Sunday, July 14, 2019

Wonder Why They Hate Us?





It’s not uncommon to hear Christians complain about feeling persecuted when featured on TV or other public forums. They rattle off a bunch of reasons why they feel like they are being attacked or discriminated against because of their faith. Some of those are valid. For example, Christians believe marriage is a union entered into at God’s will. So, it stands to reason that Christians would be against gay marriage, since the Bible tells us homosexuality is a sin. While it may not be the job of Christians to force the rest of the nation into believing that, it should certainly be the right of Christians to not hold an inherently sinful act such as a gay wedding inside God’s house. Others outside the Faith believe that stance is discriminatory on the part of Christians and use it as a reason to rail against Christianity. Other complaints Christians make are not so valid. For example, teaching Christian doctrine is not why public grade schools exist, so Christians have no reason to feel slighted because those schools don’t teach things like creationism alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The idea that Christians will be persecuted for their faith is Biblical. Jesus told his disciples as much.

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. - Matthew 10:22
More than that, Jesus told his disciples that their relationship with Him will be the source of that hate and persecution.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. - John 15:18-20
If you read the New Testament, you’ll see that Jesus’ words came true. His followers were attacked, imprisoned, and in some cases killed solely for spreading the Gospel. It’s easy to read the Bible and believe that dynamic has persisted until today, and in some ways it has, but we must be careful. In the Bible, Christians were seen as a cult of heretics by most other groups. Christianity has come a long way since then. At times Christians have been the dominant power in the world, and those Christians weren’t always the loving followers of God that Jesus said they should be. In some ways, things haven’t changed today. That raises the question. Do people hate modern Christians because we are too much like Jesus, or is the problem now that we are not enough like Jesus? Sensitive Christians may think the very question is insulting, but it’s one that needs to be asked.

Just look at the things Christians are associated with now. Many vocal Christians are ok with what is happening in the camps at the U.S. southern border. Regardless of your feelings about the politics of immigration, no Christian should be happy with the abuse and poor treatment that many people, particularly children are facing. Jesus also had strong instructions about how children should be treated (Matthew 18:10). Yet, many Christians are very vocal about defending the camps, and some even go so far as to invoke Jesus’ name when they do it. Take your pick from the issues that we face today whether it be the legality of abortion, wars with various nations, or the fight over healthcare, and you will certainly find Christians that boldly take the side on the issue that is devoid of love and far from the philosophy that Jesus spread. Those people aren’t taken simply as representatives for themselves. They are seen as spokesmen and spokeswomen for Christianity in general. Whether that is fair or not, it doesn’t change the fact that Christians are becoming more and more associated with callousness and hatred, which are the exact opposite of the qualities that Christians should show.

The problem isn’t just the words Christians speak or the stances they take. Many times it is about things Christians do. Consider a recent incident with Taylor Burch, a blind man that was kicked out of a church in South Carolina because he brought a service animal. The very idea that a church would remove a disabled person should seem ridiculous to any Christian. That certainly isn’t the way Jesus treated people who came to him with infirmities, but apparently such an act is not unthinkable to some Christians in today’s world. Unfortunately, even if every Christian doesn’t think Mr. Burch’s treatment was repulsive, many non-Christians do. A website titled the Friendly Athiest reported on the incident and ended the article with the following:

Jesus healed the blind, but this church kicks them out.

Hell, the service dog was doing more to help the blind that the staff at that church.

The only good news is that Burch found out within five minutes that this church wasn’t worth his time. Some people spend years in a congregation before they figure that out.

Those words should feel like a punch to the gut for any real Christian. We are supposed to be representatives of Jesus. Our lives and actions should bring people to him. The idea that we may be the very thing that is driving people away from Christianity should convict us to the core.




Yes, there may be backlash against Christianity today, but some of it just might be deserved. If you consider yourself a Christian, then be careful about what you say and do. The Bible tells us that people hating you because of your association with Jesus is a good thing. However, people hating Jesus because of his association with you is most certainly not.

Chris Lawyer

Monday, July 1, 2019

Armor of God



In our attempts to live according to God’s way, we are often put to the test by a variety of things that, at times, seem almost designed to pull us away from Him. To some extent, the effort to live right is comparable to a battle. So, it is fitting that when Paul explains how we are equipped to deal with the things set against us, he describes the tools given to us in terms of armament. If we are to have any chance in the fight against the things that oppose us, we must put on the Armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. – Ephesians 6:10-13

Paul didn’t leave the meaning of the metaphor unclear. He explained which spiritual tool makes up each piece of the armor. It would be beneficial for all of us to understand which tool given to us is meant to play what role.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:14-17

Going out of order a little, let’s start with the helmet. The singular function of a helmet is to protect the head. Our heads are where our brains are located. As a result they are the most vital parts of our body and also the parts where the most crucial damage can be done if attacked. Paul compares the helmet to salvation. He is telling us that our salvation is what protects us from the most dangerous opposition, the opposition that can literally mean the end for us. Salvation is what wards off the things that would drag us straight to Hell if we aren’t properly equipped.

While attacks to our heads would be the most devastating, the head is a small target and hard to hit. You may have seen action movies where the heroes are always landing perfect headshots that instantly end the battle. That’s not reality. There is a reason soldiers and police are trained to aim for the torso. It’s a bigger target and thus where we are most vulnerable. The breastplate is the part of the armor that protects the torso. Paul says that righteousness is what plays that role. Righteousness is what protects us where we are most vulnerable. That vulnerability may be different for each person. For some it could be sexual lust or susceptibility to drugs and alcohol. For others, it may be rage or dishonesty. For most of us, we are highly vulnerable to a mixture of sins. The Bible is telling us that seeking righteousness is how we rise above those things. As we cling to righteousness, we find something that allows us to rise above the sinful things that threaten to pull us down.

A foot soldier may find himself traversing a variety of different terrains, some very harsh. For that reason, sturdy footwear is also an important part of a soldier’s armament. Our lives may take us many different places and put us in a variety of different situations, some good and some that may be dangerous to us. Paul tells us that the Gospel, particularly the readiness that comes from it, protects us in the same way footwear protects the soldier. No matter what the environment in which we find ourselves placed, if we are being led by the Gospel we will be able to walk through it without fear of injury or impedance.

A belt may seem like an odd thing for Paul to call out, but remember belts are used to hold the different pieces of armor together and to provide a means for holding things that need to be carried. Paul says the belt represents truth. Truth ties everything together. All the different pieces work as a unified defense only if we accept and promote the truth, which is that Jesus was the Son of God and He died for our sins so that we may live.

The last two pieces are bonuses of sorts. Technically, they aren’t armor, but they are essential for anyone who wants to be fully armed. The first is the shield. Like the armor, its primary use is for defense. However, whereas armor acts passively, the shield can be used to actively defend against attacks. According to Paul, the shield represents faith. Our faith isn’t something that just rests on us like armor. It is something we have to be proactive about using. We must make intentional use of faith as we live our lives, and when we do we will be able to defend ourselves from the attacks launched at us from both near and far.

Lastly, there is the sword. A sword is a weapon and typically associated with offense more than defense, however, in truth, it can play both roles. Sure it can be used to strike out at an enemy, but it can also be used to parry and block the incoming strikes from the enemy. Paul says the sword is the word of God. This actually isn’t the only time that the Bible compares God’s word to a sword. Hebrews 4:12 says:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Hebrews verse also shows the duality of the word as a sword. Knowledge and understanding of the word can equip us to block out the sinful things that could lead us astray from our walk with God. However, by sharing the word with others, we are effectively using it to cut down the evil influences around us. When we wield the word, we protect ourselves from without and within.

Historically, armor and weapons were expensive, so only nobles and other wealthy warriors were able to afford and carry the best weaponry and armor. When it comes to the armament provided to us by God, it’s all free. Once we decide to follow Him, the greatest armor in the world becomes standard issue. The world is full of wickedness. Do yourself a favor, strap on the full armor of God and wear it wherever you go. Only then can you be confident that you’ll be protected from everything the world has to throw at you.


Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of www.billosborne.com

Monday, June 24, 2019

Our Father



We recently celebrated Father’s Day. All the Believers that went to church on Father’s Day undoubtedly heard some reference to God being our heavenly father. There is good reason for that. The Bible makes it clear that we are to look at God in that way. It’s no surprise that Jesus, the Son of God, referred to him almost exclusively as Father. However, that relational term was never limited to his use. When he instructed others on how they should speak to God, he recited what we now refer to as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The first part of that prayer is an acknowledgement of God as our father. Again, for Believers, that connection shouldn’t be hard to see. We understand that God is supposed to be at the head of our lives just as the Bible says the father is supposed to be the head of the family (Ephesians 5:23). God provided commandments for our betterment just like the Bible says fathers set the rules that are intended to set the children on the right path (Ephesians 6:4). When those commandments are broken God will correct out of love, just as the Bible says a father is expected to be the primary disciplinarian (Proverbs 13:24). The parallels go on and on, and that’s no accident. The writers of the Bible purposefully gave us verses that detail what a father should be, and that role is supposed to be largely reflective of the role God plays for us.

For nonbelievers, God as a father might not be easy to see. From their standpoint, even if God does exist, he doesn’t make himself visible to us in an obvious way. To them, at best, he is an absentee father. How can one believe in a father they can’t see, hear, or touch? Truthfully, we see that every day in the natural world. Many of us for some reason or another are forced into a position where we aren’t able to interact in a direct way with our earthly fathers either. Maybe work has taken the father away. Maybe that father has fallen on hard times and isn’t able to be present as desired. Maybe that father has passed on and can no longer be a physical presence in the lives of his children. The severing of the bond between father and child is particularly final in that last example, at least from an earthly standpoint. Still, even in that case, the children are able to hold their fathers in their hearts. Those men may no longer be present, but for good fathers, the remnants of their love and dedication to their children should be everywhere. They live on in the memories created, the lessons taught, and the paths opened up for their children.

The same is true for God. Although, we don’t see Him, he’s right there providing for us. We may not hear Him, but he still managed to provide instructions for us on how to live the right way. We can’t touch Him, but he’s still able to carry us and provide support just when we need it most. God may not be here with us in the physical, but just as with an earthly father that has passed on, if we look around in our lives, we can easily see the signs of his presence and love. Still, there is no question that belief in our heavenly father requires faith. Otherwise, we may not be able to see those signs.

Is that really so different from how we deal with our earthly fathers? Of course, we need no faith to acknowledge the physical existence of our earthly fathers. Even in the case of so-called “deadbeat daddies,” the children are confident their fathers exist even if they’ve never met those fathers. That is different than the dynamic that exists between ourselves and God. Still, we put a lot of faith in our earthly fathers. We believe they will always be there for us. We believe they will love and support us no matter what. We believe they will make the right decisions when it comes to our lives, particularly when we are children. We believe all of that even knowing that our earthly fathers are fallible, and we’ve see them fall short. Fatherhood is difficult, and we understand that enough to allow for the shortcomings of our earthly fathers, as we should. That is an act of faith. If we can give such faith to people that we know can fall short, we should be able to extend some of that faith to a father that will never fail and won’t just be there to guide us in this life but into the next one as well.

The willingness to sacrifice for his children is perhaps the most important trait of a good father. God sent Jesus, his very own earthly image, to this world to live amongst us, suffer for us, die for us, and take on all of our sin into himself. If that’s not sacrifice, what is? Every Believer wants a closer relationship with God. We acknowledge Him as our risen Lord and Master, as we should, but if we only think of Him in those terms, then we may be robbing ourselves. He wants a more personal and intimate relationship with us, the kind like what only exists between parent and child. We can all have that kind of relationship with Him when we realize that before everything else, He is our father.



Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of  www.crosspointchurchonline.org

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Don't Look Back


The Bible is full of stories that, at some times, seem too incredible to be true. As Believers, we know that God is capable of anything, so there is nothing that should be off the table as far as what’s possible. Still, when we go through our daily lives and fail to see anything as miraculous as some of what appears in the Bible, it can, inevitably, lead us to question whether certain things are true. Take the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-28). Given the horrors that we know have been perpetrated in this world, the idea of a city where the people are so immoral and wicked that God would want to destroy the whole city may not be all that unbelievable. Still, you’d probably be hard pressed to come up with a city quite as bad as Sodom or Gomorrah in today’s world.

We’ve all heard news reports that give us a glimpse into how far into wickedness humanity can sink. If not for rule of law and some of the authorities in place, who’s to say just how bad things could get. There are certainly cities in today’s world that it would be wise for outsiders to avoid. Such was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah. Some, in an effort to push their own beliefs, try to use the story to attack homosexuals claiming that the cities were destroyed because of homosexual activity within them. While it is true, that homosexuality was one of the sins practiced by the citizens of the doomed cities, the Bible makes it clear that the city was rife with more than just one set of bad actions.
Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” - Genesis 18:20-21
Still, as bad as the two cities might have been, it’s still hard for many of us to accept that God destroyed both cities overnight. Whole cities being snuffed out so suddenly? Such a thing must be far too incredible to be true, or is it? Truthfully, cities being destroyed seemingly overnight shouldn’t be unbelievable to anyone. It’s happened more than once throughout history. We have archaeological evidence showing that an ancient Greek city called Helike was almost instantly swallowed by the earth due to an earthquake. Neapolis was a Roman colony in North Africa and was sunk by a tsunami. You might have heard of Pompeii, which was destroyed overnight by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Did you know that another city, Herculaneum, was also destroyed by the same exact eruption at the same time? Suddenly, what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah doesn’t seem too far fetched.

What may be more important than believing all the details of a Biblical story, is understanding what God is trying to tell us with the story. The most obvious lesson from this story is that sinfulness ultimately leads to death and destruction. Truthfully, that is one of the underlying themes of the Bible itself. We see the grounds for it laid down as early as the story of Adam and Eve where their sin results in them being expelled from the Garden of Eden. That theme continues all the way to the end of the Bible in Revelation where the people that refuse to walk towards Christ and away from their sinful ways are given their final judgement. That second example also mirrors the other major lesson from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah - when we are moving away from sin, we should never look back.
When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” - Genesis 19:16-17
God allowed Lot and his family to escape destruction. They were instructed not to look back. His wife couldn’t help herself and did not heed the warning. She looked back and lost her life as a result. Right away, one thing to learn is that when God sends instructions to you, it’s best to heed them. Your very life may depend on it. However, the deeper point is that when we are moving away from stages in our lives where we were immersed in sin, we should keep our eyes on the salvation that we are moving towards and not look back at the destruction we are escaping. Walking a righteous path can be difficult. As we attempt it, we will encounter more than enough temptations that threaten to take us off that path. The last thing we want to do is make our walk more difficult. However, when we look back at what we’re leaving, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We sinned in the past because part of us enjoyed it, and while the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to move beyond that sin, our flesh still attempts to pull us back towards it. The last thing any of us should want to do is add extra temptation to our lives by exposing ourselves to things we’ve been blessed enough to move past. It’s often said that addicts are never really cured, so they should never get too comfortable being in the vicinity of the source of their addictions. In many ways, we are addicted to sin, so if we have managed to move away from it, then we should keep that distance. For some, that’s hard because moving away from sin may mean losing things we hold dear. Following Jesus may cost us favorite pastimes, friends, family, and other worldly sources of joy. Those things and people may be hard to give up, but we have to remember that whatever space is opened in our lives by removing the sinful influences can be filled by adding Godly influences. Ultimately, whatever we lose is nothing compared to what we’ll gain when God rewards us for our choice to follow Jesus. It’s just as Paul said:
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:13-14
If you’ve managed to put some of your sinful ways behind you, then make sure you do what is necessary to ensure that’s where they stay, and your trip towards your true goal will be that much easier.


Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of https://me.me

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Bible Character Spotlight: Adam



The Bible gives us many stories that feature a variety of characters. Most of us can name several of these characters and tell about their lives or their feats, but sometimes the significance of the people and what they represent gets lost. For that reason, it may be useful to take a look at certain characters in the Bible and think about them not just as they fit in their own stories, but also what role they play in the story that the Bible as a whole is telling.

Let’s start at the beginning with Adam. He was the first human being, and along with Eve, was the progenitor of humanity. He was not the first living thing made though. God made all the animals before Man, but then made Man to rule over all the living things of the Earth. In order for Man to rule over all other things, God had to set us apart, and his way of doing that is interesting.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” - Genesis 1:26
God set us apart from the animals by making us like Him. A little later in Genesis, the Bible clarifies exactly what God did.
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7
Anyone who has taken a biology class knows that science tells us that all living things on Earth are made from the same basic building blocks. That’s reasonable. God made all life. The Bible tells us that he made us from the dust of the ground, in other words, the basic elements found in the Earth itself. It’s likely he did that for all the other living things too, but he did something different for Man. He breathed life directly into Adam. God imparted part of His very essence into Man. What does that mean? Some may believe that by “breathing life” directly into Adam, God was imparting what we would call the human soul. The Bible doesn’t specifically say, but we know that when He created Adam, He set him apart from all else residing on the Earth. God favored Adam more, but he also expected more from Adam. Adam and Eve were the only of His Earthly creations to which God gave commands. Adam was instructed not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but we know from the story that Adam and Eve did just that.

You may have heard some jokingly blame Adam and Eve for all the evil in the world, but that misses the point. We are no different than them. Had any one of us been in Adam and Eve’s place, we too would have sinned at some point. Adam wasn’t just the first human. He was the archetype of humanity. Whatever strengths and weaknesses you believe you see in him in the story, also exist in us. For example, just look at his reaction to God’s revelation of his sin.
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” - Genesis 3:11-12
Adam knew what he was and wasn’t supposed to do. His sin was his and his alone, but as soon as he is confronted with his sin, the first thing he tries to do is shift the blame to Eve. Isn’t that just like us? We have no problem enjoying the “fruits” of our sins, but as soon as those sins come to light, we waste no time trying to find someone or something to blame for us falling short.

The story of Adam shows us that weakness was ingrained in us from the start. That begs a question though. Why would God make us flawed? He didn’t. He made us of the Earth and gave us a choice between Him and the Earth, and too often we use our choice to indulge in the things of the Earth. It is easy to lead us astray and difficult to keep us on a righteous path. Adam was the first example of that fact, but we see it reinforced throughout the Bible and, if we’re honest, even in our own lives. So what is the solution?

Well in the Genesis story, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden. Their lives became much more difficult as part of their punishment, but they managed to make a life for themselves in the world as it is, just like we do every day. That was not the last time the Bible mentioned Adam though. His name was actually invoked thousands of years later by Paul.
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. - 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Jesus is the “last Adam” to which Paul is referring. Just as Adam is the model for what we humans are, Jesus was the model for what we can be. Just as Adam was ruled by his Earthly bounds and fell victim to his weakness. Jesus was committed to Heaven, and because of His sacrifice and the imparting of His spirit into everyone that believes in Him, we too, can live according to God’s will.

We have to understand that when we are born, we are all like Adam, living beings given great potential and set apart by God, but ultimately weak and flawed. We are prone to sin, and on our own merits, we cannot escape that. However, the new Adam came to Earth to help rise above that weakness. Even as we accept the new Adam and attempt to move beyond our limitations, let us not forget the story of the first Adam. As the well known saying goes “Those who forget about the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Chris Lawyer
Image courtesy of WordPress.com

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Don't Worry


Most people, Believers and nonbelievers alike, understand that believing in and following God requires faith. Jesus spent much of his time instilling the importance of faith into his disciples. Therefore, building and demonstrating faith have always been central parts of the Christian experience. As Christians, we all have likely been exposed to a wide variety of examples of Believers demonstrating or speaking on their faith. Some of those examples may have been relatively routine such as the testimonies we often hear where Believers explain how God rewarded their faith or provided in a way that strengthened their faith. We’ve also seen or heard about examples of faith that sound almost miraculous such as with the faith healers that claim they are able to heal infirmities and sickness through their faith in Jesus, just as was done by the apostles in the Bible. You may have even heard or seen more extreme examples of displays of faith like the church services of the snake handlers in West Virginia. Part of their worship experience often involves dancing and praising God while handling live poisonous snakes. They believe that God keeps them from being bitten or will save them even in the event that they are bitten.

In all those cases, if the people are sincere, the acts they perform certainly do demonstrate faith in an undeniable way. However, as is often the case, we Christians have a tendency to overcomplicate things. The snake handler example is certainly proof of that. While exercising faith in God and acting according to His will may expose us to danger at times, the Bible does not tell us to go around needlessly putting ourselves in danger just to show that God will keep us safe. In fact, at least one example in the Bible suggests such acts are wrong for putting God to the test. When Satan tests Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11), one of his challenges was as follows:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
- Matthew 4:5-7
The truth is that we don’t have to perform death defying acts to show that we have faith in God. Our faith also doesn’t have to revolve around isolated incidents where God seemed to really shine for us. Living every day in Christ is and should be considered an act of faith. Our lives are full of ups and downs and, at times, those downs feel far more prominent and numerous. It is at those low times when we are most able to demonstrate our faith. For many of us, our natural response is to worry and fret when faced with challenges, especially in the case of those that seem insurmountable. God understands that tendency in us and Jesus himself addressed it.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? - Matthew 6:25-27
Jesus was letting his followers know that God takes care of his people and that is something of which anyone who follows Him can be certain. Whenever we face hardship, we need to have the faith to move forward knowing that God will take care of us and keep us no matter what. Of course that’s easier said than done. Facing challenges such as bills you can’t pay, a troubling medical diagnosis, or wayward children (just to name a few) and not worrying might seem like an impossible task. That’s where faith comes into play. When you truly believe that God will take care of you, those things simply won’t bear the same weight. To some that may sound far-fetched, but is it really? Every day we put ourselves in precarious positions and do not even think about the dangers associated because of the faith we put into a variety of things.

Most of us find ourselves in a car at some point, either driving or riding. It is commonplace, and we don’t fret or worry about the possibility of dying in an accident every time we hit the road. Instead, we put our faith in the ability of the driver, in the attentiveness of others on the road, and in the safety measures installed in today’s vehicles. We know for a fact that every single one of those things can and do fail. We know that people are injured and even killed in car accidents. We know that every time we get into a car, we will be facing some degree of danger. Still, we accept it because commuting is something that most of us have to do, and our faith in those things mentioned before is strong enough to alleviate most of our fears. Why is the same not true with our faith in God? Why is it so difficult for us to go through our lives without worry despite knowing the troubles that lay around the corner? Maybe our faith in seat belts is stronger than our faith in God. We can see seat belts and touch them. Most of us have even felt them pull tight when we’ve had to stop short for some reason or another. Some would say we have proof that seat belts work. Do you not also have proof that God works? Haven’t you been in situations where you did not see a way out only for God to deliver you? Haven’t you had needs that you didn’t know how you’d meet only for God to provide? In the times when God comes through for us, we are often quick to give him credit, but our memories are short. Instead of giving him credit in advance as we encounter the next crisis we worry instead. Those are the times when our faith should shine the most. Even when there is no sign of movement toward resolution of our problems our faith in God shouldn’t waver. After all, according to the Bible, faith at its purest exists precisely when we don’t see those signs.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

If we truly want to build and demonstrate faith, we don’t need to dance with snakes. Sometimes the simplest methods are the best methods. Just live. Live your life in obedience and free of worry knowing that God will make a way. When people see you face challenge after challenge undaunted, they will ask you how you do it.  Make sure to give God the credit. At that point, you can consider your faith demonstrated.
Chris Lawyer
Image courtesy of lapostexaminer.com

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Do Not Love the World



On this blog, we have talked a lot about love. We have good reason for that given the importance that the Bible puts on love. Along with faith, love is a fundamental part of every Believer’s walk. However, the Bible does not just put a lot of emphasis on what and who we should love. It is also clear about what we should not love.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1 John 2:15-16
These are strong words from John and they have led some to take strong measures in the way they live their lives. We see sects of Christianity where people live very simplistic and basic lifestyles in an effort to avoid the things that John mentions in this scripture. While such measures are certainly valid and fair, are they what God expects from all of us? The world has a lot to offer from music to art to sports and, for many, life might seem pretty empty if it meant abstaining from all those things. Believers should understand that life can never be empty if it is filled with God, but even still, many believers like and indulge in much the world has to offer. Is that wrong? Not exactly, but it may be worthwhile to explore what it means to love the world so that we understand where the line should be drawn. To truly love something or someone requires a number of things. Two of the most prominent are prioritization and commitment.

When we love, we inevitably give the subject of that love a higher priority in our lives. Most people would do things for their family that they would not necessarily do for a stranger. That is because most people love the members of their family and thus care more about the well-being of those family members. Even the Bible speaks about love in relational terms. For example it commands us to love God above all and love our fellow people as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). In other words, we should be giving God the highest priority and giving others the same priority that we give ourselves. For many, keeping those two commandments is hard enough. Learning to prioritize serving, praising, and obeying God over everything else in our lives takes effort. Overcoming our own selfishness enough to give the needs and desires of others equal priority to our own also takes work. How much more difficult would it be to do those things if we also loved the things of the world? Each of those worldly things would also require their priority. For example, Sunday is the primary day of worship for Christians. It is also the main day for NFL football. If a person loves football, how much more difficult is it for that person to give that day to the Lord? If a person loves acquiring and hoarding wealth, how much more difficult is it to give that wealth away to others who may need it more? The problem is not that we can’t enjoy some of the things the world has to offer. There is nothing wrong with liking some of the things the world offers, however when ‘liking’ is elevated to ‘loving’ then those worldly things become competition for that which is truly important – God and our fellow people.

Commitment is something that also coincides with love. When we hear that word we may think of weddings and other ceremonies that show our intent to commit ourselves to someone or something. However, committing to something doesn’t require such an overt display. At its base, commitment means investing some portion of ourselves into that to which we commit. When we are committed to something we stick with it even when such a course of action proves to be difficult. When we come to love something, we naturally commit to it in a way that we may not for other things. Going back to the football example, there are some who love the sport, so without fail they park themselves in front of the TV every Saturday and Sunday catching all the games they can. If anything or anyone gets in between them and watching those games, there may be problems. When you’ve committed yourself to something that strongly, it can be hard to break away to do anything else. That is troublesome when, as noted above, other things should be given greater priority.

However, there is another problem with committing ourselves to worldly things. As the verse from 1 John explained, sin is born from the things of the world. What if we’ve committed ourselves to something that causes us to sin? Jesus already told us how we should treat things that lead us to sin.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. - Matthew 5:29-30
That sounds gruesome, but Jesus’ point is that if there is anything in our lives that threatens to draw us away from walking a righteous path, we should remove that thing from our lives. That sounds easy, but it certainly isn’t for things that we love. Having a glass of wine everyday with dinner or for celebrations isn’t inherently sinful, but some of us can’t leave it there. Some of us love to drink. One glass inevitably leads to another and another may lead down a path to drunkenness. Drunkenness itself is a sinful state, but it can also lead to further sins. If you can’t drink without falling victim to that sin, then you shouldn’t drink, but anyone who loves alcohol and loves the feeling it gives knows how hard it is to give it up. When it comes to worldly things, we should not indulge in anything that we cannot give up immediately if that is what God wills. That requires us to never commit to any of those worldly things. Since commitment comes with love, it also means we can’t love any of those things.

Part of the difficulty associated with bringing people to the faith is the idea that Christians are against fun and can’t enjoy themselves. That is not true. The Bible doesn’t tell us to avoid everything the world has to offer. In fact, Paul suggests that we have to be flexible and sometimes engage those we want to reach on their own terms (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). That may mean walking a line of engaging in a worldly activity while avoiding sin all to reach someone in need of the Gospel. We Christians can enjoy some of the things this world has to offer, but we do have limits for that engagement. And there are things from which we have to abstain. That is a reality of living a Christ centered life versus a world centered life. It is also a reality that as we give up worldly things, we can happily replace them with godly things, and those are things that we can feel free to love to our heart’s content.

Chris Lawyer

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