Tag Archives: faith

IXTHUS Is More Than A Fish

I had the privilege of speaking to my daughters’ co-op this week. They have been studying the Greek and Roman era, and the teachers asked me to come speak on the Early Church experience in that era. As always, I find that speaking with the kids helps remind me of what is most important… more than anything I teach them, I’m sure!

We closed the lesson by making an IXTHUS, or fish, in plaster. Now, as far as many today know, the fish is just an emblem on the back of a car. If you know a little more about it, you know it is a sign of Christianity. And if you know a little more, you know that early Christians used the Greek word for fish (IXTHUS) as an acronym for the words “Jesus, Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”

Of course, an old joke comes to mind. A police officer stops a driver and wants to see his license and registration. The driver shows it to him, and the officer is about to let him go. Before going, the driver asks what that was all about. The officer replies, “I saw you screaming at that other driver and honking your horn, but I saw the fish emblem on the car, so I assumed the car was stolen.”

Two thoughts come to mind: 1) Christianity is more than simply placing a symbol on our cars, and 2) There is a radical difference in how the fish symbol is used today vs. the early church. You see, the fish symbol wasn’t boldly placed in the open…rather, it was a private sign to believers to know where to safely meet to worship.

Many Christians today are serious about their faith. They have changed their lives, radically, in order to serve Christ. They are doing what they can to live in the faith. I don’t want to downplay that at all.

But, if you are like me, you can’t help but be impressed, and a little overwhelmed, with the faith of those in the early church. At best, they had trouble working and feeding their families because they wouldn’t sacrifice to the Greek & Roman gods. At worst, they were burned, beaten, crucified, and fed to lions.

So when I teach Christianity in the early church, and I teach the fish symbol, it gives me pause. Do I have any understanding, in the freedom of America, of what it means to worship as the early church did? And, without persecution, have we lapsed in our awe and reverence? And, would we be faithful if challenged at that level in our faith?

As the disciples cried out in Luke 17:5, “increase our faith,” Lord!

Take It On Faith…And Hear The Applause!

It took a moment for David Colby to figure out what the fuss was about. David is an amateur golfer who was playing at the CareerBuilder Challenge in Palm Springs. He had just teed off on a par 3 at the 17th when he heard loud cheering and applause from the gallery…a hole-in-one!

To say the least, the look on Colby’s face was amusing. If it had been my shot, they would have been cheering because I made it on the green! Instead, Colby got a hole-in-one and won a car at the same time.

The reason Colby was clueless about his shot was the topography of the hole. He was hitting into an area where he couldn’t see the green. But there was no doubt. Why? The applause of the crowd.

There are a couple of great lessons I like from Colby’s experience:

#1, “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitudes rule those who choose to deny God, but in all other areas of life, people accept far less data than scripture provides. Colby heard applause, his caddy gave him a high-five, and a tournament director told him he won a car. He accepted, as fact, all of this, without having seen it. Why? Reliable testimony.

#2, He knew he had victory because of the applause of the crowd. Many were cheering for him. They were happy to see him succeed. Also, a hole-in-one is a rare feat in golf, and many were glad to have witnessed the shot.

The Bible teaches both lessons:

#1, Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Seeing isn’t the only way of believing. The evidence, nevertheless, is there.

#2, Hebrews 12:1 teaches that great acts of faith, by the faithful who have gone on before us, continue to cheer us on. They remind us to remain faithful, even unto death.

Listen. Can you hear the cheering? We overcome in Him. A hole-in-one may win you a car, but remaining faithful leads to an eternal crown of righteousness. Our victory is in Jesus!

She Made A Different Choice

faith“Did I do something wrong?” That was the question a humanist French journalist (identified as “Isabelle”) asked after finding out that her daughter had converted to Judaism. She followed that up with, “I have nothing against Judaism. I am just against any religion.”

Isabelle doesn’t think much of religion. She grew up attending Catholic School, became an atheist, and is now a self-declared “progressive, humanist woman.” Religions, she believes, tell you how to think, as opposed to being a libre penseur, “free thinker.”

Nevertheless, it is in fact, ‘thinking for herself,’ that caused Isabelle’s daughter to choose another path. It is a path that leads to faith and religion. It is a path that many French youth are apparently choosing as well.

You see, Isabelle’s daughter’s generation is asking questions and seeking answers that their parents’ atheism is incapable of answering. Isabelle’s daughter believes that her parents’ philosophies have failed to bring about positive change in society. So she said, “I need something else.”

Still, the choice doesn’t come easily. Scripture says, “Honor your Father and Mother.” As any person who has made the choice to leave the religion of their parents knows, it can cause tension.

But honoring parents doesn’t mean making the same choices that they made, especially since choices have eternal consequences. The same God who said, honor your Father and Mother,” also reminds us that religion is a choice, not an inheritance. God expects us to think for ourselves, to reason through the evidence, and to make a decision.

Joshua gave the Israelites this choice. He said that they had 3 options: 1) worship the idols of the land they conquered, 2) continue the failed ideas of their parents, or 3) they could choose God. As for him and his family, no question about it, they would choose God (Joshua 24:15).

And, Joshua told the Israelites to choose “today.” There is urgency. No one wants to offend a parent or grandparent, but each day is a precious opportunity to make a better choice.

If I can help, get in touch…I’d love to show you how the evidence leads to Jesus.

Don’t Be Fooled: Politico-Religious God Speak is NOT The Gospel

bible-american-flagWow…he mentioned God, the Bible, and America! He must be the faith candidate. Oh, wait so did all the other candidates. Is her faith better than his? Does all that political, religious jargon mean anything? Can anyone figure out what is going on here???

Are you a person of faith? Most are. According to a new Barna poll, despite religious affiliation going down slightly, almost 90% of Americans still believe in God. So it is only natural that we listen carefully to what candidates say when it comes to their faith. But sorting through all the “spin” can make you dizzy.

And the law of the land seems to be: don’t look at the particulars of my religion or faith, but hear me when I say “faith-words.” It becomes increasingly difficult to know where candidates actually stand. “Why?” Because the new spin is a benign appearing, but ultimately malignant, gospel that I call “politico-religion.”

Politico-religion, as I would define it, is “a religion that proclaims a faith in God and a desire for Him to bless us, yet absolves us of meeting those distinguishing requirements by which He measures our faith and determines His blessings.” In other words, as a country, we like “God-talk,” that is devoid of specifics regarding God’s Word. And therein lies the problem.

Presidential candidates jockey to be the “faith candidate,” and we can’t blame them. It would be political suicide to do otherwise. Any Presidential candidate, who has any chance of being elected, has to proclaim faith in God and a trust that God will continue to bless America. But politico-religion is the embarrassingly ugly cousin of the true gospel.

The gospel doesn’t begin or end at “God bless America.”

Watering down the gospel is never God-pleasing Christianity. There is no such thing as a Christian faith that absolves us of our Christian lives. Yet we continuously make exceptions and excuses in order to support a candidate who sounds “faithy.”

“What are we supposed to do,” you ask? “These are the choices we have. And though, not perfect, shouldn’t we vote for a candidate who is “closer” to our ideology?”

Fine. Just don’t believe that you are furthering His Kingdom when you promote a candidate who preaches a gospel that is clearly different from His. If you are going to invoke God, you might want to consider what God’s Word says.

For example, Hillary Clinton’s speeches that encourage people to live up to their “God-given potential,” followed by a litany of God-denounced activities, would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. One simply cannot “use” God on the broad strokes and chuck Him when it is time for the details.

Remember Mitt Romney? Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormon beliefs include: the Book of Mormon is to be believed over the Bible; dark skin is Cain’s curse from God; Satan and Jesus are brothers; Joseph Smith is responsible for a revelation leading to salvation; men can become angels; men can become gods; Jesus is the product of God and a goddess, …need I go on?

Yet 80% of evangelicals liked the faith-talk Romney used and he received the “faith vote.” Was it ok to support Romney if you believed him to be the more qualified candidate? Sure. Just don’t think that voting for a Mormon promotes the gospel. Mormons are not, what Joel Osteen called, “brothers in Christ.” The idea is absurd!

Thomas Kidd, professor of history and religion at Baylor University in Texas, puts the current race between Donald Trump and Ben Carson in similar terms:

“…a lot of evangelicals would…rather have a practicing Adventist than a nominal Presbyterian who doesn’t seem to have basic theological understanding about Christianity.”

Yet 7th Day Adventism denies basic tenants of Christianity. They reject the immortality of the soul; they believe there is no hell or personal responsibility for sin (sins will be placed on Satan); they think Ellen White was a prophet with new revelation from God, they insist worship must be done on Saturday, and they believe Jesus is the angel Michael. Yet Ben Carson’s support as the “faith candidate” grows.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump claimed that his faith, as a Presbyterian, is “middle of the road” and is safer than Carson’s. He failed to mention that it is the PC-USA wing of the denomination, known for ultra-liberal stances (denying inerrancy of the Bible, performing same-sex marriages, belief that homosexuality is not a sin, etc). In fact, where he “attends” occasionally is a different denomination altogether, and they wrote a letter saying he is not a member. Is that what the gospel is all about?

So…at the end of the day, do politico-religious politicians even care what God’s position is? I can’t say, but it doesn’t appear so. Those who worship at that altar seem interested in using enough “God speak” to get evangelical votes while not losing irreligious constituents or committing themselves to any actual Biblical positions.

Our job is not to rewrite, water down, or change the true gospel. And, if you want to support a candidate, just say you like something about them or their party. But let’s quit using “God-speak” as an excuse. Because, frankly, it is embarrassing.

Every time a Christian says they support a politico-religious candidate because of their “Christianity,” the true gospel of Christ’s  is tarnished and the effectiveness of the church is damaged. Far too many politico-religious, God-speak, politicians have been elected on that banner and then disgrace the name of God once elected.

And if you REALLY want a CHRISTIAN to be elected to an office, then demand better. It is your right as an American to promote candidates who really do profess the Bible and the true gospel. Encourage believers to get involved in politics if you want Christian politicians. But be wary of equating faith-speak and the gospel, because they are not necessarily the same…at all.

As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord, no matter who gets elected. We will continue to be proponents for God and His gospel. And we will pray that our leaders will turn to God while there is a today left in which to turn. And we pray that God will, in deed, bless America…with a heart to do His will.