Decided to do a bit of maintenance on the blog today and happened to notice that the first entry in the archives is dated July of 2004. So that means I’ve had this site up for nearly 10 years, it hardly seems possible. I’ve gone through seasons where there were no posts to seasons with multiple post per day (not many of those!), but one thing has remained unchanged: God’s love for me and all mankind. I’ve always felt that theologians try to make Christianity too complicated, Christ Himself kept it very simple, confess, believe and accept. Confess you need Christ, believe He loves you and will forgive you, and accept that forgiveness. All the rest will follow in good time. Christianity is not a religion of law and taboo, it is all about being free in Christ. This freedom is not license to sin, but rather the freedom of knowing that our sin will be forgiven if we turn away from it back to Christ. As Christians we shouldn’t be acting out of fear that we will be smitten when we make a mistake, we should be living in the joy that we don’t have to fear making a mistake.
And no, it’s not that we eat Irish babies. It’s more along the lines of a solution to the whole same sex marriage conundrum. It’s actually very simple: separate the sacred and the secular. Essentially you would end up with the secular “domestic partnership” and the sacred “marriage”. Existing marriages would be grandfathered in, but all new marriages, as performed by a religious organization, would require a separate domestic partnership agreement to be executed by the couple and filed with a government official. This would not involve any ceremony, merely the signing and filing of a document with a local government (county clerk or equivalent), much the same as a marriage license currently. Upon execution of this document, a couple would be legally considered domestic partners. If they then choose to formalize this partnership into a marriage, that would be the responsibility of the religious organization of their choice. By separating the sacred and secular aspects of the marriage, it makes clear that a church could not be forced to perform a marriage that goes against their beliefs. It also answers the problem of special treatment for male/female couples by treating all couples wishing to establish a domestic partnership in exactly the same way.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind — 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
Why do so many Christians live in fear? Or better yet, why do Christians concentrate so hard on the evil around us, to the exclusion of God? If all you can see is the Devil and his works, I suppose you might live in fear. But that’s utterly contrary to the way a Christian is meant to live! Instead of Satan behind every bush, we should be seeing God in all His creation, rejoicing in His creation and its beauty. But no, too many Christians have forgotten 1 John 4:4: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. Remember Jesus walking on the water? Peter stepped out of the boat at Jesus’ command, putting his fears and doubts aside. And as long as his focus was on Christ, there wasn’t a problem. However, as soon as his gaze wandered aside, he began to sink. He stopped focusing and Christ and began looking at the storm around him and that was his undoing. As Christians today, we have the same problem, the minute we stop focusing on Christ, we’re toast, that’s when the enemy can come in and do damage. Satan has no power over us, for “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”. God is for us, who can be against us? It’s time to stop living in fear and to start focusing on Christ. If He’s the center of your life, you have nothing to worry about. There’s one important thing to remember about this world, in the end, it’s all gonna burn. It’s time to distinguish the temporal from the eternal and start living for the eternal.
“But Jim”, I can hear some of you saying, “isn’t that an awfully simplistic way of looking at things?” Well, yes, it is. I don’t believe God intended for salvation to be intellectually challenging. He intended it to be simple enough that anybody could understand it and be saved. It’s mankind that has complicated the message of Christ, not God. Now, I’ll be first to admit that living as a Christian can sometimes be complicated, but most of those complications we bring on ourselves. The actual plan of salvation is astoundingly simple: believe in your heart that Jesus Christ was the only son of the Living God and was sacrificed on the cross for our sins and confess the same with your mouth. Everything else follows from that, if you believe, you’ll want to do those things that please God. And if you’re doing the things that please God, frankly, you’ll be too busy to do the things that don’t please Him and certainly too busy to worry about the Devil!
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
Ephesians 5:16 (NIV)
When we think of a shield as part of a set of armor, we tend to think about knights and the shield on the arm protecting the bearer from injury in single combat. But that’s not the type of shield Paul had in mind. Roman shields tended to be fairly large, carried by the infantryman and basically useless in single combat. What the Roman army did was line up and “lock” their shields together, each man’s shield protecting not just himself, but his mates on the right and left. As long as they were able to maintain this shield lock, the odds of getting wounded or killed were pretty low, but let just one man panic and break lock and it provided an opening for the enemy to come in. This is one of the reasons the penalties for desertion were so severe, particular if it happened in combat. The deserter not only endangered his life, he endangered the life of all those around him, by leaving an opening for the enemy.
As Christians, our shield is our faith in God. But that shield is largely ineffective by itself. It must be locked in with the shields of other believers to truly protect us. We must share our faith with other Christians, shielding one another from the fiery darts of the evil one. A solitary Christian with great faith can do great things, but a group of Christians with solid faith, who are “locked” together and in agreement, can do even greater things.
I was just watching “Shrek 2” and it struck me how similar the Fairy Godmother’s advertising campaign is to many people’s conception of God. “Help is just a tear drop away” is how her campaign goes, with the premise that when you shed a tear, she’ll come along and make everything perfect and you’ll live “happily ever after.” An awful lot of people seem to think that God makes the same promise to Christians, but if you look in the Scriptures, that’s complete nonsense!
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalms 119:105 (KJV)
Isn’t this a great scripture? It reveals so much about how God shows us His will for our lives and does it in just a few words. When you’re walking along a path at night in an unlit area, what do you use for illumination? You don’t set up street lamps and light the entire area, instead you carry a small lantern or flashlight that illuminates your next step and a bit of the path ahead. Similarly, God doesn’t usually use His word to reveal all our surroundings, or even what He has for us around the next bend. Instead, He uses it to illuminate our next step and the path just ahead. We know our ultimate destination, indeed, we can see it shining on the hill above us, but between here and there is a path through the darkness that is this world that we must traverse.
So, why doesn’t God just illuminate the entire path for us? Why just enough to keep us from stumbling or losing the path entirely? I believe that it’s because He knows our limits better than we do. Think back (if you’re old enough!) to when you were in high school or middle school; if you could have known then everything that God had planned for you for the rest of your life, what would you have done? I don’t know about you, but I think I would have rolled up into a fetal position and started sucking my thumb! Even with God, life is scary enough on a day to day basis! Repeatedly in the scripture God tells us to take life one day at a time, this verse is just another way of saying it. His Word illuminates our feet so we don’t stumble and lights the path so that we can find our way. It’s not intended to be a floodlight that banishes all questions from our lives, the Word is a flashlight showing us where to place our next step.
Ok, I can already hear the questions. “Alfred E. Newman? Isn’t that the guy from Mad Magazine? What does he have to do with Christianity?” I am so very glad you asked! It’s really just one aspect of Mr. Newman that I’m concerned with, his most famous quote: “What, me worry?”
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:2-8 NIV
Wait a minute! Who stuck that in my Bible? Isn’t Christianity supposed to be all rainbows and lollipops? What’s this talk about “trials” and “testing your faith”? I don’t want to be tested! Tests aren’t any fun!
Well, contrary to what sometimes seems to be popular belief, Christianity isn’t all rainbows and lollipops. Sometimes it’s hard and occasionally, it’s really hard. We in the United States have been fortunate in that we live in a country where it’s still pretty easy to be a Christian. Oh, we may gripe and complain about it, but we’re not being rounded up and sent off to camps. The problem with this is that it tends to produce weak Christians. We can talk a good game, but if our faith is truly put to the test, do we hold up under the pressure?
Probably the most difficult thing to do as a Christian (or for that matter as a non-Christian) is to forgive. We all want to be forgiven our mistakes, large or small, but it’s so deucedly hard to do for others. And yet it’s essential to our lives as Christians. The Lord’s prayer says
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. God has given us an amazing model of forgiveness, forgiving all our trespasses both large and small, and yet, we often find it hard to forgive the merest perceived slight.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
I’d say this passage ranks up there as one of the most misunderstood and abused passages in the entire New Testament, if not the whole Bible. It’s been used far too often as a license for abuse and misogyny and all because submission is so misunderstood.