Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I didn't want to be one of "those" kind of Christian

I spent a lot of the last decade with a semi-secret disdain for "those" kind of Christians.  You know the ones I'm talking about... the ones with their perfect little families, who sing songs together around the dinner table, whose children are all home-schooled and can all explain to you the significance of the temple sacrifice and how it was fulfilled in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ by the age of 8.  I'm talking about the families where the husband and wife seem glued at the hip and work together to focus the entire family on Jesus.

I told myself for a long time that I didn't want to be like that.  They were too "Amish".  I wanted to be able to relate to people who weren't Christian.  I wanted to be a "real" Christian, who can live in the world, relate to people with real life problems, and yet still follow Christ.  I might swear.  I might drink.  I might say and do things that would shock those kind of Christians.  And so I looked down my nose at them, while claiming they were looking down their nose at me.  I almost enjoyed it.

The truth is that, well, there was sometimes a grain of truth to these things I felt toward certain groups of Christians and families like that.  Sometimes they couldn't relate to the rampant number of single mothers in this little town, for example, living on food-stamps in subsidized housing.  Sometimes they couldn't relate to adults stuck in abusive marriages, and sometimes they gave some pretty terrible (though I'm sure well-meaning) advice.  Sometimes they were a bit too... Amish... and didn't see how the motif of their ministry unnecessarily alienated people who could really benefit from what they had to offer, otherwise.

But that wasn't the whole truth, not by a long shot.  The truth was that I didn't give a lot of these people a fair chance.  The truth was that I was hurt and angry at God because, at that time, my family was falling apart and all the formula for Christian headship in the home and Christian marriage and family worship couldn't save it.  I felt alienated and ashamed because, well, I couldn't be like them... or at least I couldn't have the perception of what they had that I built up in my mind.  I was angry at God, broken, and envious.

But God has seen fit to be merciful to me and redeem my family.  I am now remarried to an amazing wife and I have two more children for a much bigger, and fuller family.  My children have a wonderful example, and I have big shoes to fill to be a godly husband and father.  I am learning, and I have a lot to learn, but I am supremely thankful.  Times have changed, and although there are still challenges, I am awestruck and humbled by how things have turned around.

I will always have an aversion to what I perceive as legalistic leanings.  I will always have that (if I may be so bold) Luther-like outlook that wants to challenge anything that undermines the Gospel.  But... and this is a big "but"... my tune has changed.  I may never completely fit in to either camp, and I think that is how it goes when you strive to live out the Gospel -you will offend the religious and alienate the irreligious, but I am learning to not allow "those" kind of Christians -whoever they are, whether they are real or an image created in my mind- be an obstacle to me following Jesus more faithfully.

I am now learning that I don't want to be one of another kind of Christian... the kind who holds Jesus at arms' length in order to hold onto my own pride, refusing to humble myself before Him, picking and choosing what I will and will not follow in my life.  I don't want to be the kind of Christian who uses Jesus like a get-out-of-hell-free card but doesn't actually care about His love and headship in my life.  I don't want to be the kind of Christian who uses the mistakes of other Christians, or even how their success in life makes me feel about myself, as an excuse for not picking up the mantle, following Christ, and building friendships with people who want the same.  I should allow nobody and no thing to interfere with that.

As I let go of my envy and pride and hurt, and as I allow myself to let people in that I would not have let in previously, I see that many of "those" kind of Christian are actually not what I thought at all.  They are just people.  They have their sins.  They fall down, and they get up.  They are people trying to do the right thing by Christ, trying to do what is right in their marriage and in their family.  They have more hardships and struggles than I knew of, and they seek to still remain faithful during those times.  I admire that, and really... it's the same heart I've always had.

I'm at a time in life where things are changing, and some of that is hard, but I am thankful for it.  I'm finally allowing myself to listen to that part of me that cringes when I see loved ones who claim to love Jesus not take Him seriously.  I don't judge them... I love them.  But I can't follow that.

I went to a funeral the other day, and it helped cement in a lot of things that have been brewing in my heart for the past year.

It says in Ecclesiastes 7:2...

"It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart."

Short translation:  at a funeral, you see what life is really all about and are wise to pay attention to it; at a part, you don't.  

This has given me pause to think about what I want my life to mean and count for.  I look at my life, and if the Lord were to take me in a few years I don't want to be remembered just as a dad who was funny, as a guy who went through a lot of hard things, or as a dude who says ridiculous and hysterical things when he's had too much to drink.  That may be all fine and well, but it's not enough. 

I want to be remembered as a guy who loved and pointed his family to ChristI want to be remembered as a faithful husband who loved his wife and gave himself for her.  I want to be remembered as a guy who -by God's grace- built a lasting legacy of faith that goes through the generations.  I want to be remembered as a guy who, because of his experiences, really can relate to all people.  I want to be remembered for the Christ in me, not for the world in me.  The former lasts, the latter does not.  That is the kind of Christian -the kind of person- that I want to be.  God help me.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why Aren't All Saved?

Why aren't all people saved?  Some turn to Jesus, but why don't others?  Some get it, but why do some not?

The Bible gives us multiple answers.  Each of these answers are not contradictory but rather complimentary, giving light to a different facet of this complex issue.

1.  Because men love darkness.

The reason why people don't turn to Jesus is because we love darkness (John 3:19).  The responsibility falls on us.  We are culpable for our own rejection of God and His Son.


2.  Because no one is able to come to the Son except the Father who sent Him draws him.

Jesus peels back the curtain and declares more than once in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel that people lack the ability to come to Him (to believe in Him, to spiritually discern and accept Him and what He says) until and unless the Father who sent Him draws them (read John 6:22-71).  If you consider the context, you will see that Jesus states this directly in response to grumbling of his audience.  Christ's response said in effect, "Yes, I know you don't get it and can't accept it.  It is because you're spiritually blind and the Father has not opened your eyes."  He even explicitly says to His disciples, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."(v. 65)


3.  Because God created from one lump of clay some for common use and some to display His mercy and grace.

After eight Gospel-saturated chapters in Paul's letter to the Romans, the apostle finally addresses the issue of why some -namely, why so many Jews, who were supposed to be God's chosen people- reject Christ and are lost.  What happened?  Were God's promises nullified somehow?  No, and Paul set out to give us a behind-the-scenes view into the hidden purposes of God (read Romans 9).

Here, the "one lump" of clay represents all of sinful humanity.  The Potter (God) justly decides some are to be molded for common use and some are to be molded into trophies of his grace and mercy.  Since all are under sin, He does no violence nor injustice in choosing to leave some of us to our own way, as vessels fit for destruction, while choosing to have mercy and grace on others whom he has chosen to be vessels of mercy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Acceptance and Agreement


I'm learning that acceptance and agreement are two different things.  You can come to a peaceful acceptance of something without condoning it, agreeing with it, or even liking it.  For example, if you are slandered, every fiber of your being may want to rise up and defend yourself.  But eventually you learn that there's really nothing you can do about what others say about you, it doesn't really do anything, and obsessively trying to defend yourself actually steals you away from God and those who love you, so you learn to accept it.  You learn to come to peace with it.  It doesn't mean the things being said are right or true.  It just means you are choosing to let go, leaving it in God's hands, and putting your heart where it better belongs.

Praise God for His grace to me, this morning.

Friday, October 09, 2015

A Short Word about Boundaries

Here's a little factoid that keeps getting reinforced through the experience of life:

Healthy people don't have a problem with your personal boundaries.  Most of the time you don't even have to assert boundaries with a healthy person because there is mutual respect, and when you do there is quick correction.  But with an unhealthy person, your boundaries are a threat, an offense, and an accusation all rolled into one.

I know there are books out there about how to assert personal boundaries, and that's fine.  But what should be emphasized more is that you only have to work hard at maintaining personal boundaries with people who are unhealthy.  Why?

Because they don't like your boundaries, and they are probably used to getting people to back down with them.  When you maintain your individual integrity, limits, and values, it set limits on them getting what they want from you.  It doesn't allow them to have everything on their terms.  It may also highlight that they are doing wrong, or make them feel like they are doing wrong, and they don't want to look at that.  They may try to make you feel badly, guilty even, like you are doing wrong.  They may use veiled or explicit threats to get you to back down (I'll hurt you, I'll leave you, I'll replace you).  They may get angry.  They may entice you, lull you with flattery and approval.  And they may hound you with a sense of obligation to give them what they want.

What should also be emphasized more is that learning to assert your limits and values in a relationship doesn't "fix" the other person.  They are for you, not for them.  Learning to better assert your limits and values is something that becomes more important with difficult and unhealthy people, while we can relax and be a bit more flexible with people with whom we share mutual respect and care. 

So, that begs the question... if you have no real obligation to spend energy dealing with the unhealthy person, why do it?  In many cases, our boundary ought to simply be "No, I'm not dealing with you anymore, not like this." 

But often we can't.  We won't let ourselves.  We want to prevent some terrible outcome that we fear.  We don't want to feel like we've failed.  We don't want to be rejected.  We like feeling appreciated too much.  We like feeling like the hero.  And so we remain pawns for people who will look for ways to exploit every crack and pinhole.

Yes, we are all unhealthy to some degree.  We are all difficult to some degree.  This can keep us humble when dealing with difficult people.  But there is a difference here that doesn't really need explanation, and discerning that difference isn't wrong, judgmental, or mean.  It is wise.