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When Grace is Disturbing January 8, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, Christianity, grace, sin.
5 comments

Much has been written about grace and I am not one worthy to add to what’s already been written about it in anyway shape or form. I can’t imagine I can add to what people like Brennan Manning, Andy Stanley, or Mike Foster have written about it in their wonderful books. But, a recent conversation I have become involved in on Facebook (gotta love social media) has prompted me to write this blog. I ask a simple question:

What should our response be when grace disturbs us?

No one has a problem when they are offered grace. It is eagerly accepted and appreciated. To a certain extent, to a certain people, we can even happily give grace to others with as much excitement. But, what happens when grace is offered to people who disturb or disgust us? You know the people that I’m referring to. Those who repulse you enough that you would endure a few seconds of Hell if it meant getting to see them burn. Rapists. Murderers. Child molesters. Terrorists. Homosexuals. Abortionists. Muslims. Liberals. Conservatives. Fundamentalists. Lawyers. Politicians. Telemarketers. Whoever.

The conversation I am involved in began with a friend who posted a link to an article about men who were on the run from police for raping disabled women. Evil and disgusting to be sure. Along with the article, he made the comment, “Sadistic absolutely worthless animals like this do not deserve rights. Bullet in the head.” A few people commented and agreed and even added what they would like to be seen done to these men. While I agreed that they need to be brought to justice, I also stated that as Christians, I believe we should pray for them to be set free from the sin and evil that obviously has them in bondage and hope that God saves them. I believe that our attitude toward them should be one of grace and love, and not a desire for death. I argued this because when it comes down to it, we are (or at the best, were) sick, sadistic animals that need to be put down. The Bible is clear on this, just see Isaiah 64:6 or Romans 3:10-12. The only way we are any better is through the grace of God by the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus died for those men just as much has he died for their victims. He weeps over both. While our heart rightly breaks for the victims, our hearts burn with hate over  the perpetrators while they should be breaking over them as well. This is not saying that there is not a place for righteous anger, but it is misplaced. The anger should be targeted at the “powers and principalities” behind them, namely Satan and his demons.

While it is a perfectly natural human response to see those people that repulse us punished in horrible, horrible ways, Christians are not merely natural humans. We are supernatural. And the grace and love we show to people, even people that disgust us, should be in supernatural amounts.

My Other god September 30, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, confession, life, sin.
1 comment so far

The first of the Ten Commandments always struck me as odd. In case you haven’t seen the movie recently (because isn’t that where we all first learned them? I can never read any story about Moses without picturing Charlton Heston), the first commandment as in Exodus 20: 3-6 says,

  You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (ESV)

It’s always been hard of me to think of God as being “jealous,” being that jealousy is usually seen as a negative trait. Even one of Paul’s most popular New Testament passages says that, “Love is not jealous” (1 Corinthians 13:4).  But, that’s what God says about Himself. He is jealous. He loves us so much, and wants our love in return, that He experiences the emotion that we call jealousy when we give the love that should be His and His alone to another god. I think most of us dismiss this verse as more speaking to the Israelites in those days and not su much to us, because we don’t have “carved images” or idols, that we bow down, serve, and pray to. At least not in the most literal sense. But, I’ve come to realize in my own life, that I probably break this commandment more than any other commandment in the entire Bible. Though I don’t bow down or pray to any little statue or anything like that, I do turn to other things when I should turn to God.

I turn to the god of food when I’m in need of comfort.

Food makes me feel better about my situation, if only for a few minutes. At times, I feel like I don’t even have a choice in the matter. After leaving the church on Wednesdays after youth service, I have to go through the Taco Bell drive-thru, even when I’m not that hungry. It’s like a ritual or sacrament. While eating three chicken quesdillas at ten o’clock at night might sound like it’s bad only for my physical health, it’s also detrimental to my spiritual health, because I’m looking at the food to fulfill an area in my life that only God can. I’ve often argued that God is not concerned about this as much as my other sins. I’ve said things to myself like, “I need to overcome this lust issue, before I focus of this gluttony issue.” When truth be told, God wants me to turn all my sin over to Him, and they are all destructive. In some ways, serving the god of food is worse than serving the god of pornography. Every Christian peer I have would call me out if they saw me buying an adult movie from the mall, not one of them would think anything of it if they saw me buying a triple from Wendy’s. But, this addiction to food (and it is an addiction, let’s call it what it is) has me in just as much bondage as an addiction drugs or sex. It’s bad for my body and it’s bad for my spirit. That’s exactly what worshiping idols do to you, they leave you with a broken body and spirit.

Slowly but surely, I’ve heard God’s call to me to lay down my idols, to turn my back of my other gods, and to worship Him only. To only find fulfillment in my relationship with Him and Him alone.

What are some of your idols? How can we help each other turn our backs on them and only worship God?

My Greatest Sin July 20, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Heaven, Hell, life, sin, universalism.
4 comments

I don’t want everyone to go to Heaven. I want some people to burn in Hell for the rest of eternity. I could play this off as wanting to see God’s justice prevail, but that’s not the case. The truth is: I just want to be right. This is my greatest sin. I read certain blogs by some people who might be categorized as “universalists.” A term meaning they believe that everyone will get to Heaven one way or the other. Some of these universalists just believe all religious paths lead to Heaven, others are Christians who believe that Jesus died for everyone and will bring all to Heaven based on what he did on the cross. I think that these universalist Christians believe this not primarily on any biblical doctrine, but on the fact that they love people and can’t bear the thought of anyone suffering in Hell forever. This makes me jealous of them, because I don’t share that same love for people. Do I want people to go to Heaven? Of course I do, but not before they admit they were wrong about some things and turn their lives around. I don’t like the thought of murderers and rapists, or even Muslims and homosexuals entering Heaven totally on the mercy of God’s grace before they bow the knee to Jesus on earth. And I should want that. I read something by Shane Claiborne one time that said something along the lines of, “You don’t have to believe that God will save everyone, but you should hope he does.” That statement floored me. That’s when I realized my greatest sin is not loving people enough. I wanted to be right about them going to Hell, more than I wanted to see them in Heaven. Even if I don’t believe that people will go to Heaven without first surrendering to Jesus on earth, I should want Jesus to bring them to Heaven anyways.

The fact is Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love others. If I truly loved others, I would want them to go to Heaven no matter what. This is why many Christians put a priority on evangelism. They witness because they believe, like I do, that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus, and that means turning your life over to him here on earth. However, for many evangelism  turns from being a sincere love for one who is lost, but an argument or battle to determine who is wrong or right. Even the term “apologetics” conveys a fight, as it means defense of faith. Now, I enjoy a good debate. I like the intellectual stimulation it brings, but I’ve come to realize that sound arguments will very rarely change someone’s mind, much less their heart.

I was eating at Outback Steakhouse with my mom last week. We saw a friend of my dad’s there and he stopped to talk to us. They talked about how they felt about the direction of the country was going in the wrong direction, to which made my mom bring up Charles Stanley’s July 4th sermon, in which he basically called President Obama wicked, without ever saying Obama’s name. I stated that I really didn’t think pastors should talk politics in the pulpit, to which they disagreed. That started a verbal war at the table which got quite loud and a bit angry. Afterwards, I felt pretty convicted. I should have just let that argument slide. For one thing, I’m not sure if our server was a Christian or not, and seeing three Christians squabble like that is never good for a non-believer to witness. That’s when I realized that my desire to be right was a sin. It violates the second greatest commandment. It’s not loving of others.

There is only one thing that I’m really sure of, and that’s when I get to Heaven, I’m gonna find out that I was wrong on some things. That being the case, why am I so worried about being right all the time down here? I hope I am wrong and that my universalist Christian friends are right. I hope everyone does make it to Heaven. Even though I doubt that is the case, I’m asking God to change my heart toward people who disagree with me. I’m asking him to help me to love others and not to be afraid of being wrong. Because loving others has nothing to do with being right or wrong, but it has everything to do with trusting Jesus.

Who Told You That You Were Naked? June 4, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Adam and Eve, Bible, Christianity, shame, sin.
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Shame. It’s a nasty word. It’s an even nastier feeling. We’ve all felt it before for one reason or another, and despite whether it was for something small or something huge, feeling ashamed has the same sickening feeling. George Bernard Shaw said, “We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinions, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins.”

The awful thing about shame is: we were never meant to experience it.  In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, the Bible says that, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were opened, and they knew that they were naked”(Genesis 3:7a). For the first time in history, humans felt shame. The disgusting feeling of humiliation, embarassment, and knowledge that we did something that we knew we were not supposed to do. Now, as Shaw says, we are ashamed of “everything that is real about us.” Adam and Eve’s reality was that they were naked. Even though this fact was no less true before they sinned, it was made all to clear by their shame.

A few verses later when God was coming to enjoy his daily walk in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve, they heard them coming and hid themselves from their own Creator. The Being that loved them more than they could possibly imagine was now an object of fear to them, because they were ashamed of their own nakedness. God found the first couple and inquired as to why they were hiding to which Adam replied, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). God’s reply is one that still amazes me. “He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11a)

God knew that Adam and Eve were naked ever since He created them. It was no surprise to Him. What surprised God was that Adam and Eve were now aware of it. They were supposed to have no knowledge of their nudity or of their shame. This kind of knowledge could only come through the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their sin brought consequences, shame being only one of them. But, God did something only an all-loving God could. He made them new garments. Instead of the measly leaves that Adam and Eve decided to clothe themselves with (leaves representing religion, good works, legalism; anything they could think of to cover their sin and shame), God killed an animal and “made garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).

Only God can cover our nakedness, our sin, and our shame. This wasn’t the last time killed to cover us. Several thousand years later, God would kill His only Son, the Lamb of God, Jesus to cover our sin and shame once and for all. So the next time you feel ashamed, just ask yourself, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?”

SIN-icism May 13, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, cynicism, sin, The Church.
1 comment so far

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future. —Sydney J. Harris

 Serving at the Journey Youth Community is easily one of the highlights of my week. Every Wednesday, I look forward to hanging out, worshipping, and seeking God with the teenagers and other adult leaders. But, last night my patience grew thin as the service went on. I was becoming so upset that I actually tweeted, “The only thing I hate more than Charismatic Christianity right now is non-Charismatic Christianity.” As I thought about it later that night, I had trouble pinning down what actually bothered me in the service. We really didn’t do anything hokey or anything like TV Charismatics do. In fact, it was probably one of the best services we’ve had in awhile. So why was I so upset?

I think the Lord answered me in one word: “cynicism.” I’ve become more and more cynical when it comes to my faith. Don’t get me wrong, I think a certain level of cynicism can be healthy. Often times, we become cynical when we are honest about ourselves, our friends, and our churches. When that happens, cynicism can be a catalyst for change. However, I think there comes a time when we just become cynical to be cynical. We no longer believe change can actually happen so everytime we go to church we just make snide remarks on Facebook and Twitter that are meant to placate our egos rather than get people thinking about change. I think this is when cynicism goes from being healthy and honest to just being sin. Healthy cynicism is based on the hope that things can change, while sinful cynicism believes that change is completely hopeless.

I think I’m at a crossroads when it comes to my cynicism and I think I know where both paths lead. There are two people I follow on Twitter that have taken different cynicism paths. One goes by the name of @hollywoodpastor and the other goes by the name of @prodigaljohn. I met @hollywoodpastor on a couple of occasions. He was a really nice guy who loved (and still does love) Jesus. He seemed really happy, but he wasn’t afraid to call out the Church if need be. However, through some bad events his cynicism grew. Now he comes off as angry more than anything, and most of his tweets call for Christians to leave the Church. He believes there is no hope for the Body of Christ as it is. It’s sad. What’s sadder is that I can really see where he’s coming from sometimes. I just don’t think calling for Christians to abandon the Church is wise. For all of its warts, I think the Church still has hope. I think change can still happen. I don’t think angrily calling for it’s destruction is healthy cynicism.

On the other path, however, is @prodigaljohn. @prodigaljohn wrote a book and has a blog called Stuff Christians Like. It’s a satirical, and yes cynical, look at the silly things people in the Church do. The difference between @prodigaljohn and @hollywoodpastor is that @prodigaljohn’s call to the Church is one to look at itself and laugh, rather than leave. Changes absolutely need to be made. But, it’s better to point them out and laugh at them rather than point them out and flip them off.

My cynicism had overtaken me, is  what I learned last night. Even when we had a good night, I couldn’t notice it because I was so caught up in being cynical. That’s not healthy, hopeful, or helpful cynicism. It was just plain sinful.

Are you overly cynical at times?

What are some examples of healthy cynicism? What are some examples of unhealthy cynicism?

Do you think being cynical can be sinful?

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