Many of you probably grew up under circumstances. If you were a good Christian child of the 80's/90's, you did everything possible to avoid seeing what was aired on MTV. If you caught too much of a glimpse of that cable network, you'd burn in hell. I was spared from hearing U2's devilish music. There were bands like Jars of Clay and Delirious?, and... (I guess the list ends there) putting out great artistic music, but for the most part, I had to go to school being "proud" of listening to music of the likeness of the gems below.
I spent much of my life with a distorted view of what it meant to be a follower of Christ.
Here are a few of the things I believed that qualified me to be a follower of Christ:
Here's how Jesus sums up what it means to be follower of Christ:
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." ~Matthew 22:37-40
There are three things I like to do; plan, plan and plan. That may be an exaggeration, but I'm trying to stress that I am a planner. There is just something about knowing all the details before they happen that just makes me feel oh so secure. It doesn't matter how small or how large the event is, I just have to know what is going to happen. Even my job consists of constantly sending out production plans.
Saying all that? What can I remember from all those times that things went exactly as planned? Almost nothing. The most memorable moments of my live are from times that didn't go exactly as I had planned. They weren't pleasant experiences one hundred percent of the time, but something positive always came out of them. I was able to learn more about myself, the people I was with, and God.
Pslam 33:11 states, "but the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." I'm thankful that God is willing to expose the cracks in my plans. It's at these times, I remember how dependent I am in Him, and also how good He is to me.
I misunderstood grace for the longest time. I grew up thinking it was a single piece of a larger puzzle in the Bible. I believed grace was something we occasionally had to earn. It was a good thing to practice grace, but only go so far with it. If some one dug their own hole, it was best to let them dig their own self out. That would teach them a lesson. That would bring them closer to God. Grace was balanced with all the other parts of the Gospel. I heard this taught. I saw this practiced. I'm guilty of practicing it myself.
During the past couple years, my perspective has been changed. There's not a single event that flipped my switch. Maybe it was me seeing people left out to rot, because grace couldn't be offered to them. Maybe it was when I looked in the mirror and saw how ugly I was when a close friend needed grace. I had allowed my piousness to bring out the worst in me.
Here's what I've learned. Grace isn't a piece of a larger puzzle, but it's the entire story. It's how we get from Point A to Point B. How does the fallen man in Genesis transform to the man who fellowships with God in Revelation? Grace. There's nothing man has done to make him worthy. Why should we restrain the grace we extend to others for any reason? Paul said his life would be worthless if he didn't testify to God's grace (Acts 20:24). I don't encourage you to practice grace. I encourage you (and myself) to live it with no limits.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.
During these past couple of years, I've been judged by fellow believers numerous times. They've called me out on things I do, saying I am in the wrong and I need to turn from those "sins." I used the word sin in quotation marks, because the sins they mentioned were man-defined sins, not God-defined sins. Nowhere in the Bible could I find that I was in the wrong for those specific issues.
When being wrongly judge, one easy trap to fall into is judging your judges back. I was guilty of that. I can still fall into that trap when I'm not watching my steps. Under the rules of karma, return-judgement would be perfectly acceptable. Karma isn't the rule of the law. We live under the law of love.
I wrote an earlier post on "One-anothering." Before I began concentrating on this Biblical idea, the first few verses of Ephesians 4 use to be fly-over versus for me. Now, I'm finding that this is part of the meat which makes the church live as it was intended to.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~Epheisans 4:1-3
I'll be the first to say I don't do a very good job at this. As much as I try not to, I find myself condemning others and looking down at them. My human nature seeps out way too often.
Am I the only that struggles with this?
I have a confession to make. I wouldn't have made this post if I hadn't read Reimagining Church by Frank Viola. He's not one hundred percent innocent himself. He blatantly stole much of the book from the Bible. I don't have anything witty to say in this post. I don't even have mach of a commentary.
Check out all the "one anothering" verses in the Bible. There are over one hundred verses in the New Testament directing us to do something with one another.
Here are just a few of those verses:
I just love the fact that the Bible tells us about ten times to greet one another with a kiss. ;)
How are you one anothering? Are you one anothering in church gatherings? Are you one anothering during church gatherings? If not, should you?
I have a difficult time making to a church service on Sunday nights. Fortunately, there's a gathering taking place on Saturday evenings at another location. I told somebody this. His response was "well, at least you get to go to church somewhere." It was said in a tone implying that what I was participating in was less spiritual.
I've been told numerous times it's not wise to marry a woman outside a church denomination. I'm still trying to find that one in the Bible.
Most followers of Christ agree that their is one body. Most of the times, we don't act that way. We get around it by speaking our Christianese langauge. "There's one church, but we're just one body of it." "We need to fellowship with those who believe the same doctrine as us." We take pride in our denominations. We take pride in our non-denominations. We forget the fact that Christ built one church, and there is one body, and there is one faith. There's one head to this body, and that is Christ alone.
"...and on this rock, I will build my church" ~ Matthew 16:18
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. " ~Ephesians 4:3-6
I've found great joy in living out my faith and experiencing God with fellow believers outside the bubble I was raised in. If you haven't already, I encourage you to step outside your silly man-made walls, and see what God has to offer. Let's be the church Christ called us to be.
I've been attending church gatherings throughout the duration of my entire life. There are many things that I hear said that cause me to ask questions. The following statement is one: "I can feel a strong presence of the Lord in this place tonight."
Here are some issues I have with this statement:
What is something you hear in church that makes you think twice?
What is church?
Is church a building?
Can you go to church? Can you do church? Can you be a church? Which is it? Is it all of the above?
Can a church meet anywhere? A house? A park? McDonalds? How about a comedy club or even a bar?
What's the purpose of church? To get something from God? To give something to God? To give something to others? To bring your friends so they can hear the Gospel? To fellowship and grow with other believers?
How does a church define success?
What's the Bible say a church should be like? What was church like in the New Testament?
I began showing traits of a perfectionist during my elementary years. If I made a mistake while writing, I would rarely use an eraser. I would simply take out another piece of paper and start over. Why? An eraser mark on my paper would have had my assignment appear less than perfect. Needless to say, I didn't score a 100% on every assignment. I still made mistakes. The difference was that I was not aware of the mistakes until after the assignment was graded.
For the longest time, I always expected perfectionism out of myself. Why? Part of the reason was because I wanted to control how people perceived me. The bigger reason was that I wanted to know in my own mind that I was without fault. When I did find fault in myself, major disappoint would be in my heart.
Fast forward to about four years ago. Some friends and I were providing the musical entertainment for an event. Our performance was approximately one hour in length. Once finished, I was overly critical of my vocals on one song. I shared my thoughts with one of my band mates. She had no idea what I was talking about. Then she spoke words that I remember for the rest of my life, "Maybe God is showing you now that you can't always be perfect." Ouch!
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9
I had spent my whole life trying to be this person that I could not be. I was so ashamed of my shortcomings that I denied God of glory that He deserves. How sweet it is now to be able to say I am not perfect, but God is still able to work through me!
Jesus follower. Love music, baseball, theater, and traveling. Always up for a new adventure. Always ready to meet new friends.