Can I Get a Word in?

Our words mean more than we’re giving them credit for. There is actual power in our words and that power can be good or evil. Words are spiritual – when they are spoken you cannot see them but you can feel their effects. Christians have become so flippant with their words. We speak words and type them out with no regard to consequences. We speak and type without any regard to feelings. We say and write things to point out other people’s faults and missteps but fail to realize that by mentioning them at all we’re saying more about ourselves than we are about them. We’re revealing the kind of person we are by what we say about others.

The Bible says that words have power. If you don’t believe in the power of words think about the ones that cause you to have a strong reaction: a word that stirs up happy memories or sad ones; helpful words that encouraged you and strengthened you; words that make you righteously or unrighteously angry. We know what words mean for us and most of us would say they have the ability to make us feel something when we hear them or read them. So why do we forget their importance when we use them on other people?

We’ve stopped being careful about our words, blaming things like political correctness to excuse bad behavior. We use First Amendment rights as a way to shrug off responsibility. And heaven forbid we get corrected because we’ll throw a raging fit at you for trampling on our rights. What we say indicates our level of spiritual maturity. There are actual Scriptures in the Bible where it says it’s better to say nothing at all than to say something that isn’t beneficial to someone’s healing and growth. We even recognize that in the secular world: if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Again, we’re back to simplicity: but we surely know better and even if we over-complicate it and find excuses we’ll say it and do it anyway regardless of the consequences. And if someone tries to hold us accountable we won’t accept that accountability, and we’ll blame anyone and everyone else but ourselves and instead of the very words that came out of our mouths.

We’re literally not supposed to say anything unless it benefits somebody else. But we’re too guarded of our own opinions that what we say back to somebody doesn’t mirror what that person is feeling or needs to hear but is only projecting our own source of inspiration, our own beliefs, our own viewpoints. We speak before our brain and our heart catches up to our mouth. Words have become so frequent and abundant that we don’t even need to take a pause before our fingers fly over the keyboard or our mouths open up. We’ve memorized more political ideologies than Biblical Scriptures. We can quote denominational creed better than we can list the books of the Bible. Our opinions have become more important than the instructions found in the Bible and we even hold them to a higher standard than we do Scripture.

We forget that words are tools. What we build depends on how we use those tools. And sometimes we don’t even use the tools we have to build anything up; we use our tools to tear things down. I think it’s safe to say we’re more destructive with our words than we are constructive. The biggest reason why is because we’ve gotten lazy with how we use them. Most of the time you need to read the instructions on how to build something before you start building it. Well, when we’re too lazy to read the instruction book our project doesn’t turn out right because we didn’t take the time to learn how to build it properly. I’ve said before how Christians ignore their original source – the Bible – and I really do believe it’s because we think we know better than what’s actually in it. We let other people do our work for us and so we think we know what we’re talking about. Pastors and politicians and religious denominations have taken the place of our own work and research and study and so we only spout off their ideologies not realizing how much they can go against what we’re actually supposed to be believing in. It’s shameful that we let politicians speak for Christ; it’s shameful when we ignore teaching found in Scripture and just insist what we’ve heard is in there is true when we haven’t taken the time to find out if it’s there for ourselves. You can tell all of these things are true just by listening to how Christians respond to certain problems in the world.

Language is there for us to communicate with each other, not to tell each other what to do. With language exists the ability to relate to other people, but we don’t use language for that purpose anymore. We now have more than ever the ability to put our words out there for the entire world to see and we don’t take advantage of that opportunity to do something good with them. That’s because we use them selfishly and think only about what we’re going to gain – Likes, Comments, Retweets – instead of what might be beneficial for others to see.

The most important thing Christians can use their words for is to show the hope found in Christ. They’ve forgotten that they’re supposed to be preaching the Gospel message in all that they do. They think if they quote a Scripture or tell you what their elected official or pastor says about this particular hot button issue – abortion, gay marriage, immigration, guns – they’re showing you they are Christians. But those words have no meaning behind them and are doing more harm than good to your witness. You may have heard the phrase, Actions speak louder than words. In Christianity those two things are directly related: your words and your actions go hand-in-hand and will either give validity to your claims or will contradict them.

Be careful about what you say. Actually take the time to notice how people respond to your words. I’ve heard people say that they must be doing something right if their words caused that much offense. Can you use the Bible to say that’s true? Likely not. Either way, if you’re not a Christian you don’t even need the Bible to tell you that some of things you’re hearing and reading from supposed Christians contradicts everything they’re trying to teach you. And if you’re a Christian you’ve got to start realizing that your words are either giving credibility to your witness or is doing some of the most destructive harm you can do to God’s kingdom. Even these spiritual sounding words that won’t make sense to non-believers are being used in a respectful manner so I’m expecting some forgiveness and understanding in how I use them. But when you intentionally set out to use your words to criticize and condemn others then your words likely won’t get a positive response. But good for you for holding onto your First Amendment rights. Good for you for holding onto your opinions. Because they mean so much in the eternal grand scheme of things. Surely God will forgive you if you place the importance of being right over His commandments.

Crybaby

You can tell someone’s maturity level by how they respond to the word No. When we’re little that word can cause a temper-tantrum: we see that toy or gadget in the store and we have to have it. But our mean and rotten parents tell us no. And we know that we should have it; we deserve to have it; there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to take it home. But still our parents decide that’s not something you’re going to have. So you cry. And you cry loudly. And your whole world is devastated because the thing you were counting on won’t actually be happening. So you’re sad and hurt and even feel a little betrayed.

This illustration of a child throwing a fit is how I perceive the majority of Christians in the United States. We’re a bunch of babies. By that I mean our maturity level hasn’t grown to the point of adulthood yet. We’re guilty of being so immature in our faith that we throw the biggest fits when things don’t go our way. We, like the child, feel so deserving of something and we want it so badly that we can’t even see any reason past our own selfishness why things don’t go the way we want them to.

Think about it: is the parent being intentionally mean? Are you withholding something from your child because you don’t love them? Most likely not. You’re usually teaching them a lesson that, in you wisdom, you understand, but they don’t yet. And that’s the point of the lesson. You’re trying to impart knowledge. God, being called the Father, throughout Scripture does the same thing to us. But we don’t understand, even though the illustration of the child throwing a fit is something practical we get and may have even experienced for ourselves.

So why don’t we always get what we want? I believe it’s so we’re not tied down to anything down here. Christians are supposed to be the most free people on the planet because we’re not a slave to religion or to works to earn salvation. All of that was freely given to us, so we use our free will to live the most fulfilling lives for Christ no matter where that takes us or what it entails. If we’re too busy trying to get our kicks from earthly pleasures then we still have a worldly mindset. And, like I’ve said before, we aren’t supposed to ignore the problems people are facing in the world today, but we’re not supposed to get caught up in the anger, strife, gossip, and slander that you see everywhere. Christians are supposed to be the solution to fear and paranoia, not to be partakers and encouragers of such immaturity.

But, lately, we have been partakers. Our first thought when something doesn’t go our way isn’t that God might be trying to teach us something; that He’s withholding buying us that toy out of love for us. No, we look for someone to blame. We look for reasons and excuses that don’t even exist to justify our own selfish attitude to explain why that thing we want is rightfully ours and nothing should be standing in our way of getting it. The saddest part is we find people like-minded enough to tell us that we’re right. We’ve stopped trying to listen to the parent altogether but turn to people of our own maturity level who feel the same way we do – Of course you deserve that toy – Of course your parent doesn’t love you – Of course it’s not anything you’ve done that you’re not getting it; you’re a victim in all this – You’re being persecuted. When our head is filled with these thoughts instead of looking for wisdom we let our active imaginations create fiction instead of pondering the reality.

With that theory in mind, it’s also safe to say we’re immature because we’re not trying to learn past what we know. If we get used to a particular way of thinking then that becomes our lifestyle. Anything that lies outside of that line of thought isn’t something worth acknowledging or processing. It’s like the story of the Good Samaritan found in the Bible. The Pharisee – the religious leader – was so bent on being spiritual that he wasn’t going to look one way or the other to notice if anyone else was suffering around him. And he missed an important lesson in spiritual maturity by being immature himself. You have to admire the dedication in these people though: if they’re dedicated enough to stay in this mindset then nothing will stop them. They’ll even cross to the other side of the street to avoid taking care of a problem that gets in their way.

Don’t be like the tantrum-throwing toddler or the pious Pharisee. Don’t be guilty of creating imaginary problems when there are too many real problems that need our attention. There are many people outside of the Church who show us how mature they are and they don’t use instruction or Wisdom found in the very book we’re supposed to get ours from. They’ve achieved a level of maturity that we Christians should be seeking ourselves. Perhaps they’re like the Good Samaritan. I think the lesson there is that if your source of wisdom is from anyone or anything other than religion it’s likely worth paying attention to. Religion is in fact the last place you should be seeking for answers because religion is what allows people to create labels, and build walls, and draw lines in the sand. Our minds won’t ever grow beyond the boundaries set by religion. So we need to drop that attitude that being a devout follower of a certain religion brings and realize that’s the very thing keeping us so immature. The mature thing to do is to work out and exercise faith. Faith that what you’re doing is making a difference. Faith that if you don’t end up getting everything you want that it’s going to be ok.  

Are You Even Listening?

I believe that people are more alike than they are different. With that in mind it’s hard to understand why we’re constantly at odds with each other. We all have the ability to listen to each other, but we’re just choosing not to. Why aren’t we? What’s stopping us from coming together in peace and love and from crossing borders to get to know who’s on the other side?

For starters I blame social media. Social media is a great platform for letting people be who they are. We use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to show each other who we are and what we believe in. And in giving you insight into our lives we’re not asking you what you think of us. We’re simply presenting ourselves as we really are and are waiting to see how you will love us in response. Let’s start enjoying people for who they are without thinking we can ‘fix’ them or ‘convert’ them. Non-believers and Christians can be best friends with a mutual understanding for each other’s beliefs. And, if they really listened to each other, can probably have wonderful discussions that can further cause them to a) understand fully why the other believes in what they do, and b) understand fully why they personally believe in what they do.

We’ve quit trying to understand why someone else believes in something different than what we believe in. As if because their thoughts don’t align with our thoughts that there’s something wrong with them. No, it just means they don’t believe in what you believe in. And that’s ok! We’re guilty of thinking opinions are gospel truth. Well, I’m sorry to tell you that they’re not. Your opinion that mint chocolate chip ice cream is the greatest thing invented doesn’t stop me from thinking it’s an abomination. But should I prevent you from buying it? Or try to convince you not to eat it anymore? No, it means I should just get my own ice cream and let you enjoy yours.

There are many different kinds of people in the world. The most dangerous kind of person is the one who thinks he is right about everything. This kind of person doesn’t expect any consequences for his actions so he thinks he can do or say anything he wants. He wants what he believes in to be real so badly that he’ll ignore reason and truth. He’s been deceived into thinking he can rely on his own self-worth and importance.

It’s dangerous to think you have all the answers. Christians are now guilty of thinking they have the Bible figured out. If anything goes against what they believe in then they will not listen to what they are being told. But what if what they believe is there isn’t actually there? It doesn’t matter to them. They’ll still believe it’s there. They no longer have to check or read or study anymore; if they’re told it’s there by someone like-minded then they’ll just believe it. Even if it’s not true. They give up their minds and control over it to a political party or a religion or a denomination. Their minds and lives are no longer controlled by God, they are controlled by man. They’re know-it-alls who know nothing.

The best people know how to love properly. They don’t gossip or choose to offend. They don’t have all the answers and that’s fine with them. They don’t believe they have to have an opinion about everything much less share that opinion with everyone. They’re not so set in their ways that there’s no room for improvement or change.

My belief is that God puts all of us together no matter how different we are because He’s doing what He can to get us to learn more about something we don’t understand. He gives us so many resources that we waste. All because we want to be “more right.” We’re not supposed to try to be right. It’s ok to try to understand why we believe in what we believe in. But we should also have some flexibility. Some wiggle-room to let other people’s opinions and beliefs challenge our own. It’s only by understanding both sides that we can have convictions.

The Bible specifically tells Christians to not be so involved in all the troubles of the world. Not to ignore the problems of the world – we’re actually supposed to be solutions to those problems (instead we’re part of the guilty party that’s causing those problems). What it means to not be troubled by the world is to not get caught up in all the feuds and gossip and turmoil that pits one person against another. The strife that causes someone to think they’re the one who is right while another person is wrong. Maybe you’re both right or you’re both wrong! I bet people tend to agree more than they disagree. But you wouldn’t believe that by how you see people responding to each other. It’s possible to find a middle ground.

The best kind of relationship is formed based on trust and honesty. But how truthful are we towards each other when we no longer have any convictions over what we believe in? How can we trust anyone when paranoia has replaced facts? Communication is key to all of this. We realize the practicality of this in our private lives with our significant others. It’s not that difficult to make that same connection with each and every person we come into contact with.

Let’s go back to political ideology. You may think one side is the worst thing to happen to this Nation. But think about someone you actually know who’s a part of that crowd. You know them to be smart; to be funny; considerate; compassionate; understanding. If they can be a part of that and they’re not so bad then doesn’t that mean you’ve already made a connection to the opposite side of something you believe in? Isn’t it better to see things from another person’s point of view? Doesn’t that just prove right there that the division that’s working so hard to tear us apart doesn’t have to actually be there?

I know there will always be people who will choose not to be reasonable. They will not want to listen; they will hate you for what you believe in; they may even hurt or kill because of how different you are. Those people will be the ones who will choose to do their own thing and face the consequences of their actions someday. But don’t be like those people. Choose to be someone who recognizes the potential we have if we all built bridges connecting us together instead of building walls to separate us.

Persecution Illusion

Christians today like to believe they are the most persecuted group on this planet. There may be evidence to back that claim up in certain areas of the world. But one place where that claim has zero merit is in America. The most freeing place in the entire world for Christians is in the United States. We have an almost unlimited amount of resources to practice our religious freedoms and we can do that without facing discrimination or persecution from our government. We’re essentially spoiled. And that’s probably one of the reasons we behave so badly. Because we’ve been coddled we now think we’re entitled. And, trust me, the non-believers have noticed our tantrums and the snooty fits we throw when even the smallest thing doesn’t go our way. It’s sad how little our faith stabilizes us.

There’s a man in the Old Testament of the Bible named Daniel. He lived in a time where he was told to follow the law of the land or face punishment. The biggest difference between Daniel and the Christians today who face ‘similar’ circumstances is that Daniel had a much better attitude. And because of his stability God gave him a certain favor that I think is being withheld from Christians today.

Daniel’s beliefs were respected and he was admired by the very king who set the laws that Daniel didn’t follow. And not once did Daniel sacrifice any of his morals or religious freedoms to earn that respect. He diligently went out and served and worshiped God, was threatened with punishment, and was even asked to compromise his beliefs. Well, that sounds like rebellion against the law of the land! Daniel should have been fined! Or fired from his job!

But why wasn’t he? Why was he able to ‘get away’ without being punished for being a Christian while Christians today are claiming they are being ‘punished’ just for being Christians? Again it goes back to Daniel’s attitude. Not once was he rude or disrespectful to the leaders of his time. He wasn’t guilty of saying, Pray for this country out of one side of his mouth while talking badly about the government out of the other side. He may have had a bad opinion about the king, but not once did he say anything badly about him. He certainly didn’t agree with his policies, but not once did Daniel use his ‘right to an opinion’ to speak negatively about them. All he did was serve God. And he was consistent in how he went about doing that.

Because Daniel was consistent God was consistent in His promises. God provided Daniel ample opportunities to practice his religious freedoms during a time when a belief in God was under attack. God has provided Christians today with the same opportunities but we are failing to recognize them. Why are Christians today claiming persecution when they’re not taking advantage right now of the resources God has already provided? We pray for God to use us then never log off of Facebook to go out and meet a need. We claim persecution is what’s stopping us from doing something when God’s telling us that there’s actually not a single thing stopping us besides ourselves.

I will again concede that there are places in the world where Christians have it rough. We actually mock those struggles when we try to apply those same hardships to Christianity in America. It’s insulting to the hard work and sacrifices the many missionaries in the world have to endure by claiming we’re going through the same thing in this country. I can assure you, we’re not.

How selfish and greedy we have become! And lazy! We lack drive and ambition. We want to do the bare minimum. We think giving the smallest effort is us doing this huge offering of service. We cut corners. We cheat. We make excuses. We spend more time explaining our bad choices rather than just doing the right thing in the first place. Invest in the right decision now instead of validating your wrong decision. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. But it’s easier than trying to correct an error or clean a mess.

We need to get over this persecution thing because nobody’s buying it anymore. Because it was a deception in the first place we shouldn’t be surprised people saw through it. It just ended up being used against us by showing us how phony we really are.

All over I’m seeing how little faith Christians have in their beliefs. We claim God is real, that the Bible is His Word, and that Jesus died for our sins. But now more than ever I see little to no action from Christians that would give any validity to those claims. Our lack of faith is what’s caused us to lose our freedoms. I’m a Christian who lives in America and I probably have more rights and freedoms than other Christians who live in the same country because I haven’t surrendered mine to this imaginary idea that they’ve been taken away. And, like Daniel, I’m not guilty of sacrificing or compromising my beliefs in order to receive any special favors. I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m bragging. I only want to give validity to my beliefs by showing you the faith I have in them. Christianity has had a positive effect on my life and I have no problem showing that to you or talking with you about my beliefs.

My desire in these Posts is to show you why my beliefs are real by my attitude and behavior. Even if you never believe in them for yourself you will at least see one Christian who is trying to give merit to what it is we’re supposed to have faith in. But I need help – it shouldn’t be up to just me. This is something every Christian needs to work on. We share this world with saints and sinners alike and it’s our job to keep the peace. We can do that without compromising our beliefs. Like Daniel did. He faced real persecution. And so do many missionaries in several parts of the world. Don’t do their witness harm by saying you have it bad here. Take advantage of every freedom available to you to exercise your faith. With a stronger faith we can start to repair wounds we have caused; we’ll stop dividing ourselves and labeling everything by denomination and political party.

Real faith exposes real persecution which is a reality some Christians face. But the weak and phony faith found in American Christians has only exposed our hypocrisy and created a mirage that we’ve convinced ourselves is there. Persecution in America is an illusion.

Rotten Christianity

I have a relationship with God. It’s private, it’s personal, and that means it’s different than anyone else’s. It’s mine and what I make it to be. I am as close to God as I want to be and He knows me better than anyone here on Earth.

You might be thinking, good for you! I’m allowed to believe in that regardless of how it makes you feel. However, one things about my claim might make you nervous: if I have this attitude about God then how might I treat you because of it?

So many rotten things are said and done in the name of religion. The belief in a deity has caused many to behave irrationally. From my first sentence you might think of me as some religious lunatic, maybe conjuring up the biggest right-wing conservative or bleeding-heart liberal that you know. But I want you to know it’s possible for me to be a fanatic without being seen as crazy; I can take the best aspects of Christianity to improve myself, causing me to have a better relationship with myself and others. I believe that the Bible is full of teachings that have been beneficial to my character development, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without applying those lessons to my life.

I think we should all try to be better people. And those outside the church are already thinking that they don’t need a religion to be a decent human being. And I’ll agree with you – you don’t! In fact, for some religion has caused them to behave worse! But Christians are supposed to believe that our faith is what helps us to be better people. Are we doing a good job of reflecting that claim? Some are, but many more aren’t.

So why aren’t we more consistent? Why are there so many different extreme beliefs out there when it comes to Christianity? I think it’s because we’ve stopped making it personal. We’re letting pastors and preachers and politicians tell us what Christianity is supposed to mean so we’re not trying to figure out what it’s supposed to mean for us personally. This is how we’ve become so divided. Because instead of thinking for ourselves we’re choosing to listen to someone with an agenda. We’ve essentially been manipulated to believe what somebody else believes in rather than having our own beliefs. Politicians do it the best. They say you can’t even be a Christian unless you believe in this, or you don’t believe in that. What’s sad is we’re letting them get away with it because we get such a kick out of being a part of their campaign. How many of us bother to check the validity of what we’re being told rather than just believing it wholeheartedly because [this person] told you it’s true?

We’re now guilty of putting too much hope and faith in others. I’ve learned from my personal experiences that it’s not good to put all your trust into one person. You will never get everything you need out of only one person. But we have no problem doing that with an ideology – Republican, Democrat, liberal, and conservative. As if only Republicans are right! As if only liberals get it wrong! Guess what: there are some wonderful people on both sides! But you don’t want to believe that. Because you’ve been told by too many people that it’s one side versus another. And now you believe that lie which is why fewer relationships are being formed and more discord is being spread.

We should know better than to allow ourselves to be deceived in such a way. But this is what tends to happen when you forget the very thing you’re supposed to believe in. It’s actually impossible for someone like this to have any convictions because they only agree with what they’re told – and that could change daily depending on the agenda that’s trying to be pushed. I’m saddened by the political games Christians have been guilty of playing. I’m ashamed at how little faith we’re showing in our belief system. We mock what the Bible says by how we behave towards those with a different opinion than the one we have.

So what’s the solution? Part of what we can do is exercise our faith. We’ve replaced faith with paranoia and that’s why we’re so unstable. My faith is rooted in what I know about Christ. The time that I spend with Him strengthens my belief in Him and that’s causing me to want to behave as if He’s actually making a difference in my life. I started this Post by telling you of my own relationship with God. And I hope you see something different in me than you may have seen in other people who claim to be Christians.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not claiming to have all the answers and I’m not trying to say I’m better than anyone. The only person I’m better than is the me that I used to be. I do not wish to be guilty of the very thing I’m trying to teach against. I merely want to point you in a direction; it’s up to you where you go. I would like to think if you’re reading these Posts then we’ve built some kind of relationship. You can trust to find a Christian here who genuinely feels badly for how we behave and is doing what he can to generate a movement. This has been the whole point to what I’ve written thus far. I believe Christianity has been twisted to suit agendas. That it’s stopped being personal and has turned political. We don’t respect the teachings in the Bible and put too much stock into what we’re being told by pastors and preachers and politicians. In order for us to change this perception we need to start changing our own. We need to recognize those things that are trying to divide us and cut those things out of our lives.

Another key point I’ve been trying to make is the importance of unity. Recognizing that we’re being so divided on purpose would better strengthen our relationships with those inside the church. What if we stopped caring who voted for who? What if we stopped asking someone for their opinions about “hot-button” issues? Why are those things so important to know? Because they certainly shouldn’t change how you feel towards someone. The Bible says to love everyone. And everyone means everyone. Even those with different beliefs than the ones you carry. We focus too much on labels, even forming different labels to describe Christianity: Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Pentecostal, etc. It’s better to realize that we are all more alike than we are different. That kind of faith allows us to form better relationships with others, within the church and with those outside of it.

It’s time to stop creating imaginary problems out of paranoia and to start focusing on the real problems that we already have. The biggest problems for Christians are the ones we’ve created for ourselves. Those problems can only be solved if we can unite together with a purpose. That purpose should be to drop the labels, repair the brokenness in our faith, and present to the world a united front instead of the unstructured mess we currently have. Believers, do your best to get along with saints and sinners alike, Christians and non-Christians, those from a different political party than yours and those with a different denomination than yours. Only when we come into agreement can we have a positive impact on the people we’re trying to form relationships with.