At Calvary! Ep 10 – Mere Christianity… Let's Think Deeply About the comments of C.S. Lewis

One of the more amazing thinkers of the twentieth century was C.S. Lewis. Although other books have examined these same issues with pith and wit, we still find that Lewis’ insights are invaluable regarding the necessity of the existence of the God that is described in the Bible and what following Him truly means.

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The Character Necessary

In Acts 13 we see Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Often, we focus on Paul and Barnabas’ success. Instead, think with me about their response to opposition and resistance. It is in opposition that we see Paul and Barnabas’ character shine through. We do not see them grow frustrated or hopeless. We do not see them lose heart. We certainly don’t see them quit. Instead we see faith, determination, obedience, and a reliance on the Word of God.

Do we see that today? Do we see a reliance on the Word of God in our own life? Or, do we rely on experience or feelings to see us through? I hear many lament a lack of character we see in our leaders. Many of us weep over the loss of morality in our nation. Could it be that this lack of character and loss of morality is a symptom of a much deeper problem: we lack convictions? I think of a recurring refrain in the book of Judges. It says, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 & 21:25) In those days, men did horrible things simply because they ‘felt’ that it would produce the results they wanted.

Do we do that? Please note, I am not talking about the lost. I would expect the lost to act lost. My question is for the Christian who is thinking these things with me. Do we do what we feel will get us the results we want, or do we do what we know that God has said to do in His Word? Paul and Barnabas encounter difficult persecution, yet they respond with confidence, trust, and even rejoicing. They knew what God wanted them to do. They could join Him in His mission. If we rely on our feelings, can we really join God in His mission? Won’t we be more like John Mark (in verse 13) who deserted them?
The Scripture uses some strong military language to talk about our calling. It doesn’t do that so that we will be militant or violent. It does that because being a disciple of Jesus means that we have a single-minded devotion to His mission, His calling, and His plans. I have been challenged to push past my temporary feelings and seek His will. I want to have convictions, not just feelings. How about you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 9 – Gospel Hope. The Power of the Second Coming in the Christian Life

What do you think about when you think about the Second Coming of Christ? Is it about setting dates and identifying the anti-Christ. Is it about knowing the order of the seals, trumpets, and bowls? Or… is it an assurance that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus? What is it supposed to do in us?

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At Calvary – Ep 8– Discipline in the Family

Discipline. There are certainly many types. However, when it comes to parents disciplining their children it is important for us to get it right. What is parental discipline? Is it punishment for bad behavior? Isn’t it something more?

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Faith in the Trenches

Acts 12 records Peter’s deliverance from Herod.  It is an amazing passage of Scripture highlighting the power of God.  It is also a profound example of fervent prayer.  Yet, the part that I personally find so instructive is the response of the people.  Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”  They were fervently praying.  They seemed to believe that God could do something to help Peter.  After his release, Peter goes, “to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” (12)  They followers of Christ were even praying that very night for Peter’s rescue!  Yet, their response is a little too much like us.  It says in verse 16,  “When they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.”  Why be amazed?  If we believe God, don’t we expect Him to work?  Why didn’t they just accept Peter’s deliverance as a matter of course? If we believe God, then shouldn’t His acting in our life be something that we look for just like the water that comes out of our faucets? 

My answer: of course not!  When God works, He stretches our faith.  He takes what we believed yesterday and pushes it so that it becomes better, fuller, and stronger.  Since none of us are perfect, God’s actions in our life will continually be a marvelous surprise.  It is not merely the absence of faith that is surprised by God.  It is growing faith that is also surprised by Him!  Growing faith says, like the man whose son was tormented by demons, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

What about us?  Do we get discouraged when God surprises us?  Do we feel that we are somehow a great spiritual failure when our feet struggle with keeping up with our faith?  Do we let those times of stretching discourage us rather than encourage us?  Let me give a physical example of this spiritual truth.  Awhile back I went to a workout offered by a person who attends my church.  That workout stretched me.  The next day I was sore and aching.  I had a choice that day.  I could be discouraged that I was not in better shape.  OR – I could be encouraged that I got a good workout and my body was challenged beyond the norm.  I chose to not be discouraged by the aching (even though there were times I thought that I could not move!).  I was encouraged because I recognized that I could feel the stretching of my body.  This is what happens to us spiritually when God works in our lives.  He stretches us.  We ache with surprise or amazement.  We then need to choose if we will be discouraged because our faith wasn’t as confident as we wish it would be (are we being judgmental?) or if we will be encouraged because God has taught us a new thing.  Which will you be?

 Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Faith that is Self Evident

James, the brother of our Lord, has some hard words for those who do not live out their “faith”. He calls it dead. He asks if such faith can save anyone. He declares that such faith is useless. These are hard words. It gets even harder when he says that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

14  What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18  But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that  God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:14-26

Is James disagreeing with Paul when he says these things? Paul says that we are not saved by works. He says that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. He declares that it is not of works otherwise men could boast. What is going on?

The words of James make sense if we think about a quotation from our declaration of Independence. They said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” What a concept: self evident. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are three rights that the founders of our country believed were self-evident realities. James is saying the same type of thing. He is not addressing the question of how we begin a relationship with God. He is addressing the question of what saving faith does in our lives. In other words, James declares that people are not saved by doing good works; however, James points out that it is self-evident that real faith inspires people to do real things.

The examples he gives are so self evident that they are nearly indisputable:

  1. Are you helping anyone if they are hungry, thirsty, and naked if you just wish them well and do nothing about it? Of course, the answer is no. So, James says, faith is likewise of no use if it doesn’t do real things.
  2. Can you show me how real your faith is without doing anything? Again, the answer is no. James declares that such faith is about as good as the demons who also believe in God. However, James can easily show his faith by the real things it does.
  3. How do we know that Abraham had faith? What about Rahab, the harlot? James said that both of them are known not by talking about faith but by doing something. Therefore, Biblical faith must have works.
  4. When is a body alive? James answer: the body is alive when there is evidence of the spirit. What is that evidence: action (heartbeat, breathing, movement)! So also, he says, faith without works is just dead if it is by itself.

What’s the point? The point is two-fold: 1) It is self-evident that real faith has real results in the life of the one who truly has it. Life just bubbles up. It can’t help itself. If it doesn’t bubble up, we easily know that it doesn’t really exist. Love, abilities, historical figures, and even the human body all show that mere talking about faith isn’t real faith. Faith bubbles out of us and touches others in real ways. 2) What’s the point in claiming a faith that doesn’t affect our lives? Is that a faith that will transform you? Is that a faith that will truly give comfort when you are hurting? Is that a faith that can sustain you when you are discouraged? Is that a faith that is worth having?

James believed that this discussion of faith was self-evident. It is clear that he believed that faith did more. It wasn’t academic. It wasn’t just “spiritual”. Since faith is real, it really acts for good in the real world.

Real faith changes lives. Is that your faith?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

First posted March 2011

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At Calvary – Ep 7 – Religious Persecution Across the Globe

The State Department most recently made Country of Particular Concern designations in November 2018, naming 10 countries: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. At the same time, the State Department named three countries—Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan—to its Special Watch List. Persecution is real. Are we aware? How do we pray?

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