September 6, 2008

Ichthus - the simple meaning behind the unsual word.

Do you know what an Ichthus is? It's that "stick-man" fish symbol that many Christians put on the back of their car, or on their Bible. It's considered a Christian symbol, and when I was a kid I thought the meaning behind that symbol was related to passages in Scripture where Jesus tells His followers, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17) This week while I was doing some reading for my History of Christianity class, I came across the meaning of Ichthus and how it became a Christian sympbol.

Ichthys is the Greek word for fish. (Hence the illustration of a fish.) In early Church history, Christ Followers developed an alternate spelling for ichthys. They changed the spelling to Ichthus. This new spelling was an accrostic that stood for:

Greek....... English

I esus......... Jesus
CH rist....... Christ
TH eou....... of God
U ios........... Son
S oter......... Savior

The alternate spelling was pronounced just like the orginal spelling, so early Christ Follwers would use Ichthus as a password in conversation to determine whether or not they were talking to a fellow Christian.

Christ Followers living in today's culture do not have to hide their faith in order to preserve their life. We are blessed in this culture to be able to worship God freely. But the History of the Christian Faith is stained with the blood of the early Church martyrs who died willingly and joyfully for their faith in Christ. One early Church historian wrote so poetically and accurately: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

The next time you see an Ichthus on the back of someone's car, I urge you to reflect on it's origin, and thank God for those saints who gave themselves for the cause of Christ.

September 1, 2008

God's no Genie in a Bottle!

I suppose everyone has heard jokes and stories that involve a magic genie in a bottle. Most of the time the genie agrees to grant three wishes. I think most people use up their three wishes asking for more money, to be more beautiful or younger looking, and for a bigger, nicer car. That in and of itself illustrates the selfish, materialistic world in which we live. Honestly, in those jokes no one ever asks for a cure for cancer or enough food to save the starving families all over the world...

I think many Christ Followers perceive God to be sort of a spiritual genie. I am guilty myself of spending plenty of time in prayer asking god to answer my specific prayer requests. (Not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with presenting requests to God. He tells us countless times to "Tell God what you need." Philippians 4:6.)

Did you know there is actually a Biblical example of Christ asking the people around Him, "What do you want?" John 1:35-42 shares the story of two of the first disciples who followed Jesus. John the Baptist introduced them to Jesus, declaring that Jesus is "the Lamb of God." The two men sought out Jesus and in greeting them Christ literally said, "What do you want?" (John 1:38 - this verse is also translated, "What are you looking for?")

Let's pause for a moment and let this sink in. I mean, do you realize that the Creator of the universe, who has no beginning and no end, who was slain before the foundation of the world, says, "What do you [Royal Daughter] want?"

Some of the possible answers the new disciples could have asked for:
- "I want you to prove you are Messiah"
- "I want you to vindicate every injustice against me"
- "I want more money"
- "I want to be more Godly"
- "I want happiness"

There are hundreds of possible answers the disciples, and we as modern day Christ Followers, could ask for. But notice the last part of John 1:38. "They replied, 'Rabbi, where are you staying?'" These two men wanted to know where Jesus was staying - they wanted to
be with Jesus. To follow Him, observe Him, learn from Him. If Christ asked me the same thing, "Royal Daughter, what do you want?" would I be so bold as to answer "Lord, I want to be with you!"

Psalm 37:4 states, "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires." and Jeremiah 29:13-14 reiterates this theme: "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you - the Lord's Declaration." Just like the disciples asked to be near Christ, to abide with Him when they met Jesus, we too, as Royal Daughters must make it our first priority and one request to abide with Christ.

He is not a genie in a bottle, He is Almighty, Unspeakable God - and He will be found by you!