Hindsight: Those wacky Christians, maybe they are not so crazy after all? An intellectual faith…

When I was in college, a group of Christians befriended me and my friend.  They were very nice to us, but I didn’t “get them”, I just didn’t.  They were, to me, like birds of a different feather, a different breed of human.  I was into partying hard (and other endeavors) and didn’t get these peculiar people who had come into my life.  They invited me to a few lunches and Bible studies.  I went, but still, I just didn’t get it or them.  Honestly, for some reason I felt an odd sense of discomfort around them.  I am quite sure that I judged them, labeling them (in my mind) as “wack-a-doodles” (don’t you love that word?)!  I kind of felt sorry for them actually, that they had given up their “lives” to “follow Christ”. “What a waste”, was my thought.  I soon grew bored with these Bible studies and lost touch with these people.  If they were right, good for them, but I didn’t want to know.  I wanted to live my life.  If they had the truth, I didn’t want it.  My friend was “out”, and so was I.  I still couldn’t help but notice that there was something refreshing, something different, about them.  Perhaps it was their love, joy, peace, patience and kindness.

My opinion and judgment of these Christians who I put in a box were born of my own faulty thinking and ignorant judgments rather than an intellectual pursuit of careful, factual research. I had grasped a blind faith that Christianity was not true.  I had a belief system and faith.  My faith was that Christians were wacky and I didn’t need it.  

As it turns out, it takes more blind faith to believe that life is one big cosmic accident than it does to believe in an intelligent God who designed the world.  I stand on the other side, now.  I stand on the side of being labeled as the “Jesus Freak”.  I have felt the judgment that I once placed onto other Christians.  It’s not ideal, but it is what it is.  People think that Christians are judgmental?  Become one, and you will know what it is like to be labeled, continually.  You will become all too familiar with being put in a box before people even get to know you, but oddly, you don’t really mind, deep down.  The benefit far outweighs the cost.  The judgments don’t matter, because the freedom, peace and joy that I have now far surpasses any sort of sorrow that silly judgment brings.  It pales in comparison!  I now understand what Jesus meant when He said, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.  Just as light sets us free from the dark, Jesus sets us free from bondage (that we never knew we had).  I was living a stolen, destructive life, not a free life, though I did not see it that way then.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)

I really thought I was “free” before.  It’s like seeing only in black and white, until one day, someone tells you there is color.  Color opens up a whole new world, and those who see in black and white cannot comprehend color until they experience it for themselves.  When people talk of “color”, we can think they are just wacky.  We can think we are quite happy and content in our black and white, that nothing more is needed at all.  It’s a little difficult to explain color.  It’s like speaking in a different language.  To most, this all will sound plain silly, even foolish, but that is exactly what I am talking about.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Perhaps that is not the best analogy.  The difference is more than the difference of black and white vs. color – the difference is completely night and day – as different as dark is to light.  It is weird and surreal being on the other side, because life is abundant and full now.  My inner life, my soul, is better than ever.  I see things I never saw before.  I love people more.  “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (1 John 2:10).  There is a peace that surpasses all human understanding.  People have this notion that once they become a Christian, they have “lost their lives”, basically.  I will tell you that it is quite the opposite. 

True life is gained:

“Jesus said,’The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.'” (John 10:10)

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

There is more to this Christianity thing than meets the eye, what’s at face value.  I stand on the other side realizing that when I was in the dark, I did not get it.  It’s only when a light is turned on that one realizes darkness is in fact darkness.  I was not brainwashed or forced, I came to this conclusion on my own using my own intellect (because of God’s grace, of course).  We cannot even see what is in the dark, until the light is turned on.  Light is revealing.  I realize now, in hindsight, that I was fine with my darkness, just fine. I was the wacky one for putting faith in my ignorance and quick judgments (not to mention – “popular opinion” – now that’s a dangerous notion to put one’s faith in) rather than gathering the facts and actually seeking truth. It is crazy to judge something without any information about it, wacky to make decisions based upon zero due diligence.  Ignorance is easy, and I didn’t even know that my darkness was darkness. I didn’t know what I was stumbling and tripping on because it was dark.

I didn’t want to know if the darkness was darkness; I didn’t want to see what was in the dark.  It didn’t even cross my mind, and I definitely didn’t want to be like those “wacky Christians”!

It’s funny that most of us believe in the great classical books, we would never doubt the validity of those, but when it comes to the New Testament, we dismiss and discard it without first getting the facts straight and doing the research.  I have shared a video below about the historical accuracy and trustworthiness of the New Testament.  The Bible is more historically accurate than any other literary work in existence and can be proven with science, but still, we discard it and judge it as hogwash.  Why?  Because we don’t want to know.  Knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss.  If you were who I was two decades ago, you have already made up your mind and you think there is no use for exploring any evidence.  I get you.  And, I get those who you might think are wacky.

Perhaps the most commonly quoted scripture in the Bible is John 3:16, but most people who quote this leave out the verses immediately after, the ones about light and darkness:

For God So Loved the World

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21; ESV; emphasis mine)

Paul (the apostle, you know, the one who is featured on stained glass windows in modern churches, who was once named Saul and hated the wacky Christians, throwing them into prison and even consenting to their deaths) had this same sort of thing happen to him.  The Christians that he once persecuted and hated, he now loved and understood.  For this reason, they were at first afraid of Paul.  “They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy'” (Galatians 1:23).  He was converted and went around preaching the Gospel.  Gospel, from the Greek word euaggelion, means “good news” or “good tidings”.

There is a movie called The Case for Christ, based on the book by Lee Strobel.  Despite its Roman Catholic tidbits (not a fan of Roman Catholicism due to my careful study of the religion), it was full of interesting, even scientific, pieces of evidence as to why Christianity and the Bible are true and trustworthy.

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:10-12)

Hindsight!

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Who are you trying to please: God or man?

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“And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

I woke up with this thought so clear on my mind, then a dear friend of mine sent this to me two hours later. So often, we put others in boxes, instead of seeking to understand one another or to go deeper in knowledge. We judge without seeking deeper understanding.  Humans have a tendency to disregard what they don’t understand or what they can’t explain from their perspectives, when really we should be open to seeking more knowledge and a deeper understanding (and challenging ourselves).  It is easy and natural to cast aside what doesn’t make sense to our finite minds.

The other thought was this: Christians must be true to who they follow, walking in integrity, not sitting on the fence, and not people-pleasers. “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). One absolutely cannot be a “people-pleaser” and please God at the same time; the two are diametrically opposed. If you profess Christ, you are not to blend in to this world’s ungodly patterns and ungodly expectations, but to be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), a nonconformist to whatever is not true/right, and ready to stand alone in your nonconformity like a live fish that swims against the stream. Be ready to disappoint others and not fit into their boxes.  Here is the same thought re-worded, “Don’t COPY the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”. If we profess Christ yet do not follow Him, but follow the world and those of the world, we are not His – “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” and “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (Matthew 12:30; 1 John 2:15).

What about you? Are you living for the approval and “likes” of your friends, your boss or someone else? Are you trying to fit into their boxes they have made for you? Or are you living for the One who made you? Are you allowing God and God alone to transform your mind, or do your friends mold your mind?  If you have nobody to oppose you or disagree with you, and conform to everybody’s expectations for you, then you have no enemies, and really, you are in bondage…”the fear of man will prove to be a trap, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).  Being fake (being one who compromises) has always resulted in popularity with the world.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (Mark Twain)

Jesus warned that those who are not on the side of truth would be very popular with the world: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). If everyone praises and adores you and not one person opposes you, one must consider… who are we trying to please – man or God? Sometimes it is very clear. People who profess Christ should be different, not conforming to the same old patterns of the world.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

It is the world that needs to brag.  It is the world that boasts of how much money they have, just to make others feel bad who are less fortunate.  The Kingdom of God flips the world’s pattern upside-down.  God’s way is different.  For example, instead of shouting from the rooftops about good deeds done, Christians are to do them in secret, if possible.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3,4)

Christians must not follow this worldy pattern because love is patient, kind and does not boast.

“They may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12)

What about you?  Are you on the fence?  That is not a good place to be because, well, there is no fence…so if you are on the fence, get down.  Are you with Christ or not?  Are you worldly or other-worldly?  Do you profess Christ but still want to be in the same old patterns of the world?  Remember, the two are totally contradictory.

Is God calling you out of the world into His pattern?

Dead in trespasses but alive in Christ: A message about new life…

Dead in trespasses but made alive in Christ (true life).

The word Gospel from its Greek origin literally means “good news”. So often, people think their lives will end if they follow Christ (LOL), that the fun will be gone, yada yada. I have thought that too. But I have seen, not only with myself, but with others close to me, that this is exactly when true life begins and a soul becomes truly alive and full of light. There really is no way to understand this until one experiences it for themselves, so it is hard for me to explain, and of course, there will always be those who don’t get it and don’t want to get it, until God in His mercy changes their hearts because of His love for them, even if undeserved. It’s sort of like turning a light on and flipping a switch, when once you realize the life before was death and darkness (though we do not SEE it like that when we are in it because it’s impossible until something happens and God turns the light on) when compared to the new life and light. That’s why Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” and “The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have LIFE, and that they might have it MORE abundantly”. Light and the newness of life is what Jesus came to bring, that is why He is called the light of the world. Light to our souls, to our families and children, etc. When we desire to save our own lives, to do our own thing, even if it is wrong and contrary to God’s desires, we are not saving our lives at all, we are only deceiving ourselves. The truth God brings is that true life begins at conversion, it’s his gift. The wages of sin is death, not life, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The best part is that it is a free gift simply out of God’s love and mercy. Salvation is a deep, life changing event. Yes, there are hypocrites in churches – those will always be there, they are not God’s children, and they misrepresent Him, but don’t let them deter you – there are also truly converted souls who have been powerfully changed from the inside out by a loving and merciful God:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col.2)

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2)

A note on gratitude and loving your enemies

Following Jesus is a path of gratitude.  Don’t forget to look back at all God has done for you.  Rocky, my husband, was sharing some wisdom with me, telling me it’s important to be thankful for all that God has done already in our lives. He and I both see that God has blessed us with so many spiritual blessings (and other types). Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had our fair share of trials, okay?  Anyway, I consider myself a thankful person; my heart is full of gratitude. Despite that, I admit sometimes I easily start to lose my focus on what God has already done and my focus shifts to the future on what is yet to be done. I am sure I have many friends like this; those who are progress and future-oriented. As soon as I complete a goal, I start another project or goal and only think about that because I view time as a gift not to be wasted. I know productivity is a good trait, but sometimes I need to stop and look back and see all that God has done for us. When I do, I am blown away and humbled mostly at the deep spiritual blessings. It is true that God is good to all people, even those who don’t love Him:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

What can you be thankful for today that has already happened? How can you show kindness to others today, even those who hate you or will be unthankful for your kindness? There is truly nothing special or noteworthy about loving those who love you. Every human being on the planet is capable of that; even the most evil person. That’s easy. What’s a challenge is loving those who don’t love you and who are not thankful for you. If you do, your character will be like God’s because that’s exactly what He does to every human being on the planet. Even when I didn’t love God or give thanks to Him, when I ignored and rebelled against Him when He was trying to get my attention in many ways (because of His great mercy), He gave to me and was good and gracious to me. Why? Because He is kind and good even to the unthankful. He gives us our breath and even our intellect; the ability to work and make a living, etc. Really, what do we have that wasn’t given to us? There is really no room to boast about anything. Rocky and I are at the point where we both see His hand in our lives and His blessings.  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

Tyndale Life Application Daily Devotion:

“But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.”
— 1 Samuel 12:24 NLT

Insight:
Samuel reminded the people to take time to consider what great things God had done for them. Taking time for reflection allows us to focus our attention upon God’s goodness and strengthens our faith. Sometimes we are so progress- and future-oriented that we fail to take time to recall all that God has already done.

Challenge:
Remember what God has done for you so that you may continue your life accompanied with gratitude.

© 2010 by Tyndale House Publishers

‘You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor…”: How can Christians be salt?

I was praying the other night.  More like, pouring my heart out to God.  I seemed to be getting verbally insulted and persecuted from all different directions.  I had spoken words that Jesus Himself spoke, and was met with unkind words.  I was standing against our culture/world and its popular views, and upholding the teachings of the Bible.  Then I remember what Jesus said, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  He also said blessed are those who are insulted because of being a Christian, and that no servant is greater than his master (Matthew 5:11; John 13:16).  If Jesus was treated poorly, why don’t we expect that as His followers?

“Father God, look at this persecution”, I prayed, as though He didn’t already see.  God does see everything.  Then, as I was dozing, this scripture came to me very strongly:

You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, how shall it be salted? it is thereafter good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13)

When faced with persecution, it is because of saltiness.  Will Christians continue to be salt, despite the persecution?  If a Christian loses their flavor because of trying to blend in with the world, they will become useless.

Jesus likes salty Christians.  I turned to my deceased Grandmother’s nifty Bible commentary to give me some insight into this salt notion.  What exactly does it mean to be…”salty”.  Can one be too…”salty”?  Am I “salty”?

To be salty is to stand apart from the world, to be like a perservative to the morally decaying culture around us.  What kind of Christian are you?  Do you stand out like light in a dark place?  Are you salty?  Are you sanctified and set apart despite the cost?

Back in that culture when Jesus walked this earth, salt was very valuable and crucial.  Christians who are not salty are really of no use, but to “be cast out and trodden under foot by men”.  That makes me want to be salty.  Here is what Grandma’s commentary says…enjoy!

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