The Right Response

Five days ago I published a blog post on my Reflections blog titled, The Upside of Anger.” If you haven’t read it, you might wonder about the title, but you might be surprised at the content. You can take a look at it by clicking on this link.

This morning I read a verse I received in a “Verse of the Day” email that quoted 2 Corinthians 4:7-9. Paul states the following in these three verses:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m hard pressed for whatever reason my first response is not often love, and depending on what is or who is causing it and if it continues unabated for what seems like a never-ending period of time, love tends to fade. But be aware that it is the intent of whoever or whatever is causing us to be hard pressed to make us want to push back in anger and other destructive and/or self-destructive ways. You might want to listen to the 12-minute YouTube video I published on my The Upside of Anger blog post titled, The Christian’s Guide to Anger Management,” at this link.

My blog post, The Upside of Anger,” came about because I was starting to develop a crusty edge regarding my current set of circumstances which I won’t go into because the details aren’t important. However, when one is hard-pressed day after day after day, the urge be angry at some point rears it’s head; but, again, this is exactly the type of response these types of situations try to bring out in us. And while I have not displayed any anger on the outside, I knew what I was feeling on the inside, and I was letting it build up.

What I discovered while writing that blog post helped me to see that there is an upside to anger, but we humans have a tendency to use the destructive side of anger far too often. Think of road rage as just one example. Turn on the TV, go to a movie, or go on social media for any length of time and you’ll see plenty of examples of anger that is destructive. It’s about revenge, retribution, hate, destruction, and it’s absolutely not about forgiveness, understanding or love. That kind of anger just wants to get even in some way.

In a blog post I published on September 9, 2017, titled, That Thing Called Love,” I published the following quote by Joyce Meyer:

I read a quote that Joyce Meyerone of the world’s best known practical Bible teachers and a New York Times bestselling author, shared in her book titled, “Let God Fight Your Battles” (2015) regarding our real enemy on pages 108-109:

A good friend who is a Greek scholar once shared with me a paraphrase of John 10:10It gives us a clear idea of just how determined the enemy is to kill, steal, and destroy, but it also shows us that Jesus has something else altogether in mind.

“The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. In fact, this pickpocket is looking for any opportunity to wiggle his way so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk off with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all–when he’s finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plan to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice everything that remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, flat broke, and cleaned out in every area of your life. You’ll end up feeling as if you are finished and out of business! Make no mistake–the enemy’s ultimate aim is to obliterate you!

“But I [Jesus] came that they might have, keep, and constantly retain a vitality, gusto, vigor, and zest for living that springs up from deep down inside. I [Jesus] came that they might embrace this unrivaled, unequaled, matchless, incomparable, richly-loaded and overflowing life to the ultimate maximum!” (Quote from Rick Renner, “Sparkling Gems,” 2003, as quoted on pp. 108-109 in “Let God Fight Your Battles,” 2015.)

When we are hard pressed, the root cause of it goes back to the words of Jesus in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” And Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 6:10-18 what is the true source of all of our battles in life (see verse 12).

The following also comes from that same blog post which are the words of Jesus taken from Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Even Jesus got angry on several occasions. GotQuestions.org states the following regarding Jesus’ anger:

When Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers and animal-sellers, He showed great emotion and anger (Matthew 21:12-13Mark 11:15-18John 2:13-22). Jesus’ emotion was described as “zeal” for God’s house (John 2:17). His anger was pure and completely justified because at its root was concern for God’s holiness and worship. Because these were at stake, Jesus took quick and decisive action. Another time Jesus showed anger was in the synagogue of Capernaum. When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5).

Many times, we think of anger as a selfish, destructive emotion that we should eradicate from our lives altogether. However, the fact that Jesus did sometimes become angry indicates that anger itself, as an emotion, is amoral. This is borne out elsewhere in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us “in your anger do not sin” and not to let the sun go down on our anger. The command is not to “avoid anger” (or suppress it or ignore it) but to deal with it properly, in a timely manner. We note the following facts about Jesus’ displays of anger:

1) His anger had the proper motivation. In other words, He was angry for the right reasons. Jesus’ anger did not arise from petty arguments or personal slights against Him. There was no selfishness involved. 

2) His anger had the proper focus. He was not angry at God or at the “weaknesses” of others. His anger targeted sinful behavior and true injustice.

3) His anger had the proper supplement. Mark 3:5 says that His anger was attended by grief over the Pharisees’ lack of faith. Jesus’ anger stemmed from love for the Pharisees and concern for their spiritual condition. It had nothing to do with hatred or ill will.

4) His anger had the proper control. Jesus was never out of control, even in His wrath. The temple leaders did not like His cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:47), but He had done nothing sinful. He controlled His emotions; His emotions did not control Him. 

5) His anger had the proper duration. He did not allow His anger to turn into bitterness; He did not hold grudges. He dealt with each situation properly, and He handled anger in good time.

6) His anger had the proper result. Jesus’ anger had the inevitable consequence of godly action. Jesus’ anger, as with all His emotions, was held in check by the Word of God; thus, Jesus’ response was always to accomplish God’s will.

When we get angry, too often we have improper control or an improper focus. We fail in one or more of the above points. This is the wrath of man, of which we are told “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Jesus did not exhibit man’s anger, but the righteous indignation of God. (Quote source here.)

Those six points above and how Jesus responded are so important for us to consider when we find ourselves getting angry over any type of situation.

Also, in Matthew 5:21-26 (MSG) Jesus addresses the subject of anger as follows:

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother “idiot!” and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell “stupid!” at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.

Those words should give us pause to consider our own anger tendencies and learn to curtail them before they get the better of us; and when they do, make the first move and seek forgiveness whenever it is possible to do so.

Sometimes our anger might come from the fact that we just want someone to stand up for us in the midst of our current battle instead of trying to fight it or figure it out all alone. I know in my own situation I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked God to send me just one real life, flesh and blood human being who will come to my aid to help me resolve this situation that has gone on for years now without any resolution. Just one. It reminds me of a devotion I read in a small book titled, Experience the Power of God’s Names (2017), by Dr. Tony Evanspastor, speaker, author, widely syndicated radio and television broadcaster, and founder ofThe Urban Alternative.” He writes the following on page 61:

When you were a kid, did anyone stand up for you whenever another person was mean to you? Maybe a big brother or sister or a trustworthy friend went to bat for you. Or a parent or teacher helped protect you from harm. You may have fought some battles on your own, but at other times the problem was too big for you to handle alone. That’s when you relied on that trusted sibling or friend or adult to step in for backup.

Life is filled with battles. Sometimes we’ve brought on the problem ourselves, and we need to take action to improve the situation, At other times, we’re not at all to blame. Heartbreak, pain, and difficulty seek us out, and we feel unequipped to fight on our own. No matter who or what is to blame, we can always call on Elohim Tsebaoth, the God of hosts, to join us in the battle.

In a culture that commands us to take action on our own, we tend to go about our daily business with no regard for others–including God. When we’re struggling to overcome our emotions or lamenting that we’re being treated unfairly, we keep the focus on ourselves. Instead, we need to allow God to lead the charge and follow His instructions. With God on our side, we will always win the battle. (Quote source: “Experience the Power of God’s Names,” page 61.)

While I’m not quite sure how to end this blog post, I think I’ll end it with the following blessing from Psalm 20 for everyone who is waiting for an answer but they haven’t received it yet. Here is that blessing from Psalm 20: 1-5:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices

    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart

    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory

    and lift up our banners in the name of our God, [and]…

May the Lord . . .

Grant all . . .

Your requests . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Message is Love” by Arthur Baker & the Backbeat Disciples (ft. Rev. Al Green):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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The Persistence of Hope

About a month ago I wrote a blog post titled, The Persistence of Memory,” which was named after one of Salvador Dali‘s most famous paintings which he completed in August 1931 when he was 27. At the time he was married to his wife, Gala, and he was “penniless and outcast from the community which had inspired much of his art.” (Quote source here.) Obviously, over time he didn’t stay that way.

Yesterday I got to thinking about the subject of hope. One of America’s most famous poets, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), wrote a now famous poem on the subject of hope titled, Hope is the Thing with Feathers“:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

And sweetest in the Gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet never in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me
(Source here.)

Hope . . . Vocabulary.com defines hope as follows:

“Hope” is something that you want to happen, like you hope to visit Paris this summer, or the feeling that good things will come. If you make it to the final round of a tournament, that gives you hope.

Hope can also be a verb that means “strive for or wish,” as in your hope to become a doctor someday. To hope is to want something to happen, but if instead you said that you intend to become a doctor, that suggests becoming a doctor is more of a goal than a dream. Hope, on the other hand, is more emotional. In fact, some scholars believe it’s linked in meaning to “hop,” in that someone who hopes “leaps in expectation.”

Definitions of hope include: (1) a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled; (2) a specific instance of feeling hopeful; (3) grounds for feeling hopeful about the future. (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions.org gives us the biblical definition of hope:

Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in “I hope something will happen.” This is not what the Bible means by hope. The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.” Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown (Romans 8:24-25Hebrews 11:17). Hope is a fundamental component of the life of the righteous (Proverbs 23:18). Without hope, life loses its meaning (Lamentations 3:18Job 7:6) and in death there is no hope (Isaiah 38:18Job 17:15). The righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped (Psalm 28:7), and they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). The righteous, who have this trustful hope in God, have a general confidence in God’s protection and help (Jeremiah 29:11) and are free from fear and anxiety (Psalm 46:2-3).

The New Testament idea of hope is the recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises (Matthew 12:211 Peter 1:3). Christian hope is rooted in faith in the divine salvation in Christ (Galatians 5:5). Hope of Christians is brought into being through the presence of the promised Holy Spirit (Romans 8:24-25). It is the future hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6), the promises given to Israel (Acts 26:6-7), the redemption of the body and of the whole creation (Romans 8:23-25), eternal glory (Colossians 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Titus 3:5-7), the return of Christ (Titus 2:11-14), transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3), the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10) or simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1).

The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 8:23-25), Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:26). Hope is produced by endurance through suffering (Romans 5:2-5) and is the inspiration behind endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3Hebrews 6:11). Those who hope in Christ will see Christ exalted in life and in death (Philippians 1:20). Trustworthy promises from God give us hope (Hebrews 6:18-19), and we may boast in this hope (Hebrews 3:6) and exhibit great boldness in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:12). By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope (Ephesians 2:121 Thessalonians 4:13).

Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 13:13), and love springs from hope (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit (Romans 12:1215:13). Paul attributes his apostolic calling to the hope of eternal glory (Titus 1:1-2). Hope in the return of Christ is the basis for believers to purify themselves in this life (Titus 2:11-141 John 3:3). (Quote source here.)

GotQuestion.org also states the difference between faith and hope:

Faith and hope are distinct yet related. That there is a difference between faith and hope is evident in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Two of the three greatest gifts are faith and hope, listed separately. That faith and hope are related concepts is seen in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for.”

Faith is a complete trust or confidence in something. Faith involves intellectual assent to a set of facts and trust in those facts. For example, we have faith in Jesus Christ. This means we completely trust Jesus for our eternal destiny. We give intellectual assent to the facts of His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and we then trust in His death and resurrection for our salvation.

Biblical hope is built on faith. Hope is the earnest anticipation that comes with believing something good. Hope is a confident expectation that naturally stems from faith. Hope is a peaceful assurance that something that hasn’t happened yet will indeed happen. Hope must involve something that is as yet unseen: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Romans 8:24). Jesus’ return is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)—we can’t see Him yet, but we know He’s coming, and we anticipate that event with joy.

Jesus said He is coming again (John 14:3). By faith, we trust Jesus’ words, and that leads to hope that we will one day be with Him forever. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That is the basis for our faith. Then we have Jesus’ promise: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). That is the basis of our hope.

The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement park tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement park, based on his father’s word—that is faith. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is hope. The child’s natural trust in his father’s promise is the faith; the child’s squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of the hope.

Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past; hope is looking to the reality of the future. Without faith, there is no hope, and without hope there is no true faith. Christians are people of faith and hope. We have “the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2). (Quote source here.)

In an article published on August 2, 2011, titled, How to Find Hope in Any Situation,” by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director for the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, she writes:

The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Kenneth Hutcherson‘s (1952-2013) book, “Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle,” (published by Zondervan).

When life is going well for you, it’s easy to feel hopeful. But when this fallen world brings trouble into your life, feelings of hopelessness can come in, too. Thankfully, the hope that God offers is much more than a feeling: It’s the reality of His presence with you. You can experience that hope in any situation–even if your health fails, you lose your job, your spouse leaves, or some other tragedy hits you. Here’s how to find hope in any situation:

Stop simply surviving and start thriving. Don’t let difficult circumstances stop you from making the most of each day you’re alive. Realize that even when times are tough, you can do much more than just endure your current situation. You can actually enjoy life to the fullest–even in the middle of the worst circumstances–when you remember that life if a gift from God and decide to embrace it. Ask God to help you notice His presence with you in every situation, and rejoice when you sense Him nearby. Pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind each day so you can have the positive attitudes you need to thrive no matter what is going on in your life.

Choose to trust. When something bad happens in your life, don’t respond by arguing with God or rebelling against Him. Instead, trust God to keep His promise to use all circumstances–including the bad ones–to accomplish good purposes in your life. Remember that God is perfect, so He can’t make any mistakes, and whatever He chooses to do is for a good purpose. If He has allowed something difficult to happen to you, there’s a reason.

Learn and grow from your struggles. God allows you to experience challenging circumstances so you can learn to love and trust Him in deeper ways, and so you can grow more mature, developing a strong character to become more like Jesus. Keep in mind that God is more interested in your lasting holiness than your temporary happiness, because holiness will help you learn to choose what’s best for you. Ask God to help you see your struggles from His perspective. Let your struggles teach you whatever God wants you to learn from them. As you deal with the difficulties in your life, stay focused on what matters most–eternal values–so you can grow into a stronger person in the process.

Resist temptations to sin. Don’t turn to sinful behaviors to try to escape the pain of the tough circumstances you experience; doing so will only make your pain worse. Instead, pray for the strength you need to resist temptation, and pour out your feelings to God. God will respond by giving you comfort that you can’t find from any other source.

Attract others to faith as they watch you. Other people are watching you as you deal with difficult situations. If you respond by being faithful to Jesus, they’ll be drawn to Him themselves because you’ll show them what real faith in action looks like, and that’s attractive. So rather than complaining about your struggles or compromising your values as you try to deal with them, invite Jesus to shine His light through your life, and reflect His character qualities so other people can see how a relationship with Him can help them when they face their own struggles.

Want what God wants for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God doesn’t care about you if He doesn’t give you whatever you ask Him for. Realize that God loves you so much that He gives you what you need, even when it’s not what you want. Keep in mind that, because of your limited perspective on life compared to God’s unlimited perspective, sometimes you ask God for something that seems good but can actually harm you. Trust in the fact that God knows what you need to have the life that brings you the greatest good. Ask God to bring your desires in line with His will for you.

Overcome fear. No matter what kind of situation you may find yourself facing, don’t be afraid, because God will always be with you and have your best interests in mind since He loves you. Whenever feelings of fear creep into your life, turn to God for the help you need to overcome them and successfully navigate your circumstances. Whenever you sense God calling you to do something that requires taking a risk, move forward without fear because God will empower you to do whatever He calls you to do.

Keep heaven in mind. Remember all that awaits you in heaven at the end of your life here on Earth. Let the anticipation of the wonderful experiences you’ll have in heaven motivate you to meet your current challenges with the hope, which will lead to the strength you’ll need to get through any situation. As you think about heaven, focus your mind on what truly matters and let distractions go so you can live life to the fullest right now.

Don’t give up. Whenever your sense of hope starts running out, ask God to renew you with a fresh dose of hope so you can continue to faithfully deal with the difficult situations that come your way. Be confident that at the right time, God will reward you for your faithfulness if you don’t give up your faith in the middle of challenging circumstances. Count on God to give you more hope whenever you ask Him for it.

The above was adapted from “Hope is Contagious: Trusting God in the Face of Any Obstacle,” by Dr. Ken Hutcherson (1952-2013), who was founder and senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church, a multicultural community of faith in the greater Seattle area. A former professional football player, he played for the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, and Dallas Cowboys. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Isaiah 40:28-31: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength . . .

They will soar on wings like eagles . . .

They will run and not grow weary . . .

They will walk and not be faint . . . .

YouTube Video: “Good Fight” by Unspoken:

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On Being Humble

As virtues go, humility is pretty unpopular,” states Patty Onderko in her article, Do These 6 Things to Be More Humble,” published in the December 2015 issue of Success.com. She continues with the following:

Being paid the ‘humble’ compliment can be worse than when a woman gives her romantic partner the “you’re a nice guy” letdown. But many positive psychologists feel that humility is due for an image makeover.

Part of the reason humility has been so overlooked as valuable and honorable is practicality. After all, it’s hard to measure how humble a person is. If researchers ask someone to assess her own humility and the self-rating is five out of five stars, how humble can she really be? This paradox of humility is why you probably haven’t heard of it as a ‘regular’—up there with gratitude, optimism and compassion—in the science of happiness. It’s difficult to quantify and study.”

Humility also has another public relations challenge: It’s not exciting. We might appreciate the trait in others—we don’t feel threatened by unassuming people—but in ourselves? Eh. We’d rather be confident and bold. We’ll take that spotlight, thank you very much. Humility doesn’t have the Oprah-worthy, leather-bound gratitude journals, nor does it feature optimism’s sunny, iconic smiley face, nor the heartwarming imagery of compassion.

But humility could effect just as powerful a positive change in your life as the other pillars of well-being. Higher levels of humility have been associated with a higher sense of life purpose, better (self-reported) health, increased workplace harmony, longer-lasting marriages and greater generosity—all of which contribute to stronger communities. And that’s sort of the point of humility: It’s for the good of all, not just oneself (another reason it’s been a tough sell). “Humility is a very pro-social quality,” says Joshua Hook, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Texas. (Quote source and full article available here.)

So what is humility? Paul summed it up in Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” It shows up in our actions and our attitudes towards others. It is, as Paul states, valuing others above ourselves. And that’s not easy to do in our materialistic, money-driven, and “Me” oriented society.

In an article published on February 3, 2018, titled, Ten Characteristics of a Humble Person, by Craig Finnestad, pastor of The Water’s Edge United Methodist Church, he lists those ten characteristics as follows:

  • A humble person is teachable. Humility believes it can always learn from the education and experiences of others. A humble person is a growing person who is quick to read, invite feedback, and ask good question.
  • A humble person is at peace with themselves and others. Humility embraces contentment and simplicity. It doesn’t need to have the nicest or be the best. Humility puts relationships before the need to be right. Humility enjoys balance and harmony.
  • A humble person is grateful. Humility isn’t entitled. Humility believes it doesn’t deserve a darn thing and is thankful for the many blessings received in life.
  • A humble person is slow to offend and quick to forgive. Humility is keenly mindful of the grace it has received and is quick to extend that grace to others.
  • A humble person asks for help. Humility helps us know who we are and who we are not. Humility allows us to live authentically. Humility sees assistance and support as an opportunity to develop and not as a sign of weakness.
  • A humble person treats everybody with respect. Humility teaches us to believe that we are not much better or worse than anybody else, all people have great value, and all people deserve to be treated as such.
  • A humble person is patient and doesn’t easily get frustrated with the imperfection of others. Humility knows that mistakes and inadequacies are part of life. Humility is tolerant of self and others when deficiencies appear and failures happen.
  • A humble person recognizes their own limitations. Humility doesn’t have a negative view of self. Humility has an accurate view of self. Humility leads us to the powerful and beautiful place of living out our strengths and passions in life.
  • A humble person celebrates the accomplishments of others. Humility sees others as co-pilgrims and collaborators and not competitors. Humility genuinely rejoices when others prosper and triumph.
  • A humble person is open to a deep relationship with God. Humility knows God is the creator of the world and people are the created. Pride elevates self over God. Pride leads us to worship the idols of control–sex, money, and power. Humility leads us to Jesus. (Quote source here.)

I came across a short story titled, True Touching Story to Humble Ourselves,” which is actually a thread started by #Deepthireddy (no author name attributed to it). Here is that story:

I was parked in front of the mall wiping off my car. I had just come from the car wash and was waiting for my husband to get out of work.

Coming my way from across the parking lot was what society would consider a bum. From the looks of him, he had no car, no home, no clean clothes, and no money.

There are times when you feel generous but there are other times that you just don’t want to be bothered. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered times.”

“I hope he doesn’t ask me for any money,” I thought. He didn’t. He came and sat on the curb in front of the bus stop but he didn’t look like he could have enough money to even ride the bus.

After a few minutes he spoke. “That’s a very pretty car,” he said. I said, “thanks,” and continued wiping off my car. He sat there quietly as I worked. The expected plea for money never came.

As the silence between us widened something inside said, “ask him if he needs any help.” I was sure that he would say “yes” but I held true to the inner voice.

“Do you need any help?” I asked. He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. He spoke the three words that shook me.

“Don’t we all?” he said.

I was feeling high and mighty, successful and important, above a bum in the street, until those three words hit me like a twelve gauge shotgun.

Don’t we all?

I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I needed help. I reached in my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare, but enough to get a warm meal and shelter for the day.

We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help, too.

No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded down you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help. Even if it’s just a compliment, you can give that. Maybe that man was just a homeless stranger wandering the streets.

Maybe he was more than that…. (Quote source here.)

There is a difference between genuine humility and it’s counterparts, false humility and pride. In an article published on November 15, 2013, titled Five Ways to Tell if Humility is Real or Fake,” by David J. Bobb, author and president of the Bill of Rights Institute, he writes:

You know the type. In meetings with the boss, your co-worker is deferential and winsome, but back in the office he’s full of bluster and condescension for all around him. In public, he wears humility like it’s a comfortable hat; in private, he’s all about his own self-interest.

Whether in business or politics, on the athletic field or in the classroom, there are lots of people who feign humility but in fact care only about their own agendas.

How can we tell if humility is genuine or fake? Here are five ways:

1. Real humility leads a person to be curious about and concerned for others, not fixated on how others can lead to one’s own enrichment. Humility is putting others first in thought, word, and deed.  It resists the temptation to self-aggrandize.

It’s easy to feign interest in another person if there’s something in it for you, like a job promotion or increased recognition. A person with humility is in it for the long-term common good, not short-term self-interest. Examples include helping  colleagues because of who they are, not because of their position, or writing a great letter of reference for a young person.

As a young man, George Washington had an enormous ego and insatiable appetite for renown. Once he recognized that he had to be ambitious for goals beyond his own advancement, he was better able to check his ego and resist the allure of power for its own sake.

2. Humility is about true service, not self-congratulation. Fawning, fake humility is ingratiating, not giving. It pretends to be generous, but in reality it’s self-centered. Take the humblebrag. When asked to identify a personal weakness, a humblebraggart might say, “I’m always working too hard for everyone else.”

Humility is often erroneously portrayed as poor self-esteem, but in fact it’s the arrogant who have a distorted sense of self. Arrogant people have an exaggerated view of their own contributions, and limit the good they might do by clamoring for credit.

3. In admitting an error or acknowledging that one is wrong, the humble person not only apologizes but also changes course. A person pretending to be humble might say a halfhearted “sorry,” but stubbornly continues down the same path.

Throughout his career, Abraham Lincoln was willing to learn from his mistakes. Like George Washington, Lincoln was a man of immense ambition, but as he made humility his habit, he was able to see with greater moral clarity.

Whether in political or military decisions, Lincoln was willing to own up to his errors.

“I now wish to make personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong,” Lincoln wrote Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. Referring to the General’s decision-making, and ultimate success at the critical Battle of Vicksburg, Lincoln admitted that his own strategic advice had been incorrect. He thanked General Grant for “the almost inestimable service” he gave the nation in making the right decision.

4. Real humility builds up; false humility tears down. The same person who is quick to claim credit for a project done well is often first to blame others whenever there is a problem. When the results aren’t good, Jim Collins writes, a humble leader “looks in the mirror, not out the window.”

5. The more responsibility or power one has, the more humility they need. Often those who have displayed false humility in an upward climb reveal their arrogance when they’ve reached the top. We can be confident that George Washington’s humility was real because when he was at the peak of power he relinquished it—twice—first as general in returning to civilian life and then again as president in leaving office after two terms.

It’s hard to read what is in another person’s heart, but false humility has a way of revealing itself. First Lady, before the term existed, Abigail Adams gave her son advice that rings true even today, “If you begin to think yourself better than others, you will then become less worthy, and lose those qualities which now make you valuable.” (Quote source here.)

I also came across the following chart titled, Distinguishing True Humility from It’s Two Extremes: False Humility and Pride,” on a website titled, Child of Grace.” The chart below was created by Don Schwager, and it is also available at this link:

This chart was created by Don Schwager.

In closing, a 3-Part article titled, How to Be Humble,” on WikiHow, states the following:

“It’s hard to be humble,” says an old country song, “when you’re perfect in every way.” Of course, few people actually think they’re perfect in every way. But it can still be pretty hard to be humble, especially if you live in a society that encourages competition and individuality. Yet even in such a culture, humility remains an important virtue. Learning to be humble is of paramount importance in most spiritual traditions, and humility can help you develop more fully and enjoy richer relationships with others, as well as create opportunities and earn you respect.

Part 1: Accept your limitations (see article for descriptions under each of the following points)

  1. Admit you are not the best at everything–or anything.
  2. Recognize your own faults.
  3. Be grateful for what you have.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  5. Admit your mistakes.
  6. Avoid bragging.
  7. Be considerate in conversations.
  8. Don’t take all the credit.

Part 2: Appreciating Others (see article for descriptions under each of the following points)

  1. Appreciate the talents and qualities of others.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  3. Don’t be afraid to defer to others’ judgments.
  4. Seek guidance from written texts.
  5. Remain teachable.
  6. Help others.
  7. Go last.
  8. Compliment others.
  9. Apologize.
  10. Listen more than you talk.

Part 3: Rediscovering a Sense of Wonder (see article for descriptions under each of the following points)

  1. Rejuvenate your sense of wonder.
  2. Practice gentleness.
  3. Spend more time in nature.
  4. Do yoga.
  5. Spend time around children.

Warnings:

  • Don’t confuse being humble with being sycophantic (being overly-praiseful of someone for your own profit). This is a common misconception, but the two attitudes are completely different.
  • To be humble isn’t the same as being humble, and often people who pretend to be humble do it in order to seek out praise. Other people will recognize this, and even if you fool some, you won’t derive the same benefits as you would through actually developing humility.
  • While humility is a good thing, don’t take it too far, thus becoming a doormat. Remember, everything in moderation. Humility is not a weak trait, it is actually a very strong one in the same way kindness is strong. Standing up for yourself with humility is entirely possible and just takes some practice. Be prepared to need to practice this, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the balance right initially. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words from Paul in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

Forgiving one another . . .

As God in Christ . . .

Forgave you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here (chart)
Photo #4 credit here

All Things New

Lately I’ve been longing for something new, and not just anything new but a change in my circumstances. Once again in the past couple of days when I inquired about how long the wait might be to secure a low income apartment in a senior apartment complex I was told “up to two years.” After all this time (five years now) of searching for an apartment in low income senior apartment complexes, I want to hear a different answer–a “yes” instead of a “wait” or a “no.”

I came across the following two verses in Isaiah 43:18-19 this afternoon as I was contemplating doing another online housing search:

Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

The opening verse took me back to ten years ago in April when I lost my job in Houston, and after a massive years-long job search I never found another one. And almost five years ago, I lost my last apartment when the house where it was located was sold and the new owners wanted to use my apartment for their own purposes. Since then, I’ve been living in hotel rooms as my only source for housing due to my low income on Social Security (I started received it in mid-2014 when I turned 62) while conducing my low income senior housing search. I never dreamed after losing my last apartment in March 2014 that a housing search would take years and end up like my years-long job search which produced zilch. It’s almost as if a brick wall has been built in front of me as I haven’t been able to move forward in any direction (jobs, housing) no matter how hard I try.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”

These past ten years have been some of the toughest ten years of my entire life. It’s very hard to forget the circumstances around what happened to me back then that caused me to lose a job that I only had for seven months, but has lead–for reasons still unknown to me to this day–to long term unemployment as I never found another job in my field again. I moved a thousand miles for that job, never dreaming it was going to end a scant seven months later, and I lost a whole lot more then that job when I lost that job, too.

It’s been hard to not be able to get any type of closure on what happened back then and why it has essentially left me unemployed for the past decade–a full ten years before normal retirement age. The financial loss alone over these past ten years has been staggering, but even more than that, it affected my lifestyle and it touched every area of my life.

The major corporation that owned the institute (a college) where I was employed ten years ago (they owned over 100 for-profit colleges and universities nationwide) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 2, 2018 (source here), after several years involving some major lawsuits (click here for just one example from a 2015 lawsuit resulting in a $95.5 million dollar settlement), huge financial losses, and several rounds of layoffs over a five-year period of time starting in 2012 (click here for an example of layoffs in 2016).

Due to the circumstances surrounding that job loss, three months after I was fired I found some physical evidence on my laptop of what had been going on behind my back while I worked there, and I sent that evidence along with a four-page letter to my lawyer who I saw a few days after I was fired in order to have her review the separation agreement I had received. The evidence I found and sent to her six months later was rock solid, yet I never heard back from her. I did receive a certified notice from the Post Office that my letter had been received in her office. From my one meeting with her for an hour regarding my separation agreement six months earlier, she didn’t strike me as the kind of person who would not at least acknowledge receipt of my letter especially in light of the information I provided in that letter.

If I had found another job shortly after losing that job I would have considered that experience to be a “bump in the road” and I would have moved on. I’d still have my career and still be earning a salary, and I would have continued to contribute into my Social Security account and a small retirement account I started in my 40’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t find another job, and the lack of a steady paycheck from the day I was fired was crushing. I stopped counting the number of jobs I applied for when it reach 500 two years later (but I didn’t stop applying for jobs). I was single and self-supporting, and nobody was going to pay my bills but me, but I couldn’t find a job.

So it’s been hard to forget the past, especially looking out of a hotel room window now for over four and a half years that I never dreamed I would be looking out of ten years after I lost that job. Sometimes the things God wants us to forget are really huge and still ongoing and impacting our lives.

However, during this time my faith has grown exponentially in ways I never expected. God has seen me through some incredibly tough stuff I never thought I would encounter and in some cases, survive, on more than one occasion. He has made me strong in areas that were my weakest, but it’s been a long and sometimes arduous journey over time, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. And it’s still ongoing.

My story doesn’t look like a typical Christian “success” story of the kind we so often like to hear in America–re: the “rags to riches” stories that happened because we (1) faithfully tithed or (2) “fill in the blank” with the happy kind of stuff we hear in those rags to riches stories. Living in a hotel room for over four and half years on a Social Security income and receiving financial help from my 95-year-old father to pay for it doesn’t look or sound very “successful” to probably most Christians or anyone else living in America today. We tend to have a somewhat warped view of what “success” is supposed to look like as Christians in America. It resembles our culture’s view of success and not God’s view of success.

“Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

During these past ten years, God has been showing me many things I was too busy to notice during all those years I worked. I have learned the incredible value of fasting, and I don’t say that to sound “spiritual.” I’m not the type to put on pretenses or play “religious” games. And I’ve learned just how incredibly important even a few words from the Bible can be at just the right time to guide and direct. And when I haven’t known what to pray, the Psalms became my prayer book. I look back over all the stuff I’ve gone through; all the places I’ve traveled by car; and how the little money I had to live on was stretched in ways that sometimes seemed impossible to believe; God has come through for me each and every time in the most amazing ways that only I would recognize. During this time I went through three years and two months between when my last unemployment check arrived ($275/wk) in May 2011 and my first Social Security check began ($1000/mo) in July 2014 with no income at all, and God guided me through it. In fact, there are no words to describe all I have learned about trusting God over these past ten years.

I’ve also learned much about what is going on in our society that I didn’t really notice when I was working. Outside of Christian circles I’ve been sometimes shocked at how belief in God (as in the God of the Bible) is often seen as a joke by some (not a small number) especially in the younger generations. Since I never married and I didn’t have children, I wasn’t aware of how fast things were changing in our culture especially in the generations starting with the children of Baby Boomers (my generation). Also, when I was working my friends were mostly Christians, and the Christian community can very insulating when it comes to noticing what is really going on in our society outside of Christian circles (or in some cases inside of them, too).

Also, over these ten years I’ve acquired many new interests and renewed some older interests, like writing. In fact, I started this blog as a way to record my experience with long term unemployment back in 2010, and it has broaden considerably from that subject over these years. I now have almost 600 blog posts on this blog, and I started a second blog in April 2018 that has almost 50 blog posts on it to date.

I cannot begin to put a dollar value on what I’ve learned and experienced and seen God do first hand in providing for me and guiding me through these past ten years. While I’ve had some considerable material and financial losses from losing that job ten years ago and never finding another job, I have gained a whole new world that has opened up to me through my writings, and my travels, and my experiences that the “brick wall” that I’ve constantly run up against in my job search and housing search can’t stop. And no job or any amount of money can replace all that I have learned.

Also, I’ve learned to let go of the anger I had for so long after losing that job when–no matter how many jobs I applied for or how many interviews I sailed through at the beginning of my job search–I never found another job. I was sure back then God was going to lead me to the right job as He knew I was single and self-supporting, but He had something different in mind as stated in Isaiah 55:8-9.

And, I’ve learned a lot about what is going on in America today that I didn’t know was going on, and much of it has come from when I started traveling by car to different cities starting in 2012 to look for work, and also when this “hotel saga” got it’s start in late September 2014. I had no idea how many people are forced to live in hotels as their only housing option (which has been my only housing option, too, since it started in 2014). It is an entirely different world living in hotels with all kinds of people coming and going. It is also living in very close quarters in a very small space with complete strangers living only a few feet away in any direction from your own room. It’s been a real learning experience, and I don’t see people my age living in hotels, so it’s not a social outlet. By it’s very nature it is a transient way to live.

So, I guess you could say that the “new thing” God has been doing in my life over this past decade has been to broaden my world and to get me to really see what is going on out there in it. I had no clue about most of it when I was still working.

“I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Now we come to the part that I’m still waiting to find out about. I’m not sure what it will look like when it finally arrives as I’ve learned over these past ten years that God is always full of surprises. Ten years ago I thought it would be a new job. Five years ago I thought it would be a new apartment to live in after losing my old apartment to the new owners. And neither of those things happened.

While I am still waiting to find a more permanent and affordable place to live that isn’t just another hotel room, who knows but that God might have something totally different in mind that I haven’t even thought about, or maybe that I have only thought about in passing. He can break down a brick wall with no effort at all, but it has to be in His timing.

Over this past decade I have learned to take each day as it comes. It’s all any of us get anyway. God knows us thoroughly, inside and out, and far better then we know ourselves. He knows how I’ve grown a bit weary of living in a hotel room, but then He reminds me that there are probably a bunch of other folks living here who wish they could move on, too. So I am grateful to have a roof over my head, even if it is still a hotel room, and I will continue to wait and see what that “new thing” is that He will bring into my life.

I’ll end this post with the same two verses I began it with–Isaiah 43:18-19: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way…

In the wilderness . . .

And rivers . . .

In the desert . . . .

YouTube Video: “(God Makes) All Things New” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Cultural Christianity

I read a Tweet on Twitter the other day that mentioned a new book coming out on March 5, 2019, titled, The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel,” by Dean Inserra, founding and lead pastor of CITYCHURCH in Tallahassee, Florida. Information on the book including the Table of Contents and the first few pages of the book (Preface, and a few pages of Chapter 1 titled, “Help Them Get Lost: The Case for Reaching Cultural Christians”) is available on Amazon at this link (click on the book icon on the Amazon page to examine parts of the book).

Click on book pic above to go to Amazon.com order page

The topic is certainly an interesting and relevant one in America today. The Amazon page provides the following information (as well as much more) regarding the book which includes 15 chapters (chapter titles are listed), a Conclusion, and Appendix. The first three chapters are titled: Chapter 1: “Help Them Get Lost: The Case for Reaching Cultural Christians”; Chapter 2: “Religion without Salvation: Characteristics of Cultural Christianity”; and Chapter 3: “Civic Religion: Generic Faith That Demands and Asks Nothing of Its Followers.” The Appendix includes a listing of the types of Cultural Christianity the author includes in his book with definitions of each category in a grid as follows:

Country Club Christian (see Chapter 7)
Christmas and Easter Christian (see Chapter 8)
God and Country Christian (see Chapter 10)
Liberal Social Justice Christian (see Chapter 10)
Moralistic Therapeutic Deist/Good Guy Next Door (see Chapter 11)
Generational Catholic (see Chapter 12)
Mainline Protestant (see Chapter 13)
Bible Belt Christian (see Chapter 14)

As of the publishing of this blog post the book isn’t out yet (but it will be in a few days on March 5, 2019), so I’ve listed the information above for anyone who might be interested in this topic or in reading the book.

In defining the term Cultural Christian,” Wikipedia states:

Cultural Christians are deistspantheistsagnosticsatheists, anantitheists who adhere to Christian values and appreciate Christian culture. This kind of identification may be due to various factors, such as family background, personal experiences, and the social and cultural environment in which they grew up. Contrasting terms are “biblical Christian”, “committed Christian”, or “believing Christian”.

Outspoken English atheist Richard Dawkins has described himself in several interviews as a “cultural Christian” and a “cultural Anglican”. In his book,The God Delusion,” he calls Jesus Christ praiseworthy for his ethics. (Quote source here.)

In an August 13, 2018 article published on Public Discourse titled, Apatheism is More Damaging to Christianity Than Atheism and Antitheism,” by Paul Rowan Brian, freelance journalist who writes on culture, religion and politics, and Ben Sixsmith, a writer living in Poland; here are a few excerpts from their article:

Today… the greatest threat to Christianity is found not in the arguments of the atheist but in the assumptions of the apathetic. The danger is not a hostile reception of belief in God but an incurious indifference to the idea.

Although humanity’s concept of God or the gods has changed and progressed throughout history, as recounted in Robert Wright’s book,”The Evolution of God,” human beings have always cared whether or not there is a divine power ruling over them and wanted to know the attributes and nature of that divinity. Today, increasingly, that is not the case. With roots in the practical atheism and deism of the Enlightenment, “apatheism” is embodied in French philosopher Denis Diderot’s famous remark that “it is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.”

Church attendance in America has been on a steep decline for the past decade, with especially eyebrow-raising numbers among the young. A full 33 percent of twenty-one-to-twenty-nine-year-olds report that they are non-religious, and lower numbers of Catholics attended weekly Mass between 2014 to 2017 (average 39 percent) than between 2005 to 2008 (average 45 percent). Only an estimated 25 percent of American Catholics between 21 and 29 years old attend weekly Mass. Europe is even more secular, with a majority of sixteen to twenty-nine-year-olds reporting no religious beliefs. As the Public Religion Research Institute notes, there has been a growing “rise of the unaffiliated” in America. Many people don’t specifically disbelieve in the supernatural or God: they just don’t care and don’t want to talk or think about it. In the United States, apatheism is especially prevalent among the young, where “overall, religiously unaffiliated Americans are significantly younger than religiously affiliated Americans.”…

We have all met the apathetic. Their response to the question of God’s existence is a shrug, a sigh, or a grin. There are two main kinds of apatheists: apathetic agnostics and apathetic atheists. Apathetic agnostics believe it is not worth debating whether or not God exists; perhaps because human beings cannot know the answer and perhaps because if God exists, He does not care whether one believes in Him. What’s true is what you make true, as represented metaphorically by “ideas” like the devil or God, according to them….

Apathetic atheists believe it is quite obvious that God does not exist, but that there is no point debating it, either because they believe that the argument has already been won or because their “live and let live” philosophy entails a mild tolerance of belief in God…. Many apatheists have no more respect for arguments for the existence of God than do Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Daniel Dennett; they are simply more polite. (Quote source here.)

That quote might seem to be a bit off topic but it gives us a broader perspective of where we as Christians find ourselves in the mix of our culture. With that understanding of the broader culture, we better can address the question, What is Cultural Christianity?” GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

Cultural Christianity is religion that superficially identifies itself as “Christianity” but does not truly adhere to the faith. A “cultural Christian” is a nominal believerhe wears the label “Christian,” but the label has more to do with his family background and upbringing than any personal conviction that Jesus is Lord. Cultural Christianity is more social than spiritual. A cultural Christian identifies with certain aspects of Christianity, such as the good works of Jesus, but rejects the spiritual aspects required to be a biblically defined Christian. Some people consider themselves “Christians” because of family background, personal experience, country of residence, or social environment. Others identify as “Christian” as a way of declaring a religious affiliation, as opposed to being “Muslim” or “Buddhist.” Famed scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins refers to himself as a “cultural Christian” because he admires some of the ceremonial and philanthropic aspects of Christianity. Dawkins is not born again; he simply sees “Christianity” as a label to use.

In free nations, the gospel is often presented as a costless addition to one’s life: just add churchgoing to your hobbies, add charitable giving to your list of good deeds, or add the cross to the trophies on your mantle. In this way, many people go through the motions of “accepting Jesus” with no accompanying surrender to His lordship. These people, who do not “abide in Christ,” are cultural Christians. They are branches that hang around the True Vine but have no true attachment (see John 15:1–8).

There was no such thing as cultural Christianity in the days of the early church. In fact, to be a Christian was to more than likely be marked as a target of persecution. The very term “Christian” was coined in the city of Antioch as a way to identify the first followers of Christ (Acts 11:26). The first disciples were so much like Jesus that they were called “little Christs” by their detractors. Unfortunately, the term has lost meaning over the years and come to represent an ideology or a social class rather than a lifestyle of obedience to God.

Cultural Christianity is not true Christianity. A true Christian is one who has received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Christ’s death and resurrection has been appropriated to that person as his or her substitute for sin (Romans 10:8–102 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Spirit indwells that person (Romans 8:9). “Receiving” Christ is far more than a mental acknowledgment of truth. Satan acknowledges the identity of the Son of God (Mark 5:7). The faith that saves us also changes us (see James 2:26). Jesus said that anyone who wishes to become His disciple must “deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). While we cannot earn salvation by sacrifice or good works, a lifestyle transformation and desire to please the Lord are direct results of being “born again” (John 3:3).

The following are some identifying marks of cultural Christianity:

Denying the inspiration of Scripture or parts of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:21).

Ignoring or downplaying true repentance as the first step toward knowing God (Matthew 4:17Acts 2:38).

Focusing on Jesus’ love and acceptance to the exclusion of His teaching on hell, obedience, and self-sacrifice (Matthew 4:1723:33Mark 9:43Luke 12:5).

Tolerating or even celebrating ongoing sin while claiming to know God (Romans 1:321 Corinthians 5:1–21 John 3:9–10).

Redefining scriptural truths to accommodate culture (Numbers 23:19Malachi 3:6).

Understanding Jesus to be primarily a social reformer, rather than God in the flesh who is the sacrifice for our sin (Matthew 10:34Mark 14:7).

Claiming God’s promises while ignoring the requirements included with them (Psalm 50:16Jeremiah 18:10).

Denying or minimizing Jesus’ claim that He is the only way to God (John 3:15–1814:6).

Performing enough religious activity to gain a sense of well-being without a true devotion to Jesus (Galatians 5:16–17Romans 8:9).

Talking much about “God” in a general sense, but very little about Jesus Christ as Lord (John 13:1314:6).

Seeing protection and blessing as goals to be achieved, rather than byproducts of a love relationship with God (Mark 12:30Deuteronomy 11:13–17).

Choosing a church based upon any or all of the above (Revelation 3:15–17).

Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21–23 should be a wake-up call to cultural Christianity: “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!’” (Quote source here.)

In an article published on November 14, 2018 titled, The Challenge of Being a Christian,” by Matt Nelson, chiropractor, author, apologist, and Assistant Director of the Word on Fire Institute, and speaker and writer for FaceToFace Ministries, here are a few excerpts from his article:

One of the greatest obstacles to becoming a committed Christian is that Christianity is challenging. The task of living a fully God-centered life is no walk in the park, as the lives of the greatest and most fully converted Christians who have ever lived—the saints—will attest. Indeed, Christianity lived to the fullest involves struggle. But is the struggle worth it?

Often the skeptic will see the struggle and be deterred. What he may not see—perhaps a result of self-inflicted spiritual blindness—is the outflow of joy that permeates every saint’s struggle; and if he does see it he will not want it—not because he does not want joy but rather because he does not want joy enough to give up his old ways. But, of course, even the most hardened skeptic cannot be considered a total write-off. Indeed some skeptics are eventually compelled to change their mind. This is the hopeful realization that drives evangelization.

The rejection of God today, however, is often not caused primarily by philosophical argument. Usually it is a result of indifferentism towards religion—a result of what Bishop Robert Barron has called the “Meh” culture. The question is: Is this popular religious indifference warranted? Are Christians who toil for the cause of Christ wasting their precious time? (Read the rest of his article for the answer at this link.)

In an article published on September 23, 2017 titled, The Dying Away of Cultural Christianity,” by Brett McCracken, author and senior editor for The Gospel Coalition; he also writes regularly for Christianity Today and on his website, BrettMcCracken.com; here is an excerpt from his article:

The “God” of Cultural Christianity

For most of US history, to be American was to be “Christian.” National identity was conflated with religious identity in a way that produced a distorted form of Christianity, mostly about family values, Golden Rule moralism, and good citizenship. The God of this “Christianity” was first and foremost a nice guy who rewarded moral living by sanctifying the American dream: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (i.e., a substantial 401(k), a three-car garage, and as many Instagram followers as possible). This form of Christianity—prominent in twenty-first-century America—has been aptly labeled “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” a faith defined by a distant, “cosmic ATM” God who only cares that we are nice to one another and feel good about ourselves.

This faux God—stripped of theological and historical specificity and closer to Santa Claus than Yahweh—began to flourish amidst the gradual “death of God” narrative advanced by philosophical, literary, artistic, and scientific elites from the Enlightenment to postmodernity. In this context, mainstream Christianity became less about truly believing in God and supernatural events like the incarnation and resurrection; it became more about the rites and rituals of Christianity-flavored morality: a convenient, comfortable, quaint system of personal and societal uplift. Thankfully, and predictably, this sort of toothless, “nice,” good-citizen Christianity is on the decline.

Why? As Terry Eagleton observes, it’s because Christianity is fundamentally disruptive rather than conciliatory to polite society and powers-that-be:

The form of life Jesus offers his followers is not one of social integration but a scandal to the priestly and political establishment. It is a question of being homeless, propertyless, peripatetic, celibate, socially marginal, disdainful of kinsfolk, averse to material possessions, a friend of outcasts and pariahs, a thorn in the side of the Establishment and a scourge of the rich and powerful.

What we are seeing in American Christianity is a healthy pruning away of the mutant and neutered forms of it that are easily abandoned when they become culturally inconvenient or unfashionable. As Russell Moore observes, “A Christianity that reflects its culture, whether that culture is Smith College or NASCAR, only lasts as long as it is useful to its host. That’s because it’s, at root, idolatry, and people turn from their idols when they stop sending rain.”

What It Means to Follow Christ

Rather than being a cause for alarm, the dying-away of cultural Christianity should be seen as an opportunity. It used to be too easy to be a Christian in America; so easy that one could adopt the label simply by being born in this “Christian nation” and going to church once or twice a year (if that), in between relentless attempts to swindle the stock market, accumulate beach properties, and build an empire of wealth and acclaim.

To be sure, and especially in contrast to much of the rest of the world, it’s still easy to be a Christian in America. But it is becoming less easy and certainly less normal. And that’s a good thing. Christianity, founded on belief in the supernatural resurrection of a first-century Jewish carpenter, has been and always will be abnormal. Again, Russell Moore:

The Book of Acts, like the Gospels before it, shows us that Christianity thrives when it is, as Kierkegaard put it, a sign of contradiction. Only a strange gospel can differentiate itself from the worlds we construct. But the strange, freakish, foolish old gospel is what God uses to save people and to resurrect churches (1 Cor. 1:20–22).

Following Christ is not one’s golden ticket to a white-picket-fence American dream. It’s an invitation to die, to pick up a cross. Christians are those who give themselves away in love and sacrifice to advance a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36).

As C. S. Lewis writes: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” (Quote source with footnotes for author quotes above at this link.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls . . .

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “Come to Me” by Jenn Johnson | The Loft Sessions:

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