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Authentic Faith

I love attending Coastal Community Church in West AshleyScreen Shot 2014-01-05 at 4.23.04 PM.  Katy and I have been members there now for going on a year or longer.  One of the things I love about the church is that it is alive.  The church has 3 services every Sunday and they have close to 450 members in attendance.  The church is growing so much that they are breaking round on a new building this year.

The evangelism strategy of Coastal Community Church is simple.  They want us to “invest” and “invite”.  We are to live our lives in such a way that people will know that we are Christ followers.  We are to invest our lives into the lives of others.  Our challenge is to love people for who they are right now and show them how much we care.

No matter where we live, where we work or where we play, there are people all around us that are hurting.  God has placed us there so that we can reach out to them and bring them hope.

One of the statements Pastor Chris made today was this.  Salt and light have a “radical influence” on whatever it is they come into contact with.  He also stated that there are three types of “Bitter salt” and “glaring light” people who are counterfeit Christians that repel people from God.  Those are the following types.

In your fact Christians” whose sole purpose in life is to cram the word of God down your throat at all costs, and communicate to you that you will go to hell if you do not change your ways.

Holier than thou Christians“, who feel as if they are better than everyone else.  They measure their worthiness of God’s grace, by their religious accomplishments.

Cosmetic Christians”  project an outward appearance of being a Christian but when you look past the surface you find that they are no different than anyone else.  The lives of those people do not tell the story of someone that has been redeemed or changed on the inside.

Unfortunately I think that all of us have been guilty of being a lot like those three groups of people at some point.  The challenge for all of us is to do our best to be humble servants and invest our lives into those around us.  None of us deserves grace.  God pursues us because he loves us.  It is because he draws us to himself that we are even aware of his presence and love for us.  Once we respond to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ask God to be our redeemer do we really understand the power and importance of grace.

This morning we were told that Savory Salt and Illuminating Light looks like this.

A costly Christianity.  Live out our faith, even when it costs you.

A compassionate Christianity.  Don’t just share God’s love, but show it by your actions.

A consistent Christianity.  Be real, you are being watched

A committed Christianity.  Pray for people, even when they do not “deserve” it.

If you are like me, I have been challenged to be who God wants me to be in the community he has placed me in.  My challenge is to be authentic with regards to my faith and not live my life in such a way, that show me to be a hypocrite.  No one expects me to be perfect but if I say I am a Christ follower then I should act that way.

I would like to hear if any of this has challenged you.  Share with us the message you received at church today.  I would love to hear from you dear reader.

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Ash Wednesday

As I understand it today is Ash Wednesday which signifies the start of the Lent season for some protestant denominations.  This blog post has been inspired partly by another blog post that I follow religiously.  I enjoy reading this person’s blog posts each and every day.  I love how they keep it real and they speak from their heart.  

As I read their blog post this morning they were describing their experiences as a child and being forced to go to a parochial school.  As with any religious institution, no matter what the denomination, there are a lot of rules.  You can not do this and this and this.  If you do these things you will face the wrath of an angry God.  My parents were not religious.  My mother was a non practicing Catholic and I don’t remember a day that my dad went to church.  I do remember my parents being extremely strict on my sister and I.  They were so strict that I rebelled at every turn.  I tried to get away with everything that I could no matter how badly I got punished for it. 

I was so rebellious that one day my mother tried to scare the hell out of me, by sitting me down with the family bible.  This thing was so huge you could sink the Titanic with it.  My mother drew a Y on a piece of paper, and this is how she described the road of life, and what determined where I would spend eternity.  The bottom part of the Y is the road of life.  At some point you come to the Y in the road, which forces you to make a decision on which fork of the Y you would take.  If you make good decisions, and do not do bad things, then you will experience the good things of life, and go to heaven.  If you chose the bad things in life, and make bad decisions, then you will go down the fork in the road that sends you to hell.  The point of the exercise, was that my rebellion was causing me to do bad things, and I was headed to hell. 

Looking back, I realize now that I figured I was already in hell, since I was so miserable, and that I would just continue to do as I pleased.  Luckily for me,God had different plans for my life, and he put some friends into my life who were my age.  These friends were Christians, and they began to tell me about who God really is.  At the age of 17, I accepted the gift of Grace and asked God to enter into my heart and be my Savior.  I will never forget my friends father leading me in the sinners prayer, out in the woods by a chopping block.  I do not know how long it took, but over a period of time, I came to the realization that God does love me, and that his desire was not to send me to hell. 

I learned that God is real, and that I can have a personal relationship with him.  I learned that true Christianity is a love relationship, and that there is nothing I can do to be perfect enough to earn my place in heaven.  In fact, I am so imperfect and so full of sin that God had to die on the cross to pay the penalty for that sin.  In doing so, God provided us with this thing called Grace.  It is only because of Grace that I am able to be good enough to go to heaven.  Works righteousness is a religious fallacy, that leads people into believing, that if they do enough good works, that they will be good enough to enter into heaven. 

Does that mean that once I repeat the sinners prayer and ask Jesus into my heart, that I can live any ole way I want to?  No, that does not mean that at all.  My relationship with Christ does not give me a license to live in disobedience to Gods word.  Once I become a child of God, I entered into a relationship with God, that means that I should follow him, and learn how to be obedient to his word, and to his purpose for my life.  Being a Christian does not mean that I have to serve a hateful, vengeful God that is looking for an excuse to squash me, because I am not perfect.  Being a Christian means that every day I serve God, because he loves me, and has provided the penalty of sin through Grace.  I want to serve God, because he loves me so much. 

Over the years I have started to slowly uncover the meaning of what it means to let Christ be the Lord of my life.  My relationship with Christ has become more than just a mere fire insurance clause.  It has become more than just a religious membership, that allows me to enter into heaven.  What I have learned, is that Christ was to be the Lord of everything in my life.  Christ wants to be the Lord over my relationships, my finances, my time, my talents and skills and my heart.  Once I learned that I had to let go, and let God take control, my life has been so much better.  I spent years of trying to be my own God, and being in control of my own life.  As you can imagine, that has not worked out well for me.  Slowly but surely, I have learned how to have faith in who God is in my life, and I am learning how to let God change my heart, and have found healing for the things in the past.  Now I walk to the beat of a different drummer.  Now I have new purpose and meaning for my life.  Now I have a true and meaningful hope for heaven and eternity. 

I guess what I am saying, is that the season of Lent should last all year long.  I should always want life to be less about me, and more about who God is in me.  The most important commandment says this.  You shall love the Lord your God with all of your mind, heart and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.  If the practice of observing Lent will help us in doing this then by all means lets observe it.  The important thing is that we are not observing Lent to be religious but rather so that we can grow closer to a God that loves us. 

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