“May I See Your Driver’s License, Please?”

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By Jeff Foerster

Looking at my driver’s license, I notice a few things. Most obvious is a photographic image, slightly smaller than a thumb. One note here before moving on: there is just no way to take a poor picture of me — wow. Secondly, and just as importantly, is my name, listed beside the picture. Also documented is information such as current residence, date of birth, and physical details including height and weight. Your license undoubtedly appears similarly.

Perhaps the most useful parts of my license are the image and the name. Though bearing just three names and a face a mother could love, police officers, bank tellers, airport security personnel, et al, use these as a basis to substantiate my identity. Though useful, it is incomplete. I am more than can be represented on a 2×4-inch piece of plastic.

The photographic image on any license is “flat” or two-dimensional. It pales in comparison to the three-dimensional person it represents. Likewise, each of us bears an image of God (Genesis 1:26). Like the picture on a license, the image of God we bear lacks a dimension (or two). Even so, each follower of Jesus is a reflection of the Father to a darkened world. This is a statement of truth; a fact that is based not on the worthiness of the Christian, but the presence and work of the Holy Spirit within the believer.

Like many others, my name has meaning embedded within it. I was given three names by my mother and father at birth. My surname represents my family and a German heritage dating back several centuries. The middle name I hold was taken from my father’s first name, while the meaning of my first name carries with it the grand expectations of “God’s peace.” These names, however they might distinguish me from others, do not fully define me. Many years later I was given a new name: “Christian.” Born again, of the Spirit, this new name became rich in meaning and powerful in significance. Now bearing the name of Christ, it is this name that provides greater identity than any other

Each time you take out your license and see the image and name upon it, remember the image and the name we bear because of Jesus. The image recalls God’s initial creation (Genesis 1:26) and our transformation into a new creation — “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The name “Christian” tells us to whom we belong. This does not change when we fall short of the glory of God (sin). “ — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Remember this, Christian: your identity resides not in good works, but in God’s declaration of righteousness through forgiveness in Jesus Christ!

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The Three-Legged Stool

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By Larry Short

How do you define what a true follower of Jesus is? Some say, “A person who believes in Jesus.” Others say, “A person who’s life bears the fruit of his faith.”

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between Paul’s epistle to the Romans (focusing on faith in God’s grace) and James‘ letter (focusing on faith proved through action). Recently I read a very eye-opening blog by Christian Piatt, writing in the Huffington Post, which put many things together for me. (I’m not a huge fan of most of Piatt’s work, but he is a provocative thinker.)

His blog, titled “Following Jesus isn’t primarily about beliefs or actions,” caught my eye. At the face of it, the “battle” between Romans and James seems to be just that, a battle between belief (faith) and action (works). So, what else is there?

Piatt explains:

“Right thought or belief is generally called “orthodoxy,” while right action is called “orthopraxy.” And sometimes we seem to assume that these are the only things to focus on, or even that one is somehow superior to the other.

In studying the teachings and words of Jesus, however, I’m coming to embrace the sense that “orthopathy,” or right-heartedness, is a critical third leg of the proverbial stool. Furthermore, I have the growing sense that this right-heartedness actually helps lead us to the path we’re seeking for the other two.”

It makes sense. You can be orthodox, or have the right “beliefs” about everything. Or you can be orthoprax, and have the right practice. You can even theoretically be both of these things, without having the right heart: to believe in God’s Word; to practice God’s Word and commands.

Ultimately, right-heartedness seeks sincerely to obey and fulfill the Greatest Commandment — to love God with all that we are, and our neighbors as ourselves. Orthopathy!

I like the idea of the three-legged stool, but I daresay orthopathy is a synthesis of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It’s faith and actions, together; or rather, it’s the fundamental motivation that makes James’ “third kind of faith” work itself out in our actions.

Learning to Love James

So, while like Martin Luther I used to struggle with James, I am now learning to love that book. The man who wrote it is an interesting character. The New Testament reveals that Jesus had four half-brothers (born to Joseph and Mary), and an unspecified number of half-sisters. (“Half” in the sense that Christ himself was not an offspring of Joseph, as his half-brothers and sisters were.) James was the first mentioned of those half-brothers. Early on, during His public ministry, it’s implied that his own family members apparently struggled to believe that He was who He was. But later, after His death and resurrection, it’s clear that James at least came around and ultimately was a leader in the early Christian church, taking a key leadership position in the church at Jerusalem after the disciples were dispersed.

Leading a church in the crucible of persecution would definitely give one a sense of what “real” faith looked like. And knowing the authentic, compassionate Jesus, as intimately as James did, would put you in a unique position to write about it authoritatively!

I think James issues a challenge to each of us who name the name of Christ. Don’t “just believe,” prove that you believe, through the way you live your life. Let God change your heart as well as your head, and you will see the fruit of that change working out through your lips and your hands.

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Those Trials and Tribulations

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By Jim DeAngelo

James 1:2-4 says to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I have found this Scripture difficult to reconcile with my experiences and feelings as I’ve been through these events in my life. We all go through them, and it isn’t usually much fun. I understand it does change us, but I have found it is the rest of the Scripture that requires more understanding.

First, why should we count it all joy? As I have grown to understand these difficulties and subsequent challenges in my life, I realize I wasn’t seeing the situation correctly, from a Jesus perspective. In Hebrews 12:2 it says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus saw the fulfillment of His ministry and the redemption of us, His children, and through that joy endured the cross.

When I see the benefit of the trial and the testing of my faith as the growing experience it is, I have a different expectation and view of the results. I see it as the benefit it is. I then find it easier to choose to take joy in the experience and to see the trial as a process that leads to perfected faith. I get to see how God uses them to bring me face-to-face with my issues, wrong thinking, problematic relationships, lack of faith, etc., as well as how the Holy Spirit works with me to bring it to conclusion. My faith grows and I find myself better equipped to rest in Jesus. As a friend of mine said the other day, we graduate to the next lesson.

How do I know if I am in a trial that is designed to produce steadfastness? All I have to do is check my emotions. If I am not in a place of peace and joy, but am experiencing anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, frustration — you get the picture — I am in the process of experiencing a trial. Sometimes they are short and sometimes they impact every aspect of our lives. God sees it through the prism of our transition to the image of His son Jesus and with eternity as the horizon. My challenge has been to broaden my view and attempt to see it His way instead of my way, which tends to focus on my comfort.

So, when the next trial comes, I ask you to join me and attempt to look at it through Jesus’s eyes and see it for what it is, a situation to grow me and promote me in my journey to a life of faith, lacking nothing, and, at the end of this life, to begin eternity with Jesus, the perfecter of my faith.

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Why I’m So Messed Up!

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By Nate Champneys

I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t in church. I remember being three years old and being in the toddler nursery. I remember my Sunday school teacher, “Teacher Lynn,” a sweet retired woman who taught my preschool Sunday school class. I had a really great family life. Loving Christian parents, a family that loved me, great friends, great school, great church. Pretty much cookie cutter in almost every way. I couldn’t ask for a better childhood. And yet, I am piece of work. I really am as broken and messed up as they come. I used to think, “I may not be perfect, because nobody really is, but I’ve got it mostly together.” I would look at other people who had different problems than me and think, “Wow, they need counseling.” I would never come out and say, “I am better than you,” but subconsciously that is exactly what I believed.

A few months ago I started meeting with a retired friend for mentoring, and God has really been using him in my life to show me just how broken and messed up I really am. Honestly, it’s shocking. How can I have been so blind for so long to the depths of my own depravity? And how can I have judged so many people for all their problems? I’ve got anger issues, daddy issues, pride, guilt, shame, and immaturity, just to name a few. There are times in my life when I behave a certain way and I just don’t understand why. I am just so broken.

As human beings our depravity is kind of like the Pacific Ocean. Every one of us is really messed up. This is why the Bible says, “Our righteousness’s are like filthy rags.” Anything good we bring to the table is truly laughable when compared to the ocean of our sin. Many of us will blame our childhood or our parents for our brokenness. The reality is our parents were broken, and their parents were broken, and right now I am passing on my brokenness to my children, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Everything is broken. Don’t get me wrong, God is in the middle of all this, slowly but steadily bringing healing. But it’s kind of like using a teaspoon to empty the Pacific Ocean. It’s ludicrous to think that this side of eternity we will ever come close to emptying the ocean of our depravity. But that has never been the point. I used to think that when I reached my 80s that I would be almost perfect. But the more I look around, the more I realize I have never found a human being who is almost perfect. This is a fantasy. Everyone, no matter the age, is still broken. Again, perfection is really not the point. It’s never been the point.

So what is the point then? The Scriptures say that, “While we were YET sinners, Christ died for us.” God did everything He did for you (including dying for you), not to make you a better person, but so that He could be with you. Granted, by being with Him, we can’t help but start to become more like He is. His love is so deep for you that He says, “I will love you in the midst of your ocean of sin. As you spend time with Me, I will heal you teaspoon by teaspoon, and some day, when this life is over, I will make you completely new.”

So when I condemn other people for their brokenness, I am basically saying, “I am better than you because God has removed 2,457 teaspoons out of my ocean of depravity and He has only taken 2,456 out of yours.” Ridiculous, right? God is calling us to a different way of thinking. He is calling us to be broken and messed up together. To be okay with being works in progress. Not to condemn each other, but to “spur each other on to love and good deeds.”

Hebrews 10:21-24

“And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”

 

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