A friend of mine, when going through Army boot camp, was asked his religion so it could be put on his dog-tags. He replied, “Christian.” His sergeants repeatedly demanded he name his denomination, but each time he was asked replied, “Christian.” He finally explained, “My Lord was crucified not separated, I’m a Christian.” I think he made a good point.
After Pentecost of Acts 2 the church began to form, and there were no denominations. At first believers in Christ were called “The Way” (Acts 19:23) but that changed after the church arrived in Antioch when nonbelievers made fun of believers by calling them Christians. The name stuck and that is what believers have been called ever since.
Here is a little test: What makes a person a Christian? If your reply is: “I’m a certain denomination,” “I was born into a Christian family,” or “I don’t know,” then may I suggest a study of the book of Acts. In your study you will find a pattern believers followed: They heard the Word, believed, repented, confessed Jesus as the Christ, and were baptized. I have found many who call themselves Christian cannot pass this test.
How about you?
Yesterday the earth, our blue marbled home that sits mysteriously suspended in the black velvet of space, went through the summer solstice. The word in Latin is made up of two words that mean sun and stand still. The sun standing still meant 14 ½ hours of daylight for us Phoenicians.
The reason for this yearly event, as we all know, is because the earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on its axis, and as it spins it wobbles; half the time the northern part of the globe is pointed toward the sun, and the other half of the time it points away. If this wobble didn’t occur, that is the earth stood straight up and down, we would not have any seasons, and we would not have life.
We don’t often think how perfectly choreographed this earth wobble is. In fact we don’t spend much time thinking about how all of creation has been perfectly orchestrated to give us life. We instead concern ourselves with things of importance like the Kardashians.
For a moment today remember: If creation is orchestrated then there must be a maestro. That maestro is God, and that’s who is to be remembered.
There is a moment in the early, early morning, and I hope you are aware of it, when the world seems to be at peace. It is a moment that occurs before the sun comes up and the moon goes down. At that moment the world is cast in blue hues and soft grays. The wild donkeys have stopped their braying, the coyotes are quiet in their dens, and the birds are not yet awake. If the wind picks up, the trees begin clapping as it blows through their branches.
The earth at this moment is quiet like a prayer. It’s as if the earth is saying to God, “Father give the descendants of Adam your peace, your quiet, and your mercy this day.” In reality though the earth doesn’t pray, for it is but stone, and seas, and air, and fire, and cold, and hot, and all these things cannot pray. Therefore, you and I must, and in that morning moment of blues and grays and clapping trees is a good time to get it done.
Friday, June 6, was the anniversary of D-day. On that day seventy years ago some 200,000 men stormed the beaches of Normandy and began the liberation of Europe. It is an event that changed the world forever.
The men who were there that day were but boys the day before. They knew they probably would not see their families again, and more than likely, not even see the next day’s sun. But when the ramps splashed down, and with bullets snapping past their ears they willing charged into the breech of war. They did it because they knew in their sacrifice others, whom they loved, would live. They charged forward with honor, bravery, and distinction, and laid down their lives on that foreign shore.
How like Christ those men of Omaha, Sword, and Juno beeches were, for he too came to a foreign shore, served with honor, bravery and distinction, and laid down his life so others may live. And in so doing he changed the world forever.
A verse from last week’s sermon was, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66); makes you tremble doesn’t it? We think if the disciples, with all their advantages, staggered; might we someday follow suit? Might every step we take forward spiritually be followed by a step backward; maybe two steps?
No one wants to be a quitter, so we respond with, “I’m going to knuckle down and do better next time,” but that doesn’t last to long. Sooner or latter that perfection of ours just doesn’t do, or we find out that there was a whole lot about holiness that we didn’t know anything about, or even considered. Simon says, “Take two steps backward.”
With this in mind the words of Paul are remembered, “Continue to work out your salvation, with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Plainly all this means is we are to take this salvation life more seriously then we take anything else in the world.