Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In the Grip of Grace or In the Hands of an Angry God?

We have been quick to label our America as a Christian nation. I'm not here to debate whether our founding fathers purposefully set out to create a Christian nation or not, but it seems we still like to think of ourselves as Christian. A Christian nation? Now? Really? Is it because statistically the majority of Americans claim to be Christians? Do we really believe our America is full of Christ-followers? Do you believe you are that different than those whose Christianity we question? I've been hearing a lot of negative things against the American church recently. Is it warranted? Do you feel we need a revival, a Christian awakening?

A friend of mine posted a sermon on her facebook page. After taking the time to listen to the audio/video message of Reverend Paul David Washer, I'm blown away by his accusations and his unforgiving proclamation of hard-hitting truth. After reading The Bravehearted Gospel with my book study group, I have come to recognize the bravehearted path. This man, I feel, has chosen the bravehearted path. Like a baton runner, he has taken the whip out of Jesus' hands and sprinted forward. In his "sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-God"-style message, he delivers such a lashing to the American youth of our churches (as well as their leaders), one can only assume they walked away from this conference stunned...and supposedly he was never invited back to speak. It's a message I've heard teachers/preachers skirt around, one that's been posted on conservative Christian blogs, and one that rears its head every once in awhile among my circle of friends. BUT I have never heard it quite like this before. Listen to it now (be forewarned - it is long but worth the thought-provoking mental energy) and let me know your thoughts. Do you agree with him? Is he too alarmist? Do you believe his theology is accurate? What points do you disagree with?

Found at where you can read the transcript, listen to the audio or watch the video.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Few Thoughts on the Old Man...

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come! II Corinthians 5:17

If the "old man" inside me is dead, then why do I continue to cook for him, wash his clothes, make his bed and provide for him in every which way? It is as if the ghost of my former self haunts me until I confuse the existence of this specter with reality.

Lord, help me instead to willfully pound the nails into his coffin, inscribe the gravestone with a definitive end date and walk away with no need for commemoratives. Help me to see that true life, true happiness and true power comes not from fraternizing with ghosts but from the living reality of the new man in You!

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Apples and Oranges

Churches can be wonderful conduits for the charity of its people. Churches and charitable organizations can do amazing works blessed by God to help the orphans, fatherless and widows. Yet too often the church can be ignorant of the needs of its own sheep. And what good is a church that helps a tribe halfway across the world when its own members are suffering? Meeting each others' needs within one's body is a vital part of a church's community. To turn a blind eye, a deaf ear or an ignorant attitude towards the brother or sister-in-Christ sitting right next to you is to do the same with Christ. (Matthew 25:31-40)

Similarly, it seems a common attitude these days is for Christians to compare our own needs and sufferings to those who have it much harder than us, thereby trivializing our own trials. After all, how can we compare our own trials to those who live in third-world countries and those who witness true suffering and death every day? The simple answer is, we can't. We can't compare the endless nights of insomnia with a new baby to a mother in Darfur who night after night watches her baby die slowly of malnutrition. We can't possibly compare the stress and daily busyness of parenting to the 9-year-old boy who just became the leader and sole provider for his 6-year-old sister and 2-year-old brother because both his parents died of AIDS. We can't compare the annoyances we sometimes face within our churches on any given Sunday with the man who, with heart pounding out of fear and joy, secretly enters a dark building in China to worship with his family in Christ as part of something we call the underground church. There is NO comparison! We can't even try, and we shouldn't.

But being human, we only know what we know. Our own trials and persecutions, relatively insignificant or not, affect us. They move us out of our comfort zones, increase our stress level, overwhelm us and sometimes render us incapable. Sometimes the smallest things in life build up and cripple us, preventing us from meeting not only our own needs but those outside our home. When facing another day of parenting little ones puts you in a sour mood, you're not going to want to willingly volunteer to babysit for a mother in need. When cooking and putting yet another meal on the table becomes a onerous task, you are not going to feel like cooking for someone in need. This is not an attempt to rationalize any excuses for laziness or social apathy, but a simple statement that we cannot give what we do not have. Pope Benedict XVI said, "In the end, it is the Lord who helps us but we must be available as instruments," he continued. "I would say simply: No one can give what he does not personally possess; in other words we cannot pass on the Holy Spirit effectively or make him perceptible to others unless we ourselves are close to him."1 Certain trivialities and the stresses of daily life sometimes cloud our vision, weigh on our heart and help us to forget to stay close to Him. It is when our eyes are open to the abundance of blessings given us that the Holy Spirit and our own gratitude help us to give.

As Christians, we are commanded to take care of each other and "to love our neighbor as ourselves." If the world judges our faith by how we treat each other, we must take great care in watching out for each other and providing for each other. By loving each other and acting like the early church, we will be greater witnesses of Christ's love to those inside and outside our Christian community. So let us love each other. Let us need one another. Let us meet each others' needs "and so fulfill the law of Christ."2

1. From an article found on Zenit: The World Seen from Rome website.

2. Galations 6:2

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