March 08, 2006

If You Ever Wondered…

…if Chuck Norris really exists, I found the proof to end all proofs.

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On The State of American Christianity

I read an article today entitled, “Why I am a Christian (Sort of…).” It started off in a rather unusual way:

I don’t believe in God.

I don’t believe Jesus Christ was the son of a God that I don’t believe in, nor do I believe Jesus rose from the dead to ascend to a heaven that I don’t believe exists.

Given these positions, this year I did the only thing that seemed sensible: I formally joined a Christian church.

Why? The author contends that he joined a church for the social, moral, and even political value. Perhaps (but only perhaps) it is a compliment to the church that even an atheist saw something worthwhile about the people in the church. It is sad—even disturbing—that someone would join what purports to be a fellowship of God’s children without acknowledging that very God. But was deeply disturbs me is this revelation:

The pastor and most of the congregation at St. Andrew’s understand my reasons for joining, realizing that I didn’t convert in a theological sense but joined a moral and political community.

I’m appalled. Has the body of Christ truly sunk this low? Have we entirely forgotten who we are? Do we any longer bear any right to be called Christians? I’m appalled—though, frankly, not that surprised.

Followers of Christ have entirely forgotten who we are. We are pushed and compelled by the forces of the world around us to become more tolerant and loving and accepting, less arrogant and proud. All roads lead to a good God. God would only judge the obviously bad people—and then only if He’s having a bad day. Even those of us that claim Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—all others excepted—forget the very basis of that Way. We try to live good lives, be nice people, and look very pious and spiritual and friendly. We may (or may not) insist as Christ being the only way—but we treat Him as simply some sort of password to open the pearly gates. And, no, now that you mention it, I can’t think of any real differences between Christianity and Islam…or Hinduism…or Wicca…or even a good atheist. We’re all trying to be good people, right? I mean, I still think this Jesus guy makes the most sense, but who am I to really say that someone else is wrong?

And, before we know it, we’ve lost who we are. Christianity—or, rather, the empty shell that’s left—has gotten sucked into a vast web of generic spirituality. We simply call ourselves “Christian” because that’s the local word for “nice guy”—and who doesn’t think of themselves as a very “nice guy”?

Christianity—that is, following Jesus Christ—has one distinctive that separates it from every other religion. (Feel free to push me on this—I’d love to hear your comments.) It is grace.

This isn’t the “cheap grace” that you find when someone decides to pardon you when you tell them you took a pencil from their desk ten years ago, a pardon that costs them (and you) nothing. It isn’t a grace that drops the bar so low that no one, no matter how evil they may appear, really has done anything wrong. It isn’t a grace of a half-drunk judge who forgets to look at the evidence before sending you out of the courtroom with instructions to the nearest tavern, scot-free.

No, rather it is a grace that first tells us that we don’t measure up. We don’t measure up to the standards we hold others to, we don’t measure up to the standards we hold for ourselves, we don’t measure up to the standards of a holy God. Only He does that. And, since He has declared from the beginning of time that there are consequences when we fall short—just like the consequences your boss gives you when you “accidentally” loose several millions of company revenues—He must keep His word. We’ll get what we deserve—everyone will.

But that is why Christ came. He measured up—and got what we deserve in His death on the Cross. He was willing to take our place and our punishment, though He had done nothing wrong, if we are but willing to follow Him with our whole lives, as our Lord and Master and God.

That’s real freedom—a freedom knowing that we don’t have to be weighed down by our “falling short”—because Christ took the punishment for us.

That is our distinctive; that is what separates Christianity from all else. Christianity isn’t cultural, it isn’t social, it isn’t political. It is the following of a God who became man in order to not only be with us—but to rescue us…from ourselves.

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Rita’s Scrapbooking Pages

We had a request in the comments for directions to get to Rita’s scrapbooking pages—thanks Mrs. Mahan!—so I though I would (at long last) give directions for those who might be confused.

You should see a menu near the top or left of the page, with titles like “Home,” “About Us,” etc. Eventually, you’ll find one called “Photos.” When you mouse of each of these, you should see a pop-up menu that displays sub-items. You’ll find “Rita’s Pages” under the “Photos” item I mentioned earlier?

Make sense?

I also thought I’d let you know a few other features of the site while I’m at it.

First, as many of you have discovered, you can leave comments by clicking the text containing the word “Comments” under each post.

You may not realize that you can “filter” the posts that you see using the links next to the “Category:” label. All of our posts are arranged in a hierarchical fashion, meaning that there are topics within sub-topics. Rita and I both have our own topics, and I have several sub-topics within mine. This post, for instance, is in the “Web Site” category, which you can see at the bottom of this post. If you just want to see the items in the “Web Site” category, you can click on that text and it will automatically filter the posts. To get back to normal, just click “Home.”

To get around to older posts, you can use the calender, usually on the upper right.

Also, on the right hand side, you will find a list of the “most recently updated pages.” This list does not include blog postings, but does include all other files on the site—genealogical information, Rita’s scrapbooking, and my Sunday School class notes.

Rita probably pointed you to the different “Colors” that you can switch to, also by using the menu.

Finally, if you find a post that you really like, you may find it difficult to link to, since new content is always being added. (Well, at least when I remember that I have a blog and ought to add to it…) The “~permanent link~” is used for that purpose. If you click on the link and copy the URL that it points to, you will have a link that will work no matter how much more content is added to this site—at least until I decide to try and redesign the entire site. Again. :-)

Hope that was helpful! Leave a comment if you have questions!

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