Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Authentic Love - A Continuation of Holy Kiss

    I feel led to continue the discussion on interation in the Christian community:

   How many churches have you attended where you felt "processed?"  You walk in, receive a program, receive a few greetings, take your seat, hear worship music, hear a message, and then are herded out like cattle of the building all the while hearing "we're so glad you came!"  When did worship become so impersonal.  When did gathering together with our brothers and sisters in Christ become so routine and so seemingly meaningless?  Too many times do we get an intellectual explanation of Love and following Christ, and not even physically touch one single brother or sister in Christ.  No hand shake, no embrace, no......Love.  A worship service shouldn't "process" people.  This isn't a waiting room in a Doctor's office.  This is a Christian community of believers who love each other.  Why then is it so hidden from view?  Why are we afraid to show our love?  Why aren't we authentic in our love?  Our love should be evident.  It should be bright.  It should be OBVIOUS.  It should be a beacon of light not only in worship, but also in the community.  Our interaction with others should make them feel welcome, not only into the church, but into our lives.  Care for people.  Show them you care. 

God Bless

Holy Kiss

                The history of the holy kiss is very interesting.  In the time this verse in Romans was written, it was (and still is in some Mediterranean and other instances) common practice for men to greet one another with a kiss on the cheek.  The “holy kiss” reference gave it even more meaning to represent the unity in Christ.  Over time, this practice became an embrace and kiss on the forehead, then kissing the same cup as a symbol, then a “kissing object,” then passing a piece of wood down the seats of the church for the congregation to all kiss, then a piece of paper, and eventually nothing. 
                I say this as an analogy.  I realize that we probably aren’t going to start kissing one another, or that we even should.  This is an analogy of interaction in the Christian community.  The holy kiss deteriorated and eventually disappeared.  Now I realize this is also due to cultural changes over time; however, our interaction within the Christian community should not disappear. 
                When someone wants to have someone to talk to, where do they go?  When they want to find someone that will listen to everything that they say, someone who will not tell everyone they know, someone to be there for them, where do they go?  They will likely go to the local bar.  There are drunkards there, but most are there because they are lonely.  They receive attention at a bar that they do not get anywhere else.  The local bar has replaced what the church used to be.  The church used to be a place where everyone could be open and honest with one another, where everyone could be “real.”  A place everyone could share their sins and struggles and receive support and love.  What church have you been to where this happens?  It is rare, if it happens at all. 
                I am reminded of the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9).  Zacchaeus felt unloved until he met Jesus.  He realized the unconditional love, and felt comfortable confessing all of his sins and struggles.  This action should not stop.  The Christian community should be a place where we always feel comfortable confessing our sins and struggles to one another.  This is where we should receive acceptance, support, and love—unconditional love.  The love should not depend on how we portray ourselves, what laws we follow, or how “Christian” we seem.  The love should be there no matter what. 
                Believers and non-believers alike feel this is impossible because of the judgmental and legalistic state of the Christian community in general.   Some would say that it shouldn’t be viewed as general, but it should.  The Christian community is all inclusive.  There is no escaping this fact.  There are fundamentalists, conservatives, liberals, and everything in between, but the world sees: Christian.  Christians need to spend less time SHOUTING what is wrong, and more time SHOWING by example what is right.  LOVE.  Let the world see Christ in us. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Patient Enemy

    I'm sure most of us have heard the strategies of Satan.  How he tries to deceive, how he comes to destroy, how he wants to rule, and how he wants to accuse.  When have you heard about his main and most successful strategy?  The strategy I am talking about is patience.  Satan is perfectly content in taking it slow.  This is not to say that he does not work fast, as in the example of Eve, but then again it is.  He plants a single doubt in Eve's mind, and when she furthers that thought, he continues until his goal is attained.  He doesn't have to win the entire battle, he just needs to win today.  He will attack a little, then retreat.  This strategy is aimed at wearing us down, little by little.  Pretty soon you wake up one day and don't realize how you got to be where you are. 
    Satan will attack a little one day, move away, come back the next day, do a little more, move away.  Come back a week later, do a little more.  He is incredibly patient.  Why is he content attacking you this way?  Because it isn't as noticeable.  He would rather be successful than quick.  If you notice his attack because it is huge and important, you will resist him with Christ's help, but if it is so gradual that you can barely detect it, then it is very difficult to know what is happening.  So, what you would have resisted upfront, might become a reality over time. 
   So how do we protect ourselves against this gradual change?  What must we do to guard against his almost imperceptible attacks?  Well, sometimes we can detect it ourselves.  We get away from our time in the Word of God daily.  We become cold.  We become a little callous about our thoughts, even our tongues.  We know we're becoming a good candidate for Satan to tempt us.  Other times we may be blind to it and that's why having someone in our life, someone who can spot these signs, someone gracious enough to point them out to us-- is in many ways invaluable.  A spiritual running partner is what the pastor at Epic Church calls it.  Someone you can count on to tell you the truth no matter what.  Someone who cares about you enough to tell you something, even though it may upset you.  A Christian brother or sister who will be there for you and help you grow closer to God.  Of course, you should do the same for them, and anyone you develop that relationship with as a matter of fact.  I have a group of about 5, and we all watch out for each other.  We aren't afraid to tell each other God's truth and show Scripture to each other.  This protects us from the gradual attack of the enemy.  If you don't have someone like that in your life, start looking TODAY. 

God Bless 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stained Glass Masquerade

     I heard something on the radio this morning that isn't really addressed in many Christian communities.  A woman called into the station and said that one of the main reasons she doesn't attend church is because she doesn't feel welcome.  She said she doesn't feel welcome because everyone in the church seems to have everything together and figured out, and they seemingly never sin, or do not seem to struggle with sin.
     This sparks a major reflection moment.  Do we put up a "false front?"  Do we act "perfect" at church and around others so that we look like Christians?  Why do we feel we have to hide our temptations, our fears, our struggles?  I think we do put up a false front, whether we intend to or not.  I don't anyone likes to admit this fact, but that does not change the truth.  This, obviously from this woman's observation, does not only affect the Christian community.  The lost also pay attention to how we interact and want some way to relate to us.  How can we expect to relate to the lost if we do not SHOW them that we are ALL sinners just like we keep saying?  I realize there is also argument from Scripture that you aren't to do anything that could cause your brother to stumble, but that isn't what I am referring to.  I am talking about hiding even little things that we do everyday from certain people to be seen a certain way.  We all do it.  We even hide other things from EVERYONE so that we are seen in a certain way by everyone around us.  Should we hide the actions/thoughts/struggles?  We should let others know what we are struggling with so that like Scripture says we can "encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  If our brothers and sisters in Christ do not know what we are struggling with, then how are they supposed to help?  We also need to be open and honest with the lost.  If we hide our struggles and trials from them, then it is no wonder that a new believer is surprised at how difficult it is to struggle with sin.  It also does not help that the Christians around them seem so "perfect." 
     The main point of this is to be humble to everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike.  Being humble does not mean you grovel in front of others and constantly down yourself for your shortcomings.  God says that being humble means you are free from pride and arrogance.  You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ.  Our challenge this week from Epic Church was to read and pray over Romans 8.  This is beautiful description of God's love for us, but it is also a description of how we should treat others.  We are ALL free in Christ.  The chains are gone, why put them on in front of other people?  Let us stop trying to walk in our own personal power and portrayed sinless, self-controlled life and walk in the power of God's Holy Spirit.  Be honest with everyone about your struggles.  James 5:16 says to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Let us all be open and honest with everyone, so that Christ may be evident in our lives through all things.  Let everyone see the transformation, instead of trying to slowly transform behind a curtain and come out "perfect" on the other side.