Archive | September, 2012

What if I am the Only Glimpse of Christ that Person Gets Today?

30 Sep

I Timothy 1:16, “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first JesusChrist might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

I was thinking about all of us needing to grow and change, as we learn to accept constructive criticism in Christ.  I also thought about the antithesis of a person who knows he or she has to grow and change.  That person would be a stubborn person.  And I wonder whether there is any trait worse than stubbornness for making a person look unattractive as a representative of Christ.

Just imagine, we represent a grace-based faith in which the Creator of the Universe cared enough about His fallen creation that He entered history as one of us, as the God-man, and bought us back from the dark side by dying a death of torture for us, then rising from the grave three days later.  This faith is about love.  This faith is about grace.  This faith is about second chances.  So when we are presenting this wonderful grace-filled faith to people, what if we come across as stubborn and arrogant about ourselves, as though we already know everything there is to know and as though we already do everything 100% correctly all of the time!!??

To be sure, we are to present Christ that way.  He is God so He does know everything and He indeed never sinned while He was on earth and He never will.  But, even in Him, we are quite a different story.

I once asked a friend about a phrase in something he wrote that I thought was a misprint.  He told me it was not.  That was okay–I could accept that I might have been wrong in my observations or that we might differ in our definitions of what he had been trying to say.  It was what happened next that was telling.  This man who makes it his highest priority to witness to others spent the next ten minutes defending his use of that phrase.  Every time I thought he was done, he would come back with another reason that the phrase was correct.  And I wasn’t arguing!  He was in a defensive mode and got caught there.

I left the encounter thinking “How unattractive.  I hope he doesn’t deal with the lost the same way he just dealt with me.”  You see, his observations were not about how gracious and loving the Lord Jesus is, they were about making sure I understood he was right.  And the more he went on, the less I was sure he was right.  I was just sure of one thing–he seemed very stubborn at that moment.

We can all be like that if we are not careful.  Some of us may have had perfectionistic parents or teachers as a child.  We may have quickly learned that if we gave way on anything, we would be shredded emotionally by that other person.  We learned to stand our ground for the sake of self-preservation.  But the tool we learned then makes us very unattractive as adults,  when trying to present Christ to people in all His love and glory.  He wasn’t stubborn.  And, if anyone had the right to be, He did.

My prayer is to be teachable, to be tender, to reflect the graciousness of our Lord Jesus.  I fail so many, many times.  I can be so sarcastic, then realize that I just won the battle and lost the war as a Christian witness.  May God help us all to look in the mirror and see what unsaved people see when they look at us.

As the old hymn says, we are only sinners, saved by grace.  Or as I have heard someone say, “Witnessing is like one starving man telling another where to find bread . . .”

For you, I’ll always care…

29 Sep

Another one of my posts from last year on the church blog. About loving the lost as God loves them.

Tabernacle for Today

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?  saith the Lord God:  and not that he should return from his ways and live?”  (Ezekiel 18:23)

“Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew, That I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do” (hymn by Edwin Hatch/Robert Jackson)

My nineteen-year-old son had a series of “lovies” in his younger years.  A couple of them are still memorable to me.  First, he got attached to a blanket he called “special geggie” when he was around two.  It had been handmade for him when he was born by my friend Kathy and it went with us everywhere.  Consequently, it had to be frequently washed.  It surprisingly did hold its colors and texture well, despite the wear and tear.  As time went by, I found myself growing attached to that blanket, too, to…

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Thoughts on idols (icons that might need to be smashed just to show that God is all in all)

29 Sep

I John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen.”

This is from a note I wrote to a friend today (Disclaimer:  I promised, when I started Iconobaptist, that I would never smash someone else’s icon/idol, and I abide by that promise.  If this post makes you think about smashing one of your own, well, that is between God and you!):

The older I get, the more I am fixated by watching people’s faces.  And the more I become aware of how fragile we all are, even in Christ, and how little it takes to hurt someone else and how hard it is to look at someone’s face when someone has just hurt that person.

I find myself pulled in two directions.  There is the need to speak truth about theology.  A lot of theology is mushy or downright scary.

But people identify themselves with their theology and therein lies a problem.  If somebody has spent years clinging to something and defending it, they may find it feels like part of their identity.  And if we oppose it, they may feel their very essence is being opposed.

That is in their perception, but it is there.

You may see where I am getting to with this.

I am seeing, wherever I go, that Christians are very similar in defending the extrabiblical traditions of their particular branch of Christianity, no matter where they worship.

We all have found idols that need to be replaced by God’s good grace in our lives.

In fact, since there is no perfect denomination or church, I would dare say that every single Christian on this planet has some man-made doctrine they are defending as though it is in the Holy Scriptures.

One blogger I read said that, if we can’t identify such a doctrine in our lives, it is only because we have not formally written down our denominational infrastructure in order to objectively examine it.

Try changing the offering at a Baptist church.  Make it an ATM at the exits where people can transfer funds to the church rather than throwing an envelope into a plate.

I’ll bet that would get a howl of outrage.  Why? Did God tell us in the Bible we have to pass an offering plate?

In fact, I love the offering plate, but I acknowledge it is a man-made tradition.

That is why we need to write Iconobaptist.  Too many good people have not thought through their cherished icons.  And thus they become idols.  For all of us.


28 Sep

In conjunction with my post today about not sharing people’s personal thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears with other people, I add this piece from our church’s blog. I wrote it last year. It is always good to remember to encourage each other.

Tabernacle for Today

“And so I charge thee by the thorny crown,
And by the cross on which the Savior bled,
And by your own soul’s hope for fair renown:
Let something good be said.”

(Old hymn, words by James Whitcomb Riley)

How often do I, as a blood-bought, ransomed child of God remind other believers that that is what they are, too?  How often do I encourage others (which is, by definition, pouring courage into them)?  How often might I do the opposite and be a discourager?
Nobody sets out to discourage others, but the truth is that all of us do it on occasion.  I have to pay attention not just to what I say to others but to the way I say it.  I have a very quick way of speaking that can come across as rather glib, if I am not careful to maintain eye contact and to really…

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This is what an 85 pound weight loss looks like on this blogger

28 Sep

This is what an 85 pound weightloss looks like on this blogger

Romans 6:15, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

A reminder from God’s Word that our spiritual standing, with Christ and with our fellow humans, is under grace.

Lots of things in this world are under the law. Natural law, mainly.

Weight Watchers is under the law. You obey their guidelines, you lose weight. You stretch their guidelines and your body stretches too (smile).

Our yearly work evaluations (which we are doing at the office right now) are under law. You excel in your job, you get a good raise. If you disappear in the middle of too many workdays, most (or all) of your raise disappears, too.

You see where I am going with this. This world, under its present system, functions under the law in most cases. No one goes to their boss asking for grace so that everyone gets the same amount in their yearly raise.

Yet, in Christ, things are different. So we Christians need to live in the reality of that difference.

We are under grace in our relationship to Christ. He will never love us more nor less than He does at this moment.

We are under grace in our relationships with our fellow Christians. We will be with each other, under grace, for eternity. Let’s live that way already, shall we? Christ has bought us and set us free to live in love. The church should never be known as an institution that eats its young . . .

And finally, we are under grace in our relationships with unsaved people in the world. They don’t know that. So let’s tell them about grace . . .

Photo credit: Melissa Wells, iPhone photographer extraordinaire

Keeping Someone’s Confidence . . .

28 Sep

Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it [are] the issues of life.”

Another one of those “the older you get, the more you learn” things.  I have recently thought to write about what it means to keep someone’s confidence (something secret that they tell you, from their heart, that is meant for you alone).

This isn’t because I am admonishing anyone on here.  In fact, as Pastor often says, since I don’t have a specific incident with anyone to talk about, I can be pretty free in how I say this.

I just have noticed the cyclical nature of life that leads to people I love being hurt by people who probably also love them but who blab their business to others.

I am going to leave aside the fact that, if we are Christians, we are called to not gossip.  Many others have written very good pieces on that.  Let’s take a slightly different approach here.

Why do we do this?  Why do we spill people’s secrets?  First of all, it gives us something to say when we might not have something to add to a conversation.  But . . . let’s be honest.  Silence would be preferable to blabbing someone else’s confidences.  Wouldn’t it?

Or how about when we think there is some sort of inner circle going on among our friends, and we are really happy that we are part of it, so we spill confidences just to confirm that all the right people confide in us?  Hmmmm, does anything say “low self esteem” like this sort of action?  We don’t think people will like us enough for who we are, so we make sure they know that the “cool” people not only like us, but that they confide in us, too?  Wow!  Take a second to unpack that one, folks, and see whether it is an image any of us would really want to have!

Or . . . we don’t spill the confidence, but we smugly let someone know that we were told something in confidence by a certain person and wouldn’t think of sharing it for anything!!!  That is kind of the same thing as the last paragraph, right?  Name-dropping in order to inflate our importance in our circle of friends. If we think about any of these actions for more than three seconds, we can see how self-defeating they really are.

Be the friend you want to have.

Another thing that is often said is “I didn’t realize that was said in confidence because she didn’t tell me not to say anything to anyone.”  Yes, but why not tell your *own* story and your own personal business to your friends, instead of someone else’s?  No one tells your story better than you do.  If you are a Christian, that part of you is called a testimony and you are meant to share it.  Telling someone else’s “testimony,” no matter how well-meaning you might be, is just not as effective as telling your own.

How about assuming that anything someone tells you having to do with their thoughts or feelings or hopes or fears is probably a confidence intended for you alone?  How about that being our default setting?

I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world and all of us will offend at some time by saying something that crosses the line into somebody else’s personal business, but if we set our standards so that we aim to minimize that, we will do it far less than if we presume that anything shared with us can be passed along unless it is specifically labeled as a secret.

Just a thought (and you can share that one, ha ha!).

Why I try my hardest to use “people first” (inclusive) language . . .

27 Sep

I wanted to address an issue that may initially sound strange coming from a 53-year-old conservative.  You have probably heard of this issue before, but it probably came from a much younger or more liberal person than me.

I have come to the conviction that it is right to try my hardest to use inclusive, “people first” language when referring to others, and even to myself.

The way it goes is that I don’t allow an adjective to get in front of the person’s name unless I consider that to be the defining characteristic of that person.  Because I am convinced that putting that adjective before someone’s name does become the defining characteristic of that person, whether we mean to have that happen or not.

With someone with disabilities, it works like this.  Instead of saying “that autistic child” I will say “Johnny, who has autism.”  See, he is Johnny, first and foremost.  The fact that he has autism may or may not be relevant to the conversation at hand, but it is only one of his traits, like blue eyes or blonde hair.

We all struggle with something.  And think how it sounds when people use our struggles as adjectives about us (“disorganized Jim” instead of “Jim, who has trouble staying organized” or “overweight Mary” instead of  “Mary, who has fought weight issues for years”).  Really brings it home that way, doesn’t it?

Some will say that takes too many words.  I won’t argue.  In fact, I used to say that myself.  I changed my mind.  Maybe you will, too.

And, most of the time, we don’t need the modifier at all.  Why do we say “the black kid” in conversations where race isn’t relevant?  How about just saying “Gary” instead of “that Hispanic kid Gary”?

We are all people first.  And it doesn’t take away from the fact that we all have individual challenges when we say that!

So, to sum this up using myself as an example, I would love to be known as “Christian Mary” or “that Christian woman” (defining characteristic) but not by “breast cancer survivor Mary” (that could be stated as “Mary, who survived breast cancer” when it is relevant to the conversation).  I am not overly sensitive or prickly about this, but merely issue it as a challenge, or food for thought.

Would love to hear your responses, especially the things you consider defining characteristics about yourself.  What are  other characteristics that you prefer not be used as adjectives in front of your name?

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