Friday, May 20, 2011

Stupid Elbow

Sometimes, I don't want to be called a Christian.

Yep. You read that correctly.

But the reason I don't want to be called a Christian is not because I don't want to be associated with Christ. As a matter of fact, it's the exact opposite: I DO want to be associated with Christ.

Unfortunately, Christians have done a great job of turning people away from Christ. And by Christians I mean all of us who claim that title. Me included.

I work for a ministry and the other day I was surprised by a phone call I received. We'll keep the real names anonymous, but it went a little something like this:

Me: Hi, Fred. How can I help you?
Fred:  Hey, I was just wondering about the softball trip that you guys have coming up to the Dominican Republic. I was asked to help recruit for it but I wanted to see if Sarah was going. You know the lady from that other ministry.
Me: Um, let me check. *Checks to see if Sarah or anyone from her ministry is signed up* Nope, doesn't look like I have any of them signed up yet.
Fred: Ok, good. I just wanted to be sure. I don't want to go or recruit anyone to go if she or anyone from her ministry is going.
Me: *Pauses for a moment to let it process in my mind what he just said.* Ok, so if she is going, you're not going. But if she's not going, you are going? I just want to make sure I have that right.
Fred: Well, um, yeah, I mean, I just have worked with her before and I just, well, Bill knows why. He understands where I'm coming from. I just, I know what they are like and well.... I'll just talk to Bill about it.
Me: Hm. Oh. Okay.

Yeah. That happened. Someone does not want to go on a mission trip to show Christ's love if someone else is going. And I happen to know that this "someone else" is a lady who runs a really phenomenal ministry to reach softball girls for Christ. She's not perfect, but neither is Fred.

We are told in Romans that we are one body in Christ.

"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." Romans 12.4-5 

So how are we supposed to function as one unit if we can't get along?

What if our legs didn't want to go somewhere because they weren't especially fond of how our hands dressed us? Or what if our forearms refused to move because all the elbow ever does is bump into things?

Stupid elbow.

That seems ridiculous, but that's exactly how we act as Christians sometimes. We don't like how someone else does ministry so we criticize [behind their backs of course]. We don't agree with the standards of a particular group of Christians, so we avoid them all together.

Stupid other Christians.

Obviously this is a problem that goes back to the very first Christians, because even Paul had to give a reminder to the Ephesians:

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4.1-3

Think of all that the human body accomplishes when it works together: walking, talking, running, laughing, digesting, smelling, thinking, listening, touching, typing, seeing, holding, crying, writing, reading, healing, sitting, breathing, and the list goes on and on.

The amount of "teamwork" that goes into the processes that make the body function is remarkable.

It's no coincidence that God gives us the analogy of the church as a body, too. Works the exact same way... if we let it.

I admit, it takes a conscious effort sometimes. It would be great if we could function as effortlessly as our lungs do when it comes to breathing or our heart when it comes to pumping blood. But that's just not the case most of the time.

So what can we do?

Well, I guess the answer is pretty obvious: keep our eyes on Christ. It's when we start looking around us and comparing ourselves with others that the bickering and disunity ignites in our hearts. We begin to become critical of others and thereby seeing ourselves as somehow worthy of Christ's love. When our eyes are focused on our Savior, though, it's impossible to see the imperfections in those around us because we are keenly aware of our own imperfections before a holy God and we are willing to not only allow His grace to be sufficient for us, but also everyone we come in contact with.

Richard and I are working to memorize the book of James. It's chocked full of how to deal with these very issues. Because even we missionaries struggle with it. I know. You're shocked.

I challenge you to memorize James, too. It's a big undertaking, but oh so very worth it if it means we can become unified as the body of Christ.

That's what the world needs to see in us.

Will you take the challenge?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: MOTHERHOOD

This is a post I found on a blog I read: Passionate Homemaking

I normally don't post things like this because I realize it's not relevant to all of our readers, but as a mom this was encouraging to me. So, if you're a mom, it may be encouraging to you. Seems logical, right?

Here's the link: Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: MOTHERHOOD

I don't agree with everything she says in regards to motherhood (personal preference, really) but overall I think there are some great points!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That's So [Christian] Cliche

I think that if Jesus walked the earth today, He wouldn't attend a Christian school. I don't think He would wear a t-shirt that somehow adapted a secular look with a spiritual reference. I don't think He would dress differently than your Average Joe. I don't think He would attend "church" "every time the doors were opened". I don't think He would wax Ye Olde English when He prayed to His Father (i.e. "Dear gracious most holy and righteous Heavenly Father above, we beseech thee upon thy tender mercies to forbear us to...." you get the idea). I don't think He would have a "Jesus fish" on the back of His car (even that one that's eating Darwin's fish with the legs). I don't think He would have petitioned for a "Christian" version of the birthday song. (What? You don't believe me that this exists? Check it out for yourself.)

I don't even think He would hang out with "Christians".

And I certainly don't think He wouldn't create a language that makes no sense outside the Christian Bubble.

It doesn't help people, it freaks people out.

It doesn't "set us apart", it makes us sound like we're in a cult.

Now, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the fore mentioned, but let me explain.

If you were to walk up to a non-believer and say, "We're having a Gospel Revival Jubilee at the Lord's House this Saturday. It's going to be a good, old-fashioned prayer meetin' and Brother John Smith is going to be leading the congregation in hymns of rejoicing and it would bless my soul if you would join us. We are all just waiting for that glorious day when Jesus steps down from the clouds and the voice of the Archangel sounds to carry home His dear children." They are going to promptly reply, "I'm busy that night." To which you will reply, "But I haven't told you the date." To which they will reply, "Yeah. I know. But I'm busy that night."

Words and phrases that Christian culture has come up with and/or overuses are doing a great job of one thing: scaring people away.

If I were a non-believer and someone told me I needed to "bow my head, close my eyes, and ask Jesus into my heart", I'd probably wait until they bowed their head and closed their eyes and then promptly make my getaway.

Jesus never said to "ask Him into your heart" [but that's a whole other blog post].

So, next time you go to say something that sounds like its' going to be super-spiritual, maybe something your Sunday School teacher taught you when you were seven, double check that you're not breaking out your Christianese on everyone.

I don't speak English with a Ticuna Indian and expect them to nod in agreement.

So before you go all holy lingo on somebody with your "washed in the blood" and "living a sanctified life", take a minute to evaluate if you are going to even make sense to the person you're talking to.

It's hard to track with someone who doesn't speak your language.

Let's not get so "in it not of it" that we separate ourselves from the very ones we're supposed to be reaching. After all, wasn't it Jesus who was chilling with the tax-collectors and Samaritans?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Beautiful Ending

My Thankful Thursday post this past week mentioned a young man, Austin Foraker, who died tragically last weekend in a drowning accident. He was only 19.

Austin was in Richard's small group for a couple of years and his sister, Kaylee, was in mine for three years. One of their biggest prayer requests that I can remember Kaylee mentioning nearly every week was her step-dad's salvation. He was not a believer and they were both very burdened for him.

Over the last several weeks, I have seen Kaylee's Facebook statuses as she's talked about little things she's noticed in her step-dad's life.... almost as if God was preparing him for something.

Fast-forward to yesterday at the funeral of his stepson. It was a beautiful ceremony as several shared about how Austin had impacted them, including his older brother, Jake. Dwight Martin, Austin's former youth pastor, was last to share and gave the Gospel. That's what Austin would have wanted.

It was then that the Holy Spirit did what only the Holy Spirit can: changed a heart for eternity. Austin's step dad's heart had been tilled. The soil was ready to receive the seed of the Gospel. God had been working for weeks, months, maybe even years through the prayers and testimonies of Austin and Kaylee and it all came together in a beautiful finale when the tragedy that took place last weekend ended in the salvation of a soul.

Austin would have never dreamed that his prayers would be answered this way. Maybe he imagined personally leading his step-dad to Christ. Maybe he pictured him coming to church and walking down the aisle to the front to give his life to Jesus once and for all. However he prayed, I don't think he considered that maybe it would take his own death to lead his step-dad to life.

But God is good like that.

It makes me stop and consider something. Would I be willing pray that even if it takes me giving my life, I would do that so a family member could be saved? What about a friend? What about a complete stranger?

Do I love Christ so much that I am willing to die so that others can live? Do I love souls that much?

Christ did that for me. He did that for you.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." -John 3.16

Only God can turn death into life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thankful Thursday: God is Always Good

I'm thankful that God is always good.

Even when everything is lost. Even when tragedy comes. Even when we don't understand, God is good.

Last Wednesday, tornadoes took hundreds of lives and destroyed thousands of homes.
But God is still good.

This past Saturday, one of Richard's former small group boys and the brother of one of my small group girls died in a drowning accident. He was only 19.
But God is still good.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55.8-9

Why would a God who controls the weather, allow such a destructive force to destroy so many lives?

Why would a loving God allow a teenager, seeking to follow Him, to die so young?

I don't know. But I do know that His ways are good and pure. We aren't told we'll understand. But we are told to trust Him.
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