15 Truths No One Will Tell You About Being a Christian

I’ve been trying to figure out God since I was a little kid. I messed around with Christian “stuff” until confronted with my selfish ways during my teens. That’s when I began to be serious about God. Now, 47 years later, He’s become an obsession of mine. I’m thankful for this journey and for what I’ve learned. Today, I share a few insights about this Christian adventure.  

For newbies or veterans, these truths will help you navigate your way. 

1. The Christian life is a mystery.

When it comes to knowing God, don’t be surprised that you can’t figure Him out. How God saves us, transforms us, relates to us, and lives in us is experienced over a life-time. None of this can understood by pure intellect. Resist the temptation to put God in a box of your own making or in the box of some theological system. 

2. The Bible is a means to know God. 

It’s important to know the Bible. But, it is not an end in itself. Acquiring a lot of Bible information does not guarantee that you’ll know God. Approach the scriptures with a heart and mind to experience God through them. 

3. Being a Christian involves becoming humble. 

Getting the right information or feeling the right emotions might be how some Christians understand Christianity. Jesus wants you to come to Him and learn humility and restful faith as you learn to relate to the Father as He does. 

4. Christians can be mean as well as supportive.

There’s no excuse for behaving unkindly when kindness is to be a Christian trait. But many do not act like Christ or value Christlikeness for themselves. Keep your eyes on Jesus who will never let you down. 

5. Salvation is more than getting to heaven.

You may have had a conversion experience. But, in actuality, you will have many conversion experiences and opportunities to become someone who is saved. Salvation is about life in Christ and Christ’s life in you. Learn what that’s all about for now and all eternity. 

6. Being a Christian is difficult but fulfilling. 

It’s not easy to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. Yet, fullness is found only in Jesus Christ. There are joys and struggles on your Christian journey. The Triune God is with you every step of the way filling you with His mercy. 

7. Your church leaders often care more about their agenda than your soul and your relationship with God. 

Unfortunately, well-intended Christian leaders can get sidetracked from their main calling of shepherding souls. Often, their own soul is malnourished. Ministry success is a dangerous and subtle demon. So, be cautious about who you follow and hunger for Jesus Christ above all. 

8. Community is good but has limitations.

Keep your expectations in check. People cannot meet the needs that are designed to be met by God alone. 

9. Being a Christian is about union with the Trinity, about participation in the life of the Trinity.

You won’t hear this from too many people except Jesus, the Apostle Paul, St. Peter, all of the NT writers, and most traditional Christian thinkers/writers before the Reformation. There are huge implications to this simple statement. Take the rest of your life to explore those implications.   

10. Being a Christian means continual repentance. 

Living in repentance is a good thing since it means you’re dealing seriously with your ongoing sin and finding forgiveness with God. You are able to turn from your sin and to Christ at all times. Repentance is a regular activity for the Christian. 

11. Being a Christian is an invitation to be like Christ.

Sadly, modern Christianity makes being a Christian about morality, political stances, believing certain doctrines, supporting some cause, or being accepting of everyone. Who Jesus is and what He asks of us is easily forgotten. Don’t forget: you are about Jesus Christ. 

12. Learn to commune with God. 

You are now in a relationship with the Triune God. Relationships take time to develop. Spend time with God. Get to know Him. See how He operates in various situations of your life. Don’t do all the talking but be quiet when you’re with Him. Be attentive to His will. 

13. Finding a Christian group to belong to can be troubling. 

What group should you belong to? Charismatic, Fundamentalist, Adventist, Calvinist, Methodists, Roman Catholic, Church of Christ, Church of God, Church of the Holy Spirit, Non-denominational, Baptist (which kind?), Anglican, Missionary Alliance, Episcopalian, or some home group? They all claim to be based on the Bible and yet differ in so many ways. Don’t settle. Be wise, teachable, and always exploring. 

14. Being a Christian is like walking a journey (or dancing down the street) rather than standing at a destination.

You have not arrived yet. Not only are you a Christian, you’re becoming one. Talk to a person who’s been married one year and a person who’s been married 50 years. Who knows more about being married? Learning to be a Christian is a life-long adventure. 

15. Being a Christian is about BEING as well as doing.

Be Christlike. Be loving to God and neighbor. Be like God. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Be at peace with God, people, and yourself. You’ll be told to get active, get involved, get busy, and use your “time, talents, and treasure.” However, strive to bring about both being and doing. Think of your doing as an expression of your being. It’s not “either/or” but “both/and.” 

I hope these truths will help you on your way. Enjoy your travels with God. 

Dr. K 

Can The Possibility of Dementia Be Motivation For Developing Inner Prayer?

A Brief Exploration into Prayer of the Heart & Brain Function

My grandfather spent the last few years of his life confined to a bed seemingly oblivious to the world around him. I wonder what he experienced lying there all day. He died at 90.
My father experienced the last few years of his life lost in the darkness of dementia unable to function as he had most of his life. Over the span of 5-6 years, his memory, along with thinking and communication skills, gradually diminished. He died at 86 (due to heart issues).
I have every reason to believe that I will also spend the last years of my life with greatly diminished brain function. OK. I can hear you laughing. It’s probably already happening, I’ll admit. 

What can I do now that will actually help me when this happens? Puzzles? Memory games? Medications? Healthy eating? Exercise? How about learn interior prayer? Huh? 
This may sound weird, but the real prospect of developing dementia is one practical reason why I’m trying to develop an ability to commune with God from my heart verses thinking about God with my brain. I want to know God in and from my heart so that when my brain ceases to function properly, I can still have a vibrant, deepening relationship with God. Does that make sense? 
This kind of treatment for dementia would include a united heart, mind, and soul in unity with the Trinity. When the brain no longer “works,” communion with God can continue. There is no cure for dementia. However, this may be the way for Christians to keep experiencing God no matter their physical and cognitive limitations. 
Explore this in light of what St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4.16-17: So we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. 
In other words, outward afflictions manufacture inner flourishing in God’s grace. Place loss of brain function as an outward affliction (it is when compared to the soul/heart), and you can see where motivation to develop inner communion with God comes from. Constant inner renewal produces unending splendor now and forever. The brain can’t stop that from happening. 
Dementia 
Dementia is described not as a specific disease, but as a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment.
Symptoms include forgetfulness, limited social skills, and thinking abilities so impaired that it interferes with daily functioning.
The Alzheimer’s Association website reports…
While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:
  • Memory
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

People with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or traveling out of the neighborhood.

Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse.

Treatment of dementia depends on its cause. In the case of most progressive dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure and no treatment that slows or stops its progression.

A Spiritual Treatment 
Since there is no physical cure or treatment that stops the progression of dementia, an alternative approach needs to be explored. How about a spiritual one?
Would it be possible to spiritually circumvent the brain allowing our heart to control our life?
Could we ever come to the point where our mind and heart are so united that we could function well even though our cognitive faculties are diminished? 
Here’s what I’m thinking (while I can 😉): Let the prospect of dementia work in your favor – learn to know God from your inner being not your brain. Know God not as an idea you think about but as a person with whom you relate, heart to heart. Learn to relate in silence and quiet since that’s probably where you’re headed. Learn to commune with God from within your heart. 

Training for Inner Communion

St. Paul encourages his son Timothy to train himself in godliness because godliness, compared to physical exercise, is good for now AND eternity (1 Timothy 4.7-8). Godliness is not primarily a thinking process. It is possessing the heart of God. And, surprisingly, our interior being only develops through intentional, bodily training. 

In C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape chides his understudy demon, Wormwood, for allowing his “patient” to become a Christian. But take heart, he says, “There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favour.” Screwtape knows that if a convert’s habits remain the same they will experience little of life in Christ. 

Later, Screwtape advises Wormwood how to effect the prayers of his “patient” by keeping them spontaneous, informal, unregularized and definitely without using the body. “At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” 

That’s what I’m talking about….training the heart, soul, and spirit to be like God so when the brain malfunctions, we can still flourish in knowing God. (According to Jesus, this “knowing” is actually “eternal life”  – a God-life we can live now and forever; see John 17.3). 
What bodily exercises are good for your spiritual being? Start with the basics and let them teach you about God and yourself. (Here’s what’s fun: You can do these even with limited brain function.) 
Prayer – learn to commune with God 1) in silence: with a quiet mind and attentive heart and 2) liturgical prayer: as Jesus taught his disciples and as has been practiced by Christians for 2000+ years. 
The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” is a time-tested way to commune with God at all times. I’m training myself to continually say this prayer so that it becomes the prayer of my heart. It will then be the primary means of communing with God when I have dementia. Thanks be to God! 
Fasting – learn to commune with God by pulling away from activities that distract your heart so that you grow in experiencing God’s love with your whole heart, mind, and spirit. 
Almsgiving – learn to commune with God by dispossessing your stuff, including money, and giving to those in need. With actions of sacrificial giving you develop a heart like Jesus who always lived like this. 
Sometimes during my father’s last years on earth, we would sit together on a small bench outside his apartment. There he’d commune with God in creation watching birds fly and feeling breezes blow. He’d notice these same things every time and comment on them as if he’d experienced them for the first time. In sweet childlikeness, he simply experienced God. I wanted more for him and, to my shame, from him. Yet, he was content. God was enough. 
I am not happily looking forward to years of living with dementia. I’m actually not going to have much say in the matter. Yet, I never want to stop experientially knowing God no matter how fuzzy my brain becomes. I don’t even know if what I’m writing about will “work” then. It doesn’t really matter. It’s working now. I’ll just plan on it working later as well
What do you think about my proposal? Share your thoughts below. 
Dr. K 
 
P.S. The best book I know to introduce yourself to this kind of praying is Prayer of the Heart by George Maloney. It’s pure inspiration for the serious inquirer.

A Look at Faith: Beautifully Destitute & Pleasing to God

Would You Know Genuine Faith If It Was Different From Your Faith?

The best Christian you’ll ever meet might be the homeless guy you ignore and despise at Exit #8 on your way to work. She might be the down syndrome child that irritates you with her guttural outbursts during the sermon. He might be the tatted, long-haired, artsy-fartsy moron neighbor who drinks too much. When it comes to recognizing people of faith, we’re probably clueless, though we may think we’re keenly insightful. 

Euphrosynos was a disrespected, simple monastery cook. One night, the monastery’s abbot had a dream of heavenly paradise. Surprisingly, there he met Euphrosynos who gave him three beautiful apples from a tree. Upon awakening he found three apples lying on his pillow much to his amazement. He located Euphrosynos and asked him where he’d been last night. He responded, “Where you were, Father.” The abbot was astonished. How is it possible that this despised yet humble cook could actually be a saint? 

Reading scripture and the lives of saints in church history, I’m beginning to see that holy people are formed out of struggle. They step into the unknown and deal with the challenges of uncertainty and conflict. They persevere in their fears and pain as they experience God. Knowing God seems to be enough to carry them as they advance through carnage and battle inner demons. 

These warriors are described in Hebrews 11: 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (v. 1). (Be careful not to interpret “assurance” and “conviction” as what you think should happen.) 

And without faith it is impossible to please [God}, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (v. 6). 

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.…But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (vv. 13-16).  

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world is not worthy — wandering in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect (vv. 35-40). 

The miracle was not God getting them out of their suffering/affliction/mistreatment but God being present with them no matter how long or how deep the pain. Many were never rescued. Yet, they knew God, becoming aware of Him, even when God seemed nowhere to be found. Knowing God was their reward.  

Where did we get the idea that real faith means we believe God will always rescue us, take us out of trouble, free us from pain, heal our physical ailments, and make our lives better? 

Modern Person of Faith

I don’t know what this kind of Hebrews 11 person would actually look like today. But I have a sneaking suspicion our modern Christian sensibilities would find him/her off-putting. Our family faith album is filled with smiling, clean-cut, healthy-looking people who don’t seem to have a care in the world. God forbid a photobomb by a destitute and tortured grandchild. 

Though held up as great examples of the faith, these kinds of people wouldn’t make it past the greeter at your church. By the look of things, they would not be considered Christians at all – odd clothing, destitute, beat down, tormented, plagued, disorderly, foul-smelling, sick. It doesn’t look like they have any faith in God at all or they wouldn’t be in their particular predicament, right? 

Some churches don’t allow children into their morning service let alone someone like this. I’ve heard of ushers not allowing an autistic child into a service because he would be too disruptive. 

What kind of screwed-up understanding of a person’s faith is this? 

Imagine a Christian guy’s response to news of stage four colon cancer. On Facebook he writes, “Yesterday I got the news that I have colon cancer. But, I’m trusting God. Nothing is a surprise to him. It’s all OK. God’s got this! No worries! God is good all the time!” His friends might respond, “What incredible faith!”

But, doesn’t this actually come off as a form of denial? “Folks, it’s not really bad news because I have a rock-solid belief in God.” Sounds to me like his faith is in his faith. 

What if he’d written: “Yesterday I got the news I have stage four colon cancer. I’m devastated and not handling this well. I’m emotionally and physically spent and yet this cancer journey has just begun. I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I need God now more than ever. Without His mercy and help I have no hope. I’m pitiful. But God is able.”

This sounds more like genuine faith in God. “Folks, I don’t have what it takes in this situation, but God does.”   

Struggle On…

Take an honest look at Hebrews 11 and compare the kind of faith these folks have to your own. Do you see how destitute you really are and how badly you need God’s mercy? 

The Christian life is the journey into a more genuine faith in God. The struggle to believe God is a good struggle. Don’t be discouraged if you think your faith is small. The amount of faith you have is not the issue. The source and object of faith is the issue. 

Keep looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith (Hebrews 12.2).

Without faith we cannot please God. (Hebrews 11.6)

If whatever we do is not in faith, we sin. (Romans 14.23)

I believe. Help my unbelief. (Mark 9.24)

Looking at these scriptural reminders, we’ve got a long ways to go on this journey.

Trust God now…then now…then now. Each moment of every second. No matter what’s happening to you, around you, or in you.

It may not be all that impresive, but at least it’s real. 

Dr. K 

Teachableness: You Can’t Live The Christian Life Without It

Wisdom and Teachableness

Yesterday while reading Proverbs chapter 3, it hit me how readily I rely upon my own abilities to navigate life.  “Trust in God with all your heart and do not exalt your own wisdom. In all your ways know wisdom that she may cut a straight path for you, and your foot will not stumble. Do not rely on your own discernment but fear God and turn away from every evil. Then there shall be healing for your body and care for your bones.” Trust God. Fear God. Know wisdom. Don’t rely on your own wisdom or discernment. But, I think I know better.

You see, one of my problems is that I’m often not teachable. Wisdom comes to those who trust God rather than their own thinking. I’m not good at that.

It is essential that we be teachable. 

Teachableness

Here are some definitions of “teachable” a) capable of being taught. b) able and willing to learn. c) favorable to teaching. Are you teachable? 

I’m talking about a general attitude of desire or willingness to know. Since you can’t learn about everything, you need to limit yourself to what is most beneficial. This is where it gets dicey for Christians who may spend their whole lives learning about things that are relatively useless for their spiritual life. Interests like cooking, auto mechanics, sports, politics, hobbies, or travel can distract from spiritually substantial matters. 

St. Paul points this out to Timothy when he writes that physical exercise is slightly beneficial but godliness benefits all of life – life now and life eternally (1 Timothy 4.8). 

So, why aren’t more Christians interested in the condition of their own souls? Or, in their own relationship with God? Or, in the healing of their sin-sick heart? Or, in their lack of Christlikeness? 

I wish I had a good answer. It would be the key to unlocking the door of stubbornness and ignorance that comes with being unteachable. 

  • Are you teachable about knowing God? Your eternal life depends on it (John 17.3).
  • Are you teachable about experiencing union with Jesus Christ? Jesus prayed for it (John 17.23, 26).
  • Are you teachable about participating in the life of Christ? It is your calling (1 Corinthians 1.9).
  • Are you teachable about the Church? It is the means of your spiritual life (Acts 2.42; Ephesians).

Wisdom & Teachableness  

Being teachable is really a journey of learning wisdom. 

Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9.8-10).

Get wisdom, get insight…do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight  (Proverbs 4.5-7).

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray (Proverbs 10.17).

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (Proverbs 10.17).

God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our WISDOM and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1.30). 

Wisdom is not pure intellectual knowledge but an ability to live as God designed us to live. Bible scholars Curtis and Brugaletta describe wisdom: 

Wisdom’s method is to stimulate thought and reflection rather than provide exhaustive answers; it encourages the kind of life application of the material that both allows the exploration of the broader dimensions of the principles and generates skills in living. The goal is to produce a craftsman who can respond to the circumstances of life in a fallen world in ways that reflect Yahweh’s order and move a person toward godliness. (Discovering the Way of Wisdom, p. 10, Kregel Publications)

Characteristics of the Non-teachable 

  • Want current beliefs to be affirmed. They refuse to learn anything that challenges existing beliefs, practices or prejudices. 
  • Lack curiosity. They rarely ask questions seeking to further their understanding or gain new insights. 
  • Don’t desire wisdom. They have convinced themselves that they don’t care or wisdom doesn’t matter.
  • Are over-confident in their abilities. 
  • Have difficulty in accepting correction. 
  • Are not part of a learning group or relationship.
  • Are lazy. They want to stay within their intellectual and spiritual comfort zone.
  • Possess a pervasive pride. They’ve convinced themselves that asking questions makes them look ignorant, stupid, or uncertain.

Being unteachable demonstrates an unwillingness and arrogance that has the potential to thwart God’s work within. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

If you are stubbornly unwilling to consider God’s workings in a way different than your own ideas, then you are more committed to your ideas than you are to God. 

I don’t mean you must be open to every new idea about God that comes down the pike. (I’m not convinced God has any “new” ideas.) But, He does have significant realities that you and I have not discovered – have not participated in – into which He desires us to go. 


In 10 years you’ll be the same person you are now except for the books you read and the people you meet. 


Characteristics of the Teachable

  • Are aware of their limited abilities and understanding.
  • Consistently seek out help, instruction, guidance, and wisdom. 
  • Are open to learn from any source.
  • Possess the ability to see God in everything even what seems to be “bad.” 
  • Are thankful for all things especially those ideas and people they do not currently understand.
  • Have a humility to admit error and wrong along with a willingness to change ideas and opinions .
  • Are willing to try something different, make mistakes, and ask questions. 
  • Listen attentively to others in curiosity. 

Curtis and Brugaletta provide great insight on teachability and wisdom. The first sentence is priceless… 

A wise person is teachable, and this as much as any single characteristic distinguishes the wise person from the fool. The wise person is open to instruction in all of its forms (teaching, correction, rebuke, and discipline), and he learns from it, whereas the fool rejects it and continues to pursue his own self-destructive course. Discovering the Way of Wisdom, p. 51

Ask yourself, “Am I really teachable?” From whom am I learning true information and practices?  From whom am I learning real wisdom and humility? 

How to be(come) Teachable 

  1. Come to Jesus, commune and walk with Him daily. Since He is wisdom and humility in bodily form, learn from Him. 
  2. Embrace your struggles and let them work their transformative powers in you.
  3. Read and meditate on the truth of scripture, living it as you are able. Allow scripture to light your path instead of your own ideas. 
  4. Listen to others around you aware of your own spiritual and emotional condition. 
  5. Ask more questions, express less opinions. 
  6. Ask God constantly for wisdom and then observe what happens in the days and weeks that follow. 

Being a Christian involves learning wisdom and truth. To learn wisdom and truth, we must be teachable. On a scale of 1-10, how teachable are you? 

Dr. K

Your Children Are Here for Your Sanctification Not The Other Way Around

Learning to Be Like Jesus From Your Children

Rhonda and I got married in 1977 in Portsmouth, VA. I was just entering seminary so we weren’t too concerned about having children. In 1983, we accepted our first full-time pastoral position in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Enough cold nights and long winters might help us get our first little bundle of joy. But Rhonda’s battle with endometriosis kept conception at bay.

So, we had a late start to the the whole procreation thing. I told people that I kissed my wife good-night every night but nothing happened. Huh? Anyway, we were married 9 years before our “gift from God,” Nathanael, made his appearance. After almost 10 years without children, we had to make some major adjustments. Yet, we loved it. His blond hair and blue eyes (and latent musical talent) qualified him to be a member of the Beach Boys. So, when he was 18 months, we moved to Southern California.

Maybe it was the warmer weather or the new digs, but a year later our beautiful daughter Jenna blessed our family. She was a cute little spit fire ready to tackle whatever was in front of her (still true).

Our family was complete but we were far from finished.

I had the mistaken idea that one of the primary reasons Rhonda and I had children was to make good little Christians of them.

But, in reality, they were here to help us become Christians. 

Misplaced Expectations

Do you have children? Were they raised in your “Christian” home? You probably attended church together, made sure they went to Sunday School and AWANA then got involved in the youth ministry. You prayed before meals and perhaps had “family devotions.” Did you homeschool, public school, or Christian school? You probably prayed for them every day.

You may have read Dobson, Campbell, “Growing Kids God’s Way,” or other books by parenting “experts” and thought you knew what you were doing. Your children did not dance, listen to rock music, watch crap on TV, or go to R-rated movies. Good job!

How did all that work out for you…and them?

How they turned out isn’t the point of this post. How they have challenged you to be like Jesus – actually be Christian – is my point. Your children have been, and are even now, teaching you your shortcomings and your need to become like Jesus. You may have thought you were here for their spiritual good. Nope! They’re actually here for your spiritual good.

No child turns out like you expect or imagine. They challenge your preconceptions, your presumptions, and your expectations.  And, that’s all good for you. They challenge you to love in ways you didn’t think possible. They teach you patience, kindness, and how to speak the truth in love.

If you’ve missed their lessons and are pretty much the same person you were when they were born then something is wrong with you. You’re blind to your own faults. Your children are not, however.  They see you for what you really are…like it or not. Their evaluation of you may be more accurate than your understanding of your own self.

If you believe you are here to make your children walk the straight and narrow, be morally upstanding, and be all you want them to be, you’ve got much to learn (from them!).

Your role as a parent has probably been reduced to loving, supporting, praying, listening, and modeling. Real simple, right? Hardly! The simple things are the hardest.

If your children are not what you want them to be and they know your disappointment, then maybe you are not the person they need you to be. They are not the problem. You are.

Helps to Enhance Your Relationship

  1. Become more like Christ every day. Learn to love – sacrifice, give, empty yourself like Jesus did. He gave Himself for people who rejected him. He loved those who resisted Him. He showed mercy to those who did not deserve it. He humbled Himself for the sake of others. Get closer to Jesus and let Him rub off on you.
  2. Pray for your children without expectations and without trying to control outcomes.
  3. Ask for your children’s forgiveness. In humility, recall mishandled instances, bring them up with your children, and ask them to forgive you.
  4. Be attentive to your children. They are God’s messengers to help you know yourself and become more like Jesus.

If you have children, learning how to parent never ends. Because, learning how to be like Jesus never ends. The two go hand in hand. Your children are here to help you become more like Jesus. Love them for it.

Dr. K 

P.S. This is my first cross-over post from the Motley Christian website. Check it out and subscribe. Thanks! 

The Single Most Important Habit for Growing, Thoughtful Christians

Questioning is the Art of Learning

Recently we had a delightful young couple in our home for dinner. They told us the story of serving in a discipleship school in Italy. With high hopes they had raised support and moved to the school. Quickly, it became a difficult situation mainly because they asked questions which were not “allowed.” After two years of trying to make it work, they returned to the States wounded and broken by a Christian organization that didn’t know how to deal with genuine questions.

I have a friend who also asked too many questions of the leadership of a Christian nonprofit organization. Conflicts arose not because questions were asked but because certain people did not want to deal with the questions themselves. He is now working a “secular” job and loving it.

You may have your own stories about asking questions when that sort of activity was not welcome. It seems to be prevalent in Christian organizations and churches. Growing up in a fundamental Baptist atmosphere, I was not encouraged to ask questions except the kind that would advance an agenda like, “What do Baptist’s believe?” If it ever turned into something like, “Why do they believe that?” “Where did that idea come from?” or “What is the real meaning or consequence of that idea?” then the discussion turned into a debate about who’s interpretation of the Bible was right. It was better not to ask.

So, most of my Christian friends never ask tough questions of their church, denomination, leaders, or even the Bible. They just go along with the prevailing teaching of the moment. As a result, they get stuck, stagnant in their Christian walk.

However, good questions need to be asked. Good questions are a mark of an eager learner. When we stop being a learner we stop being a Christian. Good questions make us good Christians. Like children, it’s the simplest and most effective way of learning. Yet, it is frequently forgotten as one gets older. Maybe this was an aspect of faith Jesus was addressing when He challenged His followers to have a “childlike faith.”

What is a Question?

  • a sentence, phrase, or word that asks for information or is used to test someone’s knowledge
  • a matter or problem that is being discussed
  • a subject or topic
  • doubt or uncertainty about something

This is one of the challenges of raising the issue of asking questions. The listener may not know what kind of question is being asked. They may see the question as a threat when it may simple be introducing a matter for discussion. The question may be due to doubt or not. The question may be for clarification not to be confused with a personal attack.

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever – Chinese proverb

WHY is good?

Simon Sinek has made a career of helping people ask “Why.” He writes:

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money – that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is the purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? and WHY should anyone care? (Start With Why, 2009, p.39) 

WHY do I exist as a human being? WHY am I a Christian? WHY does the Church exist? WHY do I interpret the Bible the way I do? WHY do I sin? WHY do I believe? Don’t settle for pat answers. Keep asking WHY.

Yet, this is only the beginning.

Good questions lead the learner on a journey in which there is a balance between content (who, what, when) and process (how, why).

What is good Questioning?

Nicola Watts, freelance strategy and research consultant, highlights how to master the art and science of asking effective questions. We can learn from her — 

1. Create an environment where curiosity is welcomed and rewarded.

2. Become a keen observer of everything you see, hear, and experience.

3. Look at the world with fresh eyes, question the familiar, assume nothing is obvious.

4. Understand the power of different types of questions – how they should be used and when.

5. Keep asking why until you can go no further.

I’ll add #6: Truly listen to the answer to your question. Do you really understand the answer? Does the answer create more questions? Ask those as well. Keep asking. Keep learning.

Christian organizations and churches would do well to heed #1. Individual Christians need to apply #2-5, especially #3: “assume nothing is obvious.”

Why don’t we ask questions? 

What makes this difficult for churches and church leaders is that they may assume too much when a question is asked. They think a question is asked because a person is being disloyal, rebellious, or obstinate. They may fear the person is doubting God or their “right” understanding of God.

A big problem for the person with questions is that they don’t know what questions to ask or how to ask them. But usually, they don’t ask for fear of being labeled, dismissed, or “blackballed.”

Paul Sloane, innovative thinking expert, asks the question: Why don’t we ask questions? Here are his answers:

  • Laziness – people assume they know all the main things they need to know. Why bother to ask more? They cling to beliefs and remain certain of their assumptions. Dr. K: Is this not THE main reason most Christians do not ask questions? They already know what they believe. Don’t confuse them with the facts!?!
  • Perception – people don’t want to appear weak, ignorant, or unsure. They like to give the impression that they are decisive and in command of the relevant issues. In fact, asking questions is a sign of strength and intelligence. Dr. K: Been here; done that! This is really a pride thing.
  • Busyness – people don’t slow down to ask, research, or study. They rush headlong because life is short and things need fixing. Dr. K: We’ve got to do ministry. People need Jesus. That’s all that matters. Questions distract us from our real mission of winning the world to Jesus.

And, I’ll add:

  • Fear – for two reasons: 
  1. People are afraid of the answers. They might find out they are wrong or have been misguided. That means they would have to change. They don’t want to change. 
  2. People fear being labeled, dismissed, or “blackballed.”

What are good Questions?

  • Open vs closed – they inspire discussion and reflection  – How can kindness be expressed in everyday life? vs. Do you express kindness everyday?
  • Essential vs superficial – they seek to elicit deeper issues – Why do you think you react to disagreement like that? vs. What disagreements do you have with him?
  • Genuine vs accusatory – Almost any question can be accusatory. It’s the tone of the questioner more than the question itself. These questions could be asked either way: Why do you believe that? Are you sure? What is the problem?

It’s unfortunate that asking too many questions can get you into trouble especially with Christians. Yet, ask you must. When good questions, even those outside the box, come to you search out answers. You’ll grow as a Christian that way. Don’t settle for the status quo and the pat answer. Keep asking why. 

 Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. — Paul Sloane

Be a catalyst for change, for yourself and/or for your community or family, by asking good, effective questions.

Dr. K

Exploring the Magnificent, Yet Often Misunderstood, Mercy of God

Mercy = Lovingkindness, Steadfast Love, Goodness, Loyalty

It is very clear in scripture and in life, that God is merciful. Over half the Psalms proclaim God’s mercy. God’s mercy is seen from Old Testament stories to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Your life and mine are filled with evidence of God’s mercy. That you are alive: seeing, breathing, reading, thinking, and being show God’s mercy in action. 

The Lord loves mercy and justice; the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord…Behold the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, that He may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our helper and defender. Our heart shall rejoice in Him, and we have hoped in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have set our hope on You.

(Psalm 33.5, 18-22)

O God, You have rejected and destroyed us; You have been angry; yet You showed us mercy!

(Psalm 60.1) 

No matter what God does (even the occasional angry act), He always does it in mercy. Whatever your life situation, God will strengthen you in it or guide you through it by His mercy. 

How God Characterizes Himself

God describes Himself as one who “shows mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Ex 20.6). In another conversation with Moses, He says of Himself: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… (Exodus 34.6-7).

How do you perceive God? 

Many Christians believe God sees Himself as: The Lord, the Lord God, angry and impatient, eager to punish, and abounding in wrath and displeasure, keeping fury for thousands, outraged by iniquity and transgression and sin. 

If that describes your perception of God, then you don’t believe God Himself.

Does God ever describe Himself as wrathful? The closest I’ve found is Psalm 95.11, “Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest'” referring to His dealings with disobedient Israel who refused to trust God in conquering Canaan. Moses uses the word “anger” (Numbers 32.6-15) to describe God’s dealings with Israel at this time. However, in an earlier conversation with God (Numbers 14.13-19), Moses says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love [mercy].” It seems that God’s wrath is not so much an emotion God “feels” but an action of judgment or justice towards those who disobey in unbelief. 

God’s mercy is all over this particular event and certainly is seen in His dealings with Israel in the wilderness. 

Does God judge sin? Of course; yet in a manner permeated by lovingkindness. Though hard for us to understand, He has the ability to be merciful as He deals justly with those who disobey and reject Him

There is a place for God’s wrath in His dealing with humanity. Yet, again, it is wrath permeated by mercy. It may not make sense to us humans. But that’s one of many ways God is beyond our understanding. 

My point is that He never characterizes Himself as angry, outraged, eager to punish, or wrathful; only as merciful, gracious, long-suffering, good, truthful, and forgiving. His words, not mine. 

For more on God’s mercy along with some modern-day examples, click here.

A Gospel of Mercy 

A misunderstanding of God’s mercy creates a misunderstanding of the gospel. Modern Calvinists and many others who see God primary as an arbitrator and punisher of sin, belittle God’s mercy and settle for a truncated, crude gospel. It looks like this: God protects us from Himself and His wrath by punishing His Son, pouring down His wrath on Him for sins He did not commit, so that we are spared from His punishment ourselves. What a God! And then we wonder why we struggle to accept God’s love for us.  

The contrast of these two approaches to the gospel are clearly and uniquely presented by my friend Brad Jersak here. He delivers the “Gospel in Chairs” to highlight the truth that God has always dealt with humanity in mercy.

It’s only a merciful God who rescues us from ourselves and a corrupt world that we might enjoy communion with Him. 

Please give the time to look at this video. It could change your life…just like God’s mercy does. 

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation (Psalm 13.5).

Dr. K 

When We Struggle Well, We Give God Room To Work

Announcing A New Website To Help All of Us Messed-Up Christians

For his whole life, Brad has struggled with two subtle yet pervasive issues – anxiety and anger. Both quietly lie just below the surface and quickly flare up when given the right opportunity. Yesterday, his wife Jackie pushed all the trigger buttons. First, she called him at work going on about how they needed to have a talk when he got home. He could hardly focus on his work worrying about what might happen when he walked in the door. Then, some dipwad decided it would be best if everyone took the scenic route home by ramming into the back of an 18-wheeler on Rt. 28 bottling up traffic for hours. Jackie refused to answer her cell when he called to explain the situation. By the time he got home, he was a wreck, too. But that didn’t stop his lovely bride from laying into him about a suspicious email she’d discovered on their home computer. Any kind of logical explanation made him look defensive and made her even madder. Accusing, yelling, cussing, berating until…kablooey! Blood pressure sky-rocketed. Doors slammed. He never wanted to speak to her again. She never wanted to see him again. 

Brad fidgeted at his workbench in the garage dazed at what just happened. Unanswerable questions and thoughts pin-balled in his head. Why does this happen all the time? Why am I always the bad guy? What am I supposed to do now? She pushes the hot buttons. I explode. I don’t want to get angry but I do. 10 years of this crap! Nothing ever seems to change. I hate my marriage. I hate Jackie. I hate myself. And, I hate God for letting this all happen to me. 

Our modern brand of Christianity doesn’t quite know what to do with struggles. Our advise to Brad would be to seek counseling to fix his marriage. Or, he should go to counseling to deal with his anxiety and anger issues. Jackie, too, needs counseling to solve her issues. Applied to any relationship, struggle is an indication that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. 

Is it possible that God might have something completely different for them other than seeing everything fixed? Could the struggle be for their good? Could a painful marriage involving broken people be a place where God shows Himself in mercy and goodness? Is that even possible? 

Christianity? 

A psychologized Christianity says that all difficulty must be eliminated. Every problem settled. Every obstacle cleared away. Every pain medicated. 

A theologized Christianity says that all questions must be answered. Every dilemma figured out. Every mystery solved. Every issue explained. 

A genuine Christianity says that God dwells in the dusk as well as the dawn. As the “Divine suffering” (1 Pt. 3.20), God knows the value of struggle. As a “man of sorrows,” He knows our afflictions and meets us in them. Our Shepherd often leads us through the “valley of the shadow of death” that we might experience Him more fully (Psalm 23).   

The Good Struggle… 

  • Strengthens our resolve. How else do we learn perseverance (a fruit of the Spirit) unless we struggle? When in a battle we can quit, learn to negotiate, or fight on. 
  • Gives room for God to create, shape, and form us. So many spiritual realities and valuable character issues are developed as we struggle with God in our messed up life. As with weightlifting, our spiritual muscles grow stronger as they meet resistance and are challenged to endure.  
  • Gets at our pride. Hardship humbles us. There’s nothing more humbling than grasping the reality that we can’t handle something (think prodigal son) resulting in a cry for help.  
  • Forces us to consider others differently. Struggle, when understood properly, strikes at our judgmentalism and criticism of others. We see others as broken people on a journey. We’re more sympathetic and patient with them.  
  • Challenges our self-image. If we’re self-assured, struggles show our weaknesses. If we’re timid, struggles teach us courage. Struggles highlight the worst or best in us. They cause us to examine ourselves. 

How Does God Act In Our Struggles? 

Here are a few (from hundreds) of examples: 

God looks for his children after they fail/fall in the garden. “God, far from arms folded and brow furrowed in disgust, went looking for his children after their rebellion.” Yet, they were hiding (thought from Fr. John Oliver). Could we say God most pursues us when we’re in trouble, even trouble of our own making? There is no need to hide from Him when we are messed up. That’s when we need Him the most and when we find Him most accessible, actually. 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23.4-5). God is right there in the darkness, evil and battle with strength, courage, comfort, nourishment, and blessing. The Shepherd does not rid our lives of death, evil or enemies. He meets us in them, showing us His mercy, love, and goodness if we have the eyes to see. 

The Shepherd lovingly searches for the lost lamb leaving his flock of ninety-nine. When He finds it He does not punish it or express anger. He tenderly places it on his shoulder and carries it home (Matthew 18.12-14; Luke 15.3-7). God meets us in our lostness, fear, and hunger. 

See 1 Peter 2.21-25  where St. Peter describes Christ’s suffering as an example to us of how to deal with it. 

Big Announcement!

The knowledge of God’s presence and mercy in the midst of our lousy, messed-up Christian lives needs to be experienced and proclaimed. That’s why I’m launching a new website called the Motley Christian at https://motleychristian.com/.

Whereas The UnCommon Journey is a blog site, the Motley Christian is a website filled with hope and witty reminders that God is in our mess. 

His mercies are new every morning even when you wake up “out of sorts” with a hangover or are still angry with your spouse from the argument yesterday.

Truth is, we’re all lousy Christians. God meets us in our crap or He’ll never be with us at all. 

Click on this link and take a good look at the Motley Christian. Subscribe to the gnarliest blog on the web. Become a member of the Motley Christian web community. 

Discover God in the muck called “my Christian life.” 

Dr. K 

P.S. Click HERE for a look at the Motley Christian website

A Fragmented Christianity Makes The Christian Life Difficult To Live

Divergent Doctrines are Believed Based On One "Unifying" Source

Most, if not all Christian protestant-evangelical groups claim the Bible as their only standard of faith and practice. With one authoritative and final source of truth, certainly all Christians should be united in one faith, one baptism, and one Lord. How, then, can one explain the vast differences in doctrine, worship, practice, church ethos/culture, and ecclesial structure that is found in Christendom? For example, the Bible is said to be clear on such matters as baptism, salvation, church leadership structure, sin, spiritual gifts, last things (eschatology), Lord’s Supper, law and grace, the Trinity, and the gospel. Yet, denominations, groups, or individual churches themselves disagree about these matters, sometimes vehemently. 

Calvinists square off against Arminians, Charismatics against Baptists, Lutherans against Methodists, Non-denoms against everyone, and Anglicans against nobody. Each group asserts, at some level, their adherence to one source, the scriptures. 

This post is written not to promote the ideas of “agree to disagree” or to say “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in Jesus” or to say that the scriptures are not truth. My purpose is to challenge the notion that the scriptures are the only source of truth for the Christian and, more importantly, to illustrate that apart from Jesus who is Truth and the Church which is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3.15) there is great confusion, disagreement and ignorance. For most Christians, this division doesn’t matter. 

What makes all this confusion possible is the notion of “Sola Scriptura” (scripture only) which does not hold up under scrutiny. First, the Bible does not teach sola scriptura. Second, there was no such doctrine in the church for 1500 years until the Reformers invented it. Thirdly, due to the idea of sola scriptura, diverse and contradictory interpretations of scripture has spawned thousands of Christian groups each claiming to be based on the Bible.                                                                                        

Here are statements from very diverse groups defending their doctrines and practices based on their loyalty to scripture:  

Seventh-Day Adventists (Sabbath/Saturday worship, adhere to OT law, divergent eschatology; founded in 1863, Battle Creek, MI)

The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will. “We consider our movement to be the result of the Protestant conviction Sola Scriptura — the Bible as the only standard of faith and practice for Christians.” https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/god/holy-scriptures/

Calvary Chapel – (neocharismatic, “non-denominational, founded 1965, Costa Mesa, CA) 

We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, fully inspired without error and the infallible rule of faith and practice. The Word of God is the foundation upon which the church operates and is the basis for which the church is governed. We believe that the Word of God supersedes any earthly law that is contrary to the Holy Scriptures. http://calvarycca.org/statement-of-faith/

Presbyterian Church in America – (Reformed, Calvinist, semi-sacramental; founded 1973, Birmingham, AL)

The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him. The Bible itself being the only infallible rule of faith and practice (though the Westminster Confession of Faith is adopted as its secondary standard). https://www.pcanet.org/

Conservative Baptists of America ( beliefs, practices vary church to church; founded 1943/1947)

We believe the sixty-six canonical books of the Old and New Testaments are the divinely inspired, infallible Word of God, without error in the original manuscripts, and God’s complete, written revelation to humankind. The Bible is sufficient and trustworthy for life, faith, conduct, and practice, and is the supreme and final authority in all matters to which it speaks. We further believe there is but one true interpretation of Scripture, although there may be several applications. The true meaning lies in the text and is that which the divinely-guided author willed to convey. It is recoverable through careful application of a literal (grammatical, historical, contextual) method of interpretation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in the community of Christ. The Holy Spirit illumines the text, enabling the reader to embrace the significance of what God has communicated, and to see the glory of Christ in the Word of God. http://cbamerica.org/identity/what-we-believe/

Southern Baptist Convention  (beliefs, practices vary church to church, reject infant baptism, must immerse; non-sacramental, various eschatology’s; founded 1845, Augusta, GA)

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/basicbeliefs.asp

 

United Methodist (Wesleyan, semi-sacramental and semi-liturgical, Arminian theology, practices vary church to church; organized 1968)

In early times and over many generations, the sixty-six books were thoughtfully used by faithful people. In the process their merits were weighed, and the community of believers finally gave them special authority. Tested by faith, proven by experience, these books have become sacred; they’ve become our rule for faith and practice. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-christian-roots-the-bible
 

Assembly of God USA (baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking with tongues; divine healing is integral part of the gospel; origin 1914, formal organization 1989)

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct. https://ag.org/Beliefs/Statement-of-Fundamental-Truths#1

Church of Christ/American Restoration Movement (baptism necessary for salvation, non-liturgical, non-ecclesial, non-creedal; various practices church to church; beginning of 19th c.) 

Wikipedia writes this (which could be applied to most denominations or associations of churches): “Members of the Churches of Christ believe that Jesus founded only one church, that the current divisions among Christians do not express God’s will, and that the only basis for restoring Christian unity is the BibleChurches of Christ seek to practice the principle of the Bible being the only source to find doctrine (known elsewhere as sola scriptura). The Bible is generally regarded as inspired and inerrant. Churches of Christ generally see the Bible as historically accurate and literal, unless scriptural context obviously indicates otherwise. Regarding church practices, worship, and doctrine, there is great liberty from congregation to congregation in interpreting what is biblically permissible, as congregations are not controlled by a denominational hierarchy. Their approach to the Bible is driven by the “assumption that the Bible is sufficiently plain and simple to render its message obvious to any sincere believer”. Related to this is an assumption that the Bible provides an understandable “blueprint” or “constitution” for the church.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_of_Christ

Campus Crusade for Christ (representative of many “para-church,” evangelical organizations)

The sole basis of our beliefs is the Bible, God’s infallible written Word, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. We believe that it was uniquely, verbally and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it was written without error (inerrant) in the original manuscripts. It is the supreme and final authority in all matters on which it speaks.

We accept those areas of doctrinal teaching on which, historically, there has been general agreement among all true Christians. Because of the specialized calling of our movement, we desire to allow for freedom of conviction on other doctrinal matters, provided that any interpretation is based upon the Bible alone, and that no such interpretation shall become an issue which hinders the ministry to which God has called us.

Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (conservative; 1847, Chicago) 

We furthermore teach regarding the Holy Scriptures that they are given by God to the Christian Church for the foundation of faith, Eph. 2:20. Hence the Holy Scriptures are the sole source from which all doctrines proclaimed in the Christian Church must be taken and therefore, too, the sole rule and norm by which all teachers and doctrines must be examined and judged. — With the Confessions of our Church we teach also that the “rule of faith” (analogia fidei) according to which the Holy Scriptures are to be understood are the clear passages of the Scriptures themselves which set forth the individual doctrines. https://www.lcms.org/about/beliefs/doctrine/brief-statement-of-lcms-doctrinal-position#holy-scriptures
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (moderate/liberal; From website: “This is Christ’s Church;” 1988)
Lutheran Christians say that the Scriptures are the “source and norm” of their teaching and practice. http://www.elca.org/Faith/ELCA-Teaching/Scripture-Creeds-Confessions
 
Anglican Church in North America (2009)
We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.  http://www.anglicanchurch.net/index.php/main/Theology/
 

Episcopal Church (From website: “The Episcopal Church is a spiritual home free of judgment and inclusive for all;” 1789 in USA) 

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 236). 
[Scripture] is our foundation, understood through tradition and reason, containing all things necessary for salvation. Our worship is filled with Scripture from beginning to end. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/bible
VineyardUSA (neocharismatic, emphasis on kingdom of God, worship, spiritual gifts; 1982) 
We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors of Holy Scripture so that the Bible is without error in the original manuscripts. We receive the sixtysix books of the Old and New Testaments as our final, absolute authority, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. https://vineyardusa.org/about/core-values-beliefs/
 
Oneness Pentecostals (nontrinitarian, baptism in Jesus’ name only, receipt of Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues; 1914) 
Oneness Pentecostalism subscribes to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. They view the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and as absolutely inerrant in its contents (though not necessarily in every translation). They specifically reject the conclusions of church councils such as the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. They believe that mainstream Trinitarian Christians have been misled by long-held and unchallenged “traditions of men.” For a look at how their nontrinitarian doctrine is “proved” by scripture see:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/oneness-god-biblical-explanation-denis-mercier/ This is heresy. 
Mennonite Church USA (roots in 16th c. Radical Reformation, Meno Simons (1536), USA: 2002)  
We acknowledge the Scripture as the authoritative source and standard for preaching and teaching about faith and life, for distinguishing truth from error, for discerning between good and evil, and for guiding prayer and worship. Other claims on our understanding of Christian faith and life, such as tradition, culture, experience, reason, and political powers, need to be tested and corrected by the light of Holy Scripture. mennoniteusa.org/confession-of-faith/scripture/
 
American Baptist Churches (USA) (beliefs and practices vary from church to church, 1907, Washington DC)
Holy Scripture always has been for us the most authoritative guide to knowing and serving the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer). As the divinely-inspired word of God, the Bible for us reveals our faith and its mandated practice…we have tended to avoid embracing prepared creeds or other statements that might compromise our obligation to interpret Scripture as individuals within the community of faith under the guidance of the Holy Spirit…Cherishing our own God-given gift of freedom has motivated us to support religious freedom for all to seek God’s will. Although this has allowed for distinctive opinions within our congregations both on aspects of our faith and their application within society, most of us would admit that dialog is a healthy means of spiritual growth. As it encourages its members to seek continually the mind of Christ in all matters, American Baptist Churches USA respects the variety of theological understandings that its members, and other Christians, have embraced.Believing in the priesthood of all believers, the ABCUSA avoids using creeds, affirming the freedom of individual Christians and local churches to interpret scripture as the Holy Spirit leads them. The ABCUSA affirms the ordination of women. http://www.abc-usa.org/what_we_believe/the-bible/

Messianic Congregations (observe and celebrate Jewish Holy Days, “Biblical Judaism”)

That the BIBLE, consisting of the Tenach (Holy Scriptures) and the later writings commonly known as the B’rit Hadasha (New Covenant), is the only infallible and authoritative word of God. We recognize its divine inspiration, and accept its teachings as our final authority in all matters of faith and practice. http://iamcs.org/about-us/belief
Conclusions: 
  1. Since individual Christians can interpret the Bible for themselves, they believe what they want as long as they can find some Bible verses to back it up. 
  2. Christian churches can believe very different doctrines but still claim be one church in the faith. 
  3. The Bible is not clear in what it teaches or people are terribly poor at interpreting it. 
  4. Many of these churches “maintain historical, Biblical orthodoxy and embrace the authority of Scripture” yet disagree with one another. How can this be actually true? The principle of noncontradiction – that truth cannot contradict truth – is not applied to doctrinal issues, apparently. 
  5. The Bible can be used to prove almost any doctrine, even a heretical one. 

This theological malaise makes it extremely difficult to challenge people to know God. Many don’t know what to believe or are confused as to who’s actually proclaiming the truth. Plus, it’s acceptable to “pick and choose” according to one’s individual understanding. When there are thousands of authorities, there are no authorities…except one’s own self. 

It’s beyond the scope of this post to offer any solutions. It’s enough to hope you will wrestle with the reality of a fragmented, dis-unified, and defective Western Christianity as if it matters…because it does. 

Dr. K 

15 Dangerous Teachings of Jesus You Better Ignore

If You Seriously Try To Practice Them They'll Mess Up Your Life

Leave it to Jesus to mess up your comfortable life. He’s only supposed to get you into paradise when you die. That’s all, folks! No to hell; yes to heaven. He died on the cross to pay for your sins and give you a home in heaven. Everything else he did or said, you can ignore, right? What He teaches doesn’t matter as long as you’re headed for the streets of gold and your (10,000 sq. ft.) mansion in the sky. 

So, just ignore what He said: 

1. Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Matthew 19.15, Mark 10.15, Luke 18.17).

This is a regular theme of Jesus – it’s children who enter the kingdom. Unruly, curious, simple, and unlearned children are the example of those who enter the kingdom of heaven. Young children are the standard of faith by which adults receive the kingdom of heaven not the other way around.

2. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (John 6.35)and this bread, which I give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6.62).

Even some of Jesus’ disciples rejected him and this “hard saying” and “walked with him no more.” The same is happening today. Many try to rationally explain the nature of this mystery or explain it away. These disciples didn’t walk away from Jesus over a metaphor or symbol. Jesus meant literally what he said here (as always!). 

3. Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also (Mathew 5.39).

We often do not know what is good for us or harmful (evil). We think we know what’s harmful, label it as such, and resist it. But, God may have other reasons for us to experience this “evil” of which we are unaware, thus, making it “good.” Real evil is to be overcome with good (Romans 12.21). Learn to resist nothing since all things are for our good. 

4. Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom God (Luke 6.20).

In Hebrew, the “poor” means both a) the materially poor and b) the faithful among God’s people. These folks are totally dependent on God for their existence and life. Total dependence on God is a foreign reality to most modern, Western Christians, you and me included. 

5. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Matthew 5.9).

Don’t you become a child of God by faith alone? To be given the title “child of God” you must be a peacemaker, that is, you participate in God’s peace by grace through faith (but not faith alone). Participating in the peace of the Father, Jesus the Prince of Peace, and Holy Spirit (giver of peace), enables you to share God’s peace with others; become a peacemaker. 

6. Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while there is still a beam in your eye? You hypocrite. first take the beam out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7.1-5).

You won’t have time to remove the tiny fault in someone else when you really see the huge mess that you are. Truth is, you’ll never see clearly. So, give up trying to correct the faults of others and deal with your own crap. 

7. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6.33).

Do you see God, HIs kingdom and righteousness, as the most important reality in your life? A starving person craves food. A drowning person gasps for air. A true Christian is intense and unstoppable in his/her desire to know God. All else – food, clothing, shelter – find their rightful place only as one craves after God. 

8. Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body what you will wear (Matthew 6.34).

How much time, money, thought, and effort is put into providing for our physical needs? We can easily worry about these things indicating a lack of trust in God’s ability to provide. Are you consumed by earthly things or God? 

9. 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. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7.21-23)

Only the doers of the Father’s will enter the kingdom. Those who heal, give words of knowledge, prophesy, drive out demons, see visions, and “perform miracles” – even in Lord’s name! – better wise up. So should those who have learned to say the right words. Simply and consistently doing the will of the Father trumps all performances. Do you know the Father well enough that when He wills something you automatically do it?  

10. Be careful not to practice your charitable deeds in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6.1).

Giving of ourselves or our possessions is always good unless our motive is to look good to others. No one has pure motives. Have you ever congratulated yourself or looked for the “Thank you” from others for doing something charitable? This is a subtle attitude we need to struggle with because it affects our relationship with God. 

11. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6.6).

Prayer is primarily an intimate, communion with the Triune God. This kind of meeting with God is it’s own reward. Unfortunately, prayer has become a way to display one’s “piety” before others whether in a small group or a larger church meeting. Use of right-sounding words, voice inflection, and remembering the requests become priority. All that disappears when you’re in solitude, honest and open with God. He becomes your reward.  

12. You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5.43-45).

Doesn’t the mercy of God irritate you at times? Why doesn’t He destroy the wicked? Instead, he treats then with the same grace he treats you and asks you to do the same. Love, pray for, act like God towards those who hurt and try to destroy me? It’s difficult enough to love those we love. This is really too much. Love and pray for everyone? Ugh! 

13. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5.48).

Perfection, God-likeness, is our destiny. It is also our journey. You are on earth, in Christ, to be perfect. Being of good character, spiritually-minded or mature, a good church member, and servant-leader are all good yet incomplete. St. Paul prayed for us to be filled with the fullness of God. St. Peter writes that we are partakers of the divine nature. What are you doing to journey in and towards God-likeness?  

14. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force (Matthew 11.12).

According to St. John Chrysostom, the violent who take the kingdom by force are those who have such earnest desire for Christ that they let nothing stand between themselves and faithfully living in Him. Is that how you approach the kingdom of God? 

15. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17.3).

Eternal life is not a “thing” given to one who believes. It is the life of God available to enter and live into in an ongoing, loving experience of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Eternal life is a participation in His divine life and in communion with the Trinity. Knowledge here is not merely an intellectual or confident assertion of faith. Since eternal life is the life of God, you must learn to live in it not just believe it.

There’s no getting around it. Jesus upsets your comfortable little Christian world if you take His words seriously and if they matter to you. Or, you can ignore them as most Christians do, and live as you please.  

But if they matter then the struggle to practice these weighty sayings becomes real in your daily living. In the struggle comes great joy and anguish. It’s supposed to be like that. 

Let’s join together in the struggle. It’ll be a beautiful mess. 

Dr. K 

**Some of the comments on Jesus’ teachings were informed by the study notes in the Orthodox Study Bible, 2008, Thomas Nelson Publishers.