Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Picking and Choosing

I have so much to say on this topic that I should probably outline it so I don't end up going off on some rant, but since I don't like outlines, and I like to write what I think, you'll have to bear with my ranting so that I can get through what I have to say.

I just finished a book on God an the American Government entitled The American Gospel. It discusses the many facets of forming our country, and maintaining its principles, and how God comes into that. I've been bombarded lately with thoughts around this topic, and perhaps it's due to the impending Presidential election, or perhaps it's because God has some message to send me through it, nonetheless, I have begun to really God and the government more than ever (which says a lot, because as Christian with a political science degree, believe me, I've done a LOT of examining).

First of all, let's get this straight right away, THIS IS NOT A COUNTRY FOUNDED ON CHRISTIAN VALUES, there I said it, despite what every preacher in Texas ever told you, that is stretching the truth beyond all stretching. If this was a country founded on Christian values, our native population would be a WHOLE lot more than 1% of our current population, because we never would have taken land that wasn't ours and forced those who it belonged to to leave simply in the name of dignity. If this was a nation founded on Christian values, various denominations and groups at the founding of our nation would not have had to run from their communities and start new colonies for the specific purpose of having a place where they could worship God freely (Roger Williams, the Quakers....). As a matter of fact, Im pretty convinced that if this nation was founded on Christian values, it would be comprised of no more than the land that currently occupies Massachusetts and perhaps Southern New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and maybe a few parts of upstate NY.

Now, allow me to move forward with this concept.

First of all, the "Separation of Church and state" thing, I'm all for that. Allowing churches to have a say in the government opens the door for the government to have a say in the church. no. thank. you. no sir. This idea was originally placed in our government for the purpose of PROTECTING the church, not to disregard it. Somewhere along the way we've twisted it to make it look like we have this big, bad, evil, pagan government who hates Jesus. This is simply not the case, but if we keep painting that picture, it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pretty sure the government will start to hate us (well, those who haven't already), because, let's face it, we make them feel like we hate them.

And who should feel like they're hated by Christians?

no one.


but THAT'S the message we send. Don't look like us, don't act like us, and we hate you. You disagree with us, we hate you.

Woah now. WHAT THE HECK????????? Seriously? Jesus DIED FOR US. we did NOTHING. He owes us NOTHING, and yet, we condemn people for acting different? how is their sin any different than yours?

OKAY, there was one of those rants I was talking about. But do you see what I mean?

back on track. government. politics. jesus.

So my big issue is this:
Why does the conservative right feel the need to use this wonderful all-powerful loving God of ours to push their agenda? It's like, we pick certain issues, mostly social issues, that we feel are morally "wrong," and choose to vote and align ourselves with a certain political party SPECIFIALLY because of those beliefs. Are you kidding me?

So why is it okay to pick and choose? I'm not perfect, and I'm no Bible scholar, but didn't God call use to help the poor?

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." Deuteronomy 10:18

"If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother." Deuteronomy 15:7

"I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy." Proverbs 13:23

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." Proverbs 21:13

"Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Matthew 19:21

"'Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.' He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." John 12:5

I just selected a few. I could have chosen many more, but did I misread any of that? Like, God says that NOTHING we have is ours, so why do we insist upon saying that we don't want to share it around?

Someone recently told me that they understood the idea of sharing with the poor, but they didn't feel like it's the government's business to tell them that they have to. I GET THAT. I really do, but this same person has ardently argued that the government should ban abortions. I'm okay with that too (I'll get to that in a second), but you can't say the government can control one thing we're commanded to do but not another. I mean, seems like kind of a double standard to me. Just a thought.

And let's put this in perspective, if you want to ban abortion at the government level you do realize you're going to HAVE TO begin supporting social programs for the needy, right? because we're gonna have to do a LOT of education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, then, when women DO get pregnant, we're going to have to be willing to support them emotionally and perhaps even financially. We're going to have to be willing to adopt the unwanted children, and guide those who are not guided because they are unwanted by their parents. We're going to have to be willing to step up to the plate. Let's face it, we're not going to stop people from having sex just because "they should know better if they don't want to get pregnant." This is 2012, sex is everywhere, people do things they aren't supposed to do or should probably not do given their current circumstances ALL THE TIME. You're telling me you've never done something you probably shouldn't have and then had to face the consequences?


WE ARE NOT PERFECT. Not a single one of us. That's the beauty of the church. It's full of crazy jacked-up people who need to be restored and who need to see our purpose as living for the glory of God and not the glory of man. We should be WELCOMING people.
As far as welfare goes, I'm in no way advocating for enabling people to not work and to not lead productive lives and discover their gifts by giving them free money and checks all the time. I believe it is our duty to help people to see their gifts and to use them to enhance the overall society. This is the key to preventing violence and creating harmony, as we should all do what we were created to do.

My friend put it best today i a long text conversation she and I had:

" As a Christian, all you do is take what you didn't work for. jesus paid your debt on the cross, which is an infinitely bigger handout than food stamps. Also, the church is called to provide for the poor. Should they reject our help, because they need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps in order to have dignity? The American dream is sending countless people to hell who demand to be self-made men. We can debate 24/7 about whether generosity is something that should be compelled through laws."

So, God never drew a line and said "I'm sorry, my grace stops here, once you've past that, I can't deal with you anymore." He didn't judge us. Who am I to say where grace stops? Who am I to judge others? When God says help the needy, help the poor WHO AM I TO JUDGE WHAT THAT MEANS?????????? Like, let's be real about this. There are circumstances I don't know or understand that prevent people from having the blessings that I have, and God is the only being with the authority to judge who gets those blessings and when and how and why. NOTHING I own is mine. Nothing. So if we're operating on Biblical principals, if God says give, I give. If God says save, I save.

I do not have the financial resources to help in the ways I'd like to. As a matter of fact, I'm often dependent on others to help me (I live in someone's living room for crying out loud) BUT, part of the reason I do not have those financial resources is because I've been given a calling that utilizes my gifts in a different way, that can have just as much of an impact as money. If I wanted to gain wealth, I could. I'm an intelligent person. I'm just as capable of having one of those wall street jobs, being a lawyer, whatever the case, as anyone who's doing them. And I love those people, I see nothing wrong with ANY of those careers. Let's get that straight. I just know that my calling is to feed the emotional needs of kids, which means I cannot feed my, or their, pockets.

That's a little off topic, but lets just say, the point of the argument is we can't pick and choose what parts of the government we want to be faith based. If we want a faith based government, we have to be willing to allow our leaders to decide when and who to help financially as well, and be willing to give when they say give. That's just the way it is. I"m not advocating FOR a faith-based government (I already went over that reasoning), I'm just saying it's something to consider.

Let's not confuse politics and Jesus. They do interact, but they are not one in the same.

Rant over...

for now.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What do you Mourn?

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted"- Matthew 5:4

Today at our fellowship meal, there was a cinnamon stick in my plate, which apparently meant I'd won a prize (It's Graffiti, we do things a little differently). I got to pick from a stack of books, and I chose a thin Bible study guide to the Sermon on the Mount.

Tonight, in an effort to boost productivity, I went to the Whole Foods conveniently located two blocks north of my current living space. There, I separated myself from distractions while searching and applying for jobs. In order to best make use of my time, I decided to open the new study guide I received today an began studying.

I've read this verse a thousand times before, and I always thought Jesus was solely referring to people who were in mourning over some personal loss. You know, his glory is magnified in our weakness kinda thing. We'll be blessed by his comfort, yada yada yada. Not that any of that isn't true, but tonight I realized there's something even deeper going on here.

A popular worship song holds the line "Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your kingdom's cause." As I read this verse tonight, I realized that the mourning Jesus is referring to is a mourning brought on by a heart that breaks for his cause.

God's not asking us to walk around saddened and depressed all the time. He's asking us to open our eyes. Look around you. What opportunities of service are you missing out on? What are you not praying for? Living in a major city brings daily opportunities for me to see needs and pray about ways I can meet them, the challenge is simply being diligent enough in my prayer life to ensure that I am seeing these things.

As anyone who knows me is well aware, my heart breaks deepest for issues involving kids, particularly teens with sever disciplinary issues and behavioral disorders. I often catch myself praying for random kids on the train, reading articles about crimes committed by teenagers and praying for the criminal himself alongside the victims involved, that sort of thing. I pray that God will continue to open my eyes to ways I can personally impact the lives of these kids, so much so that I'm furthering my education to work toward that cause.

It is so important to realize that our present circumstances are strategic. God does not randomly assign people to things. He has tasks, and he so willingly lets us be a part of making things happen even though he doesn't really need us.

So as our heart breaks for things, and we mourn for things, we must humble ourselves and realize that, though we are not needed, God allows us to be a part of his plan, and we should be seeking opportunities to take advantage of that. Is there any more incredible form of worship?
In my own life, it is the recognition of things that are breaking the Lord's heart that allow me to mourn, and then be blessed in return. I cannot express the rewards I've experienced so far in my work with these kids, and the fulfillment I get knowing that God's using me to be a part of it.

So I ask you: What do you mourn? What breaks your heart? What are you doing about it?

If you don't know, pray. God will reveal things to you that you never dreamed. Allow him to break your heart for what breaks his.

I am not perfect, and I know there are plenty of things I am overlooking, but I earnestly seek his guidance and hope that he will show me the path to be best used to bring him glory.

Please share ways that God is breaking your heart, using your gifts, etc. so I can be in prayer for you.