Friday, October 31, 2008

Communion vs. Comparison

When we read the bible we have a tendency (or at least i do) to look up to the original disciples a little more than we should. Those brave faithful men who walked and talked with Jesus while He was on earth, who took part in His earthly ministry and got to see His miracles as they were happening. I wonder what that must have been like. To see it all first hand. BUT... as soon as I feel myself going down that road I have to stop. The disciples were not chosen because they were great men, they were made into great men because they were chosen. Even then, they still had a lot of growing and maturing left to do. (That always makes me feel a little better.)

"An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." Luke 9:46

Even as they were traveling with Christ and learning directly from Him, they still hadn't seen the full picture yet. They were bickering with each other about who was greater. Now, just take a minute to let that soak in... the disciples, walking along side of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, are arguing about which one of THEM was going to be the greatest! Completely missing that fact that the Savior of the world was next to them.

How many times do we allow our familiarity with Christ, His Word, and His church to chip away at the divine nature and sovereign authority that is His and His alone. "God" is so overused now that when we say it, we have to establish which "God" we are referring to. The very name of Jesus is used as an expletive. How many times have we as Christians said "... In Jesus Name" or "In the Name of Jesus..." flippantly, either at the end of a half-baked prayer or just in passing?

Yet, there is hope... skip ahead to part two of Dr. Luke's narrative, and now we can see the disciples after they have encountered the risen Christ and (in my opinion) get their priorities back in order.

All the believers were together and had everything in common." Acts 2:44

After Jesus ascended and they waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit they were all together. They were also all in unity, devoting themselves to prayer and fellowship. What a contrast from the previous state. The same disciples that bickered and argued with one another about their stature, standing, and celebrity are now joined together to teach the new budding community of believers that formed the Church.

It was only after they had faced the reality of Christ's death, Resurrection, and then being given a mission, that they saw the full extent of God's divine plan for themselves. Likewise, it is our job to view ourselves through this lens as well, before looking to other believers, churches, or denominations.

"More communion with The Savior,
will bring less comparison with each other."

- Just a though.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Faith is a Lifestyle, not a Label

Seeing as this is the name of my blog, and my main focus, I figured I would elaborate a bit on it. So here goes...

Faith is a lifestyle, not a label...

Being a Christian, or better yet, a follower of Christ and His teachings, is a conscience effort every day, hour, and minute to reflect the love, compassion, and grace of the Savior. We need to re-evaluate our entire life structure to align with His, not try and fit our ideas of Jesus and "What He really said" into our own lives.

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example
for the believers in speech,
in life, in love, in faith and in purity."
1 Tim 4:12

Our faith should be evident by our speech, life, love, faith, and purity, AS AN Example. Our actions should tell who we are before we ever say anything. We should be characterized by love, not judgement... compassion, not anger... service to others, not righteous expectancy... and humility, not pride. If we are going to affect change both in our communities and ultimately the world, the desire for true transformation to the personality of Christ must begin with ourselves and those closest to us.

And that all seems well and good, and easy... right? Maybe not so much. In the pluralistic society that we live in today the voice is "reason" says that all roads can lead to God. We know that as long as the Word of God is true this can not be, but neither can we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the world that we say we are trying to reach.

Where is the middle ground then?

How do we both be the example and at the same time appeal to the world that we are trying to save. It seems the longer it goes on, the further these two objectives separate. If you want to live for God, then you can not relate to the world. But, if you want to be able to relate to the world, you have to make some sacrifices in the areas of holiness and righteousness in order to be taken seriously or at the very least heard at all. That seems like an acceptable choice. Make a few minor exceptions here and there in order maintain a presence with the unsaved, so God can use you...

Is this really the type of Christianity that we have come to? Do we really think that we have to form fit, customize, or re-package the gospel in order for it to still be affective? Really?

Now, please don't misunderstand me, I am all for new and unique ways to communicate the gospel, BUT, that doesn't change the fact that the power of the Gospel message in inherent within itself. We can not add anything to it to make it better. We can only detract from it.

We need to stop trying to make "Christian" decisions and start living a Christ-like lifestyle. If we would worry less about what other Christians are going to think if our actions are "Christian enough" and more on how the hurting, lost, broken world is going to view us I think we would find our churches more attended and our lives more fulfilled.

(Ok, that was a little rant-ish, I apologize...)

Three quick areas to pay close attention to in order to live closer to the heart of Christ:

1. Character - Character MUST always come first. Before gifting, skill set, passion, or eduction, character counts.

2. Compassion - Jesus was motivated because He saw us as sheep without a shepherd. If we truly could see people as Jesus saw them, we would be moved by the same love He was.

3. Community - Jesus ultimate goal and purpose in coming to earth and sacrificing Himself for us was to create community. Between us and the Father, and between us here on earth. No one follower of Christ is an island. We are in interdependent. We need one another as we need Christ.

Find someone that you know, love, and trust. Ask them to give you a truthful evaluation of your character and compassion. (you may not like the answer, but that in itself is an answer) Then each time you meet someone, view them as a part of the Christian community, either pre-conversion, newly converted, or converted and still growing... see how that affects the way to interact with them. (Let's hope that you don't run into too many people that are converted and not growing)

- Just a thought

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fruit of the Tomb

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. - Gal. 5:22-23

The fruit of the Spirit... I'm sure we have all remember lessons for our early Sunday school years where we played with real fruit, or memorize the list, or even sang it in a song. The Fruit (for short) is something that, if you are a follower of Christ, you can not escape dealing with. What is it? Some of them are easy... Patience. That's an easy one to understand. Self Control is another. It's not hard to see when you are practicing self control and when you are not. But what about some of the others that may be more difficult to readily identify... Goodness. I know when I bite into a Snickers bar that it's filled with yummy chocolately 'goodness'. But I don't think that's the same thing. And what about the confusion that exists for many people in the difference between joy and happiness?

Obviously, The Fruit being part of the Word, they are not at fault if we can not define them. I think the difficulty arises not the the defining of The Fruit, but in our focus when we try to do it. I believe that it is our one dimensional view of The Fruit that creates the problem when trying to truly understand it's meaning and purpose. We must look at the whole fruit to see God's ultimate design and purpose for them. Each of the 9 Fruits must be viewed in the following context:

1. Framed Upwardly (in God's Word and character). These are the fruit of the SPIRIT after all. God is the creator of all things, if we are to even begin to understand the Fruits, we must first look at them through the lens of the Creator.

2. Felt Inwardly (in our hearts and minds). The Fruit's are not random meaningless words. They are active. The are attributes. They must be felt in our hearts and reasoned in our minds if we are going to be able to put them into practice.

3. Focused Outwardly (in our words and character) The Fruit is not a list of 'self-focused' ideas or suggestions. They, just like the Word, are living and active. These should be the first signs of faith in Christ to anyone that we come in contact with.

Jesus sacrificed Himself in the ultimate act of both compassion and obedience. Not just to give us eternal salvation and security, but also to give us a daily, moment by moment, access to Him. In this exchange, God gives us the chance to become more like Him, in order to reflect Him to a world that needs Him.

"When we frame The Fruit in God's Word and character,
the true meaning is felt within our own hearts and minds,
empowering us to focus them towards others."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Timeline of Faith

All to often, I think, we tend to view God, (and even confine him) to our temporal understanding of life. We live in the now. So, we also expect God to live, act, and move in the now. The reality is that God is omnipresent. He exists outside the realm of linear time. For us, every moment that passes leads us to the next, but also disappears forever. The Almighty however, can view all of expanse of time at a single glance. He can see all the past, present, and future simultaneously.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" - Heb 13:8

What does it mean for us as the average believer that our God, Savior, and Comforter is omnipresent? Well, to understand that I think we first must look at what the three different states of time mean for us:

1. We learn from the Past - though we can not re-visit or change the past doesn't mean that we can't use the past as a teacher and guide. There are many lessons that can be learned from the collective past of mankind, as well as our own individual past.

2. We live in the Present - the only time we have to do something is now. We can't go back and re-do something. Nor can we reach into the future and do something that hasn't happened yet. We only can actively affect that which is done in the present.

3. We look to the Future - if we have learned from the past, and lived in the present, then the natural byproduct is going to be looking forward to what can be done. We must make every effort to leverage both the lessons learned and the life lived to plan for and the most fruitful future that we can imagine.


With the understanding, we are not drifting aimlessly through the ocean of time, but we both love and serve a God that sees the ocean at a glance and controls the wind and the tides to both protect us and guide us. If we truly trust our loving Savior, then we know that there is nothing in our past that can not be learned from; nothing that is outside the realm of God's sovereignty to illuminate our life. Furthermore, nothing in our past that happened without God's knowledge. We can never look to God and say, "You weren't there, You don't know." All too often we carry around scars and pains from our past because we fail to recognize that God was there. He saw it, He felt it, He wants to take it, and yet we still carry it.

Likewise, there is no circumstance is our current, present time that Jesus doesn't know about, or more truthfully, isn't in the midst of right along side of us. There is nothing in our life that is void from the contact and power of God. When we are facing temptation and trial, Jesus stands beside us to both strengthen us, and protect us. The Savior is the ultimate security for living passionately in the now.

Finally, there will never be anything in the future outside of the foresight of our Father's eye. Nothing every comes out as a surprise to God. We on the other hand, get so worried or frantic because God didn't let us know that this or that was coming, and assume because He didn't warn us, that He didn't know...

"I alone know that plans that I have for you, to give you a future and a hope" - Jer 29:11

Rest and trust in the fact that our gracious King has a planned a future of hope for us. He may not always tell us everything that's coming, but He will never let us fall.

"When the fear from your past, overtakes your faith for the
the fruit of your future will be affected."

- Just a thought.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Don't forget to feed the dog...

There once was a man who had two dogs. At the end of every week he would bring his dogs to the center of his small town and they would fight in the town square. The whole village would come out to watch and bet on the winner. Week after week this went on and the owner would always know who the winner would be before the fight would begin. One day, a young boy came up to the man and asked a simple question,

"Mister, how do you always know who is going to win?"

With a glimmer in his eye, and half cracked small smile on his face the man knelt down and whispered in the little boy's ear,

"It's simple. I feed the dog that I want to win, and I starve the other. At the end of the week, the contest takes care of itself."

I think that our faith and how we live it out is not far from this. Paul said it this way:

"For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." - Rom 7:22-23

I don't think that anyone would deny the insatiable struggle between God and the enemy, sin and righteousness that all of us feel every day. Heaven and Hell are both looking to bring into their gates new citizens and new solders for their cause. The fact that we are followers of Christ at all brings us into an immediate and consistent fight for holiness every day.


I think the real truth in the story of the man with two dogs is not the fact that there are two dogs, that they fight, or that one of them will always win. The real nugget of truthful goodness that sits just beneath the surface waiting to be harvested is the fact that it's the daily routine that will ultimately determine the outcome of the trial or test that is to come. Not because God isn't strong enough, or sovereign enough, or merciful enough. But because when the wind and rain begin to howl, we loose sight of how close the Creator really is.

A lot of people want to pray when something goes wrong. Most people will stop to acknowledge God something good comes their way. But there are only a select few that will keep themselves tethered to the true anchor that will hold fast when the torrential storm of life reaches it's pinnacle. It's the day to the day activities that we do that strengthen our faith, hope, and trust in The Lord that enable us to win the fight for faith.

Don't forget to feed the dog...

- Just a thought

Just Another Grape on the Vine

I have been dealing a lot with myself recently in the area of patience. Those of you who know me, I'm sure that's not a shock to you. I think I have a pretty good amount of patience with other people, but I find myself in very short supply when it comes to myself... or even God. I know, and fully believe, that God has an ultimate, sovereign, and perfect plan for my life. Yet, I seem to always want to side-step or rush it along to get to the good parts. Just like a good movie or book, let me get to the good parts! Sure give me a good prologue or lead in... a little bit of back story and character development... but give me the goods!

I think all too often we as Christians (or maybe it's just me) want to jump ahead to the good parts. Jer 29:11 " For I alone know the plans that I have for you. Plans of good, not evil, to give you a future and a hope." I want to get to the good future. Gimme my future and hope now God.

I think unless we take a step back from ourselves we miss the simple fact that the real work God is doing is not in what we are going to do in the future, or what we will accomplish, or even in who we will touch. The real work of God in each of us is in what The Father is doing in us today and now.

In dealing with this inner-struggle over the past few weeks and months I have spent a lot of time in prayer about his topic. One day last week I had a breakthrough. I finished praying in my car, went straight to my pc at work, and wrote this down. I hope that it is as encouraging to you as it was to me:

"Just as a grape on the vine is rippened and perfected not by the sun, rain, and nutrients from the earth, but with these elements working through the passage of time; God perfects us, His chosen children, not solely by the elements around us, but with them through the passage of time. Though we are given salvation and sanctification instantaneously, the process of perfection, giving ourselves completely over to the rule of righteousness takes a life time. We must learn to be still and wait for the Master gardener to pull us from the vine when He is ready. Just like the grape, if we pull ourselves from the vine before we are fully rippened and matured, we will be hard, bitter, sour, and leave a bad taste in people's mouths. When we have the care of the Gospel and the charge to save the souls of mankind, we can not make the mistake of misjudging, misstepping, or just missing the timeline of our lifetime."

- Just a thought

Friday, October 24, 2008

Maturity - What's the deal?

OK... here goes my first rant... What's the deal with people who claim to be 'mature' in the faith and yet act like spoiled children who didn't get all the presents they wanted for their 4th birthday? I don't get it. So here's my thing-we have to both spawn and measure maturity in the natural. When you are old enough (chronologically), you start going to school, getting homework, and becoming responsible. If you don't do the right thing, you are corrected.


Where's the measurable for being mature spiritually!?

If you met someone, let's say online, you don't have their look, tone of voice, or any other physical feature to give you a clue to their age or maturity, how would you know how mature they were? I think there are some clues:

1. Level of Understanding - How do they see a given situation and all the variables in play? Are they mature enough to see more than just how it affects them? Or is their focus only self-centered?

2. Level of Knowledge - How smart are they? Not just book smart (although that is a factor because it relates to how much they have studied and learned), but overall intelligence.

3. Level of Experience - How much do they REALLY know about what they are talking about? Does this person seem to genuinely know what they are talking about because they have been there or are they just talking 'hypothetically'?

I think these are some pretty good rules of thumb. I'm not saying that they are all of the rules, but it's a start. So how do we measure up if we use these same rules on our spiritual maturity? How much understanding, knowledge, and experience do we have when it comes to the Bible, theology, doctrine, hands on ministry, etc? Are we just fooling ourselves in thinking that we are High School or College Grads and we really haven't even made it out of Middle School yet?

Just a thought....


Hello friends,

I know your all thinking the same thing. "A blog... really?" I know it seems like the next useless thing that I am trying to do, and maybe it is. We'll see. But, I hope that it will end up being an encouragement to you and an uplifting voice in the violent cacophony that this world has to throw at us.

Much love - Bill