Just Christians

“I’m thinking we aren’t so unlike these soldiers [see John 19:23-24]. (I’m sorry to say.) We, too, play games at the foot of the Cross.

“We compete for members. We scramble for status. We deal out our judgments and condemnations. Competition. Selfishness. Personal gain. It’s all there. So close to the Cross, yet so far from the blood. We are so close to the world’s most uncommon event, but we act like common crapshooters huddled in bickering groups and fighting over silly opinions.

“We major in the trivial, constantly finding fault with others. We split into little huddles and then, God forbid, we split again. Another name. Another doctrine. Another ‘error.’ Another denomination. Another poker game.

“So close to the Cross but so far from the Christ. ‘May they all be one,’ Jesus prayed. One. Not one in groups of two thousand. But one in One. One church. One faith. One Lord. Not Baptist, not Methodist, not Adventist. Just Christians. No denominations. No hierarchies. No traditions. Just Christ.” —Max Lucado, On Calvary’s Hill

10 More Quotes From “Shade Of His Hand”

In Shade Of His Hand, Oswald Chambers is giving us his insight on the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. I typically share longer passages from Oswald Chambers’ works in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” posts. Here are a few shorter quotes from this book.

“In personal life, in church life and in national life, we try Jesus Christ’s teaching, but as soon as it becomes difficult we abandon it, or else we compromise.”

“Jesus Christ says, ‘Come unto Me… and I will give you rest,’ i.e., I will put you in the place where your eyes are open. And notice what Jesus Christ says we will look at—lilies and sparrows and grass. … The salvation of Jesus Christ enables a man to see for the first time in his life, and it is a wonderful thing.”

“The essential element in moral life is obedience and submission. If you want spiritual truth, obey the highest standard you know. ‘If any man will do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God or whether I speak from Myself’ (John 7:17). Intellectually, curiosity is the thing; morally, obedience is what is needed.”

“Whenever our spiritual life is unsatisfactory it is because we have said to God—‘I won’t.’ … If Jesus Christ has done no mighty works for me it is either because I don’t believe He can, or I don’t want Him to. … Get to the place where you make the thing inevitable, burn your bridges behind you, make retreat impossible, then go ahead. Solomon’s counsel is wise—‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.’ It is leaning to our own understanding that keeps the bridges behind.”

“When you are joyful, be joyful; when you are sad, be sad. If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come. … Suffering, and the inevitable result of suffering, is the only way some of us can learn, and if we are shielded God will ultimately take the one who interferes by the scruff of the neck and remove him.”

“For a man to have doubts is not a sign that he is a bad man.”

“If your religion does not make you a better man, it is a rotten religion. The test of true religion is when it touches these four things—food, money, sex and mother earth. These things are the test of a right sane life with God, and the religion that ignores them or abuses them is not right. … A man needs to hold a right attitude to all these things by means of his personal relationship to God.” 

“We do not think on the basis of Christianity at all. We are taught to think like pagans for six days a week and to reverse the order for one day, consequently in critical moments we think as pagans and our religion is left in the limbo of the inarticulate.”

“It is only when a man is born from above of the Spirit of God that he finds the ‘want to’ is altered.”

“If you are the servant of men for their sake you will soon be heartbroken; but if you serve men for the sake of Jesus Christ, nothing can ever discourage you (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:5).”

To read more quotes from this book, click here. To check out my review of Shade Of His Hand, click here.

Does Your Life Have A “BC/AD” Split?

Today we live in 2017 AD. But 1800 years ago the A.D. stood for “Anno Diocletiani” which means “the year of Diocletian,” a ruthless, anti-Christian Roman emperor. In 525 AD, a monk named Dionysius proposed changing the A.D. to “Anno Domini” which means “the year of our Lord,” referring to the Advent of Jesus Christ. Then to mark the dates of the calendar before Christ’s birth properly, the “B.C.” (before Christ) period was introduced.

But BC/AD is just a dating system. There is no such thing as “BC”—there has never been a time before Christ! He has always been! Throughout what we now refer to as the Old Testament (or the BC period),  Jesus is constantly revealing Himself through little hints here and there, but when He comes to earth as a Man, all the hints become a bright, blazing, unmistakable Truth!

Just like Dionysius came up with a new dating system based on the Advent of Jesus, the Israelites had a new starting point marked by the Passover (see Exodus 12:1-7). Everything from this point backward is reset and dates are now counted forward from this moment. Before this time they were slaves in Egypt; after this time they were free and called God’s special people.

The “BC” Passover had three important components:

  • A perfect lamb without any defect (Exodus 12:5)
  • The lamb is slaughtered at twilight (v. 6)
  • The blood is applied to the door (v. 7)

When Jesus came to Earth, He showed how He was all three of those elements. In the “AD” Jesus is—

In both BC and AD God declares the same message: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” The blood seals the deal and brings God’s forgiveness of sins, and His blessings on the life that is now completely His.

The word remember appears frequently in the BC, as in “remember what God did for you.” In the AD remember appears at a pivotal time—when Jesus shared His last supper with His followers, He told them that Communion would be a time for them to remember all that Jesus did for us as the Perfect Lamb, whose Blood is applied to the Door of our heart, so that God’s judgment could pass over us.

Do you have a Passover date? A time when the BC became AD in your life? If so, good! Keep remembering that, and don’t ever go back to being a citizen of anything but God’s Kingdom.

If not, today can be the first day of a new era for you. By faith you can apply the Blood of the Perfect Lamb to the Door of your heart, and you will no longer be a slave of “Egypt” (a picture of being utterly trapped and unable to help yourself), but a citizen of Heaven! All it takes is for you to believe that Christ’s blood purchased your freedom, so you can ask God the Father to forgive you of all your BC past, and then you can live forever in the AD with Jesus as your Savior and Master!

Check out this video where I explain this BC/AD system more, and join me next week as we learn more about how Jesus Christ bridges the BC/AD divide.

Are You Healthy Enough To Love Serving Others?

Jesus was wholly healthy. That is to say, He was healthy in every aspect of His life—mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally (see Luke 2:52). This is important to note because Christians are called to be healthy in all of these same areas.

The phrase Dr. Luke uses about Christ’s growth is a telling one: Jesus grew in favor with men. People liked having Jesus around. The word for favor is from the same root word where we also get grace. So Jesus was a graceful man.

What does it mean when someone is graceful? It means they are pleasant to be around … you feel safe around them, knowing they will never belittle you or put you down … their focus is on your agenda, not their own … they are a “there you are!” person, not a “here I am!” person.

Bottom line: they are filled with love for others.

Jesus was healthy in His mind, His body, His spirit and His emotions, which allowed Him to be in a unique place where He fully knew how powerful He was, yet He chose to use His power not for His own benefit, but to serve others (see John 13:1-4).

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others. Only a wholly healthy person can truly serve with a right attitude…

  • People with unhealthy thoughts won’t serve because they don’t know they’re supposed to serve.
  • People with unhealthy bodies can’t serve because their disease won’t let them.
  • People with unhealthy spirits shouldn’t serve because they are promoting hypocrisy.
  • People with unhealthy emotions don’t serve because their attitude gets in the way.

Jesus not only told us His loving service was an example for us (John 13:15-17), but He went on to say that our loving service would be an example for others (vv. 34-35).

Healthy love loves God and then serves God by loving and serving others.

Do you have that kind of healthy love? Are you becoming wholly healthy enough to serve?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I know that I’m not yet doing?
  2. What will it take for me to turn knowing into doing?
  3. Can people tell I am growing wholly healthier year by year?

Jesus—100% God And 100% Human

gnosisOn paper it seems so simple: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine.” But trying to wrap our finite human minds around the concept of the full humanity and the full deity of Jesus is challenging!

First off, Jesus was fully human. Both Matthew and Luke record details about Christ’s physical birth, and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was made every bit as human as us (Hebrews 2:17).

But Jesus was also fully God. John records how God became flesh in the Person of Jesus (John 1:1-2, 14), and Paul tells us how Jesus chose not to use His deity when He came to earth as a human (Philippians 2:6-8).

I know that anytime we say, “God is like…” we’ve already sold ourselves short, but I’d like to try one analogy that’s been helpful for me.

Imagine a coin that has two distinct sides. While we are looking at one side (heads), we cannot see the other side (tails) but that doesn’t mean the other side has ceased to exist. In fact, if we were able to split that coin in half, so that there was only a heads and a tails, we haven’t cut the value of the coin in half, but we’ve made the coin of no value at all! 

In the Greek language of the New Testament, there are a couple of words for “knowing”: one is gnosis and the other oido. Together these words combine head knowledge and heart knowledge, or knowledge by study and knowledge by experience.

C.S. Lewis captures the idea this way: “It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.”

Just as Jesus was both God and Man, we are to use both our mind and our heart to know Him.

To focus on the “heads” side—the deity of Jesus—is to pervert gnosis into gnosticism, and deny the humanity of Jesus. To focus on the “tails” side—the humanity of Jesus—is to pervert gnosis into agnosticism, and deny the deity of Jesus. True gnosis keeps both sides in mind: Deity and humanity.

To truly know THE Word of God (Jesus) in all His humanity and in all His deity, we need to study the Word of God. We also need the help of the Holy Spirit. I like the Old English wording of this verse—Ye have an unction [charisma] from the Holy One, and ye know [gnosis] all things (1 John 2:20).

So read your Bible, but not just to read your Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to make THE Word known to you. Live in the balance of gnosis as you get to know Jesus more deeply and personally.

This post is a part of our series studying our foundational beliefs. If you would like to read more about the first foundational beliefs we have discussed, check out this post on the inspiration of Scripture, and this post on the Trinity.

How To Grow Your Wisdom

wisdom-brings-harmonyDr. Luke is a great “noticer.” Twice he notices and records something about the early life of Jesus that gives us great insight for growing in a wholly healthy way.

First of all, Luke tells us how Jesus grows (check out my thoughts on this by clicking here), and then he begins to zero-in on the four areas in which Jesus grew. The first thing Dr. Luke notes is Christ growing in wisdom (see Luke 2:40 & 52).

Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom. In fact, lots of people have knowledge without ever having wisdom. But we have to remember that you cannot get wisdom without getting knowledge.

The Greek language as a couple of different words for knowledge:

  • ginosko = head knowledge; information; belief that something is true
  • oida = experiential knowledge; belief in the knowledge you have

Let me give you a quick example. One time my facilities team was overseeing the reinstallation of our zip line from our 30-foot-high ropes course. This zip line stretched some 500 feet from the platform on top of the ropes course all the way down a big hill. After the zip line was replaced, our facilities guys believed that they had successfully connected the zip line. But only Phil believed in their work enough to put on a harness, connect to the zip line, and jump off the platform!

In order to grow in wisdom, we have to have good information (ginosko) to work with. Then we have to test this knowledge in our personal lives (oida). Only this will help us develop wisdom that can be applied to our every-day lives.

Otherwise, Oswald Chambers notes this: “We do not think on the basis of Christianity at all. We are taught to think like pagans for six days a week and to reverse the order for one day, consequently in critical moments we think as pagans and our religion is left in the limbo of the inarticulate.”

Often times the Holy Spirit will use the Bible, or a sermon, or the advice from a friend, or even a “slip of the tongue” to alert us to thoughts that aren’t healthy. Jesus tells us that the so-called “slip of the tongue” is actually a tip off to what’s really in our hearts (see Matthew 12:34). Solomon counsels us to guard our hearts and minds (Proverbs 4:23), and then Paul builds on the guarding theme to tell us to capture our thoughts and make sure they line-up with God’s Word (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is what develops God-pleasing wisdom. If we don’t constantly grow in this area, we will hold back growth in every other area of our life—physical health, spiritual health, and emotional health, but growing in wisdom brings harmony to all of these areas.

So ask yourself:

  • Am I getting good information?
  • Am I capturing my thoughts to make sure they are healthy?
  • Am I applying what I am learning?

God wants to grow wisdom in you! May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 13:21).

Thursdays With Oswald—Is Your Religion Rotten?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Is Your Religion Rotten?

      No man can redeem his own soul, or give himself a new heredity; that is the work of the sovereign grace of God. Man has nothing to do with Redemption, it is God’s “bit”; but God cannot give a man a good character, that is not God’s business, nor is it an inevitable thing. God will give us what we cannot give ourselves, a totally new heredity (see Luke 11:13). God will put the disposition of His Son, Holy Spirit, into any man who asks, then on that basis man has to work out a holy character. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you….” [Philippians 2:12]

      If your religion does not make you a better man, it is a rotten religion. The test of true religion is when it touches these four things—food, money, sex and mother earth. These things are the test of a right sane life with God, and the religion that ignores them or abuses them is not right. … A man needs to hold a right attitude to all these things by means of his personal relationship to God.

From Shade Of His Hand

God gives Christians a new heredity—a new way of looking at life through a relationship with Jesus Christ—by placing His Holy Spirit in us. That, as Chambers says, is God’s bit.

What we do with this new heredity—this new way of looking at life—is our bit.

So… how are you doing? Does your relationship with Jesus Christ help you handle food, money, sex and mother earth in God-honoring ways? Is the Holy Spirit able to correct your attitude so it aligns with the biblical viewpoint on these topics?

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, your religion is true. If not, Chambers says you have “a rotten religion.”

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