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

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 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!

Apostle’s Creed Pt2

Yesterday we looked at the first phrase of the creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth…

Today we look at His son, Jesus Christ – our Lord.

Many out there state that there isnt much that separates Christianity from other religions. That other religions have the son of god as a figure head. That there are no overabundance of prophets proclaiming good news. That even the concept of dying for followers isnt only in Christian faith. But when push comes to shove, Christ is the lynch pin in Christianity. Which seems oddly obvious… given the name… anyways…

Christ, one of the Godhead… present since creation… God Himself in flesh form. This is something that is unique. Christ humbling Himself, from omni-everything to a mortal with needs and wants and pain and suffering… that is unique… A man who calls a people to both justice and mercy, in His name… that is unique. But when considered all together, it makes Christ and His ministry one-of-a-kind.

He is our Lord. Lord of our life. We must render it to Him, wholly. And that isnt easy. I really struggle with temptation. Daily. It is something that has plagued me for years. Giving everything over to Christ – to be Lord of all my life – is something I still have difficulties in. My sin nature pulls back so fiercely from the idea. But, it is still something that I know to be true. I know that Christ is Lord of my life, and that in the end my sin will lose that battle. I have my wife, I have friends, I have family, and I have the Church that is there (through God’s grace) to urge my forward. His Lordship demands that I fight, and fight I will.

His Lordship also demands a certain mindset in life. How I deal with people day by day. How I treat those created in His image. How I speak to people, and how I think about them. His Lordship calls me to something above the kindness of Southern hospitality. And that is a calling that He Himself exemplified. He treated people with respect – and in that respect He did not allow stones to be unturned. What was hidden in darkness found its place in the light. We all need that in our lives.

As we finish today, I urge you (I urge ME) to seek Christ. Seek His Lordship in your life. Seek His Truth. Seek His guidance on the path of righteousness – guidance to realize that you NEED Him to move down said path.

Amen!

Apostle’s Creed Pt3

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 we look at the incarnation of Christ our Lord. Mankind is fallen. This is undeniable. So, how could Christ being man be what man needs to overcome sin? Well, thats where the Holy Spirit comes into play. From the dawn of time the Trinity had planned this moment when they would enact their plan to bring mankind back to communion with them. God the Father had set creation into motion, through the Word of God the Son. God the Spirit had hovered over the deep, and then guided God’s people to that present time. Now  the Spirit would use power to bring life where it seemed biologically impossible. His action would fulfill prophesies that He had led men to foresee. His action would set in motion the works of salvation. True salvation. Not the foretaste that we had seen for centuries… no, true salvation had come in the flesh.

And this Person would not have the same inclination towards sin as the rest of mankind does. No. He would still battle with sin in nature. Sin in human nature, surrounding Him at every side. But sin nature would not intertwine in His being as it has in ours. He would stand above it. His words would be kind. His actions Kingdom building. His thoughts always pointed towards His Father. His conception was perfect, as He was perfect.

His birth, from the womb of Mary also planted Him in Scripture. Prophesies had spoken on a virgin birth. Of the Son of Man, and how His birth would usher in a new age. Mary was chosen, not because of something she did to deserve it, but rather due to God’s Will. He knew her to be a faithful Jew. One that truly trusted the Lord to be in control, even when things seemed off. She would magnify the Lord, even in knowing that her life as she knew it was over. She, while not pure in holiness, was pure in faithfulness before the Lord. She would fall into temptation through her life – but she knew whose she was, and where she was headed. Her trust was in the hope of salvation that she had read about in Scriptures… and had held in her arms. Emmanuel. God with us. And she had cradled Him as an infant. She had helped to raise Him, and teach Him. Repeating that we believe in the birth of Christ, from a virgin, implants Him in a family – and creates a backstory for Him that shows he lived as we did, yet remained sinless.

Christ… fully God, and yet fully man… His incarnation rang the victory bell for life over death. And we proclaim it as truth. Amen?