So is the Xanga fad coming to a close? It seems that fewer people are posting, few people are surfing, and even fewer people are commenting. Has Xanga run its course as a popular blog site?
I had a vision tonight. It wasn’t anything prophetic. It wasn’t anything hallucinogenic. It wasn’t anything mystical. What it was, in actuality, was a moment of insight, of clarity into what could be. The vision was this: one member of a men’s vocal quintet, singing his heart out in praise and glory to God, the joy of his salvation and the power of his worship pouring out to his brethren as he sang. The power of this was in the way he reminded me so much of one of my
closest friends in high school. It was a vision of what my friend could physically look like in 20 or 30 years, of what he could look like were he to accept Christ as his savior and let Him change his life forever. I could suddenly see my friend up there, his life changed by the power of Christ, and it struck me to the core that I hadn’t done more to share my faith when I could. My friend and I had talked about our religious beliefs, but I was almost always apologetic for mine, and we more often than not ended up in heated arguments. Over time, I pushed my faith to a dusty corner of my heart and rarely mentioned it. I wonder how much of an impact it would have made on my friend had I lived my faith more fervently. I wonder if I would have someday seen my friend living his faith in the way I saw this singer living his. I wonder if I could have, would have been the catalyst that changed his life. I may never know, and tonight I felt the regret of a missed opportunity.
Once again, it is the hatred, ignorance, and bigotry of the fanatical minority that earns the vast majority an undeserved label and stigma. It is exactly because of this reaction that I sometimes wish to distance myself from those people who call themselves Christians, yet somehow use those beliefs to justify their hatred and bitterness toward anyone who does not believe exactly like them.
Unfortunately, the instances of behavior cited in this blog are examples of people who have little to no understanding of the Scripture and of the work of Christ. The author himself demonstrates his complete unfamiliarity with the teachings of the Bible (and historical and
archaeological evidence), yet somehow considers himself informed enough to comment. Seems ironic to me, somehow.
I understand and appreciate the fact that Christians are going to be hated by the world. I have accepted the inevitable. People simply do not like to be told that they are sinners, that their self-indulgent behaviors are wrong and damaging, that ultimately a life lived without God is a complete waste, utter vanity. And as such, they voice their scorn and exercise their displeasure at every point possible. They do hold valid points, so far as they go — there are some Christians who obviously violate the teachings of their own belief system. They are the only ones, however, who ever make headlines, who anyone ever hears about. As a result the entire Christian faith is characterized by those few individuals who really messed up. It’s not fair, but it is the way it is.
The rest of us have to work ten times harder to share our faith. Persecution increases, though in the US we have yet to see it escalate to physical violence. Partly, we as Christians have brought this on ourselves; partly, it is the ‘natural’ order of things as we share a message that many simply do not wish to hear. The only way for Christians to overcome the stigma assigned to us is to be even more open and obvious in our lifestyles about the TRUE message of Christianity, so that those who hate in the name of Christ are exposed as the true minority. We must share our Message, we must love more strongly than others can hate, we must sacrifice and serve and care so that others can see that Christ truly is the Son of God and that God
is, in actuality, a God of love and justice.
It is things like this article that sometimes make me wonder if we as Christians have a chance of influencing the world for Christ. Yet, I am reminded that we cannot change the world all once. It can only be changed one person at a time, and sometimes I feel like that is much
too slow for me. But Christ’s focus was always on the relationship, and so to change the world, we must have relationship with those of the world and demonstrate Christ’s love through that relationship.
We live in a world that is driven primarily by the strength of its libido. Sexual stimuli surround us everywhere we look. Even the most mundane of daily activities, such as eating, are paired up
with images of eroticism, sex, and lust. Common knowledge says that sex sells, and it certainly must because nearly every product available in this capitalistic society of ours incorporates some sort of sexual imagery, either in its advertising or in the product itself or both. Our culture has so accepted and incorporated sexuality into the every mundanity of life that it has essentially thrown all caution to the wind and now exercises its proclivity for sexual activity far more freely than it ought. The consequences of this are the cheapening of the act of sexual intercourse itself and the diminishment of the moral will.
As a Christian man trying to live a righteous life, I continually find this trend extremely frustrating. Like nearly every man, I am easily aroused by the things I see. Oftentimes I wish it were not so, yet it is the way God made me, and it is something that I must face and deal with on a daily basis. This culture in which I am immersed makes living a pure life exceedingly difficult, as nearly every Christian male can attest. I can, in fact, count on just one hand the number of men I know, both Christian and non-Christian alike, who have not been affected by pornography. It is a medium for sexual arousal that has been made exceedingly prevalent, and the current trend of advertising, television programs, and movies only serve to whet the
male appetite for things that it should not desire outside of a healthy, Godly marriage relationship. Even the video game industry is not immune, and indeed, in many ways serves as an even greater purveyor of exotic images and sexual stimuli.
All this to say just one thing — we Christian men must strive with all our might to guard our hearts and minds against the onslaught of these stimuli to which we are so vulnerable. God calls us to righteous living and to roles of wise leadership, both in our families and in our communities. If we fail in the area of sexual temptation, we greatly weaken our ability to serve as the men we ought to be, as the men God desires us to be. Only in pursuing a deep, intimate relationship with God, in encouraging one another and keeping one another accountable, and in taking physical, practical steps to guard our hearts and minds can we ever hope to be as effective in our culture as we ought to be. The cost and heartache of failure are great,
but the joy and satisfaction of victory over weakness are immense!
So, I say this to you — do not wait until you have already fallen into sin to take steps to protect your hearts and minds. Take a proactive stance, develop that daily relationship with our Lord, find an accountability partner (or group), and set in place standards and barriers against the barrage of sexual stimuli that assault us each and every day. In the longrun, you’ll be glad you did.
The discussion on homosexuality here resulted in a few thoughts on the counterproductivity of the contemporary Christian approach to evangelism.
I do believe that Christians in our society today have done a great disservice to the homosexual community in their very angry, judgmental approach, something that Wilkins apologized for on behalf of those individuals in his speech. The result is that it makes it that much harder for us who do not hate homosexuals or pass judgment on them to share our testimonies of faith. I have been bitter and cynical toward Christians in the past because of this, something that God has been gracious enough to remove
from my heart in recent days, but I do feel weary at the thought of trying to break down those walls that separate Christians and the Church from those who do not believe, and not just those who are homosexuals. Personally, I do view homosexuals as every bit as equal as me and as every bit in need of a Savior as me. Why would I do them the disservice of holding my joy in, of being neglectful of their need? Where would I be today if no one had shared the Good News of Christ with me? Christ loves the homosexual just as much as He loves me and He wants them to live a life of righteousness, too, following close to Him. Those who follow Christ must give up some things, specifically those things that will hinder their relationship with Him. But in return He gives so much more. The homosexual is asked to give up an impure lifestyle, and at the very
least they are returned a healthy, vibrant, joyful relationship with the Savior of their souls. Is leaving them alone worth the cost, worth the sacrifice of withholding such a blessing?
I believe that Christianity would be a much more vibrant, much more influential faith today, especially in America, if all Christians would actually remember Who it is they represent and what it is that He taught us to do — love, share the Gospel, disciple, minister, serve – and compare that against they way they actually live and act. Actions speak louder than words, my friends, and I fear that the actions of Christians in America are sending the exact wrong message. No wonder we’re such hypocrites…
Having now worked outbound customer service for Safeco Insurance for the past several days, I have become convinced that Americans are neurotic about answering their telephones. Some of things that people have set aside long enough to answer my call have been both alarming and amusing. For instance, one call I placed was answering by a particular female who was obviously busy with something. I could hear quite a lot of water in the background, the source of which was clearly very close to the phone receiver on her end. We chatted for a few moments while I introduced myself and explained the nature of my call. When we got to the point in the conversation where I requested the actual information of her, she informed me that she would have to call me back – she had her head under the kitchen faucet and she was washing her hair! I stifled a laugh of surprise as she handed the phone to her daughter, who promptly took down the callback number and promised her that her mother would call back in a few minutes with the information we needed.
What has struck me in all this is how dependent on our telephones we are. We can’t simply let the phone ring, we have to rush to it and answer it immediately, lest we possibly miss something important. I’ll warrant that in some cases this is actually the case, but by and large the vast majority of phone calls we receive are little more than mundanities, things that we could ignore for at least a few moments and return to when other, more important things are taken care of first. Yet, we pick up the phone every time it rings and are often terse and perturbed when we find that it is not someone we wish to talk to.
Of course, my wife reminded me that oftentimes we answer the phone just to stop that infernal ringing. (Enter Pavlov.) I must admit that sometimes I can’t bear the sound of the ringer, but I would also propose that turning off the ringer is also a viable alternative. It seems that much of our time would be better spent on more important, and more satisfying, pursuits, such as giving that time to family and friends and the community. So, for those of you who can’t bear to be away from your phones (or cell phones) for longer than five minutes, I submit that you might find it worthwhile to change your lifestyle. A little extra ‘free’ time never hurt anyone.
I ran alone tonight, first time since starting this new exercise regime. As it turns out, that was for the best because I opened up. Or at least I opened up to the possibility of opening up.
As part of shutting down to God and to Christian life, I shut down my heart. I have long been a proponent of the fact that the heart makes a great servant but a terrible master, and I have advised many over the years to not let their heart and emotions make decisions for them. I have always believed (and still do) that the mind and logic should reign over the heart and emotions, all the while consulting the emotions, since they do play a critical role in making
wise decisions. Unfortunately, in shutting down my heart to God, and ultimately to myself, my wife, and everyone else, I also shut down a major part of myself and became less than the man I should be. During my run tonight, I began to pray with a great deal of honesty, something I have not done in quite some time, and I realized that one of the first things I have needed to do is allow my heart to be opened again and to make contact with that painful emotional center of my being. Life has been dully colored for me these past couple of years, and I expect that it will now take on a vibrance I have all but forgotten.
This heart-opening involves a six-fold process, the results of which I hope to see with some satisfaction in the coming days and weeks:
1. I had to open my heart up to God.
A man cannot live life fully or experience God completely without an open heart. Any relationship has a significant emotional element. No less with God. To hear His voice, to know His will, to experience Him deeply requires a mental knowledge of Him, yes, but it also requires a heart knowledge and an emotional connection, much the same way it does with a flesh-and-blood human being. So, I had to open up my heart to God again.
2. I had to open my heart up to myself.
In order to be honest and open with other people, I have to first be honest and open with myself. This requires me to open up to myself, to allow myself to experience those emotions that come with daily living, however pleasurable or painful they may be. It is true that there is a place where a person needs to follow their heart (though again I emphasize a rational pre-eminence over that).
3. I had to open my heart up to my wife.
My next obligation is to my wife, and so I have to open up my heart to her. We walked and talked for quite a while in a local state park yesterday, and it was both painful and refreshing for me. I was forced to admit to a number of things to myself and to her, and while little was resolved in my heart and mind then, it served as the catalyst for what has happened this evening. It is the start of what I hope will be a fresh and new and vibrant relationship with the
woman I married.
4. I had to open my heart up to my family.
I admit it — I have not been all that considerate of my family, both biological and legal, lately. I have been neglectful and impatient and intolerant and a host of other despicable things. Yet, part of opening up my heart to God requires that I open up to my family and extend compassion and mercy and grace as Christ would.
5. I had to open my heart up to my friends.
There was a time when I was sought out by a number of individuals to provide guidance and advice and wisdom. That has not happened in a long time, and I suspect, or rather I know
that is due to the fact that I closed up shop in my heart. I shut down emotionally and spiritually, exercising foolishness and folly rather than wisdom and understanding. My friends stopped coming to me, and I have been regretful of that. In opening up to God and allowing Him to wash over me, I pray for His wisdom to pour into me and flow into others. I want to be a blessing to others again, rather than a burden.
6. I had to open my heart up to the world.
Part of living the Christian life involves serving others, and serving others can only be done right when the heart is fully engaged and involved. There is great pain in service, but there is also great joy. You cannot have one without the other. It’s scary and hard, but it is also vastly rewarding and rich.
This is going to be hard, and I know I will still mess up. God hasn’t granted me perfection – yet. But I hope to stay the path and be the sort of man God really wants me to be. I have failed
many people over the past couple of years (not least of which is my wife), and I have failed God, moreover. Yet, I hope that God will still use me, and that He will continue to teach me, and through me, others. I share these things with you so you might learn and be reminded and renewed and refreshed and encouraged.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Living the Christian life is a lot like running. I know, I know — this is an old clichÃƒÂ©, one that you’ve probably heard a thousand times over from a hundred different preachers. But bear
with me, I beg ya’, because from where I stand, this old clichÃƒÂ© has a new perspective for me.
I’m on a diet — South Beach, in fact. As part of this diet, my wife and I have instituted a (mostly) regular exercise routine. Typically, we alternate running and cycling. Thing is, I used to hate running (it didn’t help that I was carrying 240 pounds everywhere I went). As time has progressed, however, I have shed 25 pounds, and I have subsequently discovered a new love for running. I see the greatest difference in my weight loss after running consistently for several days, I notice a significant improvement in my overall stamina and sense of well-being, I feel healthier in mind, body, and spirit after running. In short I love the way running makes me
Here’s where running really compares with Christian living (and where I really immerse myself in the clichÃƒÂ©). When I’m actually doing the running, I don’t like it so much. It’s hard, it hurts, it makes my whole body ache and burn, it pushes me beyond my physical limits, forcing me to tap into something deeper inside myself. The Christian life is very much like this. It’s hard, it hurts, it makes my body and spirit and will ache and burn, it pushes me beyond my limits in every area of my being, forcing me to tap into someOne inside myself, because I sure can’t do it all on
Problem is, I gave up running the spiritual race some time ago, gave it up in frustration with bitterness and anger and snide cynicism. I pulled off the track, tore off my jersey and my number, wadding it up and throwing it to the side in disgust, and became a spectator, watching the other runners go by and shaking my head at them in wonder, disbelief, and distaste as I puzzled how they could possibly go on abusing their bodies like that.
Tonight, I re-entered the race. I’m out of shape, I’ll grant you, for having sat on the sidelines so long. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep running, and I suppose I’ll probably wear myself out a lot for a while. I’ll probably experience a bit of light-headedness as I build up my spiritual body to run longer and harder. But the thing of it is that I want to try again. I guess I’m just tired of sitting still because, to be honest, I’ve never been happy just being a spectator. It’s not where my Coach wants me, and He’s been ragging on me for a long to get my butt back in the race where I belong. He keeps telling me I’m destined to be a terrific runner, that if I’ll just listen to Him, He’ll get me in shape and introduce me to bigger and better races. I don’t know if I completely believe Him, but my backside is sore from so much sitting,
and I’ve been miserable as a result.
So my feet are back on the track, and the road is hard and long and stretches a long way out in front of me. I do wonder if it will be worth it, this getting back into the race. I know I’m going to hurt a lot, and I’m a little bit nervous about that. I’m afraid I’ll fail and fall to the side again. guess I’ll just have to look around for a group of runners going the same direction and join up
with them. Running’s always easier with a group. Running’s always better when you know where you’re going, and I think I remember my destination.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No,
I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.