Response to “Christian, what’s your point?” By John Pavlovitz

Response to “Christian, what’s your point?” By John Pavlovitz

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/06/07/christian-whats-point/

I feel like the Christian could just deflect and ask this person to be fair and look at the other faiths and ask the same thing. But, as a Christian, I believe that ultimately Truth comes from God, and I believe that the God of the Christian Scriptures is the One that doles out that Truth. SO, we should be held to a higher accountability. So I won’t ask that. (Not really at least, I do understand I technically asked it a second ago!)
What I will do is attempt to offer some answers, the answers that my specific life lives when rubbing up against the specific lives of others. 


Christian…
My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus, His life – death – resurrection and promise to return again at the appropriate (in His eyes) time. It’s not (necessarily) built on tradition, though it IS informed by it. Christ is my lynchpin of faith, for without Him my faith is foolishness and I, above others, should be pitied for my confusion. 
My hope is built upon a Word that has been tried and tested and has been found to be a strong foundation. It is a Word written by man, carried along in the Spirit. It has been saved from corruption, in its original manuscript. It tells the story of a real people. It tells that story using human literary style (poem, exposition, narration, genealogy, letter, proverb, songs, metaphor, etc) and all of it relative to its cultural context. 
I believe that this faith, juxtaposed and related to ALL others shows full Truth. Weighing the veracity of the world’s faiths I believe that this one, which centers on not what we can do for us, but what Christ has already completed on our behalf is a much more beautiful picture of salvation. We are not on a scale that weighs our good and bad throughout life, and where we fall at the end will determine an outcome of some sort (Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – to the degree that it is a religion and not a philosophy – and so many others). It’s not the worship of elemental or natural gods like the many, many historical (and modern) pagans of Ancient Greece, Rome, Celts, Cherokee, Canaanites, Japanese, etc). 

I worship the Triune God of all things. The preexisting One. The Creator, Sustainer, and Consummator of all creation from the past to now and into eternity. He is not stars or earth, because He made them. He is not the thunder or rain because He controls them. He is not turned away (ultimately) because you do more good things (in His eyes) than bad throughout your life. He is not found in intense meditation. Or in the ramblings of vain preachers. He isn’t found in the darkness, because He is light, and in Him is no darkness (or variation) at all. 
This Triune God is the epitome of relationship. As He has had a perfect relationship within Himself since far before the dawn of creation, He continues it to this day, and He will maintain it unto eternity. This relationship was to be displayed in His ultimate creation and reflection of His character – man. Man is the image bearer of this True God. 

That image was marred in our first sin. Because sin, and fallenness, is real. It isn’t a tool to control. It isn’t a lie to control. It isn’t self deprecating to feel somehow good about ourselves. It also isn’t manmade to push down and oppress certain people. It is established  in Scriptures, can be seen (through that light) in the areas of science, and is pretty obvious if you’ve ever had kids or interacted with human beings at all. Sin broke the connection, which leads us back to Christ’s sufficiency and the hope we trust in. 
Finally, I believe in the tradition of historical, orthodox, and reformed Christianity. Founded in OT & NT. Perfected in Christ and His actions. Continued by the apostolic church. Preserved in the canon until the Reformation. Brought along in the Spirit to prevent bastardization from original manuscripts. Translated overtime to come to us in English. My faith is reformed, and ever reforming. It find Truth in the God of Scripture alone, in the power of Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone, and only to glorify the Triune God alone. 


What’s your point…?

What’s my point? What’s my point for prefacing a response with that? Well, in a broken world with many false narratives – I wanted to establish where I came from. Where I came from helps explain where my live intersects others. 
Those above listed points, Mr. Pavlovitz, lead me to three main life choices (lead, bring me to, allow me the freedom, oblige me). 


1. Treat all mankind as image bearers of the God they may or may not know. 

Every man, woman, and child I come in contact with bears the image of our Creator.  They may not know Him. They may hate Him. They may hate His Church. They may hate me. That doesn’t change the fact that we are called to treat them with respect and love them as our neighbor. As an image bearer they deserve respect. They deserve love. But they also deserve Truth. 

Do I do this perfectly? Well… no. Of course not. But my life that I live is reflecting this desire more everyday. I curse people sometimes, or curse at them. I engage in gossip and other things. And when I do, I tear into that image. It doesn’t make the rest of my life worthless as a Christian, just shows that I am still growing. 

My desire to treat everyone in love and care, and in Truth, I hope, shows up in everything I do. If I can live a specific life that reflects this Truth into others’ specific lives, I’m on the right path. 
2. Treat sin as sin. But do so with care, compassion, relationship, and distinction

Calling a spade a spade. If it quacks and walks like a duck, it must be a duck. Call it as you see it. All these adages fall apart somewhere, but they have a bit of truth too. As Christians we know that the whole world is fallen. From myself, to my family, the church members, to nature itself. It is all perverted. Something just isn’t right with everything. That thing is sin. It pervades every inch of creation. It is why we lie, cheat, steal, kill, commit sinful sexual acts, covet what we don’t have, and seek to usurp the Creator from His rightful place. 

Now, I could Bible thump. As many have before me. I could tell you how terrible you are, and how much you need a savior – mine in particular. But that violates the first thing I mentioned. I, you, we are image bearers of the aforementioned Triune God. He is in constant relationship. So, when He speaks, He speaks out of a place of relation and connection. 

If I want to have any shot of sharing my relationship with Christ with you I need to begin by having a relationship with you. How can I expect you to even begin listening to me in your troubled times, or jubilant times if I haven’t invested in creating a real relationship with you?? If I don’t, then yes, I will be bible thumping. I will be criticizing. I will be, honestly, hating you. And it is not ours to hate. 

As a Christian I am to love. Love everyone. Love my brothers and sisters, in Christ. But that’s just the thing. I love you in Christ. As Christ loved. And eventually. When we have a true, loving, deep relationship – I love like the woman at the well felt love. A love that stings, but like when you pour alcohol on a wound. It stings because the healing has begun. I am not the One who heals, but I may be the only Christ you see. So I will be damn sure that you see Him in His beauty, radiance, love, Truth, and justice. 
3. Trust that God is in control of our lives. 

I do not change your heart, for I did not change mine (remember the grace and faith alone). As an omniscient and omnipotent God, He alone changes hearts. Those who He called will hear His voice. I should be so lucky to be a part of that journey. But in the end it is my job to simply display His truth in my life. 

You can hate or love me. But ultimately God will judge me. You will find that to be true too someday. But I pray that my relationship with you will cause you pause. Will cause you to ask me why I act the way I do. Will cause you to call me out when I act in opposition to the faith I proport to have. God is in control, I will not “bring you to faith.” But I pray that my actions, my words, my life will cause you to want to know more. 

More about this faith that is different from the media portrayed Christians. Different from the big time names who seem to glimmer but fade at the same time. Different from the way you were taught to see Christians. Different from other faiths. And I will tell you about this Jesus who I cling to for my life. 

This post is like scratching the surface of my faith in an eternal God who wants to know you, and maybe it piques your interest to just hear more of what I think or have to say. Maybe you write it off as just another regurgitation of “what I’ve been told.” Or maybe you agree with me but couldn’t formulate the words. Maybe you have different thoughts all together. In any case, I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading, and I hope it wasn’t too terrible to get through! 

Blessings,

David

Under His Wings

Under His Wings

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Refrain

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Refrain

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

Refrain

Things arent always great. Life has ups and downs, twists and turns. You really cant predict where life is headed. I believe there are two ways to face this uncertain world: headfirst as an independent agent of chance and will power… or to seek refuge and guidance from the Creator of all things. This hymn is a powerful reminder of what lies in wait for those who seek the LORD for strength and wisdom.

Hymn writers have some of the most amazing stories. Amazing Grace was penned by an abolitionist. It is Well was penned after the writer had lost family tragically. This hymn was penned by Pastor William Cushing, around the year 1900. At fifty years old, he was afflicted by a disease that took his power of speech from him. As a pastor, not being able to speak makes that profession quite difficult. Sermon composition, and delivery was no longer a viable option… and this caused him great grief as he cried out to the LORD. But, where one door closes… another opens. The LORD will not put us through what we cannot handle, with Him by our side. Cushing found in his sorrow a gift for hymn writing – and he would write nearly 300 of them! It was twenty-five years after his new gift was revealed to him that he wrote “Under His Wings.” Towards the end of his life here on earth, he spoke up about that rest he had found in the Savior’s arms.

Imagine, if you wish, that one thing that makes you you. Whether it be athletics, speech, eyesight, your running, your singing, your spouse…. your kids…… now, if that thing were taken from you… ripped from your hands… how would you respond…? Who would you be? This is not an easy question to ponder.. or even consider answering. It is something that honestly makes me uncomfortable to even type up and think of myself… I dont want to think about what it would mean to lose my hearing, and my power to sing… or to lose my legs… or no longer see my wife and kids…. or even to lose my family. But God is a God of trust power, and I have seen people come back from terrible loss, and a great many more turn away during times of incredible gain… This hymn seeks to guide us to a better understanding of God’s work in our lives. Even when – especially when – everything seems down, we can find immeasurable power and love and grace and mercy and peace and direction… under His wings

Amen?

He will be with you 

He will be with you 

This hymn resonates with me today. I may not be facing certain death but I’ve been hit with news that I wasn’t expecting. A job that seemed a sure thing fell through and coming to grips with that isn’t easy. It’s happened over and over and over again… and it’s just disheartening. But i need this hymn tonight. I need to remember that no matter what… God is with us. He guides our paths. He directs our ways. And we need to trust Him. 

1. When you pass through the waters, 

I will be with you, 

And the waves will not 

Overcome you. 

Do not fear, 

For I have redeemed you, 

I have called you by name, 

You are Mine.
Chorus: For I am the Lord your God (I am the Lord your God),I am the Lord your God (I am) 

The Holy One of Israel 

Your Savior 

For I am the Lord your God (I am the Lord your God),I am the Lord your God (I am) 

The Holy One of Israel 

Your Savior 

I am the Lord (do not fear) 

I am the Lord (do not fear) 

I am the Lord (do not fear) 

I am the Lord (do not fear)
2. When you walk through the fire 

You’ll not be burned, 

And the flames will not 

Consume you. 

Do not fear, 

For I have redeemed you, 

I have called you by name, 

You are Mine.(Repeat chorus)

He has called us by name. Us. He has claimed us as His own. He has redeemed us! I ask myself as I ask you, reader – “what else do we need?” Yes, times may be rough. Yes, things may fall through. But God is there. He is truly there. To those who find faith in things of this world, but seem to feel empty in times of turmoil – God is there for you!
As I get ready to fall asleep, it is good to know that God has already won the victory for me. For His own. On that truth I rest my hope, and on that truth I rest my spirit. Amen. 

Then sings my soul!

Then sings my soul!

So today I will start some posts following my thoughts from last year – hymns for Him. I may repeat some, but the beauty of these hymns is that they have new depths to dive into every time! 

Hymns are written in all times of life. Times of joy and of deep pain. They speak on a level words alone simply cannot. That’s why music, though hymns in particular, are so central to the Christian faith. David sang them throughout his life. They pepper all of Scripture. To relegate them to a time come and gone is to rob yourself of such beauty. 

How Great Thou Art is a great song to begin this year of hymns on. Here is the text :

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed:
Refrain

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
Refrain
And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,

Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin.
Refrain
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration,

And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art!

Refrain 

This song is so powerful. All of creation sings out to God. His soul cries forth from within him to the Lord! And yet He is awestruck at the power and humility of Christ to come down and bleed and die for us. 

I scarce can take it in…

How can we sing this song?

We sing it in high times, and we pour over it in low times. We proclaim it when at our peak of joy, and pray it when in the deep valleys. God finds us in both instances and beckons us to come and sit and find refuge and joy with Himself. 
As we set off into 2017, with all it’s coming ups and downs let us look out at the world God has created and exclaim, 

How GREAT Thou art!


Amen

Apostle’s Creed Pt9

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth…
and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
From there He judges the living and the dead.
I believe in Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen!


Ending on a high note. Our creed reminds us of what our faith promises. What Christ Himself promises. What God has promised since the Fall. A reclaiming of what was lost – to find good standing before God. Forever. This whole Creed, is should be argued, is about God. Not man. 
This life isn’t about having the most stuff. Or giving the most stuff away. It’s not about getting ahead, or playing the humble part. It’s not good vs evil inside you. It’s not outweighing good over bad. It’s not about reaching a perfect state of (insert desire here)…. this life is about the Lord Jesus Christ. You either are with Him or not. But in either case He is what it centers around. 

So it only follows that the end of life (as we know it) has some connection to Him, too. He was the first resurrected human, and as our advocate – we share in that beautiful future. His resurrection is everlasting, thus ours is as well. To believe in the resurrection is to, again, ascribe power and historicity to Christ. We believe in His true existence. Thus the retelling of His subsequent life after death is founded in truth. Which follows that to abide in Christ is to find life everlasting, by God’s side. Which is exactly where you want to be. 
I hope you enjoyed this little walk through the Apostle’s Creed. It was not fully diving into it. As I don’t have that much time! But it explains the basics, and rounds the corners. I’m excited to take this year to blog more about this life I strive to live for He who gave me so much. This Creed can be seen as a litmus test for my beliefs. If it seems like I say something contradictory to the Apostle’s Creed – tell me! If you find yourself disagreeing – tell me too! 
All in all; have a great night! Amen!

Apostle’s Creed Pt8

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth…

and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

From there He judges the living and the dead.

I believe in Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen!

Catholicity. It means more than simply being super Catholic in practice or doctrine. In Latin catholic means “all embracing.” So, speaking of the holy catholic Church (as a Reformed thinker) is to speak of the entire Church. The “big C” Church. All Christians worldwide who presently are, who have been, or who will be. So what then does it mean to publicly state that we believe in the holy catholic Church?

An important first note is to clear up that meaning of catholic. In using that term the writers specifically wanted the opposite of the meaning we think of today. We believe in the unity of believers under the banner of Christ. Christ is our absolute – He is what we base our faith off. Not denominations. Not pastors. Not history or tradition. The Church invisible… the Church triumphant… they all center around Christ. So, to believe in the “one holy, apostolic, Church” is to believe that Christ is all that really matters when calling yourself a church.

The next line you’d think is an unnecessary one. How else could we even claim to be Christians without the forgiveness of sins?? This phrase, though, points out something that many simply would rather forget exists. Popular pastors glaze over it, eastern spiritual leaders reject it, and the a-religious mock it or denounce it as judgmental. That thing is sin. To admit that you believe in the forgiveness of sins is to admit you believe in sins in the first place. To admit that is to say that you mess up in a way that good deeds dont cover for. It is to admit that you cannot find salvation in yourself – your own light doesnt provide true guidance. To say, as a Christian, that we believe in forgiveness of sins is to place ourselves at the feet of Him from whom we take our name and lay prostrate in humble reliance on Him. It means we approach the mercy seat of Christ, where He answers prayer.

I hadnt really thought about how important this clause was until right now. This is where we come to die to ourselves, and live for Christ. It is where the Gospel takes ahold of our lives in a real way. It is where repentance is found. Here we stand before a holy God, and find the blood of Christ covering us and counting our sins as nothing. To accept and exclaim belief in forgiveness of sins is a most beautiful thing indeed.

Tomorrow I finish this tour of the Apostle’s Creed, but I invite questions and comments as we move through 2017! Amen!

Apostle’s Creed Pt7

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth…

and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

From there He judges the living and the dead.

I believe in Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen!

Today was going to fit perfectly with what was going on in my life. Hah! Today was going to be the day I was to be ordained as a deacon in my church. Which would have matched perfectly with the Holy Spirit. But, the snow was just bad enough to cause us to cancel church. But God is always good, and it allowed more time with the family – worshiping and fellowshipping together! It was a good time!

But now, we come to the third Person of the Trinity. The doer of the Bunch. The Spirit is described, in theological circles, as the One who fulfills the Will of the Father in the Kingdom of the Son. God works through the Holy Spirit. It was through the work of the Spirit that creation was brought into existence. It was through the work of the Spirit that salvation is worked out in us (with fear and trembling). It is through the power of the Spirit that we are being sanctified.

Now, the concept of the Trinity can (and probably always will be) a strange one to grasp. Honestly, we may never fully grasp it. Its hard to thing of three completely equal in power, holiness, majesty, and honor Persons – yet they are one Being. Human analogies fall short in some capacity. We cant totally wrap our heads around it. But we must give the Holy Spirit its due place of honor and glorification. He is as much God as the Father or the Son is. He is not a lesser piece. They are One in harmony and relationship. The creed knew that there needed to be an established Truth in that. The Spirit is not less than the other Persons. There were/are heresies that place the Spirit at a subservient level to the Father and Son. And this creed sought to disband such theology.

When we say we believe in the Holy Spirit, we are placing our trust in His existence. We know He is real, because we have felt His work in our lives – in our hearts. Whenever I overcome a temptuous situation – the Spirit has been working in my heart. When I find the words to show the Gospel to anyone – the Spirit has been working through my mouth. When I find the strength to stand after a rough week of spiritual warfare – the Spirit grants me that power. When we look back at the Church’s past, and how it has stayed together for over 2000 years… the Spirit has not abandoned it, even in it’s toughest times. The Spirit is an integral part of our relationship with the God of Scripture.

As we finish today, let us thank God for His Spirit, and its work in our hearts, our lives, and our world. Amen!