Monday, December 15, 2008

What A Friend We Have

I sang the songs of yesterday,
And let them wake my heart.
And in the words I’d held at bay,
Discovered who you are.

Jesus, Savior, Nourisher,
Teach my soul to trust.
Counselor, encourager,
Who raised me from the dust.

Son of Man, whose grace abounds
In morning, noon and night.
Holy God with nail-pierced hands
That steered my wrong course right.

What a friend we have in Jesus.
Faithful friend who never leaves us.
What a friend who truly sees us.
Loving friend who daily frees us.

Father of the weak and poor,
Lover of the lost,
Son whose mercy opens doors,
Bearer of another’s cross.

Shepherd of a wandering flock,
Cornerstone on which to build,
Humble servant, solid rock,
Vision of promises fulfilled.

What a friend we have in Jesus.
Faithful friend who never leaves us.
What a friend who truly sees us.
Loving friend who daily frees us.

Remover of all obstacles,
Deliverer, with lives to mend,
Redeemer of the prodigals,
Mighty King, forever friend.

May songs I sing, with heart unbound,
Be praises to my faithful friend,
For what an honor to be found,
And know what lies around the bend.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Golden Rule

So after the recent election and the way this country, and my heart, were so divided, I took a long, hard look at the root of my discontent and I came up with two basic truths.

First, when asked to search our souls and arrive at a decision that is of a political nature, I believe we have fallen far short. Make no mistake, I firmly believe your faith should guide EVERY decision you make in life, including those of a political nature! You may try to separate your politics from your faith as best as possible, but you will fail miserably, for you cannot claim faith and trust in God and not allow Him to permeate all areas of your life. Why would a God who desires your WHOLE heart wish to be left out of certain aspects of your life? So my first truth is this: as Christians, I believe we too often attempt to interpret Christ through the world's eyes rather than interpreting the world through Christ's eyes. Case in point: when facing a tough decision, we are implored to consider, "What would Jesus do?" We consistently try to make sense of challenges and opposition by trying to understand Christ. But the truth is, Christ is not that difficult to figure out. He loves you, He wants what is best for you, He was clear about what He detested, and He asked you to take a stand on the side of purity and grace. When something seems confusing to me, it does not do me much good to look through my worldview glasses for truth and clarity, but rather to read the Word, ask God for guidance and consider the following. It isn't really about what Jesus WOULD do. It's about what Jesus DID do. And it's all right there in God's own words. He didn't leave some stuff out for us to second guess Him. He let His wishes be known.

And that brings me to my second truth. I don't believe this world is hurting because we have had a Republican in the White House for too long and I don't believe we will sink deeper into despair because we will now have a Democrat in the White House. I believe this world is hurting because we have left Jesus out of OUR homes for too long. I feel like He's been knocking on our doors, especially mine, for quite some time and maybe my music's been up too loud or something, but I certainly haven't heeded the call! Now, I'm not one of those people who chooses to guess the time when my loving savior will come to call me home (assuming I'm so lucky) or try to label how far into the end times we have traveled, but I do know this. We are called to always be ready and that means NOW! Notice I stated earlier that I believe Jesus wants us to take a stand on the side of purity and grace. I think grace is the bigger part of that equation. When we let Jesus direct our steps, He does so not with a heavy hand, iron fist, or angry voice so much as He does so with grace and we are to do the same. Somehow, some time ago, Christians became known as self-righteous hypocrites and I'm not so sure we didn't somehow earn that title. The truth is, if we are claiming to live without sin simply because Christ has found us, we truly are hypocrites. If, however, we are claiming to follow Christ in hopes that we will SOMEDAY live in the absence of sin, and treating others with the same measure of grace, we are spot on! People, we follow no man further than he follows Christ. I don't do as other Christians do (except for the whole sinning thing). I do-or try to do-as Christ did.
Philip Yancey begs the question, "What's so amazing about grace?" and I loooove His work. So what is so amazing? Well, let's see, what's not??? Grace is unwarranted, grace is not fair, and grace is so beautiful. When we sin, we are not fallen Christians, because as Yancey states, "The opposite of sin is grace, not virtue." We are simply Christians, saved by grace. How can we not approach a fallen world with the same measure of grace that is extended to us daily by a loving God? Yancey also states, "The sense of sin is the measure of the soul's awareness of God." Essentially, you cannot know God without knowing that you are a sinner. Hallelujah people! I'm not giving you a free pass to sin so that you can get to know God a little better. I'm just saying, remember the golden rule. Come on now, search waaaay back to kindergarten when you were firts taught to do unto others as you would have done to you. When did that stop being applicable, huh? If God loves us in our failures, how can we not love others in theirs. And now, I'm gonna hit ya with the tough stuff and I'll say it as simply as I can. You gotta repent! God has no place for a sinner who refuses to repent. And that's it. Love those little backsliders as much as possible (including yourselves - a little forgiveness for ourselves goes a long way), show them what a penitent heart looks like, and maybe they'll catch a glimpse of God in there somewhere!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Truth tempered with grace

I have always considered myself a very liberal Christian, “careful” so as not to upset anyone (believer or non-believer) and so afraid of turning people away from Christ that I’ve likely missed many opportunities to turn them toward Christ. And so, as those of you who know me will attest, for me to actually sit down and write about an issue of faith that is proving to be more divisive than unifying among Christians, I must actually feel quite passionate about it. Alas, I’ve held my tongue long enough. Let’s discuss Proposition 8, shall we?

I will preface by saying that I have had many friends who are homosexual and I have and do love them all dearly and treat them no different than of my other friends. I have always struggled with the idea of tolerance and have more often than not compromised my faith to avoid alienating non-believers. I don’t struggle with the idea of homosexuality. God leaves no doubt that it is an issue of sin and if I tow the line on this one, where DO I draw the line? I have always steered clear of moral debates, never wanting to appear holier than thou. And now as I take a stand in favor of Prop 8, I do so, not feeling morally superior to others, but simply because God has asked me to speak the truth IN LOVE. My calling may not be the same as 90% of this country, but does that mean I should abandon all that I know to be true in my heart to fit in? Being a Christian does not mean winning a popularity contest. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But God warned of this many times. Christians will suffer in this world. We will be persecuted. Those who went before actually died for their faith and yet we struggle with checking a box on a ballot. Most of us aren’t even called to be martyrs, but simply to speak the truth and yet, we are failing to do so.

I went to a new church this past Sunday (and no, I did not implode upon entering – God still has room for a prodigal’s daughter) and the message spoke loud and clear. How do we share our faith? Truth tempered with grace, right? Absolutely! I will be the first one onboard the grace train. I will gladly extend grace to any sinner who desires it and would hope that God and others deal with me accordingly, but the presence of grace does not roll out the red carpet for the acceptance of sin. And at the core of the issue, I do believe homosexuality is a sin. You cannot have an honest discussion about faith in God without discussing sin (and I firmly believe this conversation should always begin with my own personal sin). Without the acknowledgement of sin, there is no room for a message of redemption and our biggest fears would be realized. The Bible would truly become just a book with a series of great stories, legends, and songs. But the Bible is more than that. The Bible is hope, salvation, and absolute truth. It isn’t a collection of opinions, some of which we may choose to adopt as our own and others we can sidestep as we see necessary. I’ve told my husband (who is not a Bible believer) on many occasions that I don’t necessarily like everything God calls me to stand for, but I don’t get to pick and choose. If I claim it as truth, then I claim ALL of it as truth. And he has told me countless times that he would not respect me if I didn’t.

At the heart of the matter - to me anyway - is this: I refuse to be a moral drifter and I am not saying my morals are right or wrong, but they are my morals and I must defend them at all costs. I was not put on this Earth to make a million friends. I was put on this Earth to serve a loving God and share His message in duality. Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is disobedience. To stand idly by and allow what I believe to be sin to creep into society is to disobey God.

I’ve been told to just not vote at all, because in essence, the lives others choose to live do not affect mine. I believe drunk driving is a sin also, and pedophilia, abortion, etc. The list is endless, I could even add arrogance, pride, and greed to that list. If there were a proposition to legalize any of these things, I would vote against it as well. In my eyes, if anything I deem sinful crosses my path and I have been given the freedom to speak out against it, it is my duty as a Christian to do so. Suppose Martin Luther King “just didn’t get involved?” There would have been no civil rights movement. The fact that gay marriage has already been legalized in California in the first place says to me that someone got involved! It is my privilege and obligation as a citizen of this country to do the same. I make no apologies where this is concerned and I would expect people on both sides of this issue to do the same. We have been given many choices in this life; what we do with them is one of the few things in our lives we can actually control. And if I choose to take no stance on sin, I’m not leaving much room for God to work. Without sin, Jesus was a great prophet. But with the acknowledgement of sin, Jesus was and is a loving savior. If I chose to abuse my darling little son, I would hope others would not simply turn the other cheek and allow me to live my life the way that I see fit. I would hope someone would send my little angel a savior to rescue him from the darkness. And that, my friends (hehehehe) is what I believe God has called His children to do. I’m not claiming to be anyone’s savior, but I know someone who is and I’m pretty certain He won’t be standing outside the voting booths whispering, “Shhhh, now is not the time to tell them about me.”