A Blog & Podcast by Frank Eriksen

Posts tagged ‘God’

And You Call Yourself A Christian?

evidence

Matthew 6:1-2

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. (NLT)

Question: If you were brought to trial on the charge of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty?

Interesting question isn’t it? Most of us would say “Yes, of course.” And we’d be right. If one calls him or herself a Christian who has the right to say “prove it!” Well… Maybe the world does.

It’s not easy or popular to be a Christian on 2013 Earth. Media moguls, Hollywood types, and lots of other religions routinely persecute Christians and Christianity. And the world doesn’t bat an eye.

Christian bashing has become somewhat of an art-form. In the early 1990’s I attended a few Promise Keepers conferences here in Boulder and the demonstrations, signs (both hand-held & aerial), posters, banners and placards that were professionally and tastelessly designed, were visible for all to see.

Shouts of hypocrites, homophobes, women-haters, child-abusers and worse were hurled at the 50,000+ Christian men and boys who quietly and courteously filed into and out of the stadium each day. Men who were attending an event, designed to help them become better husbands, better fathers, better neighbors and better Christians had to endure insults and religious slurs that other groups would have responded to by fighting and rioting.

Not one Christian man or boy was arrested for retaliating. We didn’t have to be told to “turn the other cheek”, although event organizers reminded us of that several times, just in case someone felt an uncontrollable urge to kick the rear-end of some folks who were there specifically to provoke such a reaction. Or so it seemed.

Personally, I struggle constantly with the “turn the other cheek” thing. My natural instinct is to fight back, with fists, if that’s what the situation calls for.  I especially boil when non-christian media types blame everything from  global warming to GMOs and drought on Christian men and women. But as a follower of Jesus, I have to “let it go.”

The world doesn’t see and the media doesn’t cover the too numerous to mention acts of love carried out by Christians all over the world on a daily basis. And do you know why?

Well one reason is the media wouldn’t cover that kind of stuff and two – these acts of love and kindness are supposed to go unnoticed.

Matthew 6: 1-2

1 “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get.

Here’s the thing about being a Christian. We’re supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Not to brag or puff up when we help an old man across the street. Why? Because as followers of Jesus – that’s the way it is. Can’t handle it? Well…

The hardest part of trying to follow Jesus is He set the love bar impossibly high. Remember Jesus on the cross. He called out and said, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” It that had been me up there, I’d be screaming, “Father, get me down from here and let’s go crack some skulls!”

The other double-whammy of Christianity is this… We are natural born sinners, trying not to be. Temptation stalks us relentlessly. We pray for strength to overcome our tendencies to be less that perfect or even cordial. But we come up short time and time again. That’s not a matter of conjecture. It’s fact! And that’s why we need a savior.

I can just see the devil and his team of demons plotting. “Let’s see what new and really frustrating things we can come up with to get Mount Saint Francis to erupt today.” They don’t have to plot for long. I’m an easy mark.

So what’s an imperfect guy or gal to do? Well, let’s see. Maybe pray???

Perhaps read the Bible??? Hook up with other Christians and support each other in our walk???

The thing about being a Child of God is – were not supposed to act like children. At least not on a mature level. We’re supposed to turn the other check, forgive, forget and move on. But as we all know – it’s much easier said than done.

So what to do? Give in to the temptation to throw down? Unleash a barrage of profanity laced insults? Stuff another resentment into our I’ll put this away for now, but I’m keeping my options open on bringing it out again at a later date when you least expect it suitcase?

Or? Or? Should we forgive and truly forget? Apologize and ask for forgiveness, especially from God. And vow to make today the day that we truly exhibit the characteristics of being a Christian?

Quick story to close: Several years ago I had season tickets for the Colorado Rockies. One day, I’m driving to the game with 3 friends in the car with me. I’m thinking, “Wait til they see my seats. Field level. Right behind Home Plate. Won’t they think I’m cool? Well, God had a lesson in humility waiting for me at the stadium.

As I drove up near the front of Coors Field there is, as usual a massive crowd of people walking to the game. The traffic is crazy and at one intersection, there’s a cop directing traffic and doing his best to prevent an encounter between man and metal beast.

Now the traffic lights are turned off and this man is doing his thing as best he can, standing in the middle of the intersection in 95* heat. Well, I arrived at just the right moment to test his patience.

I was stopped as he was allowing pedestrians to cross. When I could have sworn he motioned for me to drive through. I started to depress the accelerator when he blew his whistle and at the top of his lungs screamed – STOP!

He then ran over to my car, got right in my face and yelled something like, “I told you to stop. When I say stop that means stop and you don’t move until I tell you to – you got that?” On and on he goes, berating me at full volume not 3 inches from my face. And all this is taking place in front of my 3 friends and about 20,000 people on the street.

I’m totally embarrassed, so in a instant I blurt out, “You told me to move forward!” That was like pouring gasoline on his already white hot fire. So the cop screams “ Shut up. Shut the heck up! You say one more word, one more word I’ll split your head and drag you to jail.”

In a nano-second Mt Saint Francis, Mr. Christian is on the verge of a major eruption. I mean, I am blind with rage for this guy. He’s dissing me in front of my tribe and all these onlookers. Many of whom are getting out their smartphones to record this cop stomping me into the hot pavement.

But inside this nano-second of time, another voice breaks through. It says just a few words…

“Ballgame? Or jail? Ballgame? Or jail?”

It takes me years to learn a lesson. But on that beautiful summer night, God came to my rescue. He doused my fire. And somehow, His words – not mine flew out of my mouth.

“I’m sorry Officer!” — I’d say that was hard to say, but the words came out so fast I didn’t have time to think about what I was saying. Next thing I knew the veins in the cops neck receded. The roar of his voice subsided and he mumble something like, “Get your sorry butt outta here.”

I drove ever so slowly through the intersection and was soon sitting in my seat behind home plate watching a Rockies game. A bag of peanuts in one hand. An ice cold beverage in the other. And a lesson in the rewards of humility firmly planted in my brain.

So where am I going with all this? I guess where I’m going is to God. I’m asking for His guidance. His strength and His humility. Left to my own devices (limited as they are.) I will exhibit very few characteristics of a Christian. I’m trying. I’m learning. And best of all – I’m getting a little bit better everyday. And I think that’s a good thing.

Lord, help me to be a better Christian. Help me to not just talk the part, but to live the part as well. Help me to be more like you with each passing nano-second. Lord, I know I’m not perfect. I’m a little bruised and battered, and that’s okay. But don’t allow me to use that as an excuse when I fail to show others my Christian heart. Let me be slow to anger and quick to say “I’m sorry officer! Oh, and if you can do anything to help the Rockies, that would be good too.

 

No one is righteous, no not one!

 

unrigheousness

Romans 3:10 No one is righteous, no not one!

Strangely, I find relief in that verse. It lets me know that I’m not the only one making a mess of things. It also tells me, that I have no defense against unrighteousness.

For me, today has been a day of head-butting and face-slapping. One of those days where no matter where I step, toes are in the way.

If I had to cross a mine-field my odds would be a million to one I’m going up in flames after the first step. So what’s a guy to do? You keep marching forward. That’s what!

Life is fraught with mirrors just waiting to be broken. So don’t be surprised when you hear glass shattering when you least expect it.

When Paul said “No one is righteous, no not one.” He meant himself as well as others. He was cautioning his fellow Jews to not think too highly of themselves when comparing Jew to Gentile. But why? Everybody knows the Jews are the chosen people. Surely God  held them in higher esteem. Much higher than non-Jews.

But Paul was telling them, “don’t get to wrapped up in the whole I’m better than you thing.” Because we are all “under the power of sin.” Only a fool would think otherwise.

But we can all have those moments or days, when we see ourselves as more than we really are. That’s when arguments can escalate from a disagreement into a fist fight. A misunderstanding explodes into a war of words that leaves everybody breathless and emotions run as hot as a Tuesday in July.

So what’s a sinner to do?

Accept that no one is perfect. Including us and them. It’s knowing that we can fly off course or the handle with the greatest of ease and  least provocation. But God, mercifully has a safety net. He shows us the path back to the straight and narrow.

Sometimes it’s an apology. Sometimes it’s forgiveness. To withhold either shows how sinful we can be and how reluctant we are to repent. That’s just what the enemy likes.

Through his subtle subversiveness he divides and conquers. “You’re right! She’s wrong!” “You gonna let him get away with that?” “You don’t have to take that from them.” And in our weakened condition, we agree. We believe that we are righteous. We see ourselves without fault. In the right. Justified!

In a fight to the finish over bruised ego’s, all the combatants leave the arena bleeding. But the Great Healer is in the crowd. “No one is righteous!” No, not one.” But I still love you. I always have.

Here is our opportunity to ceremoniously turn the other cheek. To lay down our sword and put forth the first olive branch.

Our branch may get pushed away. Our outreach rebuked. But we can now go forth in peace knowing that the sin of pride only remains a sin, when we attach our identity to it. And with God, we know who we are and who’s we are.

The anchor of discord only becomes heavier the longer we mis-take it for the crown of righteousness. Lay it down. Life, love and better days are waiting.

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Friendly Fire!

Friendly Fire, is a term used by the military mostly to describe a wound or a kill of someone on your own side. It’s tragic. It’s accidental. And it happens.

Today in Denver a Policeman is being buried after being killed by Friendly Fire. Another officer mistook this man for a suspect. One officer fired. Another officer died. A tradgey. A mistake. It happened. In a flash – two lives destroyed.

But there is another kind of Friendly Fire we seldom hear about. It’s tragic. It’s accidental. And it happens. A lot!

It’s the emotional Friendly Fire we inflict upon ourselves and others. Sometimes blood is spilled, but more often than not our spirit takes the force of the blows. Our self-preserving shields can withstand a lot, but even they have their breaking point.

Emotional Friendly Fire destroys everything in it’s path as much as any rocket or bomb. It rips apart families, marriages, friendships and worst of all, it rips apart your soul.

A man wakes up and starts his day. Within a few hours he learns that his bank account is nearly depleted. Luckily he has a savings account. He transfers money from his savings account to cover incoming expenses. Although he should be grateful he has a savings account on which to draw, he loads a round into the chamber and pulls the trigger. Bang! Then, instead of light… Darkness.

An emotional bullet finds its target. His heart and his mind explode. On the outside he looks perfectly healthy. But inside, he is badly wounded. From the muzzle of self-hatred comes a second round. This time of much larger caliber. This bullet carries a message along with pain. It’s the message of worthlessness and despair. Of uselessness and failure. The message hits home and rings like the peel of a doomsday bell. “You’re finished. Washed Up. Good for nothing.” Friendly Fire.

Though critically wounded our man stumbles through the day, looking for help in all the wrong places. Instead of seeking shelter and healing, he unleashes a barrage of Friendly Fire from his emotionally broken gatling gun. He fires aimlessly at everyone in his path. His wife and children run for cover. But there is no place to hide. His co-workers hear the unmistakeable sound of Friendly Fire in the office and tremble in their cubicles, praying the Soul Assassin will not find them. During lunch a clerk makes the fatal error of asking, “How’s your day going?” The look from our wounded soldier tells him, he’d better bring the food fast and not say another word. Soon hours have passed like minutes. Carnage is everywhere. On the streets. At work. At home. But mostly in his heart. Friendly Fire.

Strangely, along his path of destruction he remembers hearing a still, small voice. “I am here. I am with you. I will help you. I will heal you.” Crippled by the pain and bleeding tears, The Soul Assassin turns. With his last ounce of anger-fueled strength, he hurls one more volley of hate-filled missiles at the main cause of all this calamity, frustration, pain and anguish. God!

“Don’t you talk to me ever again. I’m through with you and everyone like you. I’ve followed your rules, attended church, prayed for help weeks ago. Months ago. Years ago. But have you ever once answered my prayers? Have you ever once allowed me a moment of peace. Of feeling like I’m worth the foul air you forced into my lungs at birth? No. Where were you when I needed you? Where were you when my business was failing? Where were you when my marriage was crumbling? Where were you when my child was dying? Where were you? Answer me! Where were you?”

The man, now sweating from exhaustion and anger, slumps to his knees. His weapon falls to his side. “You’re not real. They were right. You’re a stupid myth. A crutch. A bedtime story. Well, you’re too late. I’m sick of fighting. I’m tired of struggling every single day. When do I get to feel good? I HATE YOU!!!”

Collapsing to the ground breathing shallow breaths, a tear streams down a child-like cheek. “Help me God”, he painfully whispers. A warm loving hand touches his head. A still, small voice, almost like a lullaby, floats to his ear. “I am here. I have always been here. I knew you before you were born. I am healing you. Not because you asked. Not so you can go back to war with yourself. But that you may know that I am God.” “Today like everyday, I am your shield, absorbing every round of Friendly Fire. Though you were hurting immensely, I received the brunt of the pain. I did that to show you how much I truly love you.”

“Oh ye of little faith. When will you raise your white flag? When will you stop fighting yourself and every one you encounter. When will you give up the hurt, the pain, the deep self-loathing.” “Don’t you know you are so much more to me than your bank account? Don’t you realize that I don’t care what you do. I care who you are.” “Dear sweet child, come and rest and let me heal all the those self-inflicted wounds. Let me apply my heart-healing love to every portion of you. Let me give you the life you never knew you had. And let me show you what love truly is.”

“I know you have little strength, but I will lift you up. Lean on me. Take up my burden, for it is light as a cloud. Pleasant as the voice of a newborn babe. Sweet and light as the freshest high mountain breeze. Let my love comfort you while you trudge through this winter of time. I will keep you warm and safe. I will guide you if you’ll let me. For on the other side, I’ll be waiting.” And I will surely welcome you home.”

The man rises slowly. He feels a bit foolish. “Was I dreaming?” He takes a calming, life-giving breath. Then another. His moistened eyes now drying, he picks up his friendly firearm which casts long shadow more cross- like than a weapon of self-destruction. Soul Assassin no more, he sees the task ahead. Sheepishly, he asks forgiveness from those he has injured. The Friendly Fire was not meant for them.

Alone that evening, safe – warm – resurrected. He lifts his voice and quietly says “Thank You Father.” Sleep comes softly, sweetly to a heart renewed by love.

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