Humanity: The Common Denominator

Listening to a visiting missionary one evening, I heard something that stuck out to me about human nature. He was showing videos of some of the countries he had gone into and in one, we saw where Buddhists had destroyed one of the churches. A little later, we saw where in another country there were some other Buddhists who regularly cooked a meal for the kids at another church. People from the same group, who were doing two different things with different intentions.

Weeks ago, an individual walked into a black church, visited, and was welcomed by them until he left. Then later, he returned and killed nine of them. Pictures soon surfaced of him holding the battle flag of the armies of North Virginia and Tennessee during the Civil War, popularly known as the rebel flag. Now it appears that an element in society is trying to scrub anything to do with the flag or the Confederacy off the map.

The thing is, it is a symbol that has different meanings to different people. To go after it is seen as an attack on their identity, like when someone goes after your political party, or sports team that you align yourself with. It is not flown in battle anymore; now it is a symbol of heritage that was co-opted by racists. Like the Buddhists, I mentioned earlier, one group was committing vandalism; the other was working with a different religion in peace to care for children. By which group is the whole to be judged?

The problem is not symbols or what identity we choose for ourselves; the problem is we as humans. Case in point, Bill Cosby had the reputation for being a wholesome actor – recently he admitted to drugging women. It is individual people that are the problem, despite what we want to label ourselves.

It is as old as humanity, The need for a moral code to guide is as old as humanity; the need of it actually reveals the darkness in our hearts. Jesus pointed it out in Matthew 5: 17-28, we have the capacity and desires to do wrong. As a man makes a life-long commitment to a woman in marriage, that he will forsake all others, yet acting out a sex scene in his mind about the woman next door proved that the desire to break that commitment is there. Someone cuts you off in traffic and wanting nothing more than to choke them for it shows the desire to hurt another person. Take a two-year-old throwing a tantrum, hitting and biting their parents, then replace them with an adult doing the same thing; the difference is the ability to hurt while both have the same intent.

That nature in us is called the sin nature in the Bible. The best analogy I have seen for it is comparing it to cancer. The sin nature is inherent in the same way cancer cells are our own cells turned against us. The first ends in eternal suffering and the second to physical suffering. We go see a doctor about both of them.

A book I was reading-the name escapes me-had a chapter on how Jesus operated. He approached everyone as if they were sick and he had the cure, forgiveness. It was not a prescription to keep these 10 commandments to be cured any more than a strict diet change destroying the cancer cells. He puts the cancer of sin into remission until it’s cut out, and out of gratitude people started to change their lives.

It is summed up like this in Luke 5: 31-32:

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What is wrong with the world?

We are. We are all sick. The Good News is the doctor is in, and he is accepting patients free of charge. It is as simple as admitting he is Lord, believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved. Your trust, aka faith in your heart that he paid for your sins in your place, is what justifies you, to paraphrase Romans 10: 9-10. He did it for me. You can read Year of the Prodigal to see the before and after of my case.

Go see the doctor.

What’s Discipleship Mean?

A few weeks back, I read a book titled Pagan Christianity where the authors explained where certain church traditions came from. The part that stayed with me was the explanation of how the New Testament letters are ordered. John, Paul, and Peter – who wrote multiple letters – placed longest to shortest instead of a chronological order. The authors challenged the readers to study Acts and the letters in the same order as it happened and reading the letters straight through like you would a letter. I went online to find a reading plan to fit the bill so I could do just that. Found this plan on Bible Study Tools. I have to admit, the scriptures came alive as I watched Christianity spread.

Then I thought, “why not do the same with the Gospels?” It could be the closest way to learn from Jesus like the Twelve Disciples did. I was already studying from Luke since it is arguably the most comprehensive of the Gospels. Thinking for a moment, I asked myself what could be more comprehensive than all of them in order of events. I would just be an unnamed disciple learning from Jesus. I had written posts about applying scripture to daily life, instead of just enjoying the warm and fuzzy parts. Then I came across this post on Cold Case Christianity; I will highlight a few parts in it:

“What precisely is discipleship and why is it so important? Is it simply a matter of making converts? No, it’s much more. The process of making disciples is often misunderstood and neglected in the Church today, and as a result, we are in danger of losing our identity as Christians. Christian discipleship is critical to Christian survival.

Even secular dictionaries recognize discipleship as something more than simply creating “members” or “converts”. Dictionary.com describes a disciple as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another.” Webster’s online dictionary defines a disciple as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” At least one aspect of discipleship involves learning the doctrines of a particular system or teacher. This intellectual aspect of being a disciple is affirmed in the Bible. The Greek word used for “disciple” in the New Testament is “mathētḗs” and its root, “math-“, means the “mental effort needed to think something through“. Disciples are “learners”, “scholars” and followers of Christ who “learn the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require”. There is an important connection between doctrine and behavior. It’s not enough to simply follow Jesus’ moral teaching related to behavior, true disciples must understand the doctrines of Christianity. What does our worldview teach, theologically or philosophically? How are we to make a defense (1 Peter 3:15), hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with this teaching (Titus 1:9), recognize a heresy when we see one (Titus 3:10), and guard the treasure which has been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14)? Becoming a disciple means becoming a learner.”

“Many young Christians walk away from the Church in their college years after sitting in University classes taught by outspoken atheists. Who, once again, leaves the Church at the highest rate? Undiscipled young Christians. Discipleship produces Christ-followers who look more and more like Jesus. That’s a good, important goal. But beyond this, discipleship, protects believers from error and heresy. When we know the truth well enough to defend it in our own mind, we’ll actually defend it in our own mind when presented with a lie. True discipleship celebrates the role of the mind in the Christian life and prepares Christian disciples to live the Christian life, even as they are defending the Christian truth. That’s why Christian discipleship is critical to Christian survival.”

I feel drawn to the seekers and those with spiritual apathy, and want to be a good example to them. To do that, I have to learn and the best way to do that is from the beginning, reading and studying in context. I will be mining the Gospels for all they are worth with the W.H.A.T method with an additional question from the book Think Christianly; “How did Jesus do what he did?” Along with the tool of Scripture Engagement from Bible Gateway. Then I can pass it on as I live it.

Releasing The Fifth Gospel (Introduction)

Vance:

Beginning a study in Bobby Conway’s book “The Fi5th Gospel” and occasionally going off on my own tangents…

Originally posted on First Samuel 12:24:

http://public.imb.org/globalresearch/Pages/MapLight.aspx.

“There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, but most people never read the first four.” Rodney “Gypsy” Smith, 19th Century Evangelist

We can all admit to the power of the Gospel proclaimed, read, and lived. With a simple sermon, I watched Billy Graham bring a football stadium full of people to Christ. Peter in Acts 2:14-41 brought about 3,000 to Christ. The Good News of Jesus is beautiful in its power to change the lives for anyone who believes, without exception. John 3: 16-18 sums it up nicely from the mouth of Jesus:

 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no…

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Looking Through God’s Eyes

The next time you are out in public, look at the people around you, preferably without staring like a creeper. That gets awkward quick. What do you see? Truly, what do you see about them, in them? The guy in ratty clothes standing on a street corner with a sign, the girl sitting alone at a table, the guy constantly twitching while he shops for groceries or the weird dude that wants to help but is hard to communicate with? What about the guy with money to burn, the woman wearing the latest fashions, or whoever the top news story is about now?

We had a missionary from Africa, John Easter, who came and spoke about “God’s View and My Lens.” I expected to hear stories, not to be furiously typing notes as he spoke. He spoke of how everyone has value because they are made in the image of God. It is the attributes that set us apart from other creatures. We are rational, with a will to choose, and we can see it in our inventions, writing, enjoying art, and thinking. Our conscience is a shadow of the higher morality; we see it when we are disgusted by evil, praise what is good, and feel guilty. Socially, we are designed to get together and love with the kind of love that does not expect anything, just loving you for who you are.

That gives everyone their intrinsic value, despite origin and background. Everyone is unique, as I wrote in Walking, Talking Miracles we are made. Because the Creator crafts us individually and lovingly because He values us, so we should also value people.

We all have the capacity to respond to the good news of Jesus from a meaningful witness. John 3:16 sums it up very well, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There are not any exceptions in this verse; everyone is free to say yes and no one should keep you from it.

You have value, there are no insignificant people, everyone wants to matter, and we want our lives to mean something. I just finished a series on purpose outlining how we all have meaning. Most Saturdays I serve the poor and homeless, though most of the time I do not engage in conversation. Then one Saturday, I was handing out flyers at the door and had to engage-this opened my eyes to more of their value, capacity for redemption, and significance. I saw individuals I help because it is needed; my heart does not burn with the compassion my wife’s does, and I just see a need and do it. I am getting my eyes opened as I process this; it was all about me for so long it is a bar that will take a while to reach.

I learned that the quiet custodian who picks up the trash and cares for the place is a bigger bookworm than I am. We had common ground to work off, and the next time I see him, I can ask if he has read any good books lately. Another who comes in is consistently negative; he is a lesson in patience for a few, yet he has value even though he may not see it yet. One other is called “Preacher”, a bundle of joyous energy that infects everyone who has value. One particular person I have a soft spot for is a deaf man who comes; I can identify with the loneliness of the deaf culture. We look for him so we can engage him. Imagine if no one around you knew your language and you could not hear theirs; wouldn’t you be more isolated than ever since it is hard to communicate your needs, thoughts, or desires? He is also valuable.

John closed after speaking on significance. I summed it up with an equation in my notes; however, I think there is a better way to break it down.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” means everyone has value.
  • “that whoever believes in Him” means everyone can choose.
  • “shall not perish, but have eternal life” means that we are significant because God wants us with Him in eternity.

No matter a person’s background, God wants them because they mean something to Him. We can introduce others to Him. How can we not when the Creator sees worth in them? We just need to fix our lenses.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you are reading this, think about what he did means to you. Then take John 3:16 look at someone and say, “For God so loved (insert their name) that he gave his one and only Son, that (if their name) believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In doing so, you take on God’s view of people. I know I need to; it is why I took so many notes.

If you are not a Christian, I would like you to say it a little differently.

“For God so loved me that he gave his one and only Son, that if I believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

You have value, significance, and can choose to believe. Romans 10:9-10 lays it out, declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved. It is with your heart that you’re justified before God. Then you will be a new person; the past does not have a hold on you anymore.

Will you make that decision?

God Needs Workers For The Harvest

Vance:

My other site.

Originally posted on First Samuel 12:24:

Ever since I wrote Represent at my Ronin’s Journey blog the burden to equip people to live out their faith has grown. How I try to teach it is by trying to live it myself and share the successes and failures. I picked up The Fi5th Gospel by Bobby Conway after I read a post here at Cold Case Christianity. I was going through the book again with a pen in my hand when I had an interesting night at church…

We had ended the teaching part at FirstNLR and a voice rang out in the lull during the music. Suddenly a man in the back started speaking in an unknown language. I locked eyes on him until he finished, thinking to myself, “now the interpretation” in the pattern that Paul told the church in Corinth. Seconds later another voice carried through the sanctuary clearly as another guy started…

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