In defining religion, Merriam Webster defines it as “the service and worship of God or the supernatural”; “a personal set of institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices” or “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”.
Given the above definitions of religion, I would concur that Christianity is a religion when defined as the service and worship of God. However, religion has become more a set of attitudes, beliefs, practices, principles or causes, which we hold on to with ardor and faith. Doctrines, traditions and such have replaced the single-minded service and worship of God. Religion has become a set of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts, and this “religious” fervor is no longer limited to serving and worshiping God. It has spilled over into the social, cultural and political arenas as well. Laws, legislation and rules have reduced the service and worship of God to merely “going through the motions” and “lip service”. Instead of the freedom of serving and worshiping with a heart that intuitively knows right from wrong, we now function in slavery to self-serving, flawed, man-made laws. This fallen nature, does not define Christianity.
As I look at where we are as a country, I believe it is time for us to brace ourselves for a rough ride. Looking back through history, one discovers that there were empires that did rise to the top and then declined. The decline resulted from an arrogant attitude of self-dependency and self-exaltation. As a country, we find ourselves at a very critical place where we have elevated ourselves and become self-sufficient to the degree that we reject God. Instead of turning to God we are turning to our own wisdom. The “church people” are becoming more and more “religious” while they call themselves Christians. The focus is now placed on “works” rather than “faith” which goes against the very essence of Christianity – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” — Ephesians 2:8.
Given this line of thought, I believe that the biggest enemy of Christianity in today’s society is this legalistic practice of what we call Religion. Come to think of it, this is a pattern that existed since the very beginning. When Jesus lived here on earth, He did not offend those who were living in sin rather, He offended the Pharisees a.k.a – the religious men.
Authentic Christianity is displayed in the life of Christ, which is love God and love others. Authentic Christianity is based upon relationships – not religion. It is being in a right relationship first with God and then with one another. God bless.
2013 has been a challenging year with anxiety caused bygovernment sequestration and shutdown, and a hotly debated change in our health care system looming on the horizon, withObamacare. People have flocked to the website to sign on toObamacare despite all the glitches and frustrations of the plan and its implementation. It is quite apparent that people are concerned about their physical health and are flocking to a less than perfect system that offers the hope of receiving good care to maintain their physical health. Some see hope in Obamacare, while others may be frustrated with the difficulty or inability to enroll. Some may have spent countless hours to make sure they are covered, with a sense of urgency.
All this frenzy over enrolling in Obamacare got me thinking. Here is a plan that offers to take care of one’s physical health, but there is a price to pay for it, and people are willing to pay it, with resources of time and money. The reality of what one will get in return remains to be seen. Yet, how many of us are willing to invest such time and money to safeguard our spiritual health? Christ offers us a plan to ensure our spiritual health at little cost to us. There is a price to pay, but He has paid it Himself. We have just celebrated Christmas, to commemorate the birth of a Savior, who with His life brought the hope of eternal life for us in Him. He calls us to cast our cares and anxiety upon Him, and be yoked with Him, making our burden light. He offers us joy, and a peace that surpasses all understanding, and yet we celebrate the day of His birth, focused on the material gifts that lose their fascination faster than the packages can be opened. We choose to invest in man-proposed insurance plans, whether it be for health, life or accidents, and often at a great price, putting our faith in them to gain peace of mind. Yet we fail to recognize the extent of hope and peace we are promised, if only we would focus on our spiritual health. Those promises are everlasting, promises from a God who is unchanging and everlasting Himself.
The reality we fail to recognize is, that with spiritual health we also gain physical and mental health. If more of us focused on investing in maintaining our spiritual health, we would have less need of physical and mental health care. The problem is not that we don’t want to have joy and peace and good health. The problem is that we are looking for it in all the wrong places, and we want it NOW! We have embraced a culture that seeks immediate gratification. We are unwilling to wait for the good things in life. God offers us all the good things, but the timing is in His hands. Abraham and Sarah had to wait a long time, for the son promised to them. So must we wait, believing and trusting in the promises of One who seeks to bless us with all good things in this world and the next. As we usher in the New Year, may we resolve to invest our all in securing the blessings of spiritual health and well-being, and embracing the promises of a God who truly loves us and provides for all the care we may need – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 peter. 5:7). Happy New Year and God bless.
By Pastor Erick Kalenga
Life is, and rightly should be, more than living, more than pure existence. Life goes beyond the physical aspects of a heart beating and lungs breathing in and out as proof of our being alive. A person can have a heartbeat and be breathing and yet have no life, such as in a coma. Animals exist, but can we say that they have a life with a meaning? So what is it that makes our existence “come alive” – truly alive? Hmm.
As I ponder upon what makes my existence “come alive” and make life worth living, I can only come to the conclusion that it is love – the giving and receiving of it. It may seem naïve or far-fetched, but if we really think deeply about it, love is at the root of all hope, and it is hope that keeps us going and wanting to live. A person who has lost hope, may be technically alive, but, in fact, has no life, and it is not long before such a person either checks out of engaging in anything meaningful, dying a slow death, or sadly ends up in the worst case scenario of death and destruction – suicide or murder. Looking at our culture today, where there is so much anger, hatred, and sometimes simple indifference, leads me to believe we are living in a world that has lost the wonder of loving and living, a culture that is leading us to death. Stuck in loveless lives, we lose hope and stop caring. The physical world around us starts to decay, because we no longer care about anything.
We are spiritual beings, and for us living is not just a physical reality, but a spiritual one as well. Being physically healthy is necessary, but beyond that, our spirits have to be healthy as well. When we are spiritually dead, we start dying a slow, painful, physical death, which many choose to end abruptly because they are tired of living. So the question then raised is – how can we be spiritually healthy? My answer to that lies in a relationship – a relationship with Christ, who is love. Once we experience the love of a relationship, and on a more understandable level, even a love relationship with those around us, we are more alive. Without loving relationships, we are no better than animals that exist, living and dying, following the laws of nature. It is our relationships that set us apart from other living creatures. It is relationships that bring meaning to our lives – and it is the love that is at the base of all relationships that brings us hope. It is pure love that holds relationships together. It is love that is freely given and freely received that makes life worth living – and the amazing thing is, that it is love that continues to give life even when we die! In love, Christ died for us and gave us life – a hope of eternal life that makes us “come alive”. To truly love like Christ did – the selfless agape love – it is that love that truly gives us life. We may be physically weak and battered, but with that kind of love in our hearts, we remain “alive”. May you find that life-giving love that gives hope as you live your life today. God bless.
By Gary Wiram, Here I Raise My Ebenezer
According to my Pastor, “…human relationships – particularly when united in fellowship with God – (are) the foundational building blocks … and the backbone of (our) local communities and culture.” I wholly agree with that and I’ve added to it by saying, “Without that foundation, secular goals – e.g. a thriving and stable economy, affordable quality healthcare, affordable quality education, justice for all, etc. – are unattainable. When communities and culture come apart, so do all things relying on the support of that foundation.
In another recent Teaching (from Matthew 19: 13-15), my Pastor touched on the dramatic deterioration our culture continues to experience with one of these “foundational building blocks”. This aspect of cultural devolution has been labeled “Fatherlessness”. Since this reality has significantly impacted my life, from near the beginning to the present day, raising the topic touches me deeply.
Before delving into this matter, first, I must issue a disclaimer. I am not fatherless in terms of not knowing who my father is nor that he had no presence in my life. Although I didn’t grow up in my Dad’s home, I knew him and I love him dearly. When he died, at the age of 56, I was devastated. With that said, when I was only three years old, he left my mother, making her a single-parent … a term that wasn’t even used in those days … and I, along with my older brother and sister, became what were then known as children of a broken home. Looking back over the decades since that event, I’ve recognized that a male role model and mentor has always been lacking in my life and I’ve often wondered how different my life would have been if that void had been filled.
Two years ago, I attended a forum at the Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, that was co-hosted by the C.S. Lewis Institute and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. As we entered the building, I could not help but feel the energy in the hall. There were a lot of vibrant, energetic, young people all around us, waiting in anticipation for the presentation. It has been a while since I have been in such a large audience of young adults who were there to seek answers – the theme being “Christianity: a failed hope?” I will have to point out one thing – there was no gimmick or bait as a draw to the event. No live music, no entertainment paraphernalia, simply a straight talk. This led me to believe that our young people today are seeking the truth and not entertainment. Let me just get into one of the topics that was addressed by one of the speakers, Michael Ramsden, which had to do with what true love is. He started off by saying how the word love has been misused and misunderstood in today’s culture. In so many cases, people say “I love you” without knowing what it means to love. Using an example from “Pride and Prejudice” he stressed on the fact that true love is based upon knowing the truth. In a worldly sense, he used the example of how people fall in love with the image of a person, vs. the real person. Once one discovers the flaws of the person, love flies out the door. This encourages people to live an image and purposely try to cover the real personality and real character. In order to be lovable people project a certain image which they think will be acceptable. There is a possibility that some of the people we see are living such an image. Knowing the truth about somebody and yet loving them is true love. When someone says “I love you”, it does not mean there is an absence of judgement. Instead, it is in knowing the weaknesses , the failures, the shortcomings, the mess-ups, and yet choosing to extend grace, mercy and love to them. That is the essence of true love.
This brings me to my other point, that I would like to highlight from the conference. The same speaker was responding to a question from a young man in the audience who questioned his motivation to turn to God in times of despair and challenges and to avoid hardships. During his response, the speaker highlighted the story of the prodigal son. He pointed out that when the prodigal son was returning back home after having lost everything, while he was yet on his way back home, the father spotted him in the distance, ran towards him, embraced him, kissed him and covered him with his coat. The speaker also pointed out that that embrace in the eastern culture is one of reconciliation. This is to me a picture or an illustration of true love and reconciliation, where the father knew what the son had done, but yet he chose to reconcile him back to himself, although, the son’s motive to return back home was just because he was hungry. The father was not looking for and did not wait for the repentance from the son before restoring him as his son. That is the sign of true love – what the father did. Christ loves us the same way in that while we were still sinners he died for us, to reconcile us back to God. May we love and pursue reconciliation, because love changes people for God is love. God bless.
Almost every parent that I know or came in contact with doesn’t want to find out that their teenager is lying to them. As a parent, I have quickly realized that it is very disappointing and frustrating to find out that you were lied too by your kids. I have to admit that I wasn’t an angel growing up. I’m sure I gave my parents many headaches. Most of the time when children are caught lying, they will not admit it right way. The incident of teenager’s lying is increasing. I believe this is due to the lack of family structure and also the lack of the basic concept of morality. You may be noticing that you’re teen is becoming more defiant. I believe this is mostly the result of a lying behavior. If a child refuses to accept that he or she has been lying this can cause distress and tension in the family. There is a reason why your teen is lying. Sometimes it is due to peer pressure and the desire to be accepted. I will encourage every parent to make time to find out who your kids are friend with.
Some adolescents believe they can convince their parents that they are not lying and this can cause parents to begin to doubt if their child is in fact lying. If you know for sure that your teen is lying, it is very important to deal with the situation immediately by finding out why your teenager feels compelled to be dishonest, discussing your feelings about the importance of trust and honest communication, and by making clear the consequences your teenager will face if you catch him or her lying in the future.
It is common when a child wants to keep something from their parents or if he or she is afraid of getting in trouble, they may tend to lie. There are also those kids who are chronic liars. “A chronic (compulsive, pathological) liar is someone who lies about things for no apparent reason. They will lie about small, irrelevant details as well as important matters. For chronic liars, they consider lying as a habit and everything for them is absolutely fair game. Sometimes it may feel like there is no benefit in confronting someone who is a chronic liar. The majority of chronic liar have a number of strained relationship and some of those good relationship may potentially take the turn for the worse. I do believe that people can change.
Don Grubin, MD, writes in an article titled “Commentary: Getting at the Truth about Pathological Lying” that was published in the 2005 Journal of the AmericanAcademy of Psychiatry. “…Clearly, to be a pathological liar, an individual must lie on more than a few occasions, but how frequent does the behavior have to be? Is the scale of the lie really important, or does this just make the pathological liar easier to spot? And why is it relevant that the lies seem pointless? From a psychiatric point of view, lying is simply a type of behavior, albeit a complex one, that demands an appreciation of the abstract concept of truth. What makes a behavior psychiatrically abnormal is not its degree or its purpose, but the extent to which the individual has power over it. The fact that a behavior may cause the individual more harm than good and that there does not seem to be a rational reason for it may be indicators of psychiatric morbidity, but neither is necessary or sufficient to establish a disorder. What these indicators suggest, however, is an apparent lack of control. For pathological lying to exist, therefore, the individual must lie despite himself, just as someone with an anxiety disorder cannot help feeling anxious.”
As a parent what do you do if you have a concern about your child lying to you? In an article by Michael G. Conner. Psy.D., titled “The Heart of Anxiety, Panic, Phobias, & Lying” he states the following: “Understanding the relationship between fear and lying is one of the best ways to deal with children if they start lying. Children lie because they are afraid to tell the truth or face the truth. Children who lie have usually had experiences where they subsequently learned that telling the truth is more uncomfortable than lying. Most of the time children first learn to lie by watching their friends, family or strangers lie.”
In closing I would encourage all parents to praise their children for telling the truth and to provide appropriate consequences for lying. Make sure to separate consequences for lying and praises for telling the truth; even if being truthful can potentially get them in trouble. Help your child understand the difference. Don’t give up, there is always hope.
Nobody wants to be wrong. I’m sure it has happened to you – you are in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one another. If the other person pushes back, you go into overdrive to convince others you are right. It starts to feel like an out of body experience—and in many ways it is. It is almost like your brain has been hijacked.
By default, we react in one of four ways: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to, and hide behind, group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up), or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him). All can be harmful if they prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinion. So the question is, do we need to be right or should we do what is right.
To get to that, we need to first determine what is right from wrong. If we want to truly be right then we must do what is right, and sometimes that may mean backing off, but it always means that we are prepared to acknowledge and confess when we are wrong. However, in order to do right we need to know what is in fact the right thing to do. It all boils down to our values and where we get our moral and ethical standards from. Are they relative or are they absolute? If they are relative, then what drives the comparison. If they are absolute, then where do we get the truth about right and wrong? This is an issue we are all confronted with on a daily basis – making the right choices in all that we say and do. That is the moral and ethical fiber of our being that differentiates us from other created beings.
For me, the truth of what is right or wrong, is in our blood, so to speak. The apostle Paul struggled with it as well. In his letter to the Romans in the very first chapter, v. 20-22 he says “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts….. Professing to be wise, they became fools”. In chapter 2 v.15 he continues to say that the “law” is written on our hearts, and our conscience bears witness, either accusing or excusing each one. So we are born with the knowledge of what is innately right or wrong. But in a fallen world, we soon learn to make the wrong choices, ignoring what our conscience tells us, inclined to justify all that we say and do, to prove that we are right. The root of this behavior and instinct, I believe, lies in our pride. It is our pride that leads us to “not lose an argument” or “have the last word”, even though we may know in our hearts we may be wrong or that it may be better to back off. It is humility that prompts us to do what is right. Christ, being God Himself, Who could prove everybody wrong, chose to silently bear to be wrongfully accused, beaten and crucified, because that was the right thing for Him to do – to obey His Father. All of us need such humility as we go about our daily lives, so we may DO what is the right rather than fight to be right. God bless.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Capitol Building in Washington DC, where David Barton was doing a presentation that was absolutely remarkable. He showed us, with great details, how America was founded on Christian principles. David Barton is the Founder and President of Wall Builders, a national, pro-family organization, that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage.
Coming from and having traveled to other countries, I have not yet seen a country that was founded on such strong biblical principles. It is very obvious that the blessings and favor that Americans have enjoyed, was due to the fact that America was covered with prayer and the Word of God. Yet today, Americans are pushing God out of every facet of life and then wondering why things are going the way they are, pointing fingers in every direction, except inwards.
As a young kid growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (a.k.a Zaire), I remember the time when things got difficult. The economy was collapsing, politically, things were not looking good either, there was high inflation, and a shortage of almost everything – food, medical supplies, fuel, etc. Those were not easy times. Some people I knew, could afford only one meal a day, if that. As a family of 13 siblings including cousins, I cannot even imagine what my parents were going through, trying to feed this mass population! What kept my family going was a farm- a great source of provision, but more importantly, it was the faith in a loving, omnipotent God. The Democratic Republic of Congo was not founded upon Christian principles, but my parents were committed followers of Christ. This heritage that I received from them has helped me throughout my adult life. It taught me not to focus on the bad situations that may appear to overwhelm us, but to keep my trust and my faith in God.
It is evident that things are not looking good here, in America. Gas prices are rising rapidly and basic necessities like food and shelter are costing more, while incomes are declining. Under these trying circumstances, it is normal for people to be stressed out. But all I can say is, that like most African people, having lived through worse situations, I see hope only in the American people returning to the God who had blessed them in the first place.
In December, 1860, James Buchanan, the then President of the United States of America, signed a proclamation which stated: “Numerous appeals have been made to me by pious and patriotic associations and citizens, in view of the present distracted and dangerous condition of our country, to recommend that a day be set apart for Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer throughout the Union. In compliance with their request and my own sense of duty, I designate Friday, the 4th of January 1861, for this purpose, and recommend that the People assemble on that day, according to their several forms of worship, to keep it as a solemn Fast.”
I believe we are re-living such times. In 1860, when things were not going well, the people turned to the leaders asking to them to return to God for answer and direction. Yet today, people are trying to figure it out on their own. I would, therefore, like to remind all Christians, to find encouragement in the knowledge that we serve a great God, and, instead of getting caught up in how bad things may appear, we should keep our eyes on God. I believe it is time for America to, once again, return to God and bless Him. I pray that the people of this great nation will make a commitment to returning to and keeping their Godly heritage.
During this season of Lent, we focus on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We reflect upon what was accomplished through the death of Christ on the cross on Good Friday, and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Reflecting upon these two events in history, I was drawn to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where he asks them to imitate Christ’s humility. In verses 6-8 of Chapter 2 Paul says about Christ “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
To me that is the very essence of humility. How many of us, if we had the power, might and authority to bring people to their knees, would be willing to take a beating, let alone die on a cross for anybody who dared to say anything against us? I daresay, we would immediately use our power and authority to silence them and let them have what they deserved. Yet, in the Scriptures we find that Christ, who was God Himself, who had all the power and authority to destroy those who dared to confront Him, chose instead to humble Himself, not claiming any authority or right to anything, and became a sacrifice for those who scorned and mocked Him. Not only did He die on the cross, but asked God’s forgiveness for them.
In this picture of Christ’s death on the cross, we see humility exemplified through grace and love. Humility was not demonstrated by a show of self-righteousness, by way of a condescending attitude of false humility. It was because of God’s love for us, that He sacrificed His Son, and it was love and grace by which the Son was obedient to the Father’s will, before Whom He humbled Himself for our sake. True humility is displayed in acts of genuine love and grace where we do not act out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in true humility consider others better than ourselves. Such humility comes only when we realize the greatness of God, and we see ourselves as nothing before Him, and in gratitude for His grace and love towards us, we cannot but do the same for others. We then begin to see that we are not that much better than the others, but that we all struggle with our own sinful nature. Once we can recognize that about ourselves, we are better equipped to remain truly humble and be able to demonstrate that by truly caring for and loving another, who is struggling.
Humility is displayed in our love for our neighbors, and conversely, we cannot love and be gracious to others unless we are humble. May we therefore, follow Paul’s exhortation, to imitate Christ’s humility. It does not mean we become doormats, but it does mean that we choose to humble ourselves in obedience to God’s precepts. We humble ourselves before God, who is Almighty, and in so doing, we are able to act humbly towards our neighbor, demonstrating love, grace and mercy, in a way that it pleases God alone, and becomes a blessing to others. Our humility comes from doing what is right in God’s eyes, not in pleasing man. God Bless.