Making It Personal

picture courtesy of Google ImagesSometimes I get so very frustrated with the way Christianity is portrayed to the world. More often than not, I see a Christianity that isn’t anywhere close to the one Jesus modelled and taught us to live out. And this hurts the overall message.

Hypocrisy, legalism, shame, and condemnation are rampant. But is this how Jesus behaved? Did He worship in His Father’s house with His hands raised and eyes closed, and then go out to lunch with the Disciples and laugh about the Pharisees behind their backs? Did He condemn the sinners He met, like the woman at the well who was on her 5th man, or the tax collectors, or the woman who’d been caught in adultery? Did Jesus stand on the street-corners holding a sign that read, “Repent, or you’re all going to hell”?

The answer to all of the above is: NO.

Jesus was (and still is) gentle, kind, loving, patient. He convicts us of sin, but He never condemns us. He does say that the consequences of sin is death (eternal punishment), but also that all who believe in Him can be saved! He doesn’t preach this message with a sense of shame or condemnation, but with a soft plea spoken out of the depths of His love for all of us… not JUST Christians, but every single person on the planet.

I know so many people who have walked away from, or just flat-out rejected, Christianity, because they think…

• “If that’s what Christianity is all about, I want no part of it.”
• “If being a Christian means I have to be like so-and-so, no thanks.”
• “Being a Christian will mean I can’t have fun any more — so, forget it.”

But, they have seen this “false” pseudo-Christianity, not the real thing. They have no idea how good it can really be. It’s not all about giving up the good times, or walking around all uptight, or about acting all better-than-thou, or converting everyone you see.

It’s about a friendship with Jesus… a man who was so compelling that people couldn’t help but be drawn to Him… the only One who will never, ever hurt or betray you… the only “friend” who can offer the deepest satisfaction and sense of peace.

I loved this article, written by Abby Johnson. She’s talking about the latest news regarding abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, but she gives a very good picture of the difference between the false, “pious” Christianity, and the REAL, grace-full Christianity that I’m talking about.

A blog post from Abby’s blog {read the full post here} had this little paragraph tucked inside it, and it, too, says what I’m trying to say — shows the difference:

{…“Well, one of our [church] members took her to the Target Café to share the Gospel with her.” So, no material assistance was offered for her or her baby? No resources offered for where she could receive assistance? No phone calls made to maternity homes or pro-life groups in the area? “No,” the woman responded. “Just the meeting at Target to talk about the Lord.”

Well, isn’t that fantastic. I’m sure the Gospel will find her a hospital to deliver her baby in. I’m sure the Gospel will help her with food to nourish her body during the last few weeks of her pregnancy. I’m sure the Gospel will help keep her safe from harm as she sleeps outside night after night. Their answer made me disgusted. How can we expect to nourish someone spiritually when their physical needs aren’t met? How can we expect someone to be receptive to the Gospel when they go physically hungry during the day? How can we expect someone to believe in the mighty power of Christ when they don’t know if they will be forced to deliver their baby in an alley somewhere? This is Christianity? This is how we treat those in need of help? Certainly not. That is not what faith is about. James clearly states that “faith without works is dead.” What is faith if we are not willing to step out of our comfort zone and get our hands dirty in service to Christ? We are called to be the “hands and feet of Christ,” right? That means service to those who need him…not just words…actions.}

Precisely. The REAL Christianity is one of compassion and love. It is actions and service. It is modeling Jesus’ actions and love to a hurting world around us. NOT condemnation. NOT shame. NOT ignoring needs because it makes you uncomfortable.

Ugh.

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For further reading, check out Acts 2. This is the story of the first community of Christian believers.

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Satisfying

ThomasGary_PurePleasureLast week, in one of her blog posts, Holley Gerth mentioned a book by Gary Thomas called “Pure Pleasure“. I like Gary’s writing, and this book sounded good, so I asked my local library to inter-library loan a copy for me — which they did. And already, it is good! Here’s a quote that I loved:

“We can build lives of true, lasting pleasure, and so fortify ourselves against evil because evil has lost much of its allure — or we can try, with an iron will, to ‘scare’ ourselves away from evil while still, deep in our hearts, truly longing for it. Which life do you want to live?” (p.15)

The book also said:

“In a progressive journey of faith, God gradually re-centers our desires toward holy pleasures, spiritually good and healthy things that leave us satisfied and full, so that sin begins to lose much (but never all) of its appeal.” (p.24)

Basically, it’s saying that we need to be so saturated with God in our lives that we want what He wants for us, and then the joy of living for Him so far outweighs the pull of sin that we aren’t even going to be interested in straying from our faith! It’s like having two platters to choose from: the deep, soul-satisfying life God has for us, or the worldly pleasures… which will we choose?

The world’s problem (and even some Christians’ problem) is that they think the Christian life couldn’t possibly be satisfying enough — it looks boring, dull, and so lacking in fun! But in reality, God’s way is the only way that truly fulfills at the soul level and never leaves you wanting. It is completely satisfying!

If only people could get just a taste of this! Those worldly pleasures would totally lose their appeal.

Taste & see that the Lord is good!” – Psalm 34:8

Rebel with a Cause

Cultural Christianity. This is a term I’ve read on a blog (or two) recently. And, it seems to perfectly describe what I’m trying to get away from.

I read a quote on John Piper’s blog, the other day, that said:

“I was afraid to admit my struggles for fear I’d be given yet another suggestion of something to try, advice that means well, but reinforces that my circumstances are unacceptable, and I need to do whatever I can to change them.”

Much as Christians often mean well with their advice, a lot of times it comes off — to me, anyway — as a judgment on my circumstances. My life has never been “acceptable” in the cultural Christian circles. I don’t fit. I’m a square peg, and they’re a round hole.

I’ve always been one to question, to think outside of the box. And, they don’t like that. They want all to conform to the standard and if you don’t, you’re seen as a “black sheep”, or as someone who is backslidden in their faith. You must not love God because you’re not obeying… us.

I honestly (now) believe that the reason I’ve had so much trouble with churches is because God has allowed me to step back and see the truth… that the church is not what He intended (intends) it to be; that it’s in need of a revolution.

I like the Harris brothers’ term for it: Rebelution.

If my unwillingness to conform to “cultural Christianity” makes me a rebel, so be it! This — if you ask me — isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This type of Christian rebel isn’t sin. It’s taking a stand FOR Jesus, for the Way that Jesus, Himself, taught us to live.

I was listening to one of Russell Moore’s “The Cross & the Jukebox” podcasts, last week, and it talked about individualism vs. community. While I know that Christianity is all about community — God made us for relationship, after all — I also kind of like the idea of individuality. Not in the sense of isolating yourself from others, or going it alone… that would be contrary to what the Bible calls us to, and therefore a sin. But, individuality in the sense that we are not all conforming and losing our God-given uniqueness.

Sometimes I think the church is trying to form a collective. “You must do this + this + this, or else you aren’t a Christian“.

I don’t want to be a robot. I don’t want to be like everybody else. I want to be ME, with all of my quirks and flaws.

I want to help others to see the truth of how God intended Christianity to really be. Not that I know it all, mind you. I’ve only had a tiny glimpse, so far. But it’s enough to have lit a spark in me… enough to have made me want to chase after this with all I’ve got…

…even if it means I risk being ostracized for being different; even if I’m labelled a “rebel”. 😉

Basics of Belief

The basics of my belief are best summed up in the lyrics of Petra’s song, “CREED“:

I believe in God the Father – maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ His only Son
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the Man of Sorrows bruised for iniquities
I believe in the Lamb who was
crucified and hung between two thieves

I believe in the resurrection on the
third and glorious day
And I believe in the empty tomb and the
stone that the angel rolled away
He descended and set the captives free
And now He sits at God’s right hand
and prepares a place for me

(Chorus)
This is my creed – the witness I have heard
The faith that has endured
This truth is assured
Through the darkest ages past
Though persecuted, it will last
And I will hold steadfast to this creed

I believe He sent His Spirit to comfort and to reveal
To lead us into the truth and light, to baptize and to seal
I believe that He will come back the way He went away
And receive us all unto Himself, but no man knows the day

I believe He is the Judge of all men, small and great
The resurrected souls of men receive from Him their fate
Some to death and some to life, some to their reward
Some to sing eternal praise forever to our Lord

Discontented

 For a while now ~ years, probably ~ I’ve had a dislike of “religion”, even though I’ve called myself a “Christian” for most of my life, and I was brought up going to church every Sunday.

But, I really have never liked going to church. And, in all honesty, I don’t like hanging around with other Christians.* Too often they are too preachy, or too judgemental, or too “holier-than-thou”. And I just can’t stand it!

For example, I recently posted to my Facebook wall that I was reading L. J. Smith’s series, “The Vampire Diaries“. And a good –Christian– friend of mine left a comment asking why I’d read “such trash”. I laughed it off and said, “Because I like reading vampire books!” Then, a few days later, I went to Bible study, and another (Christian) friend says, “I’ve been seeing your Facebook posts, lately, about the books you’re reading, and the Christina Aguilera music videos ~ why do you choose to fill your head with such garbage? I just don’t get it.” This woman said all of this with such a disgusted tone of voice, too. 😕

Well, I have a question of my own: Who gave ya’ll the right to approve/disapprove of the media I consume? I mean, if you want to confront a Christian sister in love, and remind her that maybe her choices aren’t the most edifying, there are better ways to go about it. But, manipulation and shame aren’t it.

I’m tired of Christianity’s legalism and falseness. I love my LORD, and feel that He and I have a decent relationship. It’s not what I’d like it to be, certainly, but it’s at least a relationship that’s in process.

I want a strong, visible faith. But, I don’t want to be the type of Christian I’ve seen all of my life. I don’t want to be pious. I don’t want to follow a set of rules, or have a mental checklist that tells me whether/not I’m being a “good Christian” and walking closely with God (because I’m reading my Bible, going to church, and praying regularly, etc). I don’t want people to run for the hills when they see me coming — or, at the very least, roll their eyes — for fear that I’m goign to give them an earful about my faith.

I guess I kind of just like the faith that I already have. It’s a quiet faith, where I will share with others if God prompts me to, or if I feel the circumstances call for it; where I don’t go to church on Sundays, but have made attendance at my weekly Bible study a priority (it’s my “church”); where –every now & then– people will hear me talk about my faith and realize that maybe I have a closer relationship with God than they thought (because they were too busy assuming –based on my media choices, and my lack of church attendance– that I have a “weak” faith).

I want to live The Way of Jesus (as seen in the New Testament). I want to have a deep, abiding love relationship with my LORD that isn’t overbearing, but that definitely teases others into wanting the same for themselves. I want people to say, “There’s something different about her,” and then seek to find out what that is. But, the “difference” I want them to discover is an authentic, living, breathing faith in a loving heavenly Father who calls them (and me) to Himself.

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* Note: This does not include my blogging friends. I love reading Christian blogs, but that’s probably because I can choose the ones whose “tone” I like. 😉