Posts tagged ‘Christians’

The Value of Denominations

I love having denominations, especially in my wallet! My favorite denomination is the $100 bill, although the $20 is easier to spend. But the extra effort to spend the $100 is one of its better qualities. in spite of my preferences, all too often my wallet is nondenominational. Sometimes it gets so bad that it seems my pockets fear change, too. In a pinch, like for a parking meter, noisy denominations are handy to have around. But for the long term, I prefer the quiet type that only occasionally makes a crinkling noise. But after enough time, even those become silent and just lay there folded in small groups, just waiting to be used by their master.

There are other pieces of paper in my wallet, some of which are still recognizable. They are not, however, denominations of anything, no matter how much they try to be. Even if they are play money or bills from a copy machine made to replicate real money, they have no true value. Unless something changes, they will one day be thrown away.

But whether a denomination is crisp and new, or aged and malleable, its value does not change. A new one is fresh off the presses has the same power as one that was printed 20 years ago. The used one may have been wadded up, stepped on, and bent out of shape multiple times, but that is not what determines how valuable it is. For a $100 bill have inherent value because of what it is, not because of what it may or may not have endured.

The same applies to disciples of Jesus. A Christian has value to His Master and Savior because of what he or she is, regardless of what they have been through or how much of a mess they are in. And you can’t become a Christian by just wanting the eternal or temporal benefits that they have. You must be born from above (John 3). Just as denominations of the dollar have no value unless the U.S. Mint makes them, you are not a Christian unless God makes you one. To quote the Jesus Christ, “you must be born again.”

In the end there will be three types of people:
1. Those who have been doing religious stuff like going to church or giving to worthy causes and speaking Christian words, but were never born again. Like counterfeit bills, they will be rejected and destroyed by the Grand Inspector.
2. Those who are not Christians and make no pretense to be ones. Just like spare pieces of note paper, they will be cast off and destroyed.
3. Those who have been born from above, and are true disciples of Christ. Just like the blank sheets of special paper at the mint before printing, they will start off just like the other two categories of people. But then they were changed, just like the paper at the Mint, into something of worth by the Master Maker into a something new, and uniquely valuable. In many ways they are just like the other bills, but each will have its unique characteristics as well. And they will all have the signature of the Spirit that lets everyone know who they are, what the are, and to whom they belong. Remember that when you are going through trials, being folded over or stepped on. Your value comes from the One who turned you from a piece of paper into something of value, not from those around you who look pristine. You are still useful to the Master for every good work.

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Soft Christianity!

Soft Christianity

As Independence Day approaches, I am thankful to be living in a country that, at present, allows us to worship God. This freedom has enabled America for the last century or more to be a land where workers can be trained to preach the Gospel around the world, and where Bibles can be printed and then distributed to those who would receive them.

But there is no scriptural guarantee that this will always be the case. In fact, I almost wonder if this freedom has caused American Christians to take the church for granted. To look upon Christ and the Church as a nice addition to our lives that helps people behave, but that one shouldn’t get too radical about. Where selection of a “church home” is done on the basis of who has the most to offer rather than on the veracity of the message being preached.

And all the while, our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the planet suffer and are killed for their faith on a daily basis. They worship God in secret gatherings, out of sight of government officials or the radical religionists who would think they are doing God a service by killing them. They continually live out the Words spoken by our Master:
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18-20 NASB)

On occasion, I have met brethren from lands like Pakistan, or who have fled Saudi Arabia because they had a sentence of death on them. They were not proud, but considered it an honor to be persecuted for their Lord. After such meetings, through no fault of theirs, I would walk away feeling so lukewarm and convicted. You see, where I am from, I am surrounded by those who encourage my faith and I can openly worship Jesus. But for those who are the persecuted, their faith costs them something. They truly have to count the cost before putting on Christ in baptism, because it may cost them everything they have held dear to themselves. Surely their heavenly rewards will be so much greater than my own, and rightly so.

But again, we in America must also remember that there is no guarantee that things will always be like they have been in our past. Persecution could come at any time, and who are we to say that it would not be a pruning and purifying process that the Lord would deem necessary to our spiritual development?
Did not Jesus himself say,
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11, 12 NASB)?
And the Apostle Paul wrote that, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 NASB)
Do we dare to contemplate what the Spirit meant when He had Paul use the word “all” in that verse?

Well, what are we to do in the mean time? First and foremost, pray for the persecuted church daily! As Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, those who are mistreated since you yourselves are in the body also.” All of us who belong to Christ make up His body. And when one part is suffering, we all suffer with it (1 Corinth 12:26)

I would also encourage all of us to prayerfully examine the Scriptures and judge for ourselves the depth of our commitment to Jesus Christ and the Gospel. And after that, say with deeper conviction than ever before, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back!”

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Is It Time To Hide?

It It Time To Hide?
During Operation Desert Storm, I was in the Navy and stationed on board the ammunition ship USS Mount Hood. We were inside the Persian Gulf and had around 2500 tons of ammunition on board at any time. For us, there was one danger which was at the forefront of our thinking – mines. One particular evening, many of us gathered for prayer, as was our habit. While we were in prayer, in my mind I could see what looked like an angel on the bow of the ship moving a sword back and forth ahead of us in the water. I’m not saying I had a vision, but decided it was a comforting thought and moved on.
The next morning at 7:45 I went on watch in the Combat Information Center. Around 8:00, we received a message with the coordinates of where a mine had been found and destroyed, so I plotted it on the navigational chart. I even plotted it three times to make extra sure it was accurate. When I was finished, I stared at the chart and felt a sudden chill. The position of the mine was at the exact spot where our ship’s position was plotted from midnight just eight hours before! A quiet prayer of thanks was lifted to God for His protection, and I have never forgotten His care over me that night.

In scripture, David had similar feelings of praise and gratitude to God for preserving his life. Those thoughts were part of what the Holy Spirit used when inspiring David to write things like these:

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7 NASB)

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, (Psalm 17:8 ESV)

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock. (Psalm 27:5 NASB)

You are my hiding place and my shield;
I wait for Your word. (Psalm 119:114 NASB)

Of course, much is to be made of the will of God when it comes to our protection and preservation. But with the examples before us in the Bible of God’s promises of protection and safety, it should also be said that while there are times we are hurt, those times are the exception, not the rule. Of course we are not to presume upon divine protection by doing things purposely harmful and assuming that God has us covered. Such was the temptation in Matthew 4 when the devil tempted Jesus by telling him to cast himself down from the temple, because Psalm 91 says God would not allow him to “dash his foot against a stone.”

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul makes spiritual application to divine protection. In the letter to the church at Colossae, he wrote, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3 NASB)
Sometimes, the Lord’s plan is for us to openly resist. At other times, we are commanded to refuse to engage in a battle, especially since our battle is not against flesh and blood. But at other strategic times, God chooses to simply hide us from the enemy so that we are spared physical and/or spiritual harm. I think these were things that Fanny Crosby may have been meditating on in 1929 when she wrote the following poem that would become another one of her beloved hymns.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide me
In Thy holy place;
Resting there beneath Thy glory,
O let me see Thy face.

Hide me, when the storm is raging
O’er life’s troubled sea;
Like a dove on ocean’s billows,
O let me fly to Thee.

Hide me, when my heart is breaking
With its weight of woe;
When in tears I seek the comfort
Thou canst alone bestow.

Hide me, hide me,
O blessed Savior, hide me;
O Savior, keep me
Safely, Oh Lord, with Thee!

We do well to remember in the turbulent days ahead, that those who “dwell in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

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