Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Thursday, October 30, 2014


 I've been thinking lately about heroes. We throw the word hero around too easily nowadays, and we elevate the wrong people to heroes. In today's world, one only has to come out as gay and declare yourself living against God's Word to be a  hero. People furthering the cause of abortion are declared heroes. Sports heroes who are living for themselves and making a sinful amount of money for just playing a sport to entertain people, are called heroes.

As is usually the case with our godless society, we have everything backward, including who are heroes, and what makes a hero. The word hero doesn't appear in the Bible, at least not in older versions, yet the Bible is full of heroes. The 11th chapter of Hebrews is often referred to as the Heroes of the faith chapter. People like David, Moses, Abraham, and many more. Compared to those great people of faith in the Bible, our modern day heroes pale in comparison, yet we have heroes.

  There are those who fight for our country, leaving behind families, sacrificing their lives and health to keep our country safe.

  There are those who go into burning buildings to save a life. Those who strap on a badge and gun to protect us. Those who work feverishly in operating rooms to save a life, Those who go undercover and risk their lives to save children and adults forced into the sex slave trade.

  I have my heroes:

Abby Johnson. She is a hero. A former Planned Parenthood director who ran abortion clinics, she saw the light and now fights to save the most innocent among us: babies in the womb. And she isn't alone. There are scores of people across this country fighting against what is so wrongly called a woman's right - killing babies in the womb. These people are true heroes who should make sports figures bow their heads in shame.

Matthew Aaron Walker. A man I am proud to call my friend. Not only did he walk away from the gay lifestyle to live for God, he runs a ministry to help young men who want to do the same. His ministry is called Big Fish, and not only does he run it, he ministers to people all across this country and beyond who struggle with same-sex attractions and want to serve God instead of their own desires.

McKrae Game. Another man I am proud to call my friend who also runs a ministry for those caught up in the struggles of same-sex attraction. He runs a ministry called Hope for Wholeness, and stands tall in my eyes, along with all who are involved in it.

Nick Vujicic. A young man born with no arms or legs, yet serves God faithfully and goes all over te world speaking to encourage and bring people to the God he serves. He's not a hero just because he has no limbs, but because of how he has lived his life in spite of and because of that.

 Joni Eareckson Tada: Paralyzed from the neck down since 1976, she has ministered to many across the world, gotten wheel chairs to people who couldn't afford them, spoke, wrote devotionals and other books, and done things she most likely never would have done were she whole.

  And there are more. Pastors who faithfully preach the truth, spending hours in prayer, visiting, and sermon preparation.

  Parents who raise handicapped kids, instead of aborting them.

 Those who face insurmountable odds, yet still have faith in God and serve Him.

  People using their time to try to pull others back from the edge and encourage them to stick with the fight.

 Heroes aren't those who entertain us, whether it be with sports, TV shows, or other means.
 Heroes aren't those who proudly break God's laws and mock those who are standing for right.

  True heroes bow before God, are humble, make sacrifices, and do things that will last for all eternity.

 It is time we take the word hero back and apply it to those who are truly heroes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tearing down our veil

I read something in a devotional a couple of days ago that has got me to thinking. About veils. No, not the kind brides wear (why do they wear them? Everyone knows what they look like already). Veils that are between God and us.

  It isn't God's fault if there is a veil between He and us. After all, Jesus' death on the cross ripped the veil in the temple in half, signifying that there is nothing between God and us. There used to be. For years, He dwelt in the Holy of Holies, and only at certain times could a high priest go in there as a representative for the rest of the people. And there couldn't be anything wrong in his life, or he'd drop dead. Only he could go in past the veil. And that veil wasn't just for show. There was a literal separation between God and man.

  Then when Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from the top to the bottom, showing that we didn't need a high priest to go as an in between anymore. We could go straight into the presence of Jesus, no need for a priest. (Sorry, my Catholic friends) :)

  And yet, we put the veil back up. Not a literal one, but it might as well be.

  We mess up, fall short, sin.... whatever you want to call it, and are ashamed. So we fear going to God.

  We think our problem is too small to bother Him with, or too big for Him to handle, so we pray with unbelief or fear between God and us.

 And all the while, God is waiting for us to come with no veil, no holds barred, nothing held back, no reservations, fears of approaching the God of the universe.

  Maybe I'm the only one, but I doubt it. A lot of us go through it at some period, or maybe for most of our Christian walk.

  For years, I had a thick veil.... or more like a wall, between God and I. I wanted to serve God. I wanted to believe and do right, but due to more than one thing in my life, I couldn't quite believe He loved me. It is hard to have any kind of close relationship with someone if you doubt their love for you, especially when it is God you're doubting.

  Thankfully, that veil is gone, though it took years for it to go, yet a veil still pops up occasionally. The Bible says we can go boldly into the throne of grace. God is our Father, and we have nothing to fear if we are serving Him.

  I love the story of Esther. I have two favorite parts of the story. One is when she approaches the king with her request, knowing if he doesn't extend his scepter, she will be killed. But he does.

  I sometimes approach God the same way, as if He may strike me dead or ignore me if He isn't in the right mood. That my request might not be worth His time, or I might not be good enough for Him to grant me audience.  But that isn't His way. And better than the story of Esther, He doesn't extend a scepter. He extends open arms. He puts up no barriers, no veil or wall, just open arms.

 We are the ones who put up barriers. Our fears, our sins or shortcomings, our doubts and disbelief.

 If we really think about it, we aren't too bright for doing so. The God of the universe had His only Son die on a cross for our sins so there would be no barriers or veils. So we could call Him Father and not go fearfully into His presence, but run as a child eager to see his father.

  God tore the veil in the temple, but it is up to us to tear down any veils between He and us now. And it is so worth it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were hateful bigots

 For those of us raised in the church, we have heard the story of the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace so many times that we could almost recite it backwards and in our sleep. Great story, and it has been used in many Sunday School lessons, Bible stories, sermons, and anything else where it could encourage and inspire people.

  But if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednedo  (SAM for short - of course thet means arranging them in a different order) were around today, would they be hailed as heroes, or as  hateful bigots? It very well could be the latter. Imagine the scene:

  The proclamation had been made. They knew it was coming. Everyone had to bow to the large golden image of the narcissistic king. Have you ever thought about the fact that SAM were not the only Hebrews present? They were most likely not the only worshipers of God present also. Yet only the three of them refused to bow, even after the king begged and threatened them. And I imagine if they had friends and family present, they were begging SAM to bow. After all, it was just one small bow. Not like they were going to daily bow and worship the statue. But SAM refused to do so. We all know how the story goes.

  But if it were today, imagine.....

  Friends and family would be pleading: "You'll hurt his feelings! Just bow!"
  Other people who were worshiping the idol would be calling them hateful and bigots. "The king has a right for people to bow to his statue!"

  Before long, CNN and MSNBC would roll up and start filming about the hateful trio of people who wouldn't now to the gold statue. It would be the news story of the day, trumping terrorist threats, and stock market reports.

 The ACLU, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson would show up. The latter two screaming racism because SAM wouldn't bow to the statue because it wasn't the same color as them. The ACLU would be screaming about Christians trying to infringe on someone elses' rights.

 The Christians who are bowing are pointing out that God wants us to love everyone, so SAM should bow so Neb will feel loved and turn to God.

  The president gets involved. Says the gold statue could be him, and that the police are stupid for not arresting SAM on the spot.

  The courts get involved and says Neb has a right to expect everyone to bow to his statue, and SAM must pay a large fine to Neb and go to classes to learn how to treat people like Neb.

  Sounds rather silly, but that is what our country is doing. We don't dare speak out about certain sins, the big two being homosexuality and abortion. Christians are caving daily to those who do them, and clam we must just love, love, and love.... and never speak out about it, and they shun and call out Christians who dare to do so. They vote for politician who will further the causes of the 2 big sins, then wonder why our country is so far from God.

  SAM were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow. Christians today are being sued, having to close their business, and are losing money and jobs for refusing to bow to what have become important in America. And it will only get worse.

  SAM came out better in the end for refusing to bow, and so can we.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Born to climb

If you grew up in the church, you most likely heard a lot about moving mountains. That if you have  faith the size of a  mustard seed, you can move the mountains in your life. And that is Biblical. Jesus Himself said that. And I believe He often moves mountains in our lives, and probably more than we give Him credit for.

  But a few years ago, I bought a CD that has what I consider a great song, and if you like Southern Gospel music, you may like it also. If you don't like Southern Gospel, than obviously you have no taste, so don't bother listening to it. (I'm kidding. Kind of) The words are:

Verse 1:
Right now you feel like you'd rather be anywhere else
Than here where you are
Cause life has a way of arranging your plans
And the journey you're on is so hard

Oh the mountain is high
And the road up the side is much steeper than you thought it'd be
You're out of breath and scared half to death
You won't have the faith to believe
But grace, sweet grace has strengthened you time after time
So don't be afraid of the mountain
Cause friend, you were born to climb

Verse 2:
God has not given a spirit of fear
Or a burden that you cannot bear
And just at the moment you feel hope is fading
Behold the Lord standing right there

You have been called to be more
Than you were before
Just set your sights
On Heavenly heights
And trust in the Lord

   My mind works in weird ways. I admit that. But several times I have listened to this song, I have had the same thought come to my mind: What if God wants us to climb some of the mountains we pray for Him to remove? What if that is why some of our mountains are not removed? While we are wondering if He is not answering, or if we might not have enough faith, could it be that He wants us to suit up with mountain climbing gear and start climbing? After all, a mustard seed is awfully small, so how hard can it be to muster up that much faith?

  And while my mind is working in weird ways, here is another thought I have had: In addition to talking a lot about moving mountains, we also talk a lot about being on the mountain top. But would there be any mountains to be on top of if God removed every mountain we asked Him to move? And how do we get on the mountain top anyway? Most people who get to the mountain top worked to get there.... they climbed.

  If God removed every mountain, if He got every hardship out of our way, we'd never grow. Sure, our faith might be strong, and that is important, but we'd be weak Christians. If He did let a hardship come our way, if He didn't move a mountain after removing all the others, we'd cave and fall flat on our face.

  As much as we dislike trials, as discouraging as it can be to stand with what seems insurmountable mountains around you - and it seems I live there - those things make us stronger.

 I've never been around mountain climbers, but I know enough about it and have seen pictures of people doing it to know a few things about it: 1)  they have to be in good shape. Mountain climbing isn't for wimps. And 2) They have to train. The more they do it, the better they are at it, and the more conditioned they are to climb. And 3) They start small. They don't just one day start to climb the most dangerous and steep mountain. They start on a smaller scale. They may even start on a fake wall that is used to practice climbing,

  We are often wimps as Christians. Especially we Americans, We have it so easy, that we consider it a trial when we have to wait in line anywhere. We have small trials that send us crying to God, but they may be things to sharpen us, to make us stronger for the big trials and mountains that are out ahead that we can't see.

  Maybe as the song says, we are born to climb, I don't believe that means it will be easy. Climbing mountains rarely is, but when gets to the top, it is exhilarating. No wonder people plant flags after they have worked so hard to get to the top.

  And maybe that's what we need to do in our Christian lives. When we conquer a mountain and are sitting at the top, plant a flag. Then later when we face what seems to be an impossible mountain, we can look back and remember God helped us to get to the top of that mountain.

  We should never quit asking God to move mountains for us, and we should practice the faith to move them, but along with that prayer, maybe we should tack on something extra: "God, if it isn't your will for that mountain to be moved, then give me the strength and faith I need to climb it."

 And If I am honest, which I try to be, the times I have been strongest in my Christian walk, was when God didn't remove my mountain, but helped me go on anyway. Over it. As I sit here typing, it feels I am surrounded by mountains. Mountains so high that they about obscure the Son..... but He is still there, and He can help me over them, or move them. Either is fine, though I feel it will be t he former, and not the latter.

  That may be true for all of us. We may be meant to be more of a mountain climber than a mountain mover. Both are important. Both can make our faith strong, but the one can make us stronger all around.

   And if we never climb any mountains, then how on earth can we ever be on the mountain top?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Never too broken to belong

I often feel I don't belong anywhere. It seems I am always the odd man out. Other guys my age are married and are into sports and hunting. Even at church, a place where everyone should feel welcome, I don't feel I belong. I'm single, and in my 40's, with no chance of marrying. I am still broken, messed up. I still need fixed. I struggle with issues that most Christians don't understand and fear. I have a lot of doubts and fears about the future. I don't trust God enough. I'm so depressed some days, it is all I can do get out of bed, drive to work, and smile at the people coming into the hospital.

  Often it seems people who don't have God in their lives, who are not trying to serve God and walk with Him.....have their lives more together than I do. Not to mention those I worship with each week.

  But then once in a while, a mask is pulled back, and I see I am not the only one who isn't perfect and not whole.

  There are those who come to Jesus and seemingly live a charmed life. The sun always seems to shine on them, and everything they touch turns to gold.

 And then there's me. I have so much head knowledge about God, and yet it seems my heart will never catch up to my head. Then there's the endless bumps and potholes in the road. I seem to hit more of them than I miss.

  We have been studying in Corinthians in my Sunday School class at church, and man..... those people were a mess too. I shared this in a previous blog post, but it has been on my mind today, so I will share it again. In one of our lessons, my Sunday School teacher was talking about the people in the early church. They were messed up. They came out of idol worship, adultery, homosexuality, and more........ and yet God built His church on them. People like me, Broken, messed up, failing, those Paul had to get after. They weren't people who had gotten saved at age 4 and served God all of their lives, never going out into deep sin. They had come out of deep sin, and some of them kept falling into it.

  And yet they weren't thrown out. Preached at, admonished, and disciplined - yes. But not thrown out. They became building blocks for God's Church.

  It may seem here that we don't belong, but in the grand scheme of things - God's Church, we all belong. We just need to repent and follow Jesus, bring our brokenness and messiness with us. In time, we will become what God wants us to be, but I am learning He is much more patient with me than I or anyone else is.

The door is open
Come on in as you are
All you need to bring is what
remains of your heart
I see the years of fear
and pain on your face , but
Take a step
Enter in
You are safe in this place

You're never too broken, to belong
Never too wounded
Never too far gone
Here you'll find Jesus
And find your home
You're never too broken, to belong

Come find the perfect love
That no one deserves
A peace so sweet it can't
Be put into words
And grace that's greater
Than the darkest of sin
Taste and see
Take His hand
Let the healing begin

You're never too broken to belong
Never too wounded,
Never too far gone, and
Here you find Jesus
And find your home
You're never too broken to belong

We too were wounded and defeated
So we know how you feel
But by the wounds of our Redeemer
We believe
We were healed

You're never too broken to belong, and
Never too wounded,
Never, too far gone and
Here you find Jesus
And find your home
You're never too broken, to belong
You're never too broken, to belong.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Two very different Christian bookstore visits

I was out to eat today with a friend of mine who told me a neat story. A couple of years ago, a homeless man left a halfway house in Youngstown Ohio. I don't know much about him, but someone gave him money to buy a Bible and encouraged him to go to the Christian bookstore and purchase one.

  The man took the bus to the bookstore and went in to shop for a Bible. While looking at Bibles, a woman shopping struck up a conversation with him and heard his story. I believe she helped him pick out a Bible and went on her way. When he took the Bible to the counter to pay for it, he found out she had paid for the Bible and also paid for it to be imprinted with his name. The experience made an impression on him and he became a Christian and went on to attend my friend's large church in the area, always wishing he could meet that lady again and thank her and let her know how much he had changed.

  At some point, he had related the story to his pastor, who somehow figured out the lady attended the same church, and put them in contact with each other. The story, with more details than I know, was related at last Sunday's morning worship service and brought much tears from the congregation.

 As my friend related the story, another story came to my mind, also true, and also involving a visit to a Christian bookstore. This story has no happy ending, and has no changed life. I have shared it before, but it bears repeating.

  It seems there was a young man who was down on his luck, and had a lot of bad things going for him in life. As a last ditch effort, he walked into a Christian bookstore and wandered around for a while, hoping someone would talk to him and offer him some hope. As he wandered around, no one approached him, no one talked to him. He left the store, went home and wrote a suicide note, and killed himself.

 I am not saying it was anyone's fault he killed himself. It was his choice. But what if someone had engaged him in conversation enough to show some concern, to offer help or prayer? What if? A life may have been saved and changed, instead of cut short by his own hand.

 How many people do we pass by who are dying for a kind word, for someone to care, to offer them a smile and listen.

  But we are too busy, too involved with ourselves to pay attention.

 In  the two stories above, I know who I'd rather be. I'd rather be the kind person who lent a helping hand and listening ear, and not the store employees and shoppers who passed over a desperate young man. It may not be buying a Bible. It might mean buying a cup of coffee, a bus ticket, or just listening and praying.

  Do we care enough?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The reason for being a Christian

 I'm not exactly what you'd call a deep thinker, but I occasionally wander into deep thoughts of some sort. There is something I have been thinking about for quite a while, and I posted a question about it in a Facebook group I am a member of. I don't ascribe to the beliefs of Calvinism, that once you become a Christian, there is nothing you can do to miss Heaven, and that we sin daily. Now this is not a blog post about that, but I will say I still don't believe that, but neither do I believe salvation is as easy to lose as some of the preachers I heard while growing up have made it to be.

 I asked the question, "if it is true that once we become Christians, there is nothing we can do to miss Heaven, and that we sin daily, then why should I fight my sin? Why not give in and have that be my daily sin?"

  I got some well thought out replies that although no one convinced me that Calvinism is right, they gave me great food for thought and some points that I could agree with. One of the replies came from a man I became friends with through the group and that I also had the privilege to meet in person: " imo Christians have done a disservice to themselves in making achieving heaven the *main* goal of our earthly life. Eternal life is a gift from God provided to those who have accepted into their lives the sacrifice of Jesus' death and resurrection for their sins. Would you choose to follow Jesus if eternal life were not a benefit? But Father put us on earth mainly to love, honor, and serve Him." (Daniel Mingo)

   And he is correct. If one could put all of the sermons together I heard over the years from Sunday morning and evening services at church and Sunday School lessons, to revival and camp meeting services, and examine them for the reason for serving God and being a Christian, I believe the person examining them would come up with the hypothesis that the reason we become Christians and live for God, is so we can make it to Heaven.

  Back to Calvinism for a minute. I can see weaknesses in it, and no one has been able to give a good answer to a question I have put to them about eternal security, but there are also weaknesses in Arminianism (that is what you most likely are if you are not Calvinist).

 There is a reason I tend to avoid most revival services and camp meetings. I like my pastor. I may not agree with my church and him on everything, but he has never been one to badger and tell scary stories to get people to go to the altar. He has never preached a Gospel that makes it sound like Heaven is the reason for being a Christian. However, most of the preachers that have preached a Gospel that caused me problems, have been the ones who I heard in camp meetings and revival services. They helped to cause thinking such as:

1) God is just waiting for me to mess up so He can wipe my name out of the Book of Life.

2) Heaven is the ultimate goal, and my chances of getting there are so slim, that I most likely won't make it.

3) I can never be good enough to please God or cause Him to love me

4) Every day is a constant battle to stay on the road to Heaven

5) If I mess up and sin, I have to beg God to take me back. This involves a long prayer and lots of tears. And I must confess my sins out loud at the altar.

  Now to be clear, not every preacher I have sat under contributed to those ideas, but a lot of them have. And though I firmly believe one can walk away from God, can live a life of sin and miss Heaven,  I have come to believe it isn't as easy as some of these preachers had made me think it is to miss Heaven.

 And I have come to realize that Heaven shouldn't be the main goal, the reason for serving Jesus, the reason for choosing right over wrong, the reason to stick out in a world where the majority of people think you're weird for not living for oneself.

 I am realizing being a Christian is to live for Jesus and please Him. He left Heaven, lived as a human being for 33 years, then allowed Himself to be tortured and killed in a horrible way so we could be saved from the wrath of God. We should serve Him for at least the reason to thank Him for that. If a person saved our life, we would be thankful to them forever and most likely spend the rest of our life showing them.

 We are here to serve Him, to preach the Gospel, to win others to Him, to be light in a dark world. We aren't here to sit back and wait for Heaven. Heaven should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. If there was no Heaven to go to, we should still love God enough for what He has done, that we would still serve Him and live to please Him. 

 If we are serving Jesus to avoid hell, we are doing it for the wrong reason. If we avoid sin out of fear of missing Heaven, we are avoiding sin for the wrong reasons. Jesus is so much more than a "get out of hell free" card.

  Christianity is about a relationship with the God of the universe. I am not married, but I know enough about marriage to know that if a couple loves each other, they will do things to please the other out of that love. They don't daily do things for the other out of a fear that the other person will divorce them and kick them out of the marriage and out of their lives.

  I can't imagine having friends who do things for me and hang out with me out of fear that I will stop being their friend if they don't do everything exactly right.

  So why do so many of us have that kind of a relationship with Jesus?

  I believe whether we are Calvinist or Arminian in doctrine, we should live daily trying to please God and avoid sin, not out of any fear of hell, but because we love Jesus and don't want to hurt Him by sinning against Him. And if we sin, ask for forgiveness. If we live like that, it may not matter if we are Calvinist or Arminian.

  However, if the Calvinist figures he may as well do whatever he wants and whatever feels good, he has it wrong. If the Arminian lives in daily fear that God is going to get the white out and wipe his name out of the book of life, he has it wrong.

  It is all about a relationship and loving the other person in that relationship. In this case, the other person is Jesus Christ, and He died for all of us. That should be reason enough to serve and love Him. Heaven? It will be a wonderful place to go to, but not the reason for being a Christian.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Edgy Christianity

 My experiences with edgy Christian fiction thus far have not been favorable.
 I read a lot. Most of what I read is Christian fiction, though I try to read non-fiction Christian books also to round my reading out. In my reading of Christian books, I have run across a few books that are almost becoming a sub-genre' of Christian fiction: edgy Christian fiction

  Authors who are trying to be edgy with their books they write under the Christian label, tend to put in some curse words and other iffy words. Their books tend to lean more towards secular than Christian. One author was lauded for putting in some slang terms for body parts such as for breasts. Some of them are more descriptive with sexual inferences and physical descriptions than need be.

 One would gather from my experiences with "edgy" Christian fiction, that it is Christian fiction where the author pushes the boundaries of what is good, proper, and Christian.

  Among the definitions of the word edgy, I found this: Perhaps from the notion of "being on the edge." You know what happens to things on the edge? They tend to fall off of that edge.

  As a person who rarely reads secular fiction, I am disturbed at how many Christian authors and publishers are following this trend of being edgy and allowing more and more content in Christian books that should not be there. What their reasoning is, I have no idea, but they will defend it to the death.

  And as disturbed as I am by edgy Christian fiction, I find the idea of edgy Christianity even more disturbing.

  In today's church world, there is hardly any black and white. Just a lot of grey. Nothing is wrong, it is just what we feel is OK for us to do, what we want to do, what is our "right" to do. We live closer to the world, than to Jesus. Our ideals are of the world, and we are so used to them that most of us don't realize how far from the Word of God we have come.

  There is hardly any difference in the world and Christians anymore. If the world does it, Christians will do it in a few years. Just give us time. We live on the edge.

  I remember traveling in Mexico up some steep mountains. You could look way, way down and see far below you. And believe me, you didn't ride as close to the edge as you could. No, you drove as far from it as you could without crossing the line to other traffic. You would be insane to drive close to the edge.

  But yet we do it in our spiritual lives. Instead of reading God's Word and trying to stay away from what it warns of, we try to get as close to the edge as we can without falling over it. And we wonder why God seems so far away and religion seems like a form. Lot moved his tent close to Sodom, and although we criticize him, we do the same.

 And it isn't all about the outward and modesty. We are too much like the world in all we do, how we think, where we go, how we spend our time, what is important to us. We are edgy Christians. Serving God, yet edging close enough to the world so we won't stick out and they will love us. Saying we don't have to keep any commandments now, since we are under grace.

  We are commanded to be in the world, but not of the world. And yet there is hardly any distinction between Christianity and the world. If we try to follow God's Word, we are scoffed and beaten down, so we just go with the flow.

  Too many of us are more worried about pleasing men, than God.

Edgy Christians say saving yourself for marriage is unreasonable
Edgy Christians say homosexuality is OK with God, that gay marriage is only fair
Edgy Christians say abortion really isn't murder
Edgy Christians show as much of their bodies as they want
Edgy Christians have the "right" to do what they want
Edgy Christians don't need to pray and read their Bible every day
Edgy Christians don't need church
Edgy Christians blend in with the world

 I don't want to be an edgy Christian. I want to be closer to God, than to the world. I want to be more concerned about what God thinks, than what man thinks. In eternity, all that will matter is what we did for God.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The listener

Some years ago, I read a fictional book titled "The Listener." At the time of its first publishing, the author published it anonymously, even though she was and is an accomplished author. I forget her reasons, but she later published it under her name, Terri Blackstock. The book was a departure from her usual genre' of Christian suspense/mystery.

 In the book, the main character, Sam Bennett, wakes up with a strange ability: he can hear what people's pain. The overworked single mother at the coffee shop, wondering how she is going to make it. The bullied teen walking by who is considering suicide. Everywhere he goes, Sam hears people's pain as if they were speaking it to him.

  The author did a follow up book geared for teens titled "The Gifted." Similar to the other book, this book has 3 young people who are injured in an earthquake, and recover miraculously, and take on new abilities. One, like the man in the first book, can hear people's pain. Another can quote the right Scriptures to bring the people to Christ, and the third can lead the other two to those in need.

  The books were both interesting reads, and made you think. And oddly, I have been thinking about them recently for some reason. The books aren't the only thing to approach the idea of hearing people's pain. There is a video I watched while back where a man is given a pair of glasses that shows what people are dealing with around him.

  I doubt I am the only person to read those books and watch that video and think about how neat it would be to be able to hear or see what people are dealing with. It would make it so much easier to help people and minister to them if we could do that.

  But would we really want that? A constant barrage of people's problems and issues everywhere we went? It would likely drive a person insane.

  In the books, the people eventually lose their abilities, but the message comes through that we don't need a special ability to find hurting people. They are all around us, and if we just look and pay attention, we can see it on people's faces, in their eyes, we can hear it in their voices. But most of us don't pay attention. We are too busy. We want to care, and down deep we may actually care, but we are in this rat race called life, and are caught up in the busyness of life, so we don't have time to offer an encouraging word, a hug, a few minutes of time.

  It has been said that "fine" is the Christian "f-word." When asked how we are, we just say "fine." We figure, and usually correctly, that the other person doesn't really want to hear our woes or how we are really doing, so we say the expected response "fine." And the other person smiles and walks on. Rarely do we look past the "fine" into the eyes. Rarely do we ask "are you really?"

  With all of our modern technology to save time and help us to do tasks more efficiently, we seem to have less time than our forefathers who had none of the time saving devices that we have.

  And yet, if we are honest, most of us have time for what we want to have time for. I was in charge of something at my church one year where it was my job to get people to read a handful of selected books and keep track of who had them and how many people had read them. I got so weary of hearing the excuse "I don't have time." I'd tell my family "I bet if I asked them down for games and pizza, they'd have time for that." Cynical of me, but true. And I wasn't blaming people for not wanting to read the books. Just admit you'd rather not. That's what I do.

 The world is full of hurting people. Our churches are full of hurting people. We don't need special abilities to see their pain. We may not always know what is wrong, but we can often tell something is wrong,

 But we are too busy.
 Or don't care enough.
 Or both,

  If we did have the ability to hear people's pain and needs, would we live any differently? Or would we do as too many of us do now: block it out. Walk on and avert our eyes.

  And granted, some people are really good at hiding their pain. I usually am.

 A friend posted a link to an interesting post recently. The girl who wrote it talked about how her boyfriend never just says "hello" to people he meets. He asks questions to get a conversation going. Neat idea. And if you read the post, you'll see he gets interesting results sometimes.

  But again, do we want to take the time to care enough?

 I get it that people are busy. But if we are too busy to help others, too busy to reach out and win people to Jesus......... then maybe we had better find a way to make time.

 In the Bible, Jesus talks about people being rejected in Heaven for not visiting those in prison, for not clothing people who need clothes, etc. And I don't believe that means we literally have to do those things, but it does mean we need to reach out and help people who need it, help the hurting. We can't all go into the prisons and hospitals, but we can offer a kind word, a cup of coffee, an email or Facebook message.

 It doesn't always take a lot of time to listen and care. But it will take effort and and compassion. But it is what God would want.

God's Glasses from keephopealive on GodTube.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A vessel of honor

One of my all time favorite songs is "He Didn't Throw the Clay Away." It has resonated with me from the first time I heard it, and is at the top of the list of songs that encourages me. We are compared to clay in the Bible, and God is the potter, and to imagine that in spite of all my screw ups, my failures, my falls, the doubts, feelings of failure and worthlessness..... that God doesn't just scrap me, but keeps molding me. That is a "wow" moment for me every time I listen to the song.

Empty and broken, I came back to Him
A vessel unworthy, so scarred by sin.
But He did not despair...He started over again
And I bless the day, He didn't throw the clay away.

Over and over, He molds me and makes me,
Into His likeness, He fashions the clay.
A vessel of honor, I am today,
All because Jesus didn't throw the clay away.

He is the Potter...and I am the clay
Molded in His image, He wants me to stay.
Oh, but when I stumble...
And I fall...
When my vessel breaks,
He just picks up those pieces,
He does not throw the clay away...

Over and over, He molds me and makes me,
Into His likeness, He fashions the clay.
A vessel of honor, I am today,
All because Jesus didn't throw the clay away.

  My favorite singer, Jim Brady, currently of the Booth Brothers (but leaving soon) just came out with a new solo CD, and I was beyond happy to see this song was on it. One of my favorite songs, sung by my favorite singer.... total awesomeness. Needless to say, I have been playing that song over and over.

 And as I have, that one line has been sticking in my head: "a vessel of honor, I am today." I found myself asking the question of myself as I listened to the song, "am I a vessel of honor?" And I am not sure I am. I have so much room for improvement. Most days I feel I fail God more than I don't. And yet, I find myself trying to live up to my own ideal of what I should be as a Christian, instead of God's.

  And just what is a vessel of honor?

  We don't use that word much anymore. You don't ask the waitress to refill your vessel with coffee or pop. You don't refer to the gallon of sweet tea in your refrigerator as a vessel. For the most part, it has been replaced with words like pitcher, container, etc. And we usually don't consider them as important as what is in them. Imagine sitting down to a table to eat and seeing empty containers and serving bowls.

  But yet, they are important too. To hold and showcase what is in them. What is important.

  There is a modern idea that is doesn't matter what we look like on the outside. Mark up your body however you want, pierce whatever you want, wear whatever you want.... look however you want. And yet, if we are a vessel for the King of Kings Himself, shouldn't we look the part?

  Imagine going to a big meal, and when the serving dishes are passed around, they are cracked, dirty, and look like they came from a garage sale. I for one, would be excusing myself and heading elsewhere to eat. For as important whatever is in the serving dishes is to us, we want the vessels holding it to be worthy of what they hold. We want them to look nice.

  Why is it that there are so many jobs where people will wear certain uniforms, wear their hair a certain way, not wear certain jewelry, cover up tattoos...... because they want the job, but scoff and fight at the idea of dressing or not dressing a certain way as a Christian.

  Yeah, it can be taken too far, but come on..... if you dress like a slob, a hooker, or look like you belong in a rock band instead of in church..... is that worthy of Jesus? We can't all dress to the nines, and wear name brand clothes, but we can look decent, and not dress for the world. And maybe it wouldn't hurt us (ouch) to get in better shape physically. What kind of message are we trying to send to the world by how we look?

  A verse taken completely out of context, is "God looks not on the outward, but on the heart," That verse was talking about physical looks and abilities when David was picked over his much bigger and more attractive brothers... it doesn't mean we can be frumpy Fred or bare our bodies to the world.

  It has been said that we should dress for success, dress for the job we want...... well, how about dressing as children of the King, not of the world.

  And yet the outward can look great, modest, neat, and the inside be filthy and stinky. That was Jesus' issue with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They looked good on the outside. They wore their religious robes and kept all of the rules......... but inside, He said they were like a filthy tomb.

  If I am a vessel of honor, I need to look the part of a child of God, and act the part,,,,,, but it shouldn't be just an act. There should be:


  It isn't all about going to church and reading our Bibles and praying. Those are important. But they are part of the outward. What people see. But we can do those, dress nice, bathe often, and take care of ourselves, and still not be a vessel of honor.

  That takes denying ourselves daily, taking up our cross daily. and following Jesus no matter who else does, no matter how rough life gets. Always doing the right thing.

  Does that mean we will never mess up, never say the wrong thing, never hurt someone's feelings? No. And if one has what the Bible calls a besetting sin, we may fall and crack our vessel.

 But God will just put us back on the potter's wheel and keep molding us.

 Honestly? Some days I feel like I am still a lump of clay, not a vessel at all. Other days, I feel like I am a cracked and broken vessel, not worth anything.

 Yet, the shapeless lump of clay can be molded into anything.

 And the cracked and broken vessel..... it can leave in more light than one that is whole. And it can be repaired.

 Being a vessel of honor isn't about being perfect, being the one who can sing a song in church or play the piano the best.

 The best kind of vessel is one that can be used for anything. We have pitchers and containers that are specialized, in that they are only used for certain things. And then there is the Tupperware container, or some other container, that can be used for pretty much anything.

  And that is the kind of vessel God wants. One that is willing to be used by Him for whatever He wills. Wherever He wills. And whenever He wills.

  All He wants is obedience and our trust.

  We don't have to be the next Mother Theresa or Billy Graham. We just have to be faithful and obedient, and live according to His Word.

  That is a vessel of honor. We should look the part, but we need to be the part.

  It doesn't matter what we have done, where we have been, how many times we have fallen and failed Him.......what matters is we let Him put us back on the potter's wheel and be molded into what He wants us to be.