What is a Christian?

Most everybody has an opinion on who is and who is not a Christian. Christianity is even tossed about in political circles, as in “we are a Christian nation,” We make up our own definition of “Christian.” It may or may not have anything to do with what God’s definition of what it means to be a Christian.

Christians are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. They realize that they are sinful and that they are in need of a Savior a Messiah. Also, they have confessed those sins to God and are repentant (they desire to turn to a new way). They declare Jesus to be the Son of God. They have invited Jesus into their hearts and have accepted Jesus by faith as their Lord and Savior.

What isn’t necessary to be a Christian

Let’s mention what is not necessary to be a Christian. You don’t have to be a member of a church, or even go to church. You don’t have to pay money. It is not necessary to earn your right standing with God. You don’t have to be a member of a political party. Your social standing doesn’t matter, nor does your education matter. Your bank account, or lack of bank account doesn’t mean anything.

It is really quite simple to be Christian

It’s really very simple. Some may try to create a complicated set of rules and regulations, or say that a person has to meet certain standards of behavior, or demonstrate in some way that they are worthy of God’s love. It’s just not that way at all.

A Christian is just a person who believes in Jesus, that He was the Son of God, that he died on the cross to cover our sins and that He rose again. Even if they have never read the Bible or gone to church, they can have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.

Moses shows us how simple it is

If you want another look at this, just go to the Old Testament and the book of Exodus. The Israelites were roaming the desert and many were bitten by poisonous snakes.

God told Moses to take some brass and form a snake, place it atop a pole and tell the people that whomever looked at this snake would not be harmed by a snake bite. God did not offer proof, just what Moses was told to do.

Those who accepted God’s promise, by faith, followed the instructions. Those who choose not to believe, turned away. The ones who exercised faith survived. Those without faith died. All they had to do was accept the solution by faith and look at the snake on the pole. Nothing more.

Jesus died for our sins

Christians accept, by faith, that Jesus died for our sins. They accept by faith that He rose from the dead. They accept by faith that they need to allow Jesus to come into their heart and be the Lord of their life, they need to follow Him. Those are the basics.

The Bible offers a rich description of the history of man’s relationship with God. God reveals His nature and character through the Word. Therefore, he delights in Christians gathering with other Christians to worship and grow. Church is a good thing. Meeting with other Christians is a good thing. But the most important thing, the essential, is to have faith.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It really is that simple. That’s what a Christian is.

Jesus Both God and Man, Offensive or Delightful?

Jesus both God and man: Belief in Biblical Christianity is a dividing line between family members, coworkers, neighbors and even nations. In some cases the mere mention of the Lord Jesus Christ is bitterly offensive and so we will briefly examine the chasm that is as far as east is from west. Jesus of Nazareth is probably the most offensive person in human history for some people.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6)

On the surface, that is either the most arrogant lie ever told, or it is the truth. Think about it. I have met people with a rather high opinion of themselves, but never a person who actually believed that no one can come before God unless He says so. It’s difficult for people to believe this because they are thinking in human terms.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)

The biblical prophets foretold of a savior coming someday. Some in the century leading up to Jesus’ birth imagined a powerful, military man, who would lead an army against the Romans. But He came in the most humble of ways and His first bed was a manger.

Jewish leaders rejected Jesus

The Jewish leaders rejected Him. All of the clues were in the writings of the prophets, or the psalms of David. His story began to unfold in Genesis and left off at the end of Revelation. He never went after the Romans; never even challenged them.

He did, however, rebuke the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and arrogance. The Jewish elite were threatened. He was viewed as a heretic, not a Messiah. Jesus was the most improbable one to forgive sins, heal the sick and open the door for all of us to enter into the Kingdom of God. He was fully man and fully God, and thus a problem.

Gnostics didn’t believe Jesus was both God and man

The Gnostics believed that the flesh was evil and the spirit was good. Therefore fully man and fully God was not possible. They railed against it and tried to subvert the Gospel message. Much of the New Testament was written in response to that deadly deception.

Some people still believe that there may have been an historical Jesus, but He was just a good man and a good teacher. They are also wrong.

The only thing we know about Jesus comes from the Bible, so they reject the Bible and do not believe that it is as an authoritative source. Even some churches have stretched the truth so far as to water down the truth to the point of the Gospel message becomes meaningless.

Jesus has always caused anger

For the last 2000 years Jesus has been at the cross-hairs of non-believers. The mere mention causes anger. Saying His name invokes the worst of human behavior. He is either who He says He is, or He’s a liar or a mental defective.

The Bible clearly states that we are saved by the grace of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe in Christ, faith in what Christ has done for us and the desire to turn around and follow another path are the simple elements of Christian belief.

Nicodemus was a pharisee but also saw Jesus as the Messiah

As Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel and a highly respected scholar, saw the truth in Jesus and was amazed. Unlike his fellow members of the Jewish ruling class, Nicodemus saw the Messiah, not a rogue preacher or lunatic.

But it was the rest of the leaders wanted Jesus to die, because He was bad for their business. Jesus would cause people to turn away from the Temple and stop making sacrifices, causing a collapse in what was a rather lucrative enterprise.

People would come to the temple to buy animals for the sacrifice. They came from all over and spend a lot of money. For Jesus to come in and interrupt commerce was a very bad thing. The temple, the house of God, was a money-making front.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, (Mark 11:15)

You can see why Jesus was offensive. Even at the very beginning of His ministry, He stepped on toes in the synagogue.

…and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:17-19)

Pharisees could not accept the divinity of Jesus as both God and man

The Rabbis were incensed. They wanted to kill Jesus. Later in His ministry, Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead and the Pharisees formally began to plot how to kill him.

Even today, in some places, the reading of the Bible and following Jesus is against the law and punishable by death. He remains the controversial figure he was during His life on earth. Nothing has changed.

Old and Disposable

It’s hard to get old in America. People become old and disposable as they age. You reach a certain age and your employer wants to push you out the door in favor of somebody younger. That can happen to people as young as 40. If you are 50, 60 or 70, it gets increasingly more difficult to be taken seriously.

When God called Moses to take His people out of bondage, the poor man was 80 years old. He led the Israelites for 40 years. That would never happen today. America is a disposable society.

What do we value?

It gets down to what we value. We worship money, status and celebrity. Church attendance today is not what it was years ago. There is no truth in this post-truth era. Everything is relative. Think about that for a moment.

Church folk regard the Bible as the inspired Word of God, inerrant in it’s original form, that is the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic scrolls. From those come countless translations. Then come the paraphrases, not really translations but more like interpretations of translations.

So, the point is more and more people do not view the Bible as authoritative, just a nice book of stories.

Absolute truth is essential

So what’s the fuss? Truth is important. Absolute truth is essential. What God says is the truth and to be taken to heart. We don’t get to define truth, although a common phrase gives us a way out of any conversation… “Well, what’s true for you may not be true for me.” When saying that about the Bible a person is actually saying, “What’s true for God isn’t necessarily true for me.”

Good news, God does not throw away older people

God does not throw away older people. The truth is God uses older people to counsel younger people. But even in churches, older adults are pushed aside. God seems to see things differently.

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:32)

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. (Psalm 71:9)

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalm 71:18)

The simple truth is older adults have experience, wisdom and depth of knowledge. In our culture, that doesn’t really matter. “They’re old. What do they know?” God gave Moses a whole lifetime of experience before He called him to ministry. That wasn’t an accident.

What is the church?

Side view of the historic, yet abandoned Peace Lutheran Church in Stonehenge, SK with a canola field and countryside in the background

All my life I have heard people talk about “the church” and in particular why their church is the best church. “Church,” in general terms, implies a church service. We “go to church” to sing songs and hear the word of God. The church can be easily identified in terms of a building. We go to “our church”.

But church in the Biblical sense, is a way to identify the body of believers, a family of like-minded followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. But in the real world, there are those who will contend that if you do not believe exactly what they believe, or follow their denomination, you are not a believer at all. I’d like a dollar for every time I was told that.

People can be rigid in their beliefs

As a hospital chaplain, I was kicked out of many rooms because I was from the “wrong” church. Once a pastor even kicked me out of the room, dismissing me in no uncertain terms and rather harshly, because I wasn’t a part of his denomination and therefore a non-believer. I just asked him how he was feeling. He kicked me out not knowing anything about me.

I’ve been called a heretic for not reading the right Bible, even though I enjoy many versions of the Bible. Some Christians who don’t want to hear the truth from the Bible, or encouragement from anyone but their pastor. They don’t want prayer because they are taught to reject anyone outside of their particular church.

The term church can be problematic

You can see why “church” can be a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the church, but it’s people that get in the way. For all the wrong reasons they reject the body of Christ. Some church organizations, or individual congregations, bear little resemblance of the church that Jesus established. They not only reject other believers, they dismiss them entirely.

In order to protect their way of seeing the world, they will sadly reject what the Lord Jesus told us.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

The Jewish authorities, so intimidated by the ministry of Jesus, took action and determined that he must die. Little did they know that God would use their fear and hatred for His own purpose. When Jesus raised Lazarus, the plot started to unfold.

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. (John 11:45-55)

God loves His church

God loves His church, all of the believers, all of the denominations. Think of it as a family of believers. We don’t all agree on every point, but we all agree that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Sadly, the church is divided on who gets to believe the truth. Just like the Pharisees, they sometimes do more harm than good. But the it survives. It’s a good idea. Believers should be connected to a church. Men and women may get in the way, but the Lord Jesus is still in charge.

Does God Exist?

It’s the age old question, isn’t it? Does God exist? The answer is yes, God does exist and He loves you and He is seeking you! He gave us the Bible so we can learn about Him.

Can you prove it? Unfortunately for many, the answer is a disappointment. We cannot prove the existence of God. But we also cannot prove that He doesn’t exist either.

That might be a very unsatisfying response to an important question, but it is in the search and examination that answers will come. Setting aside any preconceived notions, either for or against, we search for evidence.

We must believe in God by faith

The Bible teaches that we must accept the existence of God by faith. If God’s existence could be proved, then no faith would be necessary. It’s like talking to a person you trust and they say, “Take my word for it.”

So, by blind faith are we supposed to go along with the Biblical narrative? Hardly. The entirety of the Bible is a revelation, as piece by piece God answers all questions about His existence. We have to see for ourselves.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).

Where did we come from?

People think about where it all started. The ever-expanding universe is mind-boggling. Was it an accident? The precision of mathematics and the laws of nature are either a cosmic accident or a well-planned result of a creator God.

Consider Ecclesiastics 3:11 “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” I think we all have a sense of something bigger than us, but it’s hard to define just what that is.

Some people want PROOF!

God wanting us to accept Him by faith is indeed a major sticking point for those who require proof; not just proof but irrefutable truth.

Even if they met God face-to-face, would they believe Him? God sent Jesus, who walked with us, taught us, showed signs and wonders, but even with all of that evidence, there were many who denied Him.

Call it information bias, or whatever. The point is no matter the weight of the evidence, there are those who will never believe. They saw God, but they turned away. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).

Belief comes from somewhere

Since the vast majority of people throughout history, in all cultures, in all civilizations, and on all continents believe in the existence of some kind of God, there must be something (or someone) causing this belief.

In addition to the biblical arguments for God’s existence, there are logical arguments. First, there is the ontological argument. The idea of a supreme being, an all-powerful, omnipotent force, so widely shared by people all over the world, might well be evidence enough of His existence.

The teleological argument is next. It suggests that the perfection of the earth being right where it is and capable of sustaining life, is evidence of a divine creator. Of the planets in our solar system, our home is perfectly placed. Any variance of this positioning would change everything.

The life that is clearly evidenced, is truly amazing.

Chance of on protein molecule being created is 1 in 10 to the 243 power

I read that “The odds of a single protein molecule forming by chance is 1 in 10 to the 243rd power (that is a 1 followed by 243 zeros). A single cell is comprised of millions of protein molecules.” The science is staggering.

God spoke and the universe was created

We have heard of cause and effect. There must be something to cause an action. The Bible says God spoke the universe into being. Out of nothing came everything. People talk about the big bang. If there was a “big bang” then what caused it? Who is responsible.

You can’t recreate this event, because we weren’t there. Science can’t prove or disprove it. What scientists might say is an uncaused event was caused by God, something they can’t explain.

People know right from wrong

Then there is a moral argument. People all over the globe, regardless of race, culture or any other environmental influence, have an innate sense of right and wrong. They have a conscience.

The Bible says God created man with a free-will, so sometimes that conscience gets pushed aside. We do what we want when we want, regardless. We know that it’s wrong and we do it anyway. God is completely rejected.

Again, Jesus, “God with us,” is rejected. People want to believe a lie if it fits with their own view of the world. When God’s truth is presented they turn away and embrace the lie.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Accepting God by faith is the first step

Accepting God’s existence by faith is the first step in seeing the truth and realizing the presence and existence of God in very real terms. There are those who will always disagree. They disagree so passionately that their disagreement is just another proof that God does exist. Why bother to rail against something that doesn’t exist?

Our faith is a gift from God

One final thought on faith. Faith is a gift from God. He gives us a measure of faith, even faith in something we cannot see or understand.

From that little seed comes insight, understanding, belief and an absolute assurance that not only does God exist, but that we are His only by asking.

Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.” (John 14:5)

The Apostle Paul wrote, Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

The creator God of the universe not only gave us life, but came down to save us. To believers it is obvious. To those who do not believe, it’s nonsense.

Beware False Prophets

Beware False Prophets: Over the centuries a great way to raise money, gain political power and enrich one’s life has been to invent a religion, or use religion to advance a personal cause. It’s all about control. That’s how a religious movement becomes a cult.

Many politicians today use these tactics to try to gain “fans”. They cry alligator tears when proclaiming their love and reverence for the Constitution, all the while chipping away at its foundation until the original intent is lost.

They throw falsehoods and accusations at anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Likely, they have convinced themselves that they and no one else knows the truth. They use religion as a front, in much the same way that a small, inconspicuous shop hides the book-making operation in the back room.

The church is not exempt. In all too many cases the house of the Lord is operated like a corporation and the original intent of spreading the Gospel is replaced by self interest. Because they are the only ones allowed to proclaim the truth, that is their version of the truth, the idea of loving your neighbor turns into justification for picking his pocket.

Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips. (Jeremiah 7:28)

Jesus was NOT political

Jesus had no political ambition and did not encourage His followers to jump on any political bandwagon. During His time here, Israel was under Roman occupation and there was great resentment. That gave rise to the Zealots, who wanted to take on the Romans in an effort to chip away at the authoritarian regime.

Jesus came to free people from sin. The Romans saw the power of that the religious elite had over their people. The Roman occupiers used that power to their advantage in keeping the peace and maintaining control of the Jews.

Jewish leaders betrayed Jesus using Roman power

The religious elite used Roman power in an effort to stop the movement that Jesus started. They say that “religion and politics makes strange bedfellows,” and that was the case. What might have been shrouded as a religious cause by the Jews, was no more than an effort to maintain political power. God saw it all coming. Judaism was corrupted by personal greed and there were those who found the ministry of Jesus to be used for evil intent and their own self promotion.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

The concept was not at all new, as those who would pervert the truth have always been around.

You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. (Psalm 52:3)

Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. (Isiah 59:15)

Christian Nationalism is nothing new

Today we have the rise of another movement in the US with false prophets: Christian Nationalism. According to the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Christian Nationalism has five main points:

1– America is a divinely appointed nation by God that is Christian;

2– America’s founders, rather than wanting to disestablish religion as a unifier for the nation were in fact establishing a nation based on Christian principles, with white men as the leaders;

3– Others (native Americans, enslaved Africans and immigrants) would accept and cede to this narrative of America as a Christian nation, and accept their leadership;

4– America has a special place not only in world history, but in biblical Scripture, especially concerning the return of Christ;

5– There is no separation between church and state.

Christian Nationalism creates false profits

The Constitution of the United States does not mention God, the Bible, or the Ten Commandments. Thomas Jefferson was strongly in favor of the separation of church and state, something the Christian Nationalists do not believe in. Christian Nationalism is very different from mainstream Christianity. Some Christians believe the Christian church should be the governing body on Earth. That is not what Jesus called for!

In 1794, the congress affirmed that the United States was not founded, in any way, by the Christian religion. Still, the far right has embraced evangelical Christianity and has exploited it to its advantage. Some of the people who were involved at the U.S. Capital on January 6, 2021, used Christianity as their basis for trying to overturn the election results.

Christian Nationalism is about advancing itself… NOT Jesus

Christian Nationalism is not about advancing the Gospel, but it is all about political power and influence. Faith in God is replaced by allegiance to party, then country, as the dividing lines become blurred. Biblical Christianity is lost in the shuffle. Christian Nationalists focus on voter suppression, gerrymandering and religious intolerance and hatred of ALL outsiders.

People can disagree about religion. Therefore, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan once said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

Using religion for their own evil purposes

Hiding behind the trappings of Christianity, this political movement in large part ignores the teachings of Jesus. During His life on earth, followers of the Messiah thought He would defeat the Romans and establish His own government. That was far from the truth, however, as Jesus had no intention of overthrowing the government. He said, “render unto Cesar that which is Cesar’s. Render unto God, that which is God’s.”

Jesus did not question the Roman authority. He was with us to establish an eternal kingdom. He made no attempt to tear down cultures, or divide people. Quite the opposite. He unified people.

Beware False Prophets

The Christian Nationalist movement is about power and control. As freedoms are slowly chipped away and the people are blinded to the truth, there will no longer be any tolerance for the Lord Jesus Christ and Biblical Christianity.

It will someday be replaced by a watered down version, bearing no resemblance to the truth that Jesus brought to us. But to listen to them now, you’d be convinced that they love God and the flag. Neither are true.

Faith or Works?

Faith or works? Many years ago I had a conversation with a Roman Catholic friend, who loved the Lord Jesus. He talked about how he desired to serve God and do good works. He was an active member of his parish and impressed me as being sincere and energetic in his faith.

But “faith” was the only sticking point in my head as we exchanged our thoughts and beliefs. Maybe this is a chicken and egg issue and I am making too much of it, but here goes.

I believe we are saved by our faith

My friend was convinced that the Bible clearly instructs us to do good works. I can’t argue with that, because we are encouraged to do just that. However, works and salvation are not tied together, as the Apostle Paul clearly states.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves. it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

When we do good works we are an instrument of God

Paul later tells us who is doing the work, so we need to understand that we are an instrument. It’s like picking up a pencil and writing something down. Is the pencil responsible? Certainly not. God gets the credit and the glory if we do something good. Paul explains that that’s the way things are ordered.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Paul asks a question of the Galatian church. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:2)

Paul describes the connection between faith and works

Paul was talking about the relationship between the Law and Faith. He was talking to Jewish believer, Cephas. Many Jewish believers thought that one must first be a Jew and follow the Law. Then and only then can they be considered believers and followers of Christ.

I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles

16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:14-16)

Many people believe they must EARN salvation

Many people believe that Christians needed to earn their salvation. But Paul shot that argument down in Chapter 3. “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10)

It was nothing new, salvation by faith. It started with Abraham. Genesis 15:6 says, “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Paul cites this in Romans 4:3, Romans 4:9 and Galatians 3:6.

Abraham saved by faith

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Later the writer recalls the story of Abraham and Issac in Chapter 11.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,

18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Abraham reasoned that God would not let him down

It’s interesting that Abraham reasoned that God would not let him down. Reason,/logic The Apostle John writes “In the beginning there was the Word…” The “Word” in Hebrew is Logos, logic.

Abraham reasoned that God would come through based on faith. God had a very good track record. So it was logical to deduce that whatever God had in mind, it was good. It is what GOD DOES, not what we do.

So, faith comes first and works follow. Paul explains it this way, Salvation is still and always has been a matter of Faith in God’s ability, not from self-righteousness. It is Grace, not works. Works follow faith (Ephesians 2:8:10).

I credit my friend for wanting to serve. But I sadly feel that his desire to earn his way to heaven is misdirected. Although he does have faith in Christ. That’s the essential. Paul could not have been more clear on this point.

The Body Of Christ

In thinking and talking about God’s unfolding plan, we don’t necessarily think about the purpose of the “Body of Christ.” This is mentioned in terms of a family, a community, but not in terms of purpose and strategy. We all have our own talents and abilities. Churches big and small, have as many varieties of ministries as there are cultures. Each church, each individual has their own calling. Each is part of the “Body of Christ”.

Many different types of churches to suit all tastes

We tend to flock together, so there are different churches, with different theological slants and different cultures. It’s all the same family. I mention this because I really do enjoy the differences. It is not necessary for me to agree or disagree with the variations of belief, or the order of service, the music that is played, or whether it is a highly ritualistic presentation, or just a simple sharing of the Gospel.

It’s all good, because it’s all for God. A recent visit to a Charismatic Episcopalian church really brought this out. I was raised as an Episcopalian, confirmed in the church, but this church had no resemblance to the church I attended as a young child and teenager. The difference was it was uplifting, encouraging and vibrant. The Gospel was shared in a loving and inviting way. It’s a small church, but it has its mission. The priest is great. He’s a warm, personable man, who has a deep and abiding love for God.

Paul planted MANY churches in many different cultures

The Apostle Paul planted many churches, across cultural and racial barriers. He knew the advantage of bringing in as many diverse peoples as possible. He implores us to actively participate in the ministry of Christ, and encourages us to take that calling seriously.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

While it is true that we are all individuals, our calling to community is equally as important. On a personal level, we died from sin and were therefore in urgent need of a savior. Through His sacrifice, we are set free and brought into the fold.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

Every time a believer takes communion, they are reminded of that calling. God has made us a part of His family, and because of that, each individual is essential to the work of the body, equipped with talents and abilities given by God for His purpose.

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

What we are called to do we are equipped to do. Each with their own skills, each with their own inclinations. God uses individuality to advance the cause, to reach as many people as possible.

to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up Ephesians 4:12

How many ways are there to communicate God’s plan of salvation? So many languages, so many customs. People hear things differently depending on nationality, ethnicity and on an even smaller level, individual community values. Breaking through the culture to create the body of Christ for the glory of God the Father is an on-going process, which will not be completed until the day of Christ Jesus.

What is truth?

what is truth

With all the political infighting, investigations, congressional hearings and the constant barrage of information and commentary on the news networks and social media, we are constantly being told “we just want to get to the truth.”

All the players in this drama say they want the truth. All the observers of the drama say they are interested in knowing what the truth is. Pardon my cynicism, but I am not entirely sure anybody wants the truth.

Call it confirmation bias, or whatever, but the truth often depends on what a person wants to hear and how they want the information presented to them. If it doesn’t fit our criteria, then it’s “fake news.” If the other person has a different opinion, they’re wrong.

We are polarized. Of course there’s the argument, what’s true for you might not be true for me. What does that mean? True is true. Opinion is opinion. If a person doesn’t get his/her version they can change the narrative and turn the conversation around by blaming something on the other person. “I might have embezzled money, but you got a parking ticket last year so you are just as bad!” Equivalence?

We are never responsible for our behavior. Watch the news and watch how each side of the political theater obfuscates and dodges the issue.

Political dialog has not changed much since Jesus was put on trial

When Jesus was arrested and put on trial it was all about self-interest and power, all in the name of God. The religious authorizes wanted Jesus killed. The Romans just wanted to keep the peace. The great irony here is that Jesus went on trial, was beaten and crucified, just for being who He said He was and telling the truth.

When He was before Pilate that dreadful morning, Pilot had no interest in who Jesus was, nor did he particularly care what Jesus was saying or doing. He wanted to get rid of the problem. The exchange between Pilate and Jesus in John 18 is telling.

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:29-40)

Religious/political leaders hated Jesus and hated truth

Barabbas lead an insurrection against the Romans, but he gets released. The religious leaders are so angry with Jesus, they want Him killed. Pilate even admitted that he found no guilt in Jesus, but still caved into the demands of the crowd.

Jesus got convicted in an illegal trial, and got put to death for convenience. The religious authorities were so concerned about Jesus actually telling the truth about His resurrection that they demanded a Roman guard on the tomb.

The big lie.

Jesus was tried and executed for being who He was and for telling the truth. What was going on in the deepest reaches of the minds of the Sanhedrin and the Romans? God allowed the crucifixion, because it was by design and the only way to reconcile man to Himself.

But what did those people really think? Maybe the big lie got embraced because it was easier. If Jesus were a criminal, there would be no responsibility for his death. Truth is truth and we are all accountable.

Why did the Jews hate the Samaritans?

the good Samaritan

Why do groups of people hate each other? Sometimes that dividing line is race, but what if the race issue is indistinguishable? Sometimes they battle over territory. But what if the territory is already established? Money? Culture? Jews and Samaritans had so much in common, but the dividing lines were drawn early, as a result of a broken and fallen world.

Samaritans are not ethnically Jewish or Arab. They were originally Jewish, but mixed with other races so they were no longer considered to be Jews. The Samaritans began when they stayed in the Northern Kingdom while the Assyrians overran them in 722 BC.

The divided Israel was composed of ten of its tribes in the north (plus the Samaritans), while the south had two, Judah and Benjamin. Jerusalem was in the south and after the divide those in the north would no longer travel to the temple to worship.

Hatred began after the tribes were divided

Almost immediately after the division, the hatred began. Because of the split, the northerners changed their worship practices to avoid traveling to Jerusalem for sacrifices. They set up idols instead. Then the Assyrians overtook the Israelites and the Israelites began to intermarry, which was in direct opposition to the warning issued by Moses concerning marriage in Deuteronomy 7:3.

As a result, the Jews, from the south, called the northerners “half breeds” and “dogs.” Over time, Jews and Samaritans also became enemies because of religious differences.

Jews maintained that one must worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the Samaritans, that wasn’t an option. The Samaritans held only to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, rejecting the other writings entirely.

The two groups hated each other. For centuries they lived next to each other, but never established a friendship. Their hatred was not unlike many racial hatreds that exist around the world today.

Jews hated Samaritans because of all of the upheaval

Israel was always in the state of uproar. Even in the days of King David, there was always conflict and turmoil. The rift between Jews and Samaritans was just a byproduct of all the upheaval. Politics, self-interest, greed and the lust for power all played a part in tearing the two groups apart. To this day, the troubles continue as politicians try to negotiate a two-state system in Israel.

Jesus bridged the divide between Jews and Samaritans

“The Chosen” television series, tells the story of the woman at the well and shows the divide between the two groups. In a very touching and tender scene, Jesus makes a connection with a Samarian woman to begin His public ministry. In an instant, the dividing lines are obliterated.

The Lord Jesus Christ united Jews and Samaritans. He brought gentiles into the fold and continues to reach out to every living human being. We are all beloved of God, but it is only through Christ that the world will ever become united.