What does Christianity Bring to the Table?

What?  -everyone screeches to a halt-  Does Hearth not know the answer to that question?  Yes.  *I* know the answer to that question.  But your non-Christian neighbor does not.

We are still acting as if we are in the paradigm of the Christian West, where everyone knows the basics about our faith and has heard the gospel.  We act as if the people around us have only to be shocked into the truth of their situation, or argued into the Kingdom.  We still want to pretend that everyone can see our white hats.  But I don’t believe that’s the reality that we live in.

And the reason I don’t believe that’s our reality is that I talk to non-Christians.  They’re not looking at us as if we were the nice people.  I get told that I’m one of the few Christians my non-Christian friends will put up with all.the.time.  Biblical Christians of whatever stripe are increasingly perceived as mean and unloving – they don’t WANT to hear about our religion!

It’s not important what people think of me, but it is important what they think of Christ.  We live in the days of apostasy, where the Church is riddled with hypocrites, false teachers, wolves in shepherds’ clothing… and we’re trying to sell that?  No.  What we can show people is Christ in us.

It is vitally important that we do so.  That we get our lives sorted so that we can show Christ in our words and actions.  That we hold our heads high while we stand on the Word of God – and that we do so with love and gentleness and humility, knowing that *we* were once the ones who did not have the truth.

We have instructions for the days of apostasy, did you know that?  They get overlooked.  Book of Jude.

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,   21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.  22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:   23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

1) Build yourself up in your holy faith.

2) Pray in the Holy Ghost.

3) Keep yourselves in the love of God.

4) Look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

5) Of some, have compassion – making a difference

6) Others, save with fear, pulling them out of the fire – hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.*

So – I am exhorting each and every one of you, my dear readers, to be serious about your Christian walk both within your heart and in the sight of the world.  I ask you to pray for opportunities to show Christ’s love and speak His truth and the Gospel.  I am asking you to have compassion on the people around you, just as Jesus had compassion on you.  And perhaps we can manage to pull a few folks out of the fire.  Please, let it be so.

Think eternally and put your hope in Heaven.  Let’s get the Word out.  Answer hard questions with soft voices.  Remember that humans are never your enemies, only blinded by deception.

And have hope!

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Just keep going, doing what your God has called you to do, and have faith in the fruit that He will give.

* I stole this from Dr.  McGee – but he’s been dead since before I graduated HS, so I don’t suppose he’ll mind if I share the ideas.  Especially since it was on the radio on Saturday.  ;)

The Ah-Ha Moment

Pastor Mike said he was praying for all of us to have an “Ah-Ha Moment” during Easter services this weekend.  Mine wasn’t particularly related to the sermon, but have it I did.   And it will explain why I write as I do.

The source of most of the worst sin in my life is fear.  Oh I’ve other sin, but I mean the stuff that I’m really *ashamed* of.  The stuff that even my best friend doesn’t know about.  That stuff.  The times when you do something you know is wrong – because you’re afraid of: someone finding out…. losing someone… being hated…failure… etc.  Deliberate, willful sin.   I need to make this not happen.  I need to make this better.  I need to have control!

Fear of God leads you to confess your failures and your mistakes and your missteps.  It leads you to grit your teeth and tell the truth in the face of a relationship that might end.  Fear of God means you stand up for what’s right, even if a sword’s to your neck…. or in your heart.  It’s a deliberate choice, to do what’s right and leave the consequences to God – no matter what.

And so I am working on a journey into bravery.  I wish I could say that I *didn’t* have to struggle with the little voice that says, “you could make this not-have-happened”, “just a little lie…”, “you don’t have to say anything *today*”… but I do.  I wrestle.  Sometimes I lose.   Less than I used to, but this is my battle.  To get to the place where the fear hits me and rolls over me and rolls away, while I stand firm in purpose, firm in my decision to obey God above all others, to please God in all things, to give glory to His name no matter what the cost.

At my aid, I have truth.  I know the cost of the lie, the lost opportunity, the wrong action.  I have experienced all of that – and I’ve tasted the sweet fruit of doing things right.  Sometimes.  ;)  And as I learn to pray increasingly without ceasing (as we are commanded to do) I can feel the pain of sin, even tiny sins.  That separation in doing things my way instead of God, it’s starting to hurt.  Blessed hurt.  It teaches me to order my life so that the communion with God is uninterrupted.

To one day have that always uninterrupted.  To let Christ flow through me.  Oh, how I want it.

And so, I must face my fear – and spit in its face.

Trust: Abound with Grace

Philippians 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

In the Western Church, we get a lot of sermons about how we’re very rich (true) and that we should use our riches wisely (true).  And we hear about how it’s hard to be rich and still real with Christ (true) and… well… maybe it’s just me, but at the end of a decade or three of that, and you get a little freaked out about having more than enough.  Maybe a touch *guilty*.  Children starving, after all.  And I’m not saying that maybe we shouldn’t do a better job of sharing our wealth.  Not in the least.

But I *am* saying, that if God has given you generously, you should enjoy it.  No, I don’t mean get heavily into conspicuous consumption.  I mean – enjoy it!  Thank God for what He’s allowed you, and enjoy it.  Trust Him to provide for you.  Don’t curl up into a little ball and say, “well… here today, gone tomorrow”.  Enjoy the fact that your greater resources give you a chance for greater generosity.   God pours into you?  Pour right back out.

Sometimes we can get into this mindset where we don’t want to enjoy what God has given us, because He can take it away anytime He wants.  It gets to be a hoarding thing.  Hoarders stack up stuff because they’re afraid of disaster, they’re not being sensible, they’re AFRAID.  We’re not supposed to be in fear.  If God thinks your character could be improved by poverty, He can manage that, and your not-enjoying things now won’t stop Him.  He’s probably not staying His hand because He’s impressed by your humility, you know.  :p

And if you get a chance to do something awesome, enjoy the experience!  We’re not ascetics, we’re not Stoics, we’re CHRISTIANS.  That means that we’re allowed to enjoy stuff.  Not all the stuff…. but the right stuff?  We can enjoy *that* to the hilt.

(You totally realize I’m writing this to myself the night before a family trip to Disneyland, right?  That I totally guilted myself about, even though DH worked some mandatory OT and paid for it in advance and wants to have some fun for once and the kids are bored out of their little minds and ready to have some real *fun*… because it’s not the nearly-free thing we COULD do.  Because um.  Virtuous?   God is sooo thumping me on the nose.  He provided the means, the time, the ability, and I’ve been snorking around when I could be excited.  Sucking fear.  -shakes head-  You realize this whole blog is basically me writing to myself, right?  I figure maybe someone else out there needs to hear what I need to hear, so I share).

It’s that confusion that leads, in the words of CS Lewis, to a pretty woman pretending that she’s ugly, or a smart man pretending that he’s dumb, so as not to appear immodest.  Thinking about your resources as YOUR resources is what’s immodest!  And what leads to hoarding.  What belongs to you can be taken from you.  What belongs to God can be reallocated, but it still all belongs to God, you just got reassigned.

God is a good Father, and He enjoys giving good things to His children.  So *when He gives them*, we should enjoy them.  And when He gives us an opportunity to flourish without them?  We should enjoy that… maybe learning to lean on Him a little harder.  Open hands to receive and not grab – and not push away because we’re afraid that losing it again will hurt too much.

Either to abound or to be in want, to be content in whatever God brings our way.

Meaningless Sentence, Decoded

Something random that bugs me…. these days you hear a lot of people looking for a religion that fits them.  What?  So – the answer to “what is the purpose of life? and What happens when we die?” changes for each person?

I mean – you’re seriously saying that when you die, you’re going to reincarnate as a turtle – because that’s what you believe is going to happen, where Elsa will just poof into nonexistence because that’s what *she* believes will happen, and I’ll be in Heaven, because that’s what *I* believe is going to happen?

Really?

Because I’m totally good with you saying that you’re right and I’m wrong.  I’m even good with the theory that we’re both wrong – it’s logically possible, after all.  But we can’t both be right.

No, what you’re really saying is that it doesn’t matter all that much, because something nice is sure to happen and there’s no sense worrying about it.  Just do what feels good.  If that’s what you believe, please be honest and say so.  I’ll think that you’re wrong, but that’s okay.  You think that my Heaven and Hell are archaic – aka you think I’m wrong – too.

Or maybe you don’t think eternity is important.  I’m not sure how you can believe in eternity and not think it’s important.  That makes my head hurt.   Maybe you don’t reallllly believe in eternity, you believe in Heaven the way my kids used to believe in Santa Claus?  Something that would be nice if true but if not, whatever?  You’re not worried about coal in your stocking, at any rate.  Because if Santa is real, he gives gifts to all the children, even the naughty ones.  Or it wouldn’t be *Christmas*.

Erm.  God’s not Santa Claus.  He’s Justice incarnate.  Pretty much all religions believe that, although they vary about what is and is not just.

Arguing against fog is very nearly impossible.  And so that’s tonight’s random rant.  Pick a position, any position.  But please think it out and make it your own.   It *does* matter – and that’s why you have to start somewhere.  And that’s why I’m decoding the “well, just pick a religion that fits you” statement.  We pick religions because we believe that they give us the truth, not because they are comfy and fit our lifestyle.  That’s why you pick a sweatshirt, not a god.

Something is true.  I know what I believe to be true.  Do you?  Have you ever thought it through?

 

Scars Hurt

I was thinking this too …

You see the scars on my feet.  one of them still hurts when it gets poked.  Less than it did a couple of years ago, but still … not fun.

And I don’t think that’s all that weird.  The doctor reset my bones and did some nerve damage.  The second doctor fixed the nerve damage (and took the screws out of my foot) as much as he could, but nothing is perfect.  (The scars are also smaller than they were.  Yeah, they were worse).  So, I don’t wonder why my foot hurts when you poke it.

But there are parts of my heart that hurt when you poke them, and that always surprises me.  Because I’m a Christian, when healing happens, the memories and the pain go away?

The scar on my hand doesn’t hurt, but it’s ugly.  I try to keep it out of the light so it will (maybe?) be less apparent.  It’s less than a year old.  Maybe it will get better.  I’m ashamed of the ugly, and ashamed of how it got there (I was stupid and prideful, and I got exactly what I deserved for my carelessness).

I can walk pretty well these days.  When I get up in the morning, or after a busy day and then sitting, I still am stiff, and I limp.  But I get things warmed up and move around just fine.

I expect the wrong things from myself.  I expect painlessness, when I should shoot for vulnerability.   And oddly, that keeps me from healing all that I should.  You know, the doctors told me to wear steel-soled boots and super supportive footgear, but the best thing for my foot has been all the time I spend without any shoes at all.   After all, I learned in physical therapy that there was bad pain and good pain. You work through the good pain (or accept it as a job well done) and you stop dead when you hit bad pain.

The goal of transparency, of not trying to protect myself … those things will come when I learn to relax and accept where I am, instead of trying to make it not-have-been.  It is when I accept my weaknesses and confess them that they are healed – not when I pretend that they are not there.

….

this isn’t the most organized thing I’ve ever written, but it’s an extended comment on the last blog to myself, mostly… so I’m going to leave it as is.

Digging Up the Past

 

Scarred Hand

Scarred Hand

Once upon a time, I am not what I was now.  Mistakes have been made.  Tears have been wept.  Lessons have been learned.

When I went through my Darkest Hour, I spent some time in therapy (and then went home and did my homework) working out how I’d gotten to where I was, and how one choice had led to another, in a spiral that went back decades to the First Bad Choice.  There is value in such a journey.  When I see weeds from that particular genus pop up in my heart, they get whacked off *immediately*, no delaying for perfect weather or loads of energy.

But sometimes I take out that strand of ugly decisions and fondle it.  “If I’d only done THIS or said THAT…” and that’s not useful.  Because that’s me trying to take retroactive control of my existence.   I’ve done stuff that I am deeply ashamed of.  K.  Can’t go back.  I can’t-have-made a different decision.  It’s over now.  And where I am is where I am.

Who I am is who I am.

Scarred Foot

Paul wrote about this:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

God has worked a lot of beauty from my idiocy.  When I take that strand of ugly out and say, “if only” – I’m saying I know better than God.  (Because I come up with a fantasy version of my life if only I had been perfect).  Repenting of my many sins is useful, but … it’s over.  OVER.  I am washed clean.   I am made new.

I have scars of mind and body.  I have places that will hurt until it pleases my Lord that they be healed.  So what?  That doesn’t exactly make me unique.

When I try to take control, I’m acting out of fear.  I’m saying, “this place that hurts so much – if I rehearse in my mind the way I should have acted, I’ll never make that mistake again.  I can never be hurt like that again.”  Self-protection.  It’s not my job to protect myself.  Not. My.  Job.

It’s not my job to be in control of my life or make things new.  My job is to let go and let God live through me, using what I am in this moment.  Let Him be glorified.  And I’ll get back to work identifying fear and tossing it up to be burned until I run out of fear.  (Three minutes before my last breath, likely).

Love Well

Love cannot be earned, it is a gift.  (Trust can, and must, be earned – but love is invariably given).  How can we give what we do not have?  It has to start somewhere!

That’s what Jesus does, you know… we love Him for He first loved us.  He poured His love into us, giving us the ability to love at all.  We can then choose to love Him or not.  If we love Him, we display it by obeying His commandments (which is an impossible task without His Holy Spirit within us).  Loving truly is necessarily a journey towards Christ.  He gives us Himself, which enables us to love Him, which brings us closer to the source of the love… it’s a *good* spiral!

When we’re looking for the answer to “How can I love this person?” – the answer is “by loving as Jesus loved”.  Ask for help.  Ask for strength.  Ask for the wells of *your heart* to be refilled.  Take time to be with Him, to read and pray and just chill out.  (The just chilling out is important!)

It’s so easy for the Jello Salad Contingent to think that we’ve got it all together and that we shouldn’t bother Jesus by asking Him to fill our hearts up.   We try to love out of our own wells of heart, and eventually we come up dry – if we’re lucky.  Too often what we find instead of pure water is poison, either subtle or direct.  The truth of the heart pours out through the mouth… and the actions… -shudder-

When I try to take love into my own hands, I’m saying that I’m good enough to handle this on my own.  And we think that we ought to be “good enough” … without Jesus!  But that’s NEVER what He asks us to be.  He asks us to give over our wills to Him, to let Him act through us.  He doesn’t ask us to generate emotions, He doesn’t ask us to *not* have emotions.  He expects us to *give them to Him*.  All of them – and right away, too!

I can’t do this life thing on my own.   You know, we say that a LOT.  Christians do, anyway.  But do we act like it?  Or do we just do the mechanical stuff and pretend that we’re good to go after that?  Do we open our hearts to Jesus and let Him in totally?  Are we ready to obey the command to pray without ceasing?   You know, He commanded us to do that – so we’re pretty much *not* bugging Him when we obey.  :)

Opening to Him is scary  We can pretend to hide behind not-praying-unceasingly.  Keep that little gnarly thought to ourselves, confess it later if we remember it later… but if we’re in connection to Him, it’s going to get called out then and there.  So inconvenient!  And He might ask us to do things we don’t *really* want to do.   He’s such a gentleman, He’ll back off the very second we pull away.  How often we pull away…. how it must sadden Him.

There’s a goal.  To not pull away.  To let go, and obey that command, to pray unceasingly, to be in total communion with Jesus our Lord.  I think *maybe* that might improve my ability to love unconditionally.

What do you think?  :)