Saturday, January 7, 2012

Those who turned the world upside down

In the days of the early church things were radical. People not only said they believed in the risen Christ, but they lived like it as well. They endured horrible torture and still did not denounce their faith. They believed with their whole beings that Jesus was Lord and that He deserved their entire devotion.
How does that contrast with our body of believers today?
Believers back then were called Those Who Turned the World Upside Down (Acts 17:6, ESV).
Do believers today deserve that title? Are Christians the ones in our society who are a force to be
reckoned with? Are we leaders in media, science, politics, literature, and the arts?
Are we history makers, risk takers, or just hypocritical fakers?
Do those who are outside Christianity look at us as shining examples of  Christ Himself and
because of our examples give glory to God?
Sadly, I think the answer is no.
There are amazing Christian leaders out there, but there are only a few of them.
We have dropped the ball and have not given it our all. We could do better, but we just don't.
I cannot point fingers at Christians and say what they have been doing is wrong, but what I can do is encourage them and say they can do more! We need to blow the low expectations for Christians out of the water!
I believe that it is not over. This is not as good as it will get.
I believe that this generation of Christians will do something big.
Imagine with me for a minute...

Imagine if we as Christians did not fear what others thought of us
Imagine if  we loved God with a crazy love
Imagine if because of that crazy love we took action
Imagine if those who had the desire to write wrote
Imagine if those who had the desire to build built
Imagine if those who had the desire to preach preached
Imagine if those who had the desire to lead led

Imagine if how the Christians lived back in the time of the early church became normal living for us.
Imagine if Christianity infected all aspects of life.

If you love God and desire to do His will and you have the desire to do something...then why aren't you doing it? What is stopping you from creating or getting involved in politics or helping the homeless or whatever else it is that you want to do? You may have this big idea and are not sure how it'll ever happen..
Do you not know that with man some things are impossible, but with God all things are possible?
You may be aren't sure where to begin with doing what God has placed on your heart to do.
So pray!
Make a plan, create steps that will help you get to where you want to be. Take action!


Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love shared a list of qualities he thought those who were obsessed with Jesus possessed. 

"People who are obsessed with Jesus are…

+ lovers, who give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.

+ risk-takers, who  aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.

+ friends of all, who  live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that  Jesus talked about money and the poor because it was really important to him.

+ crazy ones , who are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth.  As Martin Luther put it, there are two days on my calendar: this day and that day.

+ the humble, who know that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be “humble enough” and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known. 

+ servers, who do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people

+ givers, who are known as givers not takers. Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they particularly aware of those who are poor around the world.

+ sojourners, who think about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.

+ the engrossed, characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing, and every other being.

+ unguarded ones, who are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures. Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace. 

+ the rooted, who have an intimate relationship with him.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distraction and alternative messages.

+ the dedicated,  more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God.

+ sacrificers, who know that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “thank you!”  to God.  An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy.  He revels in his role as child and friend of God."


I believe that to be ones who turn the world upside down we must be obsessed with Jesus.
So I challenge you (and I ask that if you are my brother or sister in Christ you challenge me as well) to live a life in pursuit of all the qualities of the obsessed. Become someone so different from the world that people can't help but wonder who is causing you to be like that. And take a step today towards making your God-given ideas a reality. Start praying about what you want to do for Christ. Start praying and don't stop. Our society is decaying and becoming more corrupt each day. As Christians it is our job to show them that there is hope and another way of living.

"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is,
and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Jeremiah 6:16


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jesus is life

Life. It is celebrated when it starts and it is mourned when it ends.
It is full of good times and full of bad times.
It is reality and is all we have experienced. We don’t know what it was like before we were born and we don’t know what it will be like when we die. The life we have now is all we’ll ever have.
Or is it?
I said earlier how when we are born physically alive we are born spiritually dead because sin has already corrupted us and the penalty of sin is death. There is hope, however. 
I know that it is the most used Sunday school answer (other than God), but Jesus really is the answer.
Jesus is my hope. Jesus is your hope. Jesus may not be the answer to every question (unless you're really creative, 2+2 does not equal Jesus), but He does answer the question of, 
If we are dead spiritually how can we become alive again?
And that's what we want right? We want to be alive, don't we? Because, although life can be absolutely painful and at times terrifying,  life can also be absolutely amazing.
Another reason why we would want to be alive is that we don't want to be dead. Especially because
being dead doesn't mean we just cease to exist. Our souls were created eternal and so they just don't stop, they keep existing. We either exist with God or without Him. We either exist with eternal joy or we exist with eternal torment.

(Now, I didn't mean for this blog to be about deep theological things. I honestly don't know too much about what it will be like when I die. And I'm probably not the best one to explain to you what the bible does say about that subject. So, if you are curious about all that, read the bible and find out for yourself what it says about what happens when we die!)

You want to live? Then believe Jesus when he says that he is the life (John 14:6).
When we were dead in our sins he came and died on the cross for our sins so that we could live!
I had often felt unwanted and unloved growing up. Love was given to me by people, but my soul longed for a deeper love.
When I think about what Jesus Christ did for me -- that he died for me, a messed up and imperfect, girl, he redeemed me and gave me life. That is when I feel most loved. That is when I feel most wanted!
Because I don't deserve it, I didn't earn it, but he did it anyways. For free.
He loved me that much. Whoa.
And because Jesus gave me life that means that I am no longer dead in sin. I am now alive.
Romans 6:11-14 says:

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Before I came alive in Christ it was all about me. What do I want? What do I want to do? Why is this happening to me?
My sinful desires controlled me. 
When I was brought to life by Christ, I died to those sinful desires. Essentially, I died to myself.
I then put on Christ as my new identity.
That is true for any Christian who accepts Jesus as their savior. 
Paul, the writer of many books of the New Testament and follower of Christ, describes his new identity 
this way:

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus Christ lives in me. So that should make me perfect right? When God looks at me he sees Christ in me and He sees Jesus' perfection. But I am by myself still imperfect. Sin no longer is my master, but I still struggle with the temptation to go back to sin. Before my choice was to sin, now I have the choice through Christ not to sin.

Before Christ's living in me it was about me. Now that Christ lives in me it's all about him.
I am to offer every part of me to God as an instrument of righteousness. And that is such a struggle!
Because all too often I choose to go back to sin. Every day, though, I am practicing the act of 
refusing myself and living like Christ. And every day it gets easier to choose righteousness than wickedness. Is the struggle worth it? Is it better to have Christ live in me and not do what I 
naturally incline to do? You betcha! 

Christ has brought me out of the darkness of my hopelessness and  my unloved and unwanted state.
Christ has brought me into his marvelous light! And in that light I feel more love and  more wanted than I ever have.

Some questions to ask yourself:
~What does it mean in Romans 6:11-14 to not offer yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness?
~What does it mean to offer every part of yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness?
 ~You have died and it is Christ that lives in you. If your old self is no longer, then who are you 
and what is your identity? 
~If your purpose is to no longer live for yourself, what is your purpose?