Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Pride of Christian Entitlement Vs. The Humility of Jesus

 In a recent book I read called “Humility” by Andrew Murray he says that we who are called by His name may have a desire to love others, but that desire is pointless when we are indifferent to the needs, feelings and weaknesses of others.  When we as believers “excuse ourselves from making sharp and hasty judgments and utterances upon others, all in the name of being outright and honest,” our actions are rooted in nothing but pride because we have lost touch with the humility of Christ.  What if, instead of being guided by pride, we were actually guided by the humility of Christ?  Would people listen to us the way they listened to Jesus?  What would the effect be if we asked God to fix our own lack of humility instead of pointing out the pride and arrogance in others?

Recently, a young man has entered my life. He is young, kind, full of life, cares for others, and we both share an eagerness to see justice being done throughout the world.  He has really shaken things up; causing me to think way more than I ever did before speaking.  God has used him to reveal the pride of my own conservative, Southern Baptist heart. Ironically this man that God is using is gay and he comes right before I enter the mission field.  I really believe his timing couldn’t be more perfect and here is why. 

This man is really challenging me and I am beginning to notice my faith and heart grow and change for what I firmly believe will be for the better.  He is helping me understand the hurts the LGBT community has faced and is currently facing.  He is showing me how to genuinely love a people group that a majority of the church looks at the way the Jews looked at the Samaritans. 

Unfortunately a majority of Christians are doing the same thing with the LGBT community that the Jews did with the Samaritans. They want nothing to do with this community except tell them how horrible they are.  Instead of being encouraged by the humility and love of Christ, the LGBT community has been hurt by the pride of those who are suppose to be holding the Good News.  Instead of being told that there is hope for them and that Jesus loves them too, they are being condemned to hell the minute they come out of the closet.  I’ll tell you right now that I have no doubt Jesus would be hanging out with the LGBT community Sunday mornings before stepping foot in church because He was always where he was needed most.   

God has used this young man to reveal the pride of my heart, the pride of entitlement I believe many Christians share because they claim to be a Christian.  I’m no better than any person on this Earth.  In fact, because I am a Christian I am held to an even greater accountability and I mess up DAILY!!!  This pride is something that needs to change in my heart before I enter the mission field so I can be a more affective missionary.

This man has helped me to see how important it is to listen to other people first, like really listen to them, before telling them what I think about their culture or lifestyle.  Listening is important because if I am able to understand someone’s beliefs and culture first, I can be more affective in sharing the gospel with them, without denying their cultural background.  Also, I will know how to better love them by speaking love in a way they understand.  A love that will look different from those I share the same Conservative American, Christian culture with.  

In return, I pray they would be open to listen to the message God has given me to share with them and that they would accept the love God has for them because the most important thing isn’t their lifestyle but whether or not they love God.  This relationship between God and a person is more important than the lifestyle one chooses to live.  It is the thing that must come first before any change in the person can begin.  As this relationship grows God, and only God, will work on the heart of the person He is in relationship with.  We as brothers and sisters in Christ should participate by playing a supporting role through prayer and discipling.

How dare we as Christians tell a homosexual they better quit their lifestyle or to get that idea out of their head because it is sin, if they don’t even have a relationship with God?  That my friends, is absolutely, 100% judging them.  Also, how can we reach them to have a relationship with God if our initial response to them is hate?  Our purpose for remaining on this earth as a Christian is to show others their need for God and that they were created to be in a relationship with Him.  He wants that more than anything and shows us that in and through the Bible.  God didn’t give up on us the minute sin entered the world.  He decided to give us another chance and that is why He sent His Son.  The laws written in the Bible are there to show us the need for the gift of Jesus.

I have heard stories and known of several people who struggle with homosexuality that grew up in church and genuinely do love God.  They have prayed to God about what to do.  Some have even asked God to take these desires of same sex attraction away, but the desire still remains.  Some have decided this is who they are and that they are going to live their life based on their feelings.  They have left the church and are very bitter in their reactions to Christians.  Others have decided not to give into the desires of the flesh but instead to live a life of celibacy.   

What on earth does this mean?  Does it mean they are not really Christian? Does it mean they are going to hell?  Does it mean they were born this way?  Well, I don’t know the answer to this and I don’t think it is my place to say.  I believe first and foremost the answer depends on their relationship with God.  A majority of the time those I mentioned above, who decided to embrace their homosexuality and part ways from God and the church, were hurt.  Those I mentioned above who decided to live a life of celibacy were encouraged and loved on by people in the church.

Some of you may ask, “What about the verses in the bible that call homosexuality a sin?”  Well, here is my response to that question.  What about lying, cheating, speeding on the interstate, or unrighteous anger?  Are these not things people do unknowingly every day without even thinking about or asking for repentance.  What about idolatry; the idols of money, work, family, success, Facebook, Internet browsing, our appearance, our hobbies or any material thing that we put before God?  Idolatry is also a sin. 

Back to what I said in the first paragraph, what are your convictions rooted in?  Are they rooted in the pride of your “Christian entitlement” or are they rooted in the humility of Christ?  People should know we are Christians by our love, not our pride. 

Before you go blasting one more homosexual I want to encourage you to first listen to them, completely and entirely, before butting in with your thoughts.  Second, ask God to give you the humble heart of Jesus so you will interact with them in a more loving, caring way, the way Jesus would interact with them (if you need help knowing how to do this read the 4 Gospels and take notes on Jesus interactions with the people the Pharisees called “sinners”).  Finally, pray for them.  Pray for God to guide and direct them to live the life He has called them to live.

In case you are wondering, even though I was born in Southern California, I spent most of my life in Tennessee with two conservative parents.  I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church and soaked in every single bit of information they fed me during my childhood-adolescent years.  While I am grateful for that foundation because Conservative Southern Baptist stand firm in their faith and beliefs, not being easily swayed by the world, I also realize that sometimes they can be misleading and close-minded about things (as all people, including liberals, can be).   My question is, can we all just live at peace with one another and calm down?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

When a Leader Leaves

     In lieu of the recent, surprise announcement from my Pastor last Sunday that he is stepping down, and the varying opinions and feelings from my friends who also attend OEM, I was reminded of a lesson that I learned many years back from a story found in Daniel 3.  Allow me to give those of you who are not familiar with this story a brief summary.

     In the third chapter of Daniel, 3 Jewish men, (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were called out by some jealous, Babylonian rulers for not bowing down to the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had made.  They were summoned to the king’s palace and given another chance to bow down to the statue or suffer the wrath of a flaming furnace.  They refused to bow down because bowing to this statue went against the commandments that God had given to Moses for the Jews to live their life by.  When they refused the king ordered that they be thrown into the furnace.  The furnace was so hot that the heat instantly killed the guards who threw them in.  The three men however survived the furnace and were called to come out by the king.  When they exited not a hair on their bodies was singed and they didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them.  King Nebuchadnezzar realized that the God they serve was the one true God and ordered that anyone who speaks against God be destroyed. 

     So you may be wondering, what does this have to do with a pastor stepping down from his position?  Well, in this chapter, a key character in the book of Daniel is missing.  That character is Daniel himself.  In the first 2 chapters of Daniel the four men collectively, didn’t back down from the laws God had given them centuries past, even though they had several opportunities to do so in this pagan nation.  While other Jews gave in these four didn’t.  They trusted God through all the trials and were saved every time.  The reason this is so important is because in the first two chapters Daniel was the leader of four men.  He was the mouthpiece for speaking on behalf of God’s will and plan for the Jews in Babylon while the other three followed his direction and leadership. 

     In chapter 3 Daniel is nowhere to be found and these 3 men have to stand up for what is right themselves, without their leader to guide and support them.  I believe the same holds true for the members of OEM and the Onnuri Korean Ministry.  Pastor Eddie has done an AMAZING job of bringing awareness to some major issues throughout the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world; issues such as the injustice in North Korea, human trafficking, and defending the orphans.  He has attacked injustice daringly and boldly; fully aware of the danger that he could face, because of his obedience.  He has stepped on the toes of government officials and church leaders in the Korean church, causing some major uncomfort to their comfortable lives.  He has done what God calls each and every Christian to do and that is fight against injustice, defending the vulnerable, the widow, and the orphan.  While doing this he has also instilled a heart for justice in some who never knew.  For me, God used Pastor Eddie to reignite the flame dulled inside me that once burned passionately about these injustices.

     Now it is our turn.  Soon our leader will be gone, fighting and bringing awareness and justice somewhere else.  He is the Daniel in this story and we are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  God is making a way for us, and the Onnuri Korean Ministry, to continue fighting this battle we have been made aware of, a battle that defends those close to the heart of God, fulfilling the commands He has given to us as Christians.  Will we be successful like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, or will we have another ending, one that is sad and cowardly? 

     So my question to you OEM family is what are you going to do now?  Are you going to continue to fight and bring awareness to these justice issues; standing up to defend those that are vulnerable?  Are you going to give up, stay angry, be the cause of a church split, and let the enemy win, stopping the work that has already been started in Korea and other parts of the world?  The choice is yours so be wise about the decision you make.  I really believe this is God’s way of testing our loyalty.  Is it to Him or to man? Someone is waiting on the other side of your obedience.  

     I’m gonna call some of you out now, Why do you even go to OEM?  Is it because of Pastor Eddie or is it because you firmly believe this is the church community God has called you to while living in Korea?  If you are here because you feel called to the community and work of OEM then I want to encourage you to stick this out, pray for Pastor Eddie on his new journey, pray for the Korean church to continue fighting for the vulnerable in Korea, and support whatever pastor comes to OEM in his place.  If you are only here because of Pastor Eddie please pray about your motives before joining another church.  People come and go but God is forever faithful.  His faithfulness should cause us to desire to be faithful to Him, not to man.

     “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste.  He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” ~Daniel 3:24-25