Sloppy Christians

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The Christian is the partaker of the greatest gift in human history – God’s grace. A sad byproduct of grace can sometimes be sloppiness on the part of the recipient. People can get lax, neglectful, and take their faith in a very casual manner. Those are three words that are never found in the Bible and never meant to describe the follower of Jesus. Instead, it says:

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.

Romans 10:9-11 ESV

Our faith is not a competition but it should be something that is propelling us forward. Progress is never casual, lax, or neglectful. The key contrast in the above quotation is between slothful and zeal. The Believer should be extremely zealous for the Lord and the mission we’ve been placed here for. We should be growing love for God and for others. We should be more about others and less about ourselves every year we get closer to the Lord. To have zeal is to have great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Our cause is to know Christ and to make Him known to the world. Our objective is humanity set free from the bondage of sin and death through a relationship with Jesus.

…and so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…

Colossians 1:9-11 ESV

We need to be growing in knowledge and wisdom. We need to be bearing fruit. We need to be experiencing His Holy Spirit power working in us. This is not the description of a sloppy Christian, this is someone who is in love with their Savior.

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Which Cross is Mine?

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Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

JAPAN: IBARAGI KUN

After they all had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die, twenty-six Christians were marched to the place where crudely made crosses stood. Almost three months earlier, they had been arrested in Kyoto, Japan, and charged with following Christ. One of the convicts was named Ibaragi Kun.

Seeing how young Kun was, an official took him aside and urged him to recant his faith to save his life. Looking the official in the eye, Kun said confidently, “Sir, it would be far better if you yourself became a Christian. Then you could go to heaven with me.” The officer stared, startled by the young man’s faith. Finally, Ibaragi asked, “Sir, which cross is mine?” The bewildered official pointed to the smallest of the twenty-six crosses. Young Kun ran to the cross, knelt before it, and embraced it. When the soldiers began to nail his hands and feet to the cross, he did not cry out in pain. He courageously accepted the path God had laid out for him. The crucifixion of the twenty-six Christians on November 23, 1596, was the beginning of a period of intense persecution of Christians in Japan. Over the next seventy years, as many as one million Japanese Christians would be killed for their faith. Many would embrace their own crosses to follow the example of Ibaragi Kun, a very mature twelve-year-old boy.

Spiritual maturity is not measured by a birth certificate. Chronological age has little to do with conviction. Rather, spiritual maturity is measured one day at a time. We measure our maturity by how well we daily apply our faith. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual maturity is not how much we know about the Bible. Many people are very familiar with the Bible, yet they remain strangers to spiritual maturity. Obedience to the Bible’s commands is the mark of maturity. One question will help us know how well we are growing spiritually. We must ask ourselves each day, “How much more do we look like Jesus today than we did yesterday?” Our answer is a true reflection of our growth.

…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Acts 5:40-42 ESV

Reflection:

  1. Do I avoid sharing my faith so as to avoid conflict with others?
  2. Have I ever let age or experiences prevent me from sharing my faith?
  3. Is there someone specific that I am being prompted by the Lord to reach out to?
  4. Would I choose Jesus over my life?

Much of the post originated from Voice of the Martyrs Ministry. For more about them click here.

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The Invitation of the King

Christianity is an active faith. One that stirs the heart into motion. It moves the believer towards a community of love, not just with friends and family, but with the despised and destitute also. For the Christian, family has no skin tone nor nationality. Shameful pasts can be erased in a moment and acceptance is found when a humble heart kneels at the foot of a cross. No one is unwelcome and no one is too dirty for the cleansing power of God’s grace. The Christian sees everyone as equal because he or she has come to terms with their own brokenness and need. We are all light years from God’s perfection, even the best among us. That is why God has invited us all to go to those whom the world has beaten down and rejected. Three things should always remain open for the Christian: their home, their arms, and their hands. The good and faithful servant reaps a harvest of love no matter where they find themselves and no matter the cost.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.

Matthew‬ ‭25:34-36‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Jesus is waiting in every hurting heart and needy soul, to be loved by us; to be acknowledged and to be provided for however we can. Love that this pure and genuine is also boundless. Jesus is waiting.

Vitamins for Christians

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I used to take a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements because I believed it would help me to be healthy. I also went through a weight training phase that consisted of taking protein supplements and amino acids regularly. Then one day I had an eye-opening experience. I read study after study about the different ways that vitamins and proteins are absorbed in our bodies. Not all supplements are equal, even when it comes to vitamins. Some are fat-soluble ones (like A, D, E, and K), and others are water-soluble ones (like B and C). Also, our body absorbs two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are your body’s direct fuel or energy sources, whereas micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) indirectly influence available energy by serving as catalysts to release the macros. But unless they’re efficiently absorbed, none of the nutrients can fulfill their duties optimally.

I spent so much time pouring supplements into my body but they weren’t doing what I’d hoped they’d do. I wasn’t taking them in the correct manner nor was I always doing the correct activity to help boost their effectiveness. When it comes down to our health and fitness, we can take pills and powders all we want, but we won’t get the desired results unless we get up and move, and do so efficiently. Our body has limits to the amount of vitamins and minerals that it will absorb. When levels are low or you’re deficient, your body tries to regain homeostasis (equilibrium) by absorbing more of whatever is needed. Once that balance is reached, absorption will again be decreased in order to maintain the appropriate level. In short, our bodies are way smarter than we are. God’s design in the human body is absolutely astounding. In addition to all these factors, there are several outside influences to our nutrient absorption. Stress, sleep patterns, alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, and exercise are perhaps the greatest among them.

This isn’t a health blog so here’s what I’m trying to get at. We can take in a lot of spiritual nutrition, but unless we do it properly, and target the outside influences, we will never grow like we are intended to. Simply put, we can do 10 devotions a day, Bible studies three times a week, and go to church weekly, but if we aren’t putting things into practice then where’s the growth? If I put a lot of time into studying how to fight stress and live in the peace of God, but don’t let it eradicate my worries and increase my faith, then what’s the point? If I hear sermons and read books on discipleship but I’m not actively trying to connect with people and love and change lives, what good is it? If I do devotions and sing songs about the love of God and surrendering my life, but I hold on tightly to control, how does it benefit me? If I run through quick prayer times in the morning or evenings but spend all my time speaking and no time quietly listening, how will I ever hear from Him? So many of us are taking spiritual supplements but we’re seeing no change. We should be different today than when we first decided to follow Christ. We shouldn’t be battling with all of the same junk. The Christian life is one of surrender, peace, love, truth, grace, kindness, joy, and humility. Those things may not characterize a new believer, but they shouldn’t certainly be displayed the longer we follow Jesus. God’s goal for humanity is to change them into the image bearers we were always meant to be.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:29 (ESV)

Reading the Bible, praying, devotions, Bible studies, worship, and prayer time are amazing and essential. But no matter of spiritual supplements can make a difference without submission to the Holy Spirit and passion for our Savior. This is a lesson I’ve been confronted with every time I’m going through something that I “know” the right answer to but I’m not living the right answer. I know people who have battled with anger, anxiety, depression, addictions, and the like for the entire time they’ve walked with Jesus. There might be stuff that we all have that nag at us till the day we die, but we’re meant to walk free and redeemed. I need to be reminded of that. How about you? Brothers and sisters let’s not just be hearers (and studiers, and singers, and discussers) of the Word, but lets put it into action and see is transform lives! Let’s put the supplements to work.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1:22-25 (ESV)

 

 

Four Reasons Hanukkah is Important to Christians

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is also known as the Feast of Dedication and the Festival of Lights. It’s origins come from the Jewish rebellion against outside oppression and idolatry over 100 years before Jesus was born. Its a fascinating story of heroism, faith, and God’s people refusing to compromise. While it’s not one of the commanded celebrations of the Bible (like the feasts of Leviticus 23) it has become a greatly cherished season for honoring God. It seems to have started out that way very quickly because it was being celebrated in Israel during the time of Jesus.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.I and the Father are one.”

John 10:22-30 (ESV)

Here are four reasons why Hanukkah holds so much significance for the followers of Christ.

#1 Light of the World

The centerpiece of Hanukkah has to be the Hanukkiah. It is an eight candle lamp with one center candle called the Shamash. In the Temple, this candelabrum was to remain burning at all times. It was the source of light that allowed the priests to carry out the worship of Yahweh. Christians often celebrate this festival by decorating their houses with lights, inside and out, and lighting of the hanukkiah in honor of this element of Hanukkah. There is no greater light in the world than Jesus. The Festival of Lights honors the Light of the World as well as reminding us of our role to serve as lights in this world for all those walking in darkness.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (ESV)

#2 Miraculous Provision

When the Maccabean revolt regained the Temple, one of the first things they did was to light the lamp using the oil available there. The problem was, there was only enough oil for one day. However, the oil miraculously lasted a full eight days which is why Hanukkah lasts for eight days. This was nothing short of a miracle. And God is a God of miracles. Jesus demonstrated that during His earthly ministry. Remember those two times that He multiplied the fish and bread to feed thousands of people? Not only did He demonstrate miracles, But He is also a miracle. His birth to the Virgin Mary was a miracle. His death on the cross on behalf of humanity was a miracle. And His resurrection from the dead was a miracle. Jesus is, in fact, the miraculous provision of God for humanity. Far greater than the oil. And nothing is more miraculous than a sinful people being cleansed and made new by God. Hanukkah is eight full days of praising the Lord for cleansing us of our sins and giving us new life.

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 (ESV)

#3 Dedication of the Temple

The temple had been desecrated by the leader Antiochus and idol worship had become a common activity there. The Jews chose to bring an end to this idol worship in the house of God and rose up in arms. After defeating their enemies, the Temple had to be rededicated to the Lord. Nearly 200 years later, Jesus would enter the Temple in Jerusalem to call out the idol worship being conducted there. He overturned tables and reminded the people of the purpose of the Temple. Jesus also changed the idea of what the Temple was. You see, God had chosen to live among His people in multiple ways throughout the story of the Bible. In the beginning, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. Later, He gave Moses the blueprints for a tabernacle. Solomon would construct the first Temple not long after King David passed away. Jesus said in John chapter two that He would “destroy this temple and in three days raise it up.” He wasn’t speaking of the building in Jerusalem. He was talking about His body. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the temple became the believer and follower of Jesus. In the Temple, God’s Holy Spirit resided. Now His Holy Spirit lives in those who dedicate their lives to the Messiah Jesus. Hanukkah is a great time to rededicate our lives to the One who saved us.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

#4 Jesus celebrated it

In the first Bible passage of this post, John 10, Jesus is shown celebrating the Feast of Dedication. That is obviously speaking of Hanukkah. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to do as our Savior did. Our life belongs to Him, to live a life honoring of Him, sold out for Him. If Jesus believed it to be important to celebrate Hanukkah than shouldn’t His followers? Besides, the Festival of Lights all points to Him anyways.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God.All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5 (ESV)

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters and happy Hanukkah!

Tear Out The Dividing Page!

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When Christians distance themselves from their Hebrew roots it’s like cutting the branch off that they stand on.

The entire Bible is built on Hebrew themes and context. The New Testament, while written primarily in Greek, is an explanation of so many of the things that the Old Testament laid the foundation for. God used the Hebrew people as a means of revealing His character to the nations. God instituted His feasts, first among the nation of Israel, as a way to teach His redemptive plan seven times a year. Yeshua (Jesus) is our Hebrew savior. He taught using the Hebrew text and customs for illustrations. He was given titles understood best in the Hebrew context (Lamb of God, Messiah, the Word, Son of Man, etc…). He used people of Israel, His disciples, to take His message to the world and seek and save the lost.

Romans chapter 11 makes it pretty clear that non-Jewish believers (gentiles) were grafted into the tree of faith that God had been growing through the nation of Israel. We didn’t become an entirely new tree. We entered into a covenant relationship that existed for over a thousand years before the first “Christian” church ever met. Jesus came to bond the nations through His sacrifice.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-13 (ESV)

We have been adopted into a family of faith, that is rich, and so beautiful. To know our Hebrew roots unlocks so much of the magic in the Bible. To disregard the importance of our spiritual ancestry is to walk blindly towards key elements of our faith. That single page that divides the Old and New Testament is a relic and a unhelpful distraction from reality. The Bible is one unified story from beginning to end. To live exclusively in Matthew to Revelation is like only knowing half the story. Same goes for those who stick so tightly to the Torah and rarely venture to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. God gave us seven beautiful feasts to learn from and celebrate year around. He gave a law that reveals so much about who He is and what holiness looks like. And He spoke hundreds of prophecies about our Savior, His plan for our lives, and the course of the world. The story of Israel is the story of us. We can see life experiences through theirs. It’s time for that page that divides our Bibles to be torn out, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because Jesus tore it out spiritually.

…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3:26-29 (ESV)

Be the Proof

Throughout my years as a Christian, I’ve had to work through my faith like anyone else. I’ve had to try to reconcile my purpose, what it means to be a Christian, how good works fit in to the equation, and so much more. Conflicting messages have only served to complicate the search. Denominations have been formed over these same basic questions. Debates have long divided societies. If you’ve found yourself struggling to resolve similar questions in your own walk of faith, let me offer you something to contemplate.

On my most recent journey through the Bible I locked on to a passage late in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a valuable source because it records the commission given by Jesus before He ascended to heaven, the giving of the Holy Spirit to His followers, and records of how that Spirit used Christ’s early followers. The book focuses on many different followers but a big portion centers on the apostle Paul’s missions. He is one of our greatest examples of what it means to follow Jesus, and he laid out his mission statement for us all. It comes in Acts chapter 20 verse 24.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

It’s simple, and yet very deep. It’s one line but all consuming. Paul’s entire life had the purpose of pointing others to Jesus. Whether by his words or actions, Paul wanted the world to see Jesus in his way of life. When Paul encountered Jesus, everything changed for him. Jesus consumed his heart and every affection, and he had to tell everyone.

Paul said he was propelled with the purpose of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. To testify is far more than just telling people. It also means to serve as evidence or proof. Our life, as a Christian, is supposed to be the evidence of God’s grace. That means we love greatly, unconditionally, serve everyone, forgive quickly no matter the offense, put others before ourselves, and lay our lives down for the cause of bringing others to God. Every single one of those things, Jesus did and then extended His hands in invitation for us to do the same. Our lives should show the world that the grace and love and power or God are very real and available to everyone.