As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yes, I am aware it is Sunday morning and that many good souls would be in church right now. This good soul is feeling a little queezy, so as not to force a cleaning of my church's upholstery, I have opted to stay home. Still I have spent the morning reflecting on some of the challenges of this past week, and now that my 'post a new note' button decided to work, I wanted to share... with a ginger ale in one hand and a trash can in the other (lol).

We Christians have lost what it means to live a life following Christ. Somewhere along the line, the Christian life became cooshy. It became comfortable, complacent, even easy. Read my Bible- check. Say a prayer- check. Give an offering- check. Don't swear- check. Don't drink- check. check. check. check... done.

That view, present even in my own life, was challenged this past Tuesday. I remember the day very clearly because I was finishing up my devotional outline for Challengers on Tuesday night. Being that I work just outside of DC and it was Inauguration Day, most of our students were downtown for the 'historical occasion.' This left the school relatively quiet, and this teacher relatively bored. I searched through the school's 'library' (one shelf of books in a metal cabinet) and saw a book by Charles Sheldon entitled "In His Steps." I had nothing better to do, so I grabbed it, sat at my desk and read the first two chapters.

Praise God for even the boring days because I know He can use them for His glory! After reading the first two chapters, I was convicted to the point of being sick (today is not a remainder of that conviction. Today, I believe I have the flu). My stomach was heavy and felt caught in my throat. My mind was consumed by the accusation against Christianity made in the first two chapters of that book. All that I had known as comfortable and Christian living was called out as a fraud.

My outline on the Christian speech went in the trash and in a matter of ten minutes was replaced by one detailing a subject more threatening and deep than I had ever dared venture with these young women. Our Christian life was never ever meant to be easy. True disciples of Christ do not have comfortable lives.

To summarize. In this book, a homeless man wanders a town and finds no one to care for him. He finds himself on the steps of a minister who offers him the first and only words of comfort and encouragement he hears. The following Sunday, he wanders into the minister's church, and at the end of service confronts the congregation with their complacency. Is this really what following Jesus means? You go on your vacations to exotic summer homes while people outside your doors are starving and dying without hope. I ask you, is this what Jesus would do?

The man dies within the week but his words ring true in the heart of the pastor. He levels a challenge at his congregation to go through the year asking, "What would Jesus do?" and to do that, regardless the cost. This is true discipleship.

A group take 'the pledge' and the story goes on to tell how their choices affect their lives in drastic ways. Many lose their jobs. Many choose roads less traveled. Many are angered and forsake the pledge. For those that chose to follow in His steps, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.

It was a challenge to me. A call to true discipleship. Discipleship that forsakes the comforts of instant America and reaches out to the broken America. Discipleship that knows what it means to take up the cross and follow Christ. Discipleship that tastes the sufferings of Christ. The shame. The humility. The mockery. Discipleship that knows Him because it follows Him regardless of the cost, physically, financially, emotionally, socially. A discipleship that forsakes family and forgoes convenience in order to reach the lost and dying He came to save.

That is true discipleship.

Sunday morning church isn't true discipleship. That is only a part. We Americans like things easy. We want our relationship with Christ to be easy. Nevermind the fact that in one country in the Middle East in one prison alone, 3000 people are being held captive on no grounds except their Christian faith. They have sacrificed their lives. Here we sit in America, saving up money for our dream homes, driving ourselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt while down the street a family lies broken, but we wouldn't know because talking with them wouldn't be convenient. Heaven forbid we actually feel compassion for someone other than ourselves. Heaven forbid that God would bring to light our selfishness and greed. Heaven forbid we would feel led to actually help people.

I speak more to myself than anyone else. Ten miles down the road lies the hub of America. The side of DC tourists don't see are the crippled and lame that walk the city streets. The homeless, cold and lonely, who lie over the metro exhaust fans trying to find a little relief from the cold. The husbands and wives who lay beside the highway with nothing but a tent as shelter. The prostitute who gives herself away because it is the only job she can find. The filthy, the vile, the wretched, the blind, the deaf, the hungry...

Jesus communed with publicans and sinners. These are the people He came to save. He came for the broken, the weary, the wounded. We read the story of the good Samaritan and scoff at the religious leaders as they pass him by. How could you! How could you walk beside a man, so hurt, so broken, so in need of help!?! How could you just skirt around him? Ignore him? If I were there, I would help him. I would get down off my horse, get my hands bloody and take care of him. I would get him help. Take him to the nearest hospital and pay for the bill. I would see to it that he was taken care of.

Would you, really? Well, of course I would!

Do you?

That is the question.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Your Future Affects Your Now

Call me slow but I just found out that a well-known Christian artist has 'come out of the closet.' I have this overwhelming urge to vomit. After I'm done, I want to go up to my room, gather up all of his CDs and snap them in half and put them in the trash.

Why? Not because I hate gay people. I'm not a gay basher. Do I believe the lifestyle is wrong. Yes, and I say that without shame. The homosexual lifestyle is wrong. It is sinful, perverse and wicked. I do not approve of the lifestyle, but I do love the people. After all, didn't Jesus eat with the whores and the embezlers? Yes, He did. He loved them. He came to save them.

I can't stand the hypocrites. If you struggle with something, be honest before yourself and God and then get it right.

More than that, it breaks my heart to see people who impact the world for Christ but then make a stupid decision and cover all that work in black paint. Years of ministry just went down the drain, in my opinion. A shining light for Christ has just been 'busheled.' I don't want to listen to his songs anymore because the whole time I will be thinking of him proclaiming that God made him this way and that God wouldn't send him to hell for being who He created him to be.

Are we that deceived?

Have we lost sight of the cause of Christ that much?

Understand something, your life impacts people. The decisions you make will make a difference in someone else's life. That is fact. Unless of course you live in a cave, devoid of all human contact which isn't the case because you are reading this. You impact people! The more people you impact, the more responsibility you have to make that impact a positive one.

Remember this. You will never retire from this part of your life. You may retire from singing, or teaching or preaching but people will still look up to you and the decisions you continue to make will still affect them. Your sin will have consequences. The choices you make now will affect your future, but your future choices will also affect your now.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Battling Temptation

How do you battle sin? How do you 'kick' a bad habit? You, personally, how do you do it?

The New Year is often full of resolutions. We find areas in our lives that we insist on changing. Most of them center around self-discipline. I am going to exercise more. I am going to lose 10 pounds. I am going to stop doing this, start doing that, pick up this hobby, drop that hobby... basically, we are going to work on disciplining ourselves. Is that the approach we take to sin?

Is struggling with sin really a matter of lack of discipline? How are we taught to combat sin and sinful habits in the Bible?

Nearly all of the references in the Bible to dealing with sin tell us to run. They don't tell us to stand and fight. They don't even instruct us to have self-discipline. They tell us to run. Run. Flee. God even says He will provide a way to escape... not a way to fight, but a way to get away.

There are times we approach sin like we are in some self-help program trying to make us a stronger person. Instead of fleeing alcohol, we are told to stand defiantly in front of the bar and say, "Ah HA! I have conquered you. You have no power on me." We step into the bar and take our seat and order a water. Look at us. We sure must be strong, sitting at a bar and ordering water... yep, we've beat alcohol alright. Problem is, every day we sit in front of that bar we are more likely to fall.

That is how it is with sin. You can't beat it by standing defiantly and sticking your tongue out at the devil (pride anyone?). Instead, we are told to run. Doesn't seem very victorious to turn tail and run, does it? Isn't running a sign of defeat? Not to us. Running is a sign of faith and trust.

See, when we focus on 'beating' a sin, our focus is on the sin. We, essentially, have our back turned on our only Help and are trying to duke it out ourselves. But, when we run, we run into the arms of Christ, and though running may be a sign of weakness, we know that His strength is perfect in our weakness. It's a different approach, indeed, but we lead a different life. We have different motivations, different goals, different priorities. We are a peculiar people, and God calls this people to run, to flee from sin, as Lot did from Sodom. To pack up, move out, and never ever look back.

How do you need to run, this year? Maybe you need to cut ties with some unGodly friends. Don't trick yourself into thinking that you are stronger because you hang out with them. More than likely, they are undermining your faith. Eventually, you will fall. Maybe you need to unplug the TV. Unplug the computer. Radical? maybe, but isn't our faith a radical faith? Doesn't God call us to forsake all and follow Him? When it comes to sin, we are to throw it aside and run away. That might mean leaving some people or some things behind... but is anything too high a cost for a better relationship with Christ?

Are you willing to run.