Holy Scripture or Reference Material?

I am going to be totally honest about today’s post. It was a big point of conviction for me and it happened at the London Heathrow airport, on the ground, in terminal 3, right outside gate 11. I am not going to lie, this is hard to write and even admit to myself. But I feel it is so very important that I lay down my pride and admit my mistakes so that others can learn from them like I have. All week I had been working on something totally different but when this hit me I knew I had to change my post.

 
Too often I use the Bible like it is a reference book. I read it to find the solutions to my problems instead of going into my problems equipped with the Word of God. After years and years of reading and thinking I know what’s on the pages, I have begun to stop reading and start searching. For the past few weeks I have been blogging about various subject and topics and constantly turning to the bible while doing so. But I’m not really turning to it before I write to see what it says. I have been turning to it after the fact in hopes of finding a verse that I think exists. Wow that sounds so much worse on paper than in my head. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to twist the words of God. It is more of I have a concept I think exists in The Word and I try to find verses that prove it in relation to a certain problem. That is not what scripture is for. It’s not here for me to reference it to add credibility to my blog. My blog should be written based on truths I have discovered, not ones I have extracted. I should read and the write, not write and then read.

 
Part of me wants to blame my English teachers for making me such a great writer (shoutout to Ms. Krug, you are the reason I graduated college). I cannot count how many pages of required reading I didn’t read yet still aced the follow up paper. It’s simple really, find an idea that exists in a book, read a few pages until a quote appears that supports said idea, and presto you have at least half a paragraph. Oh my gosh, am I writing about Jesus like He is a book report? What have I done?

 
Alright time to calm down and get a grip. It is a mistake. Here is the bottom line: we cannot use the bible like it is an encyclopedia or reference book or something like that. We shouldn’t just google things like verses about loving people when they’re hard to love in hopes of finding our answers to our problems. We need to be reading all the time, ahead of time, because chances are if we have to use google to find verses about something, we have probably already failed in doing what the Bible says. While this is not a completely bad thing, as we all sin and make mistakes, it is not a good habit to get into. It is time we stop referencing and start knowing. Jesus was the best example of this. I know we say that a lot but this time He is a literal example. Before He started his ministry he was tempted by Satan three times, and each time He rebuked the evil one with The Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11). He faced temptation and won because He was equipped. What would have happened if He hadn’t known what the word said? He can’t really take a raincheck on the temptations. Just like in real life we can’t ask for redoes in situations because we don’t know what God’s word says to do. That’s why it is so vital to read the word of God and know what it says beforehand. That way we are equipped to handle debates about gay pastors, dealing with our enemies, and what God says about worrying about the future.

 
Now let me make a note here. It is perfectly okay to turn to the bible when a situation comes up and we have no idea what the bible says. That’s okay because knowing the whole thing is pretty hard. But what I am saying is, that should not and cannot be the only time we turn to it. The Bible is not meant to be our Band-Aid every time sin, the world, or Satan cuts us up. We are to go to battle prepared and not spend time searching for he answers in the heat of the moment. Think about it. Police don’t do raids without bullet proof vests, see that the suspect has a gun, run back, grab a vest, and then continue the raid. No they run in with riot shields, Kevlar vests, solid helmets, and a whole load of protective equipment. Why? It is because they know the potential dangers ahead and are coming prepared. That should be our attitude with the Bible. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 where Paul talks about the armor of God. We literally need to equip ourselves for each day because it is a freaking battle. Satan will throw everything he has at us and we should stand prepared. That preparation comes from being immersed in the Word ahead of time and not read to google the answer after.

 
Well I hope you can learn from this blog as much as I can. To be honest I feel like God had me start writing this blog so that He could teach me, and if anyone else can benefit then that’s just an added benefit. It’s kind of hard to open up like that and publicly admit my sins and mistakes but I am glad I did. There is something oddly refreshing about it. Maybe it is the reminder that as Christian I don’t have to be perfect. There will be mistakes along the way, but they will be met with mercy and grace as long as there is repentance. I’m actually smiling now as I think about that. What an amazing God we serve that can and will forgive His children when they truly turn to Him. I hope you join me in reading to prepare and not reading to reference. Something tells me when we do that God will open so many doors and opportunities to glorify and witness for Him. That is something to smile about.

Thank you for reading this and bearing with me through my mistakes. I hope that you have learned as much as I have. Please continue to share posts like this one as you like. If one of them makes any impact on your life, please share so that maybe someone else could be impacted as well. Thanks and God bless.

 
Chuck

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Justin Bieber (Part 2)

In my last post about Justin Bieber, I focused heavily on the fact that his past actions had pretty much nothing to do with his faith moving forward. To God, Justin’s sin is the same as mine and any other human, so there is no way we can say that Jesus’s death on the cross means anything different for him. To me that is so awesome. I mean, how great is it that no matter what we have done, where we have been, or how many times we have stumbled, when we seek God he is there for us ready with grace and mercy? That is love. That is amazing. But there is more to the salvation story than just saying I’m sorry and giving Jesus the glory at the end of a song. There has to be a life change, and more specifically a heart change. See when we claim Jesus as our Lord and savior we become a different person, literally. Following along that thought process, here are three more ideas relating to what Justin Bieber said about his faith. These three thoughts focus on what happens after we know what it means to be a Christian and then are welcomed into the body of Christ.

1. Knowledge does not equate to salvation

This is one of the biggest mistakes I made growing up, and it is one many Christians make today. We can get caught up in the knowledge of the bible, the stories and what Jesus said, but we forget that’s all we have, head knowledge. It is not enough to know the bible, we must live it and have it in our hearts (Proverbs 7:3Matthew 22:37). Now I am in no way question Justin’s heart after what he said in his interview, but I must note that just because he knows what being a Christian is all about does not make him a Christian. I can know everything there is no to know about Canada but that does not make me a Canadian. I must get citizenship through the prescribed process in order to gain access to the benefits of being Canadian. It is the same with being a Christian. To be a Christian one must confess with their mouth and believe with their heart that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9). That alone, if done with sincerity, will bring about a change of heart and a commitment to the Lord in both word and in deed. From there it is not enough to talk the talk, as many people say. Believers cannot just say they are Christian for it to be so, for faith without works is not faith at all (James 2:14-26). In a sense a Christian must also walk the walk. People around us must see a change as we begin to live for the glory of God and not for our own. That means we will be different people than we were before. We are actually a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we must leave our old self behind. That means our lives and our worlds will be flipped upside down and will look radically different moving forward. IMPORTANT! All of this change does not mean that Christians are all of a sudden perfect! It does not mean Christians never sin. Instead it means that we try to live like Christ by loving like he loved. Being Christian does not mean we are perfect because we never sin. It means that we are perfect because we have a savior that died for our sins. That is what produces a changed heart and a changed life. This life will end up looking radically different than the life the world wants Christians to lead. Christians can’t just know it, they have to show it, and when they do there is a standard to be met.

2. We are called to judge fellow Christians

Oh no there it is. It’s the ever dreaded word judge. *gasp* How can we do that? People say it all the time, “It is God’s job to judge not ours.” Well those people would be right in one case and wrong in another. When it comes to non-Christians their statement holds true. We cannot use the word of God to judge a non-Christian. It doesn’t make sense because they have not prescribed to that standard. That’s like an American police officer in France arresting a local French person for violating American laws. It just doesn’t work. The same standards don’t apply. Now this does not mean that unbelievers are just disregarded. Jesus still tells us to spread the gospel to everyone in hopes that they might find Him (Matthew 28:16-20). We are still called to love them and interact with them (how else can we share Jesus?), but we do so in a way that shows them their need for Jesus and His love for them. We are not to judge them, that is God’s job.

However, whenever someone claims to be a Christian, the game changes. At this point Jesus calls us to judge one another, in other words: hold each other accountable to the standards that he has set. These standards are not like a checklist to being perfect, but they are simply loving God above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40), not too complex. When Paul and Jesus talk about judging they are not talking about pointing fingers, making assumptions, and taking a holier than thou attitude with the person being judged. Instead they are talking about making sure the fellow believers are acting in a manner that is glorifying to God. Aka upholding the standards he set. In turn, when one person holds another accountable they are holding themselves accountable for the same action (Matthew 7:2). Thus, the two are on the same level of accountability and one is not superior to the other. With Justin, since he has now seemed to claim the faith, he is under this second category. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are to hold him accountable to the words of Christ, just like we hold other brothers and sisters and ourselves accountable. Indeed we are to judge his actions to see if they align with the love, attitude, and commands of Christ.

3. Sometimes we have to disassociate others

But what if those actions don’t align with what Christ commanded? In 1 Corinthians 5:11, Paul talks about not associating with fellow believers who continue down their paths of sinning thinking that nothing is wrong. They are sexually immoral, drunkards, or slanderers and they think that everything is okay for them. To them their lifestyle is still acceptable inside the body of Christ. But in reality it is a cancer and needs to be removed immediately. There is no room for imposters in the body of Christ. In fact they literally cannot exist because it means that they have not truly accepted Christ and are just living a lie, and as believers we are to spot this. So if, keyword if, we read Justin’s interview, see his actions, and there is no change, we should not claim him as a brother in Christ. This means he can no longer be called a Christian, but it does not mean we should ignore him totally. It simply means the manner in which we associate with him has changed from brother to unbeliever. I know all that may sound harsh but it is biblical. If someone is not reflecting the glory of the Lord, then how can they claim to be a follower of Him and remain in the body? Yes we all struggle, and none are perfect. But if someone is living in a way that would indicate that they do not have the light of Christ in them, then the body of Christ should not claim them as a member. That does not mean that they can never be a believer and thus a member of the body. It simply means that their life is not of Christ and therefore they still need to ask Christ into their hearts and begin to live for him. See the church must look different from the rest of the world because it is different, it has Christ. While we can all come to Jesus looking the same, we should leave looking totally different. If this doesn’t happen then we don’t really have Jesus and our actions will prove it. When people see us (Christians) they must see Jesus, and if they don’t then we should not claim the name of Christ. That my friends is using the Lord’s name in vain.

At the end of the day Justin Bieber’s interview should not be something that is dissected by the body of Christ as we decide whether or not he truly is a believer. Oh heavens no. Instead it should be a time of rejoicing as it seems as though another lost sheep has been saved. After all, if Jesus can and does welcome him home like a prodigal son, then why shouldn’t we? Who are we to say that he is not worthy of the love of God because of his past? Are we not worthy then either?  We were in the exact same boat as a speeding and drunken pop star, sinners in need of a savior. Yet Jesus loves us and died for us. So let’s stop criticizing a man for stepping out in his faith, and welcome him as a brother in Christ and love on him like Jesus does. But once he is here, once he has been received with open arms, it is time we loved him like a brother. This means judging him for his sins in an attempt to correct and maintain accountability, and not claiming him as a Christian if he leads a lifestyle that fails to glorify the Lord. Yeah that’s tough stuff. It’s hard to look past someone’s past, and it may be even harder to judge them and call them out in love. Or maybe it is tougher to reject someone because they are not living as Christ has commanded yet they claim His name. But that is what Jesus has called us to do, and to do it all with love. So that’s what we should do because if we rely on Him, He will give us the strength we need.

Justin Bieber as a brother in Christ I love you man, and I will try my best to show you that love in every sense of the word as Jesus defined it for me.

Justin Bieber ( Part 1)

Now here is a topic I never thought I would have a blog about. Nothing against Justin Bieber but I was never a fan, his antics did not interest me, and I did not really think we had much in common. Well those first two things still ring true, but the last one certainly has changed. Well not that fact that we have something in common, but the fact that I have chosen to recognize that that fact is true. It started almost two weeks ago with this interview with Complex Magazine. What he said made many heads turn, including mine. It had little to do with music or any saucy info about his next romance. Instead he gave an incredible response on what it means to be a Christian. In an interview that was never supposed to be about his faith, he opened up about what being a Christian is really about, a relationship with Christ. This shocked me. I never would have ascribed to being a Belieber so I was not in sync with the ins and outs of his life, but from what I saw, I would not have classified Justin as a brother in Christ. Yet after some research I realized he may be on the narrow path after all. Still many Christians are criticizing him because of his past. That got me thinking, can people tell I’m a Christian by the way I live? But even more so, do I have a right to look at Justin and judge? I mean after all, we are all just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread, right? Well I came up with 4 things to remember/realize when thinking about Justin and his Christian faith. Today I will talk about 2 of those.

First some of Justin’s quotes (but please seriously go read the full interview):
My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith. I think that with Christians, they’ve left such a bad taste in people’s mouths. Just like, overly pushy with the subject, overly churchy and religious.

I’m not religious. I, personally, love Jesus and that was my salvation.

I’m gonna use my voice for a reason. I think that people, as soon as they start hearing me saying I’m a Christian, they’re like, “Whoa Justin, back up, take a step back.” Also, I do not want to shove this down anyone’s throat. I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins.

Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something,… I remember, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, “You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.” We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that you’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals.

That’s the whole thing with religion that’s been throwing off the people. It’s not a “have to.” It should be just like a personal relationship. Like, “Hey, I love you because you first loved me.”

I think that’s a common misperception of Christians, that you’re being weak because you can’t handle it. None of us can handle this world, dude! It’s eating us alive.

     1. Justin and I are the same

By earthly standards the above statement is not even close to being true. He has a lot of money, a big career, and thousands of girls screaming his name. I still need support from my parents, am trying to make it in the real world, and the only time a girl screams my name is when my mom is mad at me. But, by God’s standards we are pretty much equal. Why? When compared to Jesus we both fall pretty far short. Jesus is perfection and each and every person on earth is not (Romans 3:23). Therefore without Jesus we are all the exact same. We are sinners. This means we struggle. For him it is with fast cars, girls, and drugs, well at least that is what the media tells us. For many this is just so over the top. I mean look at him how can he be a Christian? Well because Jesus forgives sins and we all sin in different ways. If you read the article you can get a glimpse of how he was not always a follower of Christ. But somewhere along the lines things changed, just like with me. Heck, before I truly claimed Jesus as my own I was struggling to do the right things in my normal life. I could not imagine what I would have done if I had been in his shoes with that much fame, fortune, testosterone, an under developed frontal lobe, and no true relationship with Jesus. In truth, that sentence describes me, well minus the fame and fortune part. There was a time when I had too much testosterone, not enough brain cells, and not enough Jesus. I was going crazy and sinning. Maybe not like Justin but it was sinning just the same. Yet when I made Jesus mine I was cleansed, renewed, and changed. I went from sinner to saint. So why can’t this be for Justin as well? I say that it can be, and it is because Jesus died for me just like he died for Justin Bieber, despite the fact we will both sin again.

     2. Jesus would hang out with people like us

When we take a good long look at the life of Jesus we can see a very important detail that is often overlooked: who the Son of God chose to hang out with. He did not hang around the synagogue and shoot the breeze with the Jewish leaders. Instead he went and ate with the lowest of the low. His group of twelve followers, his clique, was made up of men who were either commoners (fisherman), extremists (Jewish Nationalists), or a cheater and thief (a tax collector).  Even beyond that, he went out of his way to spend time with men like Zacchaeus, a man who had cheated his neighbors and was seen as a common criminal (Luke 19:1-10), and a woman who was a consistent adulterer (John 4:1-26), the woman at the well, just to name two. But why? Why would the perfect Son of God hangout with the scum of the earth? It is simple, because He died for the sins of everyone, especially the scum, and he wanted to show them he loved them too. In Romans 5:21 Paul talks about where sin abounds grace abounds in proportion. Think about that. The more sin there is, the more grace there is. So heck yeah Jesus wants to go find those who others say are not worthy and let them know he loves them and died for them too. That is why Jesus would be in the bars, strip clubs, clubs, recording studios, and drug deals letting everyone know much He loves them and that He died for them. If it wasn’t for my parents perhaps where that is where He would have found me. Maybe one of those places is where he found Justin. Either way he sought us. He came to find us because we are that important. It does not matter what we did, why we did it, or for how long we did it. All that matters to Christ is that we opened our hearts to Him and we continually seek Him in everything that we do. Jesus would hangout with those who have their brokenness to lose and their souls to gain. For Jesus will forgive us of our past, and give us strength in the future.

How often do we forget where we came from? We were sinners in need of a savior. Only through Christ were we cleansed, are we being cleansed, and will we be cleansed in the future. That is what makes us saints. Yet too often we forget all of that. We look at those who are coming from where we came from and we fail to see ourselves. We fail to remember what that struggle felt like. Instead we try to distance ourselves from these dirty sinners. Wake up people! That was you and me. That is where we would be if we did not have Christ. So what if Justin Bieber has a DUI and you have never had so much as a parking ticket? We all sin differently, yet we can all come to the same savior. Not a single one of us has ever or will ever have a perfect day. So I say that instead of looking at Justin Bieber and criticizing his past we should love him and accept him just as Jesus would and already has. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19-21). Now, that being said, there are two other points I will address on this topic as well. These will kind of balance what I have said here today by thinking critically and applying what Justin said to life moving forward. But for today, let’s remember that every Christian has been where Justin is. We are all sinners in need of a savior, and there is no reason to look down upon someone who, by the standards we have created, is “more broken” than us.