Thursday, November 30, 2006

Last night I came to the realization that lately something has changed in me. You see I used to be one who was extremely interested in theological debates. All throughout college I was always looking for opportunities to get into a discussoin on whether calvinism or arminianism was correct, or which view of Revelation we should take, and while that still interests me as i read the Bible i find myself looking less and less for passages to back up one particular view and am being challenged more about the way i live my life. I'm finding that the Bible speaks less of ideas and beliefs and more on actions. And while that may seem like an obvious statement I feel like the church as a whole is missing this point. Somehow over time we began to shift our focus away from the here and now and simply focus on heaven and how we can get there as painlessly as possible. But thats not the point of the Bible at all. As I read through the gospels I'm challenged over and over again with the call to be active in the world, and particularly to reach out to the outsiders. To the poor, the orphans and the widows. When was the last time that I've done that? The main objective of following Christ is to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of God to the here and now. And doing that does not mean getting people to sign up for our particular church, or to patronize people with our beliefs. It's about helping others. If you notice throughout the gospels Jesus did not make people say the believers prayer before he healed them. He did not make them follow Him for a time before he offered them a helping hand. But it was because he healed them, or because he fed them that they followed him. This has been a challenge to me as I've struggled with these passages because so often this is not evident in my life. And you may say "well I dont have to many people around me who are poor or destitute" (which has been my excuse for a long time). And if thats the case I have a feeling we're in the wrong place. Christ did not call us to live in our nice little secluded communities where our wealth and comfort keeps us isolated from the needs around us (ouch!). We have an eternity to be comfortable. As I write this I feel the weight of what this might mean for myself, but at the same time I'm excited for the same reason.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Body of Christ

"He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue." -Prov. 28:23. One of the things missing in the church today is the ability to confront each other. We acquire this weakness honestly from society around us. Those we look up to can do no wrong, we exalt our heros to an obscene level and quickly overlook their mistakes. And if someone were to approach us to point out a problem we immediately put up our defenses. "Who are you to tell me how to live my life." Despite the fact that the problem is obvious even to ourselves. We also heavily stress the idea found in the gospel of do not judge others. However, are we not missing the point. When Jesus gave this command he was talking alot of the religious laws that were being blown out of proportion to keep the disadvantaged beneath the religious gurus. The issue of confrontation is a very difficult subject, and one not to be ventured into lightly by any means. Yet I feel as though we are missing a major advantage of the body of Christ by simply avoiding this subject. As I read this proverb I was challenged on a couple levels: First of all I need to always keep the other persons interests in mind. Flattering someone does that person absolutely no good (obviously there is a proper place for praise, however the connotations that go along with the action of flattery are usually negative), and it usually simply an easy way out. I need to be willing to risk awkwardness and even the possibility of a friendship for a time in order to try to strengthen those around me. If you notice this proverb says "in the end" you will gain favor. More than likely there will be some negative effects from confrontation. Many times we think "why would i want to look foolish and anger someone when i dont have to." But we must see how selfish that statement is, the call to be obedient to Christ is not always easy and not always pleasant for us. We must focus on loving the other person and on what is best for them. The second thing i notice is that i need to be willing to accept confrontation. Thats a very hard thing for me to do. It takes humility and a focus on Christ in order to accept correction and reproof. I long for the body of Christ to become the body, but it takes work and the ability to realize that its not all about us.

"Come and Follow Me"

Have you ever noticed the way Jesus called his disciples? In each of the accounts in the book of Mark Jesus uses the same phrase, "come and follow me." Does this strike you as odd? Even a better question, does this resemble the call on your life? Modern Christianity promotes salvation as many things, a ticket out of hell, a better way of life, a self-enhancer, but how often is this aspect of being a disciple mentioned. Perhaps this is not such an unfamiliar idea to you, maybe it is understood that one of the requirements of "being a Christian" is the concept of following Christ. But i want to challenge you to engage with that terminology, what does that mean to follow Christ?
As I've thought about this phrase it brings to mind several aspects: (1) In order to follow Jesus, we must know where Jesus is. This requires a focus on Jesus's activity in the world around us. (2) that in turn implies that Jesus is active in the world around us. And not only that, but he is constantly moving, and changing. To follow Jesus requires an effort, a focus on our part. (3) That Jesus is leading. This may seem like an obvious statement, but how often is my mindset to move first and then to pray that Jesus goes with me. We need to remember that we are in active pursuit of Jesus, not bringing Him along for the ride. (4) The call to follow Christ means the freedom to break free of religion, to break free of routine, to break free of the boredom of meaninglessness, and to be in the most passionate relationship we could ever imagine. The call to Christ is the call to a romance unlike this world can ever know. It involves risks, and is unattainable unless you surrender your all. (5) The call to follow Christ is a call to leave the life we had before we met him. You see that when James and John recieved the call they immediately left their fishing nets.
I have been challenged as i comtemplate this calling. And as i realize what it might entail I've experienced not only joy, but a deep fear. The calling is one that should not be taken lightly, but one that must be wrestled with. But the more and more I realize the extreme nature of this call, the more excited i get. The deeper my hunger grows for more of God, and the more i desire to pursue Him.