Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WHAT DOES A REAL CHRISTIAN LOOK LIKE?

This letter from Mathetes to Diognetus is an example of Christian apologetics written sometime between AD 130 to AD 190. The Greek writer and recipient are not otherwise known. But the word Mathetes does mean "a disciple of or student of" so it could have been written from a student to a teacher, Diognetus. But is is a masterful presentation of Christian living in that day. It should be true of this day as well. I first came on this through Paul Littleton's blog a few years back. It's as good today as then. Enjoy!



"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. 

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.


To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.


Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself."

Paul B.

Friday, July 18, 2014

THE AMBIANCE OF AMBIVALENCE [THE READING OF MANY BLOGS]

Ambivalence----“Simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from a person, object, or action.”

Ambiance----"A pervading atmosphere."

I read where John MacArthur once said were he able to parent his children over again he would put a major emphasis on helping them embrace a need for ambivalence. As seen above in the definition from Webster’s New American Dictionary, one would see that a good dose of understanding about ambivalence is needed for the living of life in general and dealing with some people specifically.

For example, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about autobiographies. A life story undoubtedly has, it seems to me, the exaggeration part of it [which one can only hope would not be out and out lies] buried somewhere in the telling of the tale. How could any of us be the hero of our life story if all we told were the truth? [The point of biographies is to present the main character as something of a hero is it not?] So we shade an incident here, invent a rationale there, leave out a telling detail that changes everything were we to factually state it all.

As someone I read correctly said, I believe, "Is there anything less reliable than a memoir? Eichmann was following orders. Clinton did nothing wrong. Our life story written by us is our greatest fiction so we learn to take memoirs with a bucket of salt.”

While that statement may be a little over the top and, perhaps, smacks of cynicism, I have to confess, my ambivalence about it all causes me to be drawn to the grain of truth of the heroic in it while, at the same time, being attracted to the inside scoop a person gives about some of the shady type of things in that life. I really am ambivalent about autobiographies as you can see. It is that kind of ambivalence that is the pervading atmosphere of my mind and heart when I read many of the blogs on line, especially the comment sections.

No one appreciates the biblical materials more than I do. I’ve spent my life studying them, developing my understanding of them, systematizing them for the instruction of others, proclaiming them, and even defending them. I believe doctrine is terribly important.

I’m drawn to people also. In fact, if I understand things correctly, it is ONLY His Eternal Word and people from this earth that will grace us with a presence in heaven. Nothing else__that is here__will be there. Again, if I understand things correctly, my relationships with people IS the treasure I am to lay up in heaven. The sadness I see in the story of the Rich Fool who had barns and bunches of crops, is that NOTHING is said about his marriage, children, co-workers, or friendships. How poor he really was because people were NOT as important as anything else. You can see__I’m drawn to the Truth of Scripture and people__even those who write blogs defending that truth.

It is exactly at this point that ambivalence must be learned in my life. How bloggers can defend the “Truth” and at the same time often display, it seems to me at least, a total disregard for the feelings of those who will read their blog posts and write as if anyone who disagrees or questions what they have written is an idiot__or worse__is a mystery.

I’m usually drawn, as I said, to one side or other of those doctrinal issues being debated in blogdom whether it is concerning Calvinism’s TULIP or the Free-will of others, women preachers, or praying in tongues, whether baptism can be performed by any christian or only an authorized minister or representative and a myriad of other issues that are being debated via the internet. Yet, while drawn to one side or other on any issue, I have to confess to being just as repulsed at the attitude often exhibited toward people as seen in the comment sections of blogs by advocates on both sides of those issues.

I’ve seen on some blogs and comment sections written words by Christians that display anger, resentment, harshness, or maybe just simply personalities void of any tenderness, and certainly a display of a total lack of training in personal relationships. Then again, and I'm hoping it isn't, maybe it is just a lack of conscience in relating to people in genuine love and respect, all the while appearing to admire their own stand for the “Truth.”

The fact that the “Truth” is another name for a Person, and that this Person is by His example the heart and soul of our relating to other people, seems to be lost on some writing or commenting on some blogs. Whatever the driving force behind their disregard for people, I find that dubious sense of unsettledness [ambivalence] playing out in the recesses of my own being when I read their blogs and especially the comment sections.

So, I wind up battling my own demons of wanting to judge, correct, fix, confront those very people whose blogs I’m drawn to and would do so except I check my own motives. There I find another mixed bag. So I’m back to being ambivalent__about myself. So I sit down to think about it all__and write__and a post pops out about this need for ambivalence in life, for what it’s worth.

Maybe MacArthur was on to something. Maybe it will take the BEMA, where all hidden motives and purposes are brought to light and where the ability to love someone, and yet be repulsed by that same someone, will be brought into correct eternal balance. Maybe until then I’ll just have to learn to live with__ambivalence__loving people where they are__wherever that is. Even those people who write and comment on blogs.

Paul B.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

CELEBRATING THE FOURTH OF JULY IN A GATHERED MEETING OF BELIEVERS

Some Christians do not believe an American flag should be on display in a church building. Some do not believe any nationalistic elements should ever be displayed when a congregation gathers to worship God because people from other nations, who are or are not believers, may be present. I understand the argument and even share some sentiment with it because of the danger of seeing Americanism become our focus, and worse, our object of worship. But I'm thinking there is a possibility of celebrating our nation's birthday without violating our principles. I wish to address that possibility in this post.

I still often experience a lump in the throat at the singing of the National anthem.The people of the armed services are heroes to me along with law enforcement and firefighters. The loyalty expressed by the Marine Corp, especially, causes admiration to well up inside me when I see it played out in movies or on television. The decorum at a military funeral brings that before mentioned lump, every time. As an American I resented the shabby treatment given to the Vietnam veterans and still do resent any less than honorable treatment of any veteran because I'm a grateful American citizen as I've said...several times...and mean it every time.

But I'm a Christian first. My sovereign allegiance is to my Lord. I  also believe there is only one way to have a relationship with the God of this universe. He created that Way in the giving of His Son, Who is Himself, the "Way, the Truth, the Life..." The gospel is the message of that Way and, consequently, my message for all people is the gospel, which, in my opinion, is the only eternal message of hope for any person or nation of peoples, including America,

You see, I don't believe America is a Christian nation any more than I believe music, businesses, organizations or companies can be Christian. Only the people who do them or run them can be Christian. It takes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith for that to happen. So it isn't going to happen to a government, company or song for obvious reasons.

It is true that our nation was founded upon some solid Judeo/Christian principles that gave birth to a unique form of government. In fact, America is the only nation in history to be founded on the combination of Judeo AND Christian principles. America is, as I heard someone say, "an idea, as much as a nation." I agree! But "Christian" is not descriptive of nations.

To our Founding fathers the God of the Hebrew scriptures, as well as the Christian scriptures, is the God they looked to in drawing up our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Our founding fathers hammered those principles out using a belief in the God of the bible AND the God revealed in natural law. This led to an obvious belief in a value system based on absolutes instead of a changing variety. But that's different than being a Christian.

Many of our founding fathers were not Christian in the gospel sense. [Faith in Christ alone] They did, however, including those who didn't happen to be Christian, have a healthy respect for the God of law and nature and even the God of the bible as I said, and I'm glad.

You can see I do NOT believe America and Christian are synonymous. When I gather to worship with others on the Lord's day I celebrate Jesus and His Grace work of the Cross. I'm celebrating with any person who names Jesus as Lord regardless of their nationality or present national citizenship. We are, together, citizens of another country.

All that said....to have a brief moment in a worship service where we, as Christians, thank God for America and for those who have sacrificed for her liberty and pray for her leaders, is for me at least, a legitimate expression for the gathered Body of Christ on the right occasions to be done in the best way possible. The fourth of July would be one of those I would think. 

Were I to lead a congregation on a Sunday close to or before the fourth of July to do what I've just suggested, I would want to make sure that what I've said in this post thus far, is very clear. To do that I probably would [and did in the past] list my top "nine points to remember" and place it in the hands of all worshippers that Sunday. Those nine points to remember would be.......

One----We worship the Living God through Christ today, NOT America.

Two----We ALL are citizens of two countries, wherever your earthly citizenship might be.

Three--As Christians, our ultimate allegiance is to our heavenly country and King Jesus.

Four---Most of us, generally speaking, are citizens of America and it's her birthday, so we say "Happy Birthday."

Five---We further honor our American citizenship with obedience to her laws where it is possible to do so without violation of the scriptures as we understand them.

.Six----We also honor those who have paid the price for this freedom we enjoy in America and the freedom we have to serve our Lord supremely.

Seven-We love to celebrate our nation's birthday but it isn't an act of worship.

Eight--We are commanded to pray for our nation, her leaders, and her problems and we do so.

Nine---But WE DO NOT BELIEVE THE GOSPEL has anything to do with being an American.

This is my personal effort to be true to the gospel and celebrate my American citizenship. 

I rejoice in both, but I will not make the mistake of thinking of them as synonymous .

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA.


Paul B.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

10th CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS AND MARRIAGE

Am I wrong, or does not the Tenth Court of Appeals decision just made about Gay marriages, whether one agrees with the decision or not, actually present to us as believers another opportunity where we can continue to show our culture certain things we hold to be true about life as Kingdom kids [that's us] that is different than the life of our culture at large? A culture in which we live and to which we are attempting to present the gospel of the Kingdom and of our Christ?

 For example....

One___We GET to CONTINUE to support the Kingdom standard of marriage as we personally interpret it in scripture, where a couple is joined in marriage for a different reason [the glory of God] and with a different result, [sacrificial love] then that which is being portrayed by our culture.

This is assuming, of course, that we have, as Christians, been building our marriages with that different reason and with that different result ALL ALONG.

Two___We GET to CONTINUE to be living proof of the fact that in our view marriage is based on a COVENANT and not a social contract, [covenants and contracts are totally different in nature] which is also contrary to what is being portrayed by our culture.

This is assuming of course that we have, as Christians, been building our marriages on that covenant idea ALL ALONG.

Three___We GET to CONTINUE to expose our belief that as Christians our marriages are being built on the foundation of the object of our faith, which is the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than on any kind of funny feeling that is identified as "love" which is promoted by Hollywood and other sources.

This, too, is assuming that we have, as Christians, been building our marriages on the Person of Christ ALL ALONG.

Four___We GET to CONTINUE to love the people that make up a culture that believes differently than do we as Christians and is a culture that has no desire to accept our Kingdom standard of behavior, which we certainly understand and would not expect them to, apart from a conversion to Christ that only believing the gospel can bring about.

This is also assuming that we, as Christians, have been loving them this way with no expectations for them apart from conversion, ALL ALONG.

I would say the 10th Court of Appeals has not changed the way we believe or behave at all, if what I've just said has, in fact, been true of us ALL LONG.  Maybe this is the way things always will be in His Kingdom and for His Kingdom kids with regards to whatever might become legal or illegal in our culture.

I will say this. If it hasn't been true ALL ALONG, there isn't much honest room for saying a lot in protest without it ringing hollow. If it has been true of us ALL ALONG, we aren't much into protesting anyway, are we! We're too busy living differently and enjoying loving people where they are.

You think?

Paul B.