Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Principles for Getting Along with Other Christians

Let's be honest. Christians disagree a lot. If there was an Olympics for disagreement many of the gold medalists would be Christians.  Of course we have a good reason. We believe in absolute truth--that there is a right answer to every question.  The problem is we are far too fast at jumping to the conclusion we hold the true perspective. 

Jackie values thought over emotions, so she's likely to view weeping and shouting in worship at a local pentecostal assembly as "disorderly."  Melinda, who values relational warmth and empathy, may be too quick to judge the theologically precise sermon she heard at a local Presbyterian church as "dead and dry."

Assuming we agree on the basics of Christian faith (for example, the Apostle's Creed, which almost all Bible-believing Christian denominations generally uphold), how can we live with our differences?  There are many ways, but here are three principles I've found useful.

1) Always Remember We Have the Same Father
Whether we agree with each other or not, we have a basis for relationship. This was very helpful for me when I graduated from a conservative college and joined a missions team of Mennonites, Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, and others.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
                                      -From Ephesians 4


2) Each Person Answers to Their Master Individually
So we should remember they will be judged and rewarded by their Master who knows their struggles and faith much better than we do.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
                                      -Romans 14:4


3) Look First For the Good In Others
Human tendency is to look first for areas of disagreement and wrong, but among brothers and sisters it should not be our first impulse. The verse below has wider application, yes, but it is in the context of disagreements between sisters in the church, and reminds us not to get stuck on what peeves us but look at the bigger and better picture.
 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women...Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
                                      -From Philippians 4

I hope these three principles are useful as you relate to your brothers and sisters in Christ. What other principles have you discovered for dealing with other Christians who rub you the wrong way?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Climbing Into Bed




Lay my weary frame into this raft
Rocking gently in the waves
Tuck blankets over me for the cold journey
Through long night into day
The sun blinks down and shadows rise
To fill all the world with their gaunt great wings
I push off the bank into a stream of thoughts
While in a nearby tree a cricket sings.
I have drunk my drowsy wine
My hand falls from the til;
Rudderless the raft floats down the river
To find whatever rocks it will
Be with my soul O Lord of dreams
Whatever caves I come to
Whatever face I see--
Still whisper in my ear
Til daylight dawns
And I rise again from sleep.



© someburningthoughts.com, 2015


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Angel Wings



Oh that some angel would lift me on mighty wings
To rise above the troubles of these streets
To fly with beating heart in clouds and breeze
Up in the holy silence above God's world.
And perhaps indeed some angel will carry me
When my days down here are done
Will bear me up on eagle's wings,
And set me down beyond the sun.



© someburningthoughts.com, 2015
 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rainstorm

The holy hush of a rainy day
Suddenly the house becomes a cave
And from the front porch shelter those who may
Watch lightning and the thunder play
Hear branches creak and tree tops sway
Feel rain drops fly in a misty spray
And raise a hand to God in praise.


© someburningthoughts.com, 2015

Wednesday, June 3, 2015




One thing that struck me talking with Christians in China is that most of them didn't think they were persecuted.

Now at least once a month in America I hear some pastor or Christian say, "We should be so thankful we are free to worship God here in America, and aren't persecuted for our faith as are people in some countries."

The underlying sentiment of gratitude is a good one as we consider what Christians in Syria or Iraq are facing at the moment.  (For a breathtaking 3 minute interview of some Christian refugee kids in Iraq, chase this link: https://youtu.be/Wsxw_x4HIC4)

But let's take a moment to look closer at Jesus' famous pronouncement on persecution. 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
                                 Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 5:11-12)

How does Jesus define persecution?
1) When people insult you
2) When people persecute you (treat you badly)
3) When people falsely say all kinds of evil about you because of your faith in Him
How much of his definition of persecution is the spoken word? Two-thirds!  Why?  Because Jesus knew very well that the rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is patently false. 

He had personal experience with that form of persecution. The opinion makers of his people said he had a demon. Others implied he was a bastard child. (Mary Jones says "We can detect the sting of the offense later in Jesus' life when the mocking crowd says "Isn't this Mary's son...? In Jesus' day children were identified as being their father's sons - unless there was no father.")  They called him a glutton and a wino, and a "friend of tax-collectors and prostitutes," from Nazareth, that backwoods hicktown.

Isaiah 53 describes the Messiah as one who was "despised and rejected by mankind...familiar with pain...like one from whom men hide their faces...despised...held in low esteem."
It hurts to be insulted, labeled as "uncool," pushed out of the in-crowd.

According to Alternet's article "Social Death Penalty: Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying,"
"Ostracism is among the most devastating experiences we can endure, deeply connected to our most fundamental human need to be recognized and accepted."  
According to the American Psychological Association,
"As researchers have dug deeper into the roots of rejection, they’ve found surprising evidence that the pain of being excluded is not so different from the pain of physical injury. Rejection also has serious implications for an individual’s psychological state and for society in general. Social rejection can influence emotion, cognition and even physical health." (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/rejection.aspx)
Are you ever afraid to speak out about your faith? Why? What happens if we speak out on our beliefs about God creating the world, or his guidelines for sexual behavior?  Are false things ever said about us on TV shows or in the media or in our work place?  Are Christians in America already being persecuted according to Jesus' definition? 

We don't need a victim mentality. We don't need to claim to suffer as much as some Christians are called to in other times and places--but we can call a spade a spade. Let's not be blind to the pressure we already face--so that we won't miss our calling (pray for those who persecute you) and our blessing.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thought -- The Old Flesh Within This New Creature


Maybe I can extend claws six inches long
From under my fingernails
Maybe I do have teeth like knives
Sharpened on hot iron files
I thought I did not
But turns out I do...
Behind my smile and helping hand
Lurks a beast who can cruelly bite
And every morning I must thrust a silver stake into his heart again
And every evening I must kneel and beg for absolution
But one day--one day when I fly away
I'll leave his carcass far behind.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Poem: A Testimony



Selfish like a vampire I sucked blood from the world
Until it lay around me like a corpse--
Trees lost their color, sky went grey
People wandered past me like meat in skin
And even the wildest activities felt lifeless then.

Until my Jesus came and stretched his brown arms out
And His blood pumped like sap into the trees
And far into the sky, and all through me
Bright blue and vivid green filled everything--
People wander past me, all loved somehow
And even the smallest acts have so much meaning now.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Poem: Fireflies

Photograph by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu through repeated eight minute exposures at night






















Some moments the Spirit glows
And I light up like Christ
My face flashing with his presence
And children gather in wonder

Some moments I go dark
Listening to too many lies
I sink under sadness for my sins
In the night I forget his forgiveness

Such short hours we flit above the grass
There is only this night to shine
So let us be the brightest of your fireflies
Until morning when the sun will rise.



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Breathing

It's a funny thing, breathing. 


The other night I was sitting on the sofa, and I could hear Amber breathing as she sat beside me, reading a book. I realized I was breathing, too.  Our dog was laying beside us, and she was breathing heavily too because she was deep in sleep. We were all sitting there, inhaling the invisible air around us, and exhaling it back out.

It's one of those thousand and one things we stop noticing. Our focus narrows onto the smallest tasks in front of us: paying a bill, answering a text message, watching a TV show. 

Meanwhile we're sitting on a giant twirling ball, rotating silently through space, with just a thin garment of air covering the surface of our planet. And we breathe that gas in, and out, that perfect balance of oxygen and nitrogen.  Decade after decade our lungs open and close like bellows, delicately collecting the invisible gas around us that we depend on moment by moment to stay conscious, to keep our eyes open, to move our bodies.

'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
                              -Paul of Tarsus, Acts 17:28


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Mind Has Imagined

"There never was any world but mine," said the Witch.

... Puddleglum was fighting hard...."We'll never see it again, I shouldn't wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely. But I know I was there once. I've seen the sky full of stars. I've seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I've seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn't look at him for brightness."
               -The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

Christians have had those moments when we knew the warmth and incredible glory of the Son of God shining on us.  But for now we still live in Plato's Cave, a world full of shadows.

In a cold, dank, cave it is sometimes easy to wonder if we've dreamed up this whole belief we have in the resurrection of the dead, in God, in all things made right and Zion, the size of Brazil, coming down one day like a bride to earth where God will make his home with humans in brightness and joy. 

But on a morning like this morning, with the tender chill of spring, and the squawking and chirping of birds, and new flowers everywhere, it is a just a little easier.

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him."                                                                     -1 Corinthians 2:9

Monday, March 23, 2015

One reason we can be patient with a small child who is screaming or kicking the wall or "going through a phase" is that we believe one day he or she will become a mature, lovely adult, who will look back on their childhood and roll their eyes as they raise children of their own.  We know that this small hellion will one day be a saint who has suffered, grown wise and gentle and kind. So we put up with their childishness with hope and patience.

It's my belief that's one factor in God's patience for us. Sure, he sees us screaming at others in our hearts and kicking at the walls we find around us and "going through a phase."  But he knows what we will one day become.

"Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
                                                                                                                      - 1 John 3:2

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

We just got a dog. She's about three years old, and she has separation anxiety issues. She's already attached herself to us very affectionately. But it's really difficult for her when we are out of sight. It's understandable. She's been jounced from house to the house for the past weeks, and her original owners had to give her up. 

I had to leave her today for a few hours. Only three hours. But I felt terrible. It's hard for a dog to understand how someone she's just put her trust in completely can leave--and will they ever come back or are they saying goodbye forever?

I put a T-shirt of Amber's and some gym pants of mine next to her cage and put her in her cage. Later I'll leave her free when I go out, but in this first week I want her restricted for her sake and ours.  I wanted to tell her: I'll be back!  Don't be too distraught!  Here, I've left some toys for you and these clothes next to your cage so you can still smell us!

And then I remembered Jesus. He was about to leave his disciples, and he said "I will not leave you as orphans."  He promised to send his Holy Spirit to give them comfort in his absence.  And he promised to return. 

When I got home, she had somehow pulled Amber's and my clothes through the narrow bars of the cage to be closer to her while she waited.