Monday, November 19, 2012

Election Highlight

The past two presidential elections (especially the most recent one) have really highlighted some things for me in the current state of the "American" Christian Church. Not that everyone that identifies as Christian fits the mold of what I am saying in this little rant, but it seems much of the Church does. To be totally fair, I was part of this and still fight it frequently.

As my wife will tell you, I love to argue. Real arguments (not fighting) are just outright fun for me. So, politics and politically heated times can be very tempting to me. When I fall into the trap of political wrangling I often forget my real foundation though. I forget that I am, or I claim to be a Christ follower. So, I enter into an argument where my political logic and philosophies rule my outlook and discussion. I try to convince those who disagree with me of why my view of the best way forward for this great country is better than theirs. I get passionate about this, and these "conversations" can become quite heated. Still, these types of disconnected conversations (keeping my Christian faith somewhat out of it, relying solely on logic/economics) are fun.

The problem comes when issues that demand the tight linkage to my faith are in the crosshairs. What happens when the primary point of value of life (abortion/death penalty/war), taking care of the poor, or family values (gay rights, protection of marriage, etc.) become the topic of choice? I, and I am thinking most Christians, tend to take a totally different approach in this argument. It is no longer an argument based on logic, but turns to an argument based on our own Christian values. Then we try to turn that back to a logical argument to win over the person/group with which we disagree. If you read that and think, "isn't that how a Christian should approach things," you are asking the same thing I have over and over again. I REALLY want to say, "yes, of course it is." As I think about it more and evaluate my answer against the Bible I begin to think differently though.

The real question is this, what has your heart and mind? Does Jesus hold your heart and mind, or does the United States of America hold your heart and mind? If you place priority on Jesus as Lord over your heart/mind, then the argument over "values based" issues should take a very different form. The biggest reason for this is your desired outcome is TOTALLY different. The outcome you want when you put Jesus first is for other hearts and minds to become more like Christ while you do the exact same thing. Arguing whether or not abortion should be a protected right or 100% banned is no longer a conversation worth having when you approach it from a truly Christian heart. Ok, catch your breath, push your jaw back to a closed position, and follow me a bit longer. It isn't that I am saying abortion isn't important or that God doesn't care if abortions happen. What I am saying is arguing the legality of abortion is worthless if the other side (your "opponent") does not share the same view of the value of human life. And, if they don't share your belief in the value of human life, why don't they? I would posit an opinion holding a limited value of life indicates at best a dangerous view of Christian values. This could, and likely does end up being flat out anti-Christian. Don't like talking about abortion, then take the death penalty or war. Same approach there; war can be justified easily when it's about legal/nation views, but talk about value of human life and now we are talking about faith/belief.

Again, the crux of this is simply recognizing the desired outcome of our conversations/debates with others on sensitive matters. Asking the WHY is crucial. Why do I want to engage in this debate? If I answer "in hopes that this person votes for my desired candidate," then I clearly show my heart/head make politics/nation more important than Christ. However, if I answer, "to grow or make a brother/sister in Christ," I show my devotion to my Lord. If I have that right (correct, not politically right) then instead of engaging in political jargon, I will, with grace and love discuss with my fellow creation of God how to be more aligned to the teaching of Jesus in ALL of these issues.

If we, as the Church do this consistently maybe we find that our country starts to move back towards being a Christian-focused nation at the core. My belief is that the Church in the USA over the last 100 years (maybe longer) has traded her passion for reaching lost souls for Christ to passing laws to protect "Christian Rights." We must get back to being as bold in speaking to others about Jesus as we have been about professing our belief in which candidate/party should lead a country. If the Church gets back to making disciples who truly follow Christ, the votes will take care of themselves. And, if they don't Christian's just keep being Christians in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, even if it's like it was for the first Christians under the harsh Roman Empire.
I guess I can boil it all down to this: I want to be, and want the Church to be more passionate about being Christ-like and saving the lost than we are about our political wishes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Do You Know Your Needs?

I've heard many people ask how we in our highly indulgent western cultures can truly pray, "give us our daily bread." the question comes from two types of people. The first type consists of mostly preachers/pastors/church leaders. They ask the question in hopes that we will hear in the asking a convicting statement, but then almost every time follow the question with something like, "but don't get me wrong, having lots of stuff is fine." so, instead of being convicted we hear that daily bread only applies to those without means to have more.

That leads me to think that, sadly, the second type of people who raise the "how can we ask for daily bread" are actually more sincere in their asking. This group are people who use this and other texts to point out how hypocritical Christians are. This is one of those great and pointed reasons why they will not consider Christianity.

The funny thing to me is that neither group is really asking the right question. This isn't a how can you question; it's a do you question. That is where it becomes personal and convicting. asking how makes is general, asking do you makes it personal. So, "do you ask for daily bread?" and (with all respect for "not adding anything to scripture") let's add two more words to that, "do you TRULY ask for ONLY your daily bread?" Since I believe 99% of us will answer in the negative, let me ask the next and all important question. Why do we not truly ask only for our daily bread?

There are probably a million reasons for why we don't ask only for daily bread. I think the top of that list is likely we simply want more than that. The concept of "daily bread" just doesn't quite cut it for our happiness. Maybe that is a bit harsh sounding. Then answer this: can you honestly even tell me what you think daily bread consists of for you? I can tell you that is a VERY tough question for me to answer. If I am 100% honest, I will answer something like, "one small meal, a couple glasses of water, shirt, shoes, pants (and hopefully underwear), and a small room (with or without a bed), and maybe a cover if it's crazy cold. The problem is, I'm rarely honest about the answer. That list has NEVER been my answer to the question of "what makes up your daily bread."

The ability for us (or at least those who are likely to read this) to honestly consider the bare necessities as all we want from God as far as our physical needs goes just doesn't seem plausible. To live in a manner below the supposed poverty line is simply ludicrous. After all, doesn't God want me to be successful? Well, does He? In short, no. I don't think God cares about your success one little bit. He couldn't begin to care less about your success so long as that success is defined by man's view, and it is. The success God cares about is when He welcomes His followers (don't take that word lightly here) into His eternal kingdom and says "well done my child." That phrase will not be in reference to how well you moved up the corporate ladder, or how much you left your kids in your will. That phrase is reserved for how well we reflected His grace, love and mercy to others and how well we did at following His example of self-sacrifice.

Before you (or I, since I am guilty of this) say something like, "what Jesus really means is to acknowledge our basic needs and be aware and grateful for all our extra blessings," take a look at some of Jesus' other words. In Luke 9:58 Jesus says "foxes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Sounds to me like Jesus didn't even consider a place to sleep among his daily bread. Want the best part of that statement from Jesus? It is in response to the statement in the preceding verse where a man said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." See, I told you not to take the word follower to lightly. I just don't think you can take the whole of Jesus teaching and make the idea of the "Lord's Prayer" daily bread as a simple acknowledgement of your blessings. It is WAY more than that to Jesus. He truly meant it as depending upon God for your daily needs.

Now true, Jesus isn't likely talking just about physical needs here. I think He is indeed talking about EVERY need. The point isn't does He mean food or love. The point is that whatever your NEED, truly NEED is what we should be asking God for. Let's be real. Ask your Heavenly Father for what you NEED and start forgetting about all the stuff you want that the world says you need. Who defines your needs, you or your culture. Who do you listen to in order to determine what you need, your college buddies or God's Word? Let me suggest we start with God's Word as our only need and slowly move out from there. Let's look to Jesus and His TRUE followers from the Bible to see what REAL NEEDS look like and begin to bring our lives into alignment with that.

Let's start honestly, with integrity praying "Father, give me ONLY what I NEED for TODAY. And let me be content, no let me be thrilled beyond my hearts capacity with Your provision each day." That's a Chris-follower's prayer!