Is it confrontation or just plain criticism?

Has someone ever confronted you? If you’re a Christ-follower and you’ve made some really unChristlike decisions on purpose, has anyone ever come up to you and challenged you?

I know people who have experienced that, and I can’t imagine it’s pleasant for either person. And I think it’s important, especially if that person is a Christ-follower. If you’ve given your life to Christ, you shouldn’t look like everyone else. You should look like Jesus. And we may never get there, but that’s our goal. Or at least it should be. And that’s why we have each other–to help keep us accountable.

But what about for other issues? Has another Christ-follower ever confronted you about your lack of one-on-one time with God? Or about how little time you spend reading the Bible? Or about how often you volunteer to help others? Has anyone ever confronted you about those things?

If so, what did it do to your heart? Did it make you want to go sign up to volunteer right then because you love God so much? Or did it just make you really, really angry?

pedicure2Today’s verses are Romans 14:1-4.

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

Confrontation is essential in our lives. We have to know how to do it, otherwise we’ll constantly be stepped on and undervalued. We’ll never stand up for the things that matter, because believe it or not, the world doesn’t much care for the things Jesus does.

But more often than not, I really think Christians take confrontation to the extreme. Granted, I know Christ-followers who have confronted believers with their sins, and it’s turned them around completely. But it isn’t the confrontation that did it. And it isn’t the person who spoke up. It’s the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life Who made the difference.

But what about those Christians who are trying to get the basics down? Do they need to be confronted? Or does your confrontation look and sound like criticism?

We mean well. I think we truly want to help other believers, because we have found such amazing joy in our own walks with Christ that we want others to share it too. But I think we forget that God made us unique, and that means we all serve Him differently.

It’s you know they’re sleeping around or abusing people or living a life that God says is wrong, that’s different, of course. But for a Christ-follower who is doing the best they can with what they have, please, just remember who you are and who their Father is.

It’s like the thumb criticizing the big toe because it isn’t doing a good enough job. But if you work an office job, of course your thumb gets more use than your toe does. You sit down all day. What matters is that when you stand up, your big toe holds its weight.

We’re all a part of God’s body. Some of us have been here longer than others, but we’re all one body. And criticizing each other discourages and demoralizes the members who are doing the best they can with the time and opportunity they have.

If someone wants to get closer to God, they’ll look for a way. If they want to know the Bible better, they’ll ask. If they want to serve, they’ll step up. God works in different people’s hearts in different ways, and that is between that person and God.

Don’t be afraid to invite people. Don’t be afraid to include others in what you’re doing. If you’ve got a great Bible study, ask others to come with you so they can hear what you’re learning. If you work in a ministry, invite others to come with you so they can see what you’re doing. But don’t tell them they aren’t working hard enough for God. That’s not your judgment call to make, and all you’ll do is hurt them.

Keep yourself in line. Be willing to share what God is doing in your life. And, honestly? Just chill out. God is responsible for helping people grow. Not you. If you get to be involved, it’s because God has invited you.

Standards

I work for a plumbing, heating and pipe-joining systems manufacturer. It’s actually a really great company, and I really enjoy my work (even though it does tend to stress me out a lot of the time, but most of that is just my failing to deal with it properly). My company, Viega (pronounced VEE-guh), is honestly a pretty unique place. Once of their claims to fame is that they hold themselves to a high standard of quality in manufacturing. And, although I’ve never visited the manufacturing plants in Germany, I have seen the one in McPherson, KS, and it really is pretty incredible. Everything has a place, and everyone knows what they’re doing. And it’s so clean most of the time you could eat off the floors.

The are passionate about plumbing, which sounds really strange, but it’s true. They are devoted to quality assurance and making sure that customers get the very best products possible. I know, I know. I sound like I work in their marketing department . . . well . . . I do.  =)

But when I read the verse of the day this morning, I actually thought about Viega and their high standards of quality.

Now, maybe this is a stretch, but hear me out.

As a followers of Christ, we are supposed to live a life above reproach. We are supposed to hold ourselves to a different standard than other people who don’t believe the same way. Now, does that make us better than them? Absolutely not. All people are 100 percent equal in God’s eyes. None of us are good enough to get into heaven without Jesus’ help. But those of us who have chosen to follow Christ — who claim to be Christians — we know right from wrong, we have the power of God in our lives, and we are expected to live life the way Jesus did.

So what happens when we screw up?

It does happen, you know. A good example? If you read this blog with any consistency, you know I truly struggle with my temper against bad drivers. I just have no patience for them. Well, I don’t know what happened yesterday, but I was turning right on Maize road at Kellogg (it was near 5pm; that was my first mistake). And I waited until all the traffic turning off Kellogg had gone past, and I didn’t see anybody coming so I went. But apparently the light had turned green and the traffic from Maize on the other side of Kellogg was closing in. There was a black truck heading straight for me. So I stayed in the merge lane until he passed and jumped in right after him, flooring the gas pedal. Unfortunately, it was a little closer than I like to push it, and I might have caused the driver of the white car behind me a slight bit of distress. . . .which he gestured quite abundantly in my rearview mirror, though he didn’t even need to hit his brakes. (I felt bad about it . . . and then he swerved around me and tailgated other people in the left-hand lane until he turned off on 21st and then I didn’t feel so bad because he was obviously an impatient driver anyway . . . but that’s probably rationalizing).

So even I, who have a terrible attitude about bad drivers in Wichita, can accidentally pull out in front of somebody sometime.Everybody screws up.

What do we do? 

Colossians 3:13

13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

As believers, we are held to a higher standard of life. We are expected to live a life that is as blameless as possible so that we can bring glory to God, but God knows we’re not perfect. And God knows that at the moment, every believer has two natures — the redeemed nature and the old black sin nature that drags us down and tempts us to sin.

We have to recognize that people sin. And we have to realize that other Christians sin. And while we are never to condone it, we also need to expect it to a certain extent. Not expect it as in, “eagerly anticipate the day when So-And-So will make a terrible mistake and commit some kind of attrocity.” No. Just understand that everyone sins. And when a Christian makes a mistake, don’t hold it against them. Forgive them. I guarantee that whatever they’ve done isn’t as bad as what you’ve done.

And half the time, you don’t even know what’s going on. You may perceive something as a sin, and it might not be. After all, we’re not the ones to judge sin. The Bible is.

It’s our job to love. That means forgiving people. That means understanding that although we believers ought to live a life above reproach, there are moments in every Christian’s life when we will be less than perfect.

However, there’s a big difference between sinning once and repenting (which is just a fancy religious word for being truly sorry and purposing never to do it again) and sinning repeatedly. Repeated sin is rebellion, especially when it’s coming from a Christian who knows better. And that’s a different topic altogether.

But, Christians, we all need to get along. We’re family, after all. And we’re going to spend eternity together. So when your brother or sister makes a mistake, don’t be so hard on them. Don’t lecture them on what they’ve done wrong. Don’t keep bringing it up time and time again. Don’t hold it over their head, and don’t put them on guilt trips about it. Just forgive them. Then do your best to forget it and keep loving them. Encourage them. Help them. Hold them up. Build them up.

I guarantee that sort of response will be more beneficial than a lecture anyway.

Masquerade

Does anyone know why Christians feel the need to maintain a facade of perfection when their lives are actually falling apart? I do this all the time. Even (and especially) if my life is crazy and feeling wildly out of control, I still keep my Good Little Christian Mask in place. And it’s the same when I sin. I sin just like everybody else, but I don’t like to talk about it. Because I don’t want people to think less of me.

Are those the same reasons every other Christian hides behind the mask of the Holier Than Thou? I don’t know. But it seems likely to me.

I don’t like people to know my weaknesses. I don’t like people to think that I’m a bad person. I don’t like people to know that I’m not perfect in every way. Of course, everyone knows all those things already, but there’s something in me that makes me want to put forth an image of perfection in spite of that. But it’s a lie.

So if every Christian is like this, wearing masks to cover up their failures and their flaws, what happens in a church? You end up with a bunch of people who are faking life. They’re fine. Their life is fine. Their family is fine. Everything is fine when it really isn’t. And I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that . . . until someone who knows they’re not fine walks through the doors.

That’s something that has always fascinated me. Christians have this concept that we’re supposed to be “fine” all the time just because we know Jesus. But people who don’t know Jesus already understand the fact that they’re screwed up . . . and they don’t have a problem with it. Most of the time, they try to be better. Christians cover it up.

So that’s why people who don’t believe in Christ feel like they don’t belong in church. They know that they’re not perfect, and hanging around a bunch of people who are pretending to be perfect is frustrating.

The verse this morning is James 5:16.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

We’re supposed to confess our sins to each other. Not to a priest for forgiveness. But to each other for accountability. It’s a lot harder to go back to your specific sin if someone is holding you to your word not to do it anymore.

Christians are people, and all people are flawed. It doesn’t matter what you believe, where you live, how you grew up or who you are; everyone sins. And trying to cover it up not only hurts you as a person, it alienates you from other people. Am I saying we should be proud of our sin? No. That’s kind of funny though. Taking pride in our sin. I know some people who do that, though, but I think those people just don’t understand how serious sin is.

How does covering up our sin help us? Just think about that. Jesus didn’t come to die for us so we can deny the fact that we’re sinners. He came to die for us to make a way for us to escape sin altogether. Covering up, denying the fact that we’re all imperfect, flawed failures, cheapens His sacrifice and it takes glory away from God.

When you get right down to it, denying your own sin is pride.

It’s so odd to me, personally. Because I have no trouble listening to other people confess their sins. I never think ill of them, and I always pray for people to help overcome whatever sin they struggle with. But when it comes to confessing my own sins to others? No. My pride takes over and I don’t want to admit to anyone that I struggle with the same things they do. I have this idea that I’m supposed to be better than everyone else and that everyone expects so much of me that I’m not free to admit any failure of any kind. And that’s wrong. Because I have failed. More times than I like to think about. And the beautiful part of my failure is that God has always been there to pick me up again. He’s never given up on me. Not once. And when I act like nothing’s wrong — when I act like I’m fine and everything is going perfectly in my life and in my relationship with Christ — I take all the credit for anything good in my life, and I don’t deserve it.

Masks are only appropriate in a place where you don’t want to show your face, where you don’t want to admit who you are or where you want to make people guess. People wear masks at masquerade balls with dresses covered in feathers and sequins and weird stuff like that. And while masquerades are fun to attend on special occasions, life was never meant to be like that. But that’s what we turn it into. We hide our faces — our real selves — from the world because we want people to like us, but all we accomplish is pushing the world away because we are hypocrites.

No one is perfect. Everyone has fallen short of the goal. It’s time we stop acting like we haven’t. And once we are free enough to let everyone in the world know that we have all failed, God will be able to show the world that He never has.

Attitude is like Faith – you can’t see it but it changes everything

Does anyone else struggle with their attitude? Generally speaking, I’m usually okay, as long as my day is going all right and no one upsets me . . . or if nobody expects more out of me than I’m prepared to give . . . or if people don’t act like buttheads . . . or as long as people don’t drive like idiots . . .or as long as people do their own jobs. If everybody else manages to behave, I am usually able to keep my attitude in check.

But on the days when the people around me don’t behave? Yeah. Watch out.

It’s so strange too because all it takes sometimes is one thing going wrong — or one person acting stupid — and my attitude (and all of my good intentions) can go down the drain. How silly is that? That one person can affect my entire attitude?

My attitude is mine. It’s my choice. It’s not like you’re born with a bad attitude, even though some people act like it. Our attitudes are a choice we make, usually every morning when we wake up. In my case, my attitude is a choice I make after I drink my morning coffee . . . . But it’s a choice I have to keep making throughout the entire day.

Attitudes are kind of like faith because it’s something you choose and have to keep reminding yourself that you’ve chosen even when the world blows up around you. Attitudes aren’t some ethereal, abstract concept floating around in the ambiguity of life’s gray spots: they are real, concrete choices you have to make every moment of every day.

When I wake up in the morning, I can choose that I’m going to have a good attitude today and that no matter what happens to me I’m going to keep that good attitude. But I guarantee that I will have to remind myself of that choice a couple of hours into my day when someone cuts me off in traffic, or when some kamikaze suicide driver pulls out in front of me off Bently Road (it happens every morning). And then I’ll have to remind myself again when I get to work and discover that some project I worked my butt off on yesterday has been redone and I have to spend another week on it.

Attitudes are important because they determine how we handle the events in our lives. It’s beyond optimism and pessimism. That’s more of a personality issue. Like whether or not you say a glass if half empty or half full. I have always said half full. I know someone else who says half empty. I’m an optimist. This other person is a pessimist. But we both have good attitudes.

Attitudes reach beyond our personalities. Beyond our inclinations and proclivities. Beyond our talents and our identities.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:5-8 that we need to have an attitude like Christ had.

5You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

 6 Though he was God,[a]
      he did not think of equality with God
      as something to cling to.
 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
      he took the humble position of a slave[c]
      and was born as a human being.
   When he appeared in human form,[d]
    8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
      and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

That is a tall order. Have an attitude like Christ? Is that even possible? How can we even begin to do something like that?

Jesus was God. Period. It wasn’t that He was a man who God had chosen. It wasn’t that He was a man who had worked hard enough to be good enough. It wasn’t that He was even just the Son of God. He was God. (He is God, rather.) They are one and the same.

While He was on Earth, He could have demanded royal treatment. He could have had people bowing at His feet, worshipping Him. He deserved it. Even before He died for us, He deserved it. He would have been well within His right.

But He didn’t.

He was born in the dirt and filth of a stable. He grew up in a poor home. He was a blue-collar worker, a man who worked with His hands. He was despised by the people of his town because they looked at Him like an illegitimate child.

I’m telling you what, if anyone was entitled to have a bad attitude, it was Jesus.

Just imagine what it was like for Him. God sent Him down here, first of all (They’re the same, but They’re different; don’t ask me to explain the Trinity and don’t try to explain it to me either because you can’t). Jesus had lived in Heaven so how could Earth even begin to compare? It was filthy and nasty and dirty and poverty stricken, full of people who were vile and cruel and wicked on good days. And Jesus was here to die an agonizing death for us, so He lived with that knowledge hanging over His head for His entire life. Can’t you imagine what He must have felt when people mistreated Him? When people spoke ill of Him or made fun of Him or pressed Him to do things for them that they should have done for themselves? He could have easily put on the martyr attitude. Or the put-upon child attitude. Or the whiny attitude.

And it’s not like He’d done anything to deserve ill treatment, either.

He was God, in the flesh, on Earth, being mistreated. And what did He do?

He healed people. He loved people. He laughed with people. He cried with people. He was humble. No, He was beyond humble. I don’t think humble is a good enough word to describe the life Christ lived on Earth. I just think it’s the only term available to us at the moment.

So how can I justify getting angry at bad drivers? How can I justify letting my attitude slip into something dark and moody when someone mistreats me? I can’t. There is no justification for it. I’m sure Jesus had bad days too, but they didn’t affect His entire attitude. And that’s what I need to work on. When events in my life all feel like they’re stacking up into a mountain that’s higher than I can climb, I don’t need to get gunchy . . . I just need to take a step back and let God help.

I need to have an attitude like Jesus did. And I need to keep that attitude, no matter what happens to me throughout a day. I may have to decide to keep that attitude twenty times in a 24-hour period . . . but when the day is over, it will be worth it. Because even if everything in your life is going down the drain, if you can keep a positive attitude and keep your focus on God, you can deal with anything. You can have joy in the worst circumstances. Not only that, but it’s so much easier to remember that God is in control.

The second Adam

I’m so thankful God gives us second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. And 100th chances. No matter how hard I try, I still end up doing what I know is wrong. So knowing that He will always be there for me is comforting, especially when I’m struggling with guilt in the aftermath.

I get so frustrated with myself because it’s so easy to think any sin I commit isn’t as big a deal as other people (there’s my pride issue creeping back in again). But Jesus said even thinking about committing a sin is just as bad as if you had done it. If you look down on murderers, have you ever hated someone? If you look down on adulterers, have you ever had an innappropriate thought? Just thinking about it is tantamount to doing it.

We’re all the same. And all our sin is the same. Just because some of us think about it instead of doing it doesn’t make us any different. Or any better.

Many people curse Adam, the first Man, for the sin he committed in Eden — eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when he knew he wasn’t supposed to. And even when I was little, I wondered why he had done it. Why he had sacrificed all of us for a piece of fruit. But the truth is, folks, Adam didn’t know about us. He didn’t know that there would be uncountable billions of people who descended from him thousands and thousands of years later. He was human. He had no clue about the consequences of his sin. Just like us.

We stumble along in life doing what we want to do because we want to do it, and we have no idea how our actions are going to affect our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children. But we don’t think about that because it’s too big for us to wrap our heads around.

And we curse Adam for failing us in the garden? Adam did the best he could. He was the best shot we had. Otherwise, God would have made someone else instead of Adam.

Our sin deserved death. People think death means something it doesn’t most of the time. In our normal human connotation, death means the end of life as we see it. But death in the Bible just means separation. Physical death is separation of the Soul and Spirit from the body. Spiritual death is separation of the spirit from God. With Adam’s sin, because all of us are descended from Adam, we were all born spiritually dead, doomed to spend the rest of eternity separated from God when our bodies die.

That’s why God sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus was the second Adam, the second chance for the human race to have a relationship with God.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

20But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

 21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

Adam was the best hope we had, and he blew it. Not because he was a bad person. On the contrary, I’m sure he was a great guy. I’m excited to meet him someday soon. But he was still human.

Jesus was human, but He was also God. Able to feel everything a human feels, to struggle with everything a human struggles with. But God enough to overcome all of it. And Jesus didn’t fail. He triumphed victoriously, and because of His sacrifice on the cross, anyone who believes in Him can be restored to a one-on-one relationship with God.

Does that mean that those who believe are automatically perfect?

Yeah, right. I wish.

Believing makes us right with God, but it doesn’t get rid of our smelly old sin nature. We’ll still struggle with that until the day Jesus comes back to take us home.

But even though we still sin, it doesn’t mean that we forfeit the new life we’ve been given through Christ. He paid for all our sins with His one sacrifice. I don’t know about some of you, but all my sins were in the future when Christ died for me. So any sin I commit tomorrow is already paid for. Nothing I do or say or think is enough to separate me from God again now. It’s out of my hands. And I’m glad. After all, my hands don’t really accomplish a lot when left to their own devices.

So if you’re creeping back before the throne of God today like I am, asking for your 490th chance, remember that the price has already been paid. No matter the sin, no matter the severity, no matter how many other chances you’ve already had, it’s taken care of.