are christians wimps?

Category : living a life of faith

When you think of a Christian, what do you think of?  Someone who is brave and bold?  Or someone who is a bit too uptight and self righteous?  Are Christians fearless or fearful?  Are they loved?  Or loathed?

Sadly in many cases it’s the later.  That’s why we get such stereotypes as Christians not being “manly men.”  That somehow living out a life of faith is the easy option.  (Because, as the argument goes, if you “need” God then you just aren’t tough enough to handle reality.)  All of this makes Christians out to be people who are wimps.  That we complain about stuff.  Launch protests over the things that “normal” people like.  Complain about TV and music, and generally do some pretty weird things.

That’s why, when it comes to Hollywood, Christians are more likely to look like Ned Flanders than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And it breaks my heart.  That’s not who Jesus laid out the vision for believers.  It’s not how he said we should be living.

“Then [Jesus] said to the crowd, ‘If any of you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  (Luke 9: 23-24).

Does that sound like Ned Flanders Christianity to you?

I don’t blame much of the world for viewing Christians as wimpy and whiney.  The truth is many of us are.  We don’t want to take a stand.  We aren’t willing to make sacrifices.  Despite talking a big game, we end up looking a lot like everyone else.

So how do we fix this problem?  The solution isn’t to create a marketing campaign to prove we aren’t wimps.  Or to prove that we do care.  The way to prove the intensity of Christianity is to live it out.  If we actually take to heart what Jesus said about being his followers, perhaps things would look a lot different to the world.  Perhaps we’d be seen as indispensible to our communities, not a nightmare of complaints.  Perhaps when Hollywood wanted to make fun of Christians, they’d find they couldn’t, because everyone could think of a believer who broke the Ned Flanders stereotype.

Image copyright of Matt Groening


the scandalous birth of Jesus

Category : Jesus

Some things you never get over.  Like Bambi’s mother dying.  Or that creepy scene in E.T. where all the men in hazmat suits come rushing in to grab the family.  (OK, I was 5 when I saw that.)  But these things are shocking.  They cry out, “that’s not how it’s supposed to be!”  And that’s my reaction to Jesus’ birth.  No matter how many times I read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth I am shocked by three things:

For those of us living today (which would be everyone reading this) these things don’t seem very shocking.  Teen pregnancy, while not fully accepted is pretty common.  They even have a TV show celebrating teen mothers.  We’ve also grown up with this idea that Shepherds are noble people. After all, isn’t that the point of Jesus’ own story about the Good Shepherd?

The only point that gives most of us any pause is the fact that Jesus wasn’t staying at a Holiday Inn Express.

But 2,000 years ago these things were scandalous.  It was no way for the Messiah of Israel to enter into the world.  Kings don’t come in the quiet of night; they come charging in with horns blazing!

Jesus’ birth was different.  It was shocking.  And frankly, it was offensive to your average Jew.  Mary was pregnant, but not married.  That was a punishment worthy of death in Jewish culture.  The future “King of the Jews” was born in an animal’s feeding trough.  Jews would have thought, “And this person is supposed to save Israel?”  Even shepherds were considered sketchy people.  They weren’t seen as trustworthy or honorable.  Jewish mothers didn’t exactly want their little boys to grow up to be shepherds.  For shepherds to be the first people to see Jesus (and then spread news of his birth), it would have been outlandish.

Yet this is how the radical, revolutionary God we believe in chose to come into our lives.  He didn’t show up with an entourage or trappings of wealth and power.  His birth couldn’t have been more humble.  His birth couldn’t have been any more shameful!

In every action Jesus took, he was reminding us that the Kingdom is different from this world.  His birth shows us that the way of the Kingdom is service.  After all, the one person who didn’t deserve a birth like that is the one who chose to be born that way.

Because the story of Jesus is so common, it’s easy to miss the revolutionary nature of God.  It’s easy to go to church and forget how revolutionary God is.  It’s easy to see Christianity as a religion and forget the radical call it makes on our lives.  It’s easy to live life but not live a life of faith.

Which brings us back to where we started.  No matter how often we cry out “that’s not how it’s supposed to be,” God remains revolutionary.  Even today.  And for that I am grateful.

photo provided by flickr user yngrich

don’t manage your risk, embrace it

Category : barbarian, bible, different, faith, fear, living a life of faith, taking action

While most of us were busy celebrating the holidays, the world was in full motion.  In a matter of about 24 hours we learned that a terrorist tried to kill 270 civilians by blowing up a plane.  And while all of this was going on, the Pope was attacked during a Christmas service.

Fortunately both the passengers on the plane and the Pope escaped any significant injury (although a Vatican diplomat broke their hip and a passenger suffered 3rd degree burns wrestling the terrorist).

Reading headlines like this makes it easy to want to stick your fingers in your ears and hum Christmas carols really loudly. (I personally recommend Here Come Santa Claus.)  But is that what we should be doing?

One of the things that struck me in the story about the Pope was a simple sentence that read: “Security analysts have frequently warned the pope is too exposed in his public appearances.”

Now Security Analysts are paid to keep people safe.  Their job is to limit risk.  To create “risk management scenarios.”  But is that the job of a Christian?  To stay safe?  To manage risk?  When I look at the Bible I see people who constantly put themselves in danger because that was where God was headed.  They lived a life of faith so intensely that all that mattered was following God.

The Pope is a high profile figure.  He’s part celebrity.  Part politician.  Part religious figure.  Which means he represents a very “appealing” target to people who may have psychological issues (as was the case with this woman).

I’ve never been the Pope.  And not being Catholic, it’s very unlikely I’ll ever be the Pope.  I’ve also never had anyone care enough about what I do to want to hurt me.  I’m not famous, rich, or a religious figurehead.  So I can’t really understand what all comes with that.  I also don’t really understand what it’s like to have my life constantly in danger.  The most dangerous thing I do every day is scrape the ice off of my car.

But being the Pope is different.

He experiences all of those things.  He has to make daily decisions that may cost him his life.  And there are many people just like him, making those same kinds of decisions.  But far too many people make choices based on risk management scenarios.

There is something seriously wrong with our churches when we put risk management above living out a life of faith.  I applaud the Pope for being so accessible and putting his life on the line.  I applaud the Christian who walks into danger, because that is where she sees God calling.

As we head into 2010 I want you to think about one question: Are you living a “safe” life?  Or are you living the radical, revolutionary life that God calls us to?

what is my mission?

Category : living a life of faith, mission, taking action

……….

One of the areas we, as believers, can get hung up is on our mission.  For some reason we think that we can’t act until God comes down in a beam of light or burning bush and directly tells us what to do.  To put it bluntly: that’s a load of crap.

I told you it would be blunt.

The Bible gives us more than enough stuff to work on.  At the very least your “mission” is to fulfill Jesus’ words “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19).

This is even called “The Great Commission.”

Of course that can look like a lot of different things.  God is a creative guy, you can be creative too.  What matters is that you’re being obedient to God.  And while I don’t know what your specific mission may be.  I do know that if God wants you to do something specific he will let you know.  That’s part of what happens when we are obedient – God has an easier time giving us specific instructions.

Perhaps, though, you will never have  a specific mission.  That’s okay.  This isn’t some kind of competition.  You aren’t less of a believer just because you haven’t seen a burning bush.  Living out a life of faith is about being active.  Not sitting back waiting for your “moment” to come.  Even if you are never given anything specifically, you can still live out a life of faith.

So go.  Act.  Do something.

thanks giving: suffering

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Category : CS Lewis, God, Jesus, Paul, barbarian, faith, fear, hope

 

As I alluded to in the post yesterday, I am thankful for suffering.  I know it sounds strange to say that.  Frankly it seems weird to type it.  But almost everything I treasure has come through suffering, including R3. 

We all want our lives to be easy and convenient.  I think this is especially true in America, where we are used to having everything within minutes, if not seconds.  But no one escapes suffering.  Not even God.  Which leads me to believe that maybe suffering isn’t something to be avoided, it’s something to learn from.

God has a way of taking what the world means for evil and flipping it on it’s head.  In the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch thinks she wins by killing Aslan, the Lion.  But she couldn’t be further from the truth.  The suffering, and death of Aslan (a stand in for Jesus) was the exact thing that ends up destroying the evil of the White Witch.  In the book, CS Lewis describes Aslan’s return like this,

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.  Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there ad different incantation.  She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” (Chronicles of Narnia, p.160)

Without suffering the White Witch never would have been defeated.  Without suffering you and I never would have been saved.  Without suffering countless miracles never could have occurred.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t look forward to it.  I am not happy about it.  I wouldn’t want to give up a Friday at the movies for malaria.  But I’m learning that sometimes the best teacher is suffering.  And I am willing to do anything that draws me closer to God. 

Because of all of that, I am thankful for suffering

quote of the day: Albert Schwietzer

Category : choice, hope, quote of the day, taking action

  

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  - Albert Schweitzer

Who’s flame do you have a chance to rekindle?  Who’s life can you radically alter, simply by being there for them?

walking on water

Category : David, God, choice, different, taking action, trust

 

In the last post, I spoke about David’s belief that God would be with him when he faced Goliath.  He didn’t need any more evidence. He didn’t have to wait for “just one more reassurance.”  He just took past experiences and applied them to his life.

Yet so often we don’t act with that same assurance.  Sometimes we want to wait for absolutes before we act.  We play it safe and ask, “God, should I do this, or should I do that?”  Waiting until God gives us some kind of definitive answer. 

Now on the one hand, this is a very valid and legitimate question to ask.  It can be a very bad idea to act without knowing God is there to support you.  But in many cases God has already told us to act, he doesn’t need to repeat himself.  For instance, Jesus already told us to love our enemies.  We don’t need to pray about whether we should love them, we just need to do it.

No matter what decisions we make, or what actions we decide to take, we must always move with God.  As bold as David was, he never would have survived without God’s help.  In fact, that’s the whole point of the story.  David was much smaller than many of the Israelite soldiers.  He was the youngest child (which Israelites viewed as ‘inferior’).  If David had come up to you or I, we would have laughed at him, and said, “sure whatever kid.”  He didn’t fit the mold of manly man, let alone hero.

Which is exactly why God chose him to act.  No one could confuse God’s action as something David did on his own.  Casting Crowns sums up David’s attitude saying, “I’ll go, but I cannot go alone.”  This was David’s life philosophy.  He was aware that it wasn’t his own abilities that would take down Goliath (or the bear, or the lion) but it was God.  He went, but he didn’t go alone.

In Me

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves
I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from Satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

With God’s backing, we can accomplish anything.  As David found out even giants are no match for God.  Or as Peter discovered, even walking on water is possible when we live out a life of faith.  What can God do with our lives, if we choose not to walk alone?

prayer thursday: courage

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Category : God, Matthew, fear, prayer thursday, taking action

  

Being a Christian means stepping into dangerous situations.  We’re called to care for the sick and needy, and to comfort the hurting.  Unfortunately this doesn’t always come with a hall pass.  Which means, sometimes Christians end up facing hardship, persecution, and death.  But that doesn’t mean we can give up.  In fact, the more we stick to it in the face of danger, the more we show people the power of Christ.

Courage

God – I’m a coward.  I know it.  You know it.  Help me to step into the places you call me to, despite the danger.  Don’t let my fear be the reason the Kingdom doesn’t advance.  Help me to remember that the harder the task, the more I need to rely on you.  And maybe, just maybe, that’s the point.

<comments are open, feel free to add your own prayer for courage>

who said that?

Category : God, Jesus, bible, hope

 

You can’t keep quiet about God.

At least that’s my experience.

When someone experiences the revolutionary God, they become different.  They can’t help it.  And one of the first things to change is that they can’t keep their mouth shut!

How many times did Jesus say to someone, “yes I’ve done this miracle, but don’t tell anyone” and then that person went off and told, well, everyone?

“Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.  But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it.  People were overwhelmed with amazement.  ‘He has done everything well,’ they said.  ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” (Mark 7: 36-37)

People were overwhelmed with amazement.

Because that’s what happens when we experience God; he overwhelms us.  I think this is especially true when we’re living without hope.  When all we can see is suffering, pain, fear, and doubt it’s really hard to imagine anything good happening to us. 

So many people Jesus hung out with were completely isolated from society.  These were people who were truly without hope.  They were totally rejected, not just by the “cool kids” but by everyone.   

Everyone except Jesus that is.

It was into that pain that Jesus stepped and offered hope.  He offered not just healing from a current problem, but a new life, a new way of living, and most of all a future.  Is it any wonder everyone was talking?

high density

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Category : Acts, God, Jesus, revolutionary

 

Some days its tough for me as I struggle with my failures.  I say to myself, “can’t you get your act together?!”

It’s these days when the Bible seems particularly encouraging.  Not because of the message about God (which is encouraging).  But because the Disciples were so dense!

They may have spent years with Jesus, but certain things took them a long time to grasp.  Even in the opening of Acts we see the Disciples still not getting it.  They had witnessed Jesus return from the dead.  They had seen him perform countless miracles.  And what’s one of the first questions they ask to a resurrected Jesus?

“When are you going to kick some Roman ass?”

Ok, so maybe that’s my paraphrase.  But the point is, despite all of Jesus’ teachings on love and mercy, they still thought the Messiah would lead a military victory.  They still thought he would change their current situation, not revolutionize it.

If the Disciples messed up, and God gave them grace, maybe I should accept that same grace…