A virus, a stock market, and a Savior

I just checked my 401k account…down $60,000.00. If my trust was in money, a stable investment portfolio, or in a country or particular leader I would be panicking right now. But I am feeling pretty OK right now.

My trust is in a sovereign God. Whether my 401k increases or decreases…whether I stay COVID-19 free or not…whether I prosper or become a pauper, my trust is in the Lord God on high. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:

“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Romans 1:7-9 NASB

May each of us who claim Christ as Savior have the same attitude that Paul shared in the above verses. In surrendering to God’s sovereignty, we surrender control and (hopefully) anxious living. For if I am the Lord’s, what do I have to fear from financial calamity, political problems, or a novel virus that could actually cause my death.

My prayer for all of you is that we, as Christ-followers, simply follow Christ. I pray we comfort the hurting, love those who may appear to be unlovable, and show inexplicable joy in life, regardless of how tranquil or turbulent the sea of life we experience is at any particular moment, we praise God and point others to Him.

May Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian Church apply even more so today to His Church in America:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. I Corinthians 1:3-7 NASB

The Church, Donald Trump, and Joshua 24

I have purposely tried to stay away from political discussions not only on Facebook but also in discussions in general. The division caused by politics is necessary for politics to work but unnecessary for the church – may I be so bold as to say it is destructive for the Body of Christ?

I care not a whit if you are democrat or republican. I care not if you are conservative or liberal. I care not where you have been but I do care where you are going.

Are you redeemed? is a much more important question than Are you registered to vote?  or Do you support Donald Trump? If the posts on Facebook are any indication, the Church seems much more concerned with the latter rather than the former. From magazines like Christianity Today, to pastors, teachers, locals churches, and entire denominations, sides have been chosen and if you disagree well you’re just evil, nasty, stupid, etc.

Why can’t the Church simply rally for Christ, do the work He has prescribed, and leave the politics of division to the world? I suppose this gets down to what it means to be in the world but not of the world. We can debate this ad nauseum and not come to a consensus or conclusion.

A better, more appropriate question for the Church is whether it is a good thing for those who profess Christ – those indwelt by the Holy Spirit, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, adopted into the family of God, given charge to proclaim the Gospel to all nations – to get to the point of calling those who oppose them politically as “nasty”, “stupid”, “loons”, and other rather ugly things. These descriptions of people extend to the character of those criticized – not just their actions. Attacking an image-bearer is never a good idea. Remember Michael’s interaction with Satan:

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 1:9, NASB

I believe the Church is getting close to – maybe even beyond – our own Joshua 24 moment. Shall we follow Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi? Republicans or Democrats? Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, David French, et al. Whom shall we serve? Shall we serve Christ or these lesser (political) gods?

Choose whomever you will, but for me and my house, we will serve Christ.

The Chalk Outline

I watch the old TV series “Columbo” as much as possible. I really enjoy it. As I am writing this article I’m watching an episode from season three (I have the entire series on DVD). For those who never watched it, it was made in the early 1970’s. It was about this brilliant detective who was less than stellar in his appearance. Even though he often played the fool, he always solved the crime. And every crime on this show was a murder. You see Columbo was a homicide detective. He was great.

When Columbo would come to a murder site, the police would sometimes draw a chalk outline where the body had been after it had been removed. It was a reminder that there once someone there. In one way, it was the shadow of that person.

When we die – and we all will – the life we lived could be marked with a chalk outline showing where we touched. I wonder, when I’m dead, where will my chalk outline be.

I’ve lived a rather full and eventful life. I’ve accomplished much in my 54 years on God’s earth. Some of those accomplishments have been pretty good. Others not so good. And still others have been downright bad. One thing they all have in common is that they were accomplished by me.

As I draw nearer to eternity I wonder what I will leave behind. What will my chalk outline be? Will it be a good one or a bad one? How will my friends remember me? My enemies? My family? My church? How will I be remembered…

I’ve come to one conclusion regarding my legacy. I’ve decided and truly hope that my legacy does not include me.

I really don’t want to be remembered. In fact I hope I’m forgotten rather easily. You see, I don’t think my greatest legacy should be that I am remembered as this or that type of person. My greatest hope is that my legacy will be that more people will remember my Savior and what He does than what I did in His name.

I hope that my life’s work will be pointing others to Christ, not to myself. I hope I live in such a way that I have a legacy that is devoid of my, and full of my Savior. Will I do that? I don’t know. What I do know is that the words of John the Baptist ring in my ears each day as I rise and as I go to bed…

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 NASB

I must – MUST – decrease.

I hope I accomplish this.

Father’s Day 2018

Today is Father’s Day. Instead of writing a post, I have decided to spend my entire day with my family, as far removed from my computer as possible on this day. I will try to write again this week butI make no promises. Have a great day.

And to all my fellow fathers, Happy Father’s Day from The Bald Theologian!

I’m already dead

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Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

 

In August 1982 I began training to become a Marine. Having been raised in a family where being a Marine is a way of life, I thought becoming one would be easy. My dad had been a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps, fought in Korea and Vietnam. His brother fought in Korea as a Marine. My older three brother had either served or were serving in the Marine Corps at the time of my enlistment. We are a Marine family. Becoming a Marine was anything but easy. Even though I thought I was prepared, I quickly realized that I was not. I graduated from recruit training and became a Marine. I learned quite a bit in boot camp. One thing I learned has direct application to my life as a Christian. Allow me to explain.

During one part of boot camp, we were simulating war time conditions. I had just completed what was called the infiltration course. I crawled over, under, and through various obstacles while explosions occurred near to me. There was the sound of gunfire and chaos all around. After my platoon had finished, one of our Drill Instructors decided we needed to have some extra instruction.

This Drill Instructor was a Recon Marine. Think a really mean and tough Marine. Anyway, he spoke to us about how to be successful in war. First, he said, a Marine is successful only if the mission is successful. An individual Marine’s part in the mission is inconsequential – the mission is what matters. Second, he said that for a Marine to be successful, he must lose his fear in battle. Third, he told us how to lose our fear in battle. He said “When you are going into combat, accept the fact that you are already dead. When you accept that you are already dead, your fear of death disappears and you can function with freedom, not worried about what is going to happen to you. Your only concern will be the success of the mission.”

Live as if I am already dead. Interesting.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB

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This is the way we should be living as Christians. Accept the fact that we are already dead – already crucified with Christ – and live with genuine freedom. This is not easy to do. I know I have struggled – and continue to struggle – with this idea.

I worry about how I might do something that will prematurely end my life. But that is supremely wrong. This life I live, as Paul states in Galatians 2, is not my life but it is Christ’s life. He paid for me, He owns me. I am already dead, my body just hasn’t found out yet. If I ever get this truth through my head and my heart, I may fulfill my mission on earth.

But what is my mission? My mission in life is as simple as this: I am to glorify God in all I do, say, the way I live and, yes, in the way I die.

Far too often I live my life not as freely as I should but somehow unfree. Before I was married I hesitated to long for the appearing of Christ because I wanted to experience marriage. I wanted to love someone else and be loved by someone else. I really wanted that. Sadly, I wanted that more than I wanted to see Christ return in glory.

Since I’ve been married, I’ve wanted to see all my children receive Christ as Savior. I’ve want to see them grow up, get married, have children. I’ve want them to serve Christ but I want them to do it safely. I seem so bound to this life sometimes that I hate myself.

But in reflecting on the lessons learned in the Marine Corps Boot Camp back in 1982, I am reminded that I need to accept that I am already dead. Only when I am free from the fear of dying can I really live and glorify God.

Am I really willing to do accept that? Do I really desire to live only to glorify God, or do I desire something else in my life? How about you?

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I am not advocating that we Christians need to live recklessly. I’m not saying that we need to do crazy things in service to Christ. I’m not saying that we need to hasten our death in order to glorify God. I’m not saying that we should not have savings accounts, a 401k, or take prudent steps for work and life. But what I ma saying is the those things must be secondary things – not the primary things – that define life and success for us.

So what happens when we accept that we are already dead? What would I look like if I truly lived out Galatians 2:20?

We begin to live righteously

We need to live where our supreme ambition is to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. Our primary investment of our time, talent, and treasure should be in the accomplishment of our mission – to bring glory to God – rather than to invest in Bitcoin or increase the size of our nest egg.

We live life out loud

We should never shrink from standing for what is right, regardless of the cost. We should never stoop tot he level of the unsaved just to get ahead. We should never try to get away with something because we think everybody does it. To live in freedom – to live righteously – is to live a life restrained from pleasing ourselves and retrained to please God. Man, I’ve got a ways to go. How about you?

We pursue God with abandon – righteous abandon

We run after God in every aspect of life. We no longer live by the checkbox but by the grace He has given us. We integrate our lives – we no longer have a spiritual life, but simply a life that is spiritual. We refuse to compromise on the essentials and give grace on the non-essentials of our faith. We love freely and freely accept love.

We become true disciples of Jesus Christ

When we accept that we are already dead, we become true disciples of Christ. We are able to listen to His voice better because we listen to other voices less. We act on what He commands because we fear the repercussions less. We are willing to both live and die for Him – for his glory – because we are already dead.

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As this year progresses, I want to remind myself of the lesson of Galatians 2:20 and from my Drill Instructor. I’m crucified already. I don’t live. Christ lives in me. He bought me, He owns me. I want to live with righteous abandon in servicing Him, never worrying about what I might miss. I want to live freely in the battle before me. After all, I’m already dead.

Now that I have accepted I’m already dead, I can finally live.

 

 

 

We Need More Salt

The Church should be salt and light to the world – to both conservative and liberal political individuals. We should be salt and light to all around us, regardless of faith tradition, national origin, or language spoken. We should be a people sold out to the One who saved us – fully reliant on He who is sovereign over all. Rather than that, we seem all-too-cozy with he sovereign state of the United States of America rather than the Sovereign God of the Universe. Wow.

The Church – at least a decent-sized portion of it – overlook infidelity, crudeness, and vile speech as things to be excused rather than confronted. The reason? The person speaking them is supposedly “one of us”. We tolerate ranting and raving in 124 characters, demeaning comments inexcusable comments made about others, because the one who is typing them is supposedly “one of us”.  We have given up the moral high ground we once held. And out reward? Political influence, access, and power. We have traded the Gospel for a few pieces of government silver.

There was once a time where the Church held the moral high ground in America. There was a time when the Church stood for what is right, not for that is wrong. There was a time when the Church was salt and light to our government and our nation. Sadly, those days seems far behind us. We have sold out the Gospel for the filthy lucre of political power and inalienable rights. How sad. How very sad.

We engage on social media and in our pulpits on the virtue of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. We especially seem attracted to the Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms. We argue that we need weapons – any weapon – to protect us from government tyranny. We lament how those in the Stalin’s Soviet State and the Jews of Hitler’s Germany would have fared better if they had only kept their weapons. I’ve seen more comments about our right to bear arms this week than of Christ’s great sacrifice and resurrection. I read more this week about the Second Amendment than the Greatest Commandment. I just don’t know what to say to this group of professing believers.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16 NASB

The Church should be salt and light to the world – to both conservative and liberal political individuals. We should be salt and light to all around us, regardless of faith tradition, national origin, or language spoken. We should be a people sold out to the One who saved us – fully reliant on He who is sovereign over all. We seem all-too-cozy with the sovereign state of the United States of America rather than the Sovereign God of the Universe. Wow.

Is our saltiness gone? Is our light gone? Scary questions indeed.

Our salt and light aren’t gone yet but I dare say we have some taste and the light is dimmer. I admit my part in this. I once thought that the best way to improve this country and, by extension, the world entire was through political means. I took the bait that if we just elect the right kind of person, things would improve. But that philosophy has failed…miserably. All we have to show for our marriage to the Republican Party is a seat at Caesar’s table. We seem indistinguishable from the rest seated there, looking for their portion of the government’s largess. Oh my.

Is the American form of Christianity a biblical form of Christianity? I really don’t know. But I do wonder. With our emphasis on outward trappings of power and success, one has reason to wonder. We should, as a peculiar people dedicated to the One True God, reflect on what we treasure, what we believe, and where we are. If we don’t do that, I fear that the Church will become just another social club. We will look good – but we will deny the power behind the Church. Our trust – our faith – will be in man, rather than in God.

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While this has been a difficult article to write, I think it is necessary. I truly believe the Church in America  – or at least a significant portion of it – has lost its way. We have lost the distinctiveness of being a Christian first, and an American later.

I don’t believe that every politically active Christian is a problem. I don’t think that every Christian who asserts the rights of a citizen of the United States is an apostate. But I do believe we have misplaced our priorities. Somehow we have associated the demands of the Gospel with the election to power of a particular party. And this is wrong.

I may be hammered for this article. I may get hate email and perhaps some comments on it that are less-than-flattering. But I just had to write this. I’m fed up with the politicization of the Gospel. I’m sick of hearing about how one political party is the godly party. I’m sick of how Jesus is cheapened by being a political tool of men for an election rather than the Savior of man for eternity.

The Church in America must repent. We must return to our first love – Jesus Christ. We must serve Him only. We need not lean on the laws of man rather than the Sovereignty of God for our ultimate protection.

The Church needs more salt.