Saturday, February 7, 2015

My Christian Can Beat Up Your Christian! - Part 3


In this discussion about what I call, "Christian Arrogance," we are following an acrostic on the word "PRIDE."  

In the last entry, we talked about "P - Position."  

Here, we talk about "R - Rules" - or, regiment, and how we can become arrogant in our ability to follow the rules or regiments of "being a Christian."  

We need rules, to a certain extent.  We need to know, for example, that a red light indicates stopping at intersections.  To stay fit and healthy, you must adhere to a certain regiment of making wise food choices and exercising consistently.  It's okay, and even necessary at times, to have rules and regiments that we live by.

Some people become quite arrogant, pushy and obsessive about their exercise and nutrition rules even to the point of forcing those rules on others, as if they, and they alone, have suddenly discovered the only truth available regarding health and shove that info in your face to prove you are not now, nor will you ever be, as healthy as they are. 

There are Christians who do the very same thing with their faith journey.  

They are very, very proud of the fact that they rise at 5am, spend 30-minutes alone with God, spend another 30-minutes reading His Word, attend an adult Sunday school class, attend a mid-week Bible study, sit in the front during the service (to be "seen and glean"), teach the children, sing in the choir, donate to the food bank and help set up chairs for the men's meeting.  

These are not bad things.  In fact, these are GOOD things!  Until you shove your over-extended goodness in the face of fellow believers in an attempt to prove just how "good" you are at "following God's rules." 

The Bible has many examples of pride - and they are never portrayed as something to strive for. Rather, they are revealed as something to avoid.  "God hates a haughty spirit..." (Proverbs 18:16).  

It's important to consider how Jesus dealt with this matter of regiment and rules in His own relationship with God.  In a nutshell, Jesus NEVER alerted everyone to His personal plan of intimacy or obedience to God.  He simply did it.  We know He went off by himself to pray, for example, because Luke tells us so. (Luke 5:16).  But Jesus never said, "Okay, guys, here's what I'm gonna go do now - I'm gonna go be with God in a quiet time - you know, like YOU guys SHOULD be doing." 

I am always amused by the comment from the Pharisee in Luke 18, verse 11: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men..." 

Be honest - haven't you thought that sometimes?  Our modern version of that statement might go like this: "God, I might have had lustful thoughts, or uttered cuss words, or even hated my next-door neighbor, but - I never killed anyone, or stole money from the bank, or did drugs.  Thank you, God, that I'm not THAT bad.  Thank you, God, that I read my Bible every day and do all that other stuff on my "God list" that I know makes you happy.  I am so amazing, huh?" 

Your wording might be different, but that's essentially what many of us do because, sadly, we actually believe that DOING THE LIST is what makes God happy.

That isn't what makes God happy.  He looks at the HEART, not our ability to "do the list." 

If you are over-pleased with your ability to "do the list" (the rules and regiment), then I suggest you reconsider that aspect of your spiritual life.  I encourage all of us to be less prideful in our ability to follow the rules.  

Remember, one of "the rules" is humility and it doesn't really fly to show off your Christianity if you want to be humble. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Christian Can Beat Up Your Christian - Part 2


In discussing Christian Arrogance, I will follow an acrostic on the word P.R.I.D.E.  Seems appropriate... right?  

The P in our acrostic is for POSITION or placement; meaning, WHERE we place ourselves as compared to others on a scale between un-holy, doomed to hell all the way up to God's right-hand man.  

In my 40+ years as a Christian I have come across many--far TOO many--fellow believers who seem to believe that, because they are a Christian, they are "just a little bit better" than everyone else around them.  It is almost as if they are thinking, "Neener, Neener - I'm going to heaven, because I'm good - and you're going to hell, because you're bad!" I honestly feel that the main reason we ever feel like this often has to do with wrong teachings from some in our Christian culture.  Somewhere along the line we mixed up the notion of "chosen by God" with "chosen for abilities" or some other crazy notion.

Sadly, this attitude rises to the surface in ways that cause the non-believers around us to sniff out our arrogance and run for the hills.  I don't think we have intentionally attempted to make others feel less worthy or less valuable, but it does happen.  Yes,we are loved by God.  But that does not mean we are BETTER than anyone around us.  And for those who are agreeing with this statement, don't be so smug - you do it, too!  And, so do I.  Though I am trying to be less this way the older I get.

How did Jesus deal with His "Position?" 

Think about this - - no, really, think about this.

Jesus - was (is) THE Son of God; He IS God - in the flesh.  Jesus was - God in a human body - interacting with His very own creation.  That is mind-boggling!  

And, yet, even with His DNA, Jesus remained a SERVANT to everyone around Him.  He placed himself at the bottom, in other words.  Never was it, "Hey, look what I can do!"  (And He could do a lot!)  It was always, "Hey, look what I can do - for YOU!"  

Are we like that?  No, really, are we?  

Probably. Sometimes. At church. In front of the pastor. 

What about at Walmart? Or the gas station? Or when we pass a homeless man in smelly clothes who has a sign asking for money?  

I encourage you (and me) to re-think what our POSITION actually is, as follows of Jesus Christ. Don't allow yourself to become too arrogant in your mistaken "lofty" placement in the Kingdom. Absolutely believe, and live, as a child of the King!  But never forget that THIS King wears a crown of thorns - not diamonds. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Christian Can Beat Up Your Christian! - Part 1



It is almost humorous to be writing about this topic, because when a person sits down to pen an article or blog or book, it infers that person is an expert on the topic being discussed. And since the topic of this 7-part series is "Christian Arrogance," it feels somewhat ironic to me.

The truth is, I am not an expert on this topic. Merely an observer.

I have been a Christian for over 45 years and, in that time, I have seen the good, the bad, and, unfortunately, the ugly. The past several decades have been some of the most spirit-filled and exciting we have known as Christians. There has also been a growing seed of arrogance that has permeated many areas of our faith.

This series of blog posts, then, should be viewed as a type of "call to action" or "warning." I won't go so far as to say they are prophetic because when a person talks like that, the rest of the Christian community gets nervous. Some even paint signs and host rallies.

We will just agree that I have observed this Christian Arrogance in many ways and forms - even in my own life - and, therefore, feel the urgency to speak on it so that we who call ourselves believers can help those around us find the simplicity of Jesus in the chaos of religion.

The series is built on an acrostic on the word, "PRIDE."  The next article (Part 2) will speak on the "P" in that acrostic: POSITION - how we are prideful because of how we position ourselves in the Kingdom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Count It ALL Joy...


"Count it all joy when various trials come your way..." That what it says in the Bible book of James, first chapter, second verse.

Seems a bit ridiculous at first glance. Consider my problems as something to be joyful about? Are you kidding? Do you know what I've been going through?

I've sat through many sermons on this particular topic and all of them end up going down a very similar path: life's painful experiences test your faith in God and refine you much the same way fine metals are refined in fire... therefore, be happy about what you go through.

Really?

Have you ever gone through anything difficult and maintained a smile on your face? Who does this? And don't say Tibetan Monks - because there's a part of me that wants to believe that even those robed ethereal types wince a bit when something bad happens to them - say, burn their tongue on the soup, or something.

The reality of life is that things are difficult. For you, for me - for all of us. Shit happens, as the bumper sticker says.

I used to misunderstand this verse. I read it as saying "God is testing your faith and that's why all this bad stuff is happening to you." But I don't believe that any more. I don't believe for one moment that the Almighty God of all we will ever know actually sets out to make my life hard. He loves me - unconditionally, completely and totally. He wants the BEST for me. Always. Therefore, God does not orchestrate the calamities of our lives. I also don't believe that God is a magician who waves a heavenly wand and simply zaps us free of pain. That would also not be loving. What He does do is allow us to learn from the mistakes we make as well as from the circumstances of life we encounter which are sometimes the results of mistakes those around us make.

So, the way I now view this verse (concept) is that life is difficult - sometimes it's my fault, sometimes it's your fault - sometimes it's the simple result of unpleasant and unexpected circumstances of life that impact us even though we have nothing to do with the cause. And what this verse does is remind us how we are to respond to these events - with JOY!

Responding joyfully in difficult circumstances is not easy to do. Anyone who tells you it is easy is either a liar or not living on this planet, walking among other human beings. Bad things happen all the time. And those bad things impact us. They can do everything from bend us, to break us, to destroy us. And it's in the course of those events - the on-going, the day-by-day, that we learn what it means to BECOME people who are able to consider such life events as moments of refinement, maturing, shaping, crafting... and THAT is what leads us to choosing to live JOYFUL lives rather than lives of bitterness, anger, despair and hopelessness.

Jesus did not look forward to being hung on a cross. The Bible does not seem to paint a picture of Him gallantly marching forward to face his death with heroics. He was not afraid - don't get me wrong. But Jesus Himself stated to His Father (God) that he'd rather not go through with this type of death. I can't imagine Him being "happy" about this. He knew it had to happen as the culmination of his ministry on Earth and the birthing of salvation for the rest of us. So, I can also imagine Jesus being somewhat "joyful" knowing what was COMING, though what he was going through was certainly not a "joyful" experience.

There is something to be said about endurance. Perhaps you have gone through days, weeks or even years of enduring - enduring painful life experiences you never thought you'd encounter. And now, today, you are still alive. Scarred, scratched and perhaps a little scared. But you are alive. (I know this because you are reading this blog!) Apparently, those events you never thought you could live through - well - you've lived through!

Here's that verse again... let it sink in...

Count it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Post Has No Photo

Just a quick post before getting ready for the rest of what the day has to offer me.

The TITLE of this blog is COMMON SAINTS. That's by design. It's to remind ALL of us that we are just simple humans, prone to messing up, who are created by a God who loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus to be our Savior.

It's a pretty cut 'n dry plan, when you think of it. Our (man's) sin has kept us from enjoying the intended relationship we are to have with our Creator. So our Creator provided a way to restore that relationship - allowing His only Son to be the one-time (that means once and for all - not on a continual basis) sacrifice for our sins.

We commoners who accept that gift from our Creator, and choose to call Jesus our Lord, will live forever in His presence after we leave this earth.

Yeah, this common saint is okay with that arrangement. : )

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tastes Just Like Chicken


There's a story in the Bible about a fellow named Jonah. Whether or not you officially attend church or call yourself a Christian, the chances are pretty good you've heard or read the story of Jonah.

In a nutshell, Jonah was a prophet. He relayed information from God to the people of his day. And right out of the gate, in the opening lines of this story, God instructs Jonah to travel to a city called Ninevah and warn the people in the town that God is displeased with them. Jonah, who apparently had not figured out that God is everywhere, decided to trick God. Rather than do what God said, Jonah hopped on a boat and headed to a totally different town called Joppa. In essence, he chickened out, disobeyed and ran away from God.

During the boat trip, a huge storm occurred and the men on the boat began harassing Jonah begging for his God to save them. This made Jonah nervous - so much so that he decided to leap into the sea. No sooner had he done this that a "great fish" swallowed him up and, for 3 days, he lived inside the belly of that fish until God made the fish burp Jonah up on to dry land.

Yuck.

Whether it's running from God, or simply running from life's problems, we all run the risk of "tasting like chicken" at times, don't we? Life is difficult - for different people in different ways. But all of us face stuff we'd rather not have to face. And the story of Jonah shows us that if we choose to run, chances are pretty good that something even bigger might overtake us - whether that is guilt, or fear, or even a more uncomfortable circumstance. In other words - facing our problems, though not always desirable, is usually the best way to go.

For me - I have had to arrive at a place of finally and truly deciding, once and for all, that ALL of the "problems" of life are there for a reason and I happen to believe those reasons are based on something God is trying to teach me - for growth and refinement - much the same way a sculptor chips away at the marble until the intended figure comes to life.

I remember as a kid, arrogantly and smugly laughing at Jonah for being such a jerk and running away from God. As an adult, I find myself relating more to Jonah than I care to admit. And while I've never been eaten by a whale - I can honestly say that I've seen them on the shoreline with bibs around their necks from time to time wondering if I might taste like chicken...

We are designed to be brave, courageous, faithful and hopeful regardless the situation.

Psalm 31:24 puts it this way: "Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord."

Peta won't like this - but from where I'm sitting... a hungry whale is fine with me!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Facebook = Blog-Robber


I want to blame facebook for keeping me from blogging. This is because I spend so much time on the social network site and simply forget that I have launched a blog to offer deep thoughts and commentary on the stuff of life.

But I can't really blame facebook. That's like blaming hot dogs for keeping me from eating apple turnovers. Both are probably not good for me - but both are so yummy!

Anyway, here I am...

And today's amazing philosophical point is: Life is hard. (Yes, you heard it here first, folks!)

Blaming, as was my idea with facebook or the hot dog, is such an easy "out" in life, isn't it? I think, for the most part, everyone has blamed someone or something else for why they are where they are in life.

> The company promoted the wrong guy!
> My parents never taught me how to get ahead in life!
> My husband snores!
> Why do they sell 10 hot dogs in a pack but only 8 hot dog buns in a pack?

We blame because we don't like feeling uncomfortable, disrupted, annoyed, agitated or any number of a variety of inconvenient feelings that should not be a part of our prosperous American way of life. It's not fair! (Have you ever said that?)

I stood in our local supermarket the other day... I was playing the "role" of "husband waiting at the cart as wife meanders through the aisles in search of just 'two more items'..." - - as I stood there, I was gazing around and was suddenly struck with just how much "stuff" we have in our markets here in America. I read somewhere that the average market in American offers around 45,000 different items for sale. That's not a misprint... 45-THOUSAND different items. (No wonder I can't decide on Special K, Special K with almonds, Special K with berries, Special K with less sugar added, Special K with chocolate bits or Special K with enzymes...)

Last night I was on the phone with a friend who has left her husband. In short, because of her huge salary (he was a stay-at-home dad), they lived a luxurious life complete with a huge home in a very nice area, they had a nanny, a cleaning lady and other amenities to make life amazingly comfortable. The husband never worked. His "job" was the kids - which makes sense. Except that in most cases the kids were off with the nanny or at school. According to this friend, her husband found fault with the lifestyle - it was not enough. He lashed out at her for not working harder to bring in more money - eventually that anger turned into all out emotional abuse and she ended up taking the kids and leaving him.

Perhaps blaming isn't the answer. I'm just sayin' - -

What if - and I'm just tossing this out there - what if life really IS hard? What if, sometimes, the circumstances we find ourselves facing really are incredibly difficult? What then?

What if - even in a world where we have EVERYTHING at our fingertips, as close as a mouse click, a short drive or a phone call - things are STILL difficult?

For me, as a Christian, I rely on what The Bible teaches me about the God I choose to believe in and follow. That He "will never leave [me] and He will never forsake [me]." (Hebrews 13:5,6)

As the title of this blog states, I am just a "common saint" - a man with flaws, failures and a future - all at the same time.

And, praise God, He's there with me every step of the way!