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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Your Kingdom Come

When Jesus Christ said this He was reaffirming once more that the kingdom of God is not just some spiritual realm to come, but was a real kingdom that He was bringing on earth. It is a spiritual and physical reality, this is clearly seen when Jesus said “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (emphasis mine). When Jesus came, He came as a king – remember how Scripture accounts king Herod killing all the boys 2 years old and under in hopes of slaying the new born king of Israel? Jesus even blatantly told the Jews that the kingdom of God was right in their midst.

 

Yet, in balance with this, we also are told to pray, “Your kingdom come…” so although the kingdom of God was instituted in the first advent of Jesus Christ, it was not brought in it’s fullness. We are to take part in the kingdom advancement. As we go out into the world, we are to bring Christ and His kingdom with us. This takes us back to calling God – our Father. We follow His command. As He sent Jesus into the world – the Kingdom bringer – so we have been sent into the world. This means we are to be kingdom bearers.

 

What does this look like for us? Look at Jesus. He came into a world, not just tainted, but absolutely consumed with sin – the very thing He hated. He was surrounded by evil at every turn. He welcomed the sinners, the tax collectors and prostitutes. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, helped the poor AND preached the gospel to them all. Evangelism and the addressing of social issues – Jesus took them both in hand as they are both on the kingdom agenda. In doing kingdom work, we are not to exclude either one over the other. We, as kingdom-bearers, are called to face sin head on (as well as the effects of sin) through the power of The Holy Spirit and advance the cause of Jesus Christ in this world. We are to hold true to our commitment in calling God our Father, keeping our eyes trained on Him and go about walking in the same manner as our LORD Jesus – carrying the kingdom banner wherever we go.

 

So how exactly does this look like for you, personally? Ask The Father.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Christian Life, Culture, Evangelism

 

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Our Father…

How many of you immediately thought of The LORD’s Prayer when you read the title of this post? (I see that hand.) If you were raised in church then you were probably taught that prayer at an early age; and if your denomination was like mine, you NEVER actually prayed it to avoid vain repetition or any semblance of Roman Catholicism. Although I agree we should avoid vain repetition (I disagree that just because it’s Roman Catholic it’s wrong), I believe God has given us this prayer as more than just a template to pray off of (adding in our own words under each suggested heading) but as a prayer we should pray as followers of Jesus Christ. So, I want to look at a few phrases that I have often times just taken for granted; the first being “Our Father…”

Calling God “Father” is quite amazing, even if one only thinks of it in terms of being able to say the God of all creation is looking out for you like a daddy does his son. But When Jesus used this term in this context and in His cultural setting, He was saying a lot more than that. Two of those things I wish to draw your attention to:

First: For a Jew to refer to God as Father was to invoke His promise of freedom from exile, and seeing Jesus is a Jew speaking to Jews in a Jewish context, it is vital that we grasp it. In Exodus 4:22-23 we have the first mention of a Father/Son relationship between God and His people, and the usage is concerning their freedom from slavery.

“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.

So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”

We also see this imagery confirmed in Isaiah 63:15-16 how they call God their Father as an expression of the hope in His leading them out of exile:

Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation;
Where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds?
The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me.
For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us
And Israel does not recognize us You, O LORD, are our Father,
Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.

So in saying “Our Father”, they heard Jesus also reminding them of the hope of freedom from exile. This prayer, given to us by The Messiah, is a kingdom prayer. Every time we call God “Father” we are to remember what He has brought us from and where He is leading us.

Secondly: The most challenging aspect to me… calling God “Father” is to commit myself to Him as His apprentice/son. In Jesus’ culture, the son learned his trade from the father. When faced with a problem, the son would see how his father handled it and would then learn what to do. We see Jesus living this out as at 12 years of age he told his mother and Joseph that He must be about His Father’s business. He also stated that He only does what He sees His Father doing. This “apprenticeship” is bound in the Father/Son relationship. Calling God “Father” is me committing to be about His business just as my Big Brother – The Firstborn – was. Jesus has left me an example. He has shown me what that looks like. He told men and women that the kingdom of heaven was right in their midst. Me praying this prayer is my commitment to follow in Jesus’ steps and actively engage in Kingdom work as well.

Calling God “Father” is a reminder that we are being brought out of exile. The Messiah has come, fought, and emerged victorious over death, hell, and the grave. Creation is groaning, longing for the time when the Kingdom of God comes in it’s fullness (Romans 8:19-23). Employing that title for God should remind us and spur us onward in our Kingdom work, as well as remind us exactly how that work being carried out looks like. May we as apprentice sons image our Father to the world. May we take what Jesus prayed to The Father for us to heart, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. ” (Jn 17:19) May we go out into the world, bringing the Kingdom of God with us, and keeping our eyes trained on our heavenly Father every step of the way- for He has established that it is in this that His Name will be hallowed (sanctified) and His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

 

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Sound Stance

Someone once asked me if I think that it is possible to put Godly lyrics with ANY beat and style of music and still retain “Godliness”? I’ve asked myself this countless times and argued both sides (I play the devil’s advocate with myself quite often – yes this involves talking to myself.) Here is the explanation I gave as to my stance on music –
It is imperative that we understand that Scripture doesn’t prescribe a particular style of music as godly and worldly. It does speak of music having particular sounds, but doesn’t say one sound was evil and the other good. There are some who claim they take a biblical stand on music and only listen to “God honoring” music. But I found that people who made this claim had varying ideas of what was “God honoring”. For some, that meant only classically sounding music, for others God also enjoyed some southern gospel every now and then. Yet those who approved of SG (southern gospel) condemned CCM (Contemporary Christian Music)because it had drums and was worldly (yet SG has drums and sounds just like secular country). Finding that what was godly was arbitrary to the one speaking, and finding that Scripture didn’t define a particular style that God liked over another, I set out to set my stance on the issue so as to be able to give an answer to anyone who may ask. I’m not much for believing something just because so-and-so said it, or because that’s the way it’s always been; and I desire to be biblical in every stance I take, and if I can’t defend it biblically (which means the stance become subjective to my personal opinion) then I still would like a defense/explanation for why I took the position I did.

I don’t think only Classical styled music is God honoring, and I despise Southern Gospel music… passionately despise it! =) (It’s a personal thing… I just don’t like the sound of it.) I’ve heard many arguments for why music with drums, or contemporary music is wrong. The primary one is that music is a language, and like language, there are bad words and good words. So there is bad music and good music. This is often blended with the argument that music touches the emotions and there are good emotions and bad emotions – hence good/bad music. This seemed good on the surface, but I found it indefensible when scrutinized. Here’s why: language is not automatically good or bad inherently. It’s not as if the German language is evil, because it expresses things differently than English. Listen to a German say “I love you” and it sounds harsh to us, as their language is very guttural. So a different style of music isn’t necessarily confined to only pumping out one message. If you want to say style of music is only like language in relation to words as opposed to language cultures, I still find the illustration to fail. For example – let’s equate the classical style to the word “love” and the rock style to the word “damn”. Both of these words, although they definitely have meaning in and of themselves, do not have moral quality in and of themselves. For instance, one may think that “love” is good and “damn” is bad; but when used in this context –
“I love to commit sin.” This is not a good message. Whereas the sentence “If any man preach another gospel than the gospel I preach unto you, may God damn his soul!” Although this is a harsh message, it’s a good one none the less. So the words in themselves aren’t good or evil, it’s the context, as a whole in which they are used. And context is more than just the sentence as a whole; one must also take into account the attitude in which it is  said. For example, if one mockingly states “If any man preach another gospel than the gospel I preach unto you, may God damn his soul!” the sentence now has a bad message even though the exact same words were used in both instances. So the area of music is far deeper than just a simple equation to words.

The other analogy is that of emotions. It is true that music is emotional. I remember a time that I played the piano for Five Forks. The song was “Behold The Lamb”, no one in the congregation knew the words to it (I didn’t even know the words). I told them to think about Christ’s death as I played, and continued to play the arrangement. When I was finished, most of the people were crying. They didn’t know the truth of the song, but the melody, and tempo so gripped their emotions that they were crying! Paganini, one of the greatest violinist to ever live, was an extremely ugly man. He said, “When women see me, they run; but when I play, they throw themselves at my feet!” (he was a classical violinist by the way, not a rock star, as the quote may sound.) I am not denying the emotional effects of music, but the illustration assumes that an emotion is always good or evil. This isn’t so. God created us to be emotional beings. Anger is not always wrong, there are certain things we are to be angry over. That warm fuzzy feeling we get, as if everything is going to be okay, is not always good. So emotions, although moral, must be placed within the context that they are being felt.

I hope by now you see where I’m going with this. We must allow for context. Scripture doesn’t draw a line in musical style like it does with modesty, alcohol (which is not total abstinence, although a Christian is more than welcome to take that stance personally), sex, etc. Since this is the case, we must be careful in placing limits on our Christian brothers, as any extra-biblical rule, no matter how good, is legalism if equated as a necessity of being a godly Christian. (For example, the Pharisees had an entire litany of actions a man couldn’t do on the Sabbath to make sure he didn’t break the 4th commandment.. they couldn’t even spit, could only lift so much weight at a time, etc.. none of those rules were God given, they were all man made, and Christ condemned them for it.)

Here is the illustration that I have come to use, and I believe it fits the issue much better; although many don’t like the implications of it. Music is an art form. Art communicates, so it is a language. Art affects the emotions as well (which is a natural result of communication really). This is why musicians are called “music artists”. Style within music is just like style within painted art. To say one style is evil and the other is godly is like saying Monet’s Impressionistic style is evil and Rembrandt’s detailed style of the Golden Age is godly. So even though Monet paints a picture of the empty tomb, as does Rembrandt; somehow, Monet’s painting is worldly because he’s not as classical as Rembrandt (Rembrandt lived in the 1600’s, Monet the 1800’s.. so Monet was contemporary, and different from the “traditional” style.) In reality, the end product of a painting takes many things into account in evaluating whether it is good or evil, one can call this the context. Let me take a minute to explain: Let’s look at the two artists using different styles and each covering 2 subjects.

Rembrandt:
Crisp lines, extremely detailed in every way, as accurate a representation of any object he paints. If he uses his distinct style to paint a picture of the borrowed tomb. He uses dark colors, to convey the sadness the disciples felt as they didn’t believe the words of Jesus before His crucifixion. This is a good painting, and conveys truth in a biblical way. He can paint the same picture using bright colors, that convey that Christ has risen from the dead! Also a truthfully biblical message (and absolutely wonderful!). Now he can take the same style draw a sensually nude woman who is attempting to entice men. Same style, different topic – absolutely wicked picture…. literally pornography (porneo = evil graphy = picture thus evil picture).

Monet:
His style is not as crisp. Actually, if you stand too close, you can’t really tell what it is, but if you back off and view the art as a whole, you can see that he has drawn the tomb also. He draws one with dark colors, and one with vibrant colors, as did Rembrandt, conveying sorrow and joy respectively. Is the picture evil because his style is different? Of course not. We evaluate the painting as a whole. Now what if he uses that impressionistic style to paint pornography? Wicked, without a doubt!
Now, you may ask, “What if they’re painting something neutral, like a sunset?” Actually, you did hint at it when you said, “However, if you put on just the music (no lyrics) to “A Mighty Fortress is our God” or some other old hymn, non-Christians would likely just scatter and go somewhere else whereas Christians might tend to smile and be drawn to it.” But I disagree with your conclusions. Non-Christians wouldn’t scatter, for there are non-Christians who thoroughly enjoy the classical style music (non-Christians even make a living playing it – like Itzak Perlman, or made a living writing it – like Beethoven). If there are no words, then Christians wouldn’t smile at it, for they wouldn’t recognize it as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” seeing as there were never those lyrics to it. And if you say there are lyrics, they just aren’t played that time, then the thing that makes the Christians smile is the lyrics, not the song itself, for they are reminded of the truth conveyed by that particular song. Let’s plug this back into the painting illustration. If people are in an art museum and on one end is Rembrandt’s sunset and the other end is Monet’s; those who prefer Rembrandt to Monet will gravitate to the sunset painted by the Golden Age artist. Monet’s fans will gawk at the Impressionistic painter’s work in admiration. So we’re left with a subjective standard.

You also asked, “do you think that every style of music can be holy?” Holy means set apart, and I think that since Scripture doesn’t lay out musical style boundaries, I should be cautious. I believe there are Christian rappers who have made their style holy. They have set it apart from the rest in their field. This is the same with classical (Bach, Vivaldi for example), southern gospel song writers (Bill Gaither – as much as I dislike that genre, he has written some good songs), rock (Casting Crowns, Lincoln Brewster). I don’t know if Monet was a Christian, I’m lead to think he was not, but his style of painting can be made holy for The LORD’s service. (I’m going to drop the painting illustration now, as I hope you see it seems to illustrate rather well.) To my knowledge, Beethoven was not a believer, yet we sing his music in church to the lyrics “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”. There were many people who wrote classical music for a living, and it was merely an art they were passionate about. Richard Wagner, not a believer, loved Beethoven’s 9th symphony so much, he wrote variations of it for piano. So we see a style that is most often associated with “godly” being used by the ungodly for their purposes (Wagner was Hitler’s favorite composer, by the way).

So in evaluating music, I ask a few questions to myself:
If it is in the Christian pot:
1. Are they lyrics biblical? (this is of utmost importance to me)
2. Does the music communicate the lyrics well? (if they words are celebratory, does the song make me want to celebrate/dance? If the words are solemn does the music make me feel solemn? Victorious, does the music make me want to shout a victory cry?)
3. Does it seem that the musicians are more concerned with playing their style than communicating truth and worshiping God? (If so, then I look for the song being played by another artist… if I like the song.)

Now I know that there are styles that I do not like, like Southern Gospel, and I don’t care if the words are biblical, and the musicians hearts are sincerely worshiping Jehovah, I just don’t like the style. Question #2 fails for me, subjectively, because I don’t like the style and feel that nothing serious or deep can be communicated through “redneck sounds”. But this is personal. I realize that there is nothing wrong with that style, as long as they aren’t singing in a celebratory manner something that is portrayed biblical as sorrowful (one wouldn’t sing about Christ walking the way of sorrow to the tune of “Sweet Beulah-land” or “I’ll Fly Away”). I do not say SG is wicked, there are people who truly worship God and sing that. That is their culture, that is their own personal style. I believe Scripture makes room for the believer to express his true desire to worship in various venues. I wouldn’t tell a native of China not to use the pentatonich scale (which is what his music is based on… that’s why it sounds so funky) and that he had to play European Classical music if he wants to worship God; since he used the pentatonic music when he was a Buddhist. I can only be adamant where Scripture is adamant. I have yet to find acid Rock that is done for God’s glory. I have a friend who is a believer, and loves God; and he likes a groups called “Disciple” I just can’t get past the style. I don’t like it. I would say it’s evil, except I don’t see where God does. So I don’t go that far. I tell my brothers and sisters in Christ that they must examine their own heart in this matter, and not try to exalt a style by using The Savior, but use the style to exalt The Savior!

We must be careful in evaluating the methods of a culture, as I tend to be harsh on any culture that is not mine. We have short, spikey hair and goatees, something Bach would have thought foolish. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have discernment, I’m saying we should, but that in drawing our lines personally in areas that aren’t clearly mandated in Scripture, we must be careful not to lay our standards on the backs of men as if it were from God, yet we hold those standards with a heart aimed at pleasing God. We know that if someone doesn’t hold the same standard musically we do, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t love God. I believe this is a matter that falls in the category like Paul mentions in Romans 14 where every servant stands or falls to his own master. In the mean time, we shouldn’t flaunt our liberty either. We must strive to be biblical in every position we hold, and respect the other brother/sister who may be weaker in this area. Greater than which style of music I prefer is that I walk in love toward my brother/sister.

God bless.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Christian Life

 

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Give Thanks

 

 

 

It’s Thanksgiving and I want to spend time with my loved ones.. you should do the same. So here is just a song to remind us WHO to think.

God bless.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in Family

 

Give Me A Commercial Break!

It’s the day before Thanks Giving – the holiday that was originated as a day where people made a definite point to express gratitude to God for the provisions they experience and enjoy. Yet if one watches more than 15 minutes of TV they are inundated with commercials of all the great deals they can take advantage of in order to buy that one (or one hundred) thing(s) they don’t have. The prophets and preachers of materialism are inundating us with their pre, mid, and post- Thank Giving sale propaganda and we’re gobbling it up. America need s a commercial break!

We sit on our couches to corporately worship the god of materialism from the comfort of our own home. We receive materialism bibles in the mail that help us give to our deity through online “donations” in the form of purchases. Stores are staying open Thanks Giving day so as to ensure we will be able to obtain all the hottest toys for our children; although they don’t have anymore room in their toy boxes to store them. We crave to have every bit of this god we can get and will sacrifice our children, spouses, and selves in order to posses it.

We are so enthralled with this god that on the one day a year we set aside to express gratitude to the One True God, we are planning how early we’re going to get up so we can worship materialism. We have tasted of the god’s “Turkish Delight” and have developed an insatiable desire for more – more stuff. Stuff that has ears, but can’t really hear; stuff that promises satisfaction, but leaves a void, stuff that is increasingly worth less with time, STUFF! And our lives have become just as shallow as the things we are worshiping, just as fleeting as the joys they bring, just as superficial as the simulated environments, and just as worthless as the income they will bring at next summer’s yard sale. But God has told us that this is the curse for idolatry “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” (Psalm 135:15-18)

Artist's rendition of the god of materialism and it's worshippers

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Christian Life, Culture, Family

 

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Take The “High Road”!

I attended an undergraduate school where the President of the college is well known for saying, “Taking the High Road is choosing between the good and the best, and choosing the best!”Why is this on my mind?

I was conversing with a friend, who also graduated from this school, concerning going to the movie theater. He said that if a group from work were going to go watch a movie that he would not attend. Now he is not against watching movies, he rents them and watches them at home. His issue was with the theater. I let him know that I thought he was just as free to not attend the movie as I was to attend, and I wasn’t attempting to argue over it; but I wanted to make sure that his standard wasn’t set on a misconception of Scripture. I did this because it has been my experience that the go-to verse for Christians who have instituted such rules is “abstain from all appearance of evil”. (I Thess 5:22) I gave him a short exegesis of the verse to look at, as this verse is often pulled out of context, advising him that it was great to have a standard, but that he would not be violating any particular rule of God if he were to attend the group function (assuming the movie was one that was okay to watch).

His response to me was twofold: 1. most conservatives hold the same standard he does, and 2. he is just taking the high road in the matter.

Now the first defense is faulty as it relies on tradition for it’s foundation as opposed to God’s Word. Truth be told, when it comes to the things of God, there is not necessarily strength in numbers, for the majority could be wrong – just look at Elijah and the remnant of people who hadn’t bowed to Baal verses the rest of Israel including the ruling monarchs; or observe Jesus and His 12 disciples verses the majority of the nation of Israel. Psalm 118:8 tells us it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to place our trust in man. So it is when setting our standards or right and wrong, or in seeking to give an answer as to why we do or do not do a thing. But the subject of this post isn’t the traditionalism, rather the second part – the high road.

This has been given to me as an answer for any standard that cannot find biblical warrant, yet the defender wants to make it known that they are taking the moral high ground in the situation and should not be questioned. It is my contention that “taking the High Road” is too subjective and also implies that God’s road isn’t high enough. Some of you, I’m sure, are shaking your heads; so please hear me out before you write me off.

The phrase, “Take the High Road” turns every situation at hand into a moral issue, yet the standard is nothing more than the personal perspective of the one wielding the statement. For example, and I’ll stick with my real-life situation of going to see a movie, my friend imagines himself to be taking the high road in avoiding the theater (although there is absolutely no biblical reason to label it as sinful). But one could argue that the high road is actually attending a decent movie with the group of lost coworkers as one develops a relationship with them and evangelizes them. This is actually more Christlike than avoiding the theater, even Paul said he would become all things to all men so that he might, by all means, save some (and if you balk at that with something like “Paul didn’t mean he would sin to evangelize!” then you’ve just proved my point that “the high road” is really one setting up their own opinions as law). See, the minute one bases his standards on a “high road” as opposed to God’s law, then he now has a subjective standard that makes him the sole determiner of right and wrong. These standards end up going beyond personal, and are taught as things Christians most definitely should or should not do – and in comes legalism.

Now, it’s fine if my friend doesn’t want to attend theaters as he feels he is sinning against The LORD in his own heart. That would be along the same lines as Paul’s example of the strong Christian eating meat and the weaker Christian not. Paul doesn’t say the vegetarian Christian is taking the high road; he doesn’t commend him, rather calls the man weak. Yet, he doesn’t say the weak Christian has to eat meat, but that the weak is to refrain from it as long as his conscience will not permit him to do it. What has happened, is that weak Christians are attempting to use “the High Road” as an attempt to escape self examination and still enforce their weakness on their brothers. I don’t say this in disdain for my brother who won’t go watch a movie, again, he is just as free to not go as I am to go; yet we are also to encourage each one to grow in grace, which is what I was attempting to do. We are not told in Scripture to never approach the weaker brother concerning his weak area – remember the weak Christian read Paul’s words saying eating meat was okay, just like the strong Christian did. Paul didn’t not tell people they could really eat meat, he told them (the weak and strong alike) that it was really okay.

Aside from “The High Road” being immensely subjective, it’s also demeaning to the LORD. It assumes there is a higher road than that which is laid out in God’s Word. It essentially says, “Since there is no law of God concerning this matter, I have determined to set up my own law and call it the high road. All those who do not act as I do are compromising by taking the low road.” The reality of the matter is that there is Christian liberty and we must act with a heart desiring to please God. Those Christians who go to the movies are not necessarily misrepresenting God to their lost friends, and those Christians who abstain are not necessarily accurately representing God.

So, summary time! It’s okay to say, “I know there is no Scriptural mandate to do, or not do, an action; but in my heart, I cannot engage in it in good conscience toward God.” This is a far more biblically accurate response than, “I’m taking the High Road!”; and far less Pharisaical.

 

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Image (Bearing) Is Everything

Anyone who has talked with me much concerning the Christian’s task in the world can attest that I firmly think that all the evangelism, social action, care-taking of our possessions, can be wrapped up in one phrase – Image Bearing.

Jesus Christ came and manifested The Father to us. He only did what He saw The Father doing. We, as sons/daughters of God The Father must also be about our Father’s business. Many times we only pay attention on one thing The Father is doing and then we set out to do it with all our might. This is admirable, but still faulty. We are not bearing God’s image as we should if we are only imitating Him partially. For example, some get all caught up on social action. They are concerned with feeding the starving, providing medical help to the sick, helping raise the level of clean living for the poor while neglecting the gospel. Others are all for giving the gospel, but are unwilling (or fail to see the importance) to give of themselves to make needed changes socially. Both sides who are exclusive to their own view are not fully imaging God as His people are to do. For us to image God, we must be constantly watching Him, which is difficult. It’s far easier to get an agenda and then take our eyes of God and put them on the task at hand. As soon as we do that, we begin to reflect ourselves more than our Savior.

I believe N.T. Wright gives a good illustration of what it is to be God’s image bearer. So here it is.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Christian Life, Culture, Evangelism

 

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