Category Archives: Christian Living

Playing Dress Up

Almost two weeks ago I handed out candy to dozens of children in costumes. I saw firemen, bunnies, penguins and even a zombie or two. My nephew may have been convinced otherwise but I recognized that these weren’t real penguins and bunnies coming to my door. They were kids. Kids wearing masks and costumes. They may have looked like a fireman (and may have even acted like one) but I knew what they really were. They were just kids (and sadly a couple of teenagers who seemed to be having a difficult time letting go of their childhood).

If you spend very much time talking to a non-Christian about your faith, don’t be surprised if you hear them make the broad claim that, “Christians are hypocrites.” They state that they know many people who claim to be Christians but really live their life no different than the world. While I don’t believe that all Christians are hypocrites I do know that hypocrisy in the church is a massive problem. It’s something I have even struggled with on my own in the past. Some Christians, just like those children who came trick-or-treating at my door, may look like Christians and may even act like Christians on occasion. On the inside though, they are just like the world. It’s a problem that the Bible tells us we need to address.

Look at the way that Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. These men were the religious hot shots of the day. They spent time in the synagogues and around the temple. They knew the Law and the Prophets inside and out. These guys would have won the Bible Bowl every year if they competed. They gave large sums of money to the temple. They could be seen in public praying and worshipping. From the outside, the Pharisees were as religious as you could be. Jesus, being the Son of God, was able to see through these things though. In Matthew 23:27-28 He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full or hypocrisy and lawlessness” (NASB). It didn’t matter to Jesus that the Pharisees were trying to appear religious. He was concerned with their hearts! The Pharisees may have been able to fool the people but Jesus saw right through them. God never calls us to “look” religious. He calls for us to surrender our lives to Him.

We may not be able to change the way the whole world views Christianity but we can start with our own heart. Each Christian must examine their own life and determine whether they are living their life as a Christian or whether they are merely playing “dress up.” The fact is, Christianity is not a mask that we can put on and take off when it’s convenient for us. Too often we put on our Christian costume in public and take it off when we come home at night. In fact, we may only put it on when we go to church on Sunday and hang it back up during the rest of the week. That’s simply not the way it works. Our faith is not something we can put on and take off. Our appearance should not be an attempt to hide what is inside but it should be a reflection of what is in our heart.

The question we must each ask is, are we living as Christians? Or are we living like the Pharisees, only doing what it takes to appear religious? Only you can answer that question for yourself. Do we go to church on Sunday and to filthy movies on Saturday night because the world tells us it’s funny? Can we name all 66 books from the Bible but can’t name the last time we spoke to someone about Jesus? Do we have perfect attendance at Wednesday night Bible class but are no longer striving to live a perfect life? True Christianity is not a costume. It is a complete and total dedication to Christ in EVERY aspect of our life. Hypocrisy is a large problem in the church today but it is a problem we can fix. The solution starts with the individual. It’s time we take off the Christian costume and allow ourselves to “be transformed” from the inside out (Romans 12:1-2).

Calling a child a bunny doesn’t make them any less of a child. Calling yourself a Christian changes nothing unless you change who you are on the inside.

What needs to change in your life?

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Potty Mouth

Our world has a bad case of “potty mouth” (that’s right, I just attempted to use that phrase in a serious tone). If you turn on the radio, chances are the song you hear has more “beeps”, “bleeps” and “blanks” than actual words. If you walk through any hot spot downtown, there’s a good possibility that you’ll hear words that would make your dear old grandmother cringe. In fact, even a lot of so-called kids movies and TV shows use language that can, at times, be over the line. And, like so many other problems of our world, this problem is not unique to those outside the church. There are many within the church who are beginning to let the world influence the things that come out of their mouth.

In Ephesians 4:29 Paul wrote: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

The word “unwholesome” carries with it the idea of decay or something that is rotting. Not things we would want to come out of our mouth. Yet, many allow these things to become an everyday part of speech. And perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “I don’t use foul language and I never will.” And you may be right. That may be something you’ll never struggle with. However, are we limiting this passage to only mean those four-letter-words that would have gotten our mouths washed out with soap as a child? Paul not only tells us the kind of things NOT to say, but he goes on to explain what our speech SHOULD look like. The things we say should be “good for edification.” That rules out lying, inappropriate jokes, gossip, taking the Lord’s name in vain, cursing and the list could go on. So rather than focusing only on the things we shouldn’t say, we should strive to make sure that the things coming from our mouths are wholesome. Do the things we say seek to edify and build up those around us?

Someone once told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Instead, if we can’t find anything nice and wholesome to say, maybe it is time to re-evaluate the way we communicate rather than simply keeping our mouth closed.

 


When Sin is OK

Growing up I was told that sin is never OK. A lie, even a white one, is always wrong. Stealing, no matter the reason, is always wrong. Cheating, regardless of the severity of the situation, is always wrong. Until recently, that’s what I was taught. However, lately I’ve been taught otherwise. And I’m not talking about things I’ve learned from the world. I’m talking about something that it seems Christians have begun to believe: that sin is always wrong…except when it’s on television.

If you’re like me, you’re wishing you had put on your steel toed boots because this issue steps all over your toes. However, it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. If you turn on the television to almost any network, it won’t be long before characters on that particular show find themselves in sinful situations. In fact, most television shows are cluttered with sinful situations, relationships and attitudes. Were a Christian to face any of these things in their regular life, they wouldn’t hesitate to recognize it as sin. But for some reason, we find ways to justify them when they’re on T.V.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

In short (as my friend Tony Johnson said), we need to think Jesus…even when it comes to television.


Coexist?

I’m sure you’ve probably seen the “Coexist” bumper sticker. If not, it’s basically a bumper sticker that supports the idea of acceptance. According to those who have this bumper sticker, we should be tolerant of everyone’s beliefs, no matter what religious group they may be connected with. The symbols on the sticker represent all the major religions (including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Wicca). According to these individuals, we are all on different paths to the same place and therefore need to accept the beliefs of all others.

I have only one problem with this idea: it’s not what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible there is ONE Gospel. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he reminded them of this point. Here’s what it says:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”  – Galatians 1:6-10 (NAS)

There is one Gospel. No matter what any other person may say, it is only in Christ that we can receive eternal life. And though the “Coexist” bumper sticker pushes for unity, it is only in Christ that we can find true unity. Jesus was called the Way and that’s exactly what He is. He’s not a way. He’s not one of many ways. He is the Way. That is where unity is found.

These ideas were also presented in a sermon I preached in chapel at Bear Valley. Feel free to listen to it here.


Incombustible

You don’t have to live near the Rocky Mountains long before you become very familiar with the concept of a forest fire. A small spark in the woods during the dry season can easily become a raging fire within moments. When something is that prone to fires, there’s little you can do to stop the flames.

However, did you know that as Christians we are incombustible? That’s right. We’re fire proof. Now, before you attempt to stand toe-to-toe with a forest fire like Smokey the Bear, let me explain. In the book of Daniel, three young men (Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego) stood opposed to the commandment of King Nebuchadnezzar. You may already know the story. The king had commanded everyone to worship the golden image which he had created, the three young Israelites refuse to forsake God in that way, the king lets them know they’ll be cast into a fiery furnace if they refuse and they stand their ground (for the longer and less confusing version you can turn to Daniel 3). After the king threatens them further, this is how they respond:

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  – Daniel 3:17-18

The three young men understood that as servants of God, they had protection from the fire. They knew that God could (and eventually did) protect them from whatever King Nebuchadnezzar would threaten. In the same way, God offers us protection when we choose to serve Him. That’s not to say we will never suffer harm in this life or that bad things can never happen. However, we need to understand that God has the power to protect us from the “fires” of this life. And, if we serve Him as He has commanded, one day God will give ultimate protection from the eternal fire that awaits those who reject God.

So strive to have an attitude like that of the three young men from the book of Daniel. If we do, God will make us IMCOMBUSTIBLE!

FYI: The idea of “Incombustible” was stolen from my brother. However, I’m fairly sure he stole it from the Bible so we’re even.