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. 

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 Pt 6

We are getting to the last few phrases of the creed!

 

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!

The creed has hit the first few big parts of the Christian faith. We have talked about how all things started, how Christ was born, how He lived, and that He died. That His life is firmly planted in history. His death paved the only way to God, and now we reach how that death does what it does.

Christ’s death was not the end of the story. Thankfully. Had it been, there would have been a very different world created from it. Christ’s death was only the period, the ending, on one thing – death itself. His death would end the power of death over His people. His death would end the power death had on the world. Christ’s death was not the end of His life. That is what is so amazing about Christ and his promise. His death may have ended death’s ultimate reign, but it would be His resurrection that showed the future for those predestined to eternal life.

Death had lost it’s sting, and Christ had crushed the head of the serpent. God had preordained Christ’s resurrection to be the end of that little escapade with death and  the beginning of our eternal relationship with Him. Christ was resurrected from the dead, to an eternal life, in body, beside the Father. He would be forever like us, in flesh… yet, above us to be that link between a wholly holy God and a wholly unholy creature. He will be providing intercession until He comes back to bring us home.

From His post alongside God the Father, Christ separates the sheep from the goats. The wheat from the chaff. The eternally saved from the eternally reprobate. Christ knows His own, those who He will welcome into His paradise in the last days, and yet the Church is not meant to sit idly by letting things happen. Christ has ordained to use us in this world to He has Willed. As a last statement, I think this is important. Many within the Church feel that mission work, whether at home or abroad, is unnecessary…. this goes against everything that Christ expected of His followers. We are meant to be the hands and feet of Christ now in this world. It may be uncomfortable, and “out of our shell” at times, but it is this that we are meant to do in the world. Being His workers is our beautiful calling – though it can and will be tough at times.

He will bring those to Him that are meant to. He judges the “quick” (living) and the dead. He holds the Book of Life in His hands. This should give us both awe and pause. Awe because He does call some to Him, even knowing how fallen we are… and pause because the Savior of all mankind does call some to Him and some from Him… as in He is the measure of salvation. Not our feelings. Not if we were good or bad people. Not chakras. Not karma. Not the universe… a real, historical person wants to have a relationship with you and me. He desires it. He seeks it Himself, knowing that we are so fallen, we never could (or would want to) reach out ourselves.

This Jesus is the One who conquered death. Who was the first born to true life everlasting. Who knows all men’s hearts, and acts according to the Book of Life that He authored… He wants to know us personally. All He asks is to trust Him, have faith in Him… and what’s even more amazing… He offers that faith freely…Amen?

The Apostle’s Creed Pt1

I havent posted anything for a long time! But this year I would like to try to find time to post once a day – something small just as a reflection. For the next week and a half I will be posting something on The Apostle’s Creed.

 

This creed can be dated back centuries, and is arguably one of the oldest affirmations of what it truly means to follow after Christ. It embodies something that all Christians can confidently affirm, something that ties us all together; regardless of denomination, background, geographical location, et al. It is short, yet powerful. It is simple, yet deep. It is beautiful and poetic. Yet unwavering in it’s biblical foundation.

 

So, let’s start with a recap of what The Apostle’s Creed is:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son – our LORD –

who was conceived by the Holy Ghost/Spirit…

suffered under Pontius Pilate…

was crucified, dead, and was buried…

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From there He will judges the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost/Spirit…

the holy catholic church…

the communion of saints…

the forgiveness of sins…

and the resurrection of the body. Amen.

Today let us reflect on the first two lines…

I believe in God, the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth…

The word used for believe is more than simply affirming the existence of something. It isnt like saying “I believe it is raining right now,” or “I believe that he/she did this/that.” It is a deep rooted conviction. It is something you stake your life upon. It comes from the word credo in Latin. It means to put one’s trust into. Traditionally “I believe/credo” came before a statement of faith. That is why we have things like The Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed. They state something known to be true by the speaker.

To believe in God is to say very little. The demons believe in God… and shutter… so it isnt just that we believe in God. God can be wrongly found in many forms in this world. We proclaim that we believe in God the Father Almighty. This God is different than a Zeus, or a Thor, or even Allah. This God is a Father to His people. He is relate-able. We are able to talk to our Father. But this Father is something else – He is almighty. He finds full strength only within Himself. He needs nothing, therefore He lacks nothing. He finds all things within Himself, and is entirely totally self-sufficient. He, as the creed affirms later, is Triune. The three Persons are entirely perfect within themselves and need nothing to complete Themselves.

Yet, God the Father Almighty is also Maker of heaven and earth. He, in His infinite wisdom, saw that His glory is best shown when there is Creation to revel in it and sing its praises. He brought creation of all things into existence because it brought Him great joy. He saw that it was very good. He knew that Creation needed to be. So He created it. God brought Creation up from nothing to allow there to be another thing that could enjoy His Truth in existence. Now, as we will talk later, it wouldnt stay like that long.

But this is our God. He is Almighty. He is Maker/Creator/Sustainer of all reality. He is perfect in and of Himself, but found joy in creating us to see His image and to eventually share in His eternity. This is our God. This is who we believe in. This is what we believe.

Amen!

Whose are you?

Whose are you?

The Question Posed

Are we conservative? Or Christian? Are we liberal/progressive? Or are we Christian? Are we conservative Christians? Liberal Christians? Which comes first? The world wants to know. When you identify as a follower of Christ, the main contention with the world hinges on where we fall politically. We ask silly questions of where Jesus would fall on this issue or that issue… We claim moral superiority based on which political leaning we cling to – but not due to the Words of the Lord. So, I ask again, whose are you? Which identity would most define you?

For some of you reading you may immediately answer “Christian, duh! I believe in the Bible, and I believe that God is sovereign, and I believe that Christ is the only way to eternal salvation!” But I want to ask you to look closer – look at your heart, and how you live your life functionally… Whose. Are. You? Do you make decisions based on what your political leanings state are acceptable? Do you make friends, and enemies, based on how they believe the nation’s Congress works with the POTUS? Do you find yourself quoting politicians, or knowing their beliefs to a better degree than you know your Lord’s? When you do quote Scripture is it to back up a politician’s words or platform? OR, maybe a more pressing question could be, can you quote your favorite team’s stats to a better degree than you can quote passages of Living Water?

For many in this nation politics take over their essential identity. For others it is their favorite sport team (whether pro or college level – sometimes both!). Some identify by their dislikes more than their Savior. Others find identity in their sexuality – their uniqueness – their race/nationality –  their wealth – their self-approval/disapproval – their denomination… Brothers and sisters, we cannot make a living that way! Not a living that glorifies Christ, at least! We need to develop a “Gospel Identity.”

The Answer – Gospel Identity

Finding identity in the Gospel means that our life is shaped by the Truth found in Christ’s words. It means that our life is shaped by Christ, and not the other way around. THAT means you like a politician, or a song, or a celebrity, or any other thing BECAUSE that thing is pleasing to Christ (or at the very least not offensive to Him). What aspects of your life are not affected by the Truth of Christ? …the answer is none… None parts of your life are absent from Christ’s desire for you.

34c
I understand “none parts” isn’t grammatically correct

Christ asks for nothing short of all of us. When we find ourselves compelled by grace, we should find that our whole selves are compelled – not just those parts that are easy. Those easy parts would be our kind words, our gestures of kindness towards kind people, lending a hand when convenient – and the like… When Christ calls us “Come and die,” He calls our whole person. And that is not easy. Finding our identity in the Truth of the Gospel calls for a surprising life. But what would that life look like?

A surprising life, centered on an identity in Christ, is covered in the just love of He who gave us life. It oozes a sense of wonder at our place in life – bought by our Savior’s blood. It supersedes every other consideration you can think of (even when there are times that other things may overtake it). A surprising life centered in Christ is one that can be counter-cultural, while maintaining a humility found only in Him who gave us faith. A surprising life finds God’s truth everywhere, but knows that ultimately it resides in His Word given to us in Scripture. A surprising life is had by one that can love his neighbor, but not accept their life decisions – and that neighbor never feels judged. A surprising life, found through holding to a full and true identity in Christ, is in itself full, and needs no nourishment from the world.

This life is hard, Christ promised it would be when He told His followers “I came not to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). A Gospel identity is very different than a conservative identity… or a progressively liberal identity… or a philanthropist identity… or a homosexual identity… or a black identity… A Gospel identity looks at what Christ said (I am the way, the Truth, and the Life – John 14:), and what He did (the Pharisees asked why Christ dined with sinners – Matthew 9:11). We live a life centered on Gospel identity when we stand up for our belief in the truth of heterosexual marriage – marriage founded in God, not man. We life a Gospel identity life when we vote for a candidate that wishes to care for the poor by giving them a hand up (John 9:6), not a hand out (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We live a life with an identity centered on the Gospel when we choose to speak words of mercy or love rather than curse another man made in God’s image (James 3:10). Yet we continue living a life of Gospel identity when we call out a brother in sin (James 5:19-20).

A Gospel Identity should be one that is counter-cultural. It shouldn’t just be a “nice life,” a “kind life.” When we do good, our actions should point back to Christ, who saved us from certain damnation. We do that by living unapologetically for Him! When we do good, when we are praised – direct that praise back to Him, not yourself. If I can give any other encouragement: when you live with this mindset, you will make a difference. People will notice. It has happened to me multiple times at my jobs. Speak up about your faith – don’t hide it, don’t apologize for it. That is how you live a life of Gospel identity.

 

will apologize for this post though, it may seem rambling – or seem a little scatterbrained. I write this sitting in a coffee shop, my first time really writing with some distractions around me… So, I hope this post makes sense, and that you find it encouraging yet challenging as we enter a time inundated in politics and sports, and so many other things clammering for a spot in your identity.

 

God bless!