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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Put That Down

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Weight. It can suck the life clean out of you. Extra body weight has stifled me for most of my entire life. I have, however with the help of God himself, changed my lifestyle and have lost some extra pounds. 120 lbs. to be exact. But there is more. It’s not fat that I want to lose now, it’s baggage.

If you are or ever have carried your mistakes around with you then you will know how carrying extra stuff can really affect your life. It hampers everything. Work, family and recreation. Let it go.

For true believers it is as easy as saying “God, here is what I am dealing with. Please take it from me.” It is often said that this is the hard part, Actually confessing that you cannot deal with whatever it is alone. Not so fast.

What I find, most of the time, is that it is what comes next that is always the most difficult. It’s letting go and actually letting God have it, whatever it is.

There were two Monks who had taken a vow of silence. Prior to the silence beginning, they had planned to walk daily through a nearby wooded area. They came upon an elderly woman who was stifled on her journey by a creek. She was too old and too frail to cross the water. One Monk walked up to her and asked “Miss, may we carry you across?” She joyfully responded “Yes”. So the Monks lifted her by the elbows and carried her across the creek. The two Monks were on their way. They had journeyed 5 miles on from the creek when the second Monk said to the first “You broke our vow of silence.” The first Monk responded “My Brother, we carried that woman 30 feet, you have carried her for 5 miles.”

My point? If you are carrying extra baggage and have asked God to truly take it from you and be in control, why do you still carry it with you? If you had to make a journey with a suitcase full of rocks and you got to a sign that said “Empty your bag here”, would it make sense to refill your bag with rocks before moving on?

We believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth. Why should we not believe that He could not handle the messes we have made?

Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

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See Me

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People love to hate things. Unfortunately, Christianity is not excluded.

Pull up your Facebook or Twitter accounts and scroll a little. It won’t take you long to find someone, somewhere who throws in a “Hand Grenade” of a post. You’ve seen them. A picture of a Christmas Tree with a sign that says “We sell to Christians only” or a news article on members of a cult, claiming to be Christians, holding signs and protests at a Soldier’s Funeral.

You may have heard it said that you can sleep in a garage, but that doesn’t make you a car. The same can be said for anyone who carries or raises high a flag that says they are a Christian. That is not who we are.

What we are, and what I wish the world could wrap it’s head around, are sinners. We, or better yet, I, am a failure. We all fall short of God’s call to walk in the ways of his Son Jesus Christ. Not one single one of us deserves his mercy. Yet, his promise is always to have mercy on his repentant faithful. Thank you God.

So what can we do?

First and foremost, walk in his ways with his help. Pray without ceasing. We are called to be in unending and ceaseless prayer. Make your daily life, as you interact with the world, a conversation with God. He walks with us in our homes, our work, our shopping, our worship and yes, our Social Media. Be ever mindful that your journey in life includes God no matter where you are.

Know that a reaction is sometimes what people are after, so, give them one. No I don’t mean by engaging them in a war of words. That is what they want, to see you break and become judgmental and hateful. I mean to pray for them. We show God the love that we have for others most by praying for them. Ask God to change their hearts and to forgive them.

Last, make your presence known. Be there in their joys and their pain. Celebrate with them as well as mourning with them. That is what God does, so why wouldn’t you shoot for the same?

Not a single one of us may ever be able to change the world, but, know that we do have the ability to change the world around us. In my experience I have found that sometimes it just takes time. As you present yourself to them, showing them the true love of Christ that dwells within you, a change starts to occur. Plant the seed and let God do the watering through you.

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Be blessed,

Deacon Jason Bowden

 

 

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

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