8 Things I Wish Every Christian Knew…

  1. I wish Christians knew it was scary and overwhelming to walk into church for the first time. Being greeted at the door can be a little uncomfortable for us. Worship can be a little weird for us.  A new Christian needs a soft kind word and space to let God work.
  2. I wish Christians understood that our lives are a mess! We lived without Jesus! Of course our lives are messy. If you have a new Christian in your group and they feel comfortable enough to tell their story, let them tell it and afterward thank them for their vulnerability. Sharing our stories heals our wounds.
  3. I wish Christians knew how much we need a prayer covering. A lot of us don’t have families who pray for us, spouses who pray for us or anyone for that matter. It’s just us and Jesus. Please pray for our spiritual growth and protection.
  4. I wish Christians knew that we need a new family. Our earthly families are often confounded by our new found faith. They haven’t forgotten how we lived our lives before Jesus and being made new is not within their understanding. Being with our families in our new found faith is often difficult and painful. We may need or want to spend holidays, especially Christmas and Easter, with our faith family.
  5. I wish Christians knew that we have really strong convictions. Our convictions may not be yours and vice versa.  Let the Holy Spirit convict. You have the blessing of supporting us while we walk it out.
  6. I wish Christians knew that our eyes are wide open. Amazing Grace says, “I once was blind and now I see.” New Christians are watching with their eyes wide open. You are an example to us.
  7. I wish Christians knew that God has called us. We haven’t prayed for 20 years to be in ministry. That doesn’t make us unqualified to be a part of ministry work. The Bible says that we are ministers of reconciliation, all of us. New Christians often have a passion and boldness because this whole thing is new and fresh. We have something to offer the body of Christ. Help us find our place and receive us with open arms.
  8. I wish Christians knew that vulnerability is important. We want to hear your faith stories. Faith stories are inspiring because it shows us that God is faithful. Your stories tell us how God showed you who he was in a place where your life was less than perfect. Your faith stories give us encouragement and hope.

So, there it is. Eight things I wish Christians knew about being a new Christian. I hope it urges you into love and good works.

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“When Christ calls a man…”

I love this quote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” I have never read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship. I often see this quote scrolling through Facebook and when I see it, there is this reassuring “yes” deep down inside of me. This quote is similar to what I heard when I committed my life to Christ. I heard that I get a new life. That was the glimmer of hope lying ahead of me. However, the new life costs the tiny (or not so tiny, depending on how much you like your life when you give it) price of your old life. It costs your old behavior, your creature comforts, your coping mechanisms, it costs you everything that would have preserved your old ways. Including getting your own way. Yes, Jesus asks you to die first. Then follow Him.

The corresponding scripture to the quote from Bonhoeffer is this: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to follow Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'” (Matthew 16:24-25) Our humanness is what wants preservation, our spirit wants transformation. That is the tension. When we give up our life, we learn over time that for every life preservation moment, there is a corresponding moment to die and follow. My husband and I talk about this a lot. He will come home and say, “There was a car broken down on the side of the road and the driver needed help. I didn’t want to stop because I just wanted to get home.” That is the self preservation side of him. Then there are other days he will tell me the same story but at the end, “sorry I was late, I decided to stop.” We all have those daily choices. How often do we depart the path behind our savior to maintain our schedule rather than deny ourselves to help someone in need? Probably more often than we would want to admit.

Then there are those self preservation moments where we have dreams and desires and wants and dreams and desires and wants…you get the picture. American life is full of this to such a distraction that we hang on to things that are bad for us in order to look good to the world around us. Following Jesus might ask us to let go of the hopes and dreams we had before we were made new. There are a lot of preaching voices that say the opposite of that. I know, I listen to them a lot. It gets me a little confused sometimes. I truly believe that my old hopes and dreams died when I died. I truly believe that God will show me new hopes and dreams as I grow in love and trust for him. My old hopes and dreams were self created and self preserving. Those hopes and dreams will be replaced with the hopes and dreams sowed into my created value before I was born, into my identity in Christ. Why? Because without knowing God, believing in Jesus, and hearing the Holy Spirit, I don’t believe I can know what I was created for. My old way was to pick and choose. My new way is to search Him and follow. And as I search Him and follow, He will reveal my purpose. A purpose not created by me but created for me. My God given created purpose is so much bigger and so much better than anything I could have ever thought or imagined. The same is for every believer. There is a big life waiting for us if we are willing to drop our own agenda and let God show us what we were designed for!

I feel compelled to pray, because my God given purpose is still being revealed. Maybe it is the same for you. I thank you Father God that you created me for a purpose in this time. I thank you that my purpose meets up with your ultimate plan for humanity, that we would all come to know and love you and love others in return. May my heart be full of your love and compassion for others while I walk out my purpose in my life. I thank you for Jesus and the path that I follow Him on. I thank you that it is narrow, reducing the choices that I have to make. I thank you that your yolk is easy and burden is light and when I choose to follow Jesus it displays your splendor.

In Jesus Name Amen.

 

Going the Other Way

In my opinion, Christians have ruined the word repent. The word has been yelled from street corner to street corner in condemning tones by well intentioned sweaty evangelists hoping to turn the heart of just one soul.  It has been waived in the streets on signs in crowds shouting in protest. Coming from the mouth of some the word repent can be a turn off or a source of fear. The truth is, repentance is a good thing. When we have an encounter with the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, he asks us to go and sin no more (John 8:11). Repentance brings about transformation and freedom for the human soul.

The simplest definition of repentance that I have heard is to go the other way. Unfortunately, I can’t find proof of that. Websters Dictionary says it is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, says repent means “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” Can we stick with going the other way? I think that is easiest. When I first heard the voice of God speak to my heart, it was a revelation of my sin. In order to see a new way to live, we have to see that the old way wasn’t good for us. Most of us walk around thinking that our sin is our very existence because we curse or lie or desire things that aren’t healthy for us. For me, my sin was insecurity. Who thought insecurity was a sin? A better definition of insecurity is fear of man. Drill it down further, people pleasing in order to be liked, needing approval to feel good about myself, dropping my God given identity in order to make a new person constructed to fit in with the world around me. Why is this a sin? It puts me on a thrown as the creator of myself and trashes God’s creation who is me in exchange for an idol who is me. Yikes. It is fear laden and fear does not come from God. Anything that is substituted for God as an idol is sinful. Sorry, it is true.

The thing about that voice speaking to my heart is that it wasn’t pointing it’s finger at me and yelling. It was soft and gentle. There was nothing in me that felt anything but love and affection. (James 3:17) It was so simple, like a duh moment. Not aha! It was oh…wow…The revelation of my sin came with a rhema word (A bible verse that stuck in my heart, even to this day) to direct me in a new direction. “You are clothed with strength and dignity and no one can take that away from you.” (Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity and Proverbs 31:25) Can you see what I am saying? Repentance reveals sin and replaces it with truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26). You cannot repent if your sin has not been revealed and you cannot change the way you are going until you understand the truth to replace the sin. That is why we need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us to comfort us and to tell us which way to go. He loves you, He doesn’t condemn you. He is showing you that you are on the wrong path and there new direction he wants you to take.

Changing your direction is a lifetime process. Confess, repent, and receive is the life you will live until you go to heaven and meet Jesus. While God knows everything about us past, present, and future, acknowledgement of our sin is important to the process of repentance. You can live in sin and believe you are doing good. I know that sounds weird but if insecurity is a sin then I bet a lot of things we don’t consider to be sinful is sinful to God. He is faithful to bring us into all knowledge, we have to be tuned in to the Holy Spirit, teachable and humble. After we confess and repent, we get to receive God’s forgiveness and love. We step out of the darkness and into the light where we can be seen and have renewed relationship and freedom (1 Corinthians 4:5).

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is taking up our cross, daily. Yes, we carry a cross. Sometimes our cross is our repentance. My first real conviction to change something I do regularly was drinking alcohol. Again, it was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that the reasons I chose to drink were not healthy for me. It was true. I used alcohol as a coping mechanism. One reason was to deal with my social anxiety. Alcohol released my inhibitions to be more outgoing and “fun” (does that sound like insecurity?). The other reason I used alcohol was to manage stress. Because I didn’t know how to calm my emotions, I used alcohol to subdue myself into handling stressful situations. Now, that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. It could produce an angry person or a happy person, I never really knew who would come out when I drank. Sometimes when you get a conviction and start changing the direction you are headed, people started noticing. All of the sudden, I was no fun. The old me would have taken a drink against my will and gotten drunk to be more fun. The new me had the strength to carry that cross and say no. I can’t say I did it with joy. I just left the situation or didn’t accept invitations to socialize with alcohol. Over time, though, I was able to accept invitations and enjoy myself without drinking. Then, one day, I asked the Holy Spirit if I could drink with my husband and got a yes. Yes, I can have alcohol with my husband. That has evolved into a yes I can have alcohol. I rarely want to drink. So, really it isn’t even an issue anymore. I have a new cross to carry. We can talk about that one later.

Repentance is something we are going to have to do over our lifetime. It isn’t a bad thing, God is just asking you to go another way, to choose His way. Sometimes God is asking us to give up something we love because we love it more than we love Him. Those are the times where we come head to head with Jesus, we might be angry but Jesus just looks us in the eyes with love and compassion and helps us see there is a new way to live. We can live without that thing that we thought we needed and loved more than Him, as long as our eyes are fixed on Jesus. Over time, living without that sin becomes easy and we can return to something that we like without it over powering us. So, friends, repent! Rejoice that you hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that you can fix your eyes on Jesus, and that the love of Father God is an all consuming, refining fire that strengthens you to live this life called Christianity. (See Hebrews 12:25-29)

Obedience for Rebels

Shepherd_SheepI entered Christianity as a rebel. The better part of my adult life was doing the exact opposite of what I was taught to do. I am a free spirited person. I don’t like rules and structure. I believe in ordered chaos. I know that is weird. Here is what I mean; my house is messy but I know where everything is in the mess. When things are organized, as most people would define organized, I can’t find anything. If a person with an administrative gifting is a type A personality, then I would be type Z. A type A personality who doesn’t know Jesus would love to grab hold of me and teach me a little about organization, structure and following the rules. I would in turn take the example of structure and organization, tear it to shreds and walk away feeling quite satisfied while my type A counterpart would be very upset. I’ll do it my way, thank you very much!

When I heard that Christianity requires obedience it tweaked me. Could I love Jesus enough to become a rule follower? At least that is how I saw it in the moment. I believed that obedience was rule following. It was adhering to structure and being a follower. That is just not who I am. I imagine that many people who have not been raised a Christian hear stuff like this and end up running out of church saying “I am not signing up for obedience training!” Truly, me neither! I am not a dog! I am being asked to be a dog! Actually, there is no truth in that. Christians are not dogs. That being said, we are asked to be obedient. Out of love for God, we choose to be obedient.

How does a rebel like me become obedient? It is simple and complex all at the same time. First, I had to stop defining who I am outside of who God says I am. I have a new identity. I am now a child of God. How do we know we are children of God? A person who loves God, has put their trust in Christ, who does what is right, and loves their brothers and sisters in Christ are the children of God (See 1 John 3:10). I have been born again into a new life. Christ is now my life (Colossians 3:4).

The exchange between Simon Peter and Jesus in John 21 reveals what Jesus asks us all to do as his disciples. Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus tells Simon Peter to “feed my lambs.” This exchange happens three times. If we love Jesus, we will feed the lambs. Meaning if we love Jesus, we will love and care for others.

I have had to take the obedience thing in stride. It is easy to turn obedience into religion. That is not what obedience is. God doesn’t love us because we are obedient. We are obedient because we are secure in God’s love for us. The commands are this: “Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-39).” Christianity is not about being obedient to the Old Testament Law. Christianity is not about fulfilling sacraments. It is about love. Galatians 5:14 says, “…the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Obedience is love. If you love, you are obedient. It is that simple.