How can a Christian avoid compromising his faith?

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I answered this question on Quora:

How can a Christian avoid compromising their faith?

  • By being actively involved in a Christian church and reading a lot in the Bible, possibly with the help of a catechism, commentaries, or similar, in order to know what his faith is all about.
  • By being willing to be ridiculed, attacked, or persecuted by non-believers, and to bear material disadvantages patiently, when he does not participate in certain activities or does other things that are met with incomprehension. Of course he will only achieve this to a limited extent, and only with a lot of prayer—but that’s why he doesn’t rely on his own strength and virtue but on the help, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of our God.
  • At the same time it is important not to be too quick to label every bit of opposition as “persecution”. While I believe that our society is moving in a direction where we will eventually have to reckon with persecution, what we experience is still a far cry from what Christians in countries like China, North Korea, Cuba, and many Islamic countries have to live (and die) with.
  • He also needs to keep in mind what a favorite pastor of mine[1] recently said: There’s a difference between being present in political spaces as the presence of Jesus, trusting in Him as Savior, and being present in political spaces as “Christians,” trusting in politics to solve all the problems we face or to turn our nation into a “Christian country”.

These are just some of the things which can help a Christian live his faith without compromise; there surely are others I have not thought of.

(Of course, these points also apply to women and girls, even though in this post I use the masculine forms for simplicity and style.)

I borrowed the meme at the top of this post from The quote from Anne van der Bijl, God’s Smuggler and the founder of Open Doors is of course based on Peter’s answer to his accusers, in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

  1. Kenneth Tanner[]
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Remembering a Great Servant of God

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Shortly after my conversion, in 1972 I spent six months working in a Christian book warehouse in the U.K, with Christians from many different nations and church backgrounds, and I was introduced to books like Run, Nicky, Run and The Cross and the Switchblade.

When I came back to Austria, I began to attend a conservative Evangelical church planted and pastored by a saintly Mennonite Brethren missionary from Canada. However, I also regularly visited a coffee bar at a local Pentecostal church, patterned and named Teen Challenge after the ministry from The Cross and the Switchblade. This was a time when Evangelicals in the German-speaking countries were very suspicious of Pentecostals and Charismatics, and very shortly after my pastor went on furlough to Canada the Austrian leaders he had left in charge of the church remonstrated with me for my involvement with the Pentecostals and basically told me stop going there. Having come to appreciate cross-denominational fellowship during my time in the UK I refused to do as I was told and instead looked for a different church home.

I found it in another Evangelical church planted by an equally saintly American missionary who, after I had explained my situation, welcomed me—without trying to curtail my contacts with the Pentecostals. However, as was common practice, after a couple of years he too went on furlough, leaving others in charge of the church. And to my dismay the situation repeated itself and these leaders basically told me to break off my contacts with the Pentecostals. Dismayed, I took my leave from that church also.

Now, while I appreciated the brothers and sisters at the Pentecostal coffee bar, I was not a Pentecostal myself, so I needed to find another Evangelical church. I had heard of an American opera singer who had what was probably Vienna’s first charismatic prayer meeting in his home, and who attended an English-speaking Baptist church in Vienna. Figuring that a church which tolerated a Charismatic as a member would hardly have a problem with my Pentecostal contacts I went and sought out the pastor of that church. I explained my predicament and was welcomed.

I spent the next ten years at that church, with the exception of two years of Bible School in France. I began to work full-time for a literature ministry in Eastern Europe and got married. Throughout this time I benefitted greatly from the pastor’s preaching and from a multi-year, very detailed study of the Gospel of John led by his wife.

In 1984 the ministry I was working with moved my wife and me to Texas, thus ending my very profitable time in that church and under this pastor.

The pastor, Randy Mathews, and his wife Alice eventually moved back to the US and for a long time I was out of touch with them; then Facebook came along and allowed me to reconnect with a lot of old friends, including Randy and Alice.

I don’t know where I would be today if, after my disappointing experiences with two churches, Randy had not welcomed me to his church.

Today found out that a few days aho Randy went home to his Lord and mine, at the ripe old age of 97. Unlike his wife and daughters I cannot really say that I will miss him—too sporadic has been our contact in recent years—but I will remember him with gratitude, gratitude both to him and to God for him.

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Refugees Then (1940s) and Now (2000s)

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On Facebook a friend, writing about the BBC’s two-part feature “The Holy Land and Us – Our Untold Stories”[1], says,

The one thing that stood out to me was the post war arrival of thousands of refugees crowded into boats. It made me think about the views to refugees arriving here in boats and how contradictory our ideas can be. Do people have different views about refugees arriving in Palestine in boats and refugees arriving here in boats?[2]

I have not yet watched this but here is how I would answer my friend’s question about attitudes towards refugees:

I suspect the reason for the difference in  attitudes to Jewish refugees arriving in Palestine in the 1940s and all the refugees arriving in Europe in recent years is at least two-fold:

  1. Unlike today’s refugees the Jewish refugees were not coming to Europe, they were leaving it, thus becoming someone else’s problem.
  2. In the 1940s most of Europe had a bad conscience vis-a-vis the Jews, for having looked the other way when the nazis’ treatment of the Jews of Germany and occupied countries was becoming obvious. This is true both of countries like the UK as well as of non-nazi citizens within Germany and Austria.
  3. Refugees coming to our countries back then were mostly Europeans like us, not foreigners with a vastly different culture like today’s refugees.

Today’s refugees are coming to Europe, thus becoming our problem and inconveniencing us; with the exception of the Ukrainians this past year they are foreigners with a religion and cultures alien to us; and unlike those alive in the 1940s we today do not feel responsible for nor have a bad conscience about contemporary situations that prompt people to flee their homelands.

Needless to say, I think this applies not just to refugees arriving in Britain by boat but to refugees arriving in other European countries receiving a less-than-enthusiastic welcome.

My own country of Austria is a prime example of this. Not only is there at most a reluctant welcome of today’s refugees, but attitudes to Jews and Israel have shifted as well: WWII and the Holocaust are distant history to those born in the past fifty years and most of them don’t feel any guilt/shame/responsibility for what happened to the Jewish people, thus they are less sympathetic to Israel’s plight. On the other hand, Palestinians, portrayed as the underdog, evoke sympathy.

  1. “The Holy Land and Us – Our Untold Stories” on HD TV Omega Stream, may require registration. If you are in the UK you should also be able to find it on BBC iPlayer.[]
  2. Facebook Post by Jim Stewart on Mar 22, 2023[]
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Many Openings And Many Hollow Spaces

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  • Trigger-Warning: This blog post mentions body functions which some readers might find distasteful.

Many years ago, posted in the bathroom of a church preoccupied with Israel and their role in God’s plans for this world, I found a text which at first I found amusing; however, on second thought it seemed very appropriate to this place.

It was the prayer known as Asher Yatzar, a blessing (bracha or beracha, pl. brachot – Hebr.: ברכה, Yiddish: broche) which observant Jews recite after every visit to the toilet and which also forms part of the morning prayers (Shacharit) in the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book:

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe,
who formed man with wisdom
and created within him many openings and many hollow spaces.
It is obvious and known before Your Seat of Honor
that if even one of them would be opened,
or if even one of them would be sealed,
it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You even for one hour.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.

For most of the past year I have been bedridden, at first after surgery on my thigh and since then because of muscle atrophy, and because of this I have a urinary catheter. Most of tge time it works pretty well; it has to be changed every two months and sometimes it gets blocked and has to be changed as well. Up until three weeks ago this happened four times, in approx. nine months. The most recent scheduled change was February 21, and in the three weeks since I have been to the hospital six times with a blocked catheter, most recently twice within a twelve hour period. That last one was particularly unpleasant:

During the wait for the ambulance and the ride to the hospital around 5:45 a.m. my bladder kept filling up; once there I had to wait in the accident outpatient department for the duty urologist to come and take care of me. Of course all this time my bladder kept filling up, moving from uncomfortable to increasingly painful.

Around 6:45 I was told that the urologist wasn’t coming but that I would be moved to the urology outpatient department. So, more waiting, with an increasingly painfull (sic.) bladder, for the official opening hour of the urology outpatient dept. at 7:00 a.m., and then for their staff to show up after their shift change conference. By that time it was 7:15 and the pain almost unbearable. Then: blessed relief!

The catheter change didn’t take very long, and then I had to wait another 30 minutes for an ambulance to take me home, but by that time I was as comfortable as one can be, lying on a narrow gurney in a hospital corridor.

Now I have to irrigate my catheter at least twice daily with saline or citric acid solutions, and while my body protests that the bladder isn’t meant to be filled from that direction it beats not being able to pass water!

Now, I don’t normally waste much time thinking or talking about such body functions, but in my current situation I am reminded of Psalm 139:14:

I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.

That is exactly what Asher Yatzar expresses in a few more words, and one may smile at the notion of reciting this after every visit to the loo, but onlty as long as one’s own many openings and many hollow spaces are doing their job.

As evangelical Christians from non-liturgical traditions we aren’t really into prescribed, set prayers or rituals, for good theological reasons; however, as a suggestion rather than a requirement the Jewish practice of reciting these blessings in almost all circumstances of life can be very valuable because it constantly reminds us that we live all of life, including the “less honorable[1] aspects, in the presence of God–not just the one hour on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, or the daily quiet time.

And that reminds me of my closing questions: Why didn’t the church I mentioned above apso post the Blessing for the Washing of Hands ((Netilat Yadayim,  Hebrew יָדַיִם נְטִילַת) above their sink:

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, King of the universe,
who commanded us concerning the washing of hands.

But of course this was a long time before Covid-19.

  1. 2 Tim. 2:20[]
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The saddest words ever spoken to a sinner

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A video short by Chad Bird:[1].

I think the saddest words spoken to a sinner were spoken by the priests to Judas Iscariot. When her realized that Jesus had been condemned he went to the temple, and he went to the priests who had paid him the pieces of silver to betray Jesus. He said, “I’ve sinned by betraying innocent blood,” and they responded to him by some of the coldest words ever uttered by men: “What’s that to us? See to it yourself!”

And sadly, Judas did. He went out and committed suicide.

When someone confesses their sins to us, the last thing we should ever say is “What’s that to me? What’s that to us? See to it yourself.” No, when someone confesses their sins we say, “Brother, sister, you are forgiven. We have a  good and a gracious and a compassionate God. He is ready and willing to forgive you. Be of good courage and be of good cheer, you are forgiven!”

Not, “See to it yourself!”

Christ has seen to our sins. He has paid the penalty for everything we have done. It is His forgiveness, and His alone, which gives us hope and confidence for the future.

This video was published on Facebook. Transcribed by Wolf Paul and posted here with the author’s kind permission.
Copyright 2023 by Chad Bird.

  1. Chad Bird is Lutheran Pastor, Theologian, and Professor for Old Testament and Hebrew. He has written for many publications and authored several books.[]
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And so it goes on and on …

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    Photo & Clipping Credit: Washington Post website

And so it goes on and on and on …

But private gun ownership with minimal checks and controls remains a sacred right protected by a particular reading of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The right to keep and bear arms is here clearly linked to the citizens being organized as a militia. But for some reasons otherwise rational Americans ignore this and insist that every Tom, Dick, and Harry should be able to walk into a store and buy not just a pistol or a hunting rifle but a machine gun or assault rifle.

An American friend told me that as a European I do not understand that. For a long time I thought I did, but with every incident like this I my understanding wanes.

Some folks tell me that without the right to bear arms the U.S. would still be under the British Crown[1]. But for this to hold true, for freedom-loving citizens to rise up against a despotic government and actually prevail, you would also need private ownership of tanks, fighter jets, war ships – the full arsenal of modern warfare. Ludicrous!

What is most difficult for me to wrap my head around is that many of the people who put forth such (unpersuasive) arguments for this particular interpretation of the Second Amendment are all evangelical Christians, followers of the Prince of Peace, quite a few of whom have served as missionaries in Europe. What a testimony!  Unbelievable!

So we can look forward to more such incidents in 2023, an uninterrupted stream fom 2022 and years past.

When our application to stay on in the U.S. long term was denied in 1989, it was with disappointment and regret that we returned to Austria. It pains me to say so, but today I am so relieved and thankful that we are no longer in that hopelessly polarized and divided country and that our kids grew up without only a minimal threat of a shooter going on a rampage in their school.

  1. Not that this would be so much worse than the current political situation, especially in the past seven years, with no end in sight![]
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The Bible is a Communal Book

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A subject which has occupied my mind for quite some time now is the tendency among us Evangelicals to ignore and even demonize past theology–specifically, most theology prior to the founding or beginning of our own tradition, denomination, or movement.  I think the reason for this is that many Evangelical Christians misunderstand the Reformation principle of “sola Scriptura” to mean, “My Bible and Me — don’t need anything else“. This attitude of many Evangelicals would better be described as “nuda Scriptura” (the naked Scripture) and it leads to the phenomenon of each believer being his or her own pope. However, I think this is a far cry from what Martin Luther meant–after all, in his own interpretition of Scripture he frequently references the Church Fathers and their interpretations.

In this post Keneth Tanner argues that while personal Bible reading is good and useful, it is not enough: Holy Scripture must be read in and with the church in order to be properly understood.

A Guest Post by Kenneth Tanner[1]

The Bible is a communal book.

Yes, you can sit down in a chair by yourself and read the Bible, and the Spirit can illumine your mind and quicken your heart, but that is true only in a very narrow sense.

This “personal” way of reading Scripture is a minimal approach that too many make maximal.

We are meant to hear the Scriptures as we gather in the liturgy around the table with bread and wine, and to read them (as we read them!) with the whole church through time, situated as she has been (and as she is) among all sorts of persons in all sorts of places.

We cannot read the Scriptures with wisdom without the community that has over centuries across many languages, cultures, and paradigms created, gathered, preserved, interpreted, taught, prayed, and preached them, and this includes rabbinical and patristic readers.

If I’m only reading Scripture with the family that raised me or the tradition in which I was catechized or the society in which I am situated, if I am only paying attention to contemporary and not also ancient voices, to readers from my camp or clique or race or tribe without listening to the choir of time-tested Christ-wise readers, my reading will at least be mildly idiosyncratic if not ludicrously wild and potentially harmful.

When we read the Scripture with the whole church we are likelier to find the meaning of each lyric or story, prophecy or precept in the only place we will find them: the flesh of Jesus.

Jesus Christ opens our minds to understand the Scriptures and that happens in communion with his broken body.

  1. Fr. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of the Anglican Church of the Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA. This text was first posted on Facebook on February 2, 2023.

    A German translation by Wolf Paul is available here.

    Copyright © 2023 by Kenneth Tanner. Used by permission.[]

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Teach Us to Number Our Days

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A Guest Post by Chad Bird

Father, teach us to number our days, as we joyfully reflect upon the fact that, because of Jesus, you are not numbering, not counting, our trespasses against us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19).

The Lord is not a celestial accountant, who keeps an exact tally on our sins, hourly and daily adding them up and sending us the bill to show us how indebted we are to him. What a joyless monster of a deity that would be.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to live completely and perfectly covered by divine love, even as, in ourselves, we incompletely and imperfectly follow him. We limp. We stumble. We fall. And we confess, repent, and pray.

As we do, the Lord’s hand is never withdrawn from our own, nor is his heart ever, even for a moment, turned from us. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:13-14). Dust, to be sure, but dust that is as precious to him as gold.

Lord, teach us to number our days, as days lived solely by your mercy, at the foot of the cross and empty tomb, overshadowed by your love.

Such a life will probably not end, as Jacob’s did, with a spectacular funeral and international march to the cemetery. It will most likely conclude not with a bang but a simple last breath. One more exhalation of the air that we have long breathed in his world. A humble funeral. A final goodbye (for now) from our grieving family and friends. But inside us will be that “heart of wisdom,” of which Moses spoke (Ps. 90:12). A heart formed by the very hands that fashioned the world, that were fastened to the cross, and that filled us with the Holy Spirit that we might follow him.

Lord, create in us such a heart of wisdom, that running or walking or limping or crawling or lying on our deathbed, we might, along with Jacob, be your disciples, chosen, beloved, and precious in your sight. Amen.

This  excerpt from Limping with God: Jacob and the Old Testament Guide to Messy Discipleship” by Chad Bird is Copyright © 2023 by Chad Bird and posted by permission.

Chad Bird is a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and professor for Old Testament and Hebrew. He has written for numerous Christian publications and authored several books.“Limpimg With God” is his most recent book.
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Sounds of my Childhood

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Somebody asked this question on Facebook: Well, for me one of these would be the sounds of Formula Vee car races on the former airport in Vienna-Aspern (now an Opel plant and the Seestadt housing estate). We lived about two miles away as the crow flies, and on the Sundays when they were racing we could hear them all day long.

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Was Jesus actually born on December 25?

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Every year in November and December articles and posts circulate, both in the printed press and online, about the supposed pagan origins of Christmas. Lutheran theologian Chad Bird ably refutes these here.  However, just now I came across two other objections: (1) Christmas is bogus because December 25 is almost certainly not the actual birth date of Jesus, and (2) Christmas has become so thoroughly commercialized that any spiritual meaning it might have had has become irretrievally lost.

I have a few thoughts on that:

  1. The first of these objections stems from a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of the  church  or liturgical year, which is not about commemorating actual historical dates. Rather, it tells the story of Jesu’ earthly ministry in two commemorative cycles: The first one commemorates the promise of and waiting for a Redeemer, as well as His Second Coming, in Advent, and comes to a climax in the celebration of the Redeemer’s birth at Christmas and his revelation to the world at Epiphany, and the second one starts on Ash Wednesday with Lent, a period of 40 days of preparation for the central events of salvation history, from Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), to His crucifixion and death (Good Friday), and culminates with in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter. Finally it celebrates the Ascension of the risen Christ, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the triune nature of God on Trinity Sunday. The remainder of the year, variously known as the Sundays after Pentecost or after Easter, or simply as Ordinary Time, is often seen as representing the age of the church from Pentecost until Christ’s Second Coming, and in several church traditions closes with the feast of Christ the King on the Sunday before Advent.  So the actual date of Christ’s birth is no more relevant to the date of Christmas than the actual dates of Jesus’ death and resurrection are to the date of Easter (which changes every year, anyway).
  2. Yes, Christmas has become extremely commercialized and we sometimes wonder if it can be redeemed. But (a) we all, as individuals, as families, as church communities, have a choice of how far we go along with the commercialized aspects & traditions, we can all still focus on the real significance of Christmas: the birth of our redeemer. This is obviously easier if one is part of a church community which actually celebrates the liturgical seasons and feasts. And (b) Christmas seems to be a time when people are more receptive to spiritual things, and people who will not ordinarily set a foot in church will be open to attend special Advent and Christmas concerts, plays, and services.

While the seasons and feasts of the church year are nor biblically mandated, they, just like the biblical feasts of the Older Testament, are designed to remind us of God’s redemptive acts on our behalf, and to celebrate them. And and as with the biblical feasts, explaining their significance to our children and others who do not yet believe is an important part of that.

So while the observance  of the liturgical year with its seasons and feasts is not biblically commanded, those of us who do observe them ought not to look down on or disparage those individuals and church communities who don’t observe them; conversely, those of us who do not follow the liturgical year should not look down on or disparage those who do.


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