Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Thought About Those in Need...

For the past few days, most of the posts that have been coming across my facebook feed have been about what our response, as Americans, should be towards Syrian refugees.  After the attacks in Paris, my conservative republican reaction was to keep them out.  Why do we want to even take the chance of bringing a terrorist into the country?  I've read many posts from people that have been proud that their states have signed executive orders blocking Syrian refugees.  Heck, I did the same thing just last night.  When I woke up this morning, I read a blog that reminded me of something that I have been telling others for well over a year now, "We should be living as Christian Americans, not American Christians."  The big difference?  The former teaches to put others before ourselves, and the latter teaches us that making ourselves happy is the ultimate goal.  Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that to be a Christian, we must live a life without joy.  It's more about where our joy comes from.  As you know, there are many other parallels that can be drawn here, but that's not the reason for this post.
What we have enjoyed in this country, has also made many of us soft in our Christianity.  We have taken freedom of religion, and have turned it into freedom "from" religion.  We pick verses out of the bible to live by that are convenient to the American life that we've built for ourselves, but conveniently skip over the verses that might require something that would infringe on that same cushy life.  You see, as Americans, most of us can't relate to the situation the authors of the New Testament were going through.  Stoning...doesn't happen in America.  Crucifixion...doesn't happen in America.  Flogging...doesn't happen in America.  We have these amazing freedoms from persecution, but what that has meant for many of us, is that we've forgotten how it all started.  The 1st century church faced persecution on a daily basis.  The threat of death was very real for them, and yet, they boldly took a stand to spread the gospel because they knew that an earthly death was of very little meaning, but eternal life meant everything.  
Peter had a lot to say about persecution... 
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." -1 Pet. 4:12-14

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered[b] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit," -1 Pet. 3:8-18
Have we forgotten who we are?  Have we forgotten the command that we as Christians were given at the Ascension?  The threat of persecution should have no power over us.  And it should by no means keep us from doing our duty.  Timothy gives us a good reminder of who we should be in 2 Tim. 1:7-9 saying, "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,"
You see, the love and joy that we are charged to share with the lost of this world should not be overridden by the fear of having to face persecution.  The problem is that most of us have never had to, and the threat of having to do so infringes on our cushy American lives.  The rubber is about to meet the road, and we, as Christians, need to be ready to put our money where our mouth is.  Folks, it's time for us to recall who we should be first.  Our sense of entitlement should never override who we are as Christians.  And as Christians, we are to help those in need so they might see Christ through us, and find the freedoms that we so easily share through our Savior.  THAT is our purpose in this world.
Thinking like this is going to bring up a lot of hard questions.  A lot of these questions we have never had to ask because of where we live.  But because of where we live, many times we put Christianity on the back burner.  It's time we wake up and start acting like the Christians we were meant to be.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flip It Over

I recently found myself reading an article about a picture of an iceberg that had flipped over. Most of us know that only 10% of icebergs are visible above the water. What most of us probably don't know is just how majestically beautiful they are underneath. I also read an article entitled, "An Open Letter to All the People Writing (And Sharing) Open Letters About What’s Wrong with The Church." This article made some great points about what the church is, and who we are as Christians.
Something that I have been thinking about recently is our identity in Christ and the world's perception of us. Very often we, as Christians, let our view of ourselves align with how we perceive that the world views us. We tell ourselves that we have to live a perfect life to be a Christian. At the very least, we try our hardest to portray that our lives are flawless while we stuff our perceived shortcomings in the closet. We think everyone else holds us to a higher standard, and we feel obligated (as good Christians) to meet that standard....all in the name of Christ! Our purpose becomes to portray what we think Christ looks like instead of letting Christ mold our lives into what it should like. So the world gets to see what we have effectively made an idol in our lives instead of an all-forgiving Savior.
Here's the truth....we're all the same. We were created by the same God. Psalm 139:13 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb." The difference is that, as Christians, we believe that God has paved a way through an endless map of an uncertain future. He's the light at the end of the tunnel. The answer to all of the world's unanswerable questions. But when it comes to living in this world, we are just as fallible as any other person. Why do we try to hide that fact? We WILL fall and fail. It's an inevitability. This doesn't mean that we cease continuing to be as Christ-like as we possibly can be, but in essence, we need to understand that there is very little of that action that we control. We control the decision to strive after this feat, but that's the end of our control...or at least it should be. Once we make that decision to continue to strive to be more like Christ, it is Christ who works in us and through us. But this is a complete surrender of ourselves. Something that many of us are scared to do. And this is where the title of this post comes in. So many times we think that the world can see Christ in us, even though we have covered Him up with all of the junk that we have wrapped ourselves in. What the world tends to see is a person that is saying they are "different," but they surely don't look like it. They see everything that we put on the surface, when what should be seen is the beauty that lies underneath. A beauty that has been molded through the years and through the currents of this life. All of the jagged edges. All of the craters. All of the broken pieces. All of the things that have molded your life. All of these things made majestically beautiful through Christ who remembers them no more. What is left is a person that is just the same as any other person out there with brokenness in their lives, but has been washed and made new.
So the next time you find yourself sliding into the easy path of flawless portrayal, make the decision to flip that iceberg over to let Christ show the world what He has made beautiful. Don't pretend that you somehow figured it all out on your own and continue to cover the beautiful person that you are. The beauty of Christ can, and will shine through you...you just have to make the choice to flip it over.