How Can I be Saved?

If you are not a Christian, you might be wondering how someone becomes a Christian.  It is actually quite simple, but for some people it takes years to get to a place in their lives to be able to do it.

What becoming a Christian requires, that can be hard for so many is accepting the realization that while God, the creator of the universe is perfect and holy, we the creations have “…sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, HCSB).  Our sins have separated us from God, our creator.  The “bad news/good news” of this is that while there is nothing we can do to make-up for our failings–both intentional and unintentional–Jesus has made amends for us so that we can be acceptable in God’s presence again.

So, what is required to become a Christian? Let’s see what the Bible says:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, HCSB)

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, HCSB)

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6, HCSB)

If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, HCSB)

So, to become a Christian and receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, you need only to ask Him.  Here is an example prayer, that if you will pray it and mean it in your heart, you can be forgiven of your sins and become a child of God (Christian):

“Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You, and there is nothing I can do on my own to make-up for my sins.  I know that only Jesus, and His sacrifice of dying on the cross can cover my sins.  I ask that Jesus be Lord of my life, as He is over all creation. I ask that you send the Holy Spirit to guide me through life, so that I can live a life pleasing to you.  All of this I ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer, and really meant it in your heart, then you are born into a new life as a new creation in Jesus Christ.  We praise the Lord for you and we welcome you into the Christian family.

If you made this proclamation of faith, please contact us so that we can send you resources to help you continue in your new Christian life.  You can contact us by using the Prayer Request form.  Please include in your message that you prayed the salvation prayer, and be sure to include your email address for us to contact you.

How Can I be Saved?

Christian Faith is Personal, Not Private

Americans love to watch others share their lives. While Americans are voyeurs, we are also deeply private people. Popular is the opinion in American culture that our faith is not only a personal matter, but also a private one.

Some family members have expressed confusion about why I am so free in sharing my faith with others. It confuses them that I am so adamant about everyone hearing the gospel. They assume that this is part of a foible of mine: the need to share my opinion on everything with everyone. While I do struggle with the sin of hubris, this is not the source of my evangelism.

When driving through fast-food drive-thrus, I often give evangelism tracts to the cashier and the worker handing me my food. Exhorting Christians is part of what we do in this ministry. All of this is to say that I am constantly try to talk to people about Christ, in one way or another, not because there is anything good about me, but because I am convicted to the work of building His kingdom.

While our faith is a personal matter–a very personal matter–because it is about our personal relationship with God, it is not at all private, especially if we are Christians.

Keeping the gospel private is a selfish act, and therefor is not a Christian behavior.

Christ commands us to share the gospel in Matthew 28:19-20.

Christianity–being a disciple of Jesus Christ–demands that we share our faith with others.

Christian Faith is Personal, Not Private

In God We Trust

Why does God ask for our belief in Jesus in order to receive His grace of justification, redemption and salvation? To understand this, we must first understand what it means to have belief in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is not merely believing that He existed, nor that He was a good teacher, nor even that He is God–all of which are true, but are inadequate.

In John 3:16, the word “believes” is the Greek word “pisteuo,” which means to have faith in or to entrust “…especially with one’s spiritual well being,” according to Strong’s Concordance. So the better understanding of this verse then is that we are to place our complete trust of our spiritual well-being in Jesus–to believe fully that He is our savior and walk in that faith.

So, why was it that God made trust in Jesus the qualification for salvation, instead of some other mechanism? Built on the belief that we all need saving from our sinful nature and God’s righteous judgement of our willful disobedience to Him, the answer lies in the original sin of Adam. Many will state that Adam fell from grace when he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because he merely disobeyed God. While it is true that he did disobey God in his act, and that alone is worthy of condemnation, the greater sin in his act was that rather than trusting in God and His commandment not to eat of that particular tree–that He knows what is best for us, that the creator of all existence might have reasons beyond our comprehension, that He might have information that we don’t posses–Adam presumed himself, with influence from the Adversary, to be God’s equal and placed trust in himself.

Like the first Adam, we place trust in ourselves and many things of this world: doctors, lawyers, employers, friends, family. But we often fail to place complete trust in God. Only when we put our reliance on Him, are we trusting the only person who will never fail us and in whom we can trust completely. So, it is only fitting that when we relinquish trust in all things, especially ourselves, and place our full trust in God, can we return to the pre-sin relationship with Him. God is only asking for a return to the way it was and should be.

In God We Trust

Who is My Neighbor?

Headed to a neighborhood meeting one night, a Christian man was walking through part of the city from his parked car. To get from where he was parked to the meeting, he had to walk from behind the building where he was parked to the meeting in front.

As he exited the alleyway, three young men approached him. They told the man to give them his watch, wallet and cell phone, while they brandished knives. The man told the young men that what they were doing wasn’t necessary and that no matter what they were going through there were better ways to get what they need and want in life. The young men looked at each other, laughed and proceeded to attack the man. They not only took his watch, wallet and cell phone, but also beat him nearly to death, after which they ran off.

As the man lay bleeding at the intersection of the alleyway and the sidewalk along the street, he saw out of his bloody eye a hazy figure in a window across the street. He tried to call out to the person in the window, but as he did, the person pulled the shade down and turned off the light.

After what seemed like an eternity to the man, but was more likely only a few minutes, a neighborhood leader who was headed to the meeting passed by the man. By this time the man had passed out. Not sure whether the man was dead or not, and already running late for the meeting, the neighborhood leader decided that it would be best to continue on his way to the meeting because this sort of thing happens all the time and his time would be better spent trying to prevent it from happening in the future to someone else, especially if this man was already dead as he appeared to be.

A young Muslim man walking down the street approached the Christian man lying nearly dead on the sidewalk. The Muslim man immediately dropped to his knees and checked the man for a pulse. Finding one, he retrieved his cell phone and called 9-1-1. After the paramedics arrived, the Muslim man told them that he didn’t know who the man was or what had happened, but that he would join them in the ambulance to take the man to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, the Muslim man repeated to the admitting nurse that he didn’t know who the dying man was, nor what had happened to him. The nurse then told the Muslim man that they would stabilize the man, but then transfer him to a county hospital because he had no I.D., nor any insurance documentation. The Muslim man then pulled out his wallet and gave the nurse $500 dollars in cash that he had been saving for a down-payment on a car, saying to use the cash to cover the man’s medical expenses. The nurse chided the Muslim man that $500 would not be nearly enough to cover the emergency room fees. The Muslim man then reached back into his wallet and retrieved his American Express Platinum card and told the nurse to use that to cover any additional fees that the cash did not cover.

Who was the dying man’s neighbor?

Who is My Neighbor?

We Do Not Serve the Same God

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are referred to as the three Abrahamic faiths because the three draw roots to the same patriarch, Abraham. Because of this lineage link, many also draw the conclusion that believers in each of the three are believing in and worshiping the same God. This is a false assumption. To understand why this is false, we must understand who each of these three religions worship.

In orthodox Christianity, we understand God to be the eternally-present, uncreated creator of all existence, of singular substance but represented in the persons of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These three persons of God while having separate roles and relationships to one another are co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent. These are not three Gods, but one God existent in three persons. The triune nature of God we may never fully understand until we are at last with Him in the kingdom.

Jews understand God to be who He portrays Himself to be in the most simple of understandings of the Old Testament, which is as a singularity in person-hood. That is to say that Jews only worship God the Father, with disregard for both God the Son, who is foretold by Old Testament prophets, and God the Holy Spirit, who is present throughout much of the Old Testament. In denying the deity of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Jews deny critical portions of who God is. So while they worship a concept of God, they do not worship Him fully, which makes that which they worship an idol of the true God.

Similarly, Muslims, who also deny the deity of Jesus, deny God His fully glory. But more basically, Muslims do not even worship the same concept of God, as Jews and Christians share. Allah, the name of the Islamic God, started his career as a minor moon god, one of many worshiped by the Bedouin people of the Southern Arabian peninsula. A full study of Islam reveals to the undertaker that it is a man-made faith concocted by a man in the late 600s AD in response to both the vacuum of power left by the collapsing Roman empire and the growth in pre-Arabian nationalism. The inventor of Islam attempted to graft the new religion into the Jewish and Christian traditions by usurping many of the people, places and events recorded in the Old Testament, but then perverts the Christian faith by denouncing specific tenets central to orthodox Christian doctrine. We also see this tactic used by the inventor of the Mormon religion.

A great tragedy is that Jews and Muslims are earnest in their beliefs, having been fully deceived by the lies of the adversary. The greatest tragedy, though, is that universalism has crept into the Christian church. More and more Christians are under the delusion that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. So, there is a growing propensity for some Christians to embrace this false brotherhood of the three faiths. But to accept that we serve the same God is to reject the deity of Christ. If we don’t stand for Biblical truth, then there will be no church to profess the truth to the blind and deceived. If we don’t stand on orthodoxy, then we pervert the Word. If we don’t live by the Word, we perish eternally.

We Do Not Serve the Same God

Timid Christians

When I worked for a Christian book store, a part of my job was to offer to my customers the ability to sponsor a child living in a third-world country, as well as various other ministry opportunities, such as sending Bibles to women in pregnancy counseling centers or to children in Latin America or to men and women in the US Armed Services. Sometimes my customers would accept my offer to participate in one of these ministries, but more often my customers decline, which is perfectly fine. Many were already participating in that or other similar ministries. Some customers declined because they were on fixed incomes. But, one customer gave me the most curious response: she stated that offering these ministry opportunities is somehow a violation of her privacy.

The customer was obviously upset, likely from feeling guilty from not participating. I try not to make my customers feel guilty. If after they decline the offer they tell me why they declined, as most do, I assure them that it is their decision whether or not to support these ministries, and in fact that God has made them the stewards of the funds with which He has intrusted them–that only they may rightly decide where to allocate those funds. If the customer also says something about feeling guilty, I also state that I am not trying to make them feel guilty, but if they are, that it might be the Holy Spirit convicting them, and that it isn’t me.

Some of my co-workers were far more timid about offering our ministry opportunities to our customers. They shared with me that they don’t want to be offensive or cause a customer to feel guilty or be confrontational. These are the same excuses that I hear very often from brothers and sisters of our faith that are not sharing the gospel with everyone they encounter, let alone anyone they encounter.

When we choose to follow Christ, we accept the Great Commission and relinquish the luxury to decide whether or not we will share the gospel. We also relinquish the comfort we might seek in being non-confrontational. That is not to say that we should seek to be confrontational or obnoxious in our approach to sharing the gospel. In fact, the most effective means to sharing the gospel is by establishing relationships with non-believers, showing them Christ through our actions, how He works through us.

But if we were to limit ourselves to only sharing the gospel with individual with whom we had the opportunity to establish long-standing relationships, then we would miss most of our opportunities throughout the day–the window attendant at our favorite fast-food stop, the barista at the coffee shop, the clerk at the dry cleaners, the attendant at the gas station. We will likely not have the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with most of these people, and we potentially rob them of the kingdom if we don’t at least share part of the gospel with them, at least giving them an evangelism tract.

Paul, in writing to his protege, Timothy, put it this way:

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…(2 Timothy 1:6-9 ESV)”

He directs Timothy to be bold–fan into flame–and goes on to explain that we are not to be, as some translations put it, timid, but to be instead powerful, loving and with self-control. We can show another no greater love than to share with them the gospel by which they can receive salvation. If we have the opportunity to share the life saving truth with them, but fail for the selfish reason of timidity, we show them hatred, not love.

But Paul also cautions Timothy to be of self-control. When sharing the gospel, we need to analyze how they best might receive it from us. For some a direct approach is best, but for others, a simple non-confrontational evangelism tract is best. The point is that we must do something to share the gospel.

So, if fear has been holding you back from sharing the gospel with others, I challenge you to daily seek at least one opportunity to in someway share the gospel. And remember, we do this because we love God and we love the people with whom we are sharing the gospel.

Timid Christians

What a Wretched Sinner am I!

I am the worst sinner that I know.

We each should hold the view that we are the worst sinner that we know for two reasons. First, it keeps us focused on the fact that we are not good, and never will be until the day we have been stripped of the flesh. When we begin to think that we are good people, the problem with our equation is that we are comparing ourselves to other people. Other people are not now, and never have been, the standard by which we are to measure. It is Holy–perfect, sinless, pure–God that is the standard. How absurd it would be to measure a sack of flour compared to another sack of flour rather than by the objectivity of the scale. Likewise it is absurd to measure ourselves subjectively by other people rather than objectively against the Creator of all existence, to whom we will never measure-up.

The other reason we should have such a lowly opinion of ourselves is that when we hold ourselves in disregard, we raise others in our regard for them. That is to say that we think more highly of them, and place their needs above our own. The two Great Commandments are to love God and to love others, not to love ourselves. In fact, in Ephesians 5:28-29, it is assumed that in the natural we love ourselves. The flesh has taught us to love ourselves more than any other, even above God. It is in this that we are a work to overcome.

Do not be confused as to whose work this is though, as it is not our own, but His who dwells within us, for we cannot defeat sin, only God can. He is the victor: His atoning sacrifice on the cross provided the path to salvation, and once we dedicate His temple (ourselves, see Romans 12:1-3) to Him, He begins to do the work within us. We don’t build the temple; we don’t clean the temple in preparation for its use; we merely dedicate it to Him.

The work we have to do is to stay in submission and humility. When we continually choose to do this work, then His work in us can be seen “…for he who is in [us] is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4, ESV).” For those struggling with a particular area of sin, my only advice is this: give-up, accept that you cannot defeat sin. Lay yourself at His feet; confess your sin openly; pray and ask for prayer by others. Do not be fooled into thinking though that temptation will be taken from before you, but be assured that by His strength you will be able to turn away from temptation.

What a Wretched Sinner am I!

Idolatry of Family

Many Christians in the United States are raised in the faith, or at least around the faith. I, however, was not raised in a Christian home, and in fact did not begin to follow Christ until I was 33 years old. In my testimony half jokingly tell people that like Christ, I too died when I was 33, but that I died in myself to live in Him, a reference to Matthew 10:39.

I praise God that He called me to Him, but more so that He softened my heart to Him and opened my eyes to the truth so that I could respond rightly. My salvation is secure in His grace, but that is not the case for my extended family.

For those who raised me, I dread the thought that they may never know God’s grace in salvation. So, I bring them the gospel in ways they can hear it, and pray that the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin so that they may repent of it and turn to the Lord and give Him their lives as living sacrifices. My extended family supports my faith, and tolerates my light evangelism to them, but many of our brothers and sisters of the faith are not so blessed.

Friends of mine who are in similar situations, or worse, that have family members who claim to follow Christ but live like the world, often face from their families ridicule, persecution and persuasion to abandon Christ. So, in their cases, their families are not merely the unsaved to whom we evangelize, but those possibly lost to the world. We never know who will receive the gospel and who will persecute us for it, and so we should evangelize to everyone. But, at some point, those who refuse the gospel–those whom have been exposed but reject it–will try to cause us to abandon Christ and join them in the world. Those are the lost, or least those whom we will not reach. Perhaps God intends another to reach them, but certainly not us.

When our relationships reach this point with the apostate, our family ties dissolve. The phrase, “blood is thicker than water,” is used to explain that family ties should bind tighter than others, but what this phrase doesn’t acknowledge is that our ties to and through Christ bind more tightly than those of the world, including family ties.

The synoptic gospels paint a clear and sad picture of the relationship between Jesus and His mother, Mary–one of reluctance on Mary’s part and resignation on Jesus’. Mary had been visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she would bear the son of God and that He was coming to establish His unending kingdom. So, she understood, as well as she could, who Jesus was–deity–and why He was here–to establish His kingdom. But account after account shows her attempting to thwart, or at least slow, His ministry. This was not out of malice, but out of love for her son. But whatever her intentions, she was attempting to frustrate the will of God. The situation comes to a head when Mary and some of Jesus’ siblings attempt to counsel Him against speaking:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. [Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you."] But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Matthew 12:46-50 ESV)

Once we dedicate our lives to Christ, we join a new family: the body of Christ, the universal church. Our natural families are our first ministry if they have not already come to a right relationship with God through Christ. We love them, we share with them the gospel, but if they reject it, we regard them as we regard the rest of the apostate world. That is to say, we continue loving them and continue sharing the gospel, but we break fellowship with them.

No longer do we have family gatherings with them solely to enjoy their company, as we once may have. Gone are the days we call them family. They are to us no different than the stranger on the street who doesn’t know Christ. If we gather with them, it is to share the gospel and love them to Christ. But, if they make it impossible to share the gospel, or they persecute us for it, then we pray for them and cease being in their company. Every gathering with non-believers is an opportunity to share the gospel, and if it is not, then we should not be in that gathering.

Paul makes this point abundantly clear in his fourth letter to the church at Corinth:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
(2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ESV, parenthetical statements mine)

This may sound harsh, to put away our families if they reject a right relationship with God, but if we do not, then we become idolaters. Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37 ESV)”

Why would we put away our other idols–money, sex, fame, vice–but hold tightly to others? Let us all be as courageous as Abraham, willing to sacrifice his own son for the pleasure of God, and put away all of those who openly reject Christ as their Lord and Master, including our families. And in doing so, remember:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29 ESV)”

Idolatry of Family

Idolatry of Self

So, you’re a Christian, right?

On what are you focused in this life? Maybe it is your family; or, your career; or, your health; or, your possessions. Whatever you are focused on, if it isn’t God–loving and serving Him–then you are killing yourself.

Jesus said, “The thief [Satan/the adversary (of God and man)] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ESV, parenthetical statements mine)” Clearly, He setup in this statement an “either/or” scenario; either you will be stolen from, killed and destroyed, or you will have life and have it abundantly. What Jesus means by this is that those who receive what Jesus has to offer will receive unbounded rewards in the kingdom after life here is over.

But wait, how can focusing on your family be wrong? And, you focus on your career to just provide for your family, right? And, if you aren’t healthy, then you aren’t any good for your family, or job. And, those possessions, they aren’t really the focus, but it’s always great to have more!

Jesus also said, “Do not labor for the food that perishes (things of this world), but for the food (the Word of God) that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man (Jesus) will give to you…. (John 6:27 ESV, parenthetical statements mine)” So, in this “either/or” scenario, by choosing the things of this world, such as family, health, career and possessions, we are choosing to be stolen from, killed and destroyed. Whereas, if we choose the Word of God (Jesus) as our pursuit, we receive eternal life. Does this mean that we will live long earthly lives like Methuselah? No, because, Jesus wasn’t talking about long earthly lives, but rather eternal life in the kingdom of our reward after this life.

So, how do we choose eternal life? For that we simply need to look at another quote of Jesus’:

“For whoever would save his (earthly) life will lose it (eternal life), but whoever loses (gives up focus on) his (earthly) life for my sake will find it (eternal life). For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:25-26 ESV, emphasis and parenthetical statements mine)”

According to this, we lay down our lives and pick-up Jesus’ life. But what does it mean to lay down our lives? And, how do we pick-up His? Again, it all has to do with our focus in this life. If we remove ourselves as the focus of our lives and place our focus on God, then we have a right relationship with Him.

But, what does it mean to focus our lives on God? Isn’t going to “church” on Sunday, paying our tithes, and praying when we feel like it, enough? Being focused on God, loving and serving Him means every minute of every day from now until we join Him.

But wait, that just might interfere with what we had planned! Exactly. And, hopefully it does. Because nothing we had planned for our lives is as glorious as the role God has planned for our lives. Nothing in this life comes even close to being as glorious as serving God because nothing in this life is as glorious as God.

The logic on this one is pretty simple: God is perfect, we are not, therefor whatever we do to honor Him is glorified and anything that we do to honor ourselves is not.

Idolatry of Self

Of Course You Have a Relationship with God

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
(Joshua 24:15 ESV, emphasis mine)

Whether you are of Semitic heritage, as I am, or Asian, African or European, your forefathers served some god(s). And today, people groups around the world serve many different gods, including YHWH, God of the Bible; Allah, ancient desert moon god and the god of Islam; and, Ganesha, one of many Hindu gods. But people also serve gods that they might not realize they are serving, such as greed, lust, addiction, covetousness, and especially the god of self. The Bible actually has the following list:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
(Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)

All of these “gods” are truly just idols, for an idol is anything we place ahead of God and service to Him. So even the atheist serves gods. And, many self-proclaimed Christians are idolaters too, because they fail to put God first.

You cannot have no relationship with your mother and father, because even if you have a poor relationship with them, you still have some relation to them, albeit poor. Likewise we all have a relationship with God, be it a right relationship or not. If we do not have a right relationship with God, we’ve caused Him to be alienated from we, as we’ve walked away from Him and the right relationship. It is not God that has soured the relationship, but us, through our behavior toward Him.

There is only one right relationship with God, which is based on the fact that God created the entirety of existence. As a part of the entirety of existence, we were made by God and thus He owned us from the beginning of existence. God, in giving us free will, gave us to ourselves. We, rather than returning ourselves to our rightful owner, sold ourselves into slavery to sin. God, rather than writing us off as bad investments, repurchased us from sin. If we correctly recognize our relationship to God as His property–made, bought and paid-for–we must turn away from our sins, love God and submit to His will.

Whether we choose to serve God or not, we are going to serve someone. If we do not choose to serve God, then we choose, even by our inaction, to serve His adversary, whether it be through service to one of the numerous false gods or service to ourselves through secular humanism. We will all be judged, and none will be judged worthy, but those who take Christ Jesus as our Master, will be justified through His atoning sacrifice. All others will recognize the Lordship of Christ Jesus, but only after they’ve been forever distanced from Him in torment. So, return yourself to His ownership today, not for the eternal reward or fear of the eternal punishment, but because that is where we all rightly belong.

And, if you already call yourself a brother or sister of the faith, then make sure you have a right relationship with God by placing Him at the center of everything you love, think and do.

Of Course You Have a Relationship with God

Love thy Neighbor

As Christians, we are commanded by God to love all people. In fact, to “…love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:39, ESV) is second only to “…love the Lord your God…” (Matthew 22:37, ESV). But who is our neighbor? And, what does it mean to love our neighbor, especially as we love ourselves?

The first question of who is our neighbor, Jesus answers in the parable of the Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), in which a man, presumably a Jewish man, as that was Jesus’ audience, was traveling on a road to Jerusalem, but along the way was attacked, robbed and left for dead. The man who appeared to be dead was then passed by two highly religious men, both of whom crossed to the other side of the road as to not come into contact with a possibly dead body, as that would make them unclean and unholy for a period of time, and would require sacrifices to atone for their sin of touching a dead body. So, both walked by, not checking on the man to see if he was truly dead, or in need of help. A third man, a man of the Samaritans, who are to this day an outcast off-shoot of the Jewish tribes of Israel, then came by the man. When this Samaritan, who was hated and an outcast by Jewish people, came to the man, he checked on him, saw that he was still alive and dressed the injured man’s wounds. The Samaritan then took the man into an inn and paid the innkeeper to attend to the man–to see to all the injured man’s needs–and promised to pay whatever additional costs were incurred by the innkeeper in doing so. After telling this parable, Jesus then told those to whom he had told the parable that anyone to whom we show mercy is our neighbor and to go do so. So, our neighbors are clearly everyone.

The latter of the two questions, as to what is love, is more difficult because loving another person falls into two categories: meeting needs and calling to repentance. We read throughout the gospels of Jesus’ miracles–healing the sick (Matthew 9:20-22), making the blind see (Matthew 9:27-31), resurrecting the dead (Matthew 9:18, 23-25). We also read of Him feeding thousands (John 6:10-11) and halting a lawful, but unmerciful stoning (John 8:3-9). So, by His examples, we are shown that healing, feeding and showing mercy are love.

But to say that love is only meeting needs is to tell a half-truth, because to fully love a person is not only to meet their needs today, but to meet their needs for all eternity. What good does it do to feed a man today, only to send him to everlasting torment in hell? In actuality, it is better to see a man go hungry today and yet eat of the bread of everlasting life than to go to hell on a full stomach. So, it is also love to call our neighbors to repentance. Jesus shows us this in the continuation of His encounter with the adulterous woman whose stoning He halted. After He sends away her would-be accusers, He says to her “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11, ESV). So we see that while we are to call brothers and sisters of the faith to repentance, out of love for them.

Liberals often only emphasize the meeting needs aspect of love missing the need to call to repentance, while conservatives stress the call to repentance at the same time ignoring the needs of their brothers. To miss either is to not love at all. Only through seeing and hearing these two parts together can our neighbors fully receive the gospel of Jesus’ ministry.

Love thy Neighbor

Worship in the Fast-food Nation

I once jokingly said to a couple friends that if their Sunday services take less than two hours, then they are doing something wrong. Each had expressed that their total service time was about an hour and fifteen minutes. At the time, I made the statement mostly jokingly, but have since come to think that maybe congregations that do spend, what to me seems to be, such little time worshiping God are in fact missing something. Both of my friends marveled at the three hours my congregation, at the time, typically spends in Sunday worship services, as if they wondered why one would give-up so much time for church. This is exactly the Sunday-itis that is running rampant in the body of Christ.

We must all first realize that we are not “going to church,” because church is not a place, building or even a specific congregation of believers, but that we all, across denominations, nationalities and creeds are The Church. So, we are “in church” anytime we fellowship in Christ with brothers and sisters of the faith. Therefor, being in church is not a distinct time separate from the “rest of our lives.” This subject alone could fill tomes, so I digress until a later time.

The greater issue of concern in this attitude of fitting God into our schedules is that in our modern culture we want to rush through our obligations so that we can return to feeding our selfish desires. We’ve put God in a box labeled “Sunday obligation” on our weekend chores list. Mow the lawn, visit Grandma, drop-by church, wash the car. And we better get it all done before kick-off of the big game.

Spending more time “in church” should not be a contest, and doing so certainly does not make one more righteous, pious, sanctified, justified or holy. The issue here is not about how much time one spends in worship services, or even in prayer, reading scripture or whatever else might bring one closer in his or her walk with God, but the motivation behind doing any of it. If one feels obligated to any of this from a place of guilt or, worse yet, out of the need for outward demonstration, then his or her motivations are not genuine. The only reason to draw near to anyone is love for that person. Those with a deep, abiding love for God will desire to be closer to Him–commune with Him in worship and in prayer.

Answering the question, “why do I go to church?” should settle this issue in anyone’s mind. If we go to church to serve our own needs, then we can give God as much or as little time as we like, but if we pray, worship, and attend services to glorify, honor, and raise the name of God, then we should consider how much attention God would have us give Him.

Those wanting a drive-by experience with God on a weekly basis (or less) might want to consider whether to install a drive-thru window in their local congregation to best serve their needs. However, those wanting a true relationship with God might want to inspect their motives behind why they “go to church” and how much time through-out the week they devote to the All Mighty, their Savior.

Worship in the Fast-food Nation


I once had a conversation with a Christian woman about contemporary Christian music, of which she stated that she is not fond. During the conversation I asked what musical artists she enjoys, to which she replied with a short list of secular artists. Having expected a list of Christian artists, contemporary or not, because that was the framework of our conversation, I further inquired about what Christian music she does enjoy, and to my surprise she replied that Christian music was for Sunday. Her attitude betrays a system of belief existent within the Church: Sunday-itis.

This plague is spreading throughout the Body of Christ to the point of causing paralysis and has, for the most-part, gone unnoticed by the host, as it presents little sign of itself, although it is severely destructive. I term the disease Sunday-itis because those parts of the Body infected, attempt to place God in a box labeled “Sunday.” Sunday-itis causes some to believe that they can make a weekly appointment with God (typically on Sunday, unless something more important comes-up) for 1-3 hours, depending on denomination, as if God were a barber with whom you could pop-in to see for a quick touch-up.

These same portions of the Body have no place for God in everyday life, not to mention every minute of the day, as our relationship with God is intended to be. They try to live a bifurcated life where they tithe their Sunday mornings to God and live the rest of the week for themselves. What’s worst about this disease is that those infected do not realize it, and appear to believe that their state is the norm, and to live otherwise is a twisting of the faith.

I have purposely omitted the denomination of the lady of whom I wrote about above because I do not want anyone to think that this disease is only prevalent in her denomination, because to some extent it exists in all congregations, and to some extent in each of us.

Part of the cause of Sunday-itis is the selfish nature of the flesh in which we each are wrapped, but it has spread through the Body of Christ because it has been accepted by certain denominations as the de facto standard for Christian life, where the clergy live, eat and breath Christ and on-demand deliver a small dose to the laity. Much of this attitude, it is clear, has been handed-down to modernity through tradition originating in the Roman Catholic church. But the mainline decedents of that denomination are as much to blame for not having provided a cure to the disease over the past 600 years.

If we call ourselves Christians, that means we have died in ourselves, only to be reborn in Christ, and that we have given-up our own lives to live in Him. From the moment of our rebirth, we are to live every moment for Him, and show Him a David-like zealous love (2 Samuel 6:20-21 and 1 Chronicles 16:7-12). We are to dedicate our lives to three endeavors: love God (Matthew 22:37), love each other (Matthew 22:39) and help bring others to a relationship with God through Christ (Mark 16:15).

This is, of course, not to say that we cannot enjoy the gifts of life, family and friends that God has given us, but rather to say that we should celebrate the giver more than the gift.