Practical Christianity

What is the cost of being a Christian? It’s God’s demands. He’s a jealous God, not satisfied with only a part of your heart. He wants it all. He loves you so extremely that He even uses a cross to save you. First, the cross of Jesus, by which you were redeemed. Second, the personal cross that chafes and bruises your sinful flesh as you are forced to carry it through the winding course of your life. In this way, He brings you finally to heaven.

Besides demanding, sometimes Christianity also seems impractical. How can you fit such a religion into your life? Your boss and coworkers probably don’t appreciate how demanding your faith can be. Maybe even your family doesn’t quite get it. When you go to church, it’s likely you will see people there who have trouble carrying their cross more than a few feet at a time.

So how can we make Christianity practical?

Can your church membership get along with all of the other interests and obligations you may have? Sounds great. It’s like having a beautifully decorated wedding cake to enjoy in a glass case in your dining room forever, like a fine sculpture, while also enjoying a piece for dessert with a little ice cream from time to time.

It can’t be done. The difficulty is that the world around us entices the sinful flesh within to join in everything except whatever God wants. Sin excludes God, because God excludes sin.

The world entices you with recreation. You are supposed to work enough that you can afford to spend as much time as possible enjoying yourself. When Thanksgiving arrives, the world says, “Be thankful above all for the conveniences and pleasures you have in your life — for all that makes you happy.” To the fallen world, that’s what life is all about.

But Jesus had plenty of practical things to say about that. For example, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). And again from Mark 8, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” In the ultimate “been there, done that” book of the Bible, Solomon speaks to those who value pleasure, accomplishments and experiences: “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9) And in the next chapter, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.'”

To be practical is to put something into practice. If you want to be a practical Christian, then you must put your Christian faith into practice. The psalmist writes (119:27), “The law [Word] of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.”

The world is horrified that we might turn away from thousands of coins of gold and silver. But God’s Word is worth more. It’s the only link He’s given to Himself. Only in His Word do we know our Savior. If that’s not more important to you than an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning, then what can I say? You’re like a pig staring at a priceless pearl, wondering how it tastes.

Practical Christianity means seeking God’s forgiveness by studying His Word. It’s available to you more richly than ever before: in print, in audio, on screen, or in braille. You can have it delivered to your inbox in measured portions. You can study it with friends at church. If distance is a problem, you can study it online, even face-to-face. God is finding new ways to bring it to you, but in the end, only you can put your faith into practice.

Jesus sent out His disciples saying, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). When you have received, it’s time for your faith to be active as well, showing God’s love to your neighbors. This is a life of faith, practical faith. Practice receiving God’s forgiveness. Practice reflecting it for others. This is practical Christianity.

Christmas Is Coming… Time to Start Preparing for a Great Service

We’re planning to hold Bethany’s Christmas children’s program this year again on the Sunday before Christmas. Technically, this means we’ll be stealing a Sunday from the Advent season, but it seemed to be well-received last year. On the first Sundays in Advent (November 29th through December 13), the participating children and adults will use their Sunday School time to prepare for the program.

Without a Christmas program on Christmas Eve, we will again have an opportunity to adorn the service with plenty of instrumental music. If you play any kind of band instrument suitable for harmonizing Christmas hymns, please consider getting it out and joining our practices over the next two months. We will meet on Fridays from 3:30 to 4:30: October 30, November 6 and 20, and December 4, 11, and 18. The music will be easy enough for most players. Most of our playing will be to accompany hymn singing, but some pieces may be played by the ensemble alone, and there may be some descants for soloists.

The joint Christmas Day service this year will be at Concordia in Hood River, which is an excellent acoustic space for music. Between December 20, 24, and 25, there will be three opportunities for our ensemble to play this Christmas season. Players will be encouraged, not required, to attend all performances.

Let’s Try Sunday School 2.1

Sunday School is a real challenge for us at Bethany and Concordia. A big part of the challenge is that families with children need to bring them to church on Sunday morning. A second major part is that being a Sunday School teacher is a thankless task, and can be stressful at times. But the most unusual challenge for us is that there is no pastor who can carry out a plan for Sunday School. What? No pastor? I thought we had one of those! Yes, we do, but during Sunday School, he’s away serving the “other church.” It may be comparable to poor Jacob who found himself married to both Rachel and Leah. Jacob knew that a marriage is a lifelong commitment. In his case, there were two lifelong commitments. Not exactly God-pleasing, not the best example for us, but the demands that naturally ensued between Leah and Rachel for their husband’s scarce time might be comparable to our two congregations during their Sunday School hours. Neither one can be entirely satisfied.

So the Sunday School Manifesto previously posted here will be saved for another day. It’s too ambitious for the resources available at Bethany. We’re going to do something a bit different. Two groups: adults and children, with a short-term class of only 4-6 weeks. The first class will be about Creation, dinosaurs, the Flood, and so forth. There will be refreshments, and especially for the adults, a time for visiting. When this is finished, the next few weeks will be preparation for a Christmas program: singing, instrument playing, etc. Come on October 18th if you want to see it from the very beginning, or come on a later Sunday to join the class in progress.

We care deeply about the members of our churches, including their children. So the effort to overcome our challenges and bring us together for continued spiritual growth should be well worth the investment. In fact, why not bring a friend or two with you? 9:30 on Sunday morning for fellowship, 10 a.m. for the start of classes.