Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Routine of Christianity

I have started this post about five different times over the last week and have tried to attack it from different angles, but none of them are working. So I'm going to put down the thoughts that have been running through my brain and hopefully in the end, they will all make sense. Mostly, they are questions or question like statements of self-analysis of my personal life.

For the past few months, I have been giving some thought to how my personal life is viewed by others. Specifically, the question would be, "When others see me, do they see Christ?" I think it is easy to answer the question with a yes and move on with the rest of my life because too often in self-analysis I only focus on the good and I repress the bad. However, as I stepped out of myself and tried to view my life from every angle, there is much more to be seen than just the good interactions between myself and family or between myself and friends at church.

One of the things that I have been thinking about specifically is, "Is my life a testimony of the saving grace of Jesus Christ?" If not, what does that look like? Part of my problem is that I am self-employed. It is not uncommon for me to go for weeks at a time without seeing anyone other than my wife and children and our friends at church. I have almost no personal interaction with anyone else. It is not like I am a hermit, but yet in many ways we are isolated because of homeschooling and self-employment. So that means that when we do interact with others who are unbelievers, we must make the most of the situation. Which leads to another question, "How do we do that?"

I know that we are to be salt and light as is commanded in Matthew 5:13-16 and that is certainly my goal. Yet what does that look like in my life? We are called as believers to come out from the world and yet we are commanded to go back into it to tell the good news. Seems like a paradox to me. Still, we must go. So of course in my mind that leads to yet another question, "How can my life be salt and light to the world around me and what does that look like in practical everyday living?" As I have studied and thought about this subject, I have come up with two things that I think are important as these questions apply to my life. They are, as the rest of the post, in the form of a question.

First, is my minute by minute daily living showing forth good works that are motivated by devotion to Jesus Christ so that others may in turn see them and be led by the Spirit to glorify the Father? Matthew 5:16 "...let your light shine before other, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Notice that it doesn't say that they may "hear" your erudite words. The world around me does not need to hear from me my personal knowledge about the Bible, nor do they need to receive any judgments from me on how they live their lives. No, they need to see the radical change the grace of God has wrought in my life and then the Spirit will lead them to ask questions like, "What motivates them to do that? or Why would they continue to reach out to them after all that has happened?" I believe that the radical change of grace in my life is seen by others when I am moved with compassion to do something out of love that I would not have done through any power of my own.

Secondly, when others see me, is my hope in Jesus Christ clearly visible? I Peter 3:15 "...always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." Is the reason that no one has asked me recently about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ due to the fact that they see me trusting in the same things that they trust in? Their jobs, their families, their relationships hold their worlds together. Do they see me motivated by the same hope they have? If they do, than my hope is obviously in the wrong place. I think it certainly implied in this verse that one of the reasons that my life may not be an effective witness for Christ is simply due to the fact that, to often, my hope is in the wrong things rather than in the right Person.

I have not completely worked all of these questions out in my head, yet I know there are two things I need to prayerfully continue to examine. First, that the motivation of my actions need to be Godly and not self-centered. Secondly, I need to constantly examine myself to make certain that I am hoping only in the Giver and not the gifts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Dumb Lamb

As the Passion approaches, I have began to re-read The Cross He Bore by Frederick S Leahy. (Check out this post for more information.) I am reading a chapter a day and will finish the book on the morning of Good Friday.

Today's chapter is titled "The Dumb Lamb" and it deals specifically with the silence of Christ as He stood before His accusers, the Sanhedrin and the High Priest. When He was falsely accused, He stood silent. Leahy explains the reason for Christ's silence this way, "God does not unfold his mysteries to the wicked. The members of the Sanhedrin were not seekers after truth: they were murderers at heart."

In the last part of the chapter on the majesty of Christ's silence, Leahy concludes with these thoughts: "All too often Christ's silence has been given a dangerous one-sidedness, as his passive obedience is stressed almost, if not altogether, to the exclusion of his active obedience. Christ's silence was deliberate, emphatic and authoritative: it was his deed. . . . Because of his sublime and sovereign silence, he has earned the right to speak eternally. His silence was an act of mighty obedience to his Father's will and a compliance with that wondrous mission entrusted to him in the counsels of eternity. . . . In that ecclesiastical court Satan was tempting Christ with his own riddle, twisted though it was. By a single word he might have freed himself from his enemies. But our silent Priest continued majestically to his death. O blessed silence that lay at the heart of our redemption! . . . This Holy Temple, the subject of the riddle, could now be broken down, to be raised in glory. Just as the first temple was erected without sound of hammer, or any iron tool (I Kings 6:7), so this Temple of Christ's body will be restored in a silence that nothing can profane."

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Heart Work of Forgiveness

These two phrases of three words each may be the most difficult words to say in all of the English language, especially to say them and mean them from your heart, "I am sorry," and "I forgive you." It is easy to flippantly respond to someone and say words because we believe that others want to hear those words when inside we know we are not sorry and we do not forgive. It is easy because our pride holds us so strongly that we believe we are still the ones who are right. And sometimes we very well may be. But being right does not give us an excuse not to forgive. Being right does not issue with itself a free pass at being self righteous, for too often, our self righteousness leads to anger and bitterness against the other party. No, Paul tells us in Romans 12:21 to overcome evil with good. The following saying applies well, "To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; but to return good for evil is divine." And isn't that what we as the redeemed should be looking to be like, Divine?

The past few days have been a work of grace as God has shown me a proper attitude of forgiveness in the midst of a trial. He has so graciously led me to wise counsel in a difficult situation and has reinforced with His Word the need to forgive even when I am wronged. I do not know how this period of time in my life will play out, nor do I know what I will ultimately take from it. But I do know that He, for right now, has shown me what forgiveness needs to look like in my heart. I am so thankful for His grace in gently pulling me to Himself in this trial. Most of all, I am thankful that He has shown me how greatly I have been forgiven, and is that not the ultimate goal of forgiveness? That we, by His grace, may overcome evil with good so that others may see the great redeeming, forgiveness of a Heavenly Father in our lives. There is no power of our own that can forgive others who do not deserve it save the power of the cross in our own lives.

The following is a poem by Rosamond E Herklots.

"Forgive our sins as we forgive,"
You taught us, Lord, to pray;
But You alone can grant us grace
To live the words we say.

How can Your pardon reach and bless
The unforgiving heart
That broods on wrongs and will not let
Old bitterness depart?

In blazing light your cross reveals
The truth we dimly knew:
How trifling others' debts to us;
How great our debt to You!

Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
And bid resentment cease;
Then, by your mercy reconciled,
Our lives will spread your peace.