Tag Archives: witnessing

Why are you talking to her? John 4: 5-26

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who drink the Living Water of Jesus said … AMEN

In a sense it’s a kinda “what’s the big deal kind of encounters”. Jesus stops at a well in the middle of the day. It’s not just any old well, it’s Jacob’s well and that’s important. Jesus is well aware of what it is. It’s in Samaria, what’s He doing there? There’s a woman at the well. OK, so what’s the big deal? It’s the middle of the day, the hottest part of the day, no one else is schlepping water at that time. Jesus is thirsty, He’s been walking and it’s caught up with Him and they see the well. Last week we read about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. That was interesting, kind of a big deal. Sort of like the mayor of your city slipping into your house at night unobserved to share with you. What Nicodemus got was much more than he expected, he didn’t know how to deal with it, but Nicodemus became a disciple, albeit undercover disciple of Jesus and didn’t run out to share the truths Jesus taught him. Nicodemus was an important, righteous, upright man, who seemed to be genuinely seeking the truth. He initiated the encounter. The woman at the well, not important at all, in fact the general perception would have been that she was a very unrighteous woman, maybe just a half step above a prostitute. She certainly didn’t initiate the encounter, if anything she really shouldn’t have been at that well to begin with. Theodore writes: “When He [Jesus] makes a request of this woman for a drink of water, she demonstrates a concern for law and custom in her initial refusal”.[1] That’s kind of the route we all go isn’t it? When in doubt run for cover under the Law, refuse to deal with the issue. You can understand, she’s at the lower end of the social scale, she feels easily threatened and yet despite her fear, she actually listens to this strange man and because of that, her whole life changes.

All the women of the village would have been there right at the beginning of the day. The coolest part of the day. There’s still enough light so that they can make their way to the well, get what they need for the day and find their way back to their home. A really stark contrast, yet they both resulted in the people coming to know the truth in who Jesus is. This was an unlikely encounter for both persons. Jews would normally have nothing to do with Samaritans. They certainly wouldn’t have accepted water, or anything else from the hand of a Samaritan. But this is different for Jesus. He created this unrighteous woman as much as He created Nicodemus. She was a woman, and men and women in that time just didn’t interact with each other normally. Much like it is in many parts of the Arab Middle East today. If you had some reason to talk with a woman you found the husband, father, brother of that woman and talked with him. She really didn’t have that option because she wasn’t married, she’d had five husbands, which would have been a huge shame for her. She was living with a man now, which, as I said, really put her a half step above a prostitute and below the line of what a righteous woman would have been. She was a Samaritan who were “untouchables” to a Jew. Yet Jesus treated her with respect, shared His truth with her and she responded. She was His creation as much as anyone and for all we know, she might have been baptized as a result of this encounter. I doubt that Nicodemus would have accepted baptism, at least at this point in the game. But Jesus and presumably His disciples spent two days in the Samaritan village and perhaps Jesus directed one of the disciples to baptize this woman, and Scripture says “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony … And many more believed because of his word.” Puts me in mind of Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. To the effect “is there any reason I can’t be baptized here?” Philip saw no reason and gave the Ethiopian baptism. Philip gave this man the new life in baptism, the Ethiopian was reborn that day in Jesus, became a child of God, received the assurance of eternal salvation. Jesus and disciples were right there, the Ethiopian wasn’t a Jew, these Samaritans weren’t Jews, no reason to withhold baptism from them any more than Philip refusing to baptize the Ethiopian. Probably creeped the disciples out to no end being around these Samaritans at all, no less two days and then even baptizing them!! Yet, if they came to believe it would have to have been under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that would have happened only in baptism. While Jesus initiated this contact with this obviously unrighteous woman (it would have been obvious to any Jew of the time). Unlike Nicodemus, she picked up what Jesus told her, what He taught her and she ran with it. She told everyone in the village who Jesus is, based on His rather short witness. The big point was Jesus pointing out to her how unrighteous she was. There she was talking to a man she had no business talking to, but what’s the big deal there? She had already crossed the line below what was acceptable, being married to five men, that was horrible, then living with a man she wasn’t married to. Talking to Jesus was something a prostitute would do and she knew that she was below that line already and went ahead. Obviously she didn’t want to have to deal with the women of the village who would have been at that well six hours earlier. So she knew perfectly well that she was outside of polite society. Yet, unlike the righteous Nicodemus, she doesn’t just listen and take in what Jesus says for her own benefit, she even leaves her jar at the well. The whole point of her going to the well was to get water for the day. A jar wasn’t a cheap item, yet she gave up the jar, the water, because she had something much more precious to share and she did! The result was an entire village of people came to be saved in Jesus because she went and witnessed to the whole village. This must have been a difficult proposition for her, because she knew how the people in this village felt about her, they wouldn’t have had anything to do with her. Yet they listened when she told them about this man and what He said and welcomed Jesus and His disciples to their village and hosted them for two days. Hosting thirteen men for two days was probably an expensive proposition for them, no doubt everyone there was living day to day, hand to mouth. So there must have been something pretty compelling in Jesus for them to host Him and His disciples, listen to Him for two days and come to believe what He said to them. The righteous Nicodemus left his private meeting with Jesus and didn’t breathe a word of it to anyone, he came in the night, he left in the night, assuming he wouldn’t be observed. He wasn’t going to suffer the abuse he might have taken from his fellow important people by talking about Jesus. This unrighteous woman, right smack dab in the middle of the day, drops everything she has, rushes back to her village, knowing that she was going to have to deal with people giving her a hard time because who she was and telling everyone everything about Jesus. I think this is about hope and promise. Nicodemus was probably making his encounter into an academic exercise. Here’s this guy, he certainly is interesting, look at what He’s been doing. I’m curious enough to go and talk to Him and get the deal on what is going on. But my trust is still in my position, my power, my social status, my wealth, I’m not going to risk that with this guy. Admittedly Nicodemus stepped up after the crucifixion and did become a disciple. This woman, the complete opposite on the social scale, she had nothing, no hope or promise for anything. This strange man who stooped down to talk to her, gave her that hope and promise. She had gained everything in Jesus and now she was going to make sure that she shared this with everyone she knew, even though she knew she was going to have to put up with their contempt. She charged right back, leaving a valuable possession, her jar, because now she had something much more valuable. She had the hope and promise that Jesus had given her in a new life, and she obviously felt that she had no reason to keep this to herself, and every reason to share this with everyone she knew, even though she knew she was going to get attitude from them. While the rich, powerful man, just kind of slinked away from his meeting with all the amazing things that Jesus shared with him. This destitute, unloved, unvalued woman rushed away from her encounter with Jesus because she had something of true value to share with people and she wasn’t going to wait around and keep it to herself. She wanted to share with people who had no doubt treated her like dirt for years, she loved them enough to endure their disdain. Nicodemus? Well he probably got some intellectual stimulation, but did nothing with it. Went back home, and while he came around later, had an immense treasure that he decided to just keep for himself. He probably didn’t feel as if he really needed it, because he had plenty as it was and therefore saw no reason to share it with anyone else. “Living water is not stagnant. It gushes out as the Spirit of Christ for our eternal life and others as it waters our parched human nature.”[2] Are you going to leave your jar, whatever is valuable to you, to witness to people who might treat you with contempt in order to witness to the truth of Jesus, that He is the Living Water who gives us true life?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Quoting Chrysostom Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa p 146


[2] Quoting Augustine, Heracleon, Cyril of Alexandria Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa p 146

Saying “God” doesn’t mean you know Him

TP (this person) I’ve never been an overly religious person, which is to say that I do not believe in organized religion. I think that the relationship one has with his/her diety should be personal, not choreographed. And even though I’m not a bible beater, I do believe in a Christian god, and I try to do my best in living a life that follows the rules.
Last night, it was proven to me beyond any doubt that God has his protective hand over my family and me.

In short, God’s protective hand was over my family and my house last night. There is no reason other than that that our house still stands, that no one was hurt, and that all we need to get this morning is a new dryer plug and electric box. (NB: I deleted some of the detail)

My comment: Jim Driskell Praise God, maybe He is using this to show how much He loves and protects you and wants to build a relationship with you and your family. You expect God to be on call for you, but otherwise live your life regardless of Him. How would you feel if that was your relationship with your parents, children, husband? God wants your relationship to grow with Him and that is what His church is about.

TP (this person’s reply): And responses like that are exactly why I left organized religion in favor of building a more personalized relationship with God.

AP (another person’s) And to add to that, TP leads a better Christian life than many judgemental, bible thumping so called Christians I know.

Ah, wow, Jesus died for these person’s but hey it’s my way, we’ll do it our way. We have no idea who this god is, or how we get to know him. Don’t try to tell us about Him “ESV James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” OK, you know there’s a god, and….? Just as strange is someone piping in, who doesn’t know me, and doesn’t let that get in the way and passes judgment on me and that’s OK? You can “believe”, but that doesn’t put you in a saving relationship with Him.

OK, you disagree with me, you think that being part of the Body of Christ is somehow a negative, or at least not for you. OK (?) Can this person even begin to articulate what it’s all about? The answer is kind of obvious, I’m not interested, it’s going to work out the way I want it to, I don’t need to know, it’s all about me and my opinion no matter how uninformed that opinion is is all that matters because I know all I want to know.

Kind of a dangerous game to play: “Sure there’s a god, but despite my lack of knowledge I’m going to assume that he will play it out the way I want.” How does that kind of world view really play out? Is that something God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) should honor and reward?

Our all holy, just Father wanted to be in relationship with the people who He created and who then subsequently told to Him to shove off. In order for Him to restore that relationship, in His justice, at His sacrifice He gave up His Son as the payment for all the wrong that we did, that He told us not to do. Believe me I know plenty about wrong (of course sin) and because of what He did for me, in order to restore me to Him, He chose to put my sin on His Son who died in order to pay the penalty for that sin and bring me to Him as His new creation in Jesus. I sure don’t have a way to know God or be in relationship with Him, He has to do it all and guide me to Jesus as my Savior, which He did for me.

For all those who chose to reject all that, how do you know? Is God some sort of indulgent parent who really doesn’t care what his children are in to? He’s just going to make everything all right regardless? I’m sure the response would be, I don’t need all that Jesus stuff, I’m a good person (because I say so), I do good things (if I think they should be done and will benefit me) and I deserve everything to be about me and work out for me.

That’s the world’s logic, not just TP’s. I have never heard anyone really justify that logic, it’s just that’s the way it is and stop trying to confuse me. And of course we get the other person, who decides to jump in and uses the standard adolescent response “judgmental”. Please stop that! Whenever I see that I know that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about, especially in terms of the Bible. It’s just a typical adolescent ploy to try to shut people up so that the adolescent isn’t forced to consider other points. They’re right everyone should know it, shut up and just listen to them. Seriously, if you can’t discuss beyond “judgmental” you need to keep it to yourself and listen. When you say “judgmental”, anyone with a level of intellect knows that you’re just trying to bully, that you don’t know what you’re talking about and you, frankly, don’t care.

Yea I know, again, being a little too caustic and sarcastic. But we as Christians can’t leave that kind of rationalizing unanswered. Look I truly pray that God is using this little casualty as a wake up call to someone who obviously needs it and I pray for the rest of TP’s family. As a Christian I’m certainly called to pray for TP and other TPs and pray that they will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6) But to look me in the face and expect me to accept their personal vacuousness and the various vacuousnesses of the world, that’s just not having any kind of critical thinking. That’s living in a world where you think everything is your way and for your convenience. That’s not the world and people who think this way are going to end up in a very sad and difficult place, bitter and angry and alone. I pray that won’t happen to anyone who God guides me to witness to. That’s just to miserable for me to contemplate. So certainly I keep TP and others like them in prayer, that God softens their heart and brings them to true knowledge in their Savior.

God uses our work to put others in right relationship with Him. Makes sense!

God is only going to give you so much family to raise or relate to as Christians. He gives us a lot more relationships in the place where, it seems, that we spend more waking time than anywhere else. Ah yes, where we work to earn our wage, the place where we toil in order to support our families, but also to interact with those around us.

God certainly puts us into each of our relationships for a reason and our workplace, ask my wife, seems to have taken up the majority of my waking time. God has put me in some interesting places to witness to Him. I worked for two of the biggest banks in the world, and one of the biggest manufacturer in the world. People knew that I was a Christian and occasionally someone would want to talk to me about it. I worked for the Massachusetts State Treasurer, right on the top of Beacon Hill in downtown Boston, obviously a place desperate for Christian witness. I served in the Coast Guard Reserve for 29 years with 4 years of active duty. Needless to say for people who regularly face life and death, the questions have to trickle out and they did. I built many relationships through my workplaces, a lot of really interesting people and opportunities.

So when Patrick Morley in his book “A Man’s Guide To Work” states: “This is the ultimate purpose of work: to bring people into right relationship with God and with each other.” You really do have to come to the realization that the workplace can present many challenging relationships and many rewarding relationships. God uses each relationship to help us, co-workers, even customers to come to Jesus, to continue to grow in Jesus and for our work to serve in ways imaginable and unimaginable.

Morley goes on to write: “Once you see your work life the way God sees your work life, it is a perspective that will permeate every human encounter, every decision you make and every minute you allocate.” In the military you are taught to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Whether you are being subjected to hostile, or criminal activity or if you have to deal with issues of the weather. As Christians should we be constantly aware of our environment where we work, where we serve as examples of serving, where we serve as examples of leaders, mentors and followers?

“The purpose of your work is to improve people’s lives – to bring them into right relationship with God and others.” Now that I am a pastor, this is certainly obvious in my vocational life. But we are all part of the royal priesthood of believers. The other people around you at work may not realize it, but God has put you there in order to be His priest to the people around you. More than likely, I’m never going to be in your workplace, I’m never going to know the people you know. Even if they aren’t Christians, wouldn’t God put someone in their midst to minister to them?

No you’re not going to be a bull in a china shop, you are there to do your work. But those around you should know that you are a Christian and when they are around you, even in your day to day work, they see something different in you that they don’t see in the people who aren’t Christians. When God wants you to witness to them He will give you the opportunity, and it will be at an opportune time. Not when you have a million dollar customer waiting to work with you in the conference room, but at a time that God arranges where you can truly see your fellow worker and truly share what your life in Jesus has been and help him/her see His life in Jesus.

God doesn’t intend your workplace to be where you do the least you can get away with, punch in at exactly when you’re supposed to be there, punch exactly when you’re supposed to, take advantage of every little opportunity and keep your mouth shut and ignore those who work around you. You are there to attest to God’s will in your life and to be an example, often the only one people around you may see, of how God works in a life and brings someone to His Lordship in life and to eternal life.

Wednesday mornings at 10am, I know goofy hour, have a better suggestion? We meet at the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa., to share about our Christian lives in the workplace. You’re not the only Christian who has to spend so much time in the secular world, this is a chance to share with others who live their Christian lives out in the workplace. Park behind the church 140 W King, walk about 100 yards east to the coffee shop. I will even buy you’re first cup of coffee.

Dealing with trials so that God can use you to witness to others to Jesus

The Blackabys point out how Paul used his circumstances to continually witness to Jesus (Experiencing God p 177)  When someone gives me the “prosperity Gospel” nonsense, Paul is the first person I refer them to. If Paul isn’t the greatest Christian in history he’s in the top five. Yet Paul suffered a lot during his ministry. He was regularly jailed, beaten. He often went without food and water. He was shipwrecked and just generally subjected to harassment and abuse. But he didn’t lash back about those circumstances but used them to demonstrate his faith in Jesus and what Jesus did through Paul. He witnessed to mobs who wanted to abuse him, he witnessed to others jailed with him, to those who were judging him. Paul really never tried to defend himself when Festus was judging him, only witnessing to Jesus to the point where Festus says that Paul almost had Festus convinced of Jesus.

Certainly our witness is much more effective when people see us living our life in Jesus. Sometimes they’re not always seeing the best, but maybe they need to see that side also. Maybe they need to be assured that to be a Christian does not mean that you have to be perfect. Let people see Jesus in you and what that means in real life, wether that is as Paul points out in prosperity or in need. How is God going to use the circumstances that you are dealing with in order to bring someone to salvation in His Son Jesus Christ? What better service could you do then be God’s instrument to bring someone else to salvation?

You have all borne witness, a mother is the first witness to her child for Jesus First St Johns May 10, 2015

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are blessed by the faithful Christian witness of their mother said … AMEN        He is risen …

It is Mother’s Day, motherhood has become something very different, motherhood has gone through a number of iterations in the last century, at least in the United States. Many here have told me of mothers who had farm chores, tasks that mothers in the post-modern world would probably be mortified to even consider. Waking up early every morning to either perform farm chores or to prepare a large breakfast for a large family who all had farm chores to perform. Back in that day, people started out the day early, performing very real physical exertion.

After the Second World War we had the June Cleaver mom who was impeccably dressed, made sure her house was A-J squared away as well as her husband and children. This really remains the stereotypical mother today, although June Cleaver gave way, about a generation later to the Michelob Light generation. Starting in 1985, Michelob Light preached that we should be it all and do it all with their commercial jingle “who says you can’t have it all…?” Even while those around us might suffer because of our needs, read wants.

Today Motherhood is coming to be seen almost in terms of the “Baltimore mom”. In a letter to the editor from Nathaniel Smalls: “The mother of a Baltimore teenager who was caught on video disciplining her son who was about to join the riots, was labeled a child abuser by some, but hailed as Mother of the Year by most.” Way too many women, forced by circumstances into having to be the disciplinarian. A generation ago, when I was raising children, the attitude was really bad, it was just sort of fun and games, didn’t have to take much too seriously, someone else would take care of it, so long as you let your children make their own decisions everything would work out find. Frank Perretti recounts a discussion with a woman about raising her children as a Christian. In that faux-phoney way some parents try to project, she told Perretti, I couldn’t find the exact quote, but to the extent that she wasn’t going to raise her children in any way/ tradition. Perretti asked, does that mean that you have nothing to offer your child, that there is nothing you can give to your children in a way that will give them a life that they can believe in, ideals that they can strive for, a Savior who will be the Lord of their life and life more abundant, you have nothing to offer your children? Basically, you’re going to allow your child, who has really no frame of reference, no real ability to discern and discriminate, nothing in terms of critical thinking and you’re just going to let them wallow around until they turn 18 and pray that they have somehow built up some kind of genuine discernment? As so open-minded as you think that is, it really means that you are going to allow that child to be raised by the world. The world influences our children and grand-children every single day, the class room, computers, television, what little social interaction they have with peers, is all a very worldly perspective.

We are entrusted with children by God, to raise them according to His will. As we who are Christians know, God’s will is vastly different from the world’s. God’s will is that we grow in His image and our model is the life of Jesus Christ. The agape love that Jesus had for us, His death that paid for the sins of those who know Jesus as their Lord in life and Savior to eternal salvation in the Resurrection. Today the world is straight out about money and earthly security. Survival of the fittest, not trusting in God’s will or His provision, but scratching out, by whatever means, how you can take enough for you.

Even the Baltimore chief of police said he wishes there were more like the mom who rushed into the mob. I would add who wouldn’t surrender to the world. This woman who was put into a position, because of the failure of the world, to physically go out and rescue her son. I pray that no woman is put in that position again, but a Christian mother is called to be that faithful witness to her children and to save them from the crudeness and irresponsibility of the world.

I’m not trying to come off as harsh and unloving, but we have to start looking at what we are leaving our children to. The Baltimore mom, rightly so, was scared to death, that her son was going to wander out into something, that despite the fact that he’s 14 years old and just knows everything he needs to know, he could very well have ended up dead or badly beaten. Moms, grandmoms, spiritual moms, maybe you don’t have a child, but I will bet, there’s children in your life that you could give a motherly influence to. We as parents, moms and dads, are the first Christian witnesses, and may be the only Christian witnesses our children might see, at least on a daily basis. We cannot treat lightly or leave their Christian discipling up to them. There is simply too much influence of the world that is working on them, they will probably end up with that influence and none of what Christ intends for them. Yea it’s difficult, and many times you will feel as if you are not getting anywhere. You will feel that you have lost and have wasted a lot of time and effort. Heavens, you may even look oh so not cool and so old fashioned and out of touch. Do you really want to risk losing a child because you may not appear to be sufficiently hip or with it, and having your child run off into a fight that is just not his or her fight and end up permanently damaged or even dead? My wife had the audacity to paraphrase a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Marge said: “All that I am or hope to be I owe to my Lord for sending me my angel mother.” Amen! A Christian mom needs a Christian mom and needs to be a Christian mom.

There is a lot of misguided nonsense in the world, and too many people in order to appear sufficiently sophisticated are willing to sacrifice their children in order to have some sort of respect from the world. I told a story last year from the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees 7 about a mother who watched her seven sons being tortured to death because they would not disavow their faith in God. We who are here in a nice comfy pew in the northeast United States may be repelled at such a story, but we are seeing that story in reality in the middle east, Africa, and Asia. The world is not kind to Christians, yet for five thousand years our ancestors persevered and stayed faithful. You may choose to live in denial and believe you can live anyway you want and raise your children in the world and God will honor that. That is not realistic, God gave up His Son. Jesus’ life of strength in faith and honor. As Christian parents we are called to raise strong young men and women and not lose them to the world. They have had the witness of Christian faithful throughout thousands of years. Sure we want our children to be “happy”, but more importantly don’t we want them to be strong and faithful? We are promised life and life more abundant in Jesus. There is nothing more compelling and inspiring then a man or a woman who lives a life of strength and integrity in Jesus, and as Marge recognized, that was made possible by a mother who was given to her by Jesus in order to be a strong woman and mother in Jesus and one who would live a marvelous life and then a life beyond all description in the resurrection.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

Christian creeds, what we really vow to truly believe before God

I did a post yesterday based on an article in Leadership Magazine about “Evangelcial Christian” churches who just dispense with Christian worship. They call it worship but is it? When you don’t even do the basics of Christian worship? Please feel free to check it out and let’s talk.

In the meantime, in my other reading I’m reading a book titled “The Catholicity of the Reformation”. That Dr Martin Luther really had no issue with Roman Catholic worship the liturgy, for the most part. What he had a problem with was the doctrine and traditions that had grown up in the church.

The book by Carl E Braaten and Robert W. Jenson discusses how much even liturgical churches have slid into American Evanglical Chritianity, as it were. It’s a regular issue in the Lutheran Church that some pastor is making worship too Catholic. I know what that means, but I don’t think the person(s) saying it really knows what it means. If worship is getting liturgical, that’s not a problem in the Lutheran church. Luther never proscribed the liturgy, he frankly encouraged it. But the American Lutheran Church has become so affected by American evangelicalism that it really has lost its identity. The liturgy in the Lutheran Church faithfully lifts up Scripture and true worship. It is what we should be doing and not getting into what was frontier/camp meeting “worship” led by, often, self- appointed “preachers”. Generally there were too many preachers that were uneducated, didn’t really understand the Bible, doctrine and the purpose of actual worship. They made a bunch of nice-sounding noises and played to the crowd, but did little real teaching and no one really knew to keep them accountable. Hence, today, we have all sorts of nice sounding stuff, that has little with actual Christian worship. Oh, I can hear it now,  “yada, yada, that’s your opinion, we can do what we want, yada, yada” which only illuminates the speakers lack of understanding of Christian worship.

One thing that particularly caused me agita (although I don’t think I can ever get over the idea that a “Christian” church doesn’t included the Lord’s prayer in worship!!!), was the lack of a creed, confession. In this day and age when all sorts of organizations, from Fortune 500 companies, huge government agencies, down to the smallest organizations, are told to develop mission statements and mottoes, to think that the Christian church shouldn’t be likewise focused is just stunning!

Braaten and Jensen write: ” The function of the creeds and confessions is to provide standards by which the church can judge and condemn false teaching contrary to the gospel.” (p 59) Would any knowledgeable Christian disagree with that? Really, how could you disagree? They go on to point out: ” …heresy has become virtually outmoded in the modern church…” Would any of the same people disagree with that? No! Yea, guess I’m going to be a little catty here, but when we join together as the Body of Christ and recite a creed (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian) we are making a vow, before God, in terms of what we genuinely believe. So my catty comment is; Why don’t so many churches (many flat-line, uhmmm, I mean main-line) say the creeds? Because they know their teachings are false, and they’re at least smart enough to not offend God any further, by making false promises. Do I give them credit for at least a little integrity?

The writers go on to say: “…the enlightenment brought the age of tolerance in which the rules that set limits to heresy were overthrown. Orthodoxy was put on the defensive. Heresy become a matter of religious freedom and human rights. The threat of heresy to personal salvation that prevailed in the ancient church was annulled…Dissent was permitted so long as it did not break the unity of the church. Not heresy but schism became the more serious concern. To prevent heresy from leading to schism, the churches today, maintaining their organization unity at almost all costs, have taken to promoting inclusivity and diversity at the expense of revealed truth and biblical morality, pushing back the limits to heresy, to the point where people are ‘tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14)

I know, maybe another cheap shot, but certainly Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill comes to mind. But certainly so many other “Christian churches” who become much more  about other things. The Mormon Church is much more about big business. Churches that are all about their pastor, their building, their… You name it. But are just not about real Christian doctrine. Why don’t they want to get into creeds, because genuine Christian worship is just not what they’re about.

Yea, I’ve singled some out, but this is so widespread that the actual orthodox Christian churches are the ones that are perceived as odd-ball and the rest of the churches are seen as “real” Christian churches. The result of that is a cynical perception of the church by the general population. If the big churches really don’t teach Christianity, and they must be representative because they have all the money and people. Well then the church is actually just a feel-good-rah-rah operation. To most people that translates into phoney and I’m certainly not going to disagree. But for those churches that are genuinely Christian, who do lift up the creeds, who do the things in worship that do turn us to God, who do lift up Jesus as the atonement of our sins and the Lord of our salvation, solely because of His works, they are lumped in with the phoney. That is not a desirable result for any church, or believer.

Maybe those “churches” and all who claim to be true Christian churches might start getting on track and we might be able to all make a true witness to the rest of the world of genuine Christianity, to our Savior Jesus Christ, by making it regular practice to profess a genuine/historical creed (Apostles, Nicaean, Athanasian) Come on, really impress everyone and take time once per month to do the Athanasian Creed. Look it up.

Christian version of “g” factor

Pastoring is still such a new experience and adjustments. Twenty-nine years in the military, twenty years in corporations, I know the phrase has gotten kind of trite, but really, failure wasn’t an option. Failure happened, but you worked to find alternatives, to minimize the impact of failure. There just doesn’t seem to be that sort of dedication in the average, even above average Christian, pastor or laity for that matter. Rich Karlgaard is a great writer for Forbes and his article “Smarts in Business is not about IQ”, is right on the mark. (Forbes Magazine  December 13, 2013 p 46)

I don’t know if it’s an excuse or a genuine fear, but Christian’s usual cop-out is “I don’t know enough to talk to other people about Jesus.” It’s not really about what you know, the average person isn’t going to ask you technical questions, the Bible, it is about relationship, staying in touch, being tenacious.  You’re tough and tenacious at the office, why can’t we be the same when we are talking to someone about the Lord of your life, your Savior?

“The smartest people in business are not those who have the highest g; they are those who regularly put themselves in situations requiring grit. These acts of courage accelerate learning through adaptation.”

It’s the old ‘you only learn by doing’ philosophy. Be honest, you see situations where you should be talking to someone about Jesus and then avoid getting involved. Witnessing requires a level of comfort and the only way you will be comfortable is by looking for the opportunities and jumping in, I assure you no one is going to bite you. It’s not a works thing, it’s not required for you to be saved. But Scripture tells us that we will be known by our fruits, seems to me the average Christian’s fruits on display to the world is “run away!!”. How does that show the world our devotion to Jesus?

Karlgaard’s observation is a challenge to us to jump into the fray and be less concerned about our precious dignity and more concerned about how the Holy Spirit is working through us: “By facing up to the task of making a call, frequent callers put themselves on a faster learning curve. They discover more rapidly what works and what doesn’t. They’re quicker to learn techniques that overcome rejection. Thus, their success yield will improve…The act of making lots of calls also helps a person learn self-discipline and understand the rewards of delayed gratification.”

Yes, it is all about the Holy Spirit and what He does. We can’t talk someone into the Kingdom, we can’t by our own power be saved. But we can be faithful, we can trust what the Holy Spirit is doing with us in relation to someone else. This is the most important aspect of someone’s existence, eternal salvation. Care enough about them to trust the Spirit’s leading and then know that your reward waits for you when the Father says to you “…well done good and faithful servant You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21). Let’s talk about it Wednesday morning 10am at First St Johns, mid-week Bible study Coffee Break. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

We’re called to be in the world, not of it.

We’ve been reading Dr Gene Veith’s book God at Work in our Wednesday morning group at the Green Bean in downtown York, Pa. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in a fundamental understanding of the issues related to living your Christian life in the workplace.

One great point we discussed this past week was Dr Veith’s following observation: “Christians live in tension with the fallen world. And they are not allowed to diminish that tension by either retreating form the world or by uncritically embracing it. Jesus alludes to this in His great priestly prayer in John 17: 14-18: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Throughout the history of the church, it has lurched from one extreme to the other. For so long  people were honored who escaped into the desert, forests, mountains, for a time those who lived on the top of poles or, sort of, scaffolds. This is clearly not Christian, not at all what Jesus taught. Sure Jesus is depicted as going off to pray somewhere, but sure enough the next day was right in the mix of the crowds. And it was not just with other Jewish people. Jesus interacted with Samaritans, Romans, Greeks, a Syro-Phoenician woman, free, slaves and no doubt others, Jerusalem was an international crossroads in His time.

Many Christians exist in an, essentially, Christian sub-culture, many have no non-Christian friends an don’t interact with any non-Christian unless it’s necessary. We look at Paul’s life and travels, from Israel to Rome and maybe even Spain. According to legend the rest of the apostles were dispersed to all the points of the new world. Biblically we are encouraged to interact with all non-Christians.

Dr Veith’s other point about “uncritically embracing” the world is also a great observation. Jesus certainly didn’t in His time, He was very counter-cultural, He was in the world to fulfill and observe the Law. He was against the Law, He did oppose those who abused, twisted the Law. Today we see the other extreme, especially in, so-called, liberal Christianity, which seems to allow itself to be dictated to by the world, regardless of what the Bible teaches.

Having said this, there seems to be this idea among Christians who do feel led to venture out into the world (which we are supposed to do), that if we are nice and sweet to everyone than they will all immediately fall in love with us/Jesus and everything will be all sweetness and spice or the other extreme, if people find out we’re Christian then we will be immediately set upon by the evil world. The latter supposition is probably closer to the truth, but neither one is really a day to day. Jesus told us: “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (Jn 15:18)
There’s this kind of odd idea among some Christians, that if we just say the right words, people will come around and love us and love Jesus. There is no magic set of words that people will immediately respond to in some kind of “come to Jesus” epiphany. It certainly didn’t happen with Jesus. Sure many responded to Him and what He did, but no question there were plenty of people who wanted to get rid of Jesus.

The world really does see Christians as gullible, suckers, easily led. This is the same world that will jump through hoops if you wave a few bucks in front of it, or booze, drugs, sex, the world will fall right in. Talk about gullible, Jesus is life, what the world wants is inevitable death. It’s stupid, but it is consistent, the world is all about death.

Dr Veith’s point is that as a Christian it is tough to be in the world. Jesus recognized this in His prayer. We live in this constant tension and yes sometimes we do give in to the temptations. Difference is, we’re forgiven, the world in the same circumstances, is condemned. As Christians we have to keep all this in mind. We can’t give up on the world, Jesus didn’t, He is our Lord, and we have to be faithful to His leading. We have to keep witnessing to Christ in all the areas of our life. But when we do that it is with the realization that often we won’t be “liked”, appreciated and the good works we do will often be repaid in spite and coldness. We can’t run away from the world, and we can’t affirm the world’s sinful lifestyle. We have to be faithful to Jesus’ leading and endure the world’s animosity.

We won’t be meeting this Wednesday because of a funeral, but May 14 we should be meeting the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver, 10am, welcome to park right behind the church.

It’s not offending if it’s in love and concern

Uhhhmmm, I don’t know… “Of importance to the courage of leadership is cultivating spiritual and religious humility, which is an attitude of respect and esteem developed when encountering people of other faiths.” (Fr Leo Nkwasibwe Business Courage p 397)

A Christian should never be disrespectful to any other person, regardless of anything; religion, race, sexual preference. But it seems to me that Christians are a little too quick to defer, to willing to back off, to me that’s a little too, well I’ll say it, gutless to Christ. Jesus didn’t back down one bit when confronted by the Jewish leaders, by Pontius Pilate, by anyone who some how called Him out. He directed demons, He took control of the situations He was in. He didn’t concede the field to anyone, now a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that He is God. He created the people He was confronting, He knew more in an instant, than they’d ever know in a lifetime. So that’s a little difficult for me to reconcile how Jesus, who is God, confronts, as compared to me. One way I am looking at it, is that Jesus’s life is the example that I should follow. No question, Jesus was never obnoxious about it, but He was always assertive. This is the way it is, this is the truth and you need to deal with it.

As a Coast Guard Petty Officer, I was trained as a law enforcement officer. A law enforcement officer by the nature of the vocation is going to encounter confrontation. It is incumbent on the officer to handle a situation as safely and expediently as possible, this in the best interests of everyone. This reduces the possibility losing control, injury of any parties, and getting the parties involved to where they need to be.This is analogous to Christian witnessing.

I’m not saying that Jesus wasn’t meek and humble, certainly the incarnation itself was a demonstration of Jesus’ willingness to humble Himself in order to do what was necessary for man. John MacArthur quotes the NASB:

Have this attitude 1in yourselves which was also in bChrist Jesus,

6  who, although He aexisted in the bform of God, cdid not regard equality with God a thing to be 1grasped,

7  but 1aemptied Himself, taking the form of a bbond-servant, and cbeing made in the likeness of men.

8  Being found in appearance as a man, aHe humbled Himself by becoming bobedient to the point of death, even cdeath 1on a cross.

We should always look to serve. But perhaps I see service not as caving in, but as doing what is best for those involved. Certainly I serve Christ by being an assertive witness for Him. Christ died for the sins of the world, it is not God’s will that any should die, but all should be saved. Sorry, the fact of the matter is this, only in Christ are we saved. Same old discussion, I can tell people what they want to hear and not offend, or I can tell them what they need to hear. In an assertive way, no one is hurt, in fact ultimately they are saved from eternal hurt. I have stayed in control and kept the focus on Christ, too often these discussions end in everyone either genuinely considering what was said or being offended, frankly I’m more concerned about offending Jesus, then offending people who are misguided to begin with. Jesus said the Gospel would offend, we can’t help how other people react, we can only be faithful and assertive.

“Assertive”, does not mean loud, obnoxious, pugnacious, it means “this is where it’s at, this is how it is. You can chose to accept it or not, but this is how it’s going to be. If someone is being arrested for cause, they can be offended (they usually are), they can talk all kinds of smack about you, your momma etc, but the fact of the matter is this, they’re under arrest and just as in Christ there will be a judgment. All are going to be judged, I want to be judged faithful to Christ, when others are judged and found to be not in Christ, well… suffice to say, it’s not going to be pleasant for them. A secular judge can send someone to jail, the ultimate Judge will condemn those who have rejected Him, and jail will seem like a luxury resort compared to where they will be condemned.

These aren’t my words, they are Jesus’. I’m not making this stuff, it is the way God the Son promised that it would be. I’m not doing my co-worker, family member, neighbor, other guy I play basketball with, a favor, by patting them on the head and sending them on their way because they were offended. Hopefully not by the way I said it, because those in the world will always use that as an excuse, but as respectfully and in love, wanting what is best for them.

Maybe Father Nkwasibwe has a different definition of esteem, I esteem the fact that we were all made in the imago dei. But I’m sorry I do not “esteem” someone else’s wrong opinion. You can condemn yourself, but I wouldn’t esteem your killing yourself with pills versus hanging. Either are evil and so is spiritual poison, that kills, not just the body but for eternity. I have to be serious and assertive about the Gospel, not antagonistic, because I don’t want anyone hurt, but in a way that conveys that I am very serious, that I have full confidence in what I’m doing and if the other person doesn’t want to end up spiritually damaged they would do well to listen to what I have to say.

People do respond to assertiveness and confidence, they may not comply as if they were under arrest, but they will think about it. We often don’t see the results of our witnessing, we are told that we will be used to plant. Don’t quit because there are no results, we are called to be faithful, when we witness with confidence, assurance and in genuine love, we are being as faithful as we can be.

So, no, don’t start a holy war at work, there is such thing as discretion. But don’t be too fast to just concede the field. I’ve had Christian pastors tell me that other pastors shouldn’t be allowed to say the Name of Christ in their public prayer. Why? Well they don’t want to offend. The Gospel offends, Jesus told us it would, we are called to faithful, if that offends, well, there’s not a lot I can do about that, except to continue to faithfully serve the Lord of Life.

We meet on Wednesday’s 10am the Green Bean Coffee Co. corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, parking behind the church.