Exploring the interplay between ortho-doxy (right belief) and ortho-praxy (right action)...

...and encouraging a life where these intertwined thoughts and deeds simply happen... by default.

31 October 2005

excuse me, do you have the time?

Recent world disasters (tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues, terrorism, war, hurricanes, etc.) have many people wondering about the 'end of the world' and whether or not we are close to it. I think it's good to talk about these things and have an answer for anyone that asks. Lots of Christians disagree about the timing and details, but I think there are a few things that we all can agree on that are really important.

1. Jesus is indeed coming back. (Acts 1:11, 1 Cor. 11:26, 1 Tim. 6:14-15, Tit. 2:13, Heb. 9:28)
Jesus was and is real. He really walked, talked, healed, ate, drank, spat, slept, prayed and much more on this very planet. He really was crucified, buried and resurrected. He really is coming again.

2. Nobody but the Father knows when it will happen. (Mt. 24:36, Acts 1:7)
This one should silence a lot of people, but unfortunately hasn't. The point is to be ready, not to obsess over when it will happen.

3. It will come 'like a thief in the night.' - (Mt. 24:43-44, 1 Thes. 5:24, 2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 3:3/16:15)
This means it will be a surprise, or happen very suddenly. Again, the emphasis is on being ready, not on trying to figure out when it will happen.

We're not the first people to wonder when the End is coming. Matter of fact, you could easily say that every generation since Christ ascended to heaven has expected Him to come back in their day. Various people over history have even had the nerve to try and predict the exact date or year of His return! They've been wrong, and more importantly, they've missed the point.

We were never expected to figure out when it will happen. We ARE expected to be ready. A popular Christian leader has well said, "We must BE READY as if His coming could happen at any moment, and MAKE READY as if His coming is a long way off."

I think the Enemy likes us to be distracted by the what, when or where. Therefore, we must remember to be more concerned with the who (Christ and others!) and the how (love!).

Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour...” - Matthew 25:13


25 October 2005

still hangin' on

"I'm hangin' on... you're all that's left to hold on to." - Bono in Red Hill Mining Town

Yesterday I had two conversations about relationships. You know, the romantic kind. Aren't they exciting? I mean, isn't the thrill of discovering that someone else is thinking about you just priceless? It's a little more than obvious that the human race is consumed with obtaining this feeling. I just saw an ad for yet another online dating company, mate1: intimate dating. What a joke! Intimate? Online?

Both of my conversations yesterday touched on the undeniable pain and misery of 'breaking up.' We talked about how all of your hopes and dreams come crashing down in mere seconds when this happens.

The common thread in my two discussions yesterday was this: both people I talked to shared with me the belief that we should never put our 'hopes and dreams' in anyone other than Jesus. All three of us were speaking from much experience as well. The thing about humans is that it's not a question of if they will let you down, it's a matter of when!

In a song called "Wedding Dress," Christian songwriter Derek Webb refers to 'lovers less wild' that draw us away from Jesus, the One who loved us (as another of his songs points out) 'to death.' He is the One who died for sinners. He is the One who won't take back His love. He is the One who will never cheat on you. He is the One who will patiently put up with your junk.

May you be able to say to Jesus, "I'm hangin' on... You're all that's left to hold on to."



17 October 2005

now that's relaxing

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
- Jesus in Matthew 11 (emphasis mine, and maybe Jesus, too)

For some people, this passage is refreshing, freeing and memorable. Others simply give it an affirming nod and move on. Others (if they're honest) might admit they're not sure what Jesus is getting at with all this talk about rest. Rest from WHAT? What does it mean to labor and be heavy laden?

Practically, we know that Jesus was referring to what Judaism had become. The Pharisees had placed too much emphasis on rituals and outward things. Jesus had a radically different way of life in mind. Still some of us may find it hard to see how this relates to us today. After all, only about 1% of the world's population is even Jewish.

There is a Pharisee inside all of us.

The Pharisee mindset has to do with proving your worth to God by doing good things. And not just doing them, but doing them better than others! Unfortunately, the Pharisee mindset often drives many really positive acts of ministry and Christian organisations. This 'philosophy of works' can slip into the minds of the most genuine Christians.

We must never mistake 'works' for 'fruit.' Fruit is a natural by-product of a relationship with Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. God Himself inspires, directs and empowers our actions. And these 'fruit-actions' never have anything to do with us getting the credit. 'Work-actions,' however, can be and are done without a relationship with Christ and have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all. As much as we may try to claim God's 'sponsorship' of our efforts, we really want the credit to go to us. We want to be known as 'spiritual' or 'a good, serving Christian.'

Fruit and Works, Relationship and Religion, Devotion and Duty. They often look the same to us, but to God, one is worthless and the other priceless.



10 October 2005

the gospel blimp: a review

I've just finished a book called, "The Gospel Blimp, by Joseph Bayly." It was published in 1960, but it's amazingly relevant to Christians today.

The story begins with a group of typical, white, middle-class, protestant Americans having a get-together in one of their back yards. The discussion turns to evangelism, and after some time, an idea is floated that would change their lives for the next few years: a Gospel Blimp. The proposed Blimp would be visible to the whole city and would carry a simple Christian message. They look across the fence and notice the neighbors smoking and drinking beer as usual. This all-too-familiar sight provides the necessary motivation and soon all agree to commit to making the Blimp everything it needs to be to evangelise their city. They especially pray that the next door neighbors would be the first to be saved through the blimp.

Over the next few years, the group sees International Gospel Blimps, Incorporated (I.G.B.I) grow and develop far further than they ever expected it to grow, finding support from many Christians. Prayer meetings, publicity personnell, PA systems, lighted signs, the works. The I.G.B.I. committee experiences ups and downs, family trouble, interior conflict and resolution, sacrifice, success, tradgedy and a host of other twists and turns. Possibly the worst of these is that the couple with the next door neighbors eventually leave the committee altogether. That doesn't hinder the commitment of the rest of the committee. They press on.

Eventually, the story closes when the couple that had left invites the committee over to their house again for a BBQ. Also invited to the BBQ were the next-door neighbors. Only they had become Christians. The various committee members are eager to hear the long-awaited story of how God used the Blimp to touch their hearts and draw them to faith. The committee is shocked when the neighbors said that God hadn't used the Blimp to save them. They instead had been deeply moved by their neighbors recently increased involvement in their lives. Their love and care for them through some tough times had been a huge witness to the love of Christ. Toward the end of the BBQ, one of the committee members thinks he will take this golden opportunity to invite the new Christian husband to the Blimp hangar the next morning to help others with their work on the Blimp. The neighbor has to decline because he has plans with a couple of his neighbors to go bowling.

I recommend reading this book in it's entirety, because I think it vividly portrays how many sincere, genuine Christians can be a bit misguided in their efforts. An essential ingredient for Christian witness has always been and will always be love. Selfless love. Even if you have to miss a few Gospel Blimp prayer meetings, or not be involved altogether.



4 October 2005

let's see some I.D. please

One of the most bizzare notions in the entire universe is also one of the most important doctrines of Christianity. It's the idea of a new identity.

The over-abundance of self-help books, 'inspirational' seminars and 'inner-peace' tapes/CD's only begin to show our human obsession with life change. We want it. We crave it. We need it. We know something is wrong inside of us, and we will try anything to make it better.

Unlike the comforting, feel-good, wholeness, positive message of these mediums, the message of the Cross is offensive. The Cross doesn't hide our weakness, but painfully exposes it. The Cross doesn't try to fix our broken lives, but ends them! In the book, Grace Walk, Steve McVey rightly points out that we don't get our lives changed, but get them ex-changed!

At times we forget that the Empty Tomb and the wonderful promises of newness of life come only after the Cross and it's shame. Humanity would love to have the power of the Empty Tomb, but is too proud to humble itself to bow to the Cross. Take a fresh look at the following verses:

Jesus in Luke 14:27, "The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple." - (Phillips)

Jesus in Mark 8:35, "Whoever wants to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's shall save it." - (New American Standard)

The Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me; and the life which I now live in the body I live through faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up to death on my behalf" - (Weymouth)

Paul in 2 Timothy 2:11, "This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him." - (New King James)

This dying is not a once in a lifetime occurance, either! For God's life and power to flow through us, we must take Jesus' advice in this last verse:

Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." - (King James Version)