Beyond Me

Thoughts on Life and Faith

Archive for the tag “Christianity”

Re-Election

There is so much I want to write.  In the wake of last nights Presidential results, and the reactions I have seen to them, there are a lot of things that I could and would like to say.  However, I feel that much of what I would want to say would come across as political, and that’s not what this blog is about.  This blog is about encouraging the believers in faith.  And that’s what I want to speak to.

Church, God did not lose last night.  Contrary to what Franklin Graham and other vocal Christian leaders may think, voting for Governor Romney over President Obama last night would not have been repentance.  It  would have been a transfer of political power, which can happen every four years.  Plain and simple.

We have a divided nation, almost right down the middle.  We also have a tendency to tie Christianity to the political process.  We somehow think that by placing our efforts in fighting for the “right” candidate we are somehow taking up the cause of the Kingdom.  But the Kingdom is so much more than this.  The Gospel of Christ deserves so much more devotion than this.

Now we can lament, and rightfully so, about the moral decline of our nation.  Divorce is at an all time high.  Teen pregnancy is at an all time high.  Addictions ruin the lives of people.  We are confused on the definition of marriage.  I could go on and on about the negatives.  Many of us feel that we have completely turned our back on God as a nation.  But let’s pause before we jump off the cliff.

I would like to think that I know history, especially biblical history, fairly well.  Let’s go back to the first and second century, right as the Church was beginning.  Ancient Rome, the most powerful nation in the world, was the epitome of immorality.  Prostitution was not only legal, but it was an accepted form of worship.  There was open worship of multiple gods.  The “Pax Romana” was used to brutally keep people in line all in the name of peace.  Caesar’s, who thought themselves to be gods, ruled in the only interest of increasing their territory and power.  Many were far more inherently evil than our newly re-elected President and other politicians of our day.  And Christianity was not just despised but persecuted mercilessly.  To the point where, in his Roman palace, Nero burned Christians alive to light his garden parties.  I know we have our issues, but our world is nowhere near that.  But guess what happened?  The church THRIVED.  Christians won their neighbors over because the love of Christ was so compelling.  And this was done through living life as Jesus commanded, regardless of the law of the land, and it spoke to a nation.  It wasn’t done in the chamber of the Roman Senate or in Caesar’s court, but in the lives and hearts of the people.  Amidst that climate, the church exploded.  It can happen today, too.

I know many are angry, sick, upset, and feel like the world is going to end.  It may today, but not because President Obama was re-elected.  If it ends, it will be because the Sovereign God who knew the results of last night’s election long before we did says it is time.  I encourage you today though, followers of Christ, to take heart for He has already overcome all things of this world.  Maybe one day the moral fiber of this country will be woven back together stronger than it ever was.  That would be a great thing. But maybe it will continue to decline.  That will be fine also, because the darker the world gets the brighter the light of Jesus can shine.  Church we have done our best work in history when the world is at its darkest.  Today, the sun came up.  Let’s move together, taking the revolution of grace and love Jesus started, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, respecting the God-given authority of our leaders, and in doing so win this world.  Last night was not the end of anything, but only the beginning of continuing the good work of Jesus and his Gospel.  Let’s unite together and act like it.

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Re-Learn

I realize I’m a little bit behind the times, but I just watched Kirk Cameron’s interview on Piers Morgan Tonight.  I do think it is absurd that people are raking him across the coals for being a bigot.  That was not this man’s intent or character which to me is evident in the interview.  He was asked for and stated and opinion, which should be tolerated as much as Piers’ view on the issue.  Now, off that soap box and on to the bigger issue…we need to accept that we’ve lost the high ground.

When Christianity first began as a faith in the world, it was nowhere near the dominant force in the culture.  The lived in a very pluralistic society that allowed many of the things that we allow today.  When I read about places like Corinth and Ephesus I see our 21st Century culture reflected in it.  It wasn’t until Constantine took power in the Roman Empire that Christianity gained favored status in the world and then became the dominant force in shaping the world for a couple thousand years.  With that power and status came also much corruption and evil that the church will have to atone for, but that’s not what this post is about.

In the time leading up to Constantine’s rule, Christians and the Church were an absolute force.  People came to know Jesus at an almost unprecedented pace.  This was done in a society with no television media, no social media, and in reality no public platform to do any good.  I think we need re-learn what Christians learned long before us.

What strikes me isn’t Cameron’s interview…it’s the amount of backlash towards him.  If you Google search this interview you get countless condemnations of him as a person as well as his views.  And unfortunately, the video clearly takes a small snippet of the interview and not the whole thing in context.  Piers and others have latched onto one comment and destroyed Kirk Cameron who I believe had no malice or intent of hate in his heart.  We have lost our place in the public forum, just like the early church had no place in the public forum, and to me that is ok.  We just need to re-learn.

This is not the America that we once knew.  The culture is not dominantly Christian…it is secular and we need to accept that.  We also need to learn from Kirk Cameron’s experience that when we take to the airwaves, we open ourselves to criticism that is damaging to the name of Jesus and to the Church.  Right or wrong, fair or unfair, this is reality and the sooner we accept the sooner we can move on to actually making a difference in the world.

Now, I’m not advocating that we sit silently and just let the world win.  What I am advocating is that we quit using avenues that don’t work anymore.  Going on major news networks and speaking gets us in trouble.  Speaking out in the media gets twisted and taken out of context.  We need to be very careful in our rhetoric as Christians.  And we need to learn what made the early church successful…their radical treatment of those around them.

You see since they had no platform to speak from they had to spread the Gospel differently.  There was no place for them on the floor of the Roman Senate.  Their place was the floor of the Coliseum.  However, they did live in a society where the rich and powerful were glorified and those who were poor and unprivileged were walked all over.  Christians treated those people will a love and kindness that was never seen before, and it won people over.  They reached out to those who needed someone built relationships with them.  Their love was so radical, so different from the culture, that it was evident there was something that caused this in them…Jesus.

We can do this today.  We just need to learn how.  It first involves that we stop our dependency on the media and the halls of Congress.  They make us look unloving, which I believe is not the case for most Christians.  We also need to work with everything we have to silence those voices that are full of hate, malice, and preach anything but the Gospel.  Places like Westboro Baptist Church and others like them should be condemned because they are perverting the Gospel.  Then we must come together to be a force of love, grace, and good in our communities.  We can change things by choosing to be radically different and it be evident to all that are around us.  What if we stopped fighting for a Constitutional amendment on marriage and started a support group where we actually loved, cared for, supported, and built relationships with those who deal with being gay or lesbian?  What if we stopped complaining about the unfairness of the Welfare system and started figuring out ways in our local churches to get people off of Welfare so that it is not needed?  What if we actively reached out and built relationships with all, sharing with them the love of Jesus, and just let that do the talking?

My senior pastor recently made a great point.  Jesus told us that with faith as small as a mustard seed we could move mountains.  He never said that we would move the whole mountain at once, but that the mountain could be moved.  Church we no longer have the dominant voice to move a whole mountain at a time.  But there was a time where piece by piece Jesus worked through faithful, loving, generous men and women to change the whole world.  I, for one, want to believe that this can be done again.  I believe my God and my Savior is big enough to change the world without the help of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or CNN.  If they don’t want to help, I know someone who loves more than they can love and has more power than they could possibly wield.  Let’s re-learn what the Church once knew and then let’s set out to change our communities with the truth of the Gospel.

Misplaced Faith

Obsession…that’s what could describe this last week in our world.  We learned that we are obsessed as a culture with being correct and with figuring out what we were never meant to figure out.  We as humans cannot live with our limited human capacity.  It is difficult for us to deal with that which we cannot wrap our minds around.  Often times we choose to avoid such subjects because they make us uncomfortable.  Others, like Harold Camping, choose to read into the words of Scripture and make them say something they were never intended to say.  Those of us who know better mock.  Those who don’t believe mock.  Nobody wins when faith is misplaced.  I can remember being younger and being obsessed with the end times as well.  It was one of those things that just fascinates our culture.  How will history come to a close?  In reading the New Testament one can see that clearly those writers thought it would be soon, just like we are sure today.  If you were to ask most practicing Christians today they would probably tell you without a doubt that we are in the end times.  Truthfully, this idea is relatively new to Christian thought.  The idea of a rapture did not even surface until the 20th Century.  For whatever reason, this idea has taken hold in our culture and in the church.  Pages upon pages are written trying to relate the words of the Prophets, the words of Revelation, and correlate them with the events of today.  In doing so writers take the power out of the words of Scripture and cheapen them, which leaves our faith open to attacks and criticism like we all witnessed in the week leading up to last Saturday as well as this week.  We misplace our faith when we take Scripture out of context.

Most Christians who even casually read their Bible knew that if Mr. Camping had been correct it would have been more likely by coincidence rather than his work of interpretation.  We joined with the world in mocking him…I was one of these at first.  As I thought more, read more, I really began to have a change of heart.  This man, these people, did not deserve to be mocked.  They did not intend evil, they just had their faith misplaced.  Camping’s followers made this mistake in placing their faith in a fallible man who made a major error in interpreting Scripture.  As a result many have lost their livelihoods and some may even lose their faith.  This should break our hearts.  Camping misplaced his faith by spending more time trying to read into the Bible rather than just reading.  He truly believed he had come to understand what was not understandable and wanted to help the world.  He was not unintelligent being that he was an engineer and successful businessman.  He just had a little too much faith in himself.  Trying to figure out something became more important than just living out what is made clear.  He intended good, but the results were drastically bad.  That should break our hearts as well.

Before we jump on Harold Camping’s case we should ask, “Are we any different.”  At times we are all guilty of misplacing our faith.  We become more hooked on an idea, a movement, or a personality rather than what those elements represent.  Christ alone our faith should be placed in and the rest should be peripheral.  Churches split or close their doors every day because they become based on the pastor rather than the true head of the church.  Too often when we hear a great message we praise the personality of a great speaker or writer rather than the one whom the message originated from.  Then, when those decidedly human and fallable people fail or are wrong it shakes our faith.  I’m guilty of the same thing Camping and his followers are…just not in the same way.

I hope humility can be shown from Camping and his followers.  I am given hope from a quote from one of Family Radio’s board members who said, “I don’t know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don’t understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.”  This gives me hope that good can come from last week.  And I hope that we can all join in being compassionate, graceful, prayerful towards those who misplaced their faith.  They aren’t the enemy and we should not want to see them be looked at as such.  Indeed, it would have been nice if they had been right.  The prayer of the early church was, “Maranatha,” which meant “Lord come quickly.”  That should be the desire of our hearts as well.  I also hope we realize that their mistake is one we make often.  When we take our eyes off of the cross, off of Jesus, we misplace our faith.  We do this often and our faith and the church suffers because of it.  There are somethings we are not meant to understand and therefore we should be content with that and let our faith take over where understanding fails.

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