Showing posts with label Exhortation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exhortation. Show all posts

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Seperation Mentality -Showing Compassion Part Four

This is part four of a study on showing compassion to the unsaved.  Part One can be found here, Part Two is here, and Part Three is here

In this fourth posting on showing compassion to the unsaved, I want to share with you a third reason why Christians aren't quick to give that grace to those who don't know Jesus.  It's something called the "Separate Yourself" mentality and many of us use it as an excuse to "get out" of "having" to witness to those around us. 

2 Corinthians 6:14, 17 says: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" and "Therefore,  'Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'"

But then, Matthew 28:19-20 says, "'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen."

So, isn't that a contradiction?  Actually, no.  While it's true that we are to be set apart from those who do not live their lives according to God's Word, there is a difference between the "unequal yoke" of 2 Corinthians and the command to go out into the world and make disciples that Matthew is speaking of.  We can't be very good witnesses if we are so far set apart that we have no unsaved people in our acquaintance or circle of influence.  The "yoke" is a joining together: a covenant and strong commitment; such as a marriage or a close friendship.  You can only get so close with an unbelieving friend before the issue of religion gets in the way.

We can be separate but still be witnesses of Jesus' love and character.  In John 17: 14-18, Jesus prays concerning the disciples: "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

In fact, by befriending non-believers, (keeping boundaries and self-control in place) we can actually be a positive influence and show Christ's love without initially saying a whole lot.  The Good Samaritan story is a great example of love and compassion in action (Luke 10:25-37).  While none of his words are recorded, the Good Samaritan is remembered by his actions.  Read John 13:34-35: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  They will know we are Christians by our love!  This relationship built on good character and honest love for our neighbor will open doors for dialogue in the future.

Go to Part Five

Friday, October 14, 2011

Should've Known Better: Showing Compassion Part Three

This is part three of a study on showing compassion to the unsaved.  Part One can be found here and Part Two is here.

In previous parts of this study, I talked about the importance of compassion in our dealings with those who don't know Jesus.  In this post, I'll share another reason why we Christians sometimes have trouble offering compassion and grace to the unsaved.

In addition to the "sense of superiority" mentality that I talked about in part two, we Christians struggle with thinking that a person who commits an offense "should have known better".  (We can call this one "Richard Marx syndrome" if you'd like)  When thinking about this part of the study, I was reminded of a lady that I saw in Albertsons recently.  She had her two little girls with her and they were hanging out of the cart, singing, dancing...generally being obnoxious as she's trying to shop.  It was evening so she'd probably had a long day and her kids were wound up and likely ready for dinner and bed.  As I was bagging countless packages of meat to fill our freezer, I listened to and slyly watched her dealings with her kids.  "Stop it! Stop it! How many times have I told you that?"  All the while, she's looking at meat, checking her list, etc.---not once does she stop to look her child in the eye.  "Since you can't mind, you can just go find some other family to live with.  Go!"  Her 4 or 5 year old little girl goes walking down the aisle away from the cart...

My first reaction was to think something along the lines of, "She should know better than to treat her kids that way.  She's not even looking at them while she's spouting off all this nonsense.  I would never treat my kids that way..." etc...

The verse that got me thinking of this woman was Proverbs 5:6: "She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it."  This is speaking of the immoral woman.  Wow...she doesn't even realize that shes unstable!  She doesn't take the time to ponder life's path.  She doesn't even realize there's a better way---that money, weight loss, or a man cannot make it better.

Often times, people will make comments about our parenting style,  how nice we look, our clean home, our intelligent conversation, etc.  It can be hard not to get puffed up about that.  We can take two directions in our thoughts about this woman---or in other similar scenarios:

                Path 1: "She doesn't deserve those kids.  If they were my kids I'd...  Somebody needs to show her how to parent.  I'm an excellent parent, I'd never treat my kids that way.  Does this woman even love her kids?  She should know better!"

                Path 2: Pray.  "Lord, please bless this mother with peace in her home and heart.  Teach her about grace and put someone in her life to encourage her in her parenting and to lead her family to you.  Give her a fresh start tonight and teach her that with just one soft-spoken word, one change in attitude, she can change the whole atmosphere of her home.  Show her that this will lead to the behavior she wants to see from her children."

Another verse on this is Proverbs 4:19: "The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble."  How do I respond to this?  With compassion or with cynicism?  Do I say, "Oh yeah right, surely they know what is making them stumble!"

Think about it:  Why do the lost stumble?  Maybe they didn't recognize the stumbling block as a bad thing in the first place.  Maybe they didn't see it in the road because their eyes were focused elsewhere.  Would their walk have been any better had they had a guide?

Isaiah 30:21 says: "Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it', whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left."  Wow! The unsaved don't have that voice of the Holy Spirit guiding them! Can you imagine?  How sad for them.  Do we have compassion for them?  Do we have enough compassion to do something about it?

Go to Part Four

Friday, September 9, 2011

Showing Compassion-- Part Two

This is part two of a study on showing compassion to the unsaved.  I posted part one yesterday---you can read that here.

As I said yesterday, the Bible says that, as Christians, we are called to compassion.  1 Peter 3:8-9 instructs us in this way:  "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another;  love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."

Unfortunately, we often refuse to show compassion to those around us who need it the most.  There are several reasons for this and, if we're honest, we'll see that we are all guilty of the hypocrisy of ignoring those whom Christ would have us minister to.

One reason why we are not compassionate toward the unsaved is that we have a Sense of SuperiorityProverbs 6:16-17 says this"These six things the Lord hates, yes seven are an abomination to Him:   A proud look..."  There are times when we observe someone who is obviously unsaved and we think things like, "I'm better than that."  "I would never do that."  Etc.  This dangerously prideful attitude is displayed obviously on our faces. 

What's that you say?  You've never had the proud look?  You don't even know what it looks like?  Well, then this would be the perfect time for you to go look in the mirror so you can see exactly what it looks like!  In all seriousness though, think about a time when someone has given you the proud look.  It was very obvious, wasn't it?  They might have been trying to hide it, but you saw it didn't you?  Don't be fooled into thinking you can hide the proud look too!  Something that is so important to remember is that many people, especially those who have been hurt by Christians before, are very discerning of false kindnesses and false behavior.

How can I get rid of my proud look?  It's a simple answer but not so easy to put into practice!  Our proud looks will disappear when the sense of superiority is erased from our hearts!  Once we stop thinking we are "better than that" or that we are "above that behavior" and acknowledge that "all have sinned and fall(en) short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), we will have no more problems with the proud look because we won't feel superior anymore!

Confession time!  Do you have a problem with a sense of superiority like I sometimes do?  Comment and let me know.  Next time, I'll share another reason why we're not quick to offer compassion and grace to the unsaved in our lives.

Go to Part Three

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Showing Compassion-- Part One

About a month ago, I began reading Proverbs again.  I was doing a little "research" for a study I wanted to put together on the wisdom Proverbs provides to women.  I'm sure I'll complete that study one of these days but a couple days into it, my focus turned toward another topic:  showing compassion to the unsaved.  This is part one of a study I shared with a group of women at church recently. 

Let me begin with the question that got the ball rolling for me:  Do I extend the same compassion to others that was extended to me;  not only by Christ, but by His church?

Growing up, my family was a moral family.  My parents taught my brother and I the basics of right and wrong and my mom encouraged me to take my troubles to Jesus in prayer, but we weren't practicing Christians necessarily and we definitely were not a churched family.  Although we knew about Jesus, we didn't really know Him.  We were unsaved.  (Happy to say that my parents are now also my brother and sister in Christ!) I can remember many occasions when I'd attend church off and on with friends, that people showed me the compassion and grace that Christ showed those he encountered while on Earth.  While it was obvious by my attire (or lack of it), my character, and the company I kept, that I was not walking with Jesus, the people at church still treated me with respect and dignity.  They invited me to events, talked to me about my interests, and made me feel like I was part of the family.  I credit these compassionate, spirit-filled people for making a big impact on the grounded-in-Christ person that I am today!

(Speaking to Christians here) Most of us come into contact with people, sometimes on a daily basis, who are obviously not walking with Jesus.  Maybe they are saved but are just having a really hard time showing it that day---maybe they're living a life that is obviously not centered on Him.  There are several reasons why we may choose not to show them compassion.  I'll speak to those over the next few days.  The one thing we need to remember though is this:  we are called to compassion.  1 Peter 3:8-9 instructs us in this way:  "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another;  love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."

When we understand and acknowledge what Christ did for us, we will be compelled to extend that same compassion to others.  Consider Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  If Jesus would go so far as to die for us, couldn't we at least try to be a little understanding of those around us who appear to be walking blindly?

There are many things we can do to show compassion to the unsaved around us.  Our character, who we are day in and day out, is the biggest testament to Christ.  Compassion needs to be a character trait and not something we just put on and off on a whim.  In addition to developing a genuine character, we can also:

1.  Think before we speak:  Proverbs 15:28 says, "The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil."  It really pays off to contemplate our words before spewing them out.  Words stick around so much longer than actions and reverberate in our memories...they can build up or break down.

2.  Let our actions do the speaking:  1 Peter 3: 1-2: "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear."  Now there's a lot in that verse that I won't even go into right now, but the main point is that our actions will speak so much louder than our words when it comes to having integrity and being genuine.  People will be drawn to Christ when they see His character embodied in us, His people.  This is what it means to be "the body of Christ".  We are to be the physical representation of Christ in our words, thoughts and actions.

3.  Practice unselfishness & looking out for others:  Philippians 2:3-4: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."  How will my thoughts/actions affect those around me---both Christians and non-Christians---and not only now, but when they're ready to make a decision for Christ?  There are people in our lives to whom we may be the only representation of Christ that they will see.  I can think of one specific person who is very close to me that does not run with a Christian crowd.  I must emulate Christ to this person because I might be the only one who ever will!  We must practice what we preach by giving others grace when they do or say things that offend us.  A holier-than-thou attitude is one of the biggest turn-offs related to Christians!  If we have been a positive and genuine figure in the life of an unbeliever, we may have the opportunity to be the catalyst through which they someday find relationship with God!

Over the course of this study, I'll share some reasons why we Christians are not so quick to offer compassion and grace to the unsaved, as well as share with you how Jesus treated those the Bible calls "sinners".  Please leave a comment, if you've got time, and let me know how you've been affected by Christian compassion---either on the giving or receiving end.

Go to Part Two

Saturday, January 15, 2011

There is SOMETHING new under the sun!!

I am taking an History of Christianity class this term and am thoroughly enjoying it! It helps that I'm an enthusiastic debater and the professor requires us to respond to one another's writings! Ha! Tonight, one guy posted a question that went pretty much like this:

The ministry of Jesus was about inclusiveness, peace, and love. His main group consisted of men but many of his followers were women and he did not discriminate against anyone.
Women of less reputable status, such as Mary Magdalene, are mentioned as well as his mother. After his death, the new church became an "exclusively male dominated one and women were denigrated to a subservient role. So my question becomes why did the followers of Jesus, who must have seen their leaders treatment of women decide to place them in this role? Why has it remained to be this way in many denominations of Christianity?"

Here was my response:

I think the question that needs to be asked is: are we interpreting the entire historical past based on the "rights" women think they have been entitled to in just the last 80 years or so? Just because a group of feminists that are only as old as Grandma say that women should have absolutely equal status with men in all things doesn't make it true, nor does it make it what God intends for us.

It is my assumption that women were placed under the leadership of men within the church because that is also the way it was in society. Jesus treated women the way He did because He was setting an example of how
people should be treated---not because He was trying to abolish the headship of the men in family, church and other situations. If Jesus had wanted women to take places of leadership over men, He likely would have modeled this by taking on some women in His core group of disciples or placed a woman in charge of his mother just before he died (rather than John---see John 19:26-27). It is only lately that women have got the impression that they are somehow being cheated by the church. Since the beginning of time, I am of the understanding that most Godly women were content to serve as faithful helpers and wise counselors to their fathers and husbands. Proverbs 31 spells out the characteristics of the "virtuous woman" and this used to be the standard for a woman to strive to achieve. It is not against Jesus' message of "inclusiveness, love and peace" for women to serve under the authority of their husbands or fathers.

There are several examples in the New Testament of women being recognized by the newborn Church. Lydia, a founding mother of the Christian church in Europe, lived in Philippi and opened her home as a "home church". When Paul and his group showed up, they were offered a place to stay---a risky and brave act on her part. (Act 16) Acts 18 speaks of Priscilla, the wife of Aquila, who ministered alongside her husband and opened her home with an attitude of Godly hospitality. The Old Testament is full of women who changed history with their faithfulness to God and their husbands: Hannah, Rachel, Rahab... The only Godly woman in the Bible that I can think of who took a leadership role over a man was Deborah and she said so herself that it would be accounted to him as shame. (Judges 4:9)

God's desire for men and women to walk out specific roles is all throughout the Bible. Even at the very beginning of the Bible, God makes their roles evident by putting curses on the specific things that they were "in charge of". Today's society sees these roles as a man domineering over his "subservient" wife. In fact, this is rarely the case. Men are given the
responsibility of taking care of their wives and women are given the protection of their husbands. If this is not the way society is functioning then it's because society has chosen to walk off of God's path. If these roles have survived to this day in any denominations of Christianity, it's because people realize that it's a peaceful way to live and it's the way the Bible says God designed it. When lived the way God intended---with a wife respecting her husband and a husband loving his wife (see Ephesians 5)---this can be a very peaceful and fulfilling life for the whole family.

Also, this doesn't really apply to your question but it applies to my answer: I would encourage anyone who's interested to really read about Mary Magdalene before assuming she was a woman of "less reputable status". There is no basis at all in Scripture for her being a former prostitute as many have implied throughout history. The only mention of her former sinful nature is in Luke 8:2, "Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons." Many link her up with the prostitute in John 8 whom Jesus "rescues" from stoning. It makes for good romance that Jesus would rescue her and then invite her along for the journey. In fact, He sends that woman off to "go and sin no more". Just because Mary Magdalene was healed of demon possession doesn't mean she was a prostitute. I can think of seven demons in my own life right now---gluttony, fear, coveting, worry, unforgiveness, laziness, judgmental attitude---and I'm as straight-laced as they come! I am mentioning this because it shows something we are all guilty of.

The point that I was trying to make to this guy is that if we bring to this class all our preconceived ideas and thoughts of what so-and-so said, it could block us from learning what history really does tell us about Christianity. We wouldn't form assumptions about science or math---we would search for the most accurate answers. Studying God's word should be a challenge to ourselves to find out what it really has to say---even if we don't like what we find out!

All Scripture taken from:

New King James Version
. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

God is NOT on our side!

Joshua 5: 13-15-- "Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" He said, "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" The captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so."

A pastor friend of ours posts daily Bible studies to his Facebook page. Today I was reading his notes on these verses and was struck by this: "God is not on our side. We are on his." Or rather, we should be on his. Often times, when reflecting on a crisis situation for example, people will say, "Thank God we had the Lord on our side." However, that's not exactly the case. It's not like God looks at a situation and chooses which side to be on. God is good and true and right and just in all sides and situations.

When we come over to God's side, we often reap the benefits and blessings of his protection so it would seem that he's pleased with us for "doing right" and is rewarding us by being on our team. The problem with that logic comes when we try to see the flip side. If he's rewarding us by being "on our side" and allowing us to live a happy, easy, blessed life, then what does it mean when life turns scary, ugly, difficult and unfair? It must mean that God's not on our side anymore, right? These bad things must indicate that God is mad at us and punishing us by removing his blessing.

That is SO not the case! While it's true that we will reap these bad "side effects" of disobedience, often times bad things just happen to good people (whole 'nother topic---not goona go there tonight!) The Lord promised never to leave us or forsake us (Josh. 1:5). David encourages us with this thought: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me" (Ps. 23:4).

However, God is not going to sanction sin--no matter how slight or unconscious. That's why he can't be on our side--we are sinful beings. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We fluctuate between good days and bad days. We have our own wills and they're usually self-centered. How wise we'd be to come over to the side of the one who is steady and unchanging!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Avoiding Overload: Part One

A couple days ago, I wrote about the need to rest in God when one is feeling overwhelmed. In that same vein, I went and found some old journals that I'd taken church notes in (back when I had a free hand and a free lap during church!) Some of the following information on overload is taken from notes I took on April 23, 2003 from the Wednesday night message of Pastor Phil Carney of Pendleton First Assembly in Pendleton, Oregon.

Since I've been blogging for the last couple days about things that can cause us to be overwhelmed or distracted, I won't go into that again here. I'm sure you can insert your own scenario to make this applicable.

When we take on too many responsibilities, even "good" ones, we can start to sacrifice our time with God to do these other things. We all have 24 hours in our day---how we manage that is what determines whether or not we are good stewards of our time. In Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha illustrate the classic war between the "human 'doing' and the human 'being'". Jesus points out that Martha was doing so much that she was missing the main thing: Jesus was THERE! He was present...but she was not.

We have got to make time to sit with our full attention on the Lord, making sure to hear what He would say to us. We must make the time to read and really comprehend what God's word is saying to us. The Bible is food and we should eat daily!

There has never been a time like today---mainly because of the technological advancements that we've made just in the last century. We weren't designed for the vast amount of information that is forced on us daily. Think about when you watch something like Fox News. You've got the graphics on both side bars flashing, the guy in the video talking, and two or three different headlines scrolling in two directions across the bottom of the screen. It is impossible to focus on all of them at the same time. Just watching the news can really wear a girl out!

Not only were we not designed for the amount of information that we're exposed to, but our spirits were not designed for the huge amount of tragic things we are made aware of every time we turn on the news or the computer or open the newspaper. It's no wonder that we're so stressed out, full of worry and fear, and paranoid---we dwell way too much, perhaps in a large part subconsciously, on all the negative and terrible things that are going on in the world. These things are tragic, yes---but there's only so much we can handle---especially if these tragic things are happening so far away that there's nothing we can actually physically do to change the circumstances.

When the Titanic sank in 1912, it took 5-7 days for the whole world to find out. Now, there'd be television crews in helicopters patching in live footage as it goes down.

When we exceed our limits, we get into trouble. Even Jesus had limits and had to get away and rest and eat and spend time with God. The Bible teaches us that God has no limits but nowhere does it suggest that WE have no limits! Limits were designed so that we'd know who is God!

One of the most spiritual things that we can do is to rest. It is prideful for us to think that we have to wear ourselves out to accomplish something for God. He will give us exactly enough time to do exactly what is required of us.

A good indication that you are doing more than God is requiring of you is that feeling of being overloaded and overwhelmed. I spent several years in children's ministry: I taught kindergarten at a Christian school, I headed up a Missionettes ministry of about 10 leaders and 80 girls, I taught countless Sunday school and Missionette classes. I spent a couple years in women's ministry: I participated in meetings, events, retreats. I put together programs and speeches and tea parties. I led a Mothers of Preschoolers class. I held Bible studies in my home and spent extra time outside my home mentoring and ministering. These were all good things and I was able to impact lives and have my own impacted. However, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, unhealthy and my home was falling apart.

Thank God that he showed me that I have PLENTY to do right here at home. I felt like I had to have a "real" ministry on top of my "job" as a mom and a wife and a homemaker. What I couldn't see was that my home and family were being seriously neglected while I tried to keep up with all this busyness. Once I realized that I was being lied to and led astray by an Enemy who desires to destroy my family, my eyes were opened to the wonderful blessing of the ministry God has given me right here at home.

Now is not the time for me to be physically ministering outside my home. However, God has given me this blog and a group of faithful readers who are being blessed when I do have the time to sit down and write. God saw my desire to write and my desire to minister to other women and showed me a way that I could still have that ministry without overwhelming myself or neglecting my family.

Today, I encourage you to take a few minutes for inventory. Allow God to show you the things in your life that are overwhelming you because they simply don't belong there. Then ask him to give you the steps, one at a time (so you're not overwhelmed! :), that you need to take to make the right changes. God desires us to be at peace as much as possible. He wants us to rest in him and to have the energy and excitement to serve him in the place he's designed for us. Rather than trying to "fit him in" to an already overly-scheduled day, let's allow him to have the very best of us each day.

Romans 15: Two Are Better Than One

Romans 15:1-2, 5-7: "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification...Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ has also accepted us to the glory of God."

While reading this verse the first word that came to mind was "addiction". As I'm writing this though, I think a more general term for a more general audience would be "distraction". I was first reminded of a friend's husband who has spent the last week trying to give up smoking. I thought of him when I read, "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement..." It got me thinking that we all probably have addictions in our lives (a substance like drugs, alcohol, or food; a pastime like video games, exercise, or Facebook...). If not, then I know I can safely say that we all have distractions---things that are taking our time and focus away from the things that really matter like playing with our kids, listening to our spouses, or meditating on God's word.

As I continued thinking and writing, I began to apply these verses to the struggle that my husband and I are having with trying to break our own addictions to food and the things that have distracted us from a more active lifestyle. I thought of us when I read, "Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves."

The truth of the matter regarding addictions and distractions is that every one of us has got them---and every one of them has the potential to lead us into a sinful lifestyle and every sin is equally damning and ultimately, equally destructive so...where am I going with this? We need to STOP JUDGING!

We need to stop not only judging others and saying, "what I'm doing might be bad but at least I'm not doing what SHE does," but we need to also stop judging ourselves by comparing ourselves to another and saying, "I'm less loved by God/less worthy of salvation/less allowed forgiveness than SHE is because what I've done is worse."

The only person we should be comparing ourselves to or judging ourselves and others by is Christ. Anyone with brains and a shred of humility will admit that we can never measure up to Christ and that's where God's grace comes in...(but that's another subject).

The point that I'm so "wordily" trying to make is that instead of approaching addictions and distractions from a negative, judgemental and unproductive point of view, we should instead find ways to address them in a way that's positive, proactive, and might actually lead to a change someday.

We are all, at some point or another, going to be the weaker brother. (See 1 Corinthians 8:7-13: "Therefore if food (*or whatever else could be an addiction or distraction*) causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble"). As brothers and sisters we need to bear the weaknesses of those around us who are struggling, knowing that our weak times are sure to come as well.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 teaches us that "Two are better than one...for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." And, "A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." (That third "strand" can be another "brother" or, better yet, God!)

Rather than spending useless time blaming, judging, gossiping about or trying to "fix" our fellow man, we should focus on standing beside him, lifting him up in prayer, giving him encouragement, and accepting him in the place he's at while reminding him that there's a better way too! Sometimes a silent example is better than words...just something to think about! :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Am I Complete?

Colossians 2: 8-10: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power."

How many times do we go looking for someone or something to "complete" us? If we are single, we say we need a spouse to complete us. If we are married, we say we need children to complete us. After that, we start saying things like, "If only I...was not so overweight, would gain a little weight, didn't have this debt, had a cleaner home, owned my own place", etc.

We have this sense that we, in and of ourselves, are not enough. We know that we are lacking, so we go on a quest to lose the weight or adopt the newest organizational system or find the perfect spouse. So why, when we do finally accomplish these things, do we still feel the empty spot? Why do we immediately recognize the next big thing that needs to happen for us to feel complete?

The problem is that while we know that we are lacking--that we, in and of ourselves, are not enough--we are going in the wrong direction to find that fulfillment. Verse 9 says "in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead"--the Three In One--the Trinity...and we are complete in Him. We have been cheated and lied to--and we have bought right in.

The Bible gives us a caution--that we wouldn't be cheated or deceived by the traditions of men or principalities of the world. Have we made the world's deceptions our truths? Has media and magazine covers become our gospel?

The funny thing about God is that He knows our hearts. He knows and understands that empty place where we feel the need for completion. What's more, He knows exactly what we need to fill it. We can find all we need in Him.

Even in Christ, completion won't come by forgiving our brother or cleaning up our act. Yes, those things are important and that time will come, but it can't come until Christ has our hearts. Completion and fullness in God must first take place in our hearts as we surrender everything to Him and ask Him to teach us and to work on us in His timing. Once this surrender to Christ is complete and we are being filled by Him, we will begin to emulate Him. People will begin to see Christ in us as we forgive our brother and get our act together one step at a time through Christ.

My challenge for myself and my readers today is to not accept the lies and traditions of the world. Instead, invite Christ to fill you with his truth and power and find completion in Him.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Shroud of Turin: How Can We Be Sure?

I've always been a sucker for a great conspiracy theory. I think one of the most interesting legends of our time is The Shroud of Turin. According to www.shroud.com, "Modern science has completed hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the shroud. It is, in fact, the most studied artifact in human history."

Many people over many hundreds of years have put faith in this burial cloth, believing it not only to be an authentic and miraculous transference of the image of a crucified man, but believing that man to be Jesus Christ.

Those who have studied it are divided as to the age of the cloth, the medium used to create the image (was it painted? miraculously transposed?), and the identity of the person pictured.

The Catholic church has taken a big leap of faith in allowing the Holy Face Medal to be depicted after the image of the man on the shroud. While they apparently don't take a solid position on the authenticity of the shroud, they've gone ahead a
nd "approved of the image in association with the Roman Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus". I think they're making a pretty big assumption here. Not only have they made a graven image of a man that they're not so sure is really God (see Exodus 20:4: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth."), but they're ignoring what the New Testament has to say about the details surrounding Jesus' burial cloths.

Each of the gospels describes Jesus as having been buried in a linen cloth however, John gets very specific as he describes the Jewish custom of wrapping the body. John describes two cloths: a linen wrapping for the body and a separate cloth for the face:

"So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself" John 20:4-7.

This attention to detail shows us that the answers to the "mystery" of the Shroud of Turin have been in the Word all along. The Shroud is one piece of cloth showing a crucified man from head to toe. The Bible clearly shows us that this can not be the image of Christ as he was wrapped in more than one wrapping and his head was wrapped separately from the rest of the body.

What bothers me about all of this is not so much that there are still people out there debating the Shroud's "authenticity", but that this is the first time I've taken the time to open up my Bible and investigate the veracity of the myth for myself. The answers really are all there---if I'd take the time to find them!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gossip: Part Four

For the past four days I've been blogging about the topic of gossip.

I've referenced Sheri Rose Shepherd's book, Fit for Excellence, and her the three forms of gossip she discusses: "general gossip", "silent gossip" and "godly gossip".

In this final post on gossip, I'd like to list the five questions Shepherd poses to herself before speaking about others (pg. 137):

1. Why am I sharing this information?
2. Will it hurt someone's reputation?
3. Will it benefit the person listening?
4. Am I willing to let others use my name as a reference?
5. If God were visibly present here with us, would we continue?

If we keep these five questions in mind, we'll most likely never say something negative about someone else. Instead, we'll make an effort to say positive things!

Shepherd leaves us with an important thought to remember: if someone will gossip to you, they'll most likely gossip about you (137)! Let's all make a special effort to lift each other up with kind and encouraging words and leave the judging to the only One who is qualified to judge us: the Lord Jesus.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gossip: Part Three

"But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison" ~ James 3:8

For the past couple of days I've been discussing the topic of gossip. In Sheri Rose Shepherd's book, Fit for Excellence, she names three types of gossip: "general gossip", "silent gossip" and "godly gossip". In this post, I will discuss the form of gossip known as "godly gossip".

In my opinion, this is the most detrimental, as well as disgusting, form of gossip. It is with this type of gossip that we can effectively discourage a fellow Christian, help destroy a ministry, or even aid in the eventual turning from the faith by not only the one we are gossiping about, but also the ones we are gossiping to.

"Godly gossip" is when we preface our story with something like, "I'm not really a gossiper but I wanted to tell you this so you can pray" or "we really need to pray for sister so-and-so", and then we proceed to run her reputation into the ground all in the name of "prayer".

I believe this form of gossip disgusts the Lord. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are encouraged to "exhort one another and build each other up." In my opinion, the best thing to do when faced with a "godly gossiper" is to politely remind him or her of this truth and then just walk away.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gossip: Part Two

As 1 Corinthians 15:33 states, "bad company corrupts good character".

In Sheri Rose Shepherd's book, Fit for Excellence, she discusses three different forms of gossip: "general gossip", "silent gossip" and "godly gossip". In this post, I'd like to address the second form, "silent gossip".

This is probably the form of gossip that I have most often and most recently participated in. "Silent gossip" is the type of gossip that we participate in simply by being in the presence of a gossiper. We don't have to say a word; but our refusal to defend the gossipee or walk away from the conversation confirms that our heart is turned toward the gossip and not toward the Lord.

I will admit, I usually feel terribly uncomfortable in this sort of situation but don't want to "hurt anyone's feelings" by walking away in the middle of the conversation. Instead, I find myself giving the gossiper some sort of pat response like, "well, that's too bad" or "hmm...I don't know...". I need to work on being bold and either speak up in defense of the one being talked about or walk away when the conversation begins to turn to gossip.

Like Shepherd points out, if someone will gossip around you, surely they will gossip about you. Be careful little ears what you hear---and, just as importantly, be very careful regarding with whom you choose to spend your time!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gossip: Part One

In Proverbs 18:21 we learn that the power of life and death is in the tongue. With our words we can either build someone up or tear them down.

I thought about this verse last week as I was reading Sheri Rose Shepherd's book of random thoughts, Fit for Excellence. Shepherd describes three types of gossip: "general gossip", "silent gossip" and "godly gossip". Surely, we've all been guilty of at least one of these. I know I've participated in all three forms at one time or another.

In this post, I'll address the first form of gossip: "general gossip". "General gossip", says Shepherd, is the kind of gossip that takes place when we gossip about people, groups or churches that we don't personally know. A perfect example of this kind of gossip is the publicity surrounding "Octo-Mom". Even before this poor woman's entire life history was made international news, many people were forming opinions and stances regarding her situation. My question during this entire spectacle has been, "why is it any of our business?"

No matter how anyone feels about the issues of public assistance, reproductive assistance or single motherhood, the truth is that no one really knows all the details and truths surrounding this woman except for her. Furthermore, why has no one focused on the positive and miraculous in this story? According to all known records, this group of babies has survived the longest of all octuplets ever born! That is something to celebrate!

This kind of "general gossip" has no place in the hearts or the speech of Christians. Forming opinions about people with whom we have neither a personal relationship nor a full knowledge of their situation is judgemental and immature.

As Shepherd states, "Unless we are part of the problem or the solution, our concern should always be to build up the body of Christ, whether we know them personally or not!" (Shepherd, 137).

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