Misinformation

Do you believe whatever falls into your head? Are you biased towards a particular viewpoint and don’t do anything to challenge those beliefs but only do everything in your power to confirm them? Even if it means distorting reality to fit your interpretation of truth? It’s so easy in this day and age to find exactly what it is you want to know. The only problem with that is that people aren’t trying to learn anything new anymore. All they want is confirmation that their truth is the only truth worth knowing. And that’s dangerous because it closes our minds to receiving any helpful information that would benefit our minds.

I believe what we fill our heads with is so important. We’re going to be spending all of our days receiving some kind of information. Advertisements, news stories, opinions, radio waves, Social media – all of these hover in the background of our day-to-day lives and most of the time are front and center and take our full attention. What we dedicate ourselves to is what we will eventually become. The Bible calls it becoming a slave to our master. And that master can be anything we give power over us. And that’s what we’re doing anytime we take anything into ourselves – we’re giving away some of our power and allowing what we’re intaking to gain some power over us.

The problem with Christianity is who we’re giving our power to. The less of ourselves we give to God the more open we are to being manipulated and controlled by others. These can be friends trying to get us to lay down our convictions, pastors with a particular spin on Gospel, and politicians who spend their entire careers pushing agendas. This is why it’s important to know the people we let into our lives. Because what they believe in will eventually influence what we believe in. Whether we agree with their viewpoints or not will depend greatly on how much we’re trying to take in from all sides of an argument. We should be receptive to any and all information that’s available and not limit ourselves beyond our own biases.

Now, I will address my own particular biases because it’s likely something that can be brought up against me: you’re preaching about being open-minded but likely have your own head full of what you believe in. And this is true: my head is full of my own beliefs that might not line up or match anyone else’s. But I have spent a lot of time learning all there is to know about what I believe in – even the other side’s point of view. That way when challenged by my beliefs I know the arguments for and against what I believe in and can therefore be open to learning even more. I have a Christian bias – obviously. The things that I see are going to be seen through the eyes of someone who regularly spends time reading the Bible, watching and listening to sermons, and going to Church. I have spent my whole life learning why the Bible is something I can agree with and stand by but I also know why someone can choose to think that our beliefs are ridiculous. Mostly because of how its followers behave. We’re the biggest evidence for or against Christianity and we seem to be doing the best we can to prove that it’s phoney, not worth anyone’s time, and is a pointless endeavor to pursue. Our modern version of Christianity has undone everything the early Church tried to build. The things that people died for then and are dying for today are mocked and taken for granted because we ourselves provide little to no substance to what Christianity stands for. We’ve torn down the house of brick and built one up made of straw. And the reason why is because our biases. We’re giving them too much power when we should be the ones in control.

Let personally held beliefs be the beginning of knowledge and wisdom for you. Allow it to be a jumping-off point to more information. Biases are only good if you allow them to open doors to more insight and understanding. Biases shouldn’t be used to close off any information. It’s only through understanding each point of view that you can achieve any kind of convictions. Don’t waste any moment or opportunity to connect with others, especially those who don’t see the world the way you do. That’s the only way our reality grows to encompass all aspects of life instead of the limited viewpoint that only we ourselves know.

All Things Are Possible

When it comes to getting my point across I’ve noticed I can sound a little harsh. I stated from the very beginning of this Blog that I wouldn’t use this platform as a way to bash people of faith and I feel as though I’ve done all I can to keep that promise. However, because I’m strongly passionate about my faith and our reputation I’ve allowed myself to give my voice an edge as I upload these Posts. But I want you to know that I’ve meant nothing but love and respect in each and every one of them.

Therefore, this Post is going to be a little bit different than the ones I’ve uploaded so far. I’m sorry if any of them have sounded negative. I hope I don’t come across as being accusatory or hateful or condescending. I’ve merely been trying to voice my concerns, and it’s obvious that I’m very passionate about my faith in God, Christ, and what I believe the Church is capable of. I’m going to do my best to sound positive and encouraging in this Post, though I won’t ignore the fact that we still have room to improve. And the reason I want us to improve is because I would love to see lives impacted for the better by what we can accomplish. God wouldn’t have left us in charge if we He didn’t think we weren’t capable.

Will we ever get better? It’s frustrating to think how difficult it is to change. The Bible motivates us and encourages us to be better people. But no matter how hard you try you discover that it’s not easy to tame your tongue or renew your mind or crucify your flesh – all things the Bible tells you to do. Our biggest enemies are ourselves. We’re a group pretty well set in our ways. We love tradition. It’s hard to branch out and try something new. Whether that’s out of fear or laziness or ignorance I don’t know. Maybe we don’t want to see change; maybe we don’t think we need to change; maybe we’re too scared or we just don’t want to do the necessary work. Regardless of why we’re no longer making any progress it should be understood that making no effort at all will guarantee zero results while being too bold and too zealous is also a way to set people off.

That’s why I think it’s so important to work together because we’re perfect at balancing each other out. The Bible makes many references to us being a unit. A people working together; a body with many working parts. Too many people with agendas take advantage of positions of power to exercise their authority in order to get their way and see the fruits of their own labor come to fruition. But Christianity isn’t about any one person – except for Christ, obviously. Christianity is about all of us coming together for one common purpose, finding the middle ground in our ability to relate to each other through our faith, and finding a way to express what we believe in to those who don’t share our faith. We have to be the reason why each of us have such a strong desire to serve God and worship God. But at the same time we have to be each other’s support when we attempt to carry the Gospel message to the world. When it comes to listening to each other and seeing things through a perspective that isn’t our own we could do better; I think God will intentionally put two people with conflicting beliefs together to test us and how often it is that we fail that test. If unity is so important than of course division will be the goal of the devil.

Start realizing that gifts don’t always come in a materialistic fashion. In fact most gifts are given freely and have no monetary value. I recently moved away from my hometown and I never thought that would happen. But it did. And while I miss living there every single day it’s such a blessing when I get the chance to visit. I appreciate seeing my family and my friends on such a bigger scale than when I lived there. I’ll love them the same amount no matter what, but it’s now so much more special to see them because it’s caused me to realize there’s a limit on the time we’re going to have together. We should all live like we’re aware that all of this is temporary. Everything we experience down here on earth won’t last forever. Realizing that there’s a limit on everything we do should cause us to do those things which we’re passionate about in such a way that it brings value to not only our lives but to the lives of the people we know and don’t know. Getting to do something you love for a living whether you get paid for it or not is probably one of the best things that can happen in a world where so much is beyond your control. This is one of the biggest reasons why I started this Blog: because I love to read, study, and write. And then I can come here and tell you all about what it is I’ve come across while spending time with God’s Word. Hoping and praying that it makes a difference in your lives.

I ask myself every day if any of this matters. How many people are reading these Posts? I can’t give you that exact number because to be honest I don’t know. I know that no matter if one or one hundred I want to do my best on these Posts because that’s what you deserve to get from me. You’re going to be using your time on many things in life. You’ll invest time, waste time, lose time, even save time; but you’ll never gain time. And I can’t think of any better use of your time than to try and learn how to be better people in the here and now. It’s the present that we live in but we should also have an eye on the future. Our ability to focus is a gift from God because that’s an opportunity for us to stop for a minute, look around, and see what needs should be met in the place we’re in.

Now, the other side of this is to not be somebody you’re not. Don’t force yourself to be anybody besides the best you that you can be. No need to compare yourself to others, put yourself down, or think you’re doing something wrong if you’re not performing at the best level you know you can be. Just always strive to come up a little higher. Press on. Paul – a great hero in the New Testament – said that even he couldn’t achieve perfection or arrive a place where he was completely happy with his performance. But this same man said that he completed his race and that he knew he was a good and faithful servant for Christ. That’s the balance. It’s the ability to recognize that there’s always room for improvement; that you don’t have to settle for anything less than the best. But at the same time make room for error. Allow yourself a little wiggle-room because mistakes are bound to happen. Realizing that everyone makes mistakes should help you be okay with making some of your own. Just don’t ever let those hold you back.

Coming across people who cannot stand you or your beliefs or who don’t want to listen to anything you have to say will be a given. This is life and you will never get the whole world to agree with you. So that should allow you to be free from that pressure: you cannot save everyone. God taught me that sometimes it really is enough to just want to make a difference – it’s the thought that counts, in other words. Now of course if there is action that I can and should take then I shouldn’t ever waste an opportunity like that. In fact, I should jump at the chance to be used by God in such a way that I can meet a need; or share some advice; or give someone a shoulder to cry on. In whatever capacity God wants to use me I should be ready to respond.

This is my longest Post to date and I thank you for reading it. If there are things you would like to know please feel free to ask me in the Comments section or Post your question onto my Facebook Page. This Blog is as much yours as it is mine because you’re investing yourself into it and are the reason why I do my best every time I open up my computer and start typing.

Checkmate

As Christians, it’s likely there will come a time when we are called out or have our faith challenged. It’s important in those moments to be able to back up our seemingly outrageous claims. There’s no point in pretending we know something if in fact we don’t. And many Christians today are pretending they know what’s in the Bible, or they know God’s will. Many aren’t responsible enough to admit when they are wrong about something. And sometimes they don’t even know they are wrong. But they’ll continue to defend their wrong answers and their wrong choices and their bad decisions.

If we’re found guilty of making an error in our judgement or our knowledge then we shouldn’t place blame. We should own up to our mistakes. If we’re caught and called out then we need to confront the issue. Maybe it would’ve just been easier to do the right thing in the first place. But if we perhaps make a mistake, or even if we deliberately do the wrong thing first, it would be worse to pretend that there isn’t a problem when it’s quite clear that there is one. Never assume you have all the answers. Especially when you only have half of the information. It’s no use pretending; someone will likely know more than you and will likely call you out. And how embarrassing it is to be wrong.

Perhaps we’ve become so prideful that gentleness and humbleness aren’t able to have their work in us. We think being wrong is such a bad thing when it’s really only an opportunity to learn something new. But when challenged by a belief that’s different from our own we start questioning the messenger. We’re too paranoid and distrustful to gain any insight that might be different from our own. All because labels circulate. All this division has put up walls blocking off an ability to learn from each other, to listen rationally, and to hear both sides of an argument. We instead choose only to believe in and agree with things that fall into our own line of thinking.  

Personal beliefs are something we should all have. But with that you also have to have convictions or those beliefs mean nothing. You can’t have convictions if all you’re doing is being told what to believe and you do nothing to confirm that belief for yourself. I’ve actually seen a lot of my friends believe in something that isn’t true, and it’s hurtful for me to see it knowing there’s little I can do to change their minds. They have to change their minds. They have to free themselves. And that’s hard for me to acknowledge because I’m someone who wants to help in any way I can. But sometimes that helping can be seen as meddling and it might actually be better if I don’t try to get involved. Which just goes against my very nature. Now, of course there’s a balance. Some people really don’t know any better and they will need us to at least point them in the right direction. But we cannot force or pull someone to go somewhere where they won’t want to go. They have to want to come along for the ride.

These Posts are not meant to be: do as I say because I’m right and what you’re doing is wrong. I’m not arrogant enough to think I have all the answers. These Posts are meant to start a dialogue; for you to better understand what it is I believe in and why I believe in it. It first starts with my faith in what the Bible says is true. Then it’s the hope that I put in Christ and His ability to change us for the better. Then it’s my expectation in the Church: that we really can present an accurate representation of Christianity if we actually made a better effort to do so. The rest is my frustrations in that I don’t think we’re doing that last part properly enough. I only point to the evidence: that where we once were respected we’re called out and exposed. Where once we didn’t have reason to be called hypocrites we give new validity to that claim almost every day. Where once we used to be able to agree to disagree we now engage in arguments with others and push our will on others, thus causing an even greater divide and doing nothing to bridge that gap between expectation and salvation.

Think of your reputation. No, we don’t live for the approval of man, no we don’t compromise our beliefs to make someone else happy. I’m talking more about, what are you contributing? Are you bringing something positive or negative into the fold? Christianity has a lot of bad things going against it. This could be the year of restoration; where our name finally starts to get back into people’s good graces. But in order for that to happen you need to examine what it is you’re adding to the mix. We’re all supposed to be united together, but I see too many people’s own personal agendas and opinions being pushed on others. And because your name is attached to mine it could be thought that I agree with you when maybe I don’t. That’s just your belief and there might not even be a Scripture to back it up with.

I don’t want to get caught being fake. If I’m going to present something then I want it to be genuine. In order for me to know that what I’m presenting is accurate, then I need to spend time with the thing in question. If I’m going to show people what it’s the Bible then I better know what’s in it. If I’m going to show people the hope and change found through salvation then I better understand it for myself. And the only way to know that is to discover freedom for myself before I can lead others out of bondage.

The following is what I’ve learned so far from reading and studying the Bible: Don’t say something that isn’t true. Be prepared to back up your statements, otherwise keep quiet. Opinions are not facts; just because you believe in something doesn’t make it right. The conclusions that you arrive to might be different from another person’s perspective. Nobody is going to be exactly right about anything. Listen to what others have to say. Be respectful of other people’s beliefs. Don’t always feel like you have to chime in on everything. If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all. Your right to an opinion doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for your actions. Freedom of speech isn’t more important than what God would have you do. Don’t be ignorant; fill your head with information from all sides of an argument and not just the parts that you agree with. Think before you speak. Take a minute to ponder God and His Word. Spend time in His Word. Be relatable. Exercise caution. Exercise discernment. Consider God and what He wants to be more important than what you want. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for patience and understanding. Be patient and understanding.

Even those outside of the Church can do and understand those concepts. It truly is sad and embarrassing that we don’t seem to understand them for ourselves.

Swan Song

If you couldn’t tell by now then I want to make it perfectly clear: I’m frustrated with what Christianity has become. If you’ve been reading my previous Posts then you know I’ve been doing my best to show you what Christianity is supposed to be like versus what it has actually been like. I’ve shown you many heroes of faith that are found throughout the entire Bible and have pleaded my case about how we’re supposed to be more like those heroes. Instead we’ve found ourselves slaves to religion and have burdened ourselves with opinions rather than finding freedom through faith.

We’ve become a people led by our heads. Our own thoughts and ideas overshadow the truth of the Gospel. And rather than preach the Gospel message found in the Bible we’re guilty of preaching the Gospel message according to [insert your name here]. We’ve also been known to have no more original thoughts and ideas of our own but instead we parrot what we’ve heard other people discussing with no real idea if what they’re saying is true or not and being too lazy to verify it for ourselves.

This is every part because of the phoniness that the world’s Christians have been presenting to you. So eager to spread their own agenda they forget the number one message found in Scripture: hope. They haven’t realized that the only way we can be a part of anything is if we let people accept us for who we are. If we present to them a lie then we can never be trusted or counted on for truth. That’s where Christianity has gone wrong: we’re literally lying to the world. We’re telling them one thing and showing them another. The most terrifying thing I’ve come to realize is that I’ve stopped seeing Christians and Christianity as much as I used to. It’s like it’s all been used up. It’s fallen. And what’s risen from the ashes to take it’s place is some anti-Christianity that poses as the real deal but offers nothing that the original Church based its hope on.

I hate to think of new believers or people who might be curious enough to check out what Christianity is supposed to be. You likely won’t get an accurate representation of what it is anymore because hardly anyone in the Church these days is doing their jobs well enough to present one to you. Have you noticed that only a small few are behaving in the ways they are supposed to be behaving? Have you perhaps been reading my Posts thinking, I never knew Christianity was supposed to be like that? And then thinking of everyone you’ve known or come across who has claimed to be a Christian and noticed they don’t act like that at all? Think about the last time you came across a real, live, legitimate Christian. Did that take you a while to figure out when that was? Did it even happen this year? More often than not the ones who claim to be a Christian the loudest are the ones who act the least bit like one. They’ve enveloped themselves in the comfort of their own ignorance and will fuss at any inconvenience that disturbs them.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think I’m the real deal or not. But I would hope my eagerness to spread the truth of God’s Word matched with my respect to your beliefs has given you insight into what I believe is an accurate representation of Scripture. Likely the ones who hate these Posts the most aren’t unbelievers, Atheists, Agnostics, or people of other faiths. Likely it’s they who think of themselves as Christians. People who have read the same Bible as I’ve read but hate the conclusion that I’ve arrived to because it doesn’t line up to what they believe in. But I don’t believe I’ve lied to anyone in my Posts. I’m open to receiving correction and guidance and to be led in the right direction if I have been found guilty of being steered the wrong way. But because of my heartfelt prayers and desires to do the best I can with the responsibility of these Posts I don’t believe I’ve been inaccurate in this message. Maybe harsh, but again a symptom of the frustration I feel.

It’s possible to be motivated by passion but remain a person worthy of respect. I will give credit where credit is due: at least those people who aren’t giving the best name or reputation to Christianity are on fire with what they believe in. But instead of that fire being used as a torch to lead someone in the dark it’s become a blaze that has sparked a devastating wildfire. There is definitely no lack of zeal in the Church today, and that can only be a compliment if the zeal comes from a genuine desire to show someone what Christ has done for you – how He’s changed you for the better and the reason why you’re so free isn’t because of a  new religion you’ve discovered but a faith found in the saving power of grace.

I do think the solution to our problem is simple. It wouldn’t take much at all to shift things ever so slightly so we’re back on course. All it would take is more effort. An effort to see ourselves as better people. To open a Bible instead of opening our phones to a Comment section on Facebook. To read past headlines into the heart of the matter. And to do a better job at trusting people. We’re all so paranoid. And we think the worst about others. Instead try to understand why someone feels the way they do about something. About what motivates them. Their desires. Their passions. Even if all of those things are misplaced it’s likely you can find some way to relate to them. Because we’re all people. And even Jesus Himself experienced much of what we experience. But he wasn’t a slave to religion and neither should we be.

If you’ve been reading these Posts then first and foremost I owe you gratitude. Thank you for taking the time to see what it is I have to say about something so near and dear to my heart. This is my life. And because not everyone is willing to make the effort to get to know me better there are going to be people who think they know who I am but haven’t a clue. They’ll think they know but they won’t understand. I have been unabashedly unashamed of my love and commitment for Christ. And I have been able to discuss that in a way that I hope hasn’t put off any unbelievers and people of other religions who have found their ways here. I would like to think that you appreciate my honesty. That you’ve seen through the lies that the Church has tried to get you to buy and are grateful that someone on the inside is willing to acknowledge their existence and is doing what he can to guide you in a better direction. The end result of all these Posts is a better understanding from both sides what it is we believe in. Challenge yourself by figuring out what it is you believe in. What you don’t believe in. And weigh the truth found in the middle.

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.