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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It’s About….Time

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Time.

Isn’t it amazing how it can be your best friend and a death trap all in the same day? In some situations, it can seem endless. In others, it seems like you have skipped right through it and it never happened. When will it end? Where did it go?

Time is valuable. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

So what is important to spend our time on? For a christian, it is imperative that the largest portion of our time is given to his glory. It is difficult but the journey in moving the pendulum in the right direction is worth the work.

The best place to start is with a full, honest audit of your time. Take a day, for instance, and jot down how much time you are spending and what you are doing. On a separate page, write a corresponding list of how you brought glory to God in each activity. This is a good starting point, but you have to be honest. Did that television program bring him joy? Did the gossip you enjoyed in bring him joy? Did skipping Sunday service at Church and relaxing do more for you or God?

It’s about time. Time is a gift. Our journey in life is short compared to the glory of eternal life. Make the best use of your time, while you have it, in bringing God joy and glory. Your life will be blessed for it.

Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

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Finding God In Darkness

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Mass shootings. Recorded beatings. Bombings. Whenever one of these tragedies hits the news Social Media lights up with both believers and non-believers asking “Where was God?”. Some say “Jesus, we need you now more than ever”. These are valid questions and statements, however, the perspective is skewed. Let me explain.

These acts, taken one by one, whether done by a single person or a group, regardless of whether the motive is terrorism, racism, religious, anti-religious or homophobic is a free will choice. It is the God given free will choice. What these people have chosen is darkness. What these people have chosen is hatred. What these people have chosen is to not choose love. God is love. Therefore, if they have chosen anything other than love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control, then they have not chose God. So yes, where was God? He was not chosen by this person or group of people, rather, they chose against Him.

But what about the victims? Did they not choose God? I pray that they did. Life is our one shot at finding, following and accepting God. Part of that acceptance includes peace that is found in knowing that life will include pain, suffering, sorrow and loss. None of these things are eternal. Life is but a blink of an eye compared to eternity. I understand that this can be a tough concept. Think of it like this: During a Children’s Sermon I once took a large piece of white paper and put on it one single black dot. When I held it up for the children to see, I asked the “What do you see?”. The kids all responded “A tiny black dot”. This analogy was used to show how we as humans tend to focus on the little speck of dark and not the immensely larger area of white. This is also true if you use the black dot as our time in this life compared to eternity.

“Jesus we need you now more than ever”. Yes, we absolutely do, but, he is just as he was, is and always will be, waiting for us to accept him. He is waiting for all of God’s created to turn to him, follow him, live by his commandments and accept that we are failures and cannot do it on our own. The reward is eternal life. There is no other way. The pain, suffering and sorrow of this life will one day end for us all. Choose to end this life, no matter how long or short it may seem, resting in knowing that eternity in paradise with the one who created us awaits. With that said, if you know and love someone who has turned their back from the notion that there is a God, do everything you can to lead them to Him. This is not a game. It is not a fleeting thought. Just as I heard in an amazing *Sermon last night, remember that Jesus came to be an annoyance. He came to disrupt our sinful life. He came to be a pebble in our shoe and a grain of sand in the eye. He came to disrupt us from death and sin.

Where is God? If you are a believer and have accepted him, he is in you. He is waiting for you to spread his kingdom to those who walk in darkness. If you have not yet chosen him and his ways, he is waiting. He is always one breath away. Ask for him to come into your life. Ask for him to take charge of your family and those you love. Ask him to disrupt your life. Walk in his ways. Be His hands and feet. And in preparation for when he calls you home, ask him to prepare you.

This is not a game. It is not about how many “Likes” Jesus can get. It truly is the chance for every one of us to choose him and reach as many people as we can, while we are here, with his message of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

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*Notes from the Sermon referenced above were taken from the Epiphany Sermon written and delivered by Father Tom Janikowski on January 6, 2017 at Trinity Anglican Church, Rock Island, IL.

Raccoons and Sin

I am currently dealing with a Raccoon.

Yes, you read that correctly. This is no ordinary rascal that you might see while driving at night. This particular varmint doesn’t go for the warmth of sewer drains like his buddies. No, this particular coon has decided that my attic makes a better hiding place.

Why not? Our Attic gives him warmth and a nice place to lay his head at night. But now it is time for him to leave.

You see this little fellow (or rather large fellow) has, on one occasion, made his way down our Attic stairs and to the bedroom door. Close enough to us, pal!

So what’s a guy to do when this occurs. I have found myself with a couple of options. The first is to “Man Up” and handle this creature from Hell myself or two, call in an expert to help exercise this demon. I chose the latter(not the ladder). I got on the phone with my buddy who referred a qualified professional. Yes, I asked for help.

This is how we deal with life as Christians. When a sin is starting to take over, and we realize it through self examination, we call in an expert. Just like how this Raccoon has gotten too close to the main floor and my family, a sin can do the same. First you see it. Then it finds a way in. Then, if allowed to stay, starts to creep ever closer to your heart, just like this Raccoon has made his way closer to my family. It starts to take over and it’s time to leave. I once heard sin is like a potato chip, you can’t eat just one.

So how do we deal with it? Call in the expert. Get rid of it. If a sin has started to dominate your life, come closer to effecting your family, taking your time away from joy, pulling you farther away from your relationships (including, and most importantly, your relationship with God), then it is high time to talk to an expert.

Phone number please? Easy…hit your knees. Pray, with all desire to let go in your heart, and ask God to forgive you for what you have done and rid your life of sin. It’s as easy as having a one on one conversation. Your Heavenly Father knows what you’ve done and knows the struggles you are having with it. Let him have it and get up and walk away from it. I have no idea how people go through life having heard of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the Cross yet still just sit and live miserably. He knows and wants to hear from you.

If the struggle you are having seems to big for you then find a Priest. Sit, and talk with him, pray with him, and head his advice. A Priest will not only be judged for his sin but the sins of those he is charged to lead. He is there for you. Call, sit, listen, pray and form a battle plan.

I do these things daily as I struggle as a sinful being. Through daily self examination I spot the sins that have made their way in and are creeping ever closer to my heart. Then I send a “Knee-mail” to my creator, to the one who took on human flesh and died on the cross so that I may have eternal life. Then I call upon the Holy Spirit to cover me as spiritual armor tomorrow as I walk back out into the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

Power and Control

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Recently I was asked what it is about my life that has changed. I must admit that over the course of the past year or two I have changed. I am 43 years old and have never had so much joy in all of my life as I do now. So as a cradle Christian, how can so much change this late in the game?

It is all in how you exercise free will. Free will is a gift given to us by God at birth. No matter how long or short a life on earth is, we all have free will. Believers and non-believers have the same amount. But how do we use it?

I was in full control. If you asked me, I would freely tell you that I wasn’t. I would happily tell you that God had total control of my life. Upon doing some deep personal examination, it just wasn’t the case. Food, money, relationships and even my Ministry were all under my control and I just couldn’t see it. Sure, I have had some success during that time in life, but it is minuscule compared to now.

So what happens when you actually give control of EVRYTHING to God (not just tell yourself he does). Food no longer gave me comfort. Money no longer drove me and my mood. My marriage, which was already amazing and blessed, shot to a new level. I wake up each and every day and cannot wait to see what God has in store. I no longer rely on myself for my joy. We get in amazing ruts in life when everything depends on ourselves. With God, every day, every hour, becomes new and refreshed. I was busy, but now, I have an even fuller schedule because I do things for Him rather than myself, and I couldn’t be more excited to tackle each packed full day.

So where can you begin to have this kind of life? It starts with letting go. Admit to your Heavenly Father that you no longer want control. Realize that you, dear sinner, can’t make it on your own. Know that God wants nothing more than for you to rely on him for your joy, comfort and peace. Faith is verb. It is the action of giving in and letting go.

I find now that 10 minutes less sleep equals 10 more minutes of morning prayer. Start each and every day by giving up control and starting with your creator. If you had a watch that was broken, who better to fix it than the guy that made it?

WARNING- making this decision does not necessarily mean that everyone you come in contact with will know it. It takes time. Watch how those around you daily start to see the change. They will eventually see it and want to jump on board. This isn’t something that can be seen like a new ball cap. This is supernatural! Share it with them, but don’t stumble just because their initial excitement doesn’t match yours.

Thank you for reading, liking and sharing…

Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

GOD…ARE YOU THERE?

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Praying. A topic of great importance but one that is seldom discussed. I find this especially true with new believers. Many believe that it is a completely private act and that is partially true but I fear it is due to a feeling that people do it wrong. I know this due to the many times that I have asked someone to pray out loud in a group.

It is my opinion that many people are curious and just don’t want to ask. So here we go.

First and foremost, it should be one of the easiest conversations in your entire life. Conversation? Wait what? Yes, prayer is a two way street. No it is not like texting or calling on the phone, however it is a conversation. It is also a conversation with a friend. Even if you are new to the faith, God has known you since before you existed. He knows who you are and every hair on your head. Let us not forget, he died for you. So don’t talk to him like you just met.

If God knows me so well, then why did I need to tell him how I feel? Because he loves you, he wants to hear it from you. Yes, he knows your heart and wants you to tell him. He knows what you want and what you need but just as we as parents love to discuss things with our kids, it is the same with your Heavenly Father. Just tell him, it’s that easy!

How do I pray? God taught us how to pray. The Lord’s prayer is not only the most important prayer, because Jesus said that this is how to do it, but it is a guideline.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

And it could sound something like this:

Father, my faith and trust is in you. You are the creator of Heaven and Earth. Your name is above all and I know you are there. I give my life to you and ask that your will be done. I thank you for this day which you have created and ask that you will provide what I need to make it through it. Father I have failed you and have fallen short. Please forgive me for what I have done and let your mercy rain down upon me. I pray Father that as I go about this day, you will protect me from evil and trouble, and that you will walk by my side. For this day is yours Lord and I give my life to you. Thank you. Amen.

Now it would be presumptuous of me to think that I know what you and God should talk about. I just want to show you how I believe it should go. It doesn’t need to be rigid or necessarily written out. Just talk to him! He is your Father and knows what is on your heart.

There is one more thing I want you to remember. A conversation is not a conversation without feedback. So here is something as important as everything else: LISTEN!

After you have talked to your best friend and Father, let him talk to you. Be silent and let him fill your heart. Then, as you go about your day, pay attention to what happens and who you come in contact with. Don’t ask God to give you the opportunity to serve him and pass up the chance. If someone talks to you about problems they are having, or a joyous thing in their life, show them the one who is in control. Let them see Jesus in you. Pray with them, pray for them, sit with them, listen to them, just as Jesus would do.

Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Tell him your hopes, your fears, your desires, your failures and above all else, don’t forget to thank him.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason