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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Agoraphobic Christians: Why are we afraid to leave the House of God?

I’ve encountered two different types of churches in the evangelical, nondenominational category. There are those churches who keep Christ and His love locked behind the walls of some spectacular edifice and those that bring the church out to the peoples.

Too often Christians practice Christianity inside the walls of their churches and homes, refusing to pattern themselves after the church of Acts. We forget that the church of Christ is not a building but the followers of Christ doing His will in the world.

I’ve belonged to a church whose stance on feeding the hungry was to refer people to the local food pantry. This same church took the tithes of its congregates and outfitted their youth rooms with 15 video game stations, had the highest tech sound and light equipment and a gourmet coffee shop where you could enjoy a cup of joe for a small fee. This same church informed us that they decide whether or not to help struggling families based on their tithing record, attendance, and participation in church ministries. I’m not sure about you, but I haven’t found practices like these outlined in the Bible. If my memory serves me we are to be humbles servants, taking care of the widows and orphans, and feeding the poor. We are called to care for others not based on their denomination, tithing, or station in life. We are to pattern ourselves after Christ, who saves us because of our faith in Him and not the works we do.

I contrast this with the current church I am attending. This church offers free meals every Wednesday night and hosts a food giveaway each week where they feed hundreds of families. The only requirement to receive a box of free food is to show up at the location and be willing to stand in line. There are no questions asked, no one asks your income, your job situation, and no cares whether or not you attended church on Sunday. The love of all people is preached at this church. A portion of tithes goes to the local mission each month and there is a program to volunteer and donate directly to the local mission. I’ve heard the pastor encourage members to minister to the homeless and to aid the local immigrant population, to invite others into your homes, and to step outside our comfort zones.

Unfortunately it seems the former church is the more prevalent example found amongst Bible believing churches. Over the past two months I’ve searched for an explanation for this. If the Bible instructs us to love as Christ loved and to feed the hungry and care for widows and orphans, why do churches so often fail in this? I’ve come to the conclusion that there has been so much focus put on strong faith that many Christians have come to equate a lack of struggles with an abundance of faith. This would assume that the opposite must be true as well: that those who struggle are obviously lacking in faith, and only need to change their lazy, heathen attitudes to be as blessed as we are. This of course is a ridiculous notion, but seems to be the attitude of many inside certain ornate church walls. Our faith has become our god. We need to rely on Jesus, not the strength of our own faith. But I digress. I believe there is a lack of action in today’s churches because they are raising up leagues of arrogant Christians who are believing for miracles and blessings in their own lives while judging the struggles of others. Churches are focusing solely on God’s power and blessing and movements of the Holy Spirit and ignoring the scriptural calling to help the needy. Churches call a fast quoting Isaiah 58:12-15 with out reading Isaiah 58:5-10. We are so focused on our personal experiences and being blessed that we forget to bless others.

This year on an episode of Hoarders while breaking down the lean too of a homeless man a clean-up expert stated, “Really, we’re all just four bad decisions away from crapping in a bucket.” I’d agree with that but I’d change it we are all four unfortunate events away from desperation. We are closer to the family on welfare and the homeless man panhandling than we are comfortable with, so we stay away from such situations and pretend that we are superior.

But we must have faith in God and His protection and guidance and take heed of the precepts of both the Old and New Testament calling us to reach out to those in need. The following is a very short list of the many places God calls us to share His love by actively giving to the poor.
Romans 13:9-10; James 1:27, 2: 1-9; Proverbs 28:27; 1 Peter 4:8-9; Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34; 1 John 3:17 ; Deuteronomy 14:29; Acts 2:42-47; Leviticus 25:23-27; Esther 9:22; Hebrews 13:1-3; Ruth 2:15-16

And one of my favorites is Matthew 25:35-40
35For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, 36I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me. 37Then the just and upright will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? 38And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You, or naked and clothed You? 39And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You? 40And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.

My husband and I have welcomed the homeless into our home before, not so we could gloat about our compassion, but because when I looked in the eyes of the gaunt bearded man shivering on the curb, I saw the face of Christ.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stephen Hawking Verses God Part 1

In Stephen Hawking’s  new book entitled The Grand Design, the professor makes a few “grand” statements that should make people stand up and take notice. The first thing professor Hawking states is: “God was not needed to create the universe”; or simply- God did not create the universe. The physicist also goes on to say that philosophy is dead because it has not kept up with the changing times, therefore it is the sole responsibility of science to be the “torch-bearer” for change and enlightenment. Now I’m curious if Professor Hawking realizes that his above statements are merely philosophical statements? Meaning that his statements above have no scientific backing to prove his claims. Being that you cannot prove or disprove a universal negative or positive, ultimately shows that  Hawking’s hubris knows no limits. It also shows that Mr. Hawking ’s argument starts falling apart from the get-go. The real problem occurs when people assume that when scientists make statements, that automatically-their statements are “scientific facts”.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Professor Hawking is a brilliant man. Even after being diagnosed with  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Mr. Hawking still managed to hold the prestigious  Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, once held by Sir Isaac Newton. Mr. Hawking’s book A brief History of Time has been called by many, “The best book that has never been read.” Meaning, if the first three pages did not put you to sleep, the rest would probably do you in! I remember reading the book as a teenager and it proved to be a real mind-scrambler. I believe that it is possible for a person to be educated beyond his/her intellect…And when people, like Mr. Hawking, start believing their own hype…they ultimately want to usurp the true Godhead...or at least try to tear it down.

Mr. Hawking- I know who lit the blue touch paper…and it was not your M-Theory.
So has anyone read Mr. Hawking's latest book? If so, what did you think of it?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Christian Frustrations.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on and loving-kindness for us, for we are exceedingly satiated with contempt. Our life is exceedingly filled with the scorning and scoffing of those who are at ease and with the contempt of the proud (irresponsible tyrants who disregard God's law). Psalm 123:3-4 (Amplified Bible)

Sometimes living the Christian life can be frustrating. There are many days I am frustrated with the assumptions put on me by disagreeable people. In today’s secular world followers of Christ are often misunderstood and labeled as the “religious right”, politically ultra conservative, hateful and judgmental, and legalistic. These labels are frustrating and annoying not only because they are false, but because they come from a place lacking of any biblical knowledge or understanding. This usually triggers an urgent need to educate the uneducated on Christ and His message. I want to shout to the whole world that the total sum of Christ’s message and that of the entire Bible is one of Love. Love can sum up the entirety of the Christian faith.

One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40 NLT

Some argumentative dissenters would counter that disagreeing with certain “civil rights” doesn’t come from a place of love, and churches and Christian organizations today are against gay marriage and abortion. I recently stated in one such debate that being against gay marriage doesn’t equate to being anti-gay. I was told however that there was no difference between the two. However, as Christians, we are called to love everyone, regardless of what their actions or ideologies may be. Much like parents who love their children even when they are misbehaving; though these same parents do not love what their children do. We can love without condoning. It is not easy but the Holy Spirit grants us mighty abilities in love.

The answer to the ills of society is not found in protesting, campaigning, or politics. Surely, this is where we became misunderstood in the first place. The answer isn’t always being the voice of dissention amongst the masses, but to rest in God. We are to use the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to know when something is wrong and to intercede on the sinners’ behalf and to continue to love. It is not always my place to “teach” a lesson. Many times when we try to school sinners in the right path, we ourselves get bogged down with criticism and judgement, something we need to guard ourselves against. If we are to testify for truth we must let our lives speak for us. A Godly life filled with love surely has the power to lead others to the truth.

“Take to God the things that perturb your spirit. You notice that certain people are not going on spiritually and you begin to feel perturbed; if the discernment turns you to intercession, it is good; but if it turns to criticism it blocks your way to God.” Oswald Chambers.

Today’s world is full of distractions, debates, and the breaking down of humanity. Our challenge as Christians isn’t to prop ourselves up on our evangelical soapboxes but to always follow Jesus’ call of Love. To love God with all that we are, and to love all people as we love ourselves. If every Christian ambition comes from a place of love and surrender to Christ we can’t go wrong and we certainly won’t be plagued with the frustration of today’s labels. After all, I am not near enough to emulating Christ’s personality as I need to be. I can always better myself and seek a closer connection to God, but I can’t do that if I’m expending all my energy trying to fix others’ failed ideologies.

I Will Refund Your Misery

The Christian school I attended in my teenage years really loved the Fire and Brimstone Sermons. Most of these pulpit messages were poorly recycled versions of Jonathan Edwards sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God; and while these pulpit rants were pretty effective at getting guilt ridden teens to give up Rock and Roll music for a week or two, in the end, it just made us despise God, and the hypocrisy of “God’s servants.” That being said I now understand why people are extremely reluctant to become Christians. The God I was taught to believe growing up appeared to be vengeful, uncaring, and most of all, had nothing in common with me. I was a 14 year old kid with braces and acne; the last thing I needed to believe was that God hated me too! Of course, this was not the truth, but perception can be the harshest of all realities…especially to an insecure adolescent. I know this type of fallout was not mine alone to bear; for, to this day, I have friends that really do not want anything to do with God or the church, and understandably so.

I had written in a previous blog that “The plague of the Pharisees, in olden times, was that they embraced a doctrine that was devoid of love.” This was the problem with the school I attended, as well. Now they may have been well-meaning, and striving to be doctrinally correct, but at the end of the day, they did nothing more than place emotional landmines that left a great many of us spiritually crippled.

After coming into contact with the true power and love, that can found in Jesus Christ, I have, through Him, been able to let these little things go by the wayside. I now understand that they were doing the best they could under their poor leadership, learning, and circumstances. I have learned that I’m responsible for the spiritual choices I make, and I cannot blame others just because they claim to be employed by God.

My next blog will be focusing on showing the power and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. I will Biblically show how we can be victorious over the trials and circumstances of life. If we draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to us! If your life is not forever changed, I will personally refund your misery.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How small is God in your life?

There are a lot of things these days that masquerade as Christianity; but they truly lack the fear, reverence, and wonder due to an almighty living God. To take into consideration that God literally formed us out of nothing, rarely crosses our minds these days. Thus, we live life in the middle, merely getting by until we come face to face with our own mortality.  There is nothing more real than this, nothing more terrible. Be we as heroic as we like, this is the end which awaits the noblest life in the world. Why wait until the end to discover the power of the truth? Does the truth evade us because we are so large…yet God is so small?  And how we spend so many days and nights in rage and despair for the loss of small things, or for some imaginary insult to our honor, are the very same ones who know without anxiety and without emotion that we will lose all by death. Do we really consider how time is spent…and in the end do we think we will not have to answer for it?

God’s nature and existence transcends both the physical realms, as well as our human imagination. Even our grandest thoughts are just mere atoms in comparison to God’s true glory. Our God is liken to an infinite sphere--whose center is Everywhere and circumference is Nowhere. Yet even this analogy is just another atom of human imagination and conception. In short it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God, that imagination loses itself in this thought. For with right perspective, comes right thoughts!

How small is God in your life?