The Relevance of Christianity

There are some who claim that “Christianity needs to change” and that biblical teachings are “outdated and irrelevant.” However, neither of these claims are correct. It is not Christianity that needs to change; rather, sinful, unbelieving hearts are what need to change by the regenerating and transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, if people actually believed the dire predicament of the human condition and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and truly put into practice the teachings of Jesus (without “tweaking” them according to their own preferences), there is nothing more practical and relevant than Christianity.

Our world is ravaged by selfishness, pride, disrespect, xenophobia, greed, deception, slander, hatred, violence, immorality, and the like. All of this is a result of original sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. ~ Romans 5:12

This corrupting and destructive power of sin can be likened to Gollum and the ring in, The Lord of the Rings. The ring, like sin, distorted his original nature and being, poisoned his mind and perception, and created a love and addiction to the very thing—his precious—that was destroying him.

The term “progressive Christianity” is both erroneous and deceptive, as well as stating, “making the church relevant.” So-called progressive Christianity ignores the reality of what the Bible calls sin—in all of its forms. The same for those who claim to promote relevance. The tendency, really, is to try to “have one’s cake and eat it too.” Often, these are mere attempts to gain God’s heaven apart from renouncing sin and yielding to Christ’s lordship. These remind me of the words in U2’s, “The Wanderer”:

“I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit,
They say they want the kingdom.
But they don’t want God in it.”

This is why we are seeing so many churches and movements, feigning the name of Christ, all the while endorsing goddess worship, homosexuality, abortion, rebellion against any authority, rejection of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, dismissal of holiness, etc. Many profess to condone these in a spirit of love; however, they misunderstand the true concept of what it means to love. Genuine love does not dismiss the seriousness of sin and its consequences, truth, or justice.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14

[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:6

Furthermore, we are told:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~ Galatians 5:16-24

The truth of the matter is this: if people truly believed on Christ, renouncing sin and selfishness, and surrendered to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, we would see a cleaning up in politics, wholesomeness, in Hollywood, homes being restored, and peace in our streets and communities. Again, Christianity does not need to change, people do. If people were to accept Christianity’s effect throughout the ages, they would see that it is far more relevant and productive than what it is given credit for.

One Life to Live

“You only live once!” “Go for the gusto!” “Get all you can, while you can!” Such are some of the common declarations we hear. After all, it’s all about [us], babes (so we are told). But what if there really is far more to life than mere stuff and fleeting pleasures? What if it’s not about us, and that we were to someday experientially understand Jesus’ haunting words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36, ESV)?

While the world uses “one life to live” as a declaration, the Bible uses it as a statement of caution. A psalmist lifts the prayer,

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

The writer of Hebrews warns, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (9:27).

The writer of Ecclesiastes had and experienced it all: wealth, fame, education, pleasures, luxuries, parties, etc. Yet, he found no fulfillment in any of these. After wasting so many years on himself, he ends the book with this:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

His point is not a warning of a capricious and vengeful God; rather, a relationship with our Creator and worshiping Him is the very purpose of our existence and what brings genuine fulfillment.

One life to live is all we have. Are we simply going to waste these fleeting moments on ourselves, or fulfill the true purposes in which we were designed for?

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus and prayer. Many scoff at these during these difficult times, saying they don’t work. However, this is like a person cursing tools because he can’t get a screwdriver to screw in a nail or a hammer to saw through a plank. The problem is not the tools but the one misusing them. 

There is peace, guidance, and even healing for our nation and its citizens; Jesus and prayer are the means by which these can be attained. However, we want to approach Him, the King of the universe, as if He is some waiter still in high school: “Hey buddy, yeah, we’d like riches, cures, and power. Do these and you might get a $5 tip and maybe even a thank you… Oh, and make it quick!” We treat the King like some schmuck, then wonder why we seem to be ignored?

Yet, the Scriptures give us promises for if we are ever really ready to do business:

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ~ Isaiah 1:18

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

So much good can happen if we would but go to God with humility and sincerity. Jesus and prayer are not the problems. We are. 

If we would but go to God on His terms, acknowledging our guilt (guilty we are), and truly seeking His face—only heaven knows what incredible blessings would come!

Lose not hope. Instead, let us lose our pride.

The Illusionary Reality of Feelings

The French philosopher, Rene Descartes, once said, “I think, therefore I am.” There is truth to this, as his point is that his existence is proven by the fact that he could think and reason. One could not do so if he did not exist. Such logic is indisputable.

An error many of us make is thinking, “I feel, therefore it is.” That is, the way I feel necessarily reflects reality. However, our feelings truly have an illusionary factor that can be destructively deceptive if we are not careful. This is not to say our feelings are always wrong; nevertheless, our feelings are not always correct in interpreting reality. Mind you, the feelings themselves are very real, but the thoughts that lead to our feelings are not always truthful. Thus, our feelings can project an illusionary reality that is not real or correlating with the truth.

Consider whenever someone stubs his toes on furniture, the pain he feels corresponds to reality. This is no illusion, as anyone can attest who has ever stubbed a toe! Or whenever someone loses a person or pet she loves very much, the loss and accompanying emotional pain is connected to the reality of loss and grief; therefore, the pain is related to a legitimate loss. But what about when a person feels alone, unloved, hopeless, anxious, or worthless? While the feelings are quite real, do they (and the thoughts that fuel them) necessarily correlate appropriately with reality? Mind you, this is not to say that one’s illusionary reality does not contain any truth. However, our minds and emotions can work together like a biased news team, focusing on certain aspects, while jettisoning a lot of facts.

Our minds and emotions are incredibly powerful entities. This is strange, considering both are entirely non-material—seemingly non-existent; after all, neither can be handled, seen, or smelled. Neither are made up of molecules; nevertheless, these seemingly non-existent entities have the potential of erecting and enslaving persons within self-made prisons and hells. Beginning with a thought (often triggered from a hurt within actual reality: for example, an unkind word, rejection, ridicule, abuse, etc), this thought then becomes like a board. This (negative) thought is followed by another, and another—until a structure is formed. Eventually “walls” are built, with the intention of protecting; however, they actually end up becoming one’s imprisonment. While our intention is to protect ourselves, too often we isolate ourselves. In doing so, we tend to condemn ourselves, others, life, and even God Himself. The projected illusion then swallows everything that makes life meaningful—including any purposes for the legitimate pain and disappointments in life.

By nature, I have a melancholy temperament. I am introverted, analytical, conscientious, moody, and introspective. To say the least, I am not the life of a party. At a large gathering I tend to feel awkward, restless, and bored. Awkward, because I desire to fit in. Restless, because I feel as if I do not fit in. Bored, because I am too afraid to “let my hair down” and force myself to interact with those around me (for fear of rejection or appearing foolish). So my mind and emotions conspire against me. Negative thoughts (for example, “I do not fit in” or “no one wants to talk to me”) trigger negative feelings of rejection and isolation. The projected illusion is that I am isolated, rejected, and unwanted. But is this actual reality? My mind and emotions say it is, but the true reality is I am surrounded by people, in many cases persons who are friends and family who love and care about me very much.

Several years ago I resigned from a pastoral position. My family and I were betrayed and deeply wounded by some individuals. Within a month of my resignation my dad died, then several months later my mother-in-law passed. Within the next couple of years my wife and I had several family members and friends pass. Our family had to put one of our dogs down prematurely. This broke my heart in a way I had never quite experienced before. I earned my Master’s degree, but doors were not opening. During this time I felt like a failure as a minister, husband, father, friend—as a person. I felt abandoned by God. I felt as if I was a total disappointment to Him. My thoughts condemned and criticized me ruthlessly, and my feelings projected an illusion as though my mind was presenting truth. My mind and feelings equated my worth and identity with my sense of failure and abandonment.

The illusionary reality was that I was unloved by my family, friends, and God; that I was not needed, and this world would not be missing anything if I was dead. I felt extremely alone, disconnected, and trapped inside a deep, dark pit. This was the illusionary reality. But what was the actual reality? The actual reality was that I was depressed, hurting, and grieving. Although my wife and son were upset and hurt by my angry outbursts, they still loved me. While there were certain persons who, I believe, did forsake me, my family and true friends never did. Furthermore, when the light finally pierced my darkness, I realized God had not gone anywhere, but had been with me and lovingly watching over me the whole time. I did not stand condemned, but my salvation in Jesus Christ remained secure by what had secured it from the beginning—His grace and shed blood. The actual reality is faith, hope, and love had never evaporated, but continued to remain. I felt like I hated life, but in actuality it was the feelings of loneliness and inner turmoil that I hated.

But what about the projection of the world not needing me (or you, if your mind and emotions ever project this)? Most of us will not ever be called “world changers” or be remembered hundreds of years from now in history books. Yet, God places us where we are. The love (or hate) we share, and the choices we make affect those around us. We will have some who like us and others who hate us. We will be rejected by some, while others will admire us. While we will not see it, and might not be remembered for it, we never know how God will use our words and actions to influence another, who will then influence another, etc. With all this said, regardless of the illusionary reality my mind and emotions project, the actual reality is I am needed. I am not here by accident (and neither are you). God was personally involved even during my conception (see Psalm 139:13-16). The world and its communities need the philosophical melancholy to help remind them of the deeper things in life. Just as it needs the animated sanguine to remind them of the joys of life and hope; the dynamic choleric to give them a swift kick in the pants, and to remind them there is still work to be done; and the mediating phlegmatic, who reminds them to keep calm, and who reminds them of the need for peace.

Perhaps the most devastating effect of the projected illusionary reality is that it tends to hide God, seemingly taking Him out of the equations altogether. Even if the world was to hate me, my Creator loves me—so much, in fact, He gave His Son to die for me! My calling is not to be a world shaker. My calling is simply to honor God day by day, striving to love Him with all my heart, and to love others as myself. Whether this ever makes the history books does not matter. For when the time does come for me to die, I will not be giving an account to those of Hollywood, Washington, or even the United Nations, but only to God. As long as my life is honoring to Him in this life, I can be certain that my life matters and is making a difference, whether or not I can see it or feel it. This is actual reality!