Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Imitation of Christ Pt. 1

It has often been stated that: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The dictionary defines imitation as:

"Something derived or copied from an original.

To imitate means: "To appear like; or to resemble".

There's a lot of research and talk about advances in virtual reality. I have seen holograms appearing so real you have to reach out and attempt to touch them to determine if they are! This picture of a hologram generator is one highly publicized example. So, which is real - the strawberry or the hand? Perhaps neither?!

Being an old guy I still remember the advertising slogan; 'Is it real or is it Memorex'? Well, is it?

However, in my mind imitation is not NOT the sincerest form of flattery! When it comes to spirituality I believe that imitation is the sincerest and greatest form of deception! It's the devil's business. It is the one thing he does best! "Is it real or is it Memorex?"

This is strictly my opinion, but I believe that his (satan's) greatest imitation, is the imitation of Christ!

Paul, in defending his apostleship to the believers in Corinth had this to say:

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."

Satan also imitates the signs, wonders, and miracles performed by God. We are living in a day when there is an increase in lying signs and wonders. Matthew 24:24 says; “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

Deceive the very elect!? So how are we to walk in these perilous times? How are we to keep from being deceived? How are we to know the real from the imitation, - the genuine from the counterfeit?

Although I intend to further explore this topic, over the next few posts I want to offer these two brief examples.

The coin or currency of the realm

In the U.S. Department of the Treasury, when they train experts to recognize counterfeit money, they never show these agents the counterfeit. The agents are trained completely, thoroughly, painstakingly on the characteristics of the legal bills, the real thing, how it’s supposed to appear. Every nuance is noted, every feature documented in painful detail, so that when the Treasury Agent sees any difference in a bill, he knows immediately without any doubt that the bill is counterfeit. They study what the bill is supposed to look like, how it’s designed, so that when they detect any difference at all, they spot the error immediately. In other words, the ability to detect that which is NOT genuine comes from knowing that which is!

One of the foremost experts on detecting counterfeit currency demonstrated the remarkable ability to detect counterfeit bills strictly by "feel". When asked how he he was able to do this feat his response was, "I can detect the feel of counterfeit bills only because I have handled millions of dollars of the real thing."

Spiritually we need to say we have known that which is real. As we read in First John:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."

Detecting Counterfeit Christians

When it comes to those who claim to be His representatives, there is one sure way to detect whether or not they are the genuine article. Simply put, our Lord says:

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.”
Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ

Monday, July 11, 2011

What On Earth Is God Doing

I'm reminded that Jesus was asked by his guys, his students, his disciples to "Show us the Father?!" In a nutshell His response was:

"What do you mean? Don’t you know He who has seen me has seen the Father."

Whew, this adds a new dimension to the little girls’ story. Think of it. If "He" (Jesus), who we say is very God, now lives His life in and through us, perhaps the only way the world can see Him, is by looking at us. As if to say;
Want to know what God is like? Wondering what on earth God is doing! Want to see a picture? Look at me!”
Lately that's what I am thinking and writing, to myself, about. How can the world see God? And…What on earth is God doing? This question is, for me, the beginning of a new journey of exploration, contemplation and self examination.
I can tell you from experience that lately God has been doing some stuff. Just yesterday He (in and through me) spent time with His friends Dennis and Paul and with his wife Nancy. They talked about responding to homelessness, poverty and the needs of those less fortunate in our community. Later, He helped his wife pack and get ready for her trip, and yes, God is married. Later, God (in me) spent time purchasing and programming a new cell phone for Nancy’s trip to Michigan and ordering her special vitamins and protein foods to be delivered to where she will be staying. Later He (in me) made and confirmed Nancy’s rent-a-car and hotel reservations. God even helped wash some of her clothes – reluctantly and it certainly must have been Christ in me because I don't do clothes!
Earlier, in the morning, God (in Christ, in me) spent some time at the Free Store in downtown Charlotte. It is run by his friend Paul Fisher. As He does every week, God (the Holy Spirit in me) conducted a devotional bible study with some homeless folks and fed them donuts and coffee instead of loaves and fishes. Around noon He (God in me) had lunch at Dim Sum with Dennis, Paul and Nancy. Together they had a lively theological discussion. God, it seems, is quite fond of Chinese food – especially the sweet and sour pork! Oops, not kosher!! It’s worth noting that He left the waitress a very generous tip. God is not cheap! He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God loves to give and He wants to give you to have your best life NOW!
In the early evening God spent a lot time just relaxing. He rested from his labors. Later in the evening it became evident that God is also fond of Netflix! He especially enjoys reruns of the TV series 24! He and Jack Bauer are in the same business – saving the world! After watching episodes for much of the evening - God (in Christ, in me) undertook reading and responding to some spiritual e-mails. Then He did some blogging and of course journaling followed by prayer! Amen! God is good!
Then He curled up with a good Christian book by theologian Howard Snyder. As you probably know, God is very keen on intellectual and theological writings and discussions. He religiously spends countless hours daily in such pursuits. About midnight, God was seen to be asleep in his favorite chair with his feet propped up on his favorite ottoman.
Just this moment it struck me that I may have to rethink this - see God or Jesus by looking at me stuff. I’m somewhat uncomfortable with this new revelation. It seems like strange fire – not very evangelical. Right now I find myself in uncharted and turbulent theological waters. I’m uneasy and stressed out at the thought this new revelation.
Want to see God look at me” sounds kind of brassy and showoffy! It’s self promoting! Come to think of it, I’m too meek for that approach. I'm more unpretentious. I don’t like to be in the limelight or to bring attention to myself! I find that I'm much more comfortable with, “Want to see what God is like – don’t look at me - look at Jesus! That’s a much better approach and is consistent with the kind of guy I really am.