Simply Christian

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Christianity. What does it mean? Why is it important? What is required? How do I live it? Why should I?

In my day to day experience, whether it be in daily interactions or on Social Media, I find a lot of people who declare themselves christian. That’s great but I often wonder if they truly know what that means. Let’s take a look.

First, I want to tackle a simple misconception. Often, when asked to pray for someone or maybe a family member or loved one, I will ask this question “Are you/they a christian?”. Often times the response will be something like “They are Lutheran. Is that the same thing?”. Here is the simplest of answers to this topic. In order to be a christian, you must accept a few things. First God. God is the maker of Heaven and Earth, creator of all living things. Jesus Christ, God in Human flesh, came to Earth to live as a perfect example of how to live, love and pray. He also died for our sins, the sins of the whole world, rose again and ascended to Heaven. He will come again to judge the quick and the dead. The Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, is God working among us, always present, always guiding, guarding and defending us. This is not Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, etc. This is Christianity. The denominations of Christianity, as a listed above and more, are groups of different bodies within Christianity that worship in different ways, the same God. Now this is an extremely basic explanation and barely skims the surface. I merely wanted you to see the distinction between Christianity and different denominations within it.

Why is Christianity important? C.S. Lewis once said “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” Consider for a moment, everything you find important in life. How does these things compare with eternal life? How do these things compare to spending eternity with everyone here in life that you love? Your spouse, your children, your grandparents, your parents, your friends and so on. If eternal life is of any value to you, then Christianity should not only be important, it should be your number one focus.

What is required? First and foremost, your learning and acceptance of Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit. You must accept that you alone, my beautiful friend, cannot do it on your own. You and I are failures. We fail daily and quite frankly, have made a mess of our lives. Sin, our failures, control our lives and we can no longer dig ourselves out of the wholes we have created. Time for help. Time to give up control and admit that we have failed. Time to allow the creator of all things to have us back and be in control. So what is the recipe for this? Where do I buy a ticket? How do I join? Simply ask. Open your heart and your mouth and ask God to take control. Talk to Him as your best friend, your Dad, your creator. Ask Jesus Christ to take over and forgive you for your sins. Tell Him what you have done and be honest. Admit that you cannot continue to make a mess of your life and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Sit back and be quiet. Listen and let go of yourself. Your old life dies. You will, if genuine and authentic, be reborn in Him. He is waiting. Always has been, always will be. Why not now? Reach out and find a group of sinners, a Church community, who will help guide you. I am an option as well. I don’t have all the answers, it’s a part of my simple nature, but I will always be here to help guide you, pray with and love you.

What’s next? God gave us the instructions. The Holy Bible is a guide book and has the answers you seek. It is not a book you just read front to back, although you could. It is the word of God given to us through the people He appointed. Read it, research it, digest what it tells you and then go out and live it. It is personal, written to speak just to you and is a help and comfort in life.

Don’t be overwhelmed and feel like it is all too much. It does not matter what age you are or where you are. What matters is that God created you and is waiting to hear from you. Yes, he already knows what you have done, how you feel, where you struggle and what you need. He merely wants you to talk to Him, admit it and then walk in His ways.

Christianity is about having a personal, one on one relationship with God who created everything. Believe two rocks banged together and through one happy accident after another here we are? Ask yourself  “who created the rocks? “. This has been a very simple explanation of what I know. There is much more. How about we walk through it together? Join me?

Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

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A CALL TO ACTION; My Sermon Notes May 5, 2013

Harry S. Truman once said:

You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don’t believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee now. End quote.

Plans are something that are a large part of any life. When we are young, we make plans for when we become adults. In our teenage years, we make plans for the weekend, for college, for our career.

When we get to adulthood, we make plans for a family, a house, a vacation, the rest of our lives.

Some plans seem small but important. What will I wear, what I will eat, and so on.

This week we are at a major point in our life as a parish. The testimony has been heard and it is now in the judge’s hands. It is in God’s hands.

We have plans, but no matter what happens, this Church, this family, will survive. Maybe not here, but we will survive. We are faithful to a faithful God.

Now we know that this is true. We have always known this. It has been a journey. A long, hard, unpredictable journey. I believe that no matter what decision is reached, this week’s scripture comes to us at a perfect time.

From Joel:

“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. “Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.

It doesn’t matter where we are. It doesn’t matter where we meet. Think for a moment about the Apostles. After the resurrection, they did not set up shop and just invite people in every Sunday. They worked. They traveled. They took the Gospel to the world. Not from one singular location. They used their feet.

I could not help but raise my hand last week when Father asked “Who among you has important ties to this building.” I know we all have. Like some of you, my baptism, our child’s baptism, our wedding, my ordination, and our child’s funeral have all taken place within these four walls. But I do not say that. What I say is that those very important parts of mine and my family’s life have been shared with my family…Trinity.

The reading from Joel finishes with:

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Psalm 66

Come and see what God has done:

               he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

He turned the sea into dry land;

               they passed through the river on foot.

There did we rejoice in him,

               who rules by his might forever,

whose eyes keep watch on the nations—

               let not the rebellious exalt themselves.

Bless our God, O peoples;

               let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept our soul among the living

               and has not let our feet slip.

That is the words we must not just hear, but feel. He has us. He holds us in his hands. We do not hold up this relationship. He holds us up with his victorious righteous right hand.

From James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.

This may be a hard pill to swallow but it is one that I challenge young people with. It is good for all of us to hear. It is this…

If we look in the mirror and don’t see Jesus, we are doing it wrong. I do it wrong throughout the day, every day, but it is in those moments that I stop and start over by taking my failures to the Father.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

From the Gospel of St. John:

For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God

That’s us. Here today.

We have already persevered. No matter where we as a Parish family are coming together for worship and learning, we have already won. We have loved God by doing his work and loving his Son. We have been a beacon of light in this world.

But the work is not done. The scripture readings we have heard today are a call to action. Today’s Gospel reading finishes like a high school football coach rallying his team to victory

“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

What we do from this point forward is do what we have done all along. We have not just sat here and waited for man to pass judgment on us. We have done his work and must continue to do so.

I am a guy who likes social media. I engage in sometime on Facebook, Twitter and writing a blog. I know it is not for everyone and it can be ugly. But if you want a taste of how much work we need to do, take a look. I have opened myself up to the world and have attempted to reach people. The results are not always pretty, but it reminds me that the fight goes on. I cannot, in good conscience, stand in this pulpit and quote some of the responses I have received. The good fight goes on.

But it does have those moments, when I have gotten a response from people I never would have otherwise met, that have thanked me for my thoughts and my witness.

I was asked recently to share my family’s testimony recently on my blog. I did and I shared a very difficult time in our life. Most of you know that we received, and gave back to God our son Jacob on the same day. Jen and I prayed long and hard, when after our daughter Jordan was born, we were told we could have no more children. Here we are 13 years later, having had the opportunity to have so many children in our life. That is, as I will always know, due to the work done by God through Trinity Church.

We never know how God is going to do his work. We don’t know his plans. All we know is that if we remain faithful, no matter what he gives us or takes away, he will remain faithful to us. The victory is his. The work is ours. We have been called to action.

GET INTO THE MISSION FIELD

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How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Isaiah 52:7

The past couple of days, I have spent a lot of time paying attention to social media. If you are not into it, you should be. I have found that yes, as we all already know, there is a lot of negativity, hatred, and flat out disgusting things that people share to escalate either their egos or their place in society’s ladder.

But here is also what I have found. Connected to the right people, you can find inspiration. I have recently seen the postings of some very influential young Christians on Twitter and they have accepted me also.

The other positive aspect is the fact that it is your opportunity to be the hands and feet (or fingertips) of Christ in redeeming this area of our world. See what people are into and you will see how better to pray for them. For better or worse, there may be no better way then to get a barometer of where someone is at or is in need. Formulated correctly, this could be a jump start on a plan to reach them.

I have honestly been very encouraged lately to see that it doesn’t have to be as bad as some make it out to be. I certainly do not advocate spying on or bashing people with Jesus over their head, but if done with love, it can be an asset.

We as Christians must go to the mission field. It is sometimes a dark and scary place. But then again, I am reminded that Jesus hung out with sinners, just like me!

Oh and by the way, you can follow me on Twitter at @Deaconjason.

BATTLE READY

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Courage. It is a challenge for Christians when faced by the day to day changes of this world. Opinions, arguments, politics all fly at us at a blinding pace. So how do we deal with it? How do we stand firm in the faith while going about converting as we are called to do.

We must do everything that we do with love for all. Hate the sin but love the sinner. Easier typed than done, I know.

1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV)

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
If you have difficulty in this area of your Christian life, you are certainly not alone. Remember all of those who have done the work before us that laid down their life for the kingdom. Most importantly, remember that Christ only loved all of us, yet was crucified.
If you find yourself backed in the corner for your faith, being called on the carpet for your Christian beliefs, remember that the enemy is behind it, not the one who is standing before you. This is where you must love them. You must pray for those who don’t pray for themselves. Being Christian doesn’t always mean that you have to take a beating. Stand firm but let the word “LOVE” go before all that you do and say. Keep Christ in the forefront of your mind so that your words and thoughts will be his.
Turning the other cheek is tough. Reading someone’s thoughts and beliefs that you know are not the Father’s can be hard. Engaging in a personal, online debate is probably not going to change their beliefs. Pray for an opportunity to reach them. Pray for God to change their heart. Be armed and ready when the chance arises, but again, do it with love.

HOME IS WHERE HIS HEART IS

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As I go about the business of talking to people about faith, I have found that a great number of people, for some reason or another, like to tell me that they are “spiritual” but do not attend Church. There are a number of reasons that they will give. I would like to share my thoughts on this with you and maybe we can help each other be prepared for the next time we are faced with this challenge in evangelizing (Preaching the Gospel).

Here are a couple of the comments that I most often hear. “I don’t need to go to Church, I can worship God in my heart.” or “Church is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.” If you have spent anytime in attempting to bring people to the faith, I am sure you have heard these statements and many others.

What do we do when confronted with these statements?

First and foremost, BE REAL. Remember that this kind of thinking comes from a potential lifetime of the person feeling this way. You most likely will not be able to change it with some, what I like to call, “Bumper sticker religious statement”. Here is my favorite one of these (and it is true) “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a haven for Saints”. Throwing statements like this at them will most likely not change their heart. You have to take time and truly show them how it has impacted your life. Help them see that God loves to be worshiped and God loves to be praised. If they are parents, remind them of how it feels when their children come over. They love nothing more than to see their children and grandchildren, laughing and fellow shipping with each other. It is the same with God.

There is also something to be said for recharging your spiritual batteries and strategics. Think of it as an army. If you had an army of 1000 soldiers and sent them out into the woods, they would lack training, supplies, ammo and most important they would not know the strategy of battle. They would aimlessly wander around the woods. Maybe they would stumble upon the enemy and not know what to do next. Ultimately, just as with their faith, death would come upon them.

If you cannot convince them, no matter how long you talk and listen, then you must show them. St. Francis of Assisi is attributed with saying “Preach the Gospel. Use words when necessary.” Just be there. Be ready. When they are sick or hurting, attend their needs. When they are thirsty, give them something to drink. When they are hungry, feed them. Pray for them when they won’t do it themselves. Most of all, show them the love of Jesus in any way possible. It may take time, but if you ask, God will give you the opportunity.

The enemy stands at the ready. We as Christians are called to go out into the world and draw people to a life with Jesus Christ. The enemy has already equipped his soldiers with doubt, fear, hate and lies. It is our job to ensure that we stand at the ready, equipping ourselves for the battle, converting as we go. No we cannot do it from the pew. People are no longer seeking the Church for help. It is our duty to go out and get them where they are.

I leave you with the thoughts I have today for the children’s sermon. If you were going to carry a dollar with you and you had no pockets, would it be easier to carry 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels, 100 pennies, or a dollar bill. The dollar bill is what we as Christians must become. We must stand firm and together when doing the business of the one who sent us.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason

GO LIGHT YOUR WORLD

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When I am doing the work of the Church, Mass or a hospital visit, I wear a black clerical shirt and a collar. This is a part of the Anglican tradition and one that I hold as a very high honor. The question that I present to myself before putting it on is “Do you need this collar for people to know you are a Christian?” There are times that I feel that I would answer yes but I know it should never be that way.

I know that many of you that will read this blog post have not been called to this kind of ministry, as I have not been called to what you have been called to either. But do you need a hat, a sign, a bumper sticker, or a shirt that says you are a Christian?

We all face days that are better than others. We all fall short, even on our best days. But how are you known to others. Consider how each person that you come in contact with everyday would label you if asked. Would their first response be a Christian? A jerk? High strung? Fake? Nice? Sweet? The list goes on…

More over, how would those that are closer to you answer? Maybe it wouldn’t be “Christian”, but how about loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled. If those who come in contact with you would say these things truthfully, then you are known as having Christian qualities. Does any of this sound familiar:

Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Here is an example that I have shared in my Youth Ministry: Take a light and completely cover it with a box. What happens to the light? It cannot shine of course. It is still there, but cannot be seen.

If the light of Christ is not shining through you, then go to the Father and work together on finding out what your box is that is hiding HIS light.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason

THE RIDE

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Ever feel like your spiritual life is a roller coaster ride. If it seems like it is constantly going up and down and side to side, you are not alone. Often times life will drag you down after a period of emotional highs.

Take a walk with me. I want you to remember the first time you went to an amusement park. Maybe it was the second or third time, but this time was different. You rode your first roller coaster. If you have never experienced it, just imagine what it would be like.

You stand in line (sometimes what may seem like, or actually was, hours). This was the time before you became a Christian. You stood there, barely moving and not going anywhere. What a waste of time. Everyone in line (the non-believers) just standing there waiting for something good to happen.

Then you finally got to your destination. You made it to the front. This may be the first time you went to Church or you made the leap into a life with Jesus Christ. Butterflies in your stomach, knees knocking, you follow instructions and sit in the car. Oh the first time your butt met a church pew or a chair in a Church. Don’t know what to expect but you feel that EVERYONE is staring directly at you.

Then the old heavily weighted safety arm traps you in. Yes, I know, that is how some of you may have felt the first time in Church.

The cars start to move and you are on your way. There are smells and noises that only this experience brings. Maybe it was unfamiliar music, singing, or bible versus you have never heard. This was the clanging of the cars or the track of the coaster as it moved. side to side you go, not knowing what is coming at you next.

Every roller coaster has to have that one giant climb. You have experienced them before in life. Maybe your wedding, a birth of a child, or a family reunion. Those are the moments that fill you with laughter and memories. It is that way also with our spiritual life. I have experienced many occasions when I have felt like I was on the rise and there was no way of backing down. Just like on a roller coaster, you are not stopping the ride and rolling backwards.

Now as we are imagining all of this, take a moment and look around. See the people down below? The ones walking on the ground. They look so tiny! Know where they are headed or what their destination might be? Of course not. To you, while on this upward climb, they seem lost and just well…wandering.

As our roller coaster cars are on the upward climb, there are people in front of us, higher than we are, and some behind us, lower than we are. They are on the same ride, taking the same path upward, but still at different stages of the ride.

This is the ride we all take as Christians. Some people are on the ride with us. These are fellow Christians. Some are in the cars ahead of us and are experiencing a higher point on the climb upward. Some are in the cars behind us and will get to the point we are at.

Where are the non-believers? Remember the people on the ground? They appear to us as just aimlessly wandering around. Maybe they have ridden the same ride as us before and don’t want anything to do with it again. They jumped off at some point before the joy set in. Or, quite possibly, they have never experienced this ride we call the Christian faith. How will they ever know how fun it is if we don’t share our joy in it?

As Christians we must remember that Christ did not call us to a life of ease. He never once promised that accepting him would make our life unchallenged and easy. Sometimes, even as Christians, we must endure the twist and turns, ups and downs, and sometimes even feeling upside down. You will experience people who are more in tune with their spiritual life than you, even if you pass by them upside down in your faith. Don’t fret and always remember that God designed the track. He controls which direction you go next, if you let him have control. Don’t look down on those you love if they are on a different level than you. Just sit in the car next to them and when they can’t hold on for the ups and downs, just make sure they know you are there. Maybe next time you are on the way down and scared, God will use them to hold on to you and keep you from falling off the ride.

If you want some scripture to reference, please read psalm 91

In His Name,

Deacon Jason