Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Cromartie
Do you know this man?  I was not aware of him until I read an article regarding his passing. I would have liked to have met him and been able to “intern” to watch how he represented and bridged Christ/Christianity to journalists.
 
What exactly did this man do?  Michael Cromartie was his name.  And he was “one of Christianity’s principal ambassadors in Washington, [representing] Jesus with joyful confidence,” according to Michael Wear, a former White House faith adviser under Barack Obama. “I’ve seen the effects of his life and work up close, and both the church and the nation are better off because of him,” said Wear.  “Michael was a friend whose encouragement I did not deserve, and whose insight has shaped my work, my life and my faith.  In the days ahead, we should look to Michael’s example to stoke our imagination for what a faithful public witness can look like in this moment.”

Scripture tells us that “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20). From reading about Mr. Cromartie’s life and work and from the encomium’s from journalists across the political and ideological spectrum, it seems Mr. Cromartie was an excellent ambassador of Christ.  

 
Said one, “Mike was a man of great knowledge who made it accessible to others. He was a man of great faith, who make it real and attractive to others. And he was a man of exceptional decency, who demonstrated how to live with joy and integrity.”
 
If that could be said of me, then I would be much more excited about meeting my Maker because I would be a much better ambassador for Christ.
 
Over the past year as I’ve been on a personal sabbitical, as I’ve prayed, studied Scripture, the lives of those I admire and tried to assess myself against God’s truth, I realize I fall well short of the standard Michael Cromartie set. He ran the race set before him well. What was said of him in terms of how he represented Christ could not be said of me.
 
It is (or should be) every Christian’s goal, upon death and entering the presence of Christ, to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). I believe Michael Cromartie heard those very words on August 28, 2017.
 
My time of introspection has not been easy, nor always pleasant in facing some unwelcome realities about some aspects of my character, personality and actions. Don’t get me wrong, God has also shown me times and areas where “I’ve gotten it right.” But I also see much to improve on as I make my calling sure (2 Peter 1:10).

What I’m most grateful for is that God is making me aware of the areas where I must grow and improve; that He has not abandoned me, but rather I realize that in His lovingkindness, He has been blessing where I don’t deserve, working in circumstances and decisions to bring me to the point of serious Spirit-led self-assessment from which I fervently hope and believe He will make a new path/work for and in me.  I am amazed at His patience and His continued work in me.  He, I believe, through love and discipline is preparing a way that, in the end, I too can hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant….”  What a marvelous God indeed — the He continues to be mindful of me!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather, you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.”  — St. Sebastian Valfre

“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you…” — St Ignatius Loyola

I read recently from Jeff Smead about a group of folks studying the book of Malachi.

As they were reading chapter three, they came across this in verse three: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver….” (Malachi 3:3a)

They wondered what this statement meant about the character and the nature of God.

One from the group offered to look into the process of refining silver and report back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week she contacted a silversmith and made an appointment to meet with him and to watch him at work.

She did not mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up.

He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire ….where the flames were the hottest ….. so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a way over the fire …..then she thought again about the phrase, “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.

The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, …… but he also had to keep his eyes on the silver …….for the entire time it was in the fire.

If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment.

Then she asked the silver smith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her. “Oh, that’s easy, he paused …. “when I see my image in it.”

***********************************************************************

Like most people I know, I have no desire to suffer.  Also, like most people, I often think whatever is happening to me isn’t supposed to be happening to me — that is, I wonder why a “God of love” allows suffering.  It’s sometimes hard to trust God for a future outcome that redeems present suffering.

I came across this reminder from Dr. Jim Denison which I am considering and hope you find it helpful:  Let’s consider this statement by the Apostle Paul: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Nearly every word of this remarkable sentence repays deeper investigation.

“Consider” translates a Greek word meaning “to study all the evidence and reach a verifiable conclusion.” “Suffering” is a term for all hardships, generic enough to include your challenges today. “This present time” uses a Greek word meaning not this hour or moment but this present age.

“Not worth comparing” is literally translated, “so meager as not to be worthy of comparison.” “Glory” translates doxa, a word from which we get “doxology.” It refers to splendor, majesty, the brilliance of God’s perfection. “Revealed” means “to pull back the curtain and display all that is on the other side.” “Us” shows that every Christian is a recipient of this astounding promise.

Taken together, these definitions render Paul’s promise thus: “I am absolutely certain on the basis of all the evidence that every kind of suffering in this era of human existence is not worthy of the slightest comparison to the splendors that will be revealed fully to each and every one of us.”

What’s your problem today? What suffering in “this present time” is testing your faith?

I am convinced that God redeems all he allows. However, his redemption does not always take place immediately. Joseph languished for years in Pharaoh’s prison before ascending to his palace. Stephen died without knowing his influence on Paul the Apostle (Acts 7:58). Much of God’s redemption of present suffering lies in future revelation.

But one day you will know what you do not know today: “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In the meantime, know that the future reward of your present faithfulness far outweighs its cost. And remember that the world is watching your obedience. As the song says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

Read Full Post »

You will seek Me and fine Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
— Jeremiah 29:13 (NASB, italics/underline mine)

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
— Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV, italics/underline mine)

If you find God with great ease, perhaps it is not God you have found.
— Thomas Merton

An impersonal God, well and good. A subjective God … inside our own heads, better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap, best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, … that is quite another matter. … There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God!”) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to THAT! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
— C.S. Lewis in “Miracles”

And yet, as Philip Yancey points out, the only thing more difficult than having a relationship with an invisible God is having no such relationship.

Read Full Post »

Mainline Protestant churches have been in decline for decades.  There are a growing number of people who think evangelical churches are beginning to see a decline as well.  Many churches are reacting with new solutions, new strategies and guesses.  They come under the names such as “emergent,”  “missional,”  “multi-site,” “organic,” “multi-congregational” just to name a few.  I’ve even encountered one model known as the “cowboy” model in which “like-minded folk gather with their own to worship God in arenas, barns or even saloons.”

In many cases, there seems to be a focus on “social justice” or “service” while forgetting of the element of worship, of knowing God.  Often the models seemed to be tailored on “getting people” or “service” often forgetting “growing people” or even to proclaim the gospel — what we are as people without Christ, why we need Him, and what is involved in following Him (namely, we become changed, and changing, people).  There is a danger of much superficiality with little depth.

The source of this danger seems to be the allowance of culture to get the best of us. We so desperately want to be popular that we are sacrificing our distinctiveness as the church, the body of Christ.  We often state, “God accepts us just as we are” when in fact this is not true.  If it were, there would have been no need for Jesus to come to “seek and save that which is lost.”  God does meet us where we are, but He won’t leave us there.  This need for recognition of our state apart from God, our need to repent and follow Him is often what we leave out in order to attract people and not make anyone uncomfortable.

Scripture makes it clear that, as John Calvin said, “to know God is to be changed by God.”  The church needs to be about truths bigger than ourselves and our world. Sometimes the truth will make us uncomfortable (the gospel begins with the bad news about ourselves after all), but the church must be about the truth shared in love and grace — where we can ask questions our culture ignores or caricatures and where we can find real answers as we find God revealed to us in Jesus Christ — God’s free, abundant, deep grace and love shown for us on the cross — and the transforming power available to us in the resurrection and indwelling Holy Spirit.

Christianity is more than social justice, more than service.  Both are vital — but the church and Christianity is about more than that.  It is not about guilting or exhorting to do more and more.  Unless we are seeking God in Christ, unless we are striving to follow Him — to love Him with all our hearts and minds — we will come up empty regardless of how much we serve or how much “social justice” we think we accomplish.

So, remember the place of worship — of being grounded in the faith and the love & work of Jesus Christ.  Of being transformed from, rather than conformed to, the world and its culture.  As Richard Niebuhr once wrote, “If [the] church has no other plan of salvation than to offer men one of deliverance by force, education, idealism (…) it really has no existence as [the] church and needs to resolve itself into a political party or school.”

May we as the church be about more than social justice — may we be transformed and transforming as a result of knowing God more and more and following Him more and more.

Read Full Post »

holier-than-thouWhat comes to mind when you hear the word ‘holy?’  Or when you hear the exhortation that Christians should ‘be holy?’

If you’re like me, it conjures up images of rules, regulations, somberness, a removal of myself from the world’s activities.  Judgement/judgmental. Puritanical. Pharisaical.

But is this what being holy is all about?  Certainly, we are to be holy (see Hebrews 12:14). But is it really all about rules, regulations, and judgement?  Man, what a turnoff!?

But maybe, just maybe, that’s the totally wrong way of looking at holiness.  Take a look at these verses (in which Jesus is speaking):

Luke 2:49b (KJV) – ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ John 10:37 (KJV) – ‘If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.’       Matthew 26:39 (NIV) – ‘My Father, …, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’

From beginning to end, Jesus was focused on the one thing — doing the will of his Father.  The center of his life was this obedient relationship.

This, indeed is what holiness is about.  Matthew 6:33a puts it — “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…”

This may be hard for us to understand because in today’s culture obedience has negative connotations.  It implies an oppressive authority figure imposing their will against our desires — taking our freedom — hard tasks done under threat of punishment.

But that is NOT what Jesus’ holiness was about.  It was a total commitment to his LOVING Father.

When we begin to understand this about holiness, then we will begin to see how to be ‘in the world, but not of the world.’  We will also begin to see and live in such a way that the many things in our life should (and can) be rooted in the one thing — listening to the loving Father, seeking His kingdom, participating in the divine nature (2 Peter 2:3).

It is then that Jesus’ prayer in John 17:15-18, 21b becomes reality:  “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. … so that the world may believe ….

As believers in Christ, as God’s beloved children, may we indeed be holy!

Read Full Post »