Didactic

TRUE COLORS: What Every Conservative Christian Needs To Know About The Pride Flag

In light of two recent events; one being the declaration by mayor John Tory that June 2016 is ‘Pride Month’ in Toronto, and the other, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hoisting the pride flag at the house of commons in Canada’s capital just over a week ago, it’s understandable why traditional or conservative Christians are a tad ticked off.

Most evangelicals and Roman Catholics continue to maintain that homosexuality or same-sex partnering/parenting is not God’s default design for men and women and believe it to be an outworking of the sinful nature. And because of that, they are annoyed at how much attention the pride movement gets. We’ve gone from years of having an entire week dedicated to pride celebrations to a month long event and hey, the way things are headed, 2017 is setting up to be Pride year and 2020 ‘ll be ‘Pride Decade’.

Since the early days of gay activism, the Pride flag has stood as the primary token for anyone celebrating the movement that declares ‘we are separate and different in our sexuality and are not going to stay quiet about it’. The proponents of the movement claim it’s about the freedom to love whomever they want, but let’s be real here – it’s about being fully open in regards to what kind of sex you want to have and with whom.

Stretching from the last quarter of the 20th century and up to the present day, conservative Christians have been angered that the pride movement ‘stole the symbol of the rainbow’ from God or God’s word and that their using it in their parades or as decorations for their front porch was blasphemous and highly disrespectful of the religious community.

But is that really what’s happened? Is the Pride flag even what we think it is?

Here’s a little bit of history:

According to Wikipedia, gay icon Harvey Milk encouraged homosexual activist Gilbert Baker to come up with a symbol of pride for the gay community. His original design was a flag consisting of 8 colors, starting with pink at the top (not a big surprise there!). Apparently, due to fabric unavailability, pink was dropped from the design between 1978 and 79. The flag’s design was left with the 7 colors that corresponded with nature during the formation of a rainbow or when pure light is refracted through a clear glass prism. Those colors are, in case you wondered,

Red Orange Yellow, Green Blue Indigo and Violet.

But then something interesting happened. By 1979, the Gay Pride Flag (as it was referred to back then – there was no LGBTQIA) was reduced from 7 colors to 6! Indigo and turquoise (turquoise is not a color natural to rainbows, per se) were dropped in favor of Royal Blue.

Since then, this 6 color combination has represented the pride movement and has been presumed by most, to represent the rainbow – an atmospheric phenomena and symbol that the God of Judaism gave Noah after the flood. For those rare few of you who don’t know the history – the flood – a world-wide event referenced by many cultures throughout the planet via writings or oral legends – was a real event. The Jewish or Old Testament take on it was that the earth was full of wickedness and had to be purged via a one-off deluge that would wipe out humanity save for one family that would afterward be responsible for repopulating the planet with hopefully less evil than had gone before them. At the end of the flood, and at God’s bidding, the rainbow appeared in the sky to Noah – patriarch of the rescued family – and represented the promise made by God to never fully waterboard humanity again.

Even though this information is out there, there will nonetheless be a lot of religious folk who get bent out of shape whenever they see the pride flag, believing their cherished faith or perceived symbols of their faith (namely the rainbow) are being flouted.

Maybe a different perspective here will help.

ONE: The pride flag doesn’t represent a real rainbow! It isn’t reflective of what occurs normally and naturally in the physical world. It is a banding of 6 – NOT 7! – colors that have absolutely nothing to do with God’s promises or the bible.

TWO: Even if the flag WERE a real rainbow and LGBTQIA folks were deliberately ripping it off from the bible to annoy conservative Christians who don’t acknowledge the pride movement or who don’t wish to give ascent to their sexual proclivities, they shouldn’t be surprised!

Committed Christians are told in Scripture that:

“At the end of time, some will ridicule the faithful and follow their lusts to the grave.” These are the men among you—those who divide friends, those concerned ultimately with this world, those without the Spirit.”
Jude, v.8

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
1 John, chap. 3, v.13

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
2 Timothy, Chap. 3, v.12

Bible-adherent Christians should expect to be called out or persecuted by those who don’t like them because of their stance on the Truth of God’s word and the healthy, holy direction God wants His children – his people – to follow.

If you are a conservative Christian who is annoyed by the pride-Nazis (those in-your-face proponents of the alternative-sexuality lifestyle) and their influence on society or the pride movement parades – grow a backbone!

Throw a heterosexual pride parade, write a blog-post about your beliefs or write your local politician stating that you are not standing with them if they decide to ride the Tranny-float down the main drag in your fine city. There are probably many things you can do but kvetching isn’t really one of them. Nonetheless, if you’re going to speak out against or attempt to hamper the pride movement’s influence through legal, worthwhile means, remember this one thing: GOD HELP YOU if you don’t love with all your heart every single person – gay or straight – that wants to attack you for what you believe and WHO you believe in.

* We’re told to BLESS those who persecute us – ‘Bless and do not curse’. Love and be ready to serve any and every LGBTQIA soul who does not love you and your reward in the next life is great! Don’t forget that.

Lastly – relax when it comes to the rainbow. It’s still yours … all 7 colors. It was never really taken from you. It’s still there echoing God’s promise to not super-soak humanity in a watery death. I think it’s more important that we realize that through Jesus, we all have been offered the waters of life. Waters that if imbibed of deeply and consistently – will alter us from the inside out and ensure His true colors come shining through – in our every word and every action.

© 2016 Flagrant Regard

* Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chap. 12, Verse 14 &
   Luke’s Gospel, Chap. 6, Verses 28-36

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christian Living, Didactic, Homosexuality, Human Sexuality, Liberalism, Religion, Spiritual, Spirituality, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“PROMINENT GOVERNOR TERRORIZED BY CHRISTIAN PREACHER”

200px-Antonius_Felix

Excerpted from THE TIMES ROMAN, circa A.D. 60.

* “In a shocking series of events this week, a Jew and former member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees, laid into Caesarea’s most esteemed overseer, Felix of Arcadia, with a diatribe about ‘justice, self-control and the supposed ‘coming judgement”, causing the governor great consternation.

As has been provided to us through his transcriptions of all the goings on with respect to the movement known as ‘The Way’, Luke – a Jewish doctor – recorded that Paul, who is also a Roman citizen, has been accused of causing a disturbance in Jerusalem for both Romans and Jews in the area. Though Paul was to stand on trial in Jerusalem before authorities there, an assassination plot was uncovered to take out the Nazarene cult-leader and it was then he was secretly escorted by no less than 270 members of the Roman guard to Caesarea, where he would appear before Antonius Felix, the area governor.

Governor Felix, apparently well acquainted with ‘The Way’, a new religion that combines Jewish beliefs with the understanding that Jesus, a putative healer, self-proclaimed king and saviour of all of mankind, would also have known about the alleged resurrection of this ‘Christ’. (Members of ‘The Way’ continue to claim this resurrection event as being true despite the fact that their Christ was crucified under Roman decree for crimes of insurrection.)

In the Caesarean court at Paul’s preliminary hearing, a representative of the Pharisees, Tertullus, stated that in Jerusalem, Paul had been causing a disturbance. “He agitates trouble in Jewish communities throughout our empire as a ringleader of the heretical sect known as the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple!”

Paul, a weary looking man with poor eyesight – hardly an imposing figure – was then brought before the respected governor and allowed to represent himself in his own defence.

The Tarsus native proceeded to detail his account of events: that he went to ‘worship’ in Jerusalem just twelve days before and while in Jerusalem did not argue publically, stir up crowds or cause civil disorder within the city. He then summarized what he believed was the reason his accusers became aggressive toward him:

“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust, which my opponents also share. … Perhaps my crime is that I spoke this one sentence in my testimony before them: “I am on trial here today because I have hope that the dead are raised.””

After hearing this, the most noble governor dismissed the hearing, promising a decision on the issue when the commandant of Jerusalem arrived to provide his evidence on the matter.

But it was a few days later, when Paul was graciously allowed to enjoy the company of the felicitous governor Felix, that things went south for the radical preacher.

Given an opportunity to speak freely of his faith in the Christ and possibly persuade the governor of the supposed ‘Good News’ message being taught by members of the infant religion, he made a grave error in judgment. Rather than pay homage to the esteemed Felix by complimenting him on his education and knowledge of The Way, Paul expanded on his beliefs by addressing the extreme importance of ‘justice, self-control and the coming judgment’.

Our revered governor was made to feel extremely uncomfortable – fearful, in fact! – due to Paul’s choice of subject matter. How dare this Jew turned Nazarene-follower address a most noble judge and Roman overseer in such a manner! It would have been far more prudent to secure the governor’s interest in (or possible conversion to) the new faith by stating how forgiving of sins the Christ was. Or that if one were to just believe in the Christ, pray a particular set of prayers or provide a specific type of offering, they would be guaranteed a place of honour in the afterlife.

Had Paul remained somewhat reserved with respect to his more incendiary beliefs, he very likely could have secured a shorter stint in Roman custody; the estimable Felix would surely have responded favourably toward him had the more positive aspects of the Nazarene faith been furnished during their time together and if Paul had thought to offer a generous donation to Rome’s interests via the fiduciarily responsible governor.

But such was not to be. Paul remains in prison and most likely will remain there until the esteemed governor Felix steps down and retires with his family to his beautiful summer home in Pompeii, near Herculaneum, in two short years.”

Correspondent for The Times Roman, Martinus Chrestus

© Flagrant Regard, 2015

*Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 23 thru 24

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Integrity, Liberalism, Spiritual, Spirituality, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Through A Glass Darkly’ – A Lesson On Spiritual Renewal

Self-Cleaning-Glasses

DIRTY LOOKS

“We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity; even all our right efforts are like soiled rags. We’re drying up like a leaf in autumn …”
Book of the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 64, verse 6

Sometime after I turned 40, I found myself in need of reading glasses. The long-distance vision is still great, but everything from computer screens to the micro-print on your everyday vitamin bottle is now the epitome of low-definition vision as far as my eyes are concerned.

High quality polishing cloths rarely come with drug-store readers but are always supplied with prescription glasses, and it’s a good thing too. They most definitely return HD clarity to your outlook when things are starting to appear kinda greasy and opaque.

Some time ago I noticed that regardless of how much lens polishing I engaged in, my lenses didn’t fare any better than before my cleaning them. I’d give the glasses a good going over, put them on, try to read something and nope – still looked like I was viewing the world about me through a layer of olive oil. So I’d spritz a tad more lens cleaning solution on the cloth and figure that’ll do the trick, and proceed to wipe them over again. Still no joy. And then it hits me, “Oh, I get it … I gotta clean the cleaning cloths!”

napolean-duh

I threw the cloths in a regular wash cycle along with shirts and underwear and whatever else a guy mixes together in the washing machine (that he probably shouldn’t) and along with my clothes, I extracted clean, ready-for-polishing cloths to wipe down my lenses.

Anyway, this got me thinking the other day about the nature of our spiritual perspective – our vision – and how we are in our relationship with the creator, the Lord of our souls.

THE JOURNEY GETS MESSY

At the point of our conversion (or in my case, my reconversion), we’re given a new perspective by God which allows us to see more clearly the world around us and how broken it is. At the same time (and maybe more importantly) we are given much needed insight with respect to our own soul and moral character and how poorly developed they truly are. We become aware of God’s unmerited love for us but receive along with that a glimpse of how distant our goodness is from the goodness and purity of God. And because of our new, clearer perspective, we find ourselves humbly asking God for strength and the ability to live our salvaged-by-Grace lives for Him with a sincere determination.

But at some point, after this ‘great awakening’, we lapse back into familiar ways – well I believe most of us do – and find that the things of the Spirit become less important or engrossing compared to the urgent issues and distractions that make up our day-to-day existence. Still having the Spirit of God within us, we may become aware of this lapse, but often feel helpless to deal with it. And then guilt sets in – the biggest nail in the coffin for a once spiritually inspired, enthusiastic mindset. So we pray, “God get me out of this funk.” Or, “Make me better than I am.” Or, “Fix me (or things) again so I can feel connected to You!” But these repeated requests or prayers often come across as an ostensibly useless endeavour. It’s like trying to repair or clean things with broken and dirty implements.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As our spiritual energy and connection to God appears to diminish, we feel caught in a loop and a dryness of the soul begins to overwhelm us. This is a dangerous ‘tipping point’ for some believers. If they don’t feel or see enough of God’s power in their lives, they walk away from the faith and give up ‘trying’.

HOW YOU BRING AN END TO A SPIRITUAL RUT

Here’s the thing: you can’t. As your spiritual life continues, you will lose connection with God frequently and all your efforts to rekindle the excitement or ‘vision’ you had the day you knew God had entered your life will, in your mind, amount to a hill of beans. You’ll feel adrift in stagnant water and those living waters Jesus promised his followers are somehwere on the other side of dark mountains that have seemingly hemmed you in. Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death. You have now joined the ranks of every single believer who’s ever asked God to change them! This might come as a shocker, but you were meant to arrive here.

“Why?”, you ask.

kitten distressed

Because it is at this time, God is about to reveal to you that everything you think you have done or have attempted to do to put things right between you and Him is not unlike your trying to clean a pair of glasses with dirty rags. And as long as you continue to assume you’re the one who has to clean up your spiritual lenses to restore clarity, perspective and objectivity to your own soul-view you will fail miserably because God has set it up that way.

Again, you ask, “Why? Why would God allow me fall so hard if I am doing my best to put things right?”

He does this so that He can reveal within us His power, His strength and what His vision for you truly is. It’s only when every light you’ve tried to keep going has gone out that it’s His time to shine! When your knees have hit the floor it’s then He eagerly shows you how strong His arms are by pulling you back up. He takes your worn-down perceptions – all the methods that you thought were going to keep you connected to Him or ‘spiritual’ – and tosses them into His washing machine. Then He hands you back those things that are really needed to really make a difference in your world, your outlook and life-experiences.

God likes to show off – the Scriptures evidence this repeatedly with respect to His character and/or his modus operandi. Deep in our personal valleys, if/when we continue to walk by faith (what little there may be of it at times) He will restore our spiritual sight by showing us who He really is by answering our prayers from an unexpected angle or entering our world in ways we never would have anticipated.

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“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

This kind of thing – beautiful and powerful spiritual renewal – happens frequently over one’s lifetime in the hearts of those who humbly walk with God. Admittedly, it takes a lot of patience and waiting for it to happen. But God helps with that too … just hang … on … a little … longer!

Wash, rinse, repeat.

This is God’s style of restoration and it’s so welcomed, especially when we’re spent from our trying so hard. With respect to our dealing with ourselves and God, preacher and author, John Ortberg, instructs us to ‘try softer’:

“Often the people in the Gospels who got in the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. It got in the way of them loving people. … there is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you. … Don’t push the river.”
~ John Ortberg, from the book, ‘The Me I Want To Be’

WHAT’S THE WORD ON ALL OF THIS?

I cannot emphasize this enough: the Bible and its guiding principles as presented to us through the many colourful characters who authored it is like having a legal representative with you when you are in your darkest trial and at your lowest ebb. It stands beside you to instruct you when direction is seemingly absent. It is there to remove (not add to) your guilt when you may be completely bereft of feelings, spiritual enthusiasm or at the tail end of your faith. There is NOTHING you are experiencing (including the dryness of soul or even the disdain for all things spiritual) that has not been experienced by those who went before us – from Adam to Amos, Joseph to Jesus, Paul to Peter.

Read the Word and wait. Don’t read it, and you’ll feel utterly alone. I don’t care if you’re a literalist or a liberal – the Power of God is in that set of 66 books. You will find God in those words (try to resource a good translation like the New International Version or The Voice) and they will comfort you and set you up for that glorious moment of restoration – the big wash – that is coming to restore you to a fresh awareness of God’s will for your life and a clarity of vision that only He can provide.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the medical field, visual clarity isn’t something that occurs by one’s trying to see better or by applying a plethora of home-remedies. It occurs via the efforts of a skilled outside agent who is able to alter the eye’s lens in order to enhance or correct poor vision. Similarly, we must await God’s agent – the Spirit – to restore to us the perspective, outlook and vision we are deeply in need of to get through this thing called life. We cannot experience these necessary renewals through any amount of redo’s that we embark on, no matter how sincere our effort.

Wait for God to show up and be the Saviour He truly is. You will not be disappointed.

© 2015 Flagrant Regard

“But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired, never faint.”
The book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31 (The Voice Translation)

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 13 (New Living Translation)

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 7, verse 10 (N.I.V. Translation)

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Book of Revelation chapter 3, verse 19 – Jesus speaking through John the disciple to the church in Laodicea (N.I.V. Translation)

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Paul’s letter to the Phillippians, Chapter 2, verse 13

“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christhave received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Second letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 1 thru 4 (N.I.V. Translation)

Categories: Apologetics, Christian Living, Didactic, Pain, Spirituality, Struggle, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Reasons We Can Be Sure Jesus Christ Wasn’t/Is Not A Zombie

Nope!

… yeah, uh no, not exactly …

This post goes out to the somewhat supercilious fellow on Reddit who expressed how proud he was of his young son who, completely uncoached, came to the conclusion that if the historical Jesus had risen from the dead (as Christians assert) then He was in fact a zombie.

There seems to be a growing fascination and/or association with Jesus’ resurrection and zombie culture. It’s time to put this silliness to bed.

Without further ado, here now are the

TOP TEN REASONS WE CAN BE SURE JESUS CHRIST WASN’T/IS NOT A ZOMBIE

1. When a person has been turned into a zombie, angels do not materialize to herald his reanimation with the words, ‘Do not fear – He is risen!’

2. Jesus had a hearty hankerin’ for fish after His resurrection and not disciple flesh or brains.

3. Jesus easily left behind the burial linens He was tightly wrapped in after He rose from the dead and somehow managed to roll away a nearly two-ton stone that sealed His tomb. On the other hand, zombies can be restrained with straight-jackets (if you can suit them up without being bitten) or be easily held in place by a length of chain.

4. Jesus was actually worshipped by people after He appeared alive to those He knew. Zombies aren’t worshipped by those they knew as they’re too busy fleeing from them in terror or scrambling for a 22.

5. Jesus had to prove to the disciples He was not a ghost (but rather, a physical reality) by showing them His scarred hands and feet. Zombies often have little left of their hands and feet after some advanced rotting has taken place, which pretty much establishes they’re more dead-ish than alive-ish.

6. When the risen Jesus appeared before people, He spoke very articulately whereas a zombie’s vocabulary is generally limited to, “Uuuaaarggghh!”

7. Immediately following Jesus’ proclamation of the ‘great commission’, He was taken up into the heavens fully intact. Zombies, however, are ‘taken out of commission’ by bullets/axes to the head and end up splattered all over the ground.

8. After Jesus’ resurrection, both an angel and Jesus Himself gave advance notice that He’d be popping up in nearby Galilee. Zombies fail to provide advance notice for anything – they are rude and pop up unannounced at all hours.

9. Jesus returned to life in a very-much-alive human body in order to display God’s incredible power that will one day be fully extended to all believers as a reward for their faithfulness. Zombies are considered ‘the living dead’ and have nothing to look forward to but further putrefaction or a coup de grâce that ends whatever ‘life’ it is they’ve been enjoying.

10. Several highly intelligent researchers who investigated the resurrection of Jesus started out as skeptics but became believers. No amount of investigation, as of yet, has been able to confirm the existence of zombies as depicted in popular cinema/television, ever!

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 (New Living Translation)

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

1. Matthew 28:5-6 / Mark 16:6 / Luke 24:6 /
2. Luke 24:41-43 / John 21:9-14
3. Matthew 28:2 / Mark 16:4,6 / Luke 24:2,12 / John 20:5-7
4. Matthew 28:9,17 / Luke 24:52 / John 20:28
5. Luke 24:36-40
6. Luke 24:13-30, 38-49 / John 21:12-23
7. Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15,19 / Luke 24:51
8. Matthew 28:7 / Mark 16:7 /
9. Luke 24:36-43 / John 20:17,27 / John 20:31 / Acts 1:9-10 / Philippians 3:18-21 / 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 / Revelation 1:18, 21:1-7
10. C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Frank Morrison, J.Warner Wallace, Nabeel Quereshi, Philip Vander Elst, Alister E. McGrath

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Humor, Humour, Religion, Theology, zombies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Four Things You Need To Know About People Suffering With Chronic Pain

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

blended

This article is a long time in coming.

As many of you know, I suffer from severe, almost daily migraine pain that has made my life extremely difficult to live at times.

Chronic pain does everything from suck up any good time you have in between sleeps to driving you to near madness with the frustration of not being able to overcome it.

But there are some things you – the healthier human (for now) – may not have thought of with respect to those living under the weight of frequent, unbearable pain:

1. HOW ALONE WE FEEL

Pain is a funny thing (okay, it’s not) in that when it invades your life and refuses to let go, there is no amount of comfort offered, no amount of encouraging bible verses available, no amount of sympathetic words from your loved ones that can make you feel any less alone in your suffering.

It doesn’t matter that there are hundreds of thousands of people going through what you go through every day. There is this overwhelming aloneness that seems to invade your mental space and press in around you. Though those of us with faith know that we never are alone in our pain, it doesn’t change how we feel when we’re in its oppressive grip.

I am blessed beyond measure, having a wife who so kindly and gently offers to massage my scalp or say, “Poor Ba”, when I am groaning in agony. I cannot express my gratefulness enough for her presence, love and co-endurance when I go through the more intense periods of suffering, especially. But even she, the love of my life, cannot step inside my soul to massage away the isolation chronic pain causes. It’s just the nature of the beast.

All I can do is work through it and continue to remind myself that I’m ‘alone, but not alone’ (as Joni Erickson-Tada’s new song proclaims) and force myself to remember that I will come through the storm and feel connection once again on the other side of it.

2. COMORBID DEPRESSION

What the heck is comorbid depression? Well it’s the all too familiar sidekick to anyone going through chronic pain.

You see, when pain encompasses so much of your life, time, personal dealings, conversation and whatever, you start to realize that you are not like everyone else around you. You’re less productive, you are a burden to your loved ones and society, you cancel out on get-togethers with family or friends and worst of all, you watch time pass you by extremely quickly. Another year gone and you’ve done what? Nothing much (or so it feels). So there’s THAT collective of thoughts or mental meanderings that get depression festering nicely.

But then there’s the physical aspect of it. When you’re in chronic pain, your brain/body (along with any drugs you’re taking) is doing its darndest to produce endorphins or whatever feel-good chemicals that are at its disposal to try and relieve your pain. I’m sure that they can only be stretched so far and for so long before saying, “we’re done – can’t help the dude any more – shut off the valves”. And so when you’re out of the extreme pain for any length of time, you have no feel-good chemicals left in your body or mind and you crash. You often crash really hard, in fact. I know – I’ve broken down in tears … weeping like a man at the funeral of his mother. Or I’ll sit around for hours – whole days even – doing nothing and feeling like doing nothing. It will take a good 24 hours or more sometimes before I can get into gear to accomplish anything as basic as putting dishes away or even having a shower.

3. COLLATERAL DAMAGE AND INCONVENIENCE

As already mentioned, many things have to take a back seat to the person suffering with chronic pain. Trips are cancelled. Family events are postponed again and again. Church attendance is spotty. People get sick of hearing your litany of complaints and/or symptoms because that’s all you’ve got going on at times.

In my case, I’ll be up for nights at a time – unable to sleep due to the severity of the pain. My wife often never sees me during daylight or early evening hours and when she does, I’m a hot mess.

Drugs being tried out or taken regularly can have serious or problematic side effects, supporting the old adage, ‘the cure is worse than the disease’ far too often. A ‘can’t live without ’em, can barely live with ’em’ scenario almost always prevails.

On behalf of all chronic pain sufferers everywhere, I would like to say, “We’re so sorry!” We’re sorry that we can’t be there for you – our loved ones – like we want to be. We’re sorry that we let you down time and time again, not being there for you when you need us. We’re sorry that we have cost you your time and have put a financial burden on you because of our sickness and the oft-expensive treatments and medicines needed to deal with our pain. We know that we’ve caused you your own pain. Please forgive us. If we could have it any other way, we would.

4. WE MIGHT NOT BE FIXABLE

So many souls with great intentions have come up to me and offered the name of this doctor or that product in the hope that I can finally be freed from my suffering. They will quickly go through their mental rolodexes and recount how ‘their sister’s best friend’ or ‘their mother’ had your condition and that now they are the ‘pink of health’ because of treatments A, B and C.

Letting you know now, this drives us chronic-pain folks a little nuts.

You see, unless we are guilty of Munchausen’s syndrome – pretending we’re chronically ill to get attention – you have to think that we have, by now, tried everything available thus far to make ourselves well. If we were beset by our particular ailment for only a few weeks, say, it’d be a different story. Sure – if that’s the case, throw out your best thoughts re our ailments, your home-remedies, your curative concoctions. But when we’ve suffered for years with some serious infirmity, please think twice before you offer us some solution that just popped up in a recent internet periodical or that worked for your grandmother when she had (what you think is) my particular condition.

In addition to this, I would like to address any Christians out there who think that with a good ol’ fashioned healing service that’s we’d be out of the woods – all cured ‘n hunky-dory. Sometimes prayer will not result in a person’s healing. Paul the apostle had poor vision. Timothy had some stomach ailments. I have migraines. They were not given to me as a punishment for sin nor are they continuing for lack of faith or because of something I have held back from God. Poop happens and pain can be that happenin’ poop.

That being said, YOUR PRAYERS ARE WELCOME and are very much needed and appreciated. How God deals with your prayers or mine is mysterious at best, but He is near to those who call on Him and we who walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and yes, the pain can be so bad at times that you think you will die or that you and everyone else would be better off if you did).

Christ’s cup of suffering wasn’t removed from Him when He begged heaven from the garden and yet look what He accomplished. I may never, in this life, be free from the pain that has become my life, but I tell you the truth – pain, for me, has served as a call to prayer like a minaret to a Muslim. Pain is God’s calling card, I have always stated. It’s when I’m in the deepest pain that a lot of prayers get said – especially for those around me and for others who suffer greater woes than mine. Maybe without my suffering, I would be insufferable to God and others. I think pain keeps me real in a lot of ways that are spiritually healthy, to put it simply.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to pray for healing for those who are sick. Sometimes, God’s will is to see some become well via a miraculous intervention. We’ve seen that before and you’ve probably heard the stories. Don’t stop thinking God is powerful enough to do mighty things just because today you will not be seeing or receiving a miracle.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Chronic pain is a fact of some people’s lives … my life. Still, I can’t believe how blessed I am despite having this invasive force in my world. Financially, God has met our needs – exceeded them in fact. He has kept me from plunging so deep into despair that I would consider taking the easy way out of this life. The people He has placed around me are golden – from my wife, family and friends to the many, many Christian souls who remember me (and Nancy) in prayer and who care deeply for the suffering all around the world – not just me. A big THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to listen to my grousing and just for being there for us.

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

“I was given a thorn in my flesh … to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
St. Paul, 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, 12:9-10 (NIV Translation)

“He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner.”
Jesus, Gospel According to Matthew 5:45 (The Voice Translation)

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Jesus, Gospel According to John 16:33 (New Living Translation)

Categories: Compassion, Didactic, Evil, Pain, Religion, Spiritual, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pope Francis Is A False Teacher … Seriously?

 

tim-challies-big

A Facebook friend posted a link to a recent article by well-known Christian blogger Tim Challies. The essay is one in a series dealing with false teachers in the Christian church.

I have read Challies’ work before and have always found his writing smartly-provocative and worthwhile.

Till today.

THE PROBLEM
A few short hours ago I learned that Mr. Challies believes Pope Francis, head of the entire Roman Catholic Church, is a false teacher or a heretic. This of course implies that Francis is not a bona fide Christian and, by extension of this, neither are his denomination’s millions of members.

For an individual supposedly committed to sharing the Gospel of Christ and God’s love, Mr. Challies just shot himself in the proverbial foot the same way fundamentalist hard-liners have been doing for hundreds of years.

A bit of background on Mr. Challies: he is a pastor asociated with Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto and has been blogging away for over a decade. He’s written three Christian books and states he is, “Christian, Protestant, Reformed, Evangelical and Unfinished”. Unfinished? According to him, on his About Mepage, this means, “Though I find great beauty in traditional Protestantism, I realize that in some areas traditions may not be fully Scriptural. Where that is the case I am eager to change as the Spirit convicts me through the Word.”

Let’s start there – Mr. Challies’ ‘traditions’. His theological leanings may be one of those traditions that could use a healthy dose of re-examining.

Here’s the article in question:
THE FALSE TEACHERS: POPE FRANCIS

In summary, it’s a diatribe against Roman Catholic doctrine; Pope Francis is simply used as a prop for his platform and the Catholic Church is wrong about everything. The Pope is the messenger of – not just the poster-boy for – the religion.

To his credit, Challies states, “Those within the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced salvation (and I sincerely believe there are those who have) have done so despite the church’s official teaching, not through it.” Having come from a Catholic background myself and after meeting a munificence of souls in love with Jesus, via several church/prayer-meeting settings, I couldn’t agree more. It barely has to be stated that in any church, Protestant or Catholic, you’ll find fakes or non-followers; as Larry Norman once said, “God’s not fooled by those who believe and those who say they do.” Mr. Challies is also correct in stating that there are still many old-world traditions and practices (known as catechism) that deny (or at best, fail to fully endorse) the all-sufficient grace of God in favour of works-plus-faith-based salvation, and granted, that is not a good thing.

But that’s not what’s wrong with Tim Challies piece. The problem is that he has called out one man – Pope Francis – as a ‘false teacher’ and uses very little evidence to back up such a serious claim. How serious? Based on his strict fundamentalist leanings, the next step (not taken – gee, I wonder why?) would have been for Challies to imply that Pope Francis is bound for hell, will suffer eternal punishment and is taking a ton of folks there with him. Wow.

Now, I’d like to take the opportunity to first state that I would have appreciated the chance to address Mr. Challies’ thoughts directly on his blog, but apparently ‘comments are closed’. Bit of a chicken—– move, if you ask me, but just maybe he has some comment-limitation policies in place so ‘my apologies’ if this is the case.

WHAT DOES THE POPE SAY? (No, not a new song by Elvys)
I have to ask outright here: Mr. Challies, have you yourself ever heard a definitive statement from Pope Francis that denies the complete and total saving work of Christ? Have you heard him advocate that the Catholic Church, “officially damns those who believe anything else”? Don’t think so, sir. Therein lies the problem. You yourself quoted Francis as stating, “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying—and this is the fundamental thing—that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart.” Seems very unjudgy to us. Looking at it another way, the pope himself doesn’t appear to fully subscribe to his religion’s subset beliefs! And if this is the case for the head of the R.C. church, how likely is it that your average church-attending Catholics also aren’t apt to buy into every doctrine tossed out during catechism class?

The remainder of the Pope Francis’ quote found on Challies blog appears to be a fairly close paraphrasing of Paul’s letter to the Romans, specifically a few verses found in Chapter 2 of the missive. Compare:

“The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Pope Francis

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
Romans 12:14-16, NASB **

JUST HOW DOES THE BIBLE DEFINE A FALSE TEACHER?
A false teacher – the type Christ warned us about – is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Whether from a spirit of ignorance or deliberation, he/she lives to deceive and draw people away from Christ’s Gospel of grace. Paul wished that any such ‘false teachers’ (or any angels teaching false gospels) be ‘forever accursed’. 1

In Jude’s one-chapter letter, Christians are warned,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Jude v.4 NIV

Paul warns of the latter days (which some Christians believe are upon us now) where,

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
1 Timothy 4:1-4 NIV

Mr. Challies, do you really feel Pope Francis is a ‘hypocritical liar’, ‘ungodly’, a sensuality-driven ‘grace-perverter’ or a ‘demon-influenced’ man? Has the Pope said anything about people refraining from marrying or stopped anyone from eating certain foods? Do you think him worthy of being ‘eternally cursed’? More to your point – have you personally heard him attempt to draw people into works-based religion while dismissing the doctrine of grace via his teaching?

Don’t think so.

Call me stupid, but I just don’t see Pope Francis as a false teacher. His life seems to embody the outworking of a life devoted to faith in God and Christ. I certainly don’t see him pushing anything contrary to the Gospel.

But should we even be judging the man?

THE CHRISTIAN JUDGMENT DILEMMA
Tim Challies, like a lot of fundamentalist watch-dogs out there, feel they have the right to expose false teachings and judge the men/women purveying errant doctrine. As Christians, we technically understand that there’s a very fine line to watch for when it comes to judging. But for some reason, some evangelicals like to hurl themselves across this line like a pole vaulter. Just as in a court of law there’s a difference between judging the evidence of a case and determining what judgment awaits a defendant on the stand, there is a difference with respect to how we Christians are to evaluate certain people and the things they believe. Sadly, we often get this quite wrong.

According to Scripture, we are not to judge those who are ‘outside the church’ – in other words, those who are outside of our faith. So if Mr. Challies believes Roman Catholics are basically ‘another religion’ due to their doctrines of works-plus-faith (which would be similar to Islam or Mormonism), then he technically has no right to pronounce judgment on Pope Francis (calling him a false teacher) or anyone else claiming to be of the Catholic religion!

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV

Oh but wait. ‘Roman Catholics claim to be Christians’, Mr. Challies might say, and therefore has the right to call the Pope a False Teacher.

Uh, no – no he doesn’t.

“You never know another man until you’ve walked in his moccasins”, say the indigenous peoples of North America. Without personally knowing Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Mr. Challies has no right to assume how God will judge him. But that’s not the impression you get from Challies’ blog-post.

Jesus tells us,

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17 NIV

But rather than do this, Mr. Challies fires off his digital bullets that wound and maim, saying things like:

–  “… he (Francis) … remains committed to a false gospel.”
–  “He (again, Francis) is the head of a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone …”
– “Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul …”

And worst of all, Challies states,

“Even while Francis washes the feet of prisoners and kisses the faces of the deformed, he does so out of and toward this false gospel that leads not toward Christ, but directly away from him. Good deeds done to promote a false gospel are the most despicable deeds of all.”

If this isn’t a heavy-handed implication that Pope Francis and his followers are bound for eternal punishment, I don’t know what is. Remember what we noted earlier; Paul warned that anyone teaching a ‘false Gospel’ should be forever accursed.

This kind of rant by Mr. Challies reminds me of a bully who throws stones at you from a distance. There’s nothing remotely Christ-like in Mr. Challies approach or evaluations.

WHY MORE CATHOLICS MIGHT BE CHRISTIANS THAN CHALLIES BELIEVES?
Ignorance is a funny thing. Sometimes it works in our favour and at other times it works against us (see John 15:22-24). On the issue of ‘Grace alone’ vs. ‘Works-Plus-Faith’, I propose a different view of things that may be considerably more gracious (and biblical) than the judgments offered by Mr. Challies who is ironically a pastor associated with ‘Grace Fellowship Church’.

Let’s assume the lady living next door to you is a Catholic. Believes baptism keeps babies from Purgatory, prays to Mary as well as Jesus and maybe calls upon a few saints now and then. She has crosses over every doorway in her house and believes in transubstantiation when taking communion at mass. She’s faithful to light a candle for her husband who has passed, and has a mass said for him once a year, hoping it’ll get him closer to God in the next world. Now as protestants, we realize a lot of this is just nonsense – to us. To them, however, it’s an important part of their religious practice. But aside from all of these rituals or practices, the dear woman truly loves Jesus. She believes He is The Saviour of all mankind. Believes He rose from the dead. And believes every word of the Apostles Creed when she offers it aloud and with her whole heart and soul on any given Sunday.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, 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;
He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

Can anyone state with absolute certainty that this woman’s Christianity is false and more importantly, should anyone even venture down that trecherous road of judgmentalism? No. Sure, some of the church’s religious observations are questionable or out of whack with Scripture to most protestants, but that does not afford them the right to assume that the majority of adherent Roman Catholics are – as Challies states – heading in a direction “directly away from Him (Christ)”!

STOP THE BULLYING
Mr. Challies, I appeal to the grace of God that lives in you to be more considerate and less judgmental of individual souls while dealing with false teachers/false teachings through your essays. Yes, some wrong teaching out there needs to be exposed and it’s an important topic to delve into. But at present, your careless approach affects your quality of ministry and undermines the credibility of the all-encompassing grace you claim to believe is offered to us in Christ. I sincerely hope you take time to re-evaluate your thoughts on the matters discussed and leave judgments of an eternal nature in the safe and outstretched hands of the Eternal.

Grace and Peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ,

© 2014, Flagrant Regard

1. Galatians 1:8-9

___________________________________________________________________________________

** In our experience, this passage in Romans is one of the least explored or talked about parts of the New Testament. Many evangelicals shy away from it because it seems that Paul is indicating there is a separate and distinct judgment for those who haven’t received the salvation of Christ in their lifetime on earth. This is, in fact, EXACTLY what Paul was outlining. If one looks at the structure of Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is clear that right up until chapter 3 and verse 20 of his letter, Paul is providing a running commentary on the world ‘as is’ – a world that hasn’t been made aware of Christ, is unaware of His atonement via the cross and living without the assurance of eternal life the Christian believer is in receipt of, through faith. (From Chapter 3, verse 21 onward, Paul then explains to the Romans the nature of the Gospel and why it is superior to anything ‘law-based’, Jewish or otherwise.)

This passage clearly shows that God’s mercy, in Christ, is in some way extended to those who’ve not accepted the Gospel or (if you’re of the Calvinist ilk) who are not predestined to receive Christ’s unique, all-encompassing salvation through faith. These individuals, however, live with NO assurances of the coming rewards and/or punishments due them. Just as there are levels of reward in heaven based on one’s works while in the body, it would appear the same goes for souls that do not step into eternity’s glory at the moment of death. Apologists such as C.S.Lewis understood this; and his sentiments on justice in the afterlife were creatively expressed in his fictional books ‘The Last Battle’ and ‘The Great Divorce’.

Other authors – considered evangelical protestants – have also addressed the issue of the unsaved:

“The great prophetic discourse (Matthew 21-25/Mark 11-13/Luke 19:29-48 Chap. 20 & 21) worthily ended with a solemn representation of the final judgment of the world, when all mankind shall be assembled to be judged either by the historical gospel preached to them for a witness, or by its great ethical principle, the law of charity written on their hearts; and when those who have loved Christ and served Him in person, or in His representatives, – the poor, the destitute, the suffering, – shall be welcomed to the realms of the blessed, and those who have acted contrariwise shall be sent away to keep company with the devil and his angels.”
The Training of the Twelve, A.B. Bruce

“On a trip to Japan I found myself late at night in a pastor’s study in one of the largest churches in Tokyo (which isn’t saying much, since the average congregation numbers thirty in a nation where Christians claim only 1 percent of the population). … I wanted to check into my hotel room and go to sleep, but Japanese hospitality required this courtesy visit. For the next twenty minutes without interruption the pastor poured out the agony he felt over the 99 percent of Japanese who had not accepted Jesus. Would they all burn in hell because of their ignorance? He had heard of theologians who believed in people having a second chance after death and knew the mysterious passage in 1 Peter about Jesus preaching to those in Hades. Some theologians he had read seemed to believe in universal salvation although certain passages in the Bible indicated otherwise. Could I offer him any hope? Thinking aloud, I mentioned that God causes the sun to rise on the just and unjust and has no desire that anyone should perish. God’s Son on earth spent his last strength praying for his enemies. …

“I do not know the answer to your questions,” I said at last. “But I believe strongly that at the end of time no one will be able to stand before God and say ‘You were unfair!’ However history settles out, it will settle on the side of justice tempered by mercy.””
PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey

My wife and I have, over the years, conferred with several pastors from different backgrounds. Three of them – a Free Methodist, a Presbyterian and an Anglican – all concurred that there will be a fairness in a person’s judgment even if they’ve never accepted the Good News of Christ. None of these ministers supported the idea of ‘Universalism’ or ‘Inclusivism’, they just concluded – from Scripture alone – that God will be righteous in His judgments of every man’s soul.

We sincerely feel that those Christians who continue to assert that everyone who’s not a believer automatically burns in the fire of hell and suffers eternal torment in a lake of sulphur study the scriptures more deeply in order to determine and highlight the depth of God’s amazing grace, through Christ – Lord and Judge over all.

Some Bible verses to consider:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.”
John 15:22-24 New International Version

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. …

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:6,11-15 New International Version

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“And Who Is My Neighbour?”

I’ll tell you who – she’s an annoying old bat who wants nothing to do with you until the day she drops by to tell you how much you’ve ticked her off.

“Hello,” says she. Then with barely a breath between her saying hello and the ensuing plaint,
“Are you the people who are feeding the squirrels? Because they are getting into my plants!”
“That’s too bad”, I says. Apparently she didn’t hear me …
“I have many flowers at the back and the squirrels come and dig up my plants. It’s because you’re feeding them.”
“Have you tried raising your plants off the ground into planters?” I says.
“Yes, and they still get in there!” she moans.
After we suggest a few other rodent-discouraging remedies, Mrs. In-a-you-face then proceeds to gripe for 5 more minutes about her squirrel-affected garden. She ends the spiel with a request that we don’t feed the squirrels any more. My wife and I assure her with pleasant smiles,
“Sorry, we like the squirrels – we don’t plan to stop feeding them”.
And then the old lady walks away in a peevish huff.

Was that unchristian? Were we supposed to turn the other cheek? How would we do that … let me see. We could go and buy her plants to replace any damaged ones. Uh, no. We could not only stop feeding the squirrels, heck! we could put out poison and kill them all – that’d keep the old lady’s plants in pristine condition! No again.

That’s simply not what being Christian is all about.

Being Christian – loving one’s neighbour – has nothing to do with acquiescing to another’s gluttony. Our neighbour (in the literal sense of the word) wanted us to satisfy her selfish interests, her penchants. She didn’t ask us to walk a mile with her (presumably to aid her with something) nor did she ask us for a cloak or coat in order to make her life more livable through keeping her warm.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (1.), we read of a guy who got taken down by robbers while travelling down a road. In the story, the victim of the assault was a bloodied mess and left without a penny to his name after the incident. After two religious sorts passed by the injured man without as much as a word, a man of Samaritan background came along who didn’t ignore or avoid the injured soul and met all of his needs. The victim needed healthcare and wound-dressing. Done. He needed a place to heal; “Here you go hotel-guy, here’s some cash for a room and for continuing care costs until this dude’s out of your hair”. Going the ‘extra mile’? Done! The Samaritan comes out of this story smelling like roses, and rightly so!

In similar fashion, an opportunity to love our neighbour should stem primarily from our wanting to address serious, life-impacting types of concerns. But if we come to believe that serving the Lord means pandering to others’ selfish wants and tastes, we’ll end up as sycophantic masochists – not martyrs – and that’s really not what Jesus was calling us to do when he said, “love your enemies” or “love your neighbour”.

Paul the apostle, writing to Roman Christians stated, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (2.). In other words, Christians should do whatever it takes to come up with a peaceful or ‘mutually beneficial’ solution but it’s clearly implied that though this is the ideal, sometimes it just isn’t possible.

If Mrs. Squirrel-hater fell down in the parking lot outside her building we wouldn’t hesitate to help her to her feet. If she was short on change at Tim Horton’s we’d cover her whole tab. We relish opportunities to help others in need. But what we don’t have to do is make everyone feel good by giving in to their petty wants. Christians should not be about making people feel good but should be focused on caring for others sincerely whenever the authentic opportunity arises; and that may often mean doing so while carrying our differences, idiosyncrasies and personal disagreements in tow.

What about you? Do you agree? Do you think we should have tried so work out something with our grousing neighbour? How do you go about loving your (literal and figurative) neighbour when differences arise?

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question:

“Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jesus replied with a story:
“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.
“Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37
New Living Translation

2. Romans 12:18, New International Version

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Didactic, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Matter of Some Integrity – Unfortunately, Not My Own

After hearing a sermon on ‘The Integrity of Joseph’ at church last Sunday and then my meeting up with a dude this week who demonstrated ethics and/or integrity that superseded my own, I hereby feel it is my solemn duty declare myself an abuser of God’s grace.

What I mean is that even at the best of times I know my goodness doesn’t add up to a hill of holy beans. I live with that – maybe a bit too comfortably – because I’m ‘covered’ by Christ’s work on the cross to ‘save a wretch like me’. But when I encounter a fellow who hasn’t declared himself to be of any notable faith-based disposition/persuasion behaving or acting better than I do, I am bugged. My spirit becomes irritated because it’s then I realize how badly I’ve been using God’s grace as a free pass to write off my less-than-perfect attitudes, behaviours or actions; labelling them ‘growth areas’ or things that ‘God’s still working on’. Cop-out!

So THIS is what the Holy Spirit’s job is then – to ‘convict me of short-comings’ and ‘guide me into all truth’. What better way to do this than to show me up with a man who displays integrity in an area I do not. It’s like I’m being told, “Martin! You see that? That’s what you should be doing but you ain’t. What are we going to do about that?”

Being put in one’s place by a person who hasn’t professed any religious affiliations is like my considering myself a pro-ball player, only to have a guy who specializes in making doughnuts step up to the plate and hit a home run first time at bat. That kind of thing catches you off guard because you think YOU’RE the one with experience and know-how and then boom – you’re blown away by the contrast created by a single, remarkable act performed by someone you’re not expecting it from.

The day before I met up with ‘Mr. Integrity’, I had been reading in the Bible about the story of a particular individual Christ encountered in his travels way back when.* It’s a sure bet that the ‘people of the promise’ (those of the Jewish faith) who began to comprehend that their Messiah was among them thought that they were the most blessed and holiest people, had the right God, were full of all the right beliefs etc.. Then Jesus meets a Roman official – a nobody as far as the Jews were concerned – but of whom Jesus remarked, “In all of Israel I haven’t found faith like this” … all because he did the right thing at the right time with the right Man watching. As the story goes, the Roman official had a sick servant he cared about and whom he wanted to see healthy again. No biggie: go find this Jesus guy because he’s known to have a one-hundred per cent success rate with miracles and because He’s a no-nonsense authority on lots of things. Because our Roman friend believed in such a matter-of-fact way, Jesus healed the servant from an untold distance – a first as far as we know with respect to the wonders done by the Messiah. I wonder how many of the Jewish folks standing around hearing Jesus remarking about the Roman official’s unique, exemplary faith, looked down at their feet at that moment feeling somewhat teed off with either Jesus or themselves?

This past Sunday, pastor G. opened his sermon with, “Integrity is the kind of thing you expect from other people“. How true: we often want to see authenticity in others first before we offer it ourselves. But that will not do for this believer. It’s not a pride thing that drives me to better myself or to shoot for a higher standard, but the desire to be more Christ-like and to be, as Paul the apostle said, “above reproach” in the sight of believers and non-believers alike.

Who’s with me? Who wants to shine a little brighter in the light of the Son? Time to get out the polish (God’s word) and also to learn from every example of goodness we see that sets the stage for changes toward the better in our own lives.

© 2013 Martin D. of Flagrant Regard

* Matthew 8:5-13

1 Tim 3:1-13
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women — same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Categories: Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Nose Can See!

It was about 12:30am when I, chronic nighthawk that I am, decided to burn off my remaining energy and go for a long walk; a fairly recent habit I’ve gotten into since moving back to Uxbridge.

As I stepped out into the still night and mused over the beauty of the cheddar-tinted half-moon that hovered over the southern back half of the town, I began to stroll the many neighbourhoods that make up this wonderful little town and which my wife had once dubbed “Sweetville” shortly after our settling here the first time.

Halfway into my walk, I began to close my eyes and inhale deeply, saying a few prayers as I ambled along.  As I did so, I became electrically aware of something I’d never really experienced before.  My nose could see!  I mean, I know it’s always been able to smell stuff.  But I’d never actually accessed its lavish abilities.  I learned that when you really give it full reign, you can actually use your nose to assess where you are, what your eyes may or may not be perceiving and even what’s up ahead in your travels.  The olfactory proboscis bounces back information to your brain like a radar device and you find your self saying to yourself, “That’s a maple tree!” … “Oh, and that’s water – I smell the falls coming off the pond!” … “Apple blossoms are up ahead!” … “Must be recycle day – smell all of that card-board!”.

I got to thinking that a living and vibrant faith, once it’s been handed to us by the Creator above, creates within us the same kind of powerful awakening that would ensue upon our receiving say, a new set of eyes with which to view things, or in my case, a very awake nose with which I could identify my surroundings!

Unconventional thinking is how lives are changed.  If we always see things the same way, we can never grow or properly identify the world around us.  Faith is unconventional, and oft thought as being futile and ‘blind’.  But the faith Christ gives us is not that at all.  Faith in God is learning to see through His senses.  What was mundane to us due to our limited scope or that which might have been completely ignored by us before is gradually (or sometimes rapidly) thought of quite differently.  We begin to hurt over things that hurt our Lord.  We are enthralled by things that enthrall the Spirit of the Kingdom we become new citizens of.  Real faith changes our outlook and bridges the gap between what we’ve always known, and what we have yet to know about the familiar things in our lives.

If we learn to fully access the portion of faith God lovingly gives us, we’ll realize that it isn’t so much about our moving mountains as it is our allowing the mountains to move us.

1. “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

© 2011 Flagrant Regard

1. Words: Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride); translated from ancient Irish to English by Mary E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, and versed by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912, alt.

NOTE:  This blog-post was from last summer (2011).  We’ve since moved from ‘Sweetville’ to just north of the G.T.A. where nature and beauty still surround us.  We are so truly blessed!

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Boxing Day Musings on ‘Staying Grand’

In the course of my business day, I hear the latest and trendiest of corporate jargon (phrases such as ‘let’s consider the optics of that‘ and ‘let’s get alignment on this‘ and ‘let’s drill down‘ and ‘let’s unpack this‘).  We are definitely corporate cool when it comes to language. So much so that my uber-swank workplace even calls a Powerpoint file a ‘deck‘ which I personally consider a lexicon-fail because the word continually yanks my brain back to the gruesomely analog 70s where I sit on a floor subjected to watching an endless array of slides of my aunt and uncle’s seemingly incessant vacations, the horrible photography made worse by the excruciating clatter of 35 mm slides as they drop and pop and more-often-than-not stick as the deck turns. But I digress. The above highlighted snippets of pretentious vocabulary are my top nominations for 2012 Newspeak … or they were until Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I attended a soiree after our church’s first annual (and incident-free) candle-lighting service at which the better half of FR sang a song he wrote some 30 years ago accompanied only by his adept guitar playing. It is a truly beautiful song which puts forward the notion that, between partying and socializing and gifting and re-gifting, it’s okay to say ‘happy birthday’ to Jesus at this time of year.

The church, which we have been attending since last August, is full of many wonderful, mostly retired people, including a nonagenarian general practitioner and his wife, whom I shall call TB and BB. We had the privilege of sitting with them at the after party, munching and chatting (as we had done once before at a local Tim Horton’s after church) and, when it was time to mingle, and we stood up to leave the table, TB told my husband to “stay grand” … huh? What was that? Stay grand? I must say it took some time for my ear-to-brain mechanism to reconcile what he said and what he meant.

By telling someone to ‘stay grand’, it means, in your eyes, they have achieved a level of grandness. Grand is not a word flashed about in normal conversation in 2012, or even in the last few decades for that matter, and is an adjective describing what is “impressive in size, appearance, or general effect; stately, majestic, or dignified in front of an audience; highly ambitious or idealistic; magnificent or splendid; and noble or revered.”

I always knew my husband was something special and indescribable in many ways. It has always taken me a myriad of words to describe all his wonderful attributes (as evidenced by his Christmas card that I crafted about this time yesterday) but TB considered the optics, drilled down, and unpacked that my husband is, in a word, grand. That is the word I’ve been searching for … for 14 years! Grand … it seems to me that using that word to describe someone can only come from one who really, really knows your heart and nature. How could TB, who has only met my husband twice, both times over coffee, come to such a conclusion that I couldn’t grasp myself in our years together? The Bible says we never know when we are entertaining angels and I’m starting to have a funny feeling about TB …

Now that I officially live in the shadow of bona fide grandness on a daily basis (and I do have my tongue firmly planted in cheek), albeit that he oftentimes goes around in sweats, unshaven and wearing his hair in a ponytail, I feel it incumbent upon myself to rise to the calling and stay grand myself. Jesus said in John 15:5, “… for without Me, you can do nothing”. So I cannot be grand … we cannot stay grand … without Him. As the song my husband sang on Christmas Eve boldly asks, “how ’bout you”?

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry New Year to all!

Link to A Christmas Song here.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The God Who ‘Sticks His Neck Out’

There was once a man who went for a walk in the fields near his home in the early springtime. As he began to make his way upon familiar paths, he eventually came up to a pond that he had passed by many times on his previous sojourns.

The winter had not been a heavy one and the pond was shallow enough for the man to see many rocks sticking partway out of the pond; some round, some more rough and angular.

The man decided to venture a little closer to the pond’s edge and noted that one of the rounder rocks in the water had a different sheen on it than the other ones. Not having the greatest vision, the man put on his glasses and was soon able to confirm that the rock indeed looked different from the others in the pond. Though mildly curious, he concluded nothing further and was certainly not about to waste his time getting his feet wet in order to determine why this particular rock was different.

He was about to tread up the hill away from the pond to resume his strolling through the fields when suddenly the sun came out from behind the clouds and the rock that he thought was an inert hunk of rounded stone moved!

A head, followed by a long neck slowly began to extend itself outward from one end of the semi-circular ‘rock’, eventually stretching its way out and above the surface of the pond and into the blazing light of day.

The man laughed at himself and said, “I should have known! That was no rock, it was a turtle all along! I guess if I’d made the effort to wade near the pond’s edge the creature might have stirred and I’d have known it was a turtle sooner. Heck, I could have picked up one of the long sticks that lay along the banks of the pond and reached out to prod the ‘rock’. Then I would certainly have known it was not a rock at all.”

Only the man didn’t.

However, the turtle did what turtles do: at just the opportune moment, the creature made his move – stretching out his head with eyes a’blinking – in order to bask in, absorb and reflect the light of the life-giving sun. Through this one act, the turtle revealed his true identity as a living being to a man who might otherwise have gone on his way thinking that he had simply seen a slightly different looking rock sticking out of a pond on a warm spring day.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, in one of his famous detective stories, once stated, “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes”. How true! We can often pass by a familiar object and not see any further significance in the object, other than the fact that it is there. A bit more investigation, if we’re interested enough, may reveal that the object we’ve thought as being one thing is in fact another thing entirely. Have you ever had a moment where it finally hit you that you’ve been seeing things wrong (or have maybe been oblivious to what’s directly in front of you)? That photograph you’ve walked by every day at the office, suddenly it’s, “Hey, that’s no photo, that’s a painting!” Or mom’s ‘fake’ plant in the corner of the living room – it turns out to be real (usually, right after you’ve accidentally ripped off one of its leaves in a careless moment). It’s times like these we realize that our perceived world is not always grounded in reality.

When it comes to our knowing what’s what regarding anything, we must agree that the goal of all humanity is to grow in knowledge in order to further benefit our existence and not to run on mere instincts. (When humanity does operate from primal or base desires, it often results successfully in filling up jail cells. Though correctional officers and police benefit from this via employment, no sane person would consider the situation utopian.) Growth in the area perception is one of those things that makes us truly human. With perception changes occurring as we mature, our creeds and philosophies are born and affect/frame our whole lives. However, there comes a point where we seem to settle in our ways and it’s at that stage where most of us are extremely disinterested in ‘re-perceiving’ our world or our views, religious or otherwise. We’ll look at things through the lens of our prejudices or from our set of perspectives and then comment on one issue or another (in attempts to find balance), often with tepid sayings like, “It’s all the same when you look at it,” or “To each his own,” or “A rose by any other name is still a rose”. But things are not all the same and there is an incredible amount one could learn about roses if they care to!

Is it possible your view of God is something like this? Maybe for years you’ve seen God in one way and one way only. Maybe you’ve always seen Him as an ‘amorphous blob’, having no definite shape, form or identity. Or maybe you view God as being like ‘the Force’ – a good or bad power as per George Lucas’ concept in Star Wars (and which was borrowed heavily from Eastern religions). Or conversely, you’ve always thought of God (or have been made to think of God) as the very opposite of ‘unknowable’ – that in fact, he’s very knowable: as an overarching, dominating being who arbitrarily picks and chooses who lives or dies, who’s saved or damned, and who is incapable of showing anything ‘humane’ or something akin to benevolent love to his creation? There are so many views of God that it would be next to impossible to list them all.

The only way we can become ‘unstuck’ regarding our view of God is through His Spirit (that personal extension of His very being) shining a light into our hearts so that we can clearly see that God is far more incredible, involved and interested than we think He is.  This applies to the unbelieving, the skeptical and even at times the religious-minded! If we’d only take (or make) time to wait for a ‘parting of the clouds’ – that moment when God reveals His true self to us – how much further along would we be? God has done this in the past for those who looked for truth and reality concerning Him and He can do this for us now. We so want God to ‘show up’ in this world and ‘do something’, but what if He already has (or still does) and some of us just haven’t grasped that?

Maybe you’re like Christ’s disciple, Philip, who in John’s Gospel, asks Jesus a ‘simple’ favour: “Show us (me and the rest of the disciples here) the Father (the God of Israel) and that will be enough for us!”

Jesus hands Philip ‘God on a platter’, so to speak, with the words, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

These words of Jesus should encourage some serious investigation, if in fact they’re true. For me, Jesus’ claims have spawned such investigation and thanks to superb authors such as Phillip Yancey, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and a host of others who’ve delved deeply into the Christian scriptures that hail back to the first century, I believe that one does get to know God by knowing Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us via the Gospels and other New Testament documents. But I also maintain that it had to have been God who shined down his light into my mind in order for me to ‘get it’ or understand the significance of Christ’s words and life. And if this Christ of the New Testament is truly true, as I believe He is, then He did more than just stick His neck out; He gave his very life-blood for the this broken world – for you – so that you could have a unique relationship with God unlike anything else this world and its many other religions offer.

For anyone willing to ‘stand on the banks’ and wait patiently, God will reveal Himself once His powerful light illuminates those priceless and pure realities that are found only in Him. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little prodding into things and step out into the mysterious waters of faith; that is true. But ultimately, it will be an intelligent, loving and amazing God who shows His true self to you and propels you into wanting to know more and more about Him with every passing day.

May that wonderful and superbly enlightening moment be yours soon, I pray,

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“… the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, Chapter 2, verse 17

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Peter’s 1st letter, Chapter 1, verse 19

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If You’re Gonna Be A Walking Billboard For Jesus, Make Sure It’s Really Jesus You’re Representing

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2012/05/04/ns-jesus-shirt-student-school.html?cmp=rss

So in Nova Scotia, the battle is won: a Christian student has received the right to wear a ‘Christian T-shirt’ by the administration of the high school he attends. I’m sure all the Christian conservatives around the planet have collectively breathed their sighs of relief re the Province of Nova Scotia’s decision to maintain ‘constitutional integrity’ with respect to Canada’s freedom of religion ‘n such.

But being a ‘Classical Christian’ (something like a ‘conservative Christian’ but less embarrassing) I have to say that I am not all that happy about the attention this is receiving from the watching world.

In the initial story that broke over the wire, a young high school student named William Swimmer at Forest Heights Community School was banned from wearing a T-shirt that brazenly stated, “Life is WASTED without Jesus”. But after the ban received significant media attention, the ban-decision was overturned and now William can proudly display his message to the souls around and about him.

But with respect to the Christian faith, is it the right message?

When I was a teen I was the high school Christian weirdo who wore a baseball shirt with a transfer on the front that said, “I’m Hooked on Jesus”, and which was often accompanied by my hand-bedazzled jean jacket festooned with Christian sew-on patches along with the glitter-goo message, “Jesus Lives” on the back of it. It was a ‘positive affirmation’ message that elevated Jesus and my love for Him.

But this T-shirt message of Mr. Swimmer? Negative … really negative. In effect, here’s what the T-shirt’s words are proclaiming: “Your life is worth crap if you don’t have Jesus…you LOSER, you!” Wow.  That just ain’t playin’ nice in my books.  The message is condemning in nature and I can’t but help remember the words uttered by Christ immediately following John 3:16 (the faith statement ubiquitously placarded at sports events) “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).

Can you imagine if Jesus had everyone sit down in groups on the side of a mountain hill and instead of His famous (and wonderfully tender) ‘Beatitudes’ he began instead to speak to the crowds with something like, “Okay, listen up! You are all spiritually retarded dolts who really don’t get me and are pretty much a waste of space!”  Isn’t that in effect what William Swimmer’s T-Shirt’s message is to his fellow students and teachers? If I were to ask Mr. Swimmer if he feels that way about his many peers – if they’re all meaningless sans the Saviour, would he look me in the eye and say, “Well, yeah!”. I pity that young man if that were how he felt, because then he is NOT receiving Christian education from a right-minded sort or source. (I personally believe that the young fellow hasn’t really explored the semantics of the T-shirt’s message all that much and probably is in no way insensitive and intolerant of everyone’s existences being lived outside of Christ.)

Jesus came to serve and to love those who were outcasts, who were searching for truth, who wanted to believe in a God who cared and were hoping for some relief from the burdens imposed on them by pernickety religious zealots. The Lord served by teaching in a thoughtful manner with respect to the general public but was often frighteningly visceral in his admonitions to those teachers of religion who should have known God and His expectations better (and, in fact, they did know better!).  And as for Jesus’ disciples he, once again, spoke to them very differently from the curious masses he attracted; often firmly and with deeper instruction or revelation those outside of the discipleship circle would not have been privy to (Matt 13:11).

If we’re going to be walking billboards for the Saviour, let’s display a message to the surrounding populace that shows the seekers and the unbelievers the qualities we Christians truly elevate and hold dear in our faith-journeys: hope, faith and that all-important love found in and at the heart of God. That is the Gospel. Whether it’s a sartorial mission statement found on a T-shirt transfer or via one’s code of conduct before the watching world, I believe it’s important how we represent the Who that is our life.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience,
so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.”
1 Peter 3:16-17

© Flagrant Regard, 2012


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Shortest Christian Blog Post EVER!

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
Proverbs 10:19

… Yup.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012


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Why We Love Our Hollywood Heroes

Zoolander

How many times have you seen this in a Hollywood flick: 

Man falls in love with woman, woman appears to have her sights on or a commitment to someone else. 

The smitten man – always the story’s protagonist – does his best to win the woman’s affections and to become her ‘one and only’.  But, as the plot goes, the woman’s potential suitor finds himself in a losing battle with the other man in her life, or so it appears. And then of course, there comes this powerful moment in the story where he relinquishes his pursuit of the woman he’s in love with and, burying his hurt, stoically tells her something like, “I love you so much, I can’t afford to see you unhappy.  I want you to be with the man you truly love, and if it ain’t me babe, then at least I know you’re content.” 

In some movies the protagonist gets another kick at love’s can as the woman in the story realizes what a truly unselfish man she’s throwing away and, forsaking the safe and familiar, falls hard and passionately for the new guy.  At other times (but is less rarely seen in modern American films) the pursuing male wanders off dejected and alone as he sadly accepts his destiny –  not being with the woman he’s in love with.

In either outcome, we value the protagonist as a true, unwavering and selfless hero who wants the best for the one he loves even at the cost of his own happiness.  Now that’s a Hollywood hero!

We cherish our silver screen heroic archetypes, especially in stories like the above, because of the selflessness involved; the sacrifice that springs from genuine love.  As we watch the drama unfold, we find ourselves wanting to believe in that noble kind of love because we know it’s the right kind to fully embrace and which also ‘sets the bar’ for ourselves.

But what of our heroism with respect to our following Jesus?  How much more should we be ready to sacrifice our selfish wants and desires – no matter how painful it is – in order to make sure the God we claim to love is pleased?  Are we willing to give up all or, like the rich young ruler that Jesus encountered who was not willing to give up that which he held most dear to him, we too walk away without God’s blessing or true fulfillment in our lives? 

My wife and I heard these wonderful words of Martin Luther from a preacher just the other day:

“A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

In order to gain Christ, we are told it will mean us losing our very lives and sometimes walking away from the things we value most.  Will we walk away from a relationship that God’s word states is not right or will we blithely dismiss the clear instructions of the Scriptures in order to suit our desires or ideals?  Will we say in our prayers, “I want You to be pleased with everything I think, say and do, even if it means my sacrificing the things and/or beliefs I hold on to (which I think matter most).”? 

Loving God often means struggle and persecution, but it is ALWAYS about forsaking all in order to gain Christ’s blessing, once we’ve been saved by His grace.  If you view the Gospel in any other light, you are not yet a beneficiary of the truth.  Yes, God is all about love, but he’s also about holy living, exemplary behaviour as befitting His people and He expects TRUE REPENTANCE:  an about face in our hearts toward God and a resetting of our minds that enables us to seek out what God’s will is for every aspect of  our life. 

Do you want to be a hero?  Do you want to have the audience of angels and saints in heaven – and your heavenly Father himself – cheering for you?  Then be holy (sacred, morally upright, set apart), be seeking God’s will and be ready at all times to give your all no matter what the cost is to yourself.  This is how we win in this life and in the next.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“On His journey vast crowds attended Him, towards whom He turned and said, “If any one is coming to me who does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be a disciple of mine. No one who does not carry his own cross and come after me can be a disciple of mine. “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not sit down first and calculate the cost, asking if he has the means to finish it? — lest perhaps, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to finish, all who see it shall begin to jeer at him, saying, ‘This man began to build, but could not finish.’ Or what king, marching to encounter another king in war, does not first sit down and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand men to meet the one who is advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers and sues for peace. Just as no one of you who does not detach himself from all that belongs to him can be a disciple of mine.”
(Luk 14:25-33)

“Therefore, surrounded as we are by such a vast cloud of witnesses, let us fling aside every encumbrance and the sin that so readily entangles our feet. And let us run with patient endurance the race that lies before us, simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus, our Prince Leader in the faith, who will also award us the prize. He, for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, patiently endured the cross, looking with contempt upon its shame, and afterwards seated Himself– where He still sits–at the right hand of the throne of God. Therefore, if you would escape becoming weary and faint-hearted, compare your own sufferings with those of Him who endured such hostility directed against Him by sinners.”
(Heb 12:1-3)

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