Tag Archives: Christian faith

Something to Die For

People who eat decadent desserts sometimes sigh, “It’s to die for.” A woman might be shopping for a dress for a wedding or a gala event and find one that she says is “to die for.” Chocolate is such a beloved flavor in large segments of the population that anything dipped in chocolate is supposedly “to die for.”

In today’s culture, however, nobody is actually supposed to die. Continue reading Something to Die For

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Christ calls Christians to Behave Consistent with Christian Teaching

FlowersMoreThanDecoration_2

Last week, this blog featured the story of Dr. Vesni Roi who chose not to accept a patient whose legal caregivers were two lesbian women. In that case, the doctor referred the patient to a different pediatrician who was not troubled by the fact that treating the newborn baby involve working professionally with a lesbian couple as if this trio of people were a family. In Michigan, the doctor’s right to accept or reject patients because of her Christian principles was not challenged, because Michigan has no law that gives legal standing to such a complaint. The story has, however, inspired a great deal of public controversy about the lack of a law to prevent her choice.

This week’s post features a story with a very different ending, although the fundamental issue for Christians is identical. Barronelle Stutzman operates a florist shop in the state of Washington. When a long-time customer asked her to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding, Barronelle refused. She told him that her relationship with Christ prevented her from any participation in a same-sex wedding. She referred him to other florists, and more than one florist offered to do the wedding at no charge. After the partner of Barronelle’s customer engaged in a Facebook rant, the attorney general of the state of Washington took Barronelle to court, alleging she had broken a state law against discrimination. Her defense was her commitment to live according to the teachings of her religion. A few weeks ago, a judge ruled that Barronelle had a right to hold personal principles based in her faith, but she has no right to act on them. Read here and here for more details

This ruling directly contradicts the Christian principle of living the faith. The Bible teaches in very clear language that Christians are not really Christians when they only mouth the words of the faith. In the book of James, the author speaks at great length about the importance of living the faith. He says, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22 ESV). More importantly, Jesus himself says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 ESV). Jesus said that mental assent is not sufficient. Action in accord with faith is expected. The apostle Paul was more graphic. He explains the importance of the actions of a Christian by comparing actions to the components of a building.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. –1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV

Paul teaches that the deeds of a Christian must build up the church, the way construction materials contribute to a physical building, and God will judge those deeds. Trash will be burned up in the fire of God’s judgment and only deeds that survive that fire will be valued in God’s eyes. It is clear that the words and deeds of Christians count for something. It is not enough to claim to be a Christian. Even knowing all the books of the Bible is not enough. Memorizing part or even the entire Bible is irrelevant if it makes no impact on a person’s words and deeds.

The ultimate test is what happens at the final judgment, the end of time. What will survive the cataclysm that burns up the old heaven and the old earth? The book of Revelation speaks of the tests Christians face daily to deny the faith and do things inconsistent with Christ’s teaching. In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Jesus says, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5 ESV bolding mine). To the church at Thyatira, Jesus writes, “I know your works,” (Revelation 2:19 ESV) after which he proceeds to describe the evil deeds, and then he says that his rewards are for “the one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end” (Revelation2:26 ESV bolding mine). Repeatedly Jesus says, “I know your works,” and then he holds the people who make up the churches accountable for living up to his teachings.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right of every citizen to do the things required in order to be faithful to whatever religion he or she chooses. Numerous court decisions have expanded the meaning of that amendment to make it clear that “free exercise” of religion does not extend to a right to harm other persons or property. Barronelle Stutzman harmed nobody. She did no harm to anyone’s property. She simply stated her conviction about marriage and declined to be a party to behavior that conflicts with her relationship with Christ.

Christ calls Christians to speak and act consistent with their professed faith. Dr. Roi and Barronelle Stutzman have done that. Pray for these two Christians to be vindicated for living their faith. Pray for Christians around the country to have the same courage and grace these women have shown in the face of cultural and legal threats to people of faith. What would you do in these situations?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Original image

Stop and Think about a Hymn

hymnalMy Hope is Built on Nothing Less

by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
(Refrain)

3. His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
(Refrain)

4. When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne!
(Refrain)

 

 

 

 

Text: based on 1 Timothy 1:1,
source http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh368.sht
Author: Edward Mote, c. 1834
Text in the public domain

  • Why is it safe to build your hope on nothing more than Jesus, his blood and his righteousness? Who is Jesus, anyway?
  • Verse 2 explains what hope is. The theme is that we can count on Jesus, who is God in the flesh, because he will always do what he says he will do. How is that different from wishful thinking?
  • A young Christian girl in Nigeria was kidnapped by Boko Haram. She was given the choice to convert to Islam or to be chained to a bed and raped repeatedly. All her earthly props have given way. What is her hope?
  • Each Sunday we testify to our faith in the words of the creed. What does this hymn say in the fourth verse that parallels our creeds?
  • How do you understand Christ’s oath, his covenant, and his blood. How will you become clothed in the righteousness of Christ in the new earth?

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollI know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.  Job 19:25

This confession is famous, but its circumstances are not usually mentioned. It is valuable to look at the setting.

Read Job 19:21-24
“Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?
“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!”

  • What is Job’s situation? How does he feel about the people around him right now?
  • What could motivate Job to make this impassioned testimony? Why does he shout out such words in the place where he is suffering?

Read Job 19:26-27
“And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.     How my heart yearns within me! “

  • What new observation does Job add to his confession? Is he speaking as the victor in a battle? If not, how can he possibly feel this way?

Read Job 19:28-29
“If you say, ‘How we will hound him, since the root of the trouble lies in him,’ you should fear the sword yourselves; for wrath will bring punishment by the sword, and then you will know that there is judgment.”

Then read Job 42:7-8
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

  • What does God say that vindicates Job’s comments and observations?
  • Now, read the verse and ask yourself, “In Job’s circumstances, would this be my testimony?”
  • Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is now in the second year of his imprisonment for his faith, wrote to his family about his experience in prison. Despite cruel beatings by the guards and deliberate injustice in the courts, Pastor Saeed wrote that his greatest desire was to be the “aroma of Christ” in that dark prison. How does this testimony compare with Job’s statement?

How to Stop Influencing the Culture

Recently Jim Denison’s blog included a list of eleven things Christians could do if they wanted to avoid changing the culture. The daily news makes it quite clear that the culture does not want to be changed by Christians, but this is the first time I have seen anyone, Christian or otherwise, lay out a real plan to put a stop to Christian influence in the public forum. It is a good plan. It sounds quite realistic. Here is the list provided on the blog:

  1. Stop trusting God
  2. Refuse to try new approaches
  3. Withdraw from the non-Christian world
  4. Trust in yourself more than in God
  5. Ignore personal character
  6. Don’t take time to pray and reflect
  7. Put your faith in people rather than the Lord
  8. Trust the church rather than the Spirit
  9. Lose your focus on the gospel
  10. Be afraid of change
  11. Lose your passion for Jesus

All of the items on the list make complete sense if your purpose is to avoid making waves. The first one is the one that really sets the tone: Stop trusting God.

If churches and Christian social service agencies actually trusted God, they would not be applying for federal grants to operate. If Christian colleges actually trusted God, they would not accept federal student aid for their students. If Christians nation-wide actually trusted God, they would not vote for and advocate for government programs at all levels of government to do the work Christians are supposed to do in this world. To say that is not to wish that poor people had no place to go for help; it simply means that Christians have always known that Christ calls them to serve others. However, when Christians advocate for the government to take on that role, they are really saying they would rather give the government high taxes than give God generous offerings. Why is that so?

If individual Christians and the organizations of Christians really trusted God, they would be praying and serving and giving to the work of Christ, and the poor would receive the care they need. Every time Christians put their complete trust in God, God provides. The World Mission Prayer League is a fine example. This Christian organization does not apply for funds from any government body. It puts its trust completely in God, and God provides. Their accomplishments around the world demonstrate what can happen when people completely trust God.

If you take the time to think and pray about this whole list, it will be personally transforming. Do you really want to see an end to Christian influence in the world? Or do you yearn for Christians and all other people to be free to live according to their faith? What do you see in yourself that is contributing to the demise of religious liberty and the God-given right to worship and serve him in all places at all times? Do you trust God completely? Do you actually trust God to act or do you think it is all up to you? Do you ever really take time to pray about the problems you see every day? Do you believe that God cannot bring his kingdom to pass if your chosen candidate loses the election? Do you actually have a passion for Jesus?

It is a good list for self-examination the next time you step out of the daily chaos and take time for prayer. Ask God if he has something for you to do in his work of bringing the kingdom near to people. Ask yourself if you trust God to empower you to do this work, or do you actually believe you must do it all by yourself.

If someone asks you, of course you won’t answer that you don’t want God’s kingdom to come near. Yet deep down you must ask yourself if you really trust God to accomplish that work.

When the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, as recorded in Mark 4:35-41, the disciples, riding in the boat with God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, were not able to trust that God could take care of God, let alone them. They cried out, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” They looked at the situation and instead of trusting God, they were afraid. We all live in that same place – at the intersection of fear and trust. Satan tries to drag us over into fear and we scream out angrily at God for failing us. Jesus doesn’t let go of us; we let go of Jesus.

Jesus calls us away from fear to trust. He asks us to live in the midst of the chaos and tumult of the massive ocean storm without losing our trust that he will be with us through it all. Like the World Mission Prayer League, we must be willing to step forward, storm or no storm, and trust that Christ will not abandon us. We must trust that he will not fail to accomplish his purposes. We must trust that he will not let go of us.

There are many challenges to our faith in our culture. There are a variety of responses we can make. None is more important than that first item on the list. We will never be able to influence our culture to become more Christ-like unless first and foremost and above all other loves and loyalties we trust God alone.