Monthly Archives: February, 2014

Dukes of Hazzard Religion?

You may  find the following Q&A interesting.  It is taken from a FoxNews.com interview with John Schneider–the blond brother on Dukes of Hazzard.  I’ll not offer a commentary on Schneider’s reply.  Instead, I will include what readers posted after reading the interview.  I’ve underlined the sentiments with which I resonate.  At face value, some may seem contradictory when–in fact–they compliment one another.

FOX411: You’re born again?

Schneider: Yup, it’s been a while since I’ve been to church, but you don’t get unborn again. It’s been so long I’d rather not go there. I make movies about people who kill each other justifiably, and Christians do not like me that much anymore because I drink whiskey and I believe that my relationship with God is between me and God, kind of a Johnny Cash thing. I’m not a Christian for your benefit. I’m a Christian for my benefit and how I walk my walk is my business, and how you walk your walk is your business. It’s kind of a box people put me in. I might have jumped in that box, I might have even built some of it around myself years ago. Things change. I don’t care who people marry or what people drink. I care that people are honest and they’re not trying to take something away from me that I’ve worked hard to give my kids.

Nicki Gostin interview with John Schneider, February 25, 2014 FoxNews.com

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/02/25/qa-john-schneider-on-working-for-tyler-perry-dukes-god-and-his-dad/?intcmp=features

Post from Rationalista:

“I’m a Christian for my benefit and how I walk my walk is my business, and how you walk your walk is your business.”

He uses foul language, takes the Lord’s name in vain without any kind of remorse and claims to be “born again”…and not even one mention of the Person whom he claims to follow – the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. …”
Matthew 7

It’s not about getting “unborn again”, John – it’s about being truly authentically born again in the first place

From pizzaroyalty:

“I’m not a Christian for their benefit, I am a Christian for my benefit.” Right on! You’re not out there to impress the world…just God and your relationship with Him is your business. LOVE IT! Stay away from the religious John…they will choke the life out of you and heap chains on you that they themselves can’t even carry.

From GradyC:

If he is of Christ, Jesus will bring him where he needs to be, if not Jesus will say to him depart from me I never knew you. I was saved and departed for 40 years until He brought me back where I belong, All have sinned and falls short of the glory of God Romans 3:23. All of Christ are being sanctified until glorified. The question is did He become justified by accepting Jesus as Lord and is there change (repent). You can not work your way to heaven and God does not weigh good and bad. Only by the blood.

Kudos, Tennessee Temple University!

Can we admit it–not a single one of us is perfect.  Individuals are flawed from conception, bearing the mark of Adam.  Our nature is bent towards sin.  That remains true of each of us even after being declared righteous by a righteous God.  Christians are spiritual schizophrenics–declared righteous while experiencing the presence of sin on a daily basis (see Romans 6-8).  This explains the weaknesses admitted in the statement below, crafted by the current President of Tennessee Temple University.  I love their admission, as well as their desire to honor Christ by blessing others!  Genuine repentance is a beautiful thing.

A Statement of Reconciliation from the President and Board of Trustees of TTU

Tennessee Temple University is grateful for its heritage of being an institution that has trained  thousands for Christian service and ministry who in turn have reached hundreds of thousands for Christ. TTU is grateful for its forerunners whose staunch stand for the inspiration and inerrancy  of the Bible and the orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith contrasted with the detrimental  spirit of doctrinal compromise. Yet, as with any Christian organization TTU was and always  will be made up of imperfect people who did not and will not always model the image of Christ   perfectly. TTU regrets that in past years a judgmental spirit was at times present among some of  the TTU family. This judgmental spirit hurt those in the body of Christ who did not meet certain  outward conformity that was put forth as evidence of inward devotion. TTU publicly repents of  such actions and asks for forgiveness with the hope that any lingering wounded hearts could be  healed through the reconciliation of the cross.

TTU affirms that our distinction from the world is demonstrated by living out our new life in Christ. This new life is something received by grace and is not an achievement of human effort.   The measure of the Christian life is to be conformed after the image of Christ rather than human  standards.

Am I a talmid–a genuine disciple?

TJ and I watched Ray Vander Laan’s video “When the Rabbi Says Come” (Faith Lessons: In the dust of the Rabbi, Zondervan) this morning  Have you seen it?  It is worth watching for every Christian.

In this particular 28-minute presentation, Vander Laan teaches about what it means to be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ.  In order to do that, he takes us to a synagogue in Chorizon in Northern Israel.  One blog, commentating on this video, includes the following:

Every synagogue has a school. Boys and girls attended through age 12 or 13, and most children would have memorized much of the Torah. Most children were finished with school at this age.

Girls became wives and homemakers. Boys would go to learn their family’s trade. But a few attended the beth midrash, a high school to learn under the rabbi to master a deeper meaning of the Torah and to begin to memorize much of the rest of the Tanakh.

Of these, a very few became talmid or, in plural, talmidim: disciples. Jesus had as many as 500, and of these, he sent out 70. But 12 were especially close, and these were most truly disciples in the sense of “talmid.” The talmidim wanted not just to learn from the rabbi but to be just like him.

In the video, Ray asks this important question:

“How badly do  we want to be like Jesus?”

Notice that this question is not:  “How badly do we want to know Jesus?” nor is it “How badly to do we want to know about Jesus?”  Rather, the question is:  “How badly do we want to be like Jesus?”

I expect you know the how this transformation takes place.  The talmidim–the disciples in the 1st century–spent time with their Rabbis in order to learn from them and in order to mimic their lives.

Was the transformation instantaneous?  Not a chance.  Even a glance at the gospels reveals just how imperfect were the original twelve disciples.  The process of sanctification is indeed that–a process.  I am reminded of that each time I look in the mirror.

I am not what I once was.  I am not what I shall be.  I have come a long way, but I much more further to go.  Some days my actions, reactions and words contain echoes of Jesus.  Many days they do not.  In fact, most days I find myself vacillating between encouragement and discouragement.

Most believers I know can relate to that sentiment.

After the video, I reviewed the material with TJ.  I was thankful that he had listened carefully.  I see in my son a tenderness to the things of God.  I deeply desire that all of my children know and show Jesus in the world in which they live.  I do not want them to be religious.  I am not raising them to be conservative Republicans.  Rather, I pray that they might prove to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ.  And I pray that I might more effectively live this example before their very impressionable eyes.

Allow me to close by invading your personal space.  Are you a talmid–a genuine disciple?

Socrates is reported to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth the living.”  Let’s examine our lives in light of Jesus’ call to discipleship.

It Doesn’t Really Snow in Wisconsin

Did I spark your interest?

As I write this, we are getting an awesome snowfall here in Tennessee.  Right now we are at the 4.5″ mark.  That’s a big deal down here in Dixie.  Many businesses and all of the local school districts were closed today and will be closed again tomorrow.

This isn’t Wisconsin.

It actually does snow in Wisconsin.  In fact, it snows a lot more there.  I would know.  My first nineteen years were spent about ninety minutes south of “the frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field.

But Cascade, WI wasn’t the snowiest place I have lived.  Let me tell you the story.

After completing basic training in the US Army early in 1985, I went to Ft. Devens, MA for my “advanced individual training” (AIT).  I was studying to be an 05H Morse Code Intercept Operator.  First we had to learn Morse code.  Then we had to be able to copy it at reflex speed.  After mastering that aspect of the program, we learned about how and why we were going to do what we signed up to do (that’s where the top secret clearance came into play).  Just prior to graduation, I was told to report to a classroom where I would learn about my first duty assignment.

Where would I go?  Would I remain stateside?  Would I head to Europe?

I went forward and received my orders.  I sat down and studied the paper.

Misawa, Japan.

Japan!  How exotic!  Japan!  Tropics!  Palm trees!  Beaches!

Or…not.

As soon as it was possible, I called my Dad.  He wanted to know, and I knew he could tell me a bit about Japan.  And, he did.  But I was completely unprepared for the news he had to share.  After I admitted my excitement to be headed to a tropical location, Dad asked me for the longitude and latitude lines.  When I shared that specific information, he began to chuckle.  Much to his delight he informed me that I wasn’t actually headed to the Japanese version of Hawaii.  I was going to be living in what was equivalent to NORTHERN MINNESOTA.

Yes, I said Northern Minnesota.

I thought I had seen snow in Wisconsin.  Misawa, Japan taught me the true definition of “winter”!  The occasional blizzards I experienced as a child were regular events in northeast Japan.  It wasn’t uncommon to see FEET of snow on roofs of businesses and homes.  It didn’t surprise us to find a fresh FOOT of snow after a night of  sleep.

I survived two Misawa winters.  The tender winters to follow in Tennessee, Florida and Nevada were much easier to endure.  But days like today remind me that a fresh snowfall is a bit magical, especially as viewed through the eyes of children.  I like snow, but I love when it snows because my children have so much fun.  The monsters are finally in bed.  I know they’re excited about the morning.  Hours of sledding await.  I expect to see a snowman created.  I’ll even try to bait them into making face down snow angels.  A morning for making memories!

Tennessee isn’t Wisconsin, and it sure isn’t Misawa, Japan, but tonight we find ourselves in a winter wonderland.

Sometimes life can be pleasant (even if a bit cold and wet).

Ask Jesus into your heart. It’s that easy. Really?

I have been studying the concept of cross-bearing again.  On several occasions, Jesus told those around Him and following would be costly.  Consider his words:

Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace” (Luke 14:25-32; NASB).

It’s more than a silly prayer without meaning.  Following Christ is serious business!

I like these thoughts by commentator Matthew Henry:

“When we undertake to be Christ’s disciples we are like a man that goes to war, and therefore must consider the hazard of it, and the difficulties that are to be encountered. A king that declares war against a neighbouring prince considers whether he has strength wherewith to make his part good, and, if not, he will lay aside his thoughts of war. Note, [1.] The state of a Christian in this world is a military state. Is not the Christian life a warfare? We have many passes in our way, that must be disputed with dint of sword; nay, we must fight every step we go, so restless are our spiritual enemies in their opposition. [2.] We ought to consider whether we can endure the hardness which a good soldier of Jesus Christ must expect and count upon, before we enlist ourselves under Christ’s banner; whether we are able to encounter the forces of hell and earth, which come against us twenty thousand strong” (eSword).

Don’t you love Henry’s take on Jesus’ words?!  Becoming a Christian is indeed a call to war.  Enemies surround us.  The world, flesh and devil are all opposed to the King of kings and those whom the King summons to His kingdom.  Battles rage each and every day. 

Surely this requires an informed presentation of the gospel.  Yet so many churches and ministries make evangelism either an escape from hell ticket or another self-help program to try.  Few actually disclose the small print of the gospel.

Being a Christian is more difficult than not being a Christian.

“Your best life now” can be quite the challenge.

Dumbing down the gospel makes sense to some.  My children were asked on several occasions if they wanted to “ask Jesus into their hearts.”  A popular program used by many churches tries to force kids to have “a testimony” in order to advance in the curriculum.  Sometimes I think we go out of our way to confuse them.

Wouldn’t a biblically accurate presentation be superior?!

Shouldn’t our children know about the cross-bearing Christ and the call issued to all of His followers:  Pick up your own cross.  In other words, prove yourself a genuine disciple by listening to your Teacher and living like your Teacher.

Well, those are some of my recent thoughts on the subject.  I am particularly interested in this very important question:  Am I bearing my cross daily?  We should all ask ourselves that question.  Maybe we are afraid to do such self-examination.  Maybe we are afraid of our answer.  Maybe we have some repenting to do.  Maybe I do.

Baptism, The Lord’s Supper and Japan

baptism

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper recently in church.  As Jodi held the cracker, Dayton asked her about it.  When she mentioned “the body of Christ,”  Dayton asked, “You eat Jesus?”

“Well…not exactly…shhh…”

Time for a family meeting!

We’ve had the discussion before, but it was good to remind the kids of the ordinances Christians practice.  “Christians” is the key word in that sentence.  The ordinance of baptism and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper are for Christians (as evidenced by a study of the New Testament).  Both are ancient practices of God’s people.  Baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality.  Likewise, the Supper is a visible practice of invisible objective and subjective realities.  Believers are baptized, professing their union with Christ and their identification with the body of Christ.  Believers consume the wafer and the juice–elements symbolizing the body and blood of the Christ who died that they might live abundantly and eternally.

As a result of these truths, I believe both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are–like God-exalting, Bible-based sermons–wonderful opportunities for receiving sanctifying grace.  Neither ordinance bestows salvific grace.  You cannot be saved by being baptized as an infant nor as an adult.  You cannot be redeemed through your participation in the Lord’s Supper.  However, you can take advantage of both events to enter into deep communion with Christ and–as a result–become more like Him.

I found this to be the case in my own baptism.  While I was stationed in northern Japan, I was discipled by American missionaries Ray and Char Hauser.  They patiently instructed me in the basics of Christian thought and Christian practice, including baptism.  And during the first week of February of 1986, Ray baptized me.  It was a tremendously meaningful event which caused me to look both inward and outward.  I looked inward, examining myself to ensure I was “in the faith.”  I confessed my sins of commission as well as my sins of omission.  I dedicated myself to following my Risen Rabbi.  I also looked outward, inviting friends from my Army unit to hear me share my testimony and witness my declaration of allegiance to my buried and risen King and Savior.

My first experience with the Lord’s Supper was more complicated.  I grew up seeing Roman Catholics celebrate what they term “the mass.”  It confused me, especially when I saw non-practicing members of the religion partake of something which appeared to be such a spiritual event.  The first several opportunities I had to share in the Protestant ordinance came at the base chapel in Misawa.  I quietly let the elements pass by.  I did not consider myself worthy to participate.

I needed to be instructed.  And that is exactly what happened next.

Ray and Char hosted a retreat in Noheji, Japan.  We stayed at a quaint ski resort for the weekend.  That’s where I learned to downhill ski.  That’s also where I learned about grace.  Late Saturday afternoon, Ray pulled me aside to ask me to join a few others in serving communion.  When I politely refused, he pressed me for my reason.  I think he was surprised to hear my rationale.  A teaching moment had arrived!

“Your unworthiness is exactly why you celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  It’s a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for you–something you could not have done for yourself, something you would not have done for yourself.”

Over the years, I have lost Ray’s exact words, but those written above convey the spirit of what he communicated.  I simply did not have to wait until I was glorified to celebrate the successful work of Christ!  I did not even have to delay my celebration until I was a mature believer!  If I truly was a Christ-follower, it was time to “proclaim His death.”  Any time was appropriate to commune with Jesus and thank Him for His amazing grace.

I helped serve the Lord’s Supper.

How thankful I have been for the ministry of Ray and Char Hauser!  How God used them to build upon the foundation of Christ in my life (1 Cor. 3:11)!  Due to their effective instruction and godly example, I have not wandered far from the Lord.  Because of their biblical teaching, I have not been confused about two important aspects of Christianity–Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Should God call my children to Himself, causing them to be born again to a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3), I will rejoice in their baptism and I will celebrate Jesus with them!  I do not believe I can envision more meaningful events in my future than those.