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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Weary

Sometimes I get so tired of being good. I want to drink until I’m drunk, and dance the way I shouldn’t. I want to go out and have a good time. Honestly? I miss my “party” days… my rebellious-teenager phase. It was so much fun to go out to the bar every weekend, and drink and flirt. It was fun being popular and having my phone ring off the hook…

((sigh))

But, then God gently reminds me…

Do not get tired of doing good.
For at just the right time,
you will reap a harvest of blessing
if you don’t give up
.”
~ Galatians 6:9

And…

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed
the passions and desires of their sinful nature
to His cross and crucified them there.”
~ Galatians 5:24

Daily. I have to daily lay down this urge that creeps up on me. When I feel really tired of being a “good Christian girl”, I have to remember that it really is worth it, in the long run. These temporary, earthly pleasures are nothing compared to what God’s got in store for me… if only I won’t give up. If only I’ll hold fast to what I believe in.

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. 😉

Experiencing God” ~ our new study

My church’s ladies’ Bible study group has chosen to do Henry & Richard Blackaby’s (and Claude King’s) book, “EXPERIENCING GOD“, this time around. They needed to step away from Beth Moore, for a while, as too many of the ladies were focusing on Beth’s teaching, instead of on what God was trying to teach them. And, the leaders seriously believe that God was calling them to do “Experiencing God“.

We’re only just beginning week 2, but already I can see that I’m going to have difficulty with this study. While I’m enjoying it, and certainly finding things in it that I can  use, I also have “experienced” (pardon the pun) some theological “red flags“, too.

For example, on page 15 of the workbook, the authors write, “‘If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer.’ Sometimes we assume that every question is legitimate. However, when we ask the wrong question, we may find an answer but remain disoriented to God and His activity. Always check to see whether you have asked the right question before you pursue the answer.

I honestly don’t believe that there are “illegitimate” questions. In my opinion, every question is legitimate, as that’s how we learn (by asking questions).

And, I don’t believe that we have to ask the “right” questions to get a proper answer from God. God is not spiteful, giving us wrong answers just because we haven’t asked the “right” question. God knows we’re fallible human beings, and He is always going to give us His right answer, regardless.

In a recent devotional my mom sent me –after we’d discussed this particular “red flag” from the study– God confirmed my beliefs. The devotional said this:

“…May we come to a realization that You’re pleased even in our searching, and You [God] honor our honest questions. Thank You for accepting us in our struggles and understanding our doubts…” [Charles Swindoll, “For Daily Doubts” devotional, excerpted from “The Prayers of Charles R. Swindoll, Volume 1″]

God honors our honest questions. They don’t have to be “right”, they just have to be honest. “Seek… and you will find”,  God says. (Matthew 6:33).

Another “red flag” I had was on page 14, where the author writes, “Your experience is valid only as it is confirmed in the Scriptures.” This just didn’t sit right with me, and I’m still not sure why… I just know that I get irked by it. I have to research this one a bit more, though, before I can say why I think it’s a “red flag”. (If you have an opinion about it, please leave a comment!).

Anyhoo. This isn’t to say that I don’t like this study. As I said before, there are definitely things that I’m getting out of it ~ enjoying ~ too. For example, I like that we are encouraged to look to see how God consistently responded in the Scriptures, and remember that He will still respond in this way to situations, today. God never changes. And, I liked that I’m being reminded that this life is not about me/us… it’s about God. This is God’s story… and we are priviledged to play a part in it.

My favorite part of this study, though, is how the author keeps stressing that God reveals what He is about to do to His people! Here’s a quote from the book, page 23:

Whenever God prepares to do something,
He reveals to a person or His people
what He is about to do.

Right after this sentence, there was a verse quoted… Amos 3:7, which says, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” And, I thought to myself that this verse would be great to add to my collection of “proof” that God reveals the future to people. So, I went to my notebook to add this verse… and found that it was the same verse that I’d last added to my notebook! LOL. How cool is that?!

Anyway. I will share more from this study as the weeks go on. But, for now, that’s all I wanted to mention. 😉

Simply…The Way

More and more, lately, I have come across the term “The Way” of Jesus. It basically means getting back to the basics of what it means to call yourself a “Christian” (a Christ-follower) ~ shedding all of the complicated, man-made rules & rituals, and making following Jesus as simple (for lack of a better term) as Jesus intended for it to be in the first place.

To follow Jesus means to imitate Him ~ live as He taught us to live (through His life and actions while on Earth). Of course that is, by all means, far from simple. But it’s also not nearly as complicated as the church (and today’s ‘pharisaical’ types) would have us believe.

Even in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees made knowing God into a list of rules and rituals. But Jesus repeatedly put down all of that religiosity, and said simply, “Follow Me“.

Mother Teresa was a prime example of living “The Way” of Jesus. She went to where the poorest of the poor were, and she served and loved them with everything she had.

Shaine Claiborne and his friends at The Simple Way (an aptly named group, IMHO) are providing yet another example, as they minister to the homeless on the streets of Philedelphia.

You know, it’s really too bad. When I was a teenager, I was very self-absorbed. I was so caught up in my family troubles and my boy-drama that I had no time for, or interest in, missions. I was too scared to leave the comforts of what I knew. And yet, nowadays, I’m finding myself wishing for an opportunity to go, and I can’t because I have my own -young- family to care for. Not to mention, my husband may or may not go along with the idea, given that we don’t share the same beliefs. 😕 I don’t live in a big city, either, so there aren’t that many opportunities to serve the homeless.

Shane Claiborne’s book, “The Irresistable Revolution“, is still having an impact on me and my thinking. LibraryThing.com’sEarly Reviewers” program has a book on offer, this month, called “Under the Overpass” by Mike Yankosky. It’s about two guys who purposely chose to be homeless for a time in order to better live out their faith — without the modern conveniences and comforts. I requested this book for review, and I hope I get it. I was torn about asking for it, but felt led, almost, to do so. Shane’s book has left that much of an impression on me.

I want to find more books that talk about simplifying the Christian faith, and about imitating Jesus. I want to write my own book about it so that others can join me in this, too! It’s such a strong tug at my soul, the way this concept resonates with me! There’s more to it that I haven’t yet discovered… I’m sure of it. 😉

It’s Alive!

I love it when authors take apart verses from the Bible and show you the underlying meaning of them, or the overall theme. You don’t necessarily see that stuff when you’re just reading the Bible.

It’s only when you sit with the passages, and pull them apart — see the humanity in them, and place them within the context of when they were written — that the words and stories come alive and teach you something real.

Through Any Media…

I’ve been reading through the young adult fiction series, “The House of Night” by P.C. & Kristin Cast ((click here to read a summary of the series, if you’re not familiar with it)).

Much as this series talks a lot about things contrary to Christian beliefs (like reincarnation, magick, travelling between spirit realms, etc), I’m finding much in these books that is helping to strengthen my belief in (the Christian) God.

For example, the HoN school’s primary deity is their goddess, Nyx. But, Nyx is portrayed how many deeply devoted Christians often talk about God: always there for you, caring deeply about every aspect of your life, giving you gifts that help others, etc.

So I find myself almost better able to relate to God by reading about Nyx. It’s bringing the qualities I know to be true of Almighty God to life for me, helping them to become more “real”, in a sense.

This is just one more example of how God can use ANY sort of media to reach us! Even vampire books! LOL. 😛

Thinking @ Random… (Aug.11)

I want the passion for God and His Word (and His people) that Beth Moore has. But, whenever I talk about God/the Bible/Heaven & Hell with that sort of passion — to my own ears I sound fake & hypocritical.

I don’t want to become one of “them” ~ one of the people I grew up around. They were fake, hypocritical, and legalistic, and I don’t want to be seen as any of that.

I guess what I need is to figure out what all I truly believe, and why. Then I can give honest answers for my faith, and when I talk about it, it’ll come out as deep-seated and genuine; as something that I’m truly, deep-down passionate about…

…like Beth Moore, and all of those other Christian authors I tend to admire. 😉