Monday, August 6, 2012

Being chosen

   I distinctly remember standing in the schoolyard with a group of about 20 other guys from the neighborhood. We'd decided to play a game of kickball, but we first needed to pick teams.
   What you have to know about me is that, when I was in grade school, I was kind of in the middle of the pack as far as height was concerned. I was a bit on the chubby side. I guess I hadn't quite grown out of my baby fat yet. I wasn't what you'd call a good athelete. I mean, I was ok, but I was never one of the first kids picked.
   Whenever I'd find myself in a situation like that, my hope was always that I wouldn't be the last one picked. I didn't mind being in the middle of the pack somewhere. I just didn't want to be the last one standing.
   I do remember a few occassions when I was picked far later than I would've expected. I'd see the number of remaining players get smaller and smaller, and my stomach would knot up. Another kid would get picked, and I'd say to myself; "What?!?! You picked THAT kid before me?!? Are you kidding?!?! He's blind as a bat, crosseyed, smells like cheese, couldn't catch a ball to save his life, and his pants fall down everytime he tries to run fast!!"
   But whatever the reason, there were times like those. Times when I had to wait far longer than I'd assumed I should. Of course, whenever that would happen, I would make a point of absolutely playing my heart out to make the other team captain regret not picking me earlier. Sometimes that would work out well. Other times, I'd make a fool out of myself and get picked even lower for the next game.

   That happens to us quite often in real-life too, doesn't it? We get passed over for a promotion while somebody else we feel is far less qualified gets the job. We get laid off while others whom we've regularly out-performed remain with the company. We get audited by the IRS when our neighbors who get away with murder on their taxes are never even looked at. It never seems right or fair, but it happens all the time.

   That happens at times within our faith too, as well as within our churches. It can happen within a very wide variety of circumstances. There are people who wonder about God, not knowing exactly who He is or what they should expect of Him. They might look at others and be in awe of their faith, but remain absolutely convinced they could never be like that. Often times they will say; "Wait a minute!!.......Isn't that the guy who used to do this or that? And now he's talking about God all the time??.......They will, at times, be very skeptical of the changes they've seen......But even in that skepticism, they will still say a prayer every now and then, not really knowing if those prayers are heard, but feeling better about verbalizing them.
    There are people who are hired or elected to various positions within our churches: Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Worship Team Leaders, Youth Pastors, etc... Sometimes we're a little miffed that our guy wasn't chosen, or maybe even that we ourselves weren't asked to fill that role.
    If we feel that way about others who we see God using in various ways, we've lost sight of something very important. In fact, we've lost sight of what's most important of all.

   God's timing is absolutely perfect - Not only in our lives, but also within the lives of everyone around us.

   In Ecclesiastes 3:10-11, Solomon wrote;

   " I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

   And in Psalm 139:16, his father David writes;

"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

   The bible is very clear that we are all called when we're called, and chosen when we are chosen. This is all in accordance with God's will, and God's timing. What's more, it is God Himself who decides who is called, so none of us might boast of being so incredible that God had no other choice but to call or chose us.
   In his book "God's Pursuit of Man," A.W. Tozer writes;

   "Not by might or by power, neither by native ability nor by training are men made apostles, but by God's effectual calling. So it is with every office within the church. Men are permitted to recognize the call and make public aknowledgment before the congregation, but never are they permitted to make the choice."

   So it should be clear that the people around you who have been called to specific tasks are there for one reason alone - because God Himself called them to do so.
   But what if you're reading this and thinking: "Steve, I don't even go to church. I haven't been to church in 20 years?" Those of you who have never felt a specific calling - those of you who have often had a feeling deep down inside that you want to know God, or want to know more about Him, but have no idea where to even start. I have some good news for you. The fact that those thoughts burn within your heart from time to time is evidence that God is calling you. How do I know this? Well, in John 6:44, Jesus said the following:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day."

   How better might one describe a burning feeling in your heart to know God better than to say you are "Being drawn?"

   So where do you go from there? First and foremost, pray. Ask God to speak to your heart. Trust me, He will. Second, get yourself a good bible. I'd personally recommend the New International Version, but that's my own preference. Third, pray and ask God to send you to the church "He" wants you to go to. Once again, He'll answer. Something will jump out to you about one or another.
   But most of all, never forget these words:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8

   God doesn't play hide and seek with people. He plays seek and find - a game where He's always standing right out in the open, but one which requires us to open our eyes and truly see Him. No matter who you are, no matter what you've done, no matter where you've been, God wants you to know Him right now, just as you are, and right where you stand. You don't have to be the little chubby kid on the sidelines any longer, hoping that you'll be chosen. If these words resonate within you, you already have been. Now it's just a matter of wether or not you'll jump into the game.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Do Christians hate those who disagree?

   I remember when I was a very young boy watching my father paint our house. The man was an absolute master. Exceptionally talented. He carried within him an artistic ability that most people will never know.
   No matter what he set his mind to when it came to painting - be it a home or a piece of art - the end result would always amaze me. He would pour himself over every last detail until it was perfect in his eyes. While doing so, he would correct things I never knew were wrong in the first place. He just knew somehow that it needed to be better.
   One summer, when I was about 14, he decided to take me under his wing to teach me the right way to paint. I'll never forget the first time he handed me a brush and watched me as I painted the first few strokes. Before the brush traveled more than two inches, he shouted "Stop!"

   "What's wrong, Dad?" I asked as I jumped away from the wall.

   He then spoke for a good five minutes about the proper way to hold a brush, where to begin my first stroke on the wall, how the bristles should lay into the corner, how to feather the paint as to not leave excess paint on the wall, and on and on the lesson went. By the end of the day, we were both frustrated. I was frustrated because I thought he was picking on everything I did, and he was frustrated because he truly wanted to teach me how to do things the right way, knowing that if I listened, any job I took on from that day forward would not only go well for me, but the finished product would be just as beautiful as if he himself had done it.........He was right. I went on for many years after that summer painting countless houses, and recieved many compliments for the work I had done.

   I can't imagine what his response would've been had I come to him a few days later with a sponge, and said "Dad, I'm gonna use this from now on to paint houses instead of a brush. It just feels more natural in my hands."
   If I had thought that way, I'm quite certain that with enough practice I would be able to pull it off. Sure, I'd have to invent my own ways of hiding the imperfections, and the corners might be a bit of a mess, but even those could be given a bit of an artistic spin to make them look closer to the genuine article.
   He may have eventually accepted that this was just my way of doing things. He would never agree that it was the right way to do it, and he could undoubtedly show me many hard, cold facts to prove that his way way the best way for everyone involved, but he would accept that I do what I do, and accept that I'm happy with that.

   But what if I then came to him and said "Dad, this is not a's a brush, just like yours?" And what if I went further and said; "Not only do I believe this is a brush, but you have to accept the fact that it is. And furthermore, I want the schools to teach that it's a brush, equal in every way to yours. And I don't ever want it said again that my brush is in any way inferior to yours. In fact, I want stores to begin selling these as paintbrushes."

   He would probably hold up his brush, look at me very sincerely, and say; "Son, this brush I am holding was specifically and perfectly designed for one purpose. To paint. The sponge you are holding was not designed for this, but you have modified your use of it to accomplish your goal. You've done some beautiful things with it, and your work has value. But it will never be brush."

   Would I be reasonable to then call him intolerant? To accuse him of using hate-speech? Would I label him as being a bigot? Would I call his remarks "anti-sponge?"

   As rediculous as that example may sound, it's exactly what's been going on within the whole gay marriage argument.

   A quick, preliminary glance at the male and female anatomy would point out the obvious conclusion that these two bodies were specifically designed to fit together perfectly. A deeper study of the emotional and psychological qualities of each sex would show that, when approached as originally intended by God Himself, the two coming together as one become far greater than just the sum of their parts. There is an amazing interconnectivity that makes each better simply by the addition of the other.

   As Christians, we believe that the institution of marriage was not created by man. It was created by God Himself. Since we did not create it, we have no right to re-define what it is, no matter how compelling we feel our arguments might be to do so.

   Does this mean that we hate homosexuals? Absolutely not. Does this make us bigots? Intolerent? Again, absolutely not. It simply means that we believe there is a perfect union, created and ordained by God Himself, and this union is what we call marriage. It was beautifully created and ordained by a very personal, loving God, and it is the very best union known to man. It is absolute perfection. It was His gift to us, that we might know the incredible love and intimacy that can only be found there.

   For us, as believers, to be asked to agree that a relationship between two people of the same sex is absolutely equal in every way to a perfect union, created by God Himself, between a man and a woman, is simply unreasonable.  

It makes about as much sense as a young boy demanding that his father call a sponge.......... a brush.

   Does that mean that homosexuals are somehow less valuable than us? Absolutely not. Does it mean that God loves them less than us? Absolutely not. It simply means they are trying to paint a house with a sponge, and somehow they have succeeded in convincing many others that they're really using a brush, and that us "conservative brush-painters" are evil and intolerent for continuing to insist there's a better way.