I get it. But in a way, I don’t…

IMG_4833I get it. A&E censored a Christian from speaking his mind. It’s not the first time a Christian has been censored. It won’t be the last.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” 2 Timothy 3:12

I get it. It’s frustrating that everyone else in America can express their opinions, freely worship and denounce things they don’t believe in, unless you’re a Christian. In that case, the world wants you to be silent. But God never told us it would be easy. He flat out told us we would suffer.

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:17

I get it. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. It says the same about drunkenness, adultery, fornication, gluttony, idolatry, jealousy, etc. etc. Everyone else’s sins seem so much worse than your own, don’t they? So you hate. You’re tired of rights being given to people who sin. You see these people as your enemies.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

I get it. I may not agree with you, but I get it. It’s ruined your week and maybe even your holiday to know that a Christian spoke his mind and was then persecuted for it. Now, your favorite television show might not be on the air anymore.

But I ask you this holiday season to open your eyes. Think about the things that are getting you fired up. Is it politics? Is it Obamacare? Is it A&E and Duck Dynasty? Is it Miley Cyrus? Think about the things that, as a Christian, make you the angriest. And then, think about these things:

InIMG_3875 September I met a little boy here in Uganda who survived child sacrifice. He’s been through multiple surgeries because his head was literally cut open with an ax. He was one of the lucky ones because he survived. Here in Uganda, witchdoctors sacrifice children. They spare no mercy when it comes to abducting a child, chopping them up for body parts and organs and leaving them for dead.

The other day I went with some co-workers to a local orphanage. The place is filthy. The playground is insanely dangerous. The orphans’ noses run with no one to wipe them. Bath time means fitting as many children in a tub at one time and hosing them down like they were dishes or something. Orphanages like this are all over the city of Kampala.

To the north of Uganda is South Sudan. So not only does the violence in South Sudan hit close to home because it’s literally close to home, but one of my best friends here is from South Sudan. She has family and friends there, and has to wonder each day whether or not they will fall victim to the violence.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t be the one to say, “Look at what’s making you upset! And yet there are people dying because of such corruption and evil in the world!” But then I started to wonder… maybe that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do. Maybe part of the reason I’m here is to tell you about these things, to tell you that they are really happening.IMG_3976

As a Christian, what makes your blood boil? What gets under your skin? Is it the fact that your favorite reality television star was suspended? Are you going to let that ruin your day when there are people dying in South Sudan, children being sacrificed in Uganda, and orphans being treated like animals?

I’m not saying that it shouldn’t irritate you that Christians are so often censored and persecuted. I get it. It irritates me, too, but the Bible warned us about this, over and over again.

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” 1 John 3:13

I get why Christians are upset about A&E. I get why homosexuals are upset about Duck Dynasty. I get it. But when I’m seeing the things I see here and experiencing the things I experience here, I really don’t get it.

Open your eyes. There’s so much more going on.

Intimidating worship…

“I will not dance.”

There was a time in my life when I signed the dotted line. I would not dance. Dancing was a sin. Those of us at Indiana Wesleyan had to promise to refrain from dancing. No matter what. I even recall a night when my roommates and I were dancing around our dorm room to Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos,” and our RA came by and made us stop.

Now I live in Africa. Besides singing, dancing is the ultimate form of worship. IMG_20131006_113505

I grew up in a pretty traditional church. Hand clapping was pretty charismatic where I come from. I became a little  more open in worship when I went to a Baptist church in Georgia. I honestly felt pretty wild even closing my eyes during a song or holding out my hands to the Lord. That was nothing.

Worship in Africa is the most intense I’ve experienced. But I have to admit, as someone who has attended pretty conservative churches, it’s quite intimidating.

This evening we had a simply amazing worship service at Heritage House. Towards the end of the service, people were dancing and yelling and worshiping the Lord. I wasn’t feeling it. And because of that, I felt inadequate. I felt like an outsider. I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt like the people around me where so much closer to God than I was.

For me, worship is very personal. The slower songs speak to me more than the fast songs, but because I wasn’t jumping around, I felt like maybe something was wrong with me- like maybe I wasn’t as good of a Christian as everyone else. Their worship was so much more celebratory than mine.

“Behind every trial and temptation is a scheme to get us to doubt God’s goodness or our right standing with Him. Who is he that condemns? Not God!”

I found that written in my church notes from a service I attended in August. And it’s so true. The only one who would ever want to make me feel like my form of worship is inadequate is Satan. Not God. God knows my heart, He knows I don’t have to dance or jump to show my love for Him.

IMG_20131006_105813Billy Graham once said, “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service.” We so often forget that worshiping God doesn’t only mean worshiping Him in song. We worship God whenever we do something unselfishly for Him and to help others.

Don’t let how other people worship intimidate you. We all do things differently in life, and that includes how we worship. Just because you don’t raise your hands or dance during worship doesn’t mean you are any less closer to God, and it certainly doesn’t mean God loves you any less. Worship is between you and God. He knows your heart. He knows my heart. And I’m going to work on not being so intimidated by others that it makes me doubt my allegiance to my God.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you…” James 4:8

God doesn’t give us “suggestions”…

When Jesus set out to gather His disciples, it did NOT go like this:1389725_bible_collage

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into a lake, for they were fishermen.

“I have an idea,” Jesus said as he approached them. “If you’re up for it, you should come follow me.”

Andrew said, “Well, we’ve got fishing to do. Maybe some other time.”

“OK, no problem,” Jesus said. “It was just a suggestion.”

In reality, Jesus said, “Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men.” And guess what? The Bible says that “they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

God doesn’t give us suggestions. The Bible isn’t a suggestion of how to live, it’s the ONLY way God commands us to live. Today I’m not struggling so much with that, as I am with something else God has been saying to me for years.

“Come, follow me,” He has been saying. Of course He commands that we all follow Him, but some of us He calls to follow Him to more extreme locations. When God does this, it’s not a suggestion. It’s a command.

Has God commanded you to do something? Maybe it’s to let go of someone from your past. Maybe it’s to treat your spouse better or to be more patient with your kids. Maybe it’s to be a missionary in the most remote place on earth. Whatever it is, it’s between you and God and you know in your heart what it is. You also need to know that God isn’t merely suggesting you do something, He’s telling you to do it.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

God’s love on a receipt? Not even close…

I am continuously shocked at the Christians in this world who don’t understand the concept of God’s love and how we are to display it for EVERYONE just as Christ did.receiptgrab

For example, a pastor and a large group of people recently dined somewhere together and were charged an automatic gratuity. This happens a lot with groups larger than 8 or so. Apparently the service was fine, nothing terrible happened during the meal, but the pastor felt the need to leave the message, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?” You can read the entire article here.

Wow.

I can only imagine, if the server wasn’t a Christian, what he now thinks about Christianity.

Does a server deserve more than God? Of course not. This pastor gives 10% regularly in his tithes to the Lord. Giving 18% on a ONE-TIME meal really isn’t that big of a deal. To compare it to what he gives to God is simply absurd.

This pastor clearly missed a rather important part of the Bible, and some of the greatest words Christ ever spoke:

“…just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

It’s one thing for this pastor to not leave the server an extra tip since the 18% was already added on. It’s quite another to make a connection between a tip at a restaurant and what God deserves from us, and to then write it on the receipt. What kind of love does that show?

Do we really need to give the world more ammunition against Christians? Will we ever learn that Christ wasn’t kidding when He said we were to love one another and show God’s love to everyone? I can just imagine an atheist reading this article and thinking, “That’s why I don’t believe- self-righteous Christians, who show no love, prove that there is no God.”

One of my favorite quotes comes from Brennan Manning:

“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

It gives me chills every time I think about it, because it holds so much truth. Is it true? Are Christians the reason so many people DON’T believe in Christ? I think it’s highly possible.

I’m not saying this pastor is a terrible person. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be a pastor or that the rest of us don’t sometimes have poor judgment. But I do believe that the biggest step towards being a true disciple of Christ is showing His love… to EVERYONE.

No Thank You

When life hands me crap, I want to say to life, “No thank you.”

Today I’m going to take some of the things in my life I am not typically thankful for, and turn them around into things that I am so grateful for, and to which I say to God on this blessed Thanksgiving day, “Thank you.”

The “No thank you.”– I have to work Friday.
The “Thank you.”– I have a job. So many people don’t.

The “No thank you,”– Ugh! The calories I will consume today at my aunt and uncle’s.
The “Thank you.”– I have a membership to the YMCA where I can go work off some of those calories tomorrow.

The “No thank you,”– I am not making as much money as I hoped.
The “Thank you.”– At least I’m making money.

The “No thank you,”– I live in a country where being a Christian is mocked and looked down upon by many.
The “Thank you.”– I’m allowed to be a Christian here in America where I can worship openly and freely without fearing for my life.

The “No thank you.” – Single at 32
The “Thank you.” – I get alone time whenever I want it, I can go here and there without organizing my life around someone else, I get lots of time to make myself better for whoever I end up with when I do get married.

The “No thank you,”– I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana
The “Thank you.”– I’m close to family, and they mean the world to me.

The “No thank you,”– Today is Thanksgiving #5 without Grandma Shideler. Even more Thanksgivings since Grandpa Trout was here. 30 Thanksgivings without Grandpa Shideler.
The “Thank you.”– I know they are in heaven, having the Thanksgiving of a lifetime each and every day.

Those things that life hands us and we want to say, “No thank you,” try turning them around into something positive. God’s got a reason for every trial and heartache.

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Those words come from Laura Story’s “Blessings.” I think it is one of the most beautiful and inspirational songs ever written. Please remember that God knows what He’s doing in your life. Thank Him for everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Here is a link to a YouTube video of the song mentioned above. If you’re a Christian and music gets to you, have some tissues ready!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

Let go or be dragged…

Ever make a mistake and want to just crumple it up and throw it in the trash can, wait for the garbage man to come and take it away so you never have to think about it ever again? Unfortunately, that’s not how our minds work.

I saw a magnet at the store the other day that said, “Let go or be dragged.” That can be applied to a lot of situations in our lives- especially mistakes we’ve made. You have to let them go, or you will be dragged around by them.

Sometimes we’re way too hard on ourselves. Instead of dwelling on mistakes we’ve made, we should learn from them and then let them go. One of the speakers at the women’s conference last weekend said something along the lines of, “Don’t put yourself on the cross- Jesus already paid the price.” How about we stop beating ourselves up for all the mistakes we’ve made?

I’m not perfect. Far from it. Don’t think that just because I’m a Christian or because I take mission trips to Africa that I think I’m any better than anyone else or that I am without sin. I never, EVER want to give the impression that I don’t make mistakes. I just hope I always learn something from each and every mistake I make.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Perhaps the number one person you need to forgive is yourself. Figure out what you can learn from your mistake, and then move on. God’s got a great life waiting for you, but you won’t ever see it if can’t forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.