29 December 2010
...“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.
I recently listened to a fellow pastor share an encouraging word to his congregation via the internet. Speaking right before Christmas, and encouraging his church to stay focused on Jesus this season, he reminded them to remember the 'joy' of the season, but to not take it too far. This is itself is a great reminder.
As true Christians committed to Jesus and His ways, we should be able to find joy in all things. This however is only possible if we are focused on Jesus and not self.
The trouble in today’s modern Christianity is that pastors and teachers are all too often afraid to give people the truth in love, because the truth is sometimes hard, and often offensive. Let’s face it, if we are told that we are being selfish, that we are not focused on Christ, and that there are ways to draw closer to Jesus and really commit to Him in a more personal way, we can take this two ways: either we will look at these words with reflection and see that yes, there is room for improvement and humble ourselves before God – OR, we will take those words into our ears (ears that are so used to being ‘tickled’), and get angry, be offended. Man is not currently wired to be indifferent, we’ll choose one way or the other until our Spirit nature replaces that of the flesh.
But the pastor went on in his encouragement to enjoy Christmas. Don’t feel like you have to suffer (was his intended thought), don’t feel bad for having nice things he went on to say. And he’s right, we should not. God has blessed us all with much in this nation. But he did not stop there. He continued by saying, (direct quote) “You can’t not have (those) nice things!” Well, actually, yes, yes you can ‘not have nice things’.
Americans (generalizing) do not understand suffering. We know suffering. My comments are certainly not being made to belittle those who truly are suffering in this country, and yes there are many who are. But my point is that many who ‘think’ they are suffering, really need to reevaluate their lives. Yes, we can not have nice things. Sometimes a simple life is the one with the most blessing.
To me it is unfathomable that a pastor would tell his congregation, ‘you can’t not have nice things”. Think about it. It’s quite literally feeding materialism and greed, and taking away the possibility that God might have a plan in one’s socioeconomic home. God is in control after all isn’t He? Does this mean that those people who don’t have nice things are not God’s people? What is a ‘nice thing’, and who defines what a ‘nice thing’ is?
There are a lot of nice things in life than many of us would be better off without. The life that is filled with electronic brain stealers and time-wasters is one that up until one generation ago we all did without. Children watch more TV than ever, and spend more time gaming than ever before. The average male teen spends between 12-31 hours a week just playing video games. This is not counting other computer time or phone usage. One of the fastest growing trends these days in teen fellowship is ‘after hours’ teen gaming facilities! No more ‘clubbin’, now it’s gamin’. Don’t think that teenage girls are better because they spend less time gaming. They make all that time up, and more, on chatting on cell phones, texting (or worse), and social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Blogging etc.). Society, it can be argued, suffers for these ‘nice things’.
Do we need $45,000 cars or can we do with a $10,000 or $1,500.00 car and spend the difference supporting Christian faith organizations that help the needy in the name of Jesus? That’s the rub.
We need to humble ourselves, and spend some time trying to receive God’s good word. Even if we do not understand it all, or have trouble really getting things to come together in the application of what you read into your daily life, God hears. God recognizes, and if we truly seek Him as Daniel did, He will reward us with understanding. He will come in response to us. How can a loving Father do anything other?
The key point here is to recognize that we do not need to live lavishly to be a proper representation of Christ. We simply do not need to live lavishly. We do not need to have all the ‘nice things’, and that we can do without some ‘nice things’ in spite of what our hearts or minds tell us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that video games, Facebook® or cell phones are ‘of the devil’. But each of these things, like just about any other thing that we are attracted to, can become at the very least a distraction of our attention, and at worst our own little gods.
Satan’s two most effective tools today, in my opinion, are these: distracting your eyes from Jesus (getting you to waste your time), and materialism. How are these things affecting your Christian walk?
28 December 2010
Since recommitting my life to jesus back in 2000, I have been able to do some short term missonary work. I have traveled to Israel twice, and plan to go back again in the next couple of years. Prior to being called into the ministry I served in the US Army as an Infantry Soldier. In both of these capacities I have seen immense suffering, and people in real need. We need to be open in our lives to recognize what blessings are. In many cases, this is only made possible through suffering.
In America, suffering is seen through the eyes of a .standard'. when our standards and expectations are not met, we view this as suffering. Our cable TV goes out and we call this suffering. We get a flat tire on our airconditioned SUV, and this is suffering. Or worse yet, the power goes out for a couple of days after a storm, and this is really suffering. In the eyes of some of the people of this world, wether in the USA or not, when there is not food on the table, no shelter, and death is knocking at our malnutritioned door, suffering takes ona whole new meaning.
We must always remember prespective. Without perspective assistance and even love can seem petty and insignificant. Without perspective suffering cannot be seen as it ought.
Perspective is the window through which all things are made clear. our position in Christ is only significant is viewed by God's perspective. If we do not understand our grand insignificance in the grand scheme of things because of our sin and seperation from God without Christ, while at the same time recognizing that werare love so much by God that He sent His son for us, then human nature takes over and we see ourselves as 'successful', 'important' or 'significant' to the point where God no longer has a place in our lives. Why, if I'm 'successful', 'important' or 'significant', why do I need a savior? I've got it all under control. See what I mean?
Without perspective what many see as a suffering, only getting two meals today instead of three, having to fix a flat tire, having to go a night without TV, many people in this world would view as a divine blessing.
I'm not saying that unless you see starvation first hand, that you cannot know suffering. I'm not saying that unless you yourself were sent to a Russian Gulag or a Nazi Concentration Camp that you cannot understand or relate to real life suffering. You certainly can. But if you forget to put your life in perspective, holding your 'sufferings' up against the back-drop of real human suffering, or real tragedy, your view will be skewed by pride, selfishness and standards that you have come accustomed to - which is our human nature.
In the end, considering our place in Christ is what is going to give us the best perspective on reality. Christmas sometimes makes us take inventory of ourselves, spiritually speaking. What do I have that really is good? What 'good works' does my life show? And of course, realizing that without Jesus we are lost in our sin and left to wallow in a life that regardless of it's quality or affluence, will end in eternal death.
Christ is everything. He is the only thing. He needs to be our center in all that we do, and everything in our life needs to revolve around Him. If this is our focus, the suffering of others comes into focus, and our selfishness fades into the background where it belongs. The perspective of missing Monday Night Football pales in comparison to someone who has not had water in two days, or clean water all their life, or the homeless man frozen on the steps of the store down the street.
Without perspective we cannot truly see through Christ's eyes.