CARTOON CHRISTIANITY

Looneytunes

I’ll probably get hate mail for this but it’s just the way I feel.  I cannot stand seeing Christian quotes and Facebook memes using cartoon characters.  Years ago, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but as I’ve gotten older and a bit deeper in my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, doctrine, and theology, I see them as juvenile, foolish, and very irreverent.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no “stick in the mud”.  I don’t mind passing some time away watching the old Looney Tunes or Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Heck, it’s what I grew up on!  My favorite comic strips are Peanuts, B.C., Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and the old Bloom County.  They’re entertaining.  But, when I see cartoon characters being used to spread the gospel, it just rubs me the wrong way.  God is no cartoon character (although atheists would disagree).  He’s the Almighty Creator of the universe.  He deserves our upmost reverence in how we live and how we worship Him.  To me, it belittles God when we reduce His message of mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness down to a cartoon character.

But, that’s just me.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT GRACE?

grace

GRACE–the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

PATIENCE–the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset or angry

Over the years since the gospel has become more man-centered, we have seen the slow, painful demise of showing grace to those around us.  It’s everywhere.  “It’s all about me!!”  Or, “How dare he be late.  Doesn’t he know how valuable my time is?”  Driving a car?  Oh boy, talk about your lack of patience and grace!!  Oh sure, we talk about the grace that God showed us when He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  We’re ALL about that grace!  Why wouldn’t we be?  I mean, there we were, filthy, vile, wretched sinners, but God, because of His love for us, sent His only Begotten Son to take the punishment for our sins.  We did not deserve one ounce of that grace.  Not one.  But yet, we are so thankful that He did that instead of leaving us where we were.

Sadly, we aren’t so quick to show grace to our fellow believers.  I know how I used to be.  Very low on patience and just as low on grace.  I think those two go hand in hand.  If we’re low on patience, we certainly can’t be gracious.  And I still have those moments where I’m not practicing either one.  Believers should be the poster children of patience and grace, but sometimes, I think we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget to extend those to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Are our needs, wants, and desires that much more important that those around us should cater to them instead of remembering that we, too, aren’t any better than they are?  Is our time that much more valuable than theirs?  Do we think we are more deserving of God’s grace than they are?  We tend to make excuses and justify our lack of patience and grace.  We point out how that “stupid driver cut us off!”  We get frustrated when people don’t seem to do things our way.  “Yeah, but……”  Yeah, but, nothing.  Again…..NONE of us deserved the free grace God gave us but He gave it anyway.  We are to follow Christ’s example in how we treat our fellow believers even if we think they don’t deserve it.

If God saw fit in His love to extend to us and our other brothers and sisters in Christ free grace through Jesus Christ, why are we less willing to show grace to each other?  Do we think so much more highly of ourselves that they aren’t worthy of our grace?  We sure love and appreciate the grace God showed to us, but to have to show it to our fellow Christians??  Well, that’s just asking a little too much……according to some people.  If we take our focus off ourselves and onto Christ, we would find it easier to be gracious and kind and patient.

JESUS WIELDS A SWORD

The-Sword-of-the-Spirit

 

There is a verse in Matthew 10:34 in which Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Some people may read that and think, “Well, wait a minute….doesn’t the Bible say in the Old Testament that the Messiah will be called the Prince of Peace?  Why is He referring to a weapon of war?”  The peace they are referring to is only for those who are in Christ.  But, the subject of this blog isn’t about peace.  It’s about the sword spoken of in this verse.

When people think about a sword, they have the image of a long, steel blade with a handle on one end.  But, the sword that is spoken of here is the sword that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  In Hebrews 4:12, it describes the Word of God as being “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Something else the Word does?  It divides families.  It divides friends.  It divides even one denomination from another.  Many religious leaders are sending out the rallying cry for “unity” among the different denominations.  But there is a reason why there are different denominations.  Contrary to popular belief, churches don’t split just over trivial matters such as the color of carpet or what color upholstery to put on the pews, or even what kind of songs to sing.  Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who took on the Pope and the RCC church, started the Protestant Reformation because he realized that the RCC was erroneous in their teachings.  They were teaching that salvation was obtained through works of man instead of the work of Christ.  Then from there, other splits took place within the Protestant movement because some believed in infant baptism, while others believed that baptism is only for those who make a profession of faith in Christ.  Then others disagreed on the proper eschatology.  And on and on and on.

God’s Word causes division.  Families have been divided, friendships have fallen apart, and churches have split because of disagreements over doctrine.  Matthew 10:34 says, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Why would Christ want to do that?  Because correct doctrine MATTERS!  Churches have become lax in doctrinal discernment and now we see all kinds of questionable teachings creeping in.  And when folks start pointing out in God’s Word that something being taught in the church is unbiblical, or they call out popular “Bible” teachers for their doctrinal errors, people tend to get like a cat on the defensive…..they hunch their backs and start hissing.  Our focus should be on the Word of God, NOT on the one bringing the Word.  We tend to put the messenger on the pedestal instead of the Bible.  It is by the Word of God that the posers will be separated from the real.  The sheep will be separated from the goats.  Those who believe the whole counsel of God will be separated from those who pick and choose what they believe, or twist and distort and take Scripture out of context.

Revelation 1:16 describes Jesus as coming back with a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of His mouth.  This is not a literal sword.  This is referring to Him speaking the Word of God.  It will be on that day that He will destroy His enemies with the words from His mouth.  It is a weapon of war because we are in a spiritual battle for truth.  And truth divides.

CHRISTIANITY LOSING ITS MEANING?

set apart

 

We all read or heard the news of the man who went on Facebook Live and shot an elderly man in cold blood just because he was upset over circumstances in his life.  The man he murdered wasn’t anyone he knew.  He picked him out at random and decided to end his life just because.  Then we heard the news a couple days later of how he turned the gun on himself when the cops finally caught up with him.  His mother was quoted as saying that her son was “a good Christian person……he just snapped….”.  Now, I’m not here to judge this man’s salvation.  The Bible plainly states that it’s not for us to say if someone is a Christian or not.  Only God knows a person’s heart.  But, when I read his mother’s comments, I just had to ask myself, “Really?  Was he TRULY a Christian?  Because it seems to me that his actions and the motivations for his actions don’t reveal someone who would profess to be a Christian.”

There was a time many, many, MANY years ago when you could tell the difference between those who were truly Christians and those who weren’t.  I know as Christians we still sin.  We still battle our sinful flesh on a daily basis.  We will still do things that go against what we claim to be.  But, it seems in recent decades that people have lowered the standard of what it means to be a Christian.  I live in what is known as the Bible Belt, but in all honesty, I don’t think many churches these days in this region truly know and understand what being a Christian is all about.  1 Peter 2:9 says that Christians are a “chosen generation”, a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and “a people for His own possession.”  The KJV uses the phrase “a peculiar people” for the last one.  When the Bible uses the word “holy”, it means that we are SET APART.  It’s important to note that if YOU say you’re a Christian, then YOUR actions and how YOU live your life will be drastically different from those who aren’t.

These days, people like to THINK they’re Christian because they (a) joined a church and got their names on a church roll, (b) went to church as a child with grandma and grandpa, and, by golly, if mawmaw and pawpaw are Christians, then they are, too, (c) attend the local church on Christmas and Easter, or (d) they think, “I’m a red blooded American patriot and because America is a Christian nation, then that makes me a Christian, too!!”  And come political season….oh my goodness…..everyone running for a Republican office is suddenly a “Christian”!!  And church people eat that stuff UP!!!  “Oh, he/she says they’re a Christian so let’s vote for them.”  I know of a politician who was told to never step foot in church again if the only time he’s going to show up is during election time.  As far as I know, he had NO use for the church until it was time to try to get re-elected to his office.  To me, he was only making a showing for the Christians, but never identified as one until he needed to be one.

People……America may have started out as a Christian nation, but being an American doesn’t make you a Christian!!  Christianity started centuries before America was even a nation!  Christianity isn’t about which political party you vote for.  It’s not about making sure your name appears on the membership roll of the church two blocks down from your house.  It’s not showing up for the Christmas and Easter services like it’s some sort of thing you check off your list.  Being a Christian means that God, through His Holy Spirit, has regenerated you.  Regeneration means to be “born again”.  It means that God has taken your stone cold, hard heart and replaced it with a heart that now desires the things of God.  It’s living and acting in such a way that sets you apart from the world.  And the ONLY way that can happen is when God saves you.

The bar has been set low as far as Christianity is concerned.  Now days, the church proclaims a person a Christian just because they walked an aisle, signed a card, and got dunked in the baptistery.  Sadly, many of those who did that never darken the door of the church again because the church has told them that was all they needed to do.  Now we have “Christians” running around our country who were never really converted because they’re basing their salvation on something THEY did, and not on whether God has regenerated them.  Trust me on this.  I used to be one of them until God truly regenerated me.  I based my salvation on the fact I walked the aisle and got baptized when in actuality God had not changed my heart.

America really doesn’t understand what being a Christian means.  It’s sad to say, but it’s gotten to the point where other countries know and understand what Christianity is and are sending missionaries to us because we have gone so far off the path.  We have truly lost the meaning of what Christianity really is.

DOING BATTLE OR GIVING UP?

ephesians_6_11-12_scripturePhoto_lg

The Christian life is not easy.  Contrary to what some popular television preachers preach to their congregations and those who watch them on the idiot box each week, being a Christian doesn’t mean life will be all roses and rainbows.

While it’s true that we don’t have a long list of rules to abide by, there are things we must do to help us grow and mature as Christians.  Our adversary, the devil, knows this and he will do what ever it takes to keep us from doing those things, thus, keeping us from growing and maturing in our faith.

I struggle with Bible reading and praying.  I can sit at my desk with earphones in my ears listening to different sermons while I’m working with no problem, but to sit down and try to read the Bible?  I would be asleep in no time.  Praying is hard, too.  It’s not that I don’t pray at all.  If/when a need arises for me or someone else, I can say a quick prayer, but to be a person who has a set time to do some serious praying?  My mind would so easily drift off to something else and I’d lose concentration on the task at hand.  And, many times, there’s just things I put ahead of my Bible reading and praying.  I know there’s no excuse and I need to remedy this situation.

The devil loves to make us useless.  He loves it when people give up.  He can put some kind of trial or adversity in our path and cause us throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do it anymore.  I give up.”  That is what his goal for us is.  When he sees that we no longer struggle to stay in the fight, he wins.  The Bible says we are to put on the whole armor of God.  Putting armor on doesn’t mean we’ll be taking a leisurely stroll through a pretty garden.  Putting on the armor means we are preparing to do battle every day.  We battle against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.  Forces that are working hard to keep us weak and useless so that we throw down our weapons and say, “I give up.”

What forces are you dealing with?  Are they the forces that seek to fill your head with lies that tell you that God can’t use you due to your past sins?  Are they forces that tell you that because you don’t read the Bible enough, or pray enough, or because you can’t understand what God’s Word says sometimes, then doing these things are useless?  Are they forces that tell you “You’re just too busy to have time for reading and praying”?

We must stay in the battle.  We must keep fighting.  If we lay our weapons down, we’re saying to the devil, “You win.”

 

PASSOVER

Passover

 

In the book of Exodus, the Bible tells us the story of how God delivered the Hebrew children out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  God, through his servant Moses, showed Pharaoh His power by sending many plagues–frogs, locusts, turning water into blood, darkness–just to name a few.  Each time, Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to release the Hebrews so that they could go out and serve God in the wilderness.  The tenth and last plague was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak.  God told Moses that He would send the Angel of Death and kill the first born of every living being, human and animal.  This was God pouring out His wrath upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.
God also told Moses what to do to prevent the Angel of Death from killing any of the Hebrews.  They were to take a male lamb that was a year old and without any imperfections, and bring it into their home.  The lamb was to live with the family for four days.  After four days, they were to kill the lamb, take it’s blood and cover the 2 door posts and the lintel of the house in which the Passover meal would be eaten.  Then they would cook the meat and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  This meal would be observed every year after that.
In the middle of the night, the Angel of Death swept through the land of Egypt killing the first born of every household that was not covered by the blood of the lamb.  When the Angel saw the blood covering the lintel and door posts, he passed over that house, thus giving this meal the name Passover.  Those who were covered by the blood were spared.
This event was a shadow of what Christ would do for those who are born again.  Jesus, the only Begotten Son, came to earth to be the Sacrificial Lamb because He was without imperfection (sinless).  He voluntarily went to the cross to die for our sins.  His shed blood covered over our sins so that we would not taste spiritual death.  Just as when the Angel saw the blood on the lintel and door posts and passed over, God looks upon us and sees the blood of Jesus and we are saved from His wrath.
The beauty of the Old Testament is that we can see the foreshadowing of Christ and what He did on the cross.  Because He was the ultimate sacrifice, He paid the debt for sin ONCE and FOR ALL which means we no longer needed to sacrifice every year.  His sacrifice saves us from God’s wrath.

The Pharisee and The Prostitute

foot-washing

There is a story in the four Gospels of a woman, who was identified as a “sinful” woman, who went to Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed his head with expensive perfume.  Jesus was at the home of a Pharisee named Simon.  Simon had invited Jesus to eat with him.  It doesn’t say why he did so because Jesus and the Pharisees were at odds with one another.  Jesus preached love and forgiveness and the Pharisees were all about keeping the law to the letter and to them Jesus was a blasphemer because he claimed to be the Son of God.  Maybe he wanted to find out a little more about this man and use whatever information he could get and take it back to his religious counterparts in an effort to trap him.  Maybe he was trying to satisfy his own curiosity as to who Jesus really was.

In the middle of their meal while Jesus was reclining at the table, this “sinful” woman, a known harlot, prostitute, whore, or whatever word you want to use in this situation, came in and began crying, using her tears to wash Jesus’ feet and using her hair to dry them.  Afterwards, she took an alabaster box of expensive perfume and began anointing Jesus’ head with it, filling the room with it’s scent.  Simon the Pharisee, watching this event unfold was not amused, to say the least.  He began criticizing Jesus by attacking his claim of being the Son of God.  He said, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner.”

This is the problem with a lot of “church” people these days.  I can’t say I’m free of guilt in this respect.  Sometimes it’s so easy to let what we’re thinking to quickly slip out of our mouths instead of keeping our comments to ourselves.  Simon, being part of the religious sect in that day, was one who probably grew up going to temple and was instructed in the Levitical Law, so he found it so easy to criticize this woman who was considered part of the lower class because she was a prostitute.  It’s the same with a lot of us who grew up going to church and having parents who taught us the Bible.  We don’t know what it’s like to grow up without that godly influence and we find it easy to look down on those who don’t act like we do or who live a life that is steeped in ungodly activities.  Those of us who did have the godly influences in our lives should not think of ourselves as better than those who didn’t.  It has nothing to do with us or anything we did, but it was God’s grace and His grace alone that blessed us to be able to have that godly influence.

In this story of the Simon the Pharisee and the “sinful” woman, Jesus knew the difference between the two.  Simon based his religiosity on his works.  He saw himself as better than the prostitute because he kept the Levitical Law while she was the scum of the earth because of who she was.  But, this woman came to Jesus broken in spirit because she heard him teach and through his teaching she came to realize her sin and as part of her worship to him, she performed this act to show her love for him.  It’s just like the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  The Pharisee stood in the temple praying thanking God that he was not like the lowlife tax collector, while the tax collector was on his knees beating his chest and crying “Have mercy on me a sinner.”

As Christians, we have to remember that at one time we, too, were lost in our sins, and even though we may not have had the upbringing that others have, if we had died before we came to Christ, we would be on our way to hell no matter how “good” we were.  Our salvation was not and is not based on how well we act or how many commandments we keep.  Our salvation was bought and paid for by Jesus when he died on the cross, not because we did anything to deserve it, but because God loved us.  His love for us is based on His goodness, not on ours.

We must be careful how we treat the lost.  We must not treat them as the Pharisees treated the sinful woman or the tax collector.  Our attitudes and our actions can either push them away or draw them in toward Christ so we must be mindful of what we say and what we do.

BLENDING WITH THE CULTURE

Many times you hear of famous celebrities coming out and professing to be Christian.  Now, there are those that do whose lives exhibit the fruit of a believer.  But, there are others who are doubtful.  Just because a famous celebrity proclaims to be a Christian, if his/her beliefs go against what Scripture says, I would say that their faith should be in question.  The Bible is VERY clear about how we are to live.  God did not give us suggestions or guidelines.  He gave us commands.

The church has become too lax in its discernment.  They think that just because a celebrity professes to be a Christian, but they compromise here or there, then they get a free pass.  Those “free passes” are weakening the church and its influence within the culture.  The church is to be set apart from the world.  The Bible says that we are a peculiar people, but here lately, we can’t tell the difference from true Believers and the fakes anymore.  You can slap the label “Christian” on anything these days, put in a Christian bookstore and people will buy it up.  Put Bible verses on a small tin of candy and “Hey, look!!  Christian candy!!!”  Give me a break!

It’s the same with celebrities, whether actors/actresses, or musicians/singers.  The label “Christian” is losing its meaning these days.  Professing “Christians” who compromise on what the Bible CLEARLY states is a sin, are a danger to the church.  They are the ones that the Book of Jude said “crept in unaware”.  The problem people have is that they don’t want to be accused of being judgmental.  This is a classic case of taking verses out of context.  If God expects Christians to be DIFFERENT from the world; if He expects us to NOT CONFORM to the ways of this world, then we ARE to be judgmental because our LACK of judgment is causing the church to look too much like the world.  Would you allow someone who openly practices witchcraft and publicly declares that they take part in child molestation to be a member of your church?  No, you wouldn’t and by NOT allowing them into your church, you are practicing judgment.  GOOD judgment.  Remember all the hoopla about the Catholic Priests and the young children who were molested by them?  If the RCC had practiced good judgment, they would have ousted those priests and had them arrested.  And that is why the world doesn’t have any respect for the church anymore.  We allow so called “Christians” to speak their beliefs without so much as holding them accountable for them.  If we aren’t going to stand up boldly for our beliefs, then we are nothing more than imposters and our profession of faith is a joke.  The Bible says we would be hated and persecuted for our beliefs.  I’m guessing it would be detrimental to a celebrity’s career if they took a bold stand for what they believe and not compromise.  They have to make a decision:  do they stand up for what the Bible says and please God, or do they compromise for the praise of man?

It’s time the church stop giving people “free passes” just because they say they’re Christian but their beliefs and how they live don’t line up with Scripture.  We have to stop blending in with the culture and start being different than the culture.  We have to set ourselves apart because, if we don’t, then no one will see the difference that Jesus makes in a person’s life.  If they can’t see a difference, then they would see no need for Him in their own life.

 

Loved Before The Dawn of Time — denim and roses blog

This is a line in a song by Stuart Townend by the same name, also known as “Salvation’s Song”. It is one of my all time favorites by him. Sadly, there are not many GOOD worship/hymn song writers anymore. There’s just too many 7/11 songs out there (same 7 words repeated 11 times…..it’s an exaggeration, but […]

via Loved Before The Dawn of Time — denim and roses blog

Loved Before The Dawn of Time

This is a line in a song by Stuart Townend by the same name, also known as “Salvation’s Song”.  It is one of my all time favorites by him.  Sadly, there are not many GOOD worship/hymn song writers anymore.  There’s just too many 7/11 songs out there (same 7 words repeated 11 times…..it’s an exaggeration, but you get the gyst).  Anyway, I used this title as the point of this blog post.

Many in Protestant mainstream churches, I believe, do NOT fully understand or comprehend God’s love for them and His Elect.  Many a pastor have taught to his congregation, “if you do this, then God will save you.”  This type of thinking gives people the impression that WE have to do something in order for God to open up His arms and accept us as His children.  But that is sooooooooo far out in left field from what the Bible teaches.  Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”  Those are two AMAZING verses.  I mean, you can almost sum up the totality of the gospel with them.

First, it states that BEFORE the foundation of the world…..BEFORE God even spoke creation into existence, he had already chosen those whom He would save.  Before he said, “Let there be light”, He already KNEW whom He would save.  But for Him to do that, there had to be LOVE.  In the last part it says, “In love, He predestined us….”.  So, before the first star was ever hung in space, He already loved us.  Isn’t that awesome??

And why is this awesome?  Because not one of us had to do ANYTHING to deserve that love.  Why?  Because we weren’t BORN yet!!  God knew that there would be no way that we could live up to HIS standards of perfection so, because of His love, He came to earth as a man (Jesus Christ), and offered HIMSELF as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  Why was He the ultimate sacrifice?  Traditional OT law stated that the sin sacrifice was to be a perfect, unblemished lamb.  No spots.  No diseases.  No defects.  So, because God is perfect, it is only natural that He would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice.

The other important thing to note is that not only did we NOT have to do anything to gain or earn His love (because He loved us before we were born), but we can’t do anything to make Him love us any less!!  We’re going to sin…..EVERYDAY!  But as God’s Elect, because we are covered in Christ’s righteousness; because He has wiped our slate clean, nothing we do or say will change His love for us.

NOTE:  THIS DOES NOT GIVE US LICENSE TO SIN WILLFULLY!!

The point of my post is this……who we are will NEVER change God’s love for us because we were loved before the first galaxy was created.  We will fail Him, that’s a given.  But, His love will NEVER fail us.  Ever!