Christianity 201

April 22, 2013

Though None Go With Me, I Still Will Follow

Today we’re featuring an author that is new to C201, Sunny Shell who blogs at Abandoned to Christ.  As always you’re encouraged to read this at source and then browse his website.

Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.  ~Isaiah 50:10

Following the Master of my soul is sometimes a lonely road; sadly, even within the Christian community.

It seems these days, that Christians have become as worldly as the world we live in. We live, laugh and love with those who live, laugh and love with us, while we shun those who make us feel uncomfortable.

We hypocritically and foolishly judge one another based on our personal affinities and ideologies of how we think life ought to be lived, whilst all the time, we dismiss our Savior’s command to love as He has loved us; in accordance with His perfect and righteous judgment (John 7:24), rather than with our imperfect and Pharisaical views (Psalm 55:12-14, Matt 7:5).

If we encourage and excuse those who indulge in the same sins we do, while we condemn and reject those who love us enough to rebuke us with the word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17), how will we ever mature in our faith (Prov 27:6)?

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve lived my life in vain. If the love I’ve shared, the injury spared and sacrifices made were all for naught. I wonder if others have truly forgiven me for offenses and injuries I’ve caused them, or desire my forgiveness for pains they’ve caused me. I wonder, as Christians, do we really strive for peace with one another—do we purposefully seek to love one another as Christ our God has loved us? Or do we sit around hoping things will magically work themselves out so we don’t have to face some ugly truths about ourselves?

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift…And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Strife or any hint of discord within the body of Christ has always and I believe, always will grieve me more than anything. Why? Because it grieves our Lord…it’s His body, so ultimately, it’s the Lord Jesus we’re hurting when we act in pride, behave foolishly, love only those who love us and make us feel good, when we gossip and harbor bitterness towards one another—all these things deeply grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30-32), therefore it ought to grieve all those who are in Christ.

During these times of grief, I look to the Heavens and call out to God my Father, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. When I see His glorious and marvelous ways, and understand what I can of His magnificent wisdom, I perceive how He lovingly, patiently and compassionately deals with all mankind. My heart is filled with peace and moved with enduring love for those (both believers and unbelievers) who have hurt and rejected me or others who call on the name of the Lord. I understand, for I grieve my Lord the same way whenever I disobey (Luke 6:46) and prefer my opinions of right and wrong over God’s perfect judgement of what’s right and wrong.

I remind myself that I am nothing great in this world that anyone should look upon me and desire me for anything. I am but a lowly hand-maiden of the Lord, working His field, happily doing His bidding, just as He has commanded (Lk 17:10, 1 Cor 4:7). And in this, I am well satisfied, for I am well loved, well cared for, and well honored as a daughter of the Most High God.

So, while living I am may never be the person whom everyone likes or even in death, may never draw a crowd to my funeral, I shall be be fully satisfied on That Day, should my Lord say to me, my life had been a beautiful offering to Him and that I had run and finished well (Mk 14:6, Matt 25:23, 2 Tim 4:7).

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him…And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up…And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

~Psalm 126:5-6, Gal 6:9, James 3:18

Take courage fellow saints of Christ the Lord, remember, our lives are not our own. We were bought with the most costly price; the perfect and precious blood of the Son of God. If we lose ourselves and all that this world holds dear, be encouraged knowing your loving service to our brothers and sisters, and taking the Gospel to the lost, will grant you eternal glories that outweigh every earthly pleasure (2 Cor 4:16-18)!

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

~Jesus the Christ (Matt 10:37-39)

September 12, 2012

Life is Short, Some Lives are Shorter

Psalm 90: 12 Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise.  (NIrV)

The NIrV is a simplified NIV for children and people for whom English is a second language.

Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (NIV)

ooo

Psalm 139:6b    … all the days ordained for me were written in your book  before one of them came to be.  (NIV)

About six weeks ago we attended a backyard party that was hosted by a woman whose life was greatly changed by the ongoing influence of a group of people who took the time to enter her world — at the time a dilapidated motel in a factory district — and offer her encouragement and friendship. She wanted to say thank you to the people who had helped steer her life in a better direction, and that included my wife, who with two other women co-founded what has now become a community organization that provides all manner of support to people living on the margins. It was so encouraging to see the upward movement in this woman’s life, and to know the efforts of so many of us combined together to make a difference.

Then, today, we attended her memorial service.

She had no idea when she hosted that party that she wouldn’t be around weeks later, and neither did we. Her health took a very sudden turn, and suddenly we no longer have her smile to look at. For my wife, it was a shock that is still hard to fathom.

This particular memorial was more inter-faith than Christian and did not contain prayers or hymns, though there was a reading of Psalm 23 from The Message. However, the presence of people I know to be true Christ-followers in the audience today was a reminder of how much God’s people have been involved in the birth of various social service initiatives and agencies, and how much God’s people are involved on a continuing basis in giving compassion and concern.

But you never properly attend a funeral or memorial unless you use it as an opportunity to look in the mirror, to look at your own life. Am I making each day count? Am I moving closer to the cross? Is my life bearing fruit? Am I becoming more of a person who reflects the grace of the gospel? How would my life be remembered?

I had an English teacher in my senior year of high school who never specified the length of written assignments.  We would ask, “How long does it need to be?” and he would answer, “As long as a piece of string.” 

Life is like that. It’s as long as a piece of string. Your life. My life.

Later, I would learn the expression, “We should not talk in terms of long lives and short lives, but we should speak of small lives and big lives.” For kingdom people, for Christ-indwelt people, for Holy Spirit-led people, we should aim to live overflowing lives. Because life is short, and sometimes even shorter than that.

Eph 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people),

16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. (Amplified Bible)

(same passage)  Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. (J. B. Phillips translation)

~PW

October 14, 2011

I Don’t Want To Spend My Whole Life Asking, “What If I Had Given Everything?”

First, here’s a piece I wrote in October, 2009 at Thinking out Loud:

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Matthew West Something To SayI’ve been aware of this song for some time now, but it really hit home a few weeks ago when I attended the installation service for a local pastor and he asked his worship team to perform “The Motions” by Matthew West from the album Something To Say; also on the album WoW! Hits 2010. In an industry where songs come and go, it’s a song that’s gaining momentum week by week.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

The song has haunted me since that morning. If that pastor means what that song says — he wants God’s all-consuming passion inside him — there is nothing that he and his church can’t accomplish in the years to come.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

What’s true for that pastor is true for all of us. What might we feel at the end of the ride called life if and when we realize there’s so much more we could have done? So much time that could have been better spent? So many resources that could have been put to better use?

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Matthew West invited fans to comment on his website as to how the song has impacted them. So far, over 2,870 comments! On the HearItFirst.com website, you can select a video where Matthew tells the story of 18-year old Ryan from Oklahoma, a young man who posted the lyrics on his Facebook page and asked his friends to hold him accountable to that song; just before he was killed — the same day — in a car accident. The song became the central theme for his funeral.

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Here are the lyrics:

Matthew WestThis might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

Take me all the way (take me all the way)
Take me all the way (’cause I don’t wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I’m finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

Here’s the song on YouTube including clips from Matthew’s (ouch!) vocal surgery:

The Motions (Matthew West) video

Why did I write this post today? Because…

“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

Here are two versions of the song, both of which document a fairly rough period in Matthew West’s Life…


“I don’t want to spend my whole life asking, ‘What if I had given everything?'”

September 29, 2011

Worship Consists of a Life Well-Lived

Jim at Not For Itching Ears recently posted this as a question… Worship: Is it a Life Well-Lived or a Chorus Well-Sung?  I think you already know the answer, but…

We love to discuss those things we are passionate about, don’t we?  Be it our favorite football team (THE Washington Redskins), politics, sports, movies, cultural issues.  Heck we even argue about beer!   Remember the Miller Lite commercials?  For years, Miller Lite drinkers, including the likes of Rodney Dangerfield and John Madden, bickered back and forth on our TV sets.  The argument?  What made Miller Lite such a great beer.   Some said the drink tasted great. Others said it was less filling.  Though they were very entertaining commercials, it makes one wonder:  Don’t we have anything better to discuss than beer?

Of course we do!  Over here at Not For Itching Ears, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about a topic that is higher up the food chain:  Worshipping God.  If you read these posts (millions of people do each hour)(just kidding), then you know I have been searching and studying and thinking out loud a lot lately.  I don’t know why.  Everywhere I go, every conversation I have, many of the sights I see cause me to reflect on what it means for a Christian to worship our great Redeemer.   The two facts that seem to be fueling this journey are these: 1)  Worship, generally, is not a song we sing, though we can worship God while singing.  2) The church seems to be defining worship as a song we sing.  I think that approach is crippling the church and robbing God of true worship.

Is worship a song that is well-sung or is it a life that is well-lived?

The Bible teaches us that true worship involves the laying down of our lives, and everything that entails.  In turn, we offer our lives back to God, to be lived for Him, His glory, and His alone.   Scripture is full of admonitions like the one Paul gave the church at Ephesus:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life WORTHY of the calling you have received.”  Eph 4:1 NIV

This word “worthy” literally means “to bring up the other beam of the scales” so that things are equal.   If you put a pound of tomatoes on one side of the scale and a one pound weight on the other side of the scale, the scale will be even.  If everything is working the way it was designed to work, the scale would be perfectly level.  That is the idea here.  The Ephesian believers were being exhorted to conduct their lives in a  way that matched or equaled what they professed.  They were being exhorted to live out their faith.  We might say they were being told to practice what they preached.  With our mouths we say we believe in the Gospel,  will follow Christ anywhere, and want to love Him out loud, but do our lives balance that out?  Or, is one side of the scale higher than the other?  That’s what Paul is talking about here

The more I consider worship, the more I realize that this is EXACTLY what worship looks like.  It is a life laid down.  You and I proclaim God’s worth in every choice we make.   Let’s face it, living for Christ 24/7 is no easy task.  Life is full of temptations, large and small.   Every moment of every day we are bombarded with situations that cause us to choose who we are living for:  Ourselves or our God.  When we choose to follow God and obey His word, we are declaring that what He values is what matters.  We are professing with our deeds that His way is worthy of following.   Isn’t that the essence of worship?  The overwhelming weight of scriptural testimony leads to only one conclusion:  Worship is not what my mouth says, it is what my hands do.  At least that what God likes in a worshipper.

When I put my own life on that scale to see where my life stands, I don’t like what I see.   Like the Ephesians, I need to be reminded that my life should be spent following the master.  To worship Him, we should strive to live lives that are worthy of the King and his message.

Isn’t THAT much more involved than simply singing a few songs?

Many will counter and say that worship can be both a life well-lived and a song well-sung.  Just like Miller Lite could be both great tasting and less filling.  And I agree!  However I believe the church would do well to emphasize the true character of worship:  a life laid down.  When the body of Christ becomes gripped by this understanding of worship, the Gospel will spread like wildfire.

For more on this topic see our series called: Forget About Singing, God Wants Us To Worship Him His Way

~Jim Greer