV)

Paul, when writing to the church at Corinth, gave them what spiritual food he knew they needed, not necessarily what they wanted. He was discerning and wise, understanding that with spiritual maturity comes a greater level of understanding and revelation.

I see a lot of people these days with dangerously unhealthy perspectives concerning their spiritual health. Many think they are prepared for the meat of the Word, yet what they really are still in desperate need of is the milk. They have no spiritual discipline. Still, I’ve known many others, entire congregations even, that have contented themselves on the milk for so long that the things of greater substance found within the word shocks them and scares them nearly to the point of unbelief.

So, my question to you this cloudy Thanksgiving mornings is, what would best sate your spiritual palette. Are you still content to lap the milk of the Gospel, or are you ready to take on something solid? Are you meaty?

Happy Thanksgiving