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Making Jesus Real in an Unreal World, Part 1

Ok, sure, I’m a pastor……

While some of you make think that’s great, far fewer may think it’s cool and perhaps many of you may think I only work one day a week, I can boil the most visible part of my job (the teaching part) down to a very simple parallel: I’m a mailman.

Me, the Pastor-dude!

Me, the Pastor-dude!

Now unlike the guy who drops off your mail at your home or business, I read your mail; I read it for my information and I in turn read it to you.  I have even gone to school to learn how to read your mail properly and accurately!  I have become an expert in reading your mail because the mail of yours which God has sent to you was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek!  I guess I am an expert at reading God’s mail addressed to people!

Now since it is the Bible which identifies what sin is (at the behest and will of God) I am bound by my relationship with God through Jesus Christ the Son to deliver His Word (His mail, if you will) truthfully.  For me to not tell you what His Word identifies as sin would lack integrity and love.  It lacks integrity because I am purposely and willfully hiding the Truth of God from those who want and need to hear what God says.  It lacks love because I do not really love you if I won’t tell you what God says.

The Bible says divorce, lying, cheating, murder and overeating (among others) are all sin.  It also says homosexuality, abortion and same-sex sexual relationships of all kinds are also sin.  All of these actions (and I have not listed them all) are all sin and God views them all equally as rebellion against Him.

Remember, I’m the mailman!

Do I believe these things are sin?  Yes I do.  I also believe the Bible when it says, “All have sinned and missed God’s intended target of perfection (sinlessness).”  Even in the Jewish Old Testament (the first part of the Holy Bible) a prophet many hundreds of years before Jesus stated, “There aren’t any righteous people anywhere; everyone has sinned.”  This means every single person is guilty and there isn’t a single human anywhere who isn’t guilty of sin—we are all equally guilty!

This means when I identify a particular act as sin, I must do so knowing there isn’t any sin the Bible identifies which would be beyond my ability to do.  I am capable, under the right circumstances and the right temptations to engage in overeating, divorce, homosexuality and lying.  True, some things are fairly easy to do while others may take much more motivation, but I am capable of any and all sin.

So this is where I am: I’m a full-blooded human with all of the capabilities and predilection to commit sin.  I am also a pastor; I am fulfilling God’s design and plan for me through ministering to people and teaching them about God’s Word and the good news of His Son.  My role often means I put on my “Captain Obvious” cape and identify as I teach the Bible what the Bible calls sin.

Yet this is the important part: I must do so without personally judging anyone in the process.  If it wasn’t for God’s grace and His power in my life (it’s all God and Jesus!) I could be caught up in the same things the Bible states is sin.  If I am who I claim (a pastor and a believer in Jesus Christ) then there should be evidence of my claim.  If I live like there is no evidence of who I claim to be, at best I am a liar and at worst I am severely deluded!

Why is any of this important?  Because as I live my life, I am to make Jesus real in an unreal world!  This world is unfair, unjust, cruel, brutal, out-of-control and often incredibly stressful.  Believers (those with a relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son) must hold their faith and their testimony to others carefully and gently.  We must desire to have every part of our lives testify and proclaim who Jesus is in our life.

This also means we must understand even in our obedience to God’s Word and His Son we must allow those who do not believe as we do see the love of God in our life.  Will this remove all of the misunderstanding and hatred we may face because of our desire to be obedient?

christian-cross-christ-field-18619705  Unfortunately it will not; just as there will be those who will absolutely hate my        identification of what some people are doing as sin even in this blog, I have to    remember it really isn’t about me.  I am to obey and sometimes in the process of  obedience, I will become a target of opportunity by those who dislike what the  Bible (and me in this context) says.

Yet they better see God’s love in everything I do.  Otherwise, I am in danger of being judged by the same God I claim to be serving!

 

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The Ugly Christian

From the 1963 film starring Marlon Brando

From the 1963 film starring Marlon Brando

Back in 1958 Eugene Burdick and William Lederer wrote the book The Ugly American.  It told the story of the hapless efforts of the United States in a fictional country in Southeast Asia (widely regarded to represent the US efforts in Vietnam) in the attempts of America to fulfill its quest to “contain” Communism and therefore continue to implement Truman’s famous doctrine.

Originally, the desire of the authors was to write a factual study, but the publishers persuaded them to transition to a work of fiction.  In doing this they were afforded greater creativity and even more freedom to both apply their version of “truth” as well as greatly expanding the means by which their work could be disseminated among various competing ideologies.  In other words, the work became a tool for those who espoused a decidedly anti-American and anti-Western philosophy.

Sadly, Burdick and Lederer accurately portrayed the reality of the American efforts in this region of the world.  Neil Sheehan in his book A Bright Shining Lie further highlights the incredible incompetence spawned by unchecked bureaucracy during the Vietnam War.  The cold reality dogging American efforts was reflected in the words of the Apostle Paul, our “good was evil spoken of.”

In many ways, Christians today are far too often and too easily viewed as ugly.  In my own denomination, there seems to be this almost puerile obsession with the habits of those outside of Christianity yet all the while they are oblivious to the ugly and insidious nature of the accepted behaviors within Christianity.  What is sad is many of these unattractive attitudes and practices come from those who are regarded as leaders and pastors.

Many of the problems arise from the assumptions made of those professing the name of Christ.  A whole industry has been built to fortify an almost revisionist-style history portraying the United States as a country began with solely Christian values.  While the underlying philosophy of our founding fathers was a definitely a Judeo-Christian paradigm, we were not and are not now a Christian nation.

There were many of our founders and leaders who were familiar with Christian nomenclature and philosophy—some even reared by strongly Christian parents—yet for every reference point given to “prove” the evangelical bent of these men there are equally as many proofs countering those claims.  Even though evangelical Christianity did not infuse every one of our founders, there were many genuine Christians among our founders.

So should those who are Christian handicap themselves by not referring to the importance of Christianity on the formation of this country?  Not at all; yet Christians cannot continue with their arrogant attitudes and patronizing actions if they (including myself) truly desire to reach those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I wouldn’t want you to think I am immune from such silliness either.  Far too often I “catch” myself thinking some incredibly stuffy thought and then something inside me (I believe it is the Holy Spirit who resides in all who have a relationship with Christ) points out my foolishness.  My plan is to write a “series” (I usually can’t stand multi-part anything; I’m making attempts at maturity here so bear with me . . . . .) dealing with the subject began in this post.

My desire is the same as the United States Senator Adlai Stevenson: “Today, I come to you with the task of speaking; your task is that of listening.  Let us hope we all end at the same time.”

Hey, it’s a hope!