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PRACTICING CHRISTIANITY BY SERVING Much like the book Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, I would argue that the church teaches the practice of living the Christian life to its children. As a boy in church scouting, I repeated a pledge each week that began, “With God’s help I will do my best to serve God, my church, and my fellowman.” Service—is that not what it means to live for Jesus? I serve—with God’s help. I should serve God, but face outward temptation—most often from money. If I just garner enough finance, I can do so much—for God’s glory, of course. Alternatively, I might seek out education and skills. There was an immigrant who came to America. He started to attend church. The man needed a job, and found out that his congregation was looking for a janitor. However, when he said he wanted the job, they told him that he had to fill out forms in English—not just for the application, but also on a regular basis, since city and state inspectors came from time to time. He could not read and write English well enough, so he ended up working on the docks instead. The man worked hard, and saved up money. After a few years, he bought his own boat. A few years later he bought two more. Then four, then eight—and by the time he was in his 60s he had dozens of boats, and was quite rich. A local reporter quipped, “Wow—you did all this, while not knowing English very well. Imagine what you might have done if you could read and write English.” The man responded, “If I could read and write well, I’d probably be the janitor at my church.” Not only must I overcome the temptation to rely on my money, my talents, or just myself, I must submit my selfish desires to God’s will. By nature, we seek dark paths. I remember that at age 10 I wanted to be like Richie Rich. I 13, having believed my teachers’ esteem-promoting encouragements, I wanted to be a lawyer. After all, they told me I was smart, and I liked winning arguments. At 17, I actually wanted to be President of the United States, so I could wield power! Despite my wayward desires, I listened to God’s directing. At 25, I taught missionary children. At 30, I was doing evangelistic Bible studies with Korean university students. At 35, I was ministering to federal prison. I may drive an 11-year old compact, I may listen much more than I speak, and I may lack political influence—nevertheless I am rich in God’s service. I traffic in God’s power, and turn souls from eternal judgment to redemption and reward. I am so much wealthier, wiser, and more influential in the Lord’s service than I ever could be following my heart and dreams. Beyond serving the Lord directly, I serve his church. Some may find it interesting that the second admonition is to church, rather than family, or to souls who do not know God. However, I cannot provide leadership and example to my family—or to anyone—if I do not embrace my community of faith. When I love my brothers and sisters in God’s house, and when I learn wise counsel from pastors and teachers, then I can help others. Some say we Christians need to get outside the church walls. Such silly talk! Most spend one to two hours a week in church. Even the most devout would not normally spend more than five hours there. The other 163+ hours are already outside the church. Frankly, most Christians probably need to spend more time within those walls! Finally, yes, and of course, I will serve the people in my circle of influence. I will work hard and well. I will listen more than speak. Nevertheless, the greatest service I can offer is my testimony of God, and loving-but-truthful answers. A young couple that used to serve in my church had come after several years of searching. The man had grown up Mormon, but then left it for Wicca. The lady claimed Christianity from an early age, but then sought out the partying fun outside the church. They met each other and married. Both eventually became Christians, and the man’s friends challenged them. “So, now that you are all ‘born again’ how do you feel about gay marriage?” They responded that they still loved their friends—including a few who were gay and married. Nevertheless, they could not approve of gay marriage in church, since it was against their beliefs. These friends responded that since they were now hate-filled and bigoted their friendship was over. “Do not attempt to contact us ever,” they told the couple. Had they failed—been too harsh—lacked in love? Not at all. They communicated love, peace, and sincerity, but faced rejection in return. Still, their final gift to their friends was truth. I will serve God—by seeking his will and his way. I will serve my church—with my presence, my attention, and with any help, my brothers and sisters need. Finally, I will serve those about me, by sharing what love I can, by listening more than I talk, but by speaking truth with conviction, whenever opportunity comes. For a video presentation of this teaching see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fEOKvkIQFQ
… and yours is wrong! I do not say that, nor do I mean it. However, in today’s post-modern milieu it is almost an offense to even say, “I am a Christian.” The simple statement is interpreted as a religious triumphalism, an arrogance, and an intolerance of all else. Ironically, those most offended are not my fellow religionists, but the rising tide of “nones.” Those who have no religion, or no organized religion, or who are “spiritual, but not religious,” or just who choose not to be bothered with such things, tend to be the ones who put a bite into the question, “Why is your religion right?” Still, the only way to answer the question is with innocence. That is, as if the enquirer really wants to know. I am a Christian because monotheism, universal appeal, and sacrificial love all strike as essential elements to a God that is real, and whom I would follow. In today’s world, if God is not one then they are not all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present. They are limited. We shall, through invention and progress, eventually surpass them. I would rather go about my life than be encumbered by demigods that just might bless me. Along the same track, if God is one, then does He care about us—about me? If not, again, I would avoid him. If God cares, would He not find a mechanism to show that care, and bring about interaction, that is all over the world. He would not limit himself to a tribe or language. Finally, is God good? I will not debate the presence of evil in the world today. Rather, I look to the simple love story of Christianity. God condescended to sending his Son, to become God-in-the-flesh. A real, historical, human. Jesus died so we could live. What a love story! No other God-story reads like that. So, I prayed. I believed. Now I follow—a God who’s religion is universal, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present. The God who loves me. That’s why I am a Christian. That’s why I am right.