Be Still My Friends

Social networks have brought me some of the most entertaining moments and conversations over the last few years. Whether it is banter between myself and my brother-in-law about sports, creating fake accounts from the perspective of bald spots, or spending ten minutes to think of a clever status to see how many “likes” I can get, I enjoy social networks. Yet, today, on November 7, 2012, I do not.

I understand, the man you voted for either achieved victory or he did not. It is typically how these things go. Like in sports, when your team wins you celebrate and when you lose you grow angry and frustrated (I know this all to well. Go Jaguars…). We invest into our politicians. We buy into the ideologies that they align with our viewpoints and naturally, our viewpoints are best for the world. It is how this whole process goes. I am aware of this.

Today’s readings on sites like Facebook or Twitter will leave one confused. I see a lot of people who have apparently placed their faith, vision, and calling in the hands of men. Circumstances have dictated their view of life and their understanding of God’s calling on their life. Followers of Christ are disqualifying themselves today. They are crossing the line from politically active to politically consumed.

We are called to abide in Christ. Abide can be understood like string on a bow that is not being pulled back. Abiding in Christ frees us from the tension. The tension of feeling unsettled with the actions of this world. I am reminded of Psalm 46. The Psalmist offers a word that many followers of Christ need today. Our present circumstances should not change our understanding of God. Verse 10 of Psalm 46 is perhaps the most recognizable, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Oh Christian, be still. Find your peace in Christ. Let go of your circumstances. Let go of your temporary vision  and see today as an opportunity. A chance to reflect Christ and demonstrate that our calling is not dictated by who wins the presidency.

“Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains  tremble at its swelling… Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46

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A Story of Influence

There are two ways of recommending true religion and virtue in the world, which God hath made use of: the one is by doctrine and precept; the other by instance and example. – Jonathan Edwards, 1749

It has become increasingly evident to me the influence one holds over those around. Society tells us that celebrities, athletes, musicians, etc. are worthy of being influenced by. More than ever before, our culture clings to the words and actions of anyone who is captured on camera. I have experienced this kind of “superficial”influence. I discussed it a few posts ago when talking about Chipper Jones. However, the influence I hope to have over those around me is one that I still draw from when I was a teenager.

Having always grown up in church I was very exposed to Sunday school teachers and other men and women who played various roles. You begin to pick up on tendencies of everyone. My mind was one that poked holes in situations. I always looked at people and thought of ways I could challenge them. Having a father like I did, I recognized the standard of genuine Christ followers. In my mind, few people met that standard. If I felt like they did not, I would adopt the mindset that they offered me very little in the way of a challenge. Enter Jim Gibbs.

A little background may paint a clearer picture. The church I was attending handed out Metamucil and Geritol in the offering plates (may or may not be true). It was a smaller church. As a 9th grader, I was the oldest of the youth. Our youth pastor decided to bring in a church elder to speak to us every week on Wednesday nights. His name was Jim Gibbs. He did not have a dyed soul patch, affliction shirt, or a tattoo. He did not use amazing visuals, trendy speech, or video sermons. No, Jim Gibbs was unique. He would bring in his cracked and worn out leather Bible, pen marks on the pages, and we would speak. He spoke with a tone of humility yet, conviction. A voice that sounded weak but projected mighty words. Mighty words from a mighty man. It was this man that pushed me. His joy found in Christ was evident. It was genuine. It was influential. I would anticipate our Wednesday night meetings because of his passion. Passion to see others draw closer to Christ. He epitomized leadership.

Jim Gibbs and his wife recently started attending the same church as I do. He still has that look in his eye everytime I hug him. Age has not diminished his passion. Neither has it diminished his influence.

I wanted to take time and recognize this faithful brother because it should serve as a moment of encouragement for all who walk in faith. His influence could perhaps provoke thoughts and memories of those who have influenced you. Share that story. It reminds us as followers of Christ of the standard and that others are watching us. What kind of influence are we being?

Our Unity Glorifies God

This morning I get the opportunity to speak to the staff of Westside. It is a task I do not take lightly but also one in which I anticipate with much excitement. There is a passage in Romans that finds Paul telling the early church they should walk in harmony. In that harmony, they declare the glory of God. It is a passage I have read and even spoke on in previous years yet, I believe the passage was illuminated with new meaning for me today.

Our unity declares the glory of God. Christ prayed in John 17 that you and I would walk as “one” as Christ and the Father are one. I know for myself that I fall into a trap of “me-ness”. I am a selfish creature. I confess. I am willing to guess that I am not alone in this. The body of Christ is not unlike a symphonic orchestra. There are many artists who all posses far-ranging abilities on specific instruments. Made up of different sections, the orchestra, when played as intended, produces finely tuned music. However, let us say the orchestra acted like you and I act within the body of believers and competed at times with itself. Instead of playing the designated piece the string section decided to play a new rhythm, the percussionists decided to play in the style of Jazz, or the trumpets played at full volume for not reason other than to be heard, this orchestra would be chaos and unable to fulfill its purpose.

Are we not guilty of playing to our own rhythm, volume, or tempo at times? If so, do you think the purpose of the body is fulfilled or does the “body” resemble chaos? Paul tells us that it is in our unity that God is glorified. Understanding that it is not about you or myself but Christ. Philippians 1:18 finds Paul reminding us again that it is all about Christ regardless of who or how the message is preached. As along as it is Christ.

My prayer is that I will understand the role I have been called to and do it as Christ would have me to do it. Understanding that my purpose is to be no different from that of the moon and that is to reflect the light. The light of Christ. May we develop hearts seeking unity in the body. It is about Christ and Christ alone.

What’s in a name?

Its a common occurrence within many evangelical’s holiday experiences. The Evangelical will be checking out at his/or her local store, purchasing gifts and items associated with this specific time of year, and the store clerk will say, “Happy Holidays!”. Here lies the problem. As a believer, should one feel offended or offer the obligatory “Merry Christmas!” back or just by into the commonly accepted notion that the world is in fact ridding this time of year of Christ? This is the dilemma that is apparently facing many believers today. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this situation before I post my own later this week.

I Apologize (Part II)

Confession from the church? It sounds backwards. For years confession took place within the church not from the church. I introduced you or reminded you of a story that Donald Miller gives in his book Blue Like Jazz. I remember when I read that specific part being completely shocked. The idea that christians were apologizing to unbelievers for wrongdoings whether old or new. I have thought about this concept within the last few days and whether there was truly a need for this in christianity today.

Review of history will often times show the “dirt” that is not seen during the present time. This is obvious in American history whether it be war tactics or policies enforced. One can see the Roman Catholic church and see the corruption and deceitfulness that crept into that establishment. Todays Christian movement is no different. As mentioned before, the crusades, slavery, welfare, etc, were policies or events that were strongly influenced by christians. Should christians today apologize though?

As some comments on the earlier entry stated, I believe that it is imperative for christians to apologize for actions that have taken place or are still currently taking place. However, the idea of an apology is only effective when action takes place. For instance, when someone lies to you and then apologizes, that apology is only effective when and if the person does not lie again. If the person continues to lie the apology is in vain. As followers of Christ, I believe that apologies should take place. Apologize for the fact that those who took place in such horrible events were not loving others as Christ was. I believe it builds bridges. What harm comes from offering apologies to people who might still hold such things against the movement of Christ? We often times feel it to be unnecessary but this is often times due to our own pride. It is never easy to apologize. Especially apologizing that you never took part in. Yet, people still see christians today through lenses that were formed from events of the past. While this may be unfair in some aspects it is the reality. Thus, having a mindset of humility and willingness to apologize, fences may be mended.

Not with words alone however. If followers of Christ do not show the true love of Christ then apologies are worthless. The two parts in my mind are inseparable in order for both to be truly effective. Humility and an acknowledgement of wrongdoings combined with action to restore relationships as well as show and share the love of Christ are the ways that Christ has called us to live by.

This entire entry was started with a story from another believer who apologized to the unbelievers of his university. At the end of the story he shares how his normally rather agnostic campus was intrigued and more comfortable discussing religion and God with the followers of Christ. There is something beautiful and yet mysterious in a sincere apology.

unstoppable force…

i am currently sitting in my hotel down the orlando florida.  the place of mickey mouse and magic, universal and IOA, hard rock and the largest/coolest/most amazing mcdonalds of all time. that is where i am. i am here for a youth pastors summit. we have been able to hear from some amazing men who preach and live the Word. i want to share my thoughts on what francis chan spoke about in a session today.

are we (the church) an unstoppable force? are we truly the church that Christ talks about when He says the gates of hell shall not prevail against it? i am afraid to answer this question. so i plan to just ask questions to you the reader like they have been thrown around in my mind. 

if we look at the early church, we notice that they suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. the disciples and leaders were imprisoned, stoned, crucified, etc. then there is the story of the husband and wife who lie to God and the church about how much they were giving to God off of the property they sold. they fell dead when they lied about this. they fell dead because they were lying and stealing from God and the church which he had ordained.(see Acts 5) my whole reason for sharing these examples is because satan tried to tear apart the church. he sent men to lie and bring deceit upon but God would not allow it. satan brought death and the threat of death to the leaders but they were not scared for they were so convinced that what they had in Truth was worth dying for. is the american church and unstoppable force? francis chan said that if we change the service times that might seem to stop the church today. probably a slight exaggeration but there is some truth in that. 

think about this story and see which character the church could mostly identify with today. there is a story in I Kings 18 where the prophet Elijah has a “competition” with 450 prophets of the god baal. they would each make an altar for sacrifice and then call on their god or God to bring fire down upon the altar. so the baal prophets went first. (this is where this gets really intriguing) the prophets went through a special ceremony before calling upon baal. they were singing and dancing then cutting their wrists to show their devotion to this god baal. they were doing this for sometime and Elijah actually pokes fun at them for it. he asks them if maybe their god baal had gone to relieve himself (pee) and thats why he was taking so long to answer their cries. then Elijah gets a chance to call on God. he cries out to God and God delivers with a pillar of fire upon the altar. the prophets were in amazement and fell on their knees saying that the God of Elijah is the one true God.

i give that whole story to ask this. has church today become a religous ceremony that we think is showing devotion but no fire from God comes down? do we truly call upon God to send fire? i am afraid to answer this. you see i am am a young man who is often times wrapped up in the ceremony of things. i lose contact with God and become so comfortable that i no longer have true connection with Him. why? i would never get like that with my fiance. never with my friends or family. but the creator of the universe and giver of grace? i pray that my life develops into one where when people come in contact with me they walk away saying the God of Ryan is the one true God.

yellow

images1i am sitting in the sanctuary just listening to “yellow” by coldplay and the newer version by jem. im looking for a job. im praying for a job. and im starting to adopt the mind set of poor ryan, you have no money and life is out to get you. so i decided to spend time in the word today and just want to share what i am chewing on now.

Job was a very persecuted believer as the Bible shows. and today my devotion led me to a passage that i can not wrap my mind around. In Job 42, God tells Job that if he prays for his friends he and his riches will be restored. Again i say, Job was the one who suffered extreme loss and his friends came to Jobs side to offer comfort and advise. But God tells Job to pray for his friends. Is this not the opposite of how we handle things today? if i am down i do not pray for my friends. i go to my friends and ask them to pray for me. but as i began to think about why God would have Job pray for his friends and have Jobs friends go to Job for prayer instead of the other way around i begin to see the reason. 

when i am down, feel like the world is on my back and that there is nowhere for me to turn but God. and during this time I know i am walking very close to God because i am no longer relying on myself or others for answers or guidance. so the reason we should seek those believers who are down is because they are closer to God then we who are doing well and tend to handle things on our own while doing well. its not the people that appear to have it all together that have an ear for God. (i.e. Abraham, Moses, David, Mary Magdalene, Paul (Saul), etc) what im taking away from this is that i need to understand that when i feel like im going through a dark time or down time God has me there to see His face and to find His plan. I do not need to be so quick to leave the down time. 

i pray that somewhere in this you can relate. that this has not come across as ramblings. and that we can actually practice this in our own walks. there is nothing wrong with lifting one another in prayer but lets make sure we are seeking Gods guidance and not our own. i apologize for the rambling and fog that is my thought.