Musings on Christianity 47

Musings on Christianity 47

It’s As Simple As A Choice

The purpose of this chapter is to remind readers of the choice they made. It’s the same, ultimately-simple choice we discussed a few chapters ago. You can choose to be Christian, or you can choose to not be a Christian. If you choose to be a Christian, you have chosen to live a Christian life by Christian values. 

What happens is people get angry at those Christian values or rules. That’s always confused me. If you’re not Christian, you don’t have to follow the Christian rules. 

One possible explanation though is that some Christians strive to ensure all humanity follows those values. Christians believe certain things, and they vote in accordance to those beliefs. They support causes according to those beliefs. Some of those beliefs are in direct contrast to the way of the world. 

A major source of conflict is when people support their beliefs and others don’t. I was playing a video game one night. I didn’t do very well. This particular game requires teamwork. One of the people I was playing with didn’t feel as though I did a particularly good job. He sent me a message using language I won’t repeat. I don’t honestly remember all the details, but he eventually asked what my deal was. You see, he kept trying to get me to lash out in anger. On another night, I might have, but that night, by the grace of God, I didn’t fall for that temptation. In some mocking way he asked why I wasn’t shooting insults back his way. I told him, “I’m a Christian.”

His next message declared all kinds of things. I received things like “I’m a terrorist” or “666” (I remember that last one clearly). It dawned of me.

“This guy is just doing all he can to make me mad for the sake of making me mad.”

That’s when I realized that people sometimes get angry just for the existence of a different opinion.

I won’t pretend Christians don’t fall for this temptation. I see plenty of things that I fervently disagree with, and sometimes my anger gets the best of me. But this is where things come to a head.

I can tell you what I know (and I’ve never pretended to be more than just some guy working to understand the truth). You can choose to accept what I say, or you can choose to reject it. It’s ultimately that simple. Neither of us needs to loose our heads about it. When I say, “I believe this is wrong.” You have every right to say, “I believe that it’s right!” 

For Christians, we don’t judge the situation by our own reckoning. We believe humans are flawed creatures to begin with. What can my mortal mind reason out that the Almighty doesn’t already know? This, in my mind, should eliminate much of the debate. 

If you’ve rejected Christianity, you’re going to live the life you’ve chosen to live. I’m not able to stop you. I can, and will, continue to proclaim Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His commission. You can choose to listen or not. 

But if you are a Christian, we have a standard to turn to, to test and judge rightly (John 7:24). Christian debates, in my mind, should always end with the disputing parties looking to scripture. 

If someone shows me in scripture that what I am doing is expressly forbidden by God, then I need to stop. The person pointing out the scripture to me isn’t making me stop; God’s commandment is ordering me to stop. 

Yes, some people are out there twisting the word of God to make you do things or not do things you have every right to do or every right to refuse to do. I can’t stop them from speaking, and neither can you. But we don’t listen to men, at least not just any man. I’m a member of a church. I give deference and submit to their leadership by choice. I chose to submit to their leadership because I believe that they understand God’s word better than I. If there’s ever a question or a doubt, I can bring the matter up to them, and we discuss it with love and respect. We look to God’s word for clarity. 

What happens though is pride gets in the way. I see it all the time in all sorts of situations. Maybe I’m a work and someone says, “You’re supposed to document this interaction with a student.” Someone get’s called out, and rather than just accept the information and move forward, they get defensive. I’ve done it. 

Why? 

I believe the desire is to elevate myself (when I do it). Ask yourself how often you’ve said something like, “Everybody does it” or “Nobody else does it.” 

That’s lowering the standard from God’s commands to that of the other mere mortals around you. Ultimately, who cares how you look in comparison to those around you? 

If you combine all the religions and philosophies of the world, you still only come to a possible three situations when you die.

  1. You go to Heaven, where there is only joy, love, and peace. Who cares how many people are in paradise with you? I’d be a bit more concerned with who isn’t in paradise if I’m concerned about anything at that point. 

2) You go to Hell, where there is eternal pain and torment. We’ve talked about this situation already, but if you’re suffering unimaginable pain and torment, I’d imagine you’d be more angry about those who influenced you than those who tried to convince you to resist temptation. Why do I believe this? I’ve been in trouble before. I’m sure you have too. That’s when I hear, “They did it too!” I’ve even said it myself. I’ve been so mad at people who showed me the wrong example. I’ve been angry that I never saw the right example. But even in times when I wasn’t punished alone, I wasn’t comforted. If all my brothers and sisters were right there with me while I was being punished, I wanted my punishment to end. I’d even turn in someone else just to end my punishment. We see it in court. We see it at work. We see it everywhere. Readers, if you’re suffering in Hell, the chances are, your biggest concern will be the fact that you’re suffering in Hell. No amount of others around you will ease your pain. 

3) Nothing happens. 

Those are really the only three things that could happen when we die. You ultimately believe in a Heaven, Hell, or both, or you don’t. But how you compare to other mortal people around you is meaningless in all three of those situations. If you’re in Heaven, it doesn’t matter what those who were with you on Earth did because you’re in Heaven. If you’re in Hell, it doesn’t matter what those around you did because you’re still in Hell. And if nothing happens, no one cares about anything because you’re dead.

So there’s no scenario when comparing yourself to another person really does anything for you. Whatever religion you follow, you should submit to the rules of that religion. Then, when we all die, the correct religion will be proven one way or another. Just remember it was you who chose that religion. If you don’t have a religion, then live as the Israelites in the time of Judges lived, doing what is right in your own eyes (Judges 21:25). Then, when we all die, we’ll find out. Just remember, you choose to live that way.

Why am I spending so much time on this topic? Because people want to argue, debate, or fight over beliefs, and it’s just not profitable in any respect. Sure, if someone asks why I believe a certain thing, I tell them. Every now and then, I see a meme that honestly hurts my heart. I might send a message to the person privately and ask, “May I explain why that hurt me?” or “Would you like to understand how a Christian sees that?” If the post is just there to anger Christians, I don’t bother. People who do that are seeking anger and argument, and I don’t have time for that in my life.

But we’re about to talk about Christian law, and I need you to remember something.

Do you want to be a Christian or not?

If you don’t want to obey Christian law, then don’t be a Christian. It’s that simple. You don’t need to fight about it. You don’t need to argue. You just choose.

However, if you choose to be a Christian, you then must learn how a Christian should live and behave. These rules shouldn’t burden you; they should set you free. You just can’t have it both ways. 

You can’t say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I’m going to go ahead and lie to my father.” You can’t say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I really feel I should spend my life with this person instead of the one I’m married to, so I’m going to divorce my spouse so I can spend my life with this other person.” 

But here’s the beauty of being Christians. For those who truly repent and seek forgiveness, we are already forgiven! The price is already paid! 

I’m indeed Christian, but I’m as far from perfect as I could ever imagine. I have sinned. I will sin again. I won’t do so blatantly and without remorse, but I’m going to mess up so long as I’m in this cursed flesh. But I won’t do so habitually. I won’t pick “that sin I’m going to do because no one is perfect.” I’m going to do my best to live as Christ wants me to live, appreciating the forgiveness and Grace He gives when I stumble. 

So when I talk about Christian law, I’m absolutely saying these are things Christians should strive to do (or not do) at all times. I don’t present them to accuse you. I don’t present them to condemn you. They’re simply the ways a Christian should live. They’re not presented as I think they should be. They’re presented from the Bible as the standard and word of God Himself. It’s not my opinion, God never asked for my vote or input. They’re just the rules I’ve chosen to live by, and you can choose to live by them too. If you choose not to live by them, well, I can’t make you. We don’t need to argue or debate. 

Some may want to. I can imagine someone asking me, “Who are you to tell me how to live?” Nobody! Again, I’m not the one who made the rules. God made these rules, and He’s the creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all the host of them (Genesis 2:1). How do I know what God wants? I study the Bible, to learn what He wants.

Again, I’ve answered the debate about the mortal authors of the Bible. I’ve answered the debate about those Christ chose to lead the early church. I’ve addressed all the conditions that apply when one ultimately chooses to obey Christ or not. That is the choice. If a person can actually choose to turn from God (and they can and do), then I’m certainly not going to make you listen to my mortal mouth. 

But it isn’t my goal to get you to listen to me. It never has been. My goal is ultimately to get you to listen to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who created the world. The God who loved us so much, He sent His only Son to die for us so that those who come to believe in Him can have eternal life (John 3:16). If you’ve already rejected that message, then go on about your life. But if you’ve chosen to believe in Christ, I urge you then to look at the things He’s told us, He’s telling us, to do. 


For our panel: Do Christians have the right to tell others how to live? How should a Christian respond to one who’s rejected Christ’s commandments?  What do we do when a conflict presents itself because of our faith? Why is it people react so passionately to Christian values (both believers and unbelievers)? How can one best present their viewpoints for mutual upbringing without turning it into an argument?

Musings on Christianity 31

Musings on Christianity 31

What is Love?

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

“If you love me … “ It’s a phrase many people hear and say. The question of “if” introduces a lack of faith to begin with. If one has to question love, then one already doesn’t feel love. Perhaps one doesn’t feel loved regardless of its presence. After all, God’s love is endless. He sent his son to die for us.

And that, readers, is the message of this chapter. Love, ultimately, is sacrifice. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

In the verse quoted at the top of this chapter, we see several examples that also prove the theory that love is sacrifice.

Love is patient. Love means denying what you want now (patience). Sacrifice your immediate desire for a greater treasure later. This is most holy when sacrificing your immediate desires to honor God, but it works great in Earthly relationships, too. Maybe I give up an hour of video games to watch an episode of TV my wife likes. It shows her love in that I’m willing to wait. She’s not even asking me not to play video games, she’s just asking me to wait.  The last chapter focused entirely on patience, so I won’t dwell on it here. I just wanted to draw the connection between patience as an act of sacrifice, which ultimately shows love.

Love is kind. Kindness is giving. A simple Google search defines kindness as being friendly, generous, and considerate. To be generous means to give. What would one possibly give but something one already has. The degree of sacrifice might be high or low, but any act of giving is at least to a small degree an act of sacrifice. I must note here though that the giving must be joyful (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

It’s not kind to give someone any gift and mutter about what it cost or complain about how you had to work to obtain it. You’ve sacrificed nothing and, therefore, gave nothing. That sort of act isn’t generosity, it’s self aggrandizing. What is consideration if not the act of letting one’s offenses pass over you (Proverbs 19:11)? And what is that if not the sacrifice of your pride?

Naturally that leads back to the idea that we should just live and let live. However, letting people jump off cliffs because it’s fun isn’t love. It might be fun, but when they die, the fun is over. Patience against a personal offense will indeed lead to glory. But those who sin against God are doomed. It can’t be loving to not even offer wisdom. I personally won’t cause an argument to try and “make” you see wisdom (fear of the Lord (Job 28:28.))  There’s a balance, but there is absolutely a difference between not becoming sinfully enraged at another’s sin and just letting folk do whatever they want. I might not be willing get into a fist fight over what is a sin and what isn’t (the Bible is clear on sin), but I also won’t pretend that sin isn’t wrong. Nor will I endorse it. 

Back to the subject at hand. We constantly want others to “get over” our mistakes, but if we want that sort of behavior (forgive and forget), we have to be willing to do the same. The instant you’re not willing to let go is the instant you can’t then get made at someone else who’s equally unable (or unwilling) to let go. However, each time you do this, you do this to your glory.

Love does not envy. You cant love someone if you covet what they have. If you look at a happily married man and then want his wife for yourself, you’re taking. More loving is to let go of your desire so that couple may live in peace. That would require the sacrifice of your love (or lust).  To hold onto that envy only leads to sin. This is because seeing leads to coveting, which leads to sin, which is demonstrated in hiding what you’ve taken because you’re aware it was wrong (Joshua 7:21).

Love does not boast. This is because boasting makes something about you. I touched on this when I talked about kindness. To give so you can show off how “generous” you are is only a way to boast and bring about attention to yourself. This is the opposite of love because any act of self is by definition selfish.

  I’ve spoken about these few things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 because they prove that love is sacrifice. This is true because anything that leads to personal gain or attention is the opposite of what love does. Having offered a few examples, I want to skip over examples of what love does not do to return to the things that love does.

Love rejoices with the truth. So what does one give up with the truth? It depends. Truth reveals. Truth exposes. We use lies to hide (so we appear better). We use lies to fool (so we can dupe others to give us what we want). To have truth means to risk people truly knowing you. Is there anyone in your life (other than our all-seeing God) who knows everything about you? If not, why? If you’re like me, your answer is, “because I don’t want them to think less of me.”

Everybody has secrets. I do, at least from some people. But the secrets I keep (and I’d argue the secrets you keep) are because you refuse to give up the esteem you have in the other person’s eyes. While I can say I know that holding those secrets denies a person the chance to show their love for you, I won’t be hypocritical enough to say I haven’t done it. What I can do going forward though is to show more love. The easiest solution is to not do anything that would lead me to shame. If I think I’d have to hide an action from others because they’d think less of me, the best thing to do would be for me to not take that action. This shows love because I’m denying myself the sinful action I’m considering and because it shows that I love the person I’m thinking about more than the action I’m tempted to take.   

Love bears all things. The word “bear” is such a deceptively small verb. It implies to carry or support. Imagine that. Love means carrying others. Love means supporting others. How would one be able to do that unless they are willing to set down other things? Husbands, did you ever, just for a moment, resent your wife for that time you couldn’t go fishing, or play video games, or finish that book? We husbands carry the hearts of our wives wherever we go. If we remember that, then we should realize we set those hearts down to chase after whatever other pleasure we choose. Does this mean you can’t play golf on Tuesday? That’s not what I said. What it means is if you start to desire golf more than your wife, you should really take a look at your priorities. To bear anything, we must have hands free, and that is only possible if we let go of what we might otherwise hold on to.

Love believes all things.  Here again we must let go or sacrifice our own preconceptions. Is this saying we should believe whatever we hear? Not exactly. A loving heart is trusting. A loving heart believes that what is right will come. Most importantly, with God’s love, we can believe all His promises. Here on Earth, we can believe that those you love aren’t trying to hurt you. That belief could be false. Unfortunately, several people are abused by people who claim to love others. However, we can use this list as a way to verify love.

The short test, if the person you’re looking at is completely unwilling to sacrifice anything for your sake, he or she doesn’t love you.

However, one who consistently sacrifices to some degree or another is at least showing you some love; therefore, you can trust and believe in that love. Naturally each time that person is unloving, that trust is damaged. This is why we need forgiveness on Earth just as God offers it through Christ in Heaven. We need to be able to forgive so that love can overcome and take it’s place where hate and resentment would otherwise live.

So we can also have hope, the sacrifice of despair, because the love we have shows us that the things we want to happen will come to pass. Why would anyone want to hold onto despair? I don’t know, but we do. We don’t trust that the repentant person who’s sinned against us won’t do it again. We don’t trust that the goal we’re pursing will come true. This might be because the person who’s sinned against us had committed this sin seven times before. This might be because we’ve been chasing this goal for five years. We have the best hope when we have the most secure love. This is why God is our greatest hope because he’s never failed to show his love for us.

Again, this isn’t an endorsement for one to stay in an abusive relationship. First, one who’s willing to injure for any reason has already shows murder in his heart (Matthew 5:22). Second, I leave it to you to determine if a person is loving or not. I can’t know your circumstances. What I am saying is that if you hold fast your hope in love, you will have more peace than if you don’t. Our highest hope and faith should be in God, the ever-living, who always provides (Matthew 7:11), who is slow to anger (Nehemiah 9:17 among many others), and ultimately gave up His Son so that we might live (John 3:16).

Of course any other hope in any other person bears risks. They’re human! I would only ask that you weigh the sins of another against the sins you’ve committed to see if they are unworthy of love.

Love endures all things. What has God endured from us? How often do we stray? How many sins have I committed? Are there enough stars in the sky to compare? Are there enough sands on the beach? How much has he put up with me? How slow has his anger been for me? While we were enemies of God, sinners living in our own lusts, God sent his Son to die for us.

On Earth, how wonderful it is to endure our trials. Maybe you and the wife are in a rough patch, but you endure that trial in hope that things will be better. The reward is a marriage that’s stronger, tested by fire and proven true by patience and sacrifice. Anyone can quit if something isn’t fun, but to endure suffering or fear is to show how much you love the person for whom you suffer. Most people think that’s easy. We causally say, “I’d do anything for my son,” and then shout at him when he interrupts our TV show.

We say, “I love my wife more than anything,” and then grumble when we have to take out the trash in the middle of the game.

Those aren’t even comparatively real trials. How much more sacrifice comes from the wife who endures her husband’s cancer treatment? How much more sacrifice comes from the father who endures his son’s special needs? As we endure trials with those we love, our love becomes strengthened. Who wants to suffer alone? However, who wants to suffer at all? Therefore, if you find someone willing to suffer with you, hold fast to that person, for his love is readily apparent. 

All these words are descriptors of the ultimate form of love, which is sacrifice. Let go of yourself. Let go of your wants so others may have. Sure, you might have less on this world than you could have, but God promises that what treasure we deny ourselves here is piled up for us in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

For our panel: Why is it so hard for man to sacrifice for others? Is there a point where we would ever be justified to stop loving (and therefore sacrificing) for another? If that’s the case, doesn’t that mean that there is indeed a point in which God is also just to deny us his love? Is it only love if a person is always willing to sacrifice, any unwillingness or failure means an absence of love? What is the greatest form of sacrifice?

Sonnets For My Savior 26

Sonnets For My Savior 26

Reason

If you are what you think,

how is it you came to be?

Your own thought can not be the link,

for one cannot make himself to exist by act or decree.

If observation is fact,

how can you exist?

Before birth you naturally lacked,

any method to observe yourself, so that argument must be dismissed.

Reason of man can not be truth

because it cannot explain its own origin.

Observation of man can not be truth

because it cannot take note of its own origin.

God is the place from which these things start,

so worship him with all of you soul, mind, and heart.


 

Power

Some desire it to glorify themselves.

Others accept it without discernment.

Pray for the one who ignorantly delves

into powers that change or augment.

Power seduces the unsuspecting person.

It tempts a man to trust in his own skill.

That power then becomes a prison,

made because one didn’t wish to follow God’s will.

What magic could one have that is greater

than the of the Lord of all?

Why seek abilities from sources other than our maker,

unless out of rebellion one seeks his inevitable fall?

All other powers eventually fade,

so why not submit to God, from whom all power is made?


 

For He So Loved Us

He made the sun and the stars,

But he loves us more.

He made the animals and made them ours

Because he loves us more.

He made the moon and the sea,

But he loves us more.

He rose every mountain and planted every tree,

But he loves us more.

He loves us so much he sacrificed his only son

He came down, God in flesh and breath.

Jesus paid the price for our sins, and thus our souls were won.

Any who believe in him shall have everlasting life and never see death.

We are the ones God has done all of this for,

Accept his gift and obey his word so we might love him more.


 

We Can Be Saved

He was named Paul,

but he called himself the chief of sinners.

He sought to arrest Christ’s followers when he heard our Lord’s call,

for Christ can save misguided persecutors.

He was a criminal being crucified,

who confessed he received the due reward for his every action.

But Jesus told the man before he died,

that the man has truly received salvation.

We are sinners each and every one,

for there is nothing in us that is good,

but Jesus paid for what we’ve done.

Indeed He’s done what no one else could.

We can be forgiven and made better than we have ever been

if we’re only willing to pick up our crosses and follow him.


 

Trust Him

We put our trust in him with all our hearts.

We know that all things work together for good.

He is in whom all life starts,

and He is in whom our faith has stood.

Go as He says go.

Do as He says to do.

Trust in him because we know

that through I’m we can be made new.

He has plans to give us a future and a hope.

We can trust in Him and be still.

Through him any man can cope

with any situation if he trusts in God’s will.

Trust in Him and His might power,

and all other things will come at the exact right time and the exact right hour.


 

Enough

Through Him, I can do all things.

Through Him, I can endure.

Through Him, men can be made kings.

Through Him, men can be made pure.

He strengthens me;

He saves me;

He cares for me;

He protects me.

He lived for me;

He died for me;

He was raised for me;

He intercedes for me.

Through him, I can survive trials be they simple or tough.

I can do these things because faith in Jesus is enough. 


 

I Am Amazed

The sun rises, and the sky is painted shades of red,

And I’m amazed at the works You’ve done.

The universe was born of every word You’ve said,

And I’m amazed at the works You’ve done.

I look at the land, and marvel at the trees and grass of green,

And I’m amazed at the Works You’ve done.

For all things happen just as You mean,

And I’m amazed at the works You’ve done.

The stars above shine bright,

And I’m amazed at the Works You’ve done.

You’ve done it all, and it was all done right,

And I’m amazed at the works You’ve done.

You created it all: the stars, the land, and the sun,

And I can’t help but be amazed at the works You’ve done.