Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christ-centered Traditions

I am trying this Christmas season to truly reflect on the things that matter, and not rant about the increasingly popular topic of the commercialization of Christmas. But I will say this . I sometimes believe that the same people who fuss about the commercialization of Christmas spend more time in shopping malls than the ones who don't. And the same people who have a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" sign in their yard, are the same ones running over 5 year olds and grandmas in Walmart making sure their kids have EVERYTHING they WANT for Christmas. But enough of that.

I know that many people have Holiday traditions, and my family is no exception. When I was younger, my family on my mom's side would meet at my Grandfather's, who is now deceased, house for a huge Christmas breakfast. I loved this tradition. He lived in the country and had plenty of space to run around outside. After he died, we began to have the breakfast at my Grandmother's place. My parents are divorced, so we would always meet up with my Dad and paternal grandparents on Christmas Eve. Our main tradition was eating, but, of course, the opening of gifts was also part of it.

I have been married now to my wonderful, beautiful bride for over 4 years, and traditions change. Or in some cases, new traditions are born. But in the midst of all this, I think there is one question we need to ask ourselves: How many of our traditions are centered on the birth of Christ? I know this gets lost in the shuffle, but this is what the season is about. I hope that as I continue to age my traditions develop a more Christ-centered focus. I pray that we develop a deep sense of gratitude for what we do have rather than mourn the things we don't. And above all else, I pray we take time to worship our Savior born of a virgin, slain for our sins, and eternally reigning King

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Never-ending Syllabus

Today as I was working, I checked my seminary email. I noticed that the professor of the class I am taking this Summer in August, Church History I, had sent his students an e-mail. It contained an attachment to the syllabus for the class. I had been looking forward to this. Seeing what books I needed to buy, what assignments I may could get started on. When I opened the attachment, I gasped. Before me was the never-ending syllabus. Or so I thought. I seemed to go on for page upon eternal page. It looked like way too much work to do in so little time. On about page infinity, I quit reading it. I thought to myself, "How and I gonna pull this off?" I have a pretty good streak going. I have made 2 A's and a B so far, and have a GPA of 3.6. I just knew this class might end my streak of good grades.

It was then that I realized that I was basing all of this on my own abilities. I was putting the all the burden of class on my own shoulders. I then recalled my life verse. Phillipians 1:6 says that "He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ." I did not call myself to seminary God did. He began this work in me. He has a purpose for it. This verse literally says that God will keep on completing me until the His Son returns in all His glory. The God who called me to this task of seminary will see it through to its completion . In retrospect, I was right. I can't do it. But my God can do anything.

I encourage you that if you come upon a task that seems too big for you. It probably is. But it is but a pebble to a God who can move mountains. If you are a believer, God has began an amazing work in your life, and He promises to see it through to the end. Take heart! It is a comfort to know that we can do nothing, but our God can do anything.

"Lord, help me to overcome myself. Help me cast aside my doubts, my fears, my worries, and my burdens. There is no load too big that Your mighty shoulders can't bear it. You are a God of wonders, and Your wonders never cease to amaze me. Thank you for beginning a new work in the heart of Your people, and thank You that you will see it through to the end. Forever and always, You are God Almighty, and I will lean on You. Amen"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What is Heaven?

As a novice blogger, I have decided to start a series of discussions over heaven. Nothing too deep. I just want to explore the topic and lay out my thoughts. I think about the topic often and therefore my next few posts will deal with this topic.

As Christians, when we study scripture, we often gravitate towards favorite passages or topics. Don't get me wrong. I explore all of the Bible, and it is all God's word and profitable in daily life. But there are certain topics I love to explore. Some of my favorites are Creation, the doctrine of election, justification, and atonement. But my favorite topic to explore is simply Heaven.

Do you ever find yourself stopping in the middle of the day, and for some reason you just feel homesick? You may have a great home, a wonderful spouse, amazing kids, but something inside you longs for another place. Well as Christians we can explain, although not fully, what this longing is. The Bible says that God put eternity in our hearts. In other words, deep down we know we were made to live forever. This happens to me often. I am blessed beyond measure. My wife is gorgeous. My job is great. My church family is amazing. But often I find myself longing for my true home. This brings about the question: What is Heaven?

The easy answer is that heaven is where God is. As Christians, we long to be with our Savior and Creator. Our true home is wherever He is. But my question deals with the physical realm of heaven itself. In later post I will discuss the King of heaven (Christ), New Jerusalem, and what will occupy us in heaven. For now I want to focus on the physical heaven or what Revelation 21 calls the New Creation.

Now I know the Bible refers to an intermediate heaven, or a place we go when we die as redeemed in Christ. Paul says to be absent from this body is to be with God. But the Bible doesn't give a lot of physical description of the intermediate heaven. It does in Rev. 21 describe for us the New Creation which will take place upon Christ's second coming and after the Great White Throne judgement.

Revelation 21:1 simply says that "I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away." So in other words, our earth will be remade and renewed. It is full of familiar things such as mountains, streams, lakes, prairies, valleys, and canyons, but they are new at the same time. Only heaven could be familiar and new at the same time. Wild huh? Everything we love about this earth, long walks in the forest, swimming in mountain streams, exploring vast terrains, will all be available on the new earth, but it will be better. We serve a God with a wild and vivid imagination, and I believe it will be on full display on the new earth.

In heaven, I imagine myself walking along mountain trails with colorful leaves scattered abroad. I picture vast forests to be explored, and breath-taking scenery all around all proclaiming the glory of the God who made it. I believe heaven will be teeming with awe and mystery and grandeur beyond our comprehension.

I know this is but a brief explanation of the physical qualities of heaven. But words can hardly describe the home I long for. But because of Christ, I know all the mystery surrounding our eternal home will one day be revealed. Praise him for that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Zeal vs. Love

As some of you know, I read online articles a lot. Some are sports related, but since football season has ended my sports reading tends to go down a bit. A lot of the articles I read are related to Christianity. I feel it is important to keep myself up to date on what people are saying and discussing on this matter. I don't know why, but part of my character seems to be apologetic by nature. I readily jump to the defense of my Savior and His holy Word when its authority is challenged. I don't say this to my credit. I believe it is something that God is working in me. But sometimes I allow my zeal for truth to overshadow my compassion for the lost.

I recently read and article about a Unitarian minster named Marilyn Sewell who interviewed an avowed atheist, Christopher Hitchens, about his new book. Most of the things about the article didn't shock me. She was liberal in every sense of the word, and he adamantly apposed any type of religion. One thing catch me off guard though. She asked a question, and his response showed me that he, an atheist, knew more of Christianity than she did, and she was the one claiming to be a Christian. The transcript goes as follows:

"The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian."

He at least understands what he is rejecting. But she on the other hand does not seem to grasp the basic foundations of the religion she claims to follow. It is stuff like this that brings out the apologist in me. I rise up in my zeal for the truth (which I should). I get angry that someone who claims to follow Christ rejects one of Christianity's basic principals in front of an atheist that they should be sharing the gospel with. All of this is a legitimate response except that I neglect to see them as God does. They are as I was: lost in sin with no hope. I fail to have compassion and see them as someone whom Christ died for.

See, between zeal and compassion there is a fine line. I am to adamantly defend God's truth, but I am to also recognize that even I would not know God's truth if He had not, in His great compassion for me, revealed it to me. We Christians need to never forget that we would be backward in our thinking too if God had not intervened. Lost people act lost because they are lost. They do not know Christ like we do therefore they cannot see things the way we do. In compassion for them, we should live as Christ would have us to in front of them. And maybe through this we may see them come to know him, so they too can experience His redemption as they are drawn to Him.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Truly Justified

I recently read an article that surveyed protestant pastors asking them who they believed to be the most influential pastors of our time. Of course number one was Billy Graham. There were other familiar names on the list such as John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Chuck Swindoll, and Charles Stanley. In all truth, there was only one name on the list of the top ten that I didn't recognize, Barbara Brown Taylor. Being that I didn't know who this was I clicked on her link and was directed to her web page. On her page, there was a link for a website, www.explorefaith.org, that she said spelled out her beliefs. Since this is mostly what I wanted to know, I went to the website. It seemed normal at first, but the more I read the more I began to see how pluralistic this organization was. Pluralistic means they believe Jesus is a way to God but not the only way, and that all world religions are a valid way to God. Many of the churches basic doctrines were being distorted. What struck me the most was an article entitled "What is the significance of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus?" Their answer to the question broke my heart.

One paragraph really explained their whole though:

"then there's the cross as the once and for all sacrifice for sin. If we literalize that language, as…much of conventional Christianity has done, the only way God can forgive sins is if adequate sacrifice is offered: Somebody has got to be punished, and that person is Jesus. Also only those people who know and believe in that story can be saved. Thus, literalizing that language is a slur on the character of God. If you see Jesus' death as part of the divine plan, as part of the will of God, that suggests that God required the suffering of this immeasurably great man. It is never the will of God that an innocent person be crucified, and to suggest that is to suggest something horrible about God."

Another person said:

"There are a lot of versions of the atonement doctrine in Christian history—The “substitutionary blood sacrifice” version of the atonement is the least compelling theological explanation of the cross for me."

To them it was impossible to see the crucifixion as God's will or part of His divine plan. To them it would have been horrible of God to stand by as His only Son died. They act as if Christ's life was taken from him in a radical political move rather than Christ laying his own life down as scripture says. To believe this about the crucifixion is to disregard scripture.

Yes the cross was gruesome and horrible, but without it we as Christians have no hope. The Bible clearly points out that Christ's death on the cross for the sins of the world was God's plan from the very beginning. And I would also like to point out that if humanity was not diseased with sin the cross would not have been necessary. God is not horrible for allowing Christ's suffering. If anything, it is a display of His great love for us in that "while we were sinners Christ died for us." Christ took the punishment for our sins so we wouldn't have to. The cross will forever be a display of both the seriousness of our sin and God's great desire to reconcile Himself to us, even if it meant the death of His Son. See, Christ IS the only way to God. HE is the only one who can stand before the Father on our behalf. HE is the only one who can free us from our sin. HE is the only one we can trust for salvation. To water down this truth is to destroy the very foundation of Christianity

May we never forget the beauty and the glory of the cross of Christ.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Heir in Progress?

You may be wondering about the title of my blog? I chose this title for a reason. I believe it expresses 2 things as a Christian I know I am: an heir and a work in progress. One of my favorite verses of scripture is Phillipians 1:6. It says "Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ." The Bible also tells us that we are an heir with Christ of an inheritance (heaven) that He has secured for us by His death on the cross and His resurrection. So I try to live my life in light of these two things. That I have an inheritance in Christ that glorious beyond compare and I know that I can reach that inheritance because he will never stop completing the good work of salvation that He began in me.