Monday, February 21, 2011

God of the Few?

"The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act."  (2 Peter 3:9, GWT)

God had already put it on my heart to pen this post prior to something that happened to me this weekend.  Many of you may be unaware of this, but in my "spare" time I have been deeply involved in legislative advocacy for people with bleeding disorders since at least 2005.  I have spoken with many lawmakers, staffers and policy advisers on both the state and national level.  I am deeply familiar with and unintimidated by Washington, DC, and my car knows how to drive to my state capitol in Madison, WI by itself.  I have shared our personal stories of living with hemophilia as well as trying to share practical solutions to medical care issues.

For those who watch the news, you may be aware that this is a wildly historic time in Madison, WI.  A new governor and his bold proposals have led to loud, crowded protests and contentious behavior at our state capitol.  As you can imagine, that puts me in an interesting position.  And I find several people getting in my face as I take personal stands on issues.  Rhetoric ratchets up as people judge my Christianity in this process.  And that's where the theme of this post is birthed.

You see, Jesus is blind to our politics.  There was no one He wouldn't meet with -- Jew, Samaritan, rich, poor, well-behaved, rebellious, smart, frustrating.  He put up with 12 guys who never seemed to "get it" in the 3 years they spent under his tutelage.  He called a spade a spade, but loved anyway.  He healed both friend and foe.  He forgave with one of his final breaths.

So why is it that people think it's okay to assault the character of those with whom they disagree?  When did we start to put a political view before personal relationships?  Why must we dig in and not agree to disagree when we don't espouse the same solutions to problems?  Why don't we ever seem to see that we may have the same goals, but believe in different ways to get there?  When did we begin to think it's okay to not segregate a person's personal life from their work life - showing up at lawmaker's homes and harassing their wives and children?

When I arrived at church on Sunday, I found a copy of a letter in the ministry's mailbox from a leader who opposes my personal political view.  Shamefully, it was left anonymously.  However, I am fully aware that it was left by an individual who had been opposing me on my personal Facebook page. 

I am always open to hearing the views of others and debating them personally.  However, the ministry is one area where an individual like that dare not tread!  SNAPPIN' ministers to black, white, hispanic, and any other nationality.  We minister to Christians, Jews, Muslims and even one family that practices Wicca.  We have helped extremely affluent families as well as those who live in rat-infested homes.  SNAPPIN' is God's hand of comfort, not a political organization.

The bottom line is that Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat!  He believes in love for one another no matter what the beliefs!  And to that end, there is NO place for such political assaults within the walls of the church and its ministries.  It's not that the church should never stand up for what is right when it's in the political arena.  We stand in favor of pro-life, and we also stand in favor of some forms of social justice. When we decide to bring our political smack-downs into the church walls, we fail to work together in obedience to the Lord.  We no longer show the world that we are Christians by our love.  We cease working shoulder to shoulder to advance the compassion of Christ.  That's not okay!
Whatever your world view, please remember to love the person even if you hate their ideas.  One of my dearest friends is the polar opposite of me politically.  Although we don't agree on such topics, we both know that we'd walk over hot coals for one another.  We affirm each others loving hearts.  We, as a society, would do well to cultivate more relationships like this because frankly, God is NOT the God of the few, but God of ALL!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Worry! He's a Christian!

"So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times."  (Ephesians 5:15-16, NCV)

You probably don't know this, but I am crazy about the game of football, especially when it comes to the Green Bay Packers.  Since I was a young girl, this team has been front-and-center in my home every fall through winter.  In my young adult years, I finally started to grasp all the rules and excitement of the game as one of my girlfriends dated a player.  She explained some of the finer details to me while we watched him play a pre-season game in Milwaukee.  Now I must confess, it is my one sports passion as I take out my pent-up aggression yelling at the TV each Sunday afternoon.

Knowing all this, it should come as no surprise that the Packers' Superbowl win was beyond thrilling to me!  And I was a complete sponge soaking up all information Packer-related in the post-season.  Of course, the press tries to feed the masses like myself information from every angle during these exciting football moments.  Taking good from this notable occasion, the faith of players was focused on.  One article I ran across in particular spawned some contemplation in me.  In it quarterback, Aaron Rodgers shares his foundation as a Bible-believing Christian.  The reader is left inspired by Rodgers' quiet strength in living out his faith.

While I enjoyed reading that my favorite quarterback shares my hope of salvation, the article still gave me pause.  Another thing that you may be unaware of is the fact that I spent most of my adult career as an investment advisor.  And when I would meet with clients at that season of my life, I would advise them, "If someone claims to a be a Christian-anything, don't walk - RUN away from them!"  Yes, I was a committed Christian when I would tell clients this, but there was a serious reason behind it.  In my job, some of the worst violations of ethics and decency I hat witnessed were committed by "Christians".  In fact, one client I had actually rescued after they had been taken to the cleaners by an investment advisor, supposedly of faith, who eventually did jail time.  Those touting their Christianity in the legal, accounting and real estate arenas were also some of the more unethical and abrasive individuals I encountered as well.

My point is this, revering or doing business with an individual simply because they claim to be Christian is nothing short of fool hearty.  The statement that someone is a Christian should send us in two directions.

First, we need to examine what being a Christian really means.  Does that mean a person is perfect and sinless?  If that's what it means to you, you're bound to be majorly disappointed.  I don't know about you, but I am a filthy sinner who needs God's grace every day to merely keep from killing my children!  However, I do think that we naturally expect someone to live to a higher standard when they say that they're a Christian.  Even at that, what that looks like to you may look different from what it looks like to another person. 

Second, we need to have our radar on full alert when we're around someone who is making the Christian claim.  Does the person display the fruit of the Spirit in their daily life?  (See Galatians 5:22-23)  Interestingly, this unrelated article came out regarding Rodgers after his Superbowl win.  It affirms his gentle, patient demeanor even under pressure.  Can we see that in others who make similar claims?  We had an excellent surgeon on our Board of Directors who is a Christian.  But I've seen others who identify themselves as such to their own detriment.  Their behavior belies their words.  I know a fabulous Christian psychiatrist, but I am also aware of others proclaiming to be such that I wouldn't let my dog near.  Ethics, prayerful discernment and common human decency are just a few clues that we should be looking to for confirmation.

Aside from filtering that label when choosing a doctor or other professional to work with, we should continually examine it in ourselves.  As I said earlier, I fall short continually.  Even so, I call on my foundational faith as a Christian to keep from yelling at insurance companies or medical professionals who are causing me great frustration.  I know that people, including my children, are looking to me for better conduct when I profess to carry around something brighter in my heart than the world has to offer.  Unless we all rise to that occasion in living out our faith and looking for it in others, we will show Christianity to have little meaning in this life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When Help Seems Distant

"But we live by faith, not by what we see." (2 Corinthians 5:7, CEV)

There are times where we feel God so close that we realize that He's "as real as the nose on our face".  (Don't ask...  It's another one of my Barb-isms.)  We see His movement in all of the activity around us.  We experience the joy of watching as He cares about the every detail, orchestrating amazing things that are beyond coincidence.  We feel the Body of Christ in a very real way as God works in and through people's generosity, assistance and vibrant fellowship.

It's times like these that we're meant to treasure up and ponder in our hearts.  (See Luke 2:19)  Not only do seasons like this energize us, they fill us to overflowing with hope.  They are a little glimpse of heaven, the beautiful carrot being held out to keep this horse pressing on.  And the memory of these times need to be stored up for the days when they are long gone.

You see, in an age where we become addicted to countless numbers of things, it is easy to become addicted to and to expect that sensation of God's close proximity to remain at our beckon call.  When that feeling wanes, we can lose heart or buy into the lie that the Lord doesn't care. 

But that passionate experience can often be the exception to our faith walk rather than the rule.  The key is to get to know God through that daily reading of His word and speaking to Him in prayer.  Then as you watch for His movement in the world around you, God's character becomes familiar to you.

This prepares you for those awful, seemingly-interminable, inevitable times when the Lord seems distant.  When it seems as if your prayers bounce off the ceiling and your anguish matters to no one, it's clinging to what you know to be true that keeps you alive.  Putting one foot in front of the other and just doing the next right thing in the sight of the Lover of your soul keeps you right where God wants you.  It's an ultimate test, walking through the blackest night and still proclaiming in trust "I know that my redeemer lives,and that in the end he will stand on the earth."(Job 19:25, NIV)  And sometimes you may not be feeling it, but merely going through the motions. That's okay.  Lower your expectations of yourself.

God still rewards obedience.  We display our ultimate trust of and respect for Him by merely continuing on as He asks us to regardless of what's going on around us.  My friend Margo always says, "I know that I know that I know."  In other words, she lives with the assurance of God's love and truth no matter what the circumstance.  Just doing the next right thing, picking yourself up to return to the Father when you fall and holding on to that "true North" in the deepest valleys will lessen the blow of those tough times.  Walking by faith and not by sight will give you a stability in this life and a joy in the next life that can't be found anywhere else.