Too Many Christians Are Still Climbing

This photo captures the attitude of too many people in the church.

Just labeling something “wheelchair accessible” doesn’t make it so. Sure, the right set of stairs has fewer steps, and it is certainly an easier climb for those in good health. But for those who can’t navigate steps, a few steps can be just as insurmountable as many.

So what does that have to do with the church?

We in the evangelical church do well in saying salvation is all by faith in Christ. You can’t earn or work your way into heaven; just trust Christ.

So far, so good.

We’re not like those other groups with all their rituals and rules: Jews with their strict adherence to the law … Muslims with their rigid prayer five times a day and other requirements … cults with their requirements of giving, mission work, deeds that move you higher up the path. Instead, the Christian church is all about grace.

But Christians have a lot of unwritten rules.  These “rules” vary from congregation to congregation. Staunch fundamentalist groups preach grace while expecting church members not to listen to certain styles of music … put their kids in public schools … play the lottery … smoke.

Other churches can be more subtle in their expectations. To make a difference in the church and community you don’t drink (in public) … support liberal causes … hold to reformed theology … speak in tongues. The unwritten list varies as you drive down the street from church to church.

It’s a safe assessment that no pastor promotes this. (Well … most don’t.) But we have something ingrained in our old nature that says we still play a part in our salvation. That means after we come to Christ—after we’re saved and part of His church—we still have certain things we have to do to make the cut. Thirty-six percent of evangelicals believe their actions partly contribute to earning a place in heaven [State of Theology Research].

If there are twelve people on your pew next Sunday or in your Bible study group, odds are that four of them believe to some degree they’ve got to do their part to make it to heaven. That’s like saying, thanks to Jesus, Christians don’t have as many steps to climb. But to those of us disabled by our own faulty efforts, one step to climb is one too many steps.

Let me be clear: In Christ, there are no steps to climb. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Jesus climbed those steps for us and now He reaches back, holds out His hand, and says, “Trust Me.” And He lifts us up to be with Him.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6-7).

Stop climbing—just walk with Jesus. And stop expecting others to climb by your set of rules.

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Two Clear Ways People See Jesus

I’m fascinated with the things people will sell on eBay. I’m equally fascinated that people will buy these things!

  • Need an inflatable unicorn for your swimming pool?
  • Want a collection of old embalming tools?
  • Looking to spend $2069 for a used pen with no historical significance?

Yes, eBay has it all.

The thing that intrigues me most is that people will buy mystery boxes. They have no idea what they are bidding on or what they win. They don’t know until UPS drops the box at their house. I’m quite sure that as the box is opened, a befuddled wife says, “You bought what?!

I want to see what I’m buying.


Henry Heinz had the same notion and built a huge company on that idea.

Before the days of the Food and Drug Administration, before the days of ingredients being listed on packages, people were hesitant to buy “packaged” food. Take horseradish, for example.  In the 1860s (and earlier), making horseradish was a time-consuming process, so producers would add fillers like turnips, ground beans, wood fiber, or even chalk.  You just had to take the seller’s word for what you were buying, because the stuff came in dark brown glass bottles.

Henry Heinz wanted people to know they could trust his horseradish, so he sold his product in clear bottles. People could see what they bought. They benefited from seeing they were getting a pure product, and Heinz benefited from a quickly growing company that soon included staples like ketchup and mustard—all in clear bottles.


We don’t have to debate people about the merits of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to prepare fine-sounding articulate theological treatises. Sure, there is a place for those, but if you want people to know Jesus, it just takes a simple invitation:

“Come and see.”

That’s what Philip did. After he first encountered Jesus, he told his friend Nathaniel he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel was skeptical. Philip did not debate or get defensive; he simply said, “Come and see.” (John 1:43-50).

We can’t physically walk someone to Jesus like Philip did, but they can still see Jesus.

1. The clear bottle of Scripture. Invite them to discover Christ as presented by those who knew Him.

  • Matthew and John were two of the twelve apostles who walked with Jesus.
  • Mark knew Jesus and likely used Peter as his main source.
  • Luke interviewed the disciples as well as other eyewitnesses. (See Luke 1:1-3.)

2. The clear bottle of your life. Live the Christ-filled life. Live with authenticity and transparency. Let people clearly see Jesus in you. No can argue with a changed life. Even more, they will be attracted to the One who lives in you. (Read how the Christ-filled life even smells good.)

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Come and see.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Share Christ” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

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What Would Your Friends Say You Smell Like?

Please don’t be offended, but I am about to compare you to whale vomit.

One of the nastiest odors known to the human nose is called ambergris. It is a secretion that comes from the intestines of a sperm whale. Apparently, when the sperm whale swallows something it can’t digest (I’m thinking Pinocchio’s raft), it secrets this stuff to cover the object and help it pass. If the object is too big, the whale pukes it up. Either way the ambergris comes out of the whale.

Ambergris

I know it sounds like I’ve reverted back to being a 12-year-old boy who likes grossing out his sisters by taking about stuff like whale poop and vomit, but I’ve found something fascinating about ambergris. As nasty and disgusting as it smells, as it ages  it changes to an incredibly pleasant smell. How pleasant? For years, it was highly valued for use in perfume.

That’s right. Men, the perfume that once drew you to your wife may have included eau de whale puke.


A foul odor becomes pleasant. What was once disgusting is transformed into something pleasing.

A life of sin stinks. We put off the stench of death. But when we come to Christ, we are transformed. A life that was once repulsive has been transformed by the grace of God into something sweet and pleasant. People can  look at us—even knowing the harsh and foul environment we came from—and be attracted by the aroma of Christ.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2: 14-15).

We are the aroma of Christ!

During the first century, a victorious army would march through the city with a parade of the prisoners of war.  The celebration included sweet fragrances that filled the air. To the victors, the sweet smell reminded them of what they had gained, but to the defeated—who were often being marched to their execution—that sweet aroma underscored their impending death.

Christ is the victor, and we—the aroma of Christ—cause different reactions in people. Those who choose to follow Christ are drawn to the sweet fragrance.  Those who reject Christ are repelled, and that sweet smell is the smell of death to them.

I haven’t worn cologne in years, but I do want people to pick up a scent from me: the aroma of Christ. Join me, and let’s fill the air with something wonderful—the sweet smell of grace.

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Love People, Not Objects

I love a good chimichanga—but not enough to marry it.

Apparently, not everyone  would agree with me. Why not marry it?

It’s called Objectum Sexuality (OS), a term for people who so love an object that they are even sexually attracted to it.

  • The Santa Fe Depot in San Diego is a classic train depot known by railfans across the country (me included). But one woman “married” it and even took “Santa Fe” as her last name. Watch the video.
  • A  woman in Sweden married the Berlin Wall in 1979.  (Source.)
  • Erika Eiffel fell in love with and married, that’s right, the Eiffel Tower. (Source.)

My intent is not to make fun of these women—as bizarre as their behavior is. I believe their behavior is symptomatic of deep-seated psychological and relationship issues. Yet I also see these women as taking to the nth degree an attitude we have all exhibited at one time or another.

Our love for things.

  • The person fawns over a car like a parent with a young child.
  • The person hesitates to loan or share something because she doesn’t want it damaged or soiled.

You’ve probably heard the old adage: Love people. not things. Use things, not people. We personalize objects (ever named your car?), and we objectify people. We give “life” to objects and we take life from others by making them objects for our own use and gain. The ways we treat both objects and people come down to the same reason: they are all to serve me—serve my needs and my self-interests.

Let’s see the worth in people—not the worth we give them because of their ability to meet our needs, but the worth God gives them.

Consider the worth you have before God:

  • God created you in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).
  • God, who oversees the entire universe with its countless stars and galaxies, knows you deeply and intimately (Ps. 139:13-16).
  • God seeks to fill your life with His goodness and abundance (John 10:10).
  • God loves you deeply in spite of your sin and rebellion (Rom. 5:8).
  • God gives you every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
  • God desires to do great things in you and through you (Eph. 2:10).

You know that person you might be tempted to befriend only so he might serve your purposes? God sees in him the same worth and value He sees in you.

When we see people with this God-given worth and value, we can avoid a lot of problems in relationships. We can avoid a lot of sin.

Take King David, for example. One of the best-known stories of his life was the adultery he committed with Bathsheba followed by the murder of her husband. We usually highlight his sins of adultery and murder, but consider what lay behind those grievous acts.

He saw them as objects for his own purposes.

There was a whole lot of heartache and pain—not to mention death!—that could’ve been avoided had David seen both Bathsheba and Uriah in a different light.

Let’s see people as God sees them: deeply loved and deeply valued. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “See Their Worth” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

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Do You Know Your Rights as a Christian?

“You have the right to remain silent …”

Although I have never been arrested (getting hauled to the police station when I was fifteen for driving without a license doesn’t count), I know my rights. I’ve watched enough crime shows to quote them:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning .
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

C’mon, is there anyone who cannot quote these? I grew up hearing them on TV, and they seem so obvious, but there was a time …


In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was a 22-year-old reform school graduate. The Phoenix police picked him up for questioning in the abduction and rape of a young woman. The police asked him questions and he confessed. He went to trial and was convicted.

When Miranda appealed his conviction, he found out that he never had to say a word to the police. He didn’t know he could ask for a lawyer; he just did what the police said. He didn’t know his rights. This went all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled 51 years ago this week (June 13, 1966) that anyone and everyone arrested must be informed of their rights—their Miranda rights.


Do you know your rights as a follower of Christ? I ‘m not talking about legal matters; I’m referring to spiritual matters.

In a recent post, I said that Christians have no rights, so it sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. But we don’t have any rights when it comes to choosing ourselves over others. We gave up all our self-focused rights when we surrendered ourselves to the lordship of Christ.

But Christ has given us certain rights—certain things we can expect—in our relationship to Him.

  • You do not have the right to remain silent. “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
  • Anything you say can and will be used to point people to Christ—or away from Him.With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (Jas. 3:9-10).
  • You have an attorney—a constant advocate—in Jesus Christ. We have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).
  • The Counselor—God’s Holy Spirit—is always present with you to guide you and help you. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

We have these rights, not as entitlements, but as a gift of God’s grace. If we  hear our Miranda rights, it is because we are accused. We hear our rights in Christ because we are declared forgiven.

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What Does Your Attitude Toward the President Say About Your Faith?

Does anyone question that our country is divided?

It seems that half our country hates President Trump. OK, “half” is an exaggeration, but it’s clear that large pockets of people  despise and vilify the president. They may publicly bemoan the antics of pseudo-comedienne Kathy Griffin,  but inwardly their own sentiments are just as hateful.

Lest you think I’m censuring one group, let’s remember that just last year the other side of the political spectrum hated President Obama.  For the eight years of his presidency, we endured hated-filled rhetoric and Internet memes designed to show just how much people despised President Obama.

Such a view from either side of the aisle is unchristian. It’s unbiblical. It’s wrong.

Consider the words of two men who both lived—and died—under Nero, one of the worse Roman emperors. While still only a teenager, Nero murdered his stepbrother who stood in his way. He had his wife killed because he didn’t like her. He married again and then supposedly killed that wife by kicking her while she was pregnant. The next year he would marry his third wife after her husband was driven to commit suicide. Because Nero’s mother plotted against him, he likely had her killed as well.

Nero was the first emperor to persecute Christians. He had Christians arrested, punished in horrific ways, and murdered. Yet two of the believers who died violently under his rule wrote these words.

  • Paul: Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2).
  • Peter: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors” (1 Pet. 2:13-14).

Saul was the first king of Israel, and he was pretty lousy at it. It got to the point that God essentially said, “That’s enough. I’ve raising up a new king.” And that king would be David. Saul knew it. David knew it. Everybody knew it. King Saul was the ultimate lame duck.

Everyone knew God had chosen David, yet when David had not one, but two opportunities to kill Saul, he wouldn’t do it. C’mon, David. Saul has been rejected; you’ve been chosen by God to be the king! But David would not raise a hand against “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6).

This is the same David who was a man after God’s own heart (13:14).

Let’s strive to be people after God’s own heart.  Do our recent presidents—past and present—deserve our respect? No, but we don’t deserve God’s grace either. And yet here we are: recipients of something we don’t deserve.

Let’s respond to His grace with loving obedience to Christ, and that means respecting the authorities God has placed in our lives. And when we do this, we show …

  • … we  are not ruled by our politics.
  • … we are not ruled by our emotions.
  • …  we walk in the love of Christ. The absence of hate-filled rhetoric or disrespect  makes it possible for others to see the love of Christ in us—and to be drawn to that love.
  • … we are citizens of a greater kingdom, an eternal one ruled by One whose love knows no limits.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Respect Authority” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

Lies Masquerading as Truth

What we think is true can be just as powerful as what really is true.

Just ask Hitler.

The First US Army Group played a pivotal role in the D-Day Invasion—and it wasn’t even real.

The Nazis knew the Allied forces would eventually try to step onto the continent, but where? The Allies had their sights on landing at Normandy, but they didn’t want the Germans to know that. So they created a fictitious army group, placed it in a British coastal area far from where the Allies were actually stationed, and gave the impression they were going to invade France at Pas de Calais, a good 200 miles up the coast.

  • They created tent cities, fake mess halls, hospitals, and even a sewage treatment facility.
  • They filled the area with rubber inflatable tanks and a massive inventory of jeeps and ambulances constructed of wood.
  • The British film industry stepped in and made dummy landing craft out of fabric, plywood, old pipe, and bailing wire.
  • At night, men would move this equipment around, giving the illusion of activity.
  • They transmitted fake reports of camp activity, preparation, and troop movements.

To German radio operators and reconnaissance planes, the enemy was gearing up for invasion at Pas de Calais. As a result, when the allied invasion occurred on June 6, 1944, the Germans military was not as fortified at Normandy as they could’ve been. Their units were spread thin with a large contingency waiting 200 miles north for an invasion that never happened.

Even three days after the invasion, Hitler ordered the units to stay at Calais instead of joining the others in Normandy. This allowed the Allies to gain the ground needed.

A ghost army won a real battle.


Don’t let a ghost army win any battles in your life.

Has anyone ever said one of these to you? Ever said them to yourself?

  • You failed—again. You will always be a failure.
  • You are inadequate. You’ll never measure up.
  • Sure, God loves you, but He can’t use you—not after what you’ve done.
  • You are who you are. You will never change.
  • You’re hopeless.

Stop listening to these. They are nothing but lies. Jesus Christ changes everything.

  • He removes your sin—no matter how bad it is.
  • His forgiveness and love sees no failure.
  • He comes into your life through His Holy Spirit. God Himself empowers you and overcomes any past or inadequacies.
  • He gives you hope and a future.

Lies rule our lives when we believe them. But if we see the truth of who Christ is and who we are in Him, those lies are nothing more than a pretend, ghost army. They might look threatening, but they have no real power.

So how can we recognize the lies? Focus on the truth. Focus on Christ and what He has done for you. The gospel—the salvation that comes through the death and resurrection of Christ—is not simply to secure your future in heaven; it is for now. The good news is that Christ has set you free now. You rest securely in Him.

  • I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).
  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • “But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him” (Col. 1:22).
  • “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Live in the truth of who you are in Christ.