Monday, January 05, 2009
Sunday, January 04, 2009
I have been all over the place recently. Finishing my senior year in college, serving as youth and outreach minister at my church (not to mention all of the Christmas stuff that happens, and the Winterfest trip we just took), being the Baptist Collegiate Ministry President, as well as the state representative for our school and planning the college retreats, spending time with my girlfriend and friends (which is a blessing completely, but still time taken), and in the midst of all of this I was trying to convince myself that I was setting aside enough time for me and God.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Did you know that roughly ninety percent of our armed forces profess Christianity as their religion of choice? And that we have the largest and most globally active armed forces in the world? Do you have any idea how many wars are going on today?
It’s incredibly controversial and challenging to think or talk about in today’s society because of the levels of violence in which we live. Defense seems almost required because of the efforts to attack our lives. Terrorism runs rampant. But has it always been this way? What happened to the days of martyrdom?
Isaiah speaks of an incredible time--a day when men will turn weapons of death into tools for life. A day when God will judge and light the nations. I believe this will only happen when we let Him.
Martyrdom fell to the wayside when Constantine decided to conquer under the cross. Believing this "symbol" to be his triumphant charm, Constantine "converted" to Christianity for the furthering of his state. In today’s world, the same philosophy lives within us: we have the right to property; we have the right to bear arms; we have the right to defend ourselves. In the United States especially, this "spirit of Capitalism" reigns supreme. The concept of prosperity helped to found our nation and rests within the mind of everyone following the "American Dream."
But we are also made to believe that America is also a country founded "under God." That Christian values are the basis of our laws and values. If this is true, and the prophecy of Isaiah on the time to come is true, why does it seem like we are deviating from this path of peace? The truth is that being an American and being a Christian have become intermingled and have effectively watered down the power of both.
To be an American today means to love and support your country. It means working hard to move up in the world. It means finding your niche in your city or town and fitting into the webbing of society. But is this what the original definition was?
Thomas Jefferson once said "to dissent is the highest form of patriotism." The original idea was not to fit in to and accept the current conditions, but to better them. Many concepts like Capitalism and the "American dream" have become common among our citizens, but these shouldn’t be our final goal. Institutions like the military have become the strongest of hiring agents, but as citizens, we don’t necessarily have to be one of the employees. What Jefferson is saying is that to truly love our country is to look for opportunities to constantly better ourselves--not monetarily or physically, but through values and moral treatment. To be a patriot is to realize that the conditions of the nation are more important than the conditions of the individual and the ever-growing status of our bank account.
Christianity in this country has almost been engulfed by the image of the flag. A pastor recently told me they were in a Christian bookstore looking for a Holy Spirit pin and couldn’t find a single Christian symbol that wasn’t wrapped in the American flag. Why is that? What has led us to believe that our country has a better form of our religion? Or even more troubling, what has led us to believe that the two are interchangeable terms?
As citizens we have been fooled into believe that supporting our country that was built on "Christian principles", is a qualifying factor for being a Christian. And as Christians in this country, our faith has been watered down to mean the same thing as being a citizen. In essence, Christianity is patriotism--defending our property and Capitalist ideals are the same thing as defending our faith.
God never intended it to be this way. As Isaiah clearly prophecies, the final plan is the end of war and the encouragement of life. Weapons will be destroyed and reused for harvesting crops, and all along God will judge and shine on creation. God never intended for us to defend our possessions: you might even question what sort of possessions He intended for us to at all. Do you remember how much Jesus and the disciples owned? Jesus once said that He didn’t even have a regular place to lay His head, and yet God would provide. If this is the case, how much do you think God intends for you to have? Even more so, what do you think He would we feel we should defend?
We often make claims to the idea of defending our faith--our country was founded on this freedom of religion. But think about how many martyrs have died for this faith. Think about how many people believed the message of Jesus so much that they were willing to face opposition with nothing other than their faith until they lost their lives. And yet the faith persists. Thousands of lives have been lost and yet Christianity is still the most widely practiced faith in the world. Do you really think God needs you to defend His message? Or are you just unwilling to accept that God’s plan is bigger than ours, and that sometimes for His message to continue sacrifices, even to the extent of death, must occur?
You see God has not called us to offense or defense. God has called us to peace. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul tells us that "God has called us to live in peace." Even more so, because peace can be found no where in this world, He has called us to find peace in Him alone. Paul writes again in Ephesians 2:14 that, "For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility..." and Jesus Himself says in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Ultimately Americans and Christians have forsaken their core teachings. They have chosen the right to property over the right to equality and peace. Jefferson’s opinion on dissent being patriotic attests to the idea that we should seek change for the greater good because current practices do nothing but benefit the individual. As Christians, we are trying too hard to fulfill God’s role of defending the continued success of His message, rather than fulfilling our role of living it out.
Ultimately, church and state should be united under only one common ideal--that they seek the well-being of its members and the peace and unity of them all. One does not determine the other. Being an American does not necessarily make one a Christian and vice versa. However, both roles can be fulfilled if we are willing to take up a lifestyle of peace--dissenting against individual gain in favor of living equally, and allowing God to defend Himself and living His message of love. As a Christian and an American I can do nothing greater than live a life of peace.
I know many times we defend war as a means of ending social injustice, but maybe it’s because that is all we know. Do you have faith in the power of the message of God? More importantly, do you have more faith in the power of God's Word than you do in our guns and bombs? What might happen if we attacked enemies with love? Of course, there would be loss, but you have to ask yourself if you believe that God’s plan, whether or not it leads to martyrdom, is greater than our own. Hasn’t our message of love outlasted any civilization of force?
God will certainly bless America when we are willing to give up our own physical attempts at solution and let His reign supreme.
It doesn't make sense. We all know the scientific reasoning behind "love" and falling into it. We know that the other party's pheromones trigger our endorphins to make us excited, feeling fresher than before, and truly "falling hard." And we also know what happens after about the first six months--those hormones fade and we see our partner in passion through every day eyes.
But this isn't the case with Jesus. In fact, not a single element of this "chemical romance" holds water with Christ. First off, He is eternal--residing in Heaven and waiting for us. There is no physical contact and no exchange of pheromones, which means there must be something more than the physical to draw us to Him. There's no loss of excitement in this love because everyday we can experience a different part of His fullness in our lives--who He is is too much to grab hold of in a lifetime, let alone six months. And most importantly, with Christ, there are no rose-colored glasses--when we truly meet Jesus we aren't blinded by love. We see Him exactly for what He is: an image of compassion and, most importantly, perfection. There is never an image that's too good of our Lord's love.
Falling in love is an incredible feeling. I encourage you to seek the relationship where you are called to do it daily.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13: 8-13
I look forward to striving towards fully knowing God together as a community. I pray that His love will continue to overflow in your life, and that you can testify to the love of God no matter what experiences you face.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I was trying to think of something clever and witty to put into this blog, but I really can't think of anything other to say than this--my God is amazing. Thinking about Him honestly kept me smiling all day today. And that's not to say that today didn't have its issues. My cousin was sent away to a boarding school today for the school year, I was at work 45 minutes later than I was supposed to be because of a prior paperwork mistake that ended up costing me over 1000 dollars, and I had to wait for 30 minutes in a Taco Bell line to get a burrito. As traumatizing as it was (and I'm exaggerating my emotions tremendously on most of those), God managed to keep me smiling.I was trying to think of something clever a
I've realized that even when I can't get past my own faults I can look at God and see the image of perfection that He is creating me to be. I can look away from the sin and shortcomings of my life and the lives of those around me and see the God who loves us no matter who we are, but too much to leave us there. I can see through to a God who wants to remove the clutter and restraints in my life to mold me into a creation of perfection and freedom.
That's right freedom. Being a Christian has nothing to do with being controlled by God and being a goody-goody. As a matter of fact, if you aren't following God, then you are being controlled by the lustful desires of your body. To follow sin and pleasure is to be like everyone else in this world, and therefore, to be ordinary. To find your identity in Christ is to become an entirely NEW CREATION. It's to gain freedom from the body, to break free from the chains of sin, and to gain a personality that is completely unique to you given through Christ.
But enough of the personal, small-scale level. Consider how amazing God is in that sense, in the lives of the individual, and then look at the larger picture, the entire realm of Creation around us. Some celestial being can create a world of this measure in 7 days, turn back time for His servant Joshua to win a war, raise His Holy Son from the dead after three days, and change the entire story of mankind for the rest of time. And this created me? I can't even begin to fathom this entity!! I could honestly sit here and try and wrap my brain around it until the sunrises, but I do have work in the morning...
We all have goals--great plans for where we want to be in 10 years and what kind of house we want to live in. We can all picture the things that we want to pursue. Why not pursue the thing that's too big to picture, too big to dream of, or even begin to comprehend? Following God and His plan for your life is the most reasonable thing you can do. Nobody wants to aim for mediocrity. So shoot for the highest possible goal in this life--creativity, individuality, and personality found through nothing else than Christ Jesus our Savior.
"The earth and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the Lord:
for He laid its foundation on the seas
and established it on the rivers.
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not set his mind on what is false,
and who has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of Glory will come in.
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is He, this King of Glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of Glory."