My View From the Tunnel

The most common criticism of Christians is that we are hypocrites. We say things that we do not believe ourselves. We think that we are all that and the rest of the world is filled with misguided sinners who are on their way to Hell.

Well, I don’t really have anything to say to that right now, not because it’s so absurd that it doesn’t deserve an answer, but because I am not blameless in propagating the image I’ve just described above. So today, I will not attempt to preach. I will not tell you how to live your life. What right do I have to do that anyway? Surely with my track record I must be the least of his followers. And what good does it do to tell people what to do anyway? There’s only One who can touch hearts.

But I will continue to praise the God whom I owe everything to and who deserves everything I have. The God that exists not because I want Him to, but because He is.

I will praise God today, in this moment. I’ve always had a difficult time living in the moment because I am so nostalgic and introspective. It seems like I’m always somewhere else. I constantly rehash old memories, mostly good memories from childhood. Old vacations and daytrips. I used to daydream about the future too, every night. But I haven’t done that as much lately. In part because the future is so uncertain, and in part because I’m beginning to realize that the charming, refined woman of the world will never be me. And rightly so.

So being nostalgic and overly ambitious is a weakness of mine. There are so many other weaknesses, more than strengths it seems, that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose many of them can be summarized into one weakness- my tendency to obsess. The way that my brain fixates on things and won’t let go. The way that it spins out of control like a stationary wheel. Going nowhere, moving nothing, only tiring itself out and dizzying beholders.

Satan uses this for his advantage. Instead of overthinking about God, I just overthink about everything else imaginable. He just shoves things on the wheel and sits back for the show. He piles on sorrows. He piles on worries/pointless anxieties. He piles on pleasures. Anything, everything. People, food, TV, ideas, places, memories…

It’s too much to handle at times. I could easily be addicted to things in my relentless quest to fill the void. I could easily get a heart attack in my old age. I could easily commit some unspeakable crime simply because my mind is such a mess and Satan is good at what he does. I could kill myself even easier.

I could punish myself for these weaknesses. Lord, you know how many of your children have gone that route. Frankly, I do believe that I deserve punishment. I hardly deserve all the opportunities that God has given me.

I don’t punish myself only because I don’t have to. The Lord Jesus punished Himself so that I could live forever in Him. And I don’t need to feel completely hopeless about all my weaknesses. Because the Lord cares for the weak. He is strong no matter how weak we are, and sometimes our weakness makes us stronger because we learn to be less self-absorbed and self-reliant.

So, while I may seem so wretched that I don’t deserve to live, I just have a hard time believing that that will always be true. I just have a hard time believing that God won’t use this for good. Not that I should atone for my sins, because that is impossible, but that I should become the real me, the better me. And I thank God that there is really no alternative- that I must continue stumbling after Him in my own pathetic way, or simply die. Others seem to have a third option, but I thank God that I don’t. On one hand, I wish that others would be like me so they could believe and be saved more easily. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would wish my weaknesses on anyone else because they are a burden.

And so, here I am in this moment that surely won’t last. I would like to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I really can’t. Yet I still believe in it. And I believe that when I finally see it, it’ll be so bright my eyes will burn because they won’t be able to process the glory and beauty and wonderfulness that is the Lord.

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Being Baptized

Since I’m going to be officially baptized next week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my faith has evolved, for lack of a better word, over the years. Even though I feel like I just became a Christian, it’s really been about seven years since the seed was first planted. When did I really start taking it seriously? I can’t put a date on that, of course. 

In many ways, it seems like I haven’t made progress at all. Old demons still haunt me. I still screw things up and get stressed and angry. I still don’t know how to communicate through my Spirit. I still shake in my boots at the very thought of sharing my faith, although I do make more of an effort in that way (not that effort is really the right concept). 

At the same time, I do feel something changing deep inside of me. I have this inner peace that somehow coexists with the constant turmoil in my soul. Satan seems to be pulling out all the stops, but instead of feeling utterly hopeless, I feel that God is pulling for me even harder. 

I know at least that a new dawn is approaching. The hopelessness of my pre-Christian days is over. I know now that it doesn’t matter how bad my “old man” was, because I am getting a new being just the same. I know now that this world is just a cosmic pitstop. I know that my life is not going to be perfect or “normal,” ever, but that’s okay. It’s not like Jesus lived what we would consider a normal life either. He didn’t have two kids and a mortgage and a job in the city. He had 12 disciples and many unsavory characters as his friends, all the rejects of society. Oh yeah, and then the Jews crucified him. That’s not normal. So why should strive for a normal life?

Not that you can’t be a Christian if you have two kids and a mortgage and a job in the city. Please don’t be offended! I’m talking more about the inward conformity that our society expects from us than the outward life. I think you know what I mean.

Well, I’d best go and study for finals! Thanks for reading! 

 

 

The Kingdom of Heaven: No Requirements, No Prior Knowledge Assumed

A common misconception about Christianity is that there is some kind of list of requirements. Of course, Christians frequently try to debunk this myth, and I’m sure that few beleivers have been ridiculous enough to openly suggest it. And yet, the idea still gets around, and it’s probably Christians’ fault for propagating it.

So, like many others have before me, I am here to say that it is NOT true at all. Who did Jesus associate with? Tax collectors (considered very immoral), adulterers, lunatics, and all the others that decent Jews shunned.

You don’t need to be rich to be a Christian. I think that one is obvious, but I thought I would say it just in case you saw televangelists and got the wrong idea. If you are poor, God can provide for you.

You don’t need to be poor to be a Christian. God will humble you and be your All in All.

You don’t need to be a happy medium or somewhere in the middle to be cherished by the Lord of Lords

You don’t need to be a “good person.” In the Lord, you will bear truly good fruits in due time.

You don’t need to be popular or well-liked. The Lord will be your friend and comfort.

You don’t need to be a hermit. If God wills it, you will bring your friends with you into the glorious light.

You don’t need to be “beautiful,” true beauty is within.

You don’t need to be plain, the Lord will set a mirror before your soul.

You don’t need to be sober, for true sobriety comes only from God.

You don’t need to be chaste, passion can only be tamed by divine intervention.

You don’t need to be straight, for no man is upright. (Romans 3:10)

You don’t need to be healthy, for the healthy don’t need a Doctor (Matthew 9:12)

You don’t need to be married, but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided… (1 Corinthians 7:33-34)

You don’t need to be single, For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:16)

You don’t need to be unwell, but rejoice in your health!

You don’t need to be sane, this I know for sure

You don’t need to be self-righteous; in fact, you really shouldn’t be

You don’t need to be loving, because God has enough love to go around

You don’t need to put on a good show, God sees what is within as well as what is on the surface

Shall I go on?

You don’t need to be strong, …God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong (1 Corinthians 1:27 NASB)

You don’t need to be weak, for the church needs its pillars

You don’t need to be wise or educated, God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27)

You don’t need to be a fool, but The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10)

Do you get the point yet? Have I included everyone? You don’t need to be self-controlled either. And ladies, you don’t need to be a size 0, okay?

Perhaps this is so hard to understand because almost everything that we want to do or be a part of in life that is “worthwhile” seems to have some prerequisites. Getting a good job, getting into college, being part of an organization or club. We even evaluate others and are evaluated when we are making friends. Not to mention relationships. But to God, worldly merit is nothing. He created all of us, and he knows all of us. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, He knows all the things that we’ve done, and even the things that we ourselves have forgotten about. That doesn’t stop Him from loving us!

And yet, I regret to say that just because there are no prerequisites doesn’t mean that there is nothing at all that we should change about ourselves once we have come to see the Truth. Heaven forbid we should stay the same! This is why people think Christians are self-righteous, prudish, and hypocritical, because we say this. But how can we not say this when it is in our Bible that we profess to believe? How can we not apply this to ourselves and encourage others to do the same? It is not we who made this up, but God.

Yet I am here to say that we should not be striving to fit the mold of our church, of the believers around us. I don’t know about other parts of the world, but America has a long and regrettable tradition of this. Once we have come to know Christ, we should try to fit His mold.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; and behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

We must put on sincerity and love (this is the theme of 1 Corinthians). The truth is, people will always call us hypocrites, even if we are not being particularly hypocritical. People accused Jesus and John the Baptist of being hypocritical too(Matthew 11:18-19)! But perhaps if we stop caring what other people think, we will become more sincere, and maybe people won’t accuse us so much. Or maybe, feeling threatened, they will accuse us even more. But the good news is that it only matters what God thinks, He is the only judge of the hearts of men and the final judge of our fruits.

 

 

 

 

Jesus is Lord

I wanted to post something so moving, so original, so insightful that you would be absolutely convinced that Jesus is Lord. I came up with this.

Arrogance is dangerous. I often try to compare myself to other people. I over-praise myself when I do the right thing, and am sure to gloss over all the bad. “Well, yeah, I sinned, but at least I didn’t…” In reality I did. Despite what I’ve heard a million times while sitting in a church pew and wearing a starchy white shirt, I still think in terms of what I need to do to get into heaven. And of course, it’s all wrong. Everything we have is just God taking pity on us and throwing us a bone. Don’t we see that? We are the creation, God is the creator. He sent Jesus as an intercessor, to show us some mercy because we screwed up.

So it’s not all about us. Although, we shouldn’t slack off just because the pressure’s off. We may not need to sacrifice lambs or follow a million different rules, but we are supposed to let Christ live in us. Which is not always easy. It is not always easy because it is not easy to let go. It’s not easy to let go because it seems like God is just going to let us die. The going gets rough, and it seems like God is nowhere to be found. The Christian life is pain. It is embarrassment. It is joy. It is apathy. It is feeling low. It is getting back up again. It’s confusion. But in the end, it’s worth it. 

I’ve seen what a life without Christ can do to a person. I know what it does to me when I neglect Him. But other times, when things are running smoothly, we just don’t always see sin, because sin has a way of hiding itself. I know that sometimes I myself wonder if there is really such a thing as sin. But believe me, it’s there. I can’t really deny it. Can you? It’s bitterness. It’s hatred. It’s anger. It’s indulgence. Greed. Arrogance. Jealousy. Bigotry. It’s everything that’s wrong with this world. And you know what? There’s no cure for it besides Jesus. We’ve been trying for thousands of years. Governments, philosophies, religions, cultures… Nope

The world would’t be perfect even if everyone believed into the Lord. But maybe it wouldn’t be quite as bad. I mean come on, could it really be much worse? I guess that’s why Christians have got to step up. The time for hibernation is over. It’s time to show the world what God is.

Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 

-Colossians 1:28

Dear God

Dear God,

Let me shout the glorious truth for all to hear

Let me collapse joyfully under Your mercy

While my spirit soars

Let me sing without shame

Let me walk without blame

And dedicate my every step to You

Let me out of this rat race to no where

Let me free myself from the world 

The shackles of time

The chain of greed

The weighted ball of sin

Food delays

Wealth corrupts

Drugs destroy

Pride kills

The body decays

Ideas fall away

Buildings are subject to torment

And pleasure is but for a moment

God’s truth lasts forever

His Word is everlasting and precious

While the deeds of man are soon forgotten by the earth

Thank you for buying me back from my old master, O Lord

For He treated me harshly

Happily and humbly I will be Your slave forever

For You alone have won my heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Remember the 60’s

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I don’t remember the 60’s because I wasn’t there. But I do remember when oldies stations played a lot of 60’s music. Over here, they play a lot of 80’s now. I know- no one cares. But don’t worry, I have a point to this. 

I remember sitting in the backseat of a Ford F150 for long periods of time, listening to the Beatles without even knowing it, or listening to “Can’t Hurry Love” and thinking it was, “Cater-Rhythm.” Don’t ask me how i heard that. I didn’t know what it was- but it was music, and it made me happy. And I would eat chicken McNuggets because no one ever told me that they were unhealthy (if not worse), and drink coke without worrying about diabetes or osteoporosis. 

I remember climbing things, and falling down and scraping my knees or my belly. I remember crying over a broken pencil. Maybe that’s why I became a writer. I remember toy phones and Legos, and dolls. I remember not knowing a single thing about life. Sometimes I feel as if I would give anything to go back to those days. Kind of like the song “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder. I probably heard that when I was a kid too, but just didn’t know what it meant. 

And yet, it’s foolish of me to be so nostalgic. Because when I was a kid, I didn’t know Jesus. No one ever told me I was a sinner and that I needed to dedicate my life to the Gospel. Even in my innocence, I was dead to sin, and I didn’t even know it. Why is that a good thing? 

 I guess I miss my childhood because I’m not happy with the here and now. I guess my childhood was the last time that I didn’t feel lonely in one way or another. But why should I feel lonely now? Isn’t God more valuable than a boyfriend, or a million friends, or acceptance from society, or a combination of the three? Why do I feel lonely? 

Now I sit in my car by myself and listen to the 60’s station on satellite radio. But it’s not the same, because now I understand the songs. It’s not the same, because it can never be the same again. But that’s okay. 

Sometimes, I wonder if good memories are a gift from God. Maybe they are. Bad memories are helpful too. Our memories are what made us who we are today. They are the greatest lessons ever created. So I suppose that even if I didn’t know God as a child, it’s not like all those years were in vain. I learned things, and am still learning things from the past. I suppose I’m just afraid to apply them to my life today. If I applied all the things I’ve ever learned, I would probably be happy today. Please God, help me to stop living in the past or in a future that only exists in my imagination!

 

 

Photo Credit: sodahead.com

 

 

 

 

The Battle Continues- Christians Vs. Hollywood

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I don’t think that anyone who really knows me would say that I have no sense of humor. I love humor- snakiness, satire, slapstick, all of the above.

It seems like every time you turn on the TV or read anything intellectual, there are always jokes about religion. You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, these jokes are downright blasphemous. But sometimes they seem kind of good-natured. They seem to say, “It’s okay if you actually believe that, we won’t judge, but you know it’s a little silly.” And every once in a while they seem somewhat appropriate/funny/understandable. Like what I saw today, on a recent episode of the Simpsons, when Homer was dressed up as Jesus while promoting a loan shark (get it, because of how Jesus got mad at the “money changers” in the temple), and was consequently struck by lightening. I don’t know, I thought that was funny. As close as the media will get to acknowledging the existence of God.

I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged on this topic before. But what I really want to know is, how should Christians respond to this kind of humor? And, where do you draw the line in making light of the things in the Bible? Puns, good-natured one-liners? Isn’t it wrong to ridicule the word of God beyond that (or is the Bible a 100% serious thing)? Does God himself have a good sense of humor when it comes to his own decrees?

Which brings up another topic. Forgive me for jumping around, but I think I will let those questions hang in the air while I discuss this, the matter of Christians as loud-mouthed media watchdogs. Sure, we can certainly have our opinions of what we see, we can react accordingly to what we see, and refrain from watching certain things, encouraging our friends to do the same. But do we need to write the strongly worded letters and go crazy on social media every time we see something particularly debauch? Should we try to change the culture by speaking out? Or should we accept that the world is different from us, and stop trying to impose our morals on it? Should we just let our lives speak for themselves? Why do we expect Hollywood to conform to our values? And don’t we have our own business to attend to? Or is it important that we remind ourselves and each other of what is right and wrong? Do we have something better to do than discuss how Miley Cyrus is an example of the cultural decline of America? Is there a plank between our pupils and our 3-D glasses?

 

 

 

Photo Credit: simple.wikipedia.org