Friday, July 30, 2010

The Safety Check-List

Well, we're down to Chan's last three characteristics of Lukewarm People... and he definitely saved the best for last! And, by best, I mean the most uncomfortable, convicting, take-a-hard-look-at-yourself characteristics. Are you ready? (That's a rhetorical question... of course, you're ready!)

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe because we wear the label Christian or because some people persist in calling us a "Christian nation." p. 78.
Now, when I first read this I thought,"Whew...I don't fall into this category because I'm a Democrat!" But if you read his description carefully, Chan's "criteria" isn't all inclusive. What he's actually saying is that if you consider yourself "safe" for any ONE of these're completely delusional. And, you don't increase your odds, if you will, by having two or three of these characteristics... or even all of them.
There isn't some magic ticket, or rite of passage that guarantees your eternity in heaven. Now, of course, there are certain things that will prohibit you from entering the kingdom, but simply accepting Christ as your Savior doesn't get you a free pass. (I know some opinions will differ from mine on this... and I respect that. For me, I truly take Jamie 2:20 to heart. Our faith, if it is real, will bear fruit through our work for the kingdom... believing is not enough... in my opinion!) This characteristic really takes me back to the quote that's at the beginning of Chapter 4:
"It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity." p. 65.
For me, I keep going back to the words "proud" and "church-going." I think pride in our heritage, our belief in Christ, is completely acceptable. But, sometimes, that pride turns into something ugly and sinister. It morphs into this self-centered righteousness, resulting in judgment of others. We seemingly forget that God is the only one with that right. We wrongly empower ourselves to place judgment on others that do not share our beliefs. We seem to forget that Jesus showed love to everyone. He never shied away from the sinners and outcasts. Quite the opposite. He befriended them, showed them mercy...God's love.
The second part of this really hinges on how we associate the relationship between church attendance and heaven. We all know people that religiously attend church every Sunday... wrongly thinking that their "duty" as a Christian is fulfilled for that week simply by the fact they sat upon a cushioned chair (or painfully hard pew) for two hours on a Sunday morning. We've been doing this long enough now to know that this doesn't cut it...but unfortunately, it's easy to revert back to old habits.
If you look back and read this characteristic again, you might notice something interesting. All the examples that Chan uses are focused on us as individuals. They have to do with milestones in our individual walk of faith or actions that are solely focused on ourselves. WE ARE NOT CALLED TO LIVE THIS WAY! It's time to change... and there's no better time than the present!
Right now, our church is in the middle of a huge renovation. Tuesday night, I dropped by to see how things were going. There was a skeleton crew working INCREDIBLY hard... not very surprising, knowing these people. My husband went to help out another night during the week and those same few people were there working diligently in service to God and our church. So, it wasn't a surprise when we stopped by Friday night to find these SAME few working again... or to learn that these people were there AGAIN today. Their level of commitment and service, honestly, leaves me speechless... but, more importantly, I'm left feeling so incredibly honored to call these people my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are true examples of Christians living out their faith in action... simple, unglamorous action that makes God so incredibly proud.
Your homework this week is to serve... whatever, whenever, however. You decide. Be Christ to your husband, wife, child, neighbor, a stranger. Just be Christ to someone... for the sole purpose of glorifying Him!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Playing It Safe

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God." p. 77
Recently, I read somewhere... it might have even been this book... that if you make over $45,000 a year, then you are considered to be in the richest 2%-5% of the WORLD'S POPULATION. How's that for perspective? The irony, of course, is that, depending on how many kids you have, making ONLY $45,000 a year in the United States puts you in a class of people that are eligible for state and federal aid... financial, medical, food. This is where I find myself right now. Recently, my husband took a new job... a job that barely pays more than that "magic number" of $45,000. Add to that the fact that we have three children... a house payment, a car payment, college loans... it becomes exceedingly difficult to think of ourselves as rich, especially when Mac n' Cheese and peanut butter and jelly are weekly menu items... sometimes daily menu items. But, then many people in this world would LOVE to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat? How many would not only refuse to complain about eating that sandwich everyday... three times a day... but would thank God for the blessing.
We live in a society that harps on retirement, savings, college plans... and I'm not going to say that those things are bad, but...what happens when we prioritize them over God... giving for the sake of His kingdom? How many of us feel that giving is great... as long as everything else is "taken care of" first? We are willing to give all that is left... but is that really enough... our leftovers to God? Has your gift to God ever come at a sacrifice? Have you ever given your retirement money, your savings money, your grocery money? How about your monthly coffee shop money... I didn't say it would be painless!
One of the things I've learned this past year is that trusting God is an adventure. The more I trust, the more He blows me away. The more I give, the more He gives back... not necessarily money for money, but He definitely gives back in other ways... better ways. Last night, the class I was leading was studying about how our citizenship isn't in this world. It's in heaven. If that's true, then why are we playing by the "rules" of this world? Hoarding money, thinking of ourselves first... God and others if there's anything left over. If our citizenship is in heaven, then God should come first. Maybe we should takes some risks in our life now... and it's okay to start with baby steps... putting God first... sacrificing our existence, our comfort, here on this earth... but preparing for a eternal citizenship in Heaven!
I think this is my favorite sermon by Francis Chan. I've put pieces of it up here before. I'd like for you to watch the first five minutes again... but feel free to watch the whole thing. It reinforces today's blog and gives us a HUGE dose of perspective!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not Feeling "Too Guilty"

So, I have to begin this blog admitting my own feelings of guilt. I've slacked off a little the past two weeks, only two posts, instead of three. Two completely different situations (one personal, one professional) happened almost instantaneously... I've been joking that it was INCREDIBLY bad timing. But, as a dear friend gently reminded me... God is creating the marvelous tapestry of my life...I'm just getting poked by his sewing needle at this moment! I know that EVERYTHING is in God's timing, so I'm rebounding pretty well...including the blog. So, back to business:

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. they want to do the bare minimum, to be "good enough" without it requiring too much of them." p. 76

Chan goes on to give these example:

"They ask, 'How far can I go before it's considered a sin?' instead of 'How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?' They ask, "How much do I have to give?' instead of 'How much can I give?' They ask, ' How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible?' instead of 'I wish I didn't have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer!'" p. 76

Well, I don't know about you... but, I've been guilty of saying (or thinking) some version of all three! The first one's pretty easy... as far as examples. I've mentioned before that we don't have cable. We haven't for years. One of the reasons was financial, but the main reason was a lack of will power when it came to how much television we watched and what we actually spent our time watching. However, we do still watch movies. And, I guess I'd like to pose this question to you. When was the last time you watched something, knowing that it probably wasn't the best thing to be subjecting yourself to? Have you ever found yourself cringing at elicit scenes or when a character disgraces the Lord's name? Here's what I've been convicted of lately.... Watching something that I would never let my children see! I rationalize that I'm "old enough" to filter through the bad parts... but is that the truth or just a lie I tell myself to wipe my conscience?
I also struggle with reading my Bible. Last night, my husband asked me if I had been reading my Bible. We have some really big decisions to make and he was curious to know if I was seeking counsel from The Word. I had to be honest and say, "No." I was reading...I've actually been reading a lot, including daily devotionals and Francis Chan's book about the Holy Spirit (realizing that I need to be more aware of the Holy Spirit in my life...for making these HUGE decisions!) However, NOTHING can replace the Word of God. So, this morning, the first thing I did...after grabbing a slice of apple cinnamon bread and Powerade...was crawl into bed and read Psalms. I have to admit that this isn't one of my favorites...but, it brought me peace. More importantly, I didn't read it our of obligation or guilt. I genuinely wanted to.
I really think this characteristic boils down to one thing: We need to work on authentically loving God instead of acting like we do. If we authentically love God, we wouldn't waste our time in this balancing act... keeping one foot in this world and one focused on the promise of the next. This has been my prayer for a while... and I won't lie, it hasn't been easy! I can PROMISE you that if you genuinely want this and ask this from Him...He will show you what you need to do. That's the easy part!!! The hard part is deciding if you really want to follow Him. God has revealed some really difficult things to me... and I'm embarrassed to say that I'm still wrestling with a few of them. He is selfish desires are dying. But, it has been a slow and painful death. But, in the end, God will be glorified and my life will be better for it (even if I can't see that now). The tapestry, I have no doubt, will be magnificient... and worth every prick of the sewing needle. I trust God... and I guess that's what it really comes down to!
Spend some time in prayer. Talk to God. Really talk to Him. Sometimes we get so caught up in the "formality" of prayer that we forget to be ourselves. We try to sound regal, sophisticated, intelligent...not to be callous, but we try to be someone we aren't. It's time that we start being ourselves. That's the first step. Once we work on being our-authentic-selves, then we can work on our authentic love for God. Better yet, ask God to help you with both at the same time... He's definitely capable!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ministering to the Rich?

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. They are quick to point out, 'Jesus never said money is the root of all evil, only that the love of money is.' Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel 'called' to minister to the rich; very few feel 'called' to minister to the poor." p. 75

When I returned back from Nicaragua a few months ago, my life was forever changed. I knew going in that my life would be changed, but I had absolutely no idea how profound the change would be... nor how devastated I would feel upon my return. The first few days were great...euphoric even. But, soon, I felt this twinged of guilt. Going to Starbucks for my $5 coffee just seemed a little wrong after spending a week with kids that pick through trash for their food. But, it wasn't just my frequent trips to Starbucks that had me bowing my head in shame. Everywhere I looked, in every aspect of my life, there was this perverse sense of abundance... my house, my car, my clothes, the food in my fridge, my antiques dining room furniture that we hardly ever use, our timeshare at Disney. Do you see where I'm going here? Before I knew what happened, I found myself in this horrible funk, almost a depression, about how I was living my life... wasting the privileges that God had allowed me to have.

I remember talking to my sister shortly after I returned home and she told me not to feel guilty about what I have or where I live... that I had worked hard for those things, that my husband had worked hard for them and that God would want us to enjoy our position in life. At the time, I was pretty offended at the idea, but now it's more like disgust. On the trip, one of the women shared that she also struggles with these feelings... but I liked her answer much better. She believes that God entrusts us with so much because we are willing to go, to give, to serve. Now, obviously, that's not the case with everyone in our privileged, elitist society. But, it at least places a purpose before us.

I really love the second half of Chan's characteristic..."Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel 'called' to minister to the rich; very few feel called to minister to the poor." Now, I have to admit that one of the reasons I like this is because I'm off the hook here! I'm definitely NOT called to minister to the rich...but I know a lot of people that 'say' they are. I think the overwhelming majority of those people, however, have wrongly interchanged the terms "minister to" and "hang out with." Some people wear the label of Christian as a badge of honor...and rightfully they should. But a problem arises when that badge of honor becomes more of an excuse to live an indulgent lifestyle... for the sake of His kingdom, of course. I know quite a few people that live this way, rationalizing their behavior as service to the lord. But, in reality, these people (at least the ones I know) aren't 'ministering to the rich'... there are no tangible differences in their lifestyles. God is not glorified. In fact, the only way you would assume they were Christians is to see them at church on Sunday...they don't talk to their friends about Christ, they don't refuse to use his name in vain, they don't show restraint in what they say or do.
And, please, know that I'm not passing judgment. I'll be the first to admit that ministering to the rich is HARD. And I'll also admit that I don't have what it takes to do it... I've tried. My husband and I have some really great friends that are most definitely called to this ministry... and they do it incredibly well. I honestly don't know how they do it so well. Their love for God shows in their lives, in their words, in their actions. They have no problem talking to their "rich" friends about God... even if it means losing their friendships... I guess the important question here is whether we can all say the same.
I was going through my emails yesterday and came across this video. It was sent to me by my friend, Pete, after we got back from Nicaragua. Watch it... what does it say to you?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Living Eternally

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today's to-do list, this week's schedule, and next month's vacation. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come. Regarding this, C.S. Lewis writes, 'If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this." p. 75
I think the words of C.S. Lewis are profound... and dead on. But, more importantly, the scripture Chan uses to back up his claim holds weight to the overwhelming Christian masses of today.
"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:18-20).
There's a lot to digest here. But, I think the first thing to address is the question of how we live our lives... more specifically, how do we PRIORITIZE the things in our lives? As Christians, this should be easy to answer. We prioritize everything under God... because He's, supposedly, our number one priority. But, do we really live our lives that way? When you wake up in the morning, is He the first thing you think about? For me, the first thing I think about in the morning, as my alarm clock is going off at 4:52, is whether or not it's my turn to go to the gym or my husband's. If it's my turn, then, I dare say, God doesn't even cross my mind until I get in the car and turn on the radio. Now, on the other hand, if it's my husband's turn to get up, I very cheerfully roll back over and thank God for the days I get to sleep in. (And believe me, I'm not patting myself on the back for this... I'm painfully aware that my thanks is the result of selfish motivations, not love for God!)
But that's the whole point Chan's trying to make. We are a people ruled by our selfish desires... no matter how innocent they are. We live our lives for the moment, for what's on the calendar next week. BUT... what if next week is never going to happen? What if you only had five days left to live? Would you live your life differently? And I'm not talking about quitting your job, maxing out your credit cards and living high on the hog for five days! What I'm asking is whether or not your heart would change in those five days. Would you reach out to those you've casted away? Would you hold your children more? Tell your spouse you love them more? Would you be more generous with your time, with your money? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, the next obvious questions is this: Why aren't you living that way now?
Think about your own life... how you live each day. Where does God fit in your "To-Do" List? Now think about how things would be different if you learned you only have 5 days left to live. Spend today living your life as if this was the case... see what happens!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Who, or What, Do We Serve?

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give." p. 74

I think this characteristic goes back to those people that truly feel their "duty" as a Christian is to go to church on Sunday and maybe do a few other things here and there. Maybe it's me, but I feel, at times, that we live in this "check-the box-off" society. Everything is task oriented, not about relationships. I have friends that compartmentalize so much of their lives that their "To-Do Lists" include things like: play with the children and talk to God. We have turned the most simple things in our lives into hoops that we must jump through... for what?

The concept of serving God has fallen victim to this same plague. I know there are people out there that serve because they think it's what's expected of them... not because they WANT to serve the Lord. On the flip side, I also know people that throw themselves into service... but not necessarily because they want to serve the Lord either. These people like the attention it brings them... not the Lord. Then you have people like me. I've been known to bite off more than I can chew from time to time... but then again, it isn't because I genuinely want to serve God. For me it was about wanting to draw closer to Him, and I thought my actions, my service, would do that.

Sometimes, I'm left wondering: Who do we serve? What are we motivated by? Over the last few weeks, I've been serving God in a way that might make others uncomfortable... and, to be quite frank, it has made me a little uncomfortable. Going up to strangers and starting a conversation about God would have definitely fallen into my "Jesus Freak" category a few weeks ago. But a funny things has happened to me over the past few weeks. I'm praying more. I'm reading the bible more. I'm talking about me faith more....not out of obligation, but out of desire. I want to serve Him more, for no other reason than TO SERVE HIM MORE. For so long, my service to God has been about something else...motivated by something else. Now, I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off of me and there is no limit to how much of myself I would give to Him.


Surprise! This ISN'T a Chan video... but it's still REALLY good! The first time I watched it, I was convicted, to say the least. You might need to watch it twice. What I'd like you to do today is share this video with someone else (Christian or not) and get their perspective. Start a dialogue about our faith and what, if anything, we may put above Him.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Loving Others MORE Than Yourself

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with. There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward and uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached." p. 73

So... are you getting really sick and tired of the lukewarm characteristics yet? I'm going to be completely honest here. This characteristic is one that I truly struggle with... but at the same time, I have no desire to change it (at least, nothing beyond a superficial desire). In fact, just a few weeks ago, my husband brought this exact issue to my attention, saying that my behavior towards someone wasn't very "Christian-like." My response, I'm ashamed to admit, was this: "I don't care. No Christian is perfect and I'm claiming this as one of my imperfections." I kid you not, I really said this! But why?

Well, I think the most obvious reason is pride. In this particular case, the person in question did something that was completely unacceptable (from a Biblical perspective)...has done many things that are completely unacceptable. None of her actions have been directed towards me, or my family, personally; however, the repercussions of her actions have adversely affected all of us. Quite honestly, I didn't think it was fair. And when you get down to it, something not being "fair" is all about pride...because it means we feel as if we don't "deserve" our current predicament... at least, in our opinion we don't deserve it! So, the next logical question is to ask WHY we feel as if if don't deserve it...or better yet, why do we feel like we deserve something better.

As I get deeper and deeper into this study, it is becoming painfully aware that I have mixed Biblical principles with modern social mores....meaning that my frame of reference for "Right and Wrong" are not solely based on Biblical principles. They are also based on what society has conditioned me to believe... what I have ALLOWED. In my example, the latter obviously trumped the former. In our society, we overwhelming promote the belief of "an eye for an eye," or "what comes around goes around." In our society it's about looking out for number one. And, I guess, with our faith, the same principle holds true... except, in that case, the number one is God... not us!

I grew up with my dad always telling me that I have to look out for #1 because no one else is going to. And I will admit that holding on to that mantra has gotten me through a lot of heart aches in life. But, on the flip side of that, it has held me back from endless possibilities. I always expect the worst from people... so that way I wasn't disappointed in the end. But maybe if I tried to find the best in people, things would be different. Maybe if I caught myself being negative... and forced myself to be positive... then things would start to change. Sometimes, despite our efforts, it's just too difficult to love a negative person. But, I need to do a better job of understanding that there's a reason people are negative. Something horrible could be going on in their lives. There's a reason people are snobby or obnoxious...maybe they were raised that way, or maybe they are masking their own insecurities. We need to stop writing people off so easily just because they rub us the wrong way, or offend our sensibilities. We need to stop holding ourselves on a pedestal, because we are not worthy. The only one we need to hold up is God.


Spend some time thinking about someone you find hard to love... maybe you can think of more than one. Pray that God opens your eyes and your heart to those people. Ask for Him to help you love them more... and maybe love yourself less.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Radicals for God

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE love God, but they do not love Him with all their hearts, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn't really possible for the average person; it's only for pastors and missionaries and radicals." p. 73

This actually ties in to my last post quite well, but, for today, I really want to focus on the last part of what Chan says: "... that sort of total devotion isn't really possible for the average person; it's only for pastors and missionaries and radicals." Now, my first thought after reading this went something like... "Well, if pastors and missionaries aren't radicals... as far as their love and devotion to God... then who is?" I mean think about it. These people love God so much that they devote their whole lives to God. They focus their careers on God and sharing His message. That's a pretty significant level of devotion, right? Isn't that radical? Maybe it is for those of us that, either intentionally or unintentionally, limit our devotion to Sunday morning, or a few other times scattered throughout the week. But, it still begs to question...who are the radicals?

Well, I think the radicals are those that live and breathe their faith...much like the pastors and missionaries, EXCEPT, their careers don't center around it. They also make it their life's work to share their faith, to teach people about God...they just don't get paid for it. Now, I'm sure there are numerous other examples of "radicals," but I want to focus on this one. Chan notes that "this sort of devotion really isn't possible for the average person." So, what does that mean... that it's not possible to love God as much as a missionary or pastor? Is going to Bible college a requisite for loving God to some infinite level? No! This whole characteristic of being lukewarm is just an excuse we use to live our lives the way we want to. We convince ourselves that we don't have to be as devoted in our faith because pastors and missionaries received extra "training." They have more experience. They have a direct line to God, that we don't they're held to a higher standard. Well, I'm here to say that they're least when it comes to their devotion and love for God. They aren't required to love Him more, to love Him better. We are all called to love Him with all of our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds.

Watch the first 6 minutes of this video. It really hits home the fact that missionaries and pastors are no different than us. We all have our problems. We all have our flaws. We ALL are called to love God the same way... with everything we are.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Giving Our All to God

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn't allowed to control their lives." p. 72

Whenever I think I've finally got a grasp on this one, something inevitably happens to snap me back to reality...and, for me, reality is that I don't give as much of myself... all of myself... to Him. The irony of my life circumstances isn't lost on this one. In fact, quite the opposite. Yesterday, something happened that completely caught me off guard. (I'll save the specifics for another time.) But, I will say this: Up until today, I thought I was doing a really good job of "navigating" my life the way God would want me to. But, yesterday, God made it incredibly obvious...neon sign obvious...that I have absolutely no say in how my life will go. No matter how much I plan, and I'm an excellent planner, God's plan is bigger... and, in the end, God's plan is better.

A lot of my friends are what I refer to as "Safety-Netters"... meaning they always make sure that all risks are minimized. They have no problem taking a huge step into uncertainty... as long as there's a Plan B... and sometimes a Plan C and Plan D. But, if we truly trust God, then there isn't a need for Plan B, right? We just adjust... according to the circumstances. Now, let me make something abundantly clear: Trusting God DOESN'T mean you put up your hands and do nothing...waiting for Him to fly in like Superman and save the day. We're still called to be diligent in all we do, especially in seeking Him. But, the problem is that a lot of us only seek Him on Sunday morning, or maybe another day during the week...if we have a "church" commitment. Some of us seek Him at the same time, everyday, for a scheduled date. But, how many of us seek Him first for everything? (I know some of you do!) When we have a disagreement with someone? When we get difficult news? When our children come to us for advice? In these circumstances, do we immediately seek the counsel of God, or the counsel of man (or woman!)?
I'm ashamed to say that in some areas of my life, I only go to God AFTER I've gone to other people... because I'm pretty sure God isn't going to give me the immediate response I'm looking for. If I want advice, words of encouragement, I admit that I don't seek God first. And this brings me back, full circle, to why it can be so hard to have a "relationship" with our Creator. Every relationship in our lives is tangible. We can have conversations with our friends. We can hug our children. We can share joy and sorrow with our spouses. In all theses scenarios, there is someone physically there with us. We can see them. We know they are listening. We can see that they are moved by our sorrow or that they're ecstatic to share in our happiness. With God, we don't get to see those responses. I guess this should be the place where I tell you that He does share in those experiences... and I'm sure He does. But, because of where I am, at this exact moment, I can't. I spent an hour this morning pleading to Him, reading my Bible...anything I could think of to get some since of purpose...direction...from Him. But, most of all, I just wanted to feel loved. And, for me, this is the hardest part. I associate love with words of affection or fond embraces... so how do I come to feel God's love?
It's hard to give ourselves to something we can't see, something we can't feel... to joyfully give our money when the never-ending stack of bills is growing. In our rational minds, we think we know what's best... but I have to wonder if what we've been conditioned to consider as "best" is from God or from man... what society has taught us. I've been trying to balance both... I think it's only normal. But, God has other plans... we just have to decide if we're going to follow them.
This video might seem a little odd... or, at least, out of place. And I admit that it is. I saw this a few nights ago and it has been lingering in my head ever since. I tried to find an appropriate place to fit it in, but there really isn't one in the near future. So, I'm just throwing it out there today. It's really short... and, hopefully, it will make you think.
And as a feeble attempt to tie it into today's blog... Seeking God, just on Sunday morning, does very little when it comes to growing in our faith. And even less, when it comes to having some type of impact on the world (big or small) because of our faith.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I'm Not as Bad as "So-and-So"

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE gauge their morality or 'goodness' by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren't as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street." p.72
Chan goes on to use this Scripture... to drive the point home:
"The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all I get.' (Luke 18:11-12)"
Nothing like being compared to a Pharisee to make you feel completely unworthy. But, honestly, this characteristic is not soley attributed to lukewarm christians. I believe it is firmly embedded into the psyche of many Americans, maybe even in all human beings, whatever the circumstance. For example, a few weeks ago, I overheard my husband talking to one of our neighbors. You see, it's that time of year again when everyone in the neighborhood is out working on their lawns. My husband DREADS it! Not because he doesn't like the work... he actually does. The problem is that we have one of the worst lawns in the neighborhood... and, of course, our neighbor has one of the best. We have a lot of things against us in the lawn care department...lack of time and lack of resources being the main two. But, we still try... and I use the word "we" VERY loosely here! But, my point is that even in the caretaking of our lawns, we seem obsessed with not being the worst. But, I guess the most obvious question then would be this: How "removed" from the "worst" is considered acceptable? One or two steps above? Three or four? It's extremely subjective, isn't it? Once we are far enough removed from the worst, we'll just make excuses for not being the best, finding this almost disturbing sense of comfort in mediocrity.
What I really like about this Lukewarm characteristic is that, to someone else, WE might actually be that "horrible guy down the street." It's so incredibly easy for us to compare ourselves to someone else that doesn't seem to have their "act" together, if you will. But, all it takes is a gentle reminder that we also don't have everything figured out. I think it's pretty safe to assume that there will ALWAYS be someone smarter than you, prettier than you, stronger than you. The list is exhaustive... so the only true option we have is to STOP wasting our time comparing ourselves to other people. Instead, spend that time focusing on God... and trying to be the best "YOU" that He created. When it comes to claiming our identity in Christ, there's no room for mediocrity.
I found this video a few minutes ago. I was looking for something else, but was really struck by the message here. As you watch, think about how you live your life here. As it pertains to today's blog, think about the eternal implications of being that "hard-core" christian that so many lukewarm christians are unwilling to become...that they are afraid to become. I hope this video lends a different perspective.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Uncomfortable Neighbors, Uncomfortable You

"LUKEWARM PEOPLE rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion." p. 71

For me, this is most definitely a source of weakness. I've gotten better about it over the years, but I still have a lot of work to do. The other day, I shared with you my experience of walking the inner streets of Portland and talking to people in the neighborhood. The purpose of the walk was to become acquainted with that area. I knew the chances were good that we'd eventually strike up a conversation about Jesus... the guy leading our little walk uses this as an ice breaker when he meets someone new: "So, let me ask you a question. What do you think happens to you when you die?" I'm not kidding! He really says that to complete strangers! After a while, I actually didn't feel uncomfortable anymore. In fact, I was so comfortable talking about my faith, that I began initiating my own questions, sharing my own experiences. On my way home that evening, I started to wonder why it seemed to come so easily. There's no doubt that the Holy Spirit played a pretty big part in it, but there definitely was another contributing factor.

You see, the truth is, I might not ever see any of those individuals again. Of course, if I make walking the streets of inner city Portland a regular occurrence, then that could all change. But, as of now, I don't know how likely that's gonna be. However, the odds of me seeing my neighbor everyday...well, those are pretty good. Better than good. As for coworkers, I don't have any. But my husband does and, I dare say, he sometimes spends more time with them than he does me. Then there's the whole issue of family. As hard as I try, I can't escape them. (You think I'm kidding... but I'm not!) Family is like that erroneous sock in the dryer... no matter how many times you try to get rid of it, it ALWAYS comes back... like the sock, it could be the same family member or someone completely different, but no less annoying! Of course, you don't know if I'm talking about my family, or my husband's... and I'm comfortable enough sharing this perspective because, if by some extremely rare chance they're reading, each will assume it's the other! (It goes without saying that I love my family... but I would be lying if I said they didn't get on my nerves at times... and I'm sure the feeling is mutual!)

So when you throw in the element of acquaintanceship, if you will, it can be a game changer. So what if I talk about Jesus to some random guy on the street that I'll probably never see again. Who cares if he goes and tells all his friends and coworkers that I'm some wacko Jesus Freak. Why should that bother me? Well, what if that "random guy" becomes a coworker... and all the people he's calling you a wacko Jesus Freak to are your other coworkers? Then would you care? How about if it's your neighbor you offend with all your "religion talk" and he goes and tells all the other neighbors that you're some "holy roller"... does that bother you? I dare say it does? It would even bother me... and I usually don't give two rips about whether I offend someone or not.

For me, it really comes down to the issue of approaching the subject. When I went out into the streets of Portland, it was for the sole purpose of talking about Jesus, praying for people in need, a city in need. I'm ashamed to say that I don't take that same approach with my friends and family, with my neighbors. They know I go to church. They know I'm really involved with church. But, they don't know how I feel about Jesus. We've never talked about what will happen after we leave this life. Maybe it's just as simple as asking a "philosophical" question, that allows us to start a dialog with those whom we spend so much of our time here on Earth. Maybe it's all that's needed to spend eternity with them as well.

It's time for a little practice. Think about the people in your life that you spend the most time with, that you care about the most... that you've NEVER talked about your faith with. In the next few days, ask them the following question: Do you ever think about what happens to us when we die? BUT... before you ask them, spend some time in prayer. Ask God for direction and wisdom. For some of us, it may be a short conversation. But, for others it could be an incredible opportunity to share your faith. I truly believe that God will prompt you. When His Spirit leads, let's try to follow.