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September 19, 2006

Kingdom Perspective

by on September 19, 2006. Filed under Christian life / church, God / Bible, culture

 

The first time I saw the movie “The 10 Commandments“, I was impressed with the special effects. Remember though, the movie came out in 1956. I don’t remember how old I was when I saw it, but it was long before I accept Christ as my Savior. Thus the movie had no spiritual significance to me at all; it was just an entertaining movie.

Many years later, now born again, I watched the CleanFlicks edited version of another special effects movie, “The Matrix“, and thought that it had profound spiritual connotations. (As an aside, it’s really too bad about the judgment against CleanFlicks.)

The difference is easily explained by Jesus in John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” A more detailed explanation for this difference is found in 1st Corinthians Chapter 2:11-14.

This difference in perspective is dramatic, to say the least. It can change a blade of grass from an object to be studied into evidence of the Creator. (Reference Romans 1:18-20) It transforms despair into hope and death into life. (Reference John 5:24) (By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, IE users can hover over most Scripture links to view the Scripture.)

Today I heard someone comment that they’ve never seen a miracle. I’ve never lived a day that I haven’t seen a miracle. The way I see it is this: within every second that ticks throughout all created time there are an infinite number of instances for which we can glorify God.

The practical side of this is the difference between “not another day, I can’t take this anymore” and Lamentations 3:22-23 which says, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

I choose life, for the unborn and for myself. I figure the longer I live the more I’ll have to glorify God. I choose to live life as a joyful servant of my Lord, my King, and to praise Him with every breath. For me, to live is Christ. (Reference Philippians 1:21)

July 19, 2006

“Black like me”

by on July 19, 2006. Filed under culture

 

There is a book that I read in High School called “Black Like Me.”  (Warning: It has some mature content.) Originally written in 1960, it describes an experiment conducted by a man where he colored himself black and went to the deep South, New Orleans, to be precise. This was a time when bigotry was much more prevalent than it is now, especially in the South. The result was a revealing discourse on how the man was treated by both blacks and caucasians.

Near the end of his travels, as he was beginning to travel back to the North, the dye was fading so that he could be confused as either a light colored black person or a tanned white person. He had become so adept at mimicking the manners of a Southern black that he could do so and then record how he was treated. Then he would act like a white Northerner (in the same location) and find that whites treated him with respect and blacks with distrust, the reverse from just moments before.

Having read this book in 1972, as a High School student, it really impacted me as to the bigotry of both blacks and whites in America and how not-so-subtle it can be.

The question that I asked myself at the time was “how much am I influenced by skin color or other physical aspects of a person.”  I hope that I have purged myself of any such bigotry.

The other side of the coin is how I am treated by those who don’t look like me. I have often been treated with prejudice, most recently at a Hampton Inn hotel by one of the staff there. One man was obviously being rude to me. I didn’t know why at the time. Later, he apologized to my wife admitting that he didn’t like handicap persons because they don’t ask for help when they need it. (I will have more say about this later.)

God created us to be diverse, that is, we are ALL different from each other. I believe that is part of the glory of God. Every snowflake, and every person, different yet beautiful.

For some of my other thoughts on this subject, see the following posts:
Counter-Culture Christians
Diversity Within; Diversity Without

A couple of recommended movies:
The classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (PG rated) with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier.
A made-for-TV movie “The Color of Friendship” (G rated – very clean) This one might spark a lot of good discussion in your family. (I have a copy of it that I recorded from the TV.)

June 28, 2006

Diversity Within; Diversity Without

by on June 28, 2006. Filed under culture

 

I see that this subject of diversity is important today, but, I think, widely misunderstood.

I said before that we need diversity in the church AND we need diversity in the different churches. That is, in order to have a strong church community we need true diversity-a variety of people, personalities, cultures, skin colors, etc.

[Big parenthetical here: I just gotta reiterate: skin color is irrelevant, or should be so. Culture and personality are what makes a difference in our lives. Whether my car is blue or red doesn’t make a difference in performance. It is the engine that make a difference. Maybe I’m oversimplifying this. Obviously skin color has affected other people thus it has effected those with certain skin color. What I’m saying is that it shouldn’t be this way. I guess the idealist in me isn’t dead after all.]

We also need different types of church communities. And, hopefully, they will learn to get along just as the diverse personalities within each community learn to get along.

Well, I’m already tired this morning. I welcome your comments on diversity.

Counter-Culture Christians

by on June 28, 2006. Filed under Christian life / church, culture

 

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samual 16:7b)

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (Words of Jesus from John 7:24)

I’ve noticed what I consider a grave error that sometimes occurs even in the very best of church families. That is the unintentional shunning of brothers and sisters in Christ who are somehow different than the prevailing culture.

There’s nothing wrong with culture, in fact, I hope that this blog will express that we should rejoice in culture that exists in God’s glorious Kingdom.

Sometimes we avoid people that we think we will clash with us. If there is an unresolved hurt then it may be best if one avoids a person who they fear will hurt them. Note, though, that the offense may be a result of the unresolved hurt in the one offended, not in the accused offender. (This is another subject worth discussing but mostly outside the intended scope of this blog.) But I’m not talking about this in this blog.

I do not presume that God has called us to have equal association with every person. The analogy of the body is useful here. Although my hand needs my back, there are parts of it that I cannot scratch. My hand should not, in any way, look down upon or avoid my back, but to associate with it as freely as my other hand would be inappropriate.

The point that I want to make is that most Christians (in our society) quickly judge people without ever considering their heart.

Let’s consider Ms. T. She clearly has a colorful history. In her youth she was a biker who drank, did drugs, and indulged in every other kind of destructive behavior. She married an alcoholic, they had children, and the drunkard left her to raise their children herself. Motivated by love for her children, she did everything she humanly can to keep her family from falling into despair and poverty.

Her personality has been formed by her history. But one day she becomes born again. (Halleluiah!) Now she faithfully attends church service and Bible study every Sunday and serves as she is able — still being a single mom with difficulty holding down a job. She decides, on her own, to read through the entire Bible, understands much of it, and expresses it better than many Christians.

She also is recognizing the error of several aspects of her behavior and she is changing by the power of the Holy Spirit at an inspiring rate. She is a new creation in Christ!

Yet here’s what happens: First, many people in the church community judge her by the first impression that she made arriving at the church facility as an unbeliever. Then, as she continues to make mistakes as a new believer (still expressing her old nature) she is further categorized, “pigeon-holed” as it is said.

The apparent expectation is that she immediately conform to the prevailing culture of the church or else there is something still wrong with her, something that needs to change. While they “see” her old nature they neglect to see her new heart washed by the blood.

In fact, she brings to the community a unique and even beautiful perspective of the new creation of God that she now is. She has a testimony.

I’ve heard that Christians are known to shoot their wounded. In other words, when someone in the church community does something terribly wrong, especially if it is a leader, then they are, in effect, ostracized from the community. It seems that a similar event occurs when someone doesn’t exactly “fit in” to the prevailing culture.

I feel that people should be embraced for the diversity that they bring to a community. I also feel that there is incredible strength in diversity, that it is part of God’s beautiful design.

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-27)

For those who skipped over reading the above passage, please note the following key verses:

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…”

“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

We really do need each other and we need the diversity that God has designed.

Also, we need diverse church communities, that is, I’m not sure that it is wrong that we have segregated churches. Okay, you’re thinking that this is contrary to what I’ve just said. I don’t think that it is. Just as we need diversity in our separate church communities, the individual church communities need to be diverse.

I’d better clarify…

Whenever I’m confronted with a form with the question, “race”, I’m tempted to check “other” and enter “human.” The very term “race” is racist, IMO. Actually, there are two races, those whose father is the Devil and those whose father is God. Whenever I think about it I find is so very odd that people discriminate based on skin color. Why not hair color?  “No blonds served in this store.”

I have attended diverse church communities. For instance, I visited the Amish country and attended an old-order Mennonite church where I was accepted and loved even though my car and bumper were not painted black as all of theirs were. After their service, I was invited to a Mennonite home. We had much in common because we had Christ in common. But we had very different cultures. I don’t plan to join their culture but I could attend their church. Maybe I’m naive, but I think that I could become a member of their church and keep my non-black car and shiny bumpers.

Here’s another example:

I happen to have pinkish colored skin. This fact does not define who I am, at least as far as I’m concerned. I once visited an all-black church and was accepted and loved even though my skin was not black. We had much in common because we had Christ in common. I think that I could become a member of their church and keep my pink skin the color that it is.

Note that in Heaven there will be this diversity of which I speak:

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev. 7:9)

Note that we will recognize people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” in Heaven.

Here are some questions to ask:

Do we, in any way, avoid people that are very different from ourselves? If I have piercings, am I afraid to approach and speak with someone whose only piercing is their tie-tack? If I don’t have any piercings, (and perhaps was brought up to believe that piercings are evil), do I avoid people who have piercings?

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring…” [perhaps no matter where it is placed] “…and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

It seems that the church sometimes falls into creating cliques. Very sadly, even in the young children’s ministry programs there are cliques formed that exclude certain young believers.

Here’s something that we need to watch out for: Do I speak to others as the “me in Christ” or just the old me? In other words, is my personality submitted to God?

This isn’t another subject. You see, all of us, Ms. T, those with piercings and those without piercings, the rich, the poor, simply all of us must not only begin to submit our personalities to God but to see the beautiful uniqueness of other people’s personalities that are submitted to God.

It is through a submitted personality that the true, God-called personality shines for Him.

Well, I’d like to say more, but I’m worn out writing this so far and I need a nap. Maybe I’ll add more to this later.

All Scripture text is from the New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

All journal entries are copyright by Ed Rodatus - all rights reserved.
(Except the entries in the "joni" category. All the "joni" posts are from the Joni and Friends daily email devotional.)

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