Tag Archives: Christian living

us

Where is God in all of this?

How many times have you heard this?  Let’s be honest, how many times have w questioned it ourselves?

Go ahead and fill in the blank:  where is God when ______________?  Why did God allow ____________?  Is God responsible for _______________?

It is not evil to question, to wonder, to beg for answers to our deepest hurts, to the world’s shameful deeds; to wonder why God did not put an end to this hurricane or that war; why children and women are still sold as slaves into the sex trade, why good people get cancer, lose spouses, children, houses.  After all, we are given good precedent:  David and others cries out in the Psalms – our sacred scriptures!  He is unafraid of questioning, of showing his weakness in attempting to rely on God in the middle of turbulent circumstances.  Look at Psalm 5 and 6 and Psalm 10, on and on through these songs.  We have a rich history of tears, frustration, fear and hope, beggars of God’s mercy for salvation from oppression and illness, questions without answers.

And yet someone comes to me with such questions, I’m tempted to offer answers.  I want to relieve burdens, to bandage wounds, to heal deep hurts.  I want to defend God against accusations of distance and disinterest, to give God an “out” and try to reason the world and other un-understandable things.  Then, when I watch a special on Children for Sale and see the young children around the world who are in slavery to those who pimp them out for a few dollars, I can’t help but wonder where God is in the middle of this.  So I try to rationalize Him yet again, and make excuses for the perceived absence.

But we don’t need to defend God.  God is God and big enough to handle Himself. Does He need our defense?  Perhaps in all our asking, we’ll find God in our questions; if we listen closely, maybe we will hear him tell us the answer: 

You: you’re the answer to your prayer.  I am at work within you.  I will always work through my people.  The fields are white for harvest, the needs are huge and the risks real, so pray that I will send workers to the fields.  In the meanwhile, you go.  Remember, I am working through you.

Maybe we are the answer to our own prayers.

Maybe God is stirring us to act.

What will we say?

(for more info on the child sex industry and what you can do to help oppose this and save children’s lives, please see International Justice Mission)

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generous

Persecuted though they were, Christians in the early church were noticed by emperors, some of whom even wrote that Christians put others to shame by serving the poor, aiding the sick, and caring for the dead and dying.  In other words, those inside the church took care of people better than those outside!

These Christians were not simply known for their beliefs, but by the actions those beliefs inspired.  Isaiah writes of this progression: “Feed the hungry and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from the darkness and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” (Isaiah 58:10).  For Isaiah, “light” would shine as a result of good actions.  And as bearers of the Light of the World, they are truly our actions that will prove to our communities who Jesus really is.

What would our community, our city, look like if followers of Jesus became known for this again: caring for God’s creation, for fighting for all of human life – unborn and born – for peacemaking, for forgiving those who wrong us, for extending God’s love to all?

Let us be generous. Let us live life beside each other, united in God’s Spirit and serving the world God has made.  Let’s join together to live the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

gospel truth

I’ve just begun A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight. I hadn’t gotten very far into the book when I stopped to chew on something he wrote:

The kind of gospel we preach shapes the kind of church we are;

The kind of church we are shapes the kind of gospel we preach.

I don’t know about you, but this is pretty convicting – especially to imagine how we, as local churches, have shaped the Gospel to fit the kind of church we are…

I hope you wrestle with this, too.

personal. not private

music-pic-2.jpgI once heard a pastor say, “The Christian life is personal but it is never private.” He was teaching on the subtle fallacies that are built into the way in which we, as western Christians, often see faith. His point at the time was to encourage those in attendance to see the personal nature of their relationship with Jesus and at the same to be Christ in little worlds: the little worlds of their workplace, their home, their neighborhood, their city.

But that statement has a much deeper meaning. “The Christian life is personal” means that following Jesus is an individual choice. No one can make that decision for someone else – even God refuses to coerce. “But it is never private” implies something very important, the opposite of which 1700 years of institutional Christianity has solidified in our westernized religion. It implies that we are not meant simply for a private relationship, namely “me and Jesus”; the Christian life is not, and can never legitimately be, “me-centered”. To employ a musical metaphor, being a Christian is not singing a solo melody line.

No, the Christian life thrives on – even depends on – something much bigger:

others.

It is too easy to say, “I just want to follow God. I don’t want to follow man. I want to follow what the Bible says for me and not what someone else interprets it to be.” But can we ever really follow God on our own? This arrogance – intentional or not – ignores the fact that predominantly for Christianity’s first 300 years and somewhat also over the past 1700 years, Christians knew their need for each other. “Others” had to teach. “Others” had to mentor. “Others” (yes, certainly through God’s Spirit) even had to choose which books would form the Bible. Those early years were hard for many believers: they relied on their brothers and sisters to aid them in their physical needs as well as spiritual.

They needed each other and they knew it.

We need each other but too often we don’t know it.

The Christian life is not simply about “getting to heaven.” When that is the sole aim of Christianity, it falls short of God’s purpose for us here and now. Christianity is about our personal relationship with Jesus lived out in a community. Our individual lives enrich the community of believers and that community in turn enlivens ours. Does it take a village to raise a child? It certainly takes a community to mature as a Christ-follower.

No one sings a solo. Instead, our voices join together in a great unified, sometimes out-of-tune, harmony. Christianity is not about the melody line; it is about harmony.