Tag: Christ

The Leadership Legacy

One hundred and forty eight years after the people of Cleburne, Texas chose to name the city after Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, a statue was erected in his honor. Underneath the statue is a plaque containIMG_3025ing the following statement.

Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne’s battle cry was “Follow me” when other generals said, “Forward, men.” Robert E. Lee wrote, “He shone like a meteor on a clouded sky.” Jefferson Davis called him “The Stonewall of the West.”

Cleburne was born March 16, 1828, in Cork County, Ireland. His superiors revered him; his troops trusted him. Cleburne died on November 30, 1864, as he led his unit at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

In 1867, with the support of local veterans who had served under the General, the new county seat of Johnson County was named Cleburne.

IMG_3027General Cleburne died many years before I came to live in Cleburne, Texas. As a resident, I have been curious about him. Now I am struck with the legacy of leadership he left.

His men literally followed him into battle. They didn’t just hear his commands; they observed his bravery. As a leader who was respected and trusted, he demonstrated his loyalty to their joint cause by his example and gave his life to that cause in the process.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ who gave more than General Cleburne was capable of giving. Although our Lord Jesus has won the greatest battle of all time – the spiritual battle for our souls – many people are just curious about Him.

I revere and trust Jesus as my Savior and Lord. He led by example. He demonstrated in His own body how to live a victorious life. He died in my place. As the Son of God, He rose from the grave and gained the victory over sin and death for those who would trust Him. Through His sacrifice, I do not have to die. I serve Him with gratitude for all He did for me and for the spiritual army of which I am a part.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps …who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed (1 Peter 2:21:24).

The World’s View of Christianity

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you…. but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:18-19).

A 2008 poll* of unchurched in America revealed that

  • 72% thought the Christian church was full of hypocrites
  • 79% thought Christianity is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people
  • 86% believed they could have a good relationship with God outside of the church
  • 44% said Christians “get on their nerves”

The only encouraging finding was that 78% said they were willing to listen to some one about their Christian beliefs.

I can’t imagine this has gotten better in the intervening years. In the spring of 2014, there was an American Bible Society study conducted by the Barna group conducted on peoples’ (churched and unchurched) views about the Bible as God’s word**. The ABS had conducted a similar study in 2011.

  • “Engaged” Bible readers (those who read it almost daily and see it as sacred) are now matched by skeptics who just see it as a book of stories and advice with both groups at 19%. In 2011, the engaged were 19% but the skeptics were 9% – an increase of 10% in 3 years.
  • “Bible friendly” people (those who read it occasionally and see it as God inspired) went from 45% in 2011 to 37% in 2014.
  • In 2011, 86% viewed the Bible as sacred compared to 79% in 2014.

The percentages get even worse when you look at the 18-29 age category indicating that percentages on the positive side were among older adults.

In 2012, other statistics and surveys were addressed in an article on the decline of Christianity in America***. The author quotes from a book written by David Kinnaman, the president of the Barna group. Kinnaman states that the 18-29 age group (frequently referred to as millenials) have fallen down a “‘black hole’ of church attendance” with a 43% drop in church attendance.

Michael Snyder, the author of the article, says,

But it is not just young adults that are rejecting the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Even large numbers of “evangelical Christians” are rejecting the fundamental principles of the Christian faith. For example, one survey found that 52 percent of all American Christians believe that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life. Another survey found that 29 percent of all American Christians claim to have been in contact with the dead, 23 percent believe in astrology and 22 percent believe in reincarnation. Without a doubt, the religious landscape of America is changing.

These surveys were conducted among Americans. Since I travel internationally, I also know that the general perception among unbelievers of Christians is mostly a negative one.

I believe the findings of these surveys are valid. I have experienced this attitude – in America and abroad.

I have encountered people who think that Christians are comprised of a bunch of negative people – those that “don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t go with girls who do”. They believe that church is going to be loaded with people who are going to judge their appearance, their speech and ask for their money. Who would ever want to be a part of a group like that?

That’s exactly what the Pharisees in Jesus’ day did. They were so full of rules and regulations that they couldn’t recognize Love and Freedom when He stared them in the face.

What is clear is that Christians (or those claiming to be Christian) can get in the way of people seeing Christ for who He is. It is easy to have the wrong perspective if your focus is on a faulty church and non-committed Christians.

The apostle Paul addressed this issue in the Corinthian church. The contentions in the church were damaging their Christian testimony. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment… For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe… but we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:10, 18, 21, 23).

We must introduce people to Christ Himself. God asked His children to represent Christ, but we are obviously not doing a good job. The old saying, “You are the only Bible some people are ever going to read” should make each Christian stop short before speaking or acting.

The trend toward antagonism toward Christians, the church and the Bible is depressing, but what people believe about Christ is a matter of life and death. Even with a general negative perception about Christianity, the fact that most people are willing to hear what someone else has to say about their Christian beliefs is promising. It gives room for a personal Christian testimony. It provides an opportunity for someone to talk about Christ and the difference between a personal relationship with Him and the perceived “Christian religion.”

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (1 Peter 4:16).

* http://www.christianpost.com/news/how-do-unchurched-americans-view-christianity-30793/

** http://www.religionnews.com/2014/04/09/bible-study-people-say-good-book-isnt-god-book/

*** http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/how-will-the-shocking-decline-of-christianity-in-america-affect-the-future-of-this-nation

© Stephanie B. Blake

September 2014

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Christmas Throughout The Year

Picture 684Preparing for Christmas comes earlier and earlier each year. In years gone by, I remember decorations coming out in retail stores after Thanksgiving. Then some marketing expert discovered that the earlier advertisements, decorations and specials came out, the more money consumers would spend. It created a larger window in which to capitalize on what most people count as their favorite holiday of the year.

Now little ones start making their lists in January or even late December – sometimes before the Christmas decorations are put away. People plan Christmas in July projects and stores start decorating in September. Many people, including me, prepare for Christmas all year long – taking advantage of discounted wrapping paper, cards and decorations after the season is over and always on the lookout for Christmas gifts for next year.

The gifts are put in their proper place. The wrapping paper and boxes are either thrown away or stored. The house gets put back in order. The non-stop eating ceases and everyone gets serious about being healthier and focusing on projects that were put on hold during the Christmas holidays.

DSC06772I do own a lot of Christmas decorations – some collected from countries all over the world, but my favorite is something my young son made me one year. He knew I wanted a nativity set and he started making one for me out of clay. He said he only had time to make one piece, but had started with the most important piece. He never finished it, but that was fine with me. I now have several nativity sets. One beautiful handmade ceramic set was given to me by a dear friend. I think of her with gratitude each time I display it. In the center of that nativity I place the piece made by my son those many years ago – the baby Jesus in the manger.

My son was right. The nativity is nothing without Jesus. Christmas was the beginning of the fulfillment of His plan to give us the most important gift we could ever receive. By choice, His cradle led to His cross and my salvation. I am grateful for that gift every day – not just on Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!… For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (2 Corinthians 9:15, Ephesians 2:8 NKJV).