Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Modern Day Warm and Well Fed

Scripture Reference: James 2

Something hit me this morning. I tend to look at James 2:16 as being something I can only do to homeless and poor people around me:

"If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?"

However, the whole point of the passage is to put your faith into practice, and to not just to mouth worthless clich├ęs to get away from someone else's sob story. It's not (just) about homeless people. So, with that in mind, I realized that there is a modern day equivalent to this verse:

"If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; I'll pray for your need," but does nothing to help be an answer to that prayer, what good is it?"

Some prayer requests - especially for those that require physical healing - are beyond our ability to do anything about. But what about those that we can do something about? What if someone is feeling lonely? What if they are struggling with self doubt? What if they are in need of anything that we have the ability to do something about?

James goes on to say "do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" Useless? Ouch. But... maybe... possibly.... is that why we pray for things for other people, and never see those prayers answered? Is it because we are supposed to be the answers, and our faithful prayer without deeds is turning up useless?

Take the loneliness issue for an example. People usually don't come out and say "I'm lonely." They just start saying things like "I am not feeling very connected with any of the people around here." I've heard many people say this - and have even said it myself plenty of times. The typical reaction is "well, I'll pray for God to send some marvelous comrades your way, brother/sister." Several weeks go by, and the person is still feeling "disconnected." And the other person probably is still praying fruitless prayers, or has forgotten the whole issue by now. Hello! Pick up the phone and give the person a call? Is that so hard? I often wonder why so many people are so reluctant to become the answers to their own prayers.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Spirit That Changes Personality

The Fruit of the Spirit in Real Life, Part Two

Scriptural reference: Galatians 5:22-23

The fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We all want those qualities in our lives. I've always seen these qualities as a temporary spiritual situation. If I have a good quiet time in the morning... maybe get a full hour of intense prayer (assuming that Reverend Pillow doesn't hold me over too long with his night-time sermon of "Resting in the Lord")... and then - BOOM! - fruit! I'll have some peace in my life. Until I drive to work, someone cuts me off, and I honk at them in anger. So much for my peace for that day. Hopefully, I'll be spiritual enough tomorrow to get that peace again.

One thing that hit me the other day was that some of the fruits are personality traits: gentleness.... self control.... kindness. Then, I started to realize that they are all personality traits. The fruit of the Spirit in our lives is a changed personality that begins to resemble the personality of Jesus. It's not just some temporary actions that we can call up from time to time when are really being uber-spiritual. They are characteristics that can begin to describe our lives as we continually walk with God.

I can see two sides, or excuses, to this thought:
  1. "I am just blunt, loud, talkative, etc. I can't help it. It's just the way God made me." I say - Great! Being like this is not necessarily wrong. It's just that people who are blunt are usually also not very gentle about it. Those that are talkative are usually not very self-controlled about it. Those that are loud are not very peaceful about it. It is possible to be blunt and gentle - it's called telling the truth in love. Whatever your extroverted personality trait is - make sure it is surrounded in the fruit of the Spirit.

  2. "I'm not perfect, but I am peaceful, gentle, kind, etc. So I don't need to worry about this anymore." Galatians says that against the fruits of the Spirit there is no law. That means there is no limit... no saying "I've got this down - on to the next lesson!" There is always more fruit to be had - so keep seeking!
My life has been a testimony of how this is true. God willing, I'll get to that in Part Three.

Now playing: Scott Bradley - Sanctuary
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bridging the Gap Between Heart & Reality

The Fruit of the Spirit in Real Life, Part One

Scriptural reference: Galatians 5:22-23

Very rarely do people ever sit down and talk about what is wrong with anything. When it does happen, eventually you have to look at the problems that certain people are causing. If you were to say something like "so-and-so comes across as cold, uncaring, or not interested in other people," a typical response would be "but I think their heart is to be nice and welcoming to people." Both parties would agree to that, and go on.

I would really, really hate to hear that being said about me. Not the first part - where someone points out a problem that I have. I have them, and I need to hear them - so I need to get over it. What I would hate to hear would be the second part: "but I THINK their heart is _____." When I come to the end of my life, I don't want my heart to be in question. I want people to know beyond a shadow of a doubt what I felt in my heart. I want my heart to be my reality.

When we refer to someone's heart in this context, I think what we mean is "the person that they really want to be, if they weren't inhibited by habits, familiar patterns, or flat out sin." So, if there is a noticeable difference between what is in my heart and how I come across to people, I have a serious problem. There is a serious flaw in my wiring somewhere.

The problem that I see, in myself especially but also others, is that we seem to think that we are stuck with this flaw. And so, those long conversations that we have to have with people offended by our actions, the ones where we sit down and try to explain to the them what our heart really is, are going to be an inevitable part of life. Of course, once we get to the point of having one of those conversations, the hurt and damage are already done. The forgiveness and healing process, as slow as it can be sometimes, has to be set in motion. That is why I hate the theology of "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." Forgiveness can often be a long, painful process. We think that it is fine to be lazy and just not ask for permission in the first place?

I think the problem that leads to this flaw begins with a misunderstanding of the fruit of the Spirit. I think most people know what they are - but its the application that we tend to miss. So, God willing, that is what I will look at in Part 2.

Now playing: Neon Cross - Frontline Life
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How Dangerous is a Piece of Paper?

I love India. My wife is half-Indian. The image used as the banner for this site was taken on a trip we took to India. But sometimes, their laws make no sense.

Take a recent incident in Kartanaka. A pastor and his wife were passing out Gospel tracts. Some people find these annoying, but like any literature - you can just ignore them. Someone saw the tracts, and attacked them. They were drug to the local police office, and charged with "inciting religious disharmony." They were sent to jail for a month for violating section 296 A of the Indian Penal Code.

Now, I am no legal expert, but wasn't it the person that attacked them in the first place that was the one who "incited religious disharmony?" He could have just ignored the tracts.

You see, the problem with India is that they are ruled by close-minded, undemocratic principles. I know they claim to be modern and democratic, but that is just a media propaganda front designed to placate the UN and major world governments. And they all accept it as true, without digging farther in to verify the claims. Every week I get e-mail reports on worldwide religious persecution, and every week they include multiple reports from India. To the UN, US, and other world powers - please open your eyes. Visit persecution.com for more information.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tired of Close-Minded Christians?

A common argument/excuse that I hear about why people don't want to go to church is that they don't want to be around close-minded or hypocritical people. They want to interact with open-minded people, but not Christians, because they are close-minded. Isn't that a close-minded statement though? It's like saying "I am open to anything that anyone has to say, except for this rather large group over here." That, in itself, seems like a close-minded contradictory statement. Kind of like the statement "there are NO absolutes."

More often than that, I frequently hear the hypocritical tag thrown around. Christians don't live what they believe, so we shouldn't listen to them - right? Well, right? Not quite. If your doctor smoked, would you ignore his advice about what is good for you? You could - but that would be dangerous for your health. We can gripe about hypocrisy all we want, but even though our doctor may not follow their own advice - it doesn't mean that they are clueless. They are probably telling us the right stuff. Somewhere along the line, the American culture has bought in to the lie that hypocrites are automatically wrong in everything they say, just because they are hypocritical. Of course, I could also go into how we are all hypocritical in some way, but that is another subject....

When people throw around the hypocrisy tag, what they are really saying is "I want to ignore what God is saying and blame it on his followers, even though by calling them hypocrites I am acknowledging that they are not doing what God would want them to, anyway."