Archive for the ‘Christian faith’ Tag

Count the Costs   Leave a comment

There’s a thought that goes something like this — Salvation in Christ is easy. All that’s required is faith. Just believe, walk an aisle, claim your fire insurance and your eternity is set. Your sins are forgiven. God won’t even remember them. You can do whatever you want now.

It’s not true. For those of us who read the whole Bible, it’s clear that Christian faith is not the easy choice. For those of us who read the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples were clear that Christianity was a choice that would cost believers something. Truth be told, you can’t even base easy believism on Jesus’ teachings.

“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your ownOr how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye,and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:3-6

First, recognize that Jesus is speaking to disciples here – to adult believers who made an informed choice to follow Him. These were not children or people who did not want to be closer to God. They were following Jesus and listening to His sermons.

Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus is saying “God is an exclusive deity and He has set out a path for you to come into His presence. There are not multiple ways to get there. There is one and it’s not all that easy (later He says it is well worth the effort).

“Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruitEvery tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.” Matthew 15-20

Jesus warned that there would be those who would try to infiltrate Christian ranks and destroy God’s good work by changing what He was teaching. Later, Paul, Peter and John (Jesus’ best friend) warned of the same thing.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’  will enter into the kingdom of heaven– only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ Matthew 7:21-22

In another place, Jesus said that if you try to enter His salvation by any other means than what He was teaching, you would be considered a robber and tossed out on your ear to a place where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teachingbecause he taught them like one who had authoritynot like their experts in the law.” Matthew 7:28-29

Being a believer is going to cost you. The first thing it costs you is the illusion that you’re a good person. Paul describes that in Romans. He had every reason to believe he was a fine follower of God, but he was wrong and God opened his eyes on the road to Damscus. The second thing it is going to cost you is your will. You will never be more vulnerable in adulthood than when you allow another Christian to lower you into the water and bring you back up in full immersion baptism. And that is the point. You are not in charge. God is.

Choosing to become a Christian and follow Jesus in baptism makes you responsible for your subsequent actions — for every word, thought and deed. Yes, you’re forgiven by God, but you now have a responsibility to conduct yourself as His child and representative and not resemble the father of lies, Satan.

Christians are also called to live in community as believers, which makes us responsible for each other. Yes, we should look toward our own discipline first and foremost. We cannot remove the speck from our fellow Christian’s eye when we’ve got a log in our own. On the other hand, when our friends are up to their hips in quagmire, it is our responsibility to throw them a lifeline — to become the partially sighted leading the blind out of the ditch.

Christians, give that a good long thought and then do it.

Christian Fiction As Propaganda   4 comments

As a Christian who is a writer, I don’t necessarily seek to write Christian literature. However, I believe true Christians cannot help to exude our faith as we live our lives or write our books and I do hope Christians won’t avoid my work because I am not writing specifically for them.

Far too often, when I browse the “Christian” section at Barnes & Noble, I see a lot of propaganda wrapped up in books of fiction. It’s worse when I go to the Christian bookstore. The vast majority of what passes for Christian literature is banal, poorly written, dull as tears and message-driven.

I could blame the writers, the publishers or the audience, but I’m going to go out on a limb and blame the entire Christian community. Publishers know their market. That’s how they make money. There is a market for banal, poorly written, dull as tears, message-driven books that can be labeled “Christian”. That’s why these books get published. The Christian Book Association bases it criteria not on literary merit or commercial success, but on doctrine and message. If publishers want to put a Christian label on a book, the book has to meet a definitive standard. It can’t have sex, it can’t have a lot of violence, Christian characters must be at the center of the plot, and it can’t have a lot of drugs or drinking.

Whoops! There goes my work in progress about a young alcoholic facing the music for killing his sister. There’s a secondary character that’s a Christian, but Peter never is and he’s unlikely to become one soon because he has a lot to distract him from salvation. It’s more the story of his Christian friend’s failure to offer him solutions, so no publisher of Christian literature is going to be interested in it because CBA would say it doesn’t meet their guidelines.

Writers face a similar dilemma. If we don’t write to the CBA requirements, no matter how good our work is, it will be rejected. The Chronicles of Narnia couldn’t meet the current standards. We all know CS Lewis was a Christian. His book Mere Christianity was involved in some of us becoming Christians. Yet Chronicles has drinking, drug addiction (Turkish Delight), war and violence and it gets a little loose on some theology. Nobody ever bows a knee and accepts Christ either. Is Chronicles a Christian series or not? According to the CBA’s guidelines, it’s not.

Most of the books that receive the Christian label are message driven to the point where plot and character development are sacrificed. The message is often very compelling, but the plots feel contrived or sensationalized because it’s manipulating the reader to a preconceived place where everything turns out lovely because God intervenes. I stopped reading the Left Behind series when the Tribulation Force survived a nuclear blast, but I had already wearied of one-dimensional characters. I knew what they were going to say or do … well, all of the time. YAWN!

Then there’s that tendency to end stories with tidy conclusions that leave you feeling uplifted. Peter killed his sister. Realistically, do you think his life going forward is going to be easy, even if he were to accept Christ? And, should it be?

Writing to a message would have him repentant and forgiven, maybe a little sad, but secure in the support from his Christian friends. That’s not how I chose to write it because I don’t want to promote fantasy Christianity in a world that has never existed.

The Christian faith found within most Christian fiction does not exist. Demons are slain, sinners saved, prayers answered immediately, the righteous resist temptation and never fall, the unrighteous come to faith or a bad end through God’s power. Does this sound at all like real life?

Christian fiction has earned a bad reputation because of this. And, I hate that! Christianity should be synonymous with the highest quality of whatever craft we engage in. Christian fiction should be filled with solid characters you identify with and care about, a setting so vivid you feel you’ve been there, and a plot that transports you like you’re one of the characters. Christian writing should be the Bach of literature. Instead, it’s known for just the opposite and derided even by those who buy the books.

That’s the weird thing. Christians buy this awful stuff and read it … while at the same time, they also read George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (The Game of Thrones). Often they hide Martin’s books from the Small-Group Bible Study — which also makes me sad.

I used to do that too, until I realized what a travesty we are creating by pretending Christianity is something it isn’t. Now some of my favorite authors grace shelves in the public areas of my home. It’s fun to gauge the reaction of visitors who are Christians.

The pursed lips or the guilty chuckle? Those who do the guilty chuckle get to be my alpha readers.

Misinterpreting Sin as God-Ordained   Leave a comment

How do we apply Romans 13 to the current situation in American Christianity? It’s difficult to deny that the United States government has grown oppressive and tyrannical far in excess to its own charter documents (the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution), which enshrines self-government (government by the citizens themselves with officials answerable to us) as the foundation of the nation.

The question is … does God permit Christians to exercise our judgment in determining which laws we will obey or disobey? May we withhold taxes, customs, fear, and honor from the federal government when it oversteps its limitations and seats itself upon God’s throne?

I know Christians who will answer that question firmly in the negative based on Romans 13. They will accept all sorts of laws, no matter what the implications to their faith might be, because they hold Romans 13 as a cornerstone of Christian faith.

Perhaps they should consider the Protestant churches of Nazi Germany as instructive.

In the 1930s, the “German Christians’ Faith Movement  sought to move Germany away from Christianity toward a religion based on psychology (Carl Jung approved), the replacement of Christian ceremonies with pagan equivalents, the rejection of Christian ethics, and the cult of Hitler’s personality. The movement ardently supported the Nazi principles of race and wanted them applied to a Reich Church that would bring all Protestants under a unified ecclesiastic  structure.

Opposed to the “German Christians” was a minority group called “the Confessional Church”, which opposed the Nazification of the churches, rejected Nazi racial theory and denounced attempts to use Hindu and pagan literature as a substitution for the Bible.

Neither of these groups was the majority of German Protestants. The vast majority of Protestants were too timid to join either of these groups. They sat on the fence and eventually, mostly, landed in Hitler’s camp by default, accepting his authority to intervene in church affairs and obeying his commands without open protest.

Hitler used Romans 13 to foster a sense of docile submission from the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Germany, writing in 1940:

The Protestants haven’t the faintest conception of a church. You can do anything you like with them– they will submit. These pastors are used to cares and worries… they learnt them from their squires…. They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them. They have neither a religion that they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.

There were some courageous rebels like Deitrich Bonhoeffer who refused to submit, but for the most part, the churches allowed the Nazis to carry out their “Final Solution” without protest. Church leaders even criticized laity for disobeying their “governing authorities” by hiding Jewish refugees in their homes. In Holland, the ten Boom family may well have been “outed” for their activity by their pastor.

Misinterpreting sin as God-ordained does not make it any less a sin. There are times when we do need to stand up because if we do not, the blood of millions of people may cry out to God for judgment against the Christian churches in our own nation.

 

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