Friday, February 10, 2012

What does it mean to be bold?

What does it mean to be bold?  That is a question that I had to ask myself today when I felt so strongly that I had to defend why Christians do and say the things they do.  My Facebook today was inundated with status updates talking about the beliefs of Christians being superbly cruel and our God being an imaginary poof that shouldn't have bearing on our lives or country.   This is what I wrote, for reference:

"I am surprised at just how many status updates today are expressing anger toward the Christians today. I want to try and explain why so many of us try to tell the world what the Lord wants from us and why we are so passionate about things like abortion, even though it doesn't always come out the right way. Please read this all before commenting.
We believe with every fiber of our beings that there is One God who made us and this world and made us in a certain way and requires a level of obedience to have a relationship with Him. His main desire is to never be apart from us, so he desires that all would have faith in Christ as their God and Savior who died on the cross to cover all our sins and was resurrected. If you have faith in Him, and let Christ pay for your sins,making you sinless in death, you will live in eternity with Him when you die. Those that do not accept Christ as their savior cannot enter Heaven because he cannot be around sin as Heaven and God are perfect.
How terrible of a people would we be if we didn't desire that all people would have that peace and joy for eternity. We don't want you to have the pain of a life away from God. So you betcha, we'll tell you about Him and we will protect the things He wants us to protect, like human life which He made very clear starts at conception. Just like as a mother you tell your child not to touch a stove because it will hurt, even if your child thinks it will be fun, out Lord has told us the things that will hurt us not only in this life but the next. Because I love you all I could never sit on my hands and watch you touch a stove because I don't want to hurt your feelings. I will tell you, the rest is up to you. Please don't be angry when Christians assert themselves into politics or other things that can hinder salvation. We're all on the same team, all children of God and he loves every human that has or will ever live. We would be pretty rotten people if we really believed all of this and never tried to share His love and promises with all our brothers and sisters in the world. Sometimes it comes out hateful, and that is our flesh and our humanity and not to glorify God. For that, of course I am sorry. I'm sure I've done that, too. But if we are bible-believers we cannot sit here and say, "hey, do whatever you want to anyone you want in anyway you want. I don't care if you never know the Lord." That would be much more cruel."
 So... I was using my phone and apparently don't proof ready. let's just get that out of the way :). It's hard to tell context and tone by text, but I intended this in my usual upbeat, trying to be loving, cadence.   You do have to expect that when you say the "C" word it will bring about some strong emotions.  We are ingrained with the desire to seek Him, and I think hearing about our beliefs pricks something in that area of ourselves and it makes people who don't want to know Him angry.  I had a few people do the usual, "so, then, I go to hell if I don't believe in your God", or "what about if someone is raped" (you can see my position on the latter one here ).  Disagreeing, yet very civil, and they are still my friends, even though they greatly disagree with me.  For my brother, though, it was too much.  He defriended me!  Now-a-days that's the equivlent of disowning someone or a divorce.  Talk about hurtful!  So it made me think, was I too bold? Should I hear the slander against Christ and stay away from the keyboard so as not to risk causing offence?  Of course I immediately consulted a strong friend via text and felt so reassured to just follow where I'm led in words and actions.  So I consulted the Word, and this is what I came across (I'll go through it bit-by-bit):

2 Corinthians 10

New King James Version (NKJV)

The Spiritual War

10 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

 Well, I know I am guilty of v. 1!  I tend to be much more bold with written word than in person.  That can really be confused with being hypocritical or, in my case, fearful.  Totally true for me!  Saying something to someone's face about something so bold as our Savior's message can be a bit scary.  The world does not like to hear it.  But, "boldness" and "lowliness" can absolutely exist in the same person.  Christ was bold and yet a servant.  Never did he stand on the holier-than-thou stool, even though he truly could have!  He is the Holy of Holies, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace! When we come under the cleansing blood of Christ, we too can take His attributes and desire towards it.  Plus, it is really easy to sound severe when talking of the things of Christ.  He really is so black and white and the Word is fact, so it can come roll off our tongue as harsh and too blunt if we let it and forget that we are lowly and above no one.

And, O our flesh! (v. 3).  As Christians we still walk in the flesh, battling it and our own desires that are apart from His.  When it says "we do not war according to the flesh" I was a bit stuck.  Does war according to the flesh mean live life according to the world or speak according to the world?  I consulted the for help:

"b. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal: When Paul battled in his wars, his weapons were not material, but spiritual, suited for spiritual war.
i. The carnal weapons Paul refuses were not material weapons like swords and spears. The carnal weapons he renounced were the manipulative and deceitful ways his opponents used. Paul would not defend his apostolic credentials with the carnal weapons others might use.
ii. In Ephesians 6, Paul lists the kind of spiritual weapons he did use: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. To rely on these weapons took faith in God instead of carnal methods. But truly, these weapons are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds!"

Oh!  Manipulation and deceit.  Those are methods that are so easy to use and can be so destructive to whatever cause you are standing for or words you are standing behind.  But when we stand behind the weapons God gave us and stand on His truth and don't waiver in our faith who could defeat us?

I love v.5.  That's what I felt like I was doing today, but didn't know if I was wrong.  There are so many things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, saying they know more or better than God or deny His existance all together. But we are called to bring all our thoughts to Christ in boedience of Him and His Word.  Through that we will win, because in the end of it all God wins. Period.

Blue Letter Bible also said the strongholds being stated here "in this context are wrong thoughts and perceptions, contradicting the true knowledge of God and the nature of God".  That means, we do need to be bold!  We need to be trying to being down these strondholds that tear apart people's lives and mean to harm our Lord.

i. Many commentators think the phrase to punish all disobedience is taken from the Roman military court. Paul is saying, “We are all soldiers together in this battle, and I am ready to bring in some discipline among these troops.”

Ahhhh.  So are we to only be bold to our believing brothers and sisters?  To me, those who have chosen to follow Christ must adhear to a higher standard; God's standard.  All of us are much more accountable to our actions among one another than non-believers.  So then, should we stand by when a non-believer ridicules God?  Hmmm. 

Reality of Paul’s Authority

7 Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s.[a] 8 For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us[b] for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— 9 lest I seem to terrify you by letters. 10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.

V.8 (b)-  YES!!  This  is why we are called to be bold.  Not for the destruction of people or lives, but for the edification (lifting up) of our body!  This is not to make people feel "bad" or "wrog", but to make us stronger and unified as a whole so others can see our God and rejoice in it!

While searching boldness, I found this quote from Answers in Genesis

As Christians, we need to have the utmost integrity in all areas and be careful not to be a stumbling block to a fellow Christian. We should make every effort to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18). This does not mean, however, we will never offend a fellow Christian if, for example, a rebuke is needed. Even though we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), we might still offend. We must live by the truth of God's Word, and those people who are living contrary to the truth are often offended. Non-Christians may be offended as well. After all, the message of the gospel declares that they are sinners who need to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ. In a sense, we need to offend unbelievers in order to witness to them!
Although we cannot keep people from getting offended, we should make sure that it is the truth that offends rather than our attitude, actions, or approach. We must follow biblical principles in all areas. At times, offending is wrong, and at other times, it is necessary. As we spread the truth of God's Word, we should do so in love, humility, and boldness, making sure we are living by the truth.
There we go.  If we are letting it be The Truth that is offensive or" too bold", and not a hateful approach or better-than-you or sour attitude than that is exactly what we should do.  We are called to spread the word of our Christ so that they too may be saved.  So long as we share the Word and the Truth with love and humility, though some may be offended, others will be saved and our Lord will be proud. 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"With the blood of the Lamb and the words of our Testimony...."

After consulting ye olde Facebook for advice about delivering my testimony to the youth group at church I had a lot of people who wanted to know my testimony.  Here is an abbreviated version that is focused o my teen years.  If you have questions or want more details of anything, let me know :)

I’m going to start my testimony in my Junior High years, as this is when Christ really started leaving me “bread-crumbs” in my life to get me to really follow Him.  I grew up in a very loving agnostic home where my parents never told me about God or Christ, yet I have known Him since a very young age.  As far back as I can remember I had prayed to Jesus and I knew who He was.  My parents never once hindered my desire to pursue  religion, but encouraged my making my own choices.  So, honestly I don’t know a time without Christ, but I did not attend a church (save for a Lutheran bible camp I went to in the summers) so I didn’t really understand who He was or what was required of me.  
In Junior High I went through a very rough year, and a very good year.  In 6th grade I had my first boyfriend, whose name funny enough was Kyle!  My best friend at the time had turned our friendship into a very hateful enemy situation by the end of that grade.  I felt so alone and scared that this Kyle did something that would be a hint of my future and the beginning of many trials for me.  He brought a gun to school with plans of shooting my friend.  When he showed me the gun at school I went crying to the principal’s office, terrified of what could happen.  It ended up only being a sawed-off BB gun, but it was my first taste of true fear.  Needless to say he was not allowed in our school district for 2 years and I began 7th grade so hated that I ate in bathroom stalls or in my health classroom for lunch.  I did everything I could to be kind to everyone and by 8th grade I had become popular.  In those two years my brother, who is 2 years older, had escalated into the drug culture and had brought a lot of fear for his future into our family.  My parents made the bold choice to move him out of this environment to the “big city” of Boise just before I started high school.
We were only there a few months before my brother’s drug use got so out of hand he was choking my mom while he appeared to be “sleeping”, had multiple attempts at getting him to a hospital and he did a month-long rehab in Utah.  He ran away to Seattle and slept on the streets, stole, and began a career as a dealer. One semester into high school my parents decided to move not just to another city, but to another state, to colorado.  My Dad and brother moved in January of 1999, and my mom and I followed after we sold our house in March.  In that time he had attempted suicide because he went from being adored and popular in Idaho to being an outcast in a very large, very preppy town.  My parents had done a lot of research into what they had thought would be the best school in the metro area and had settled on Columbine.  He was an instant outcast, being accepted only by the small grunge groups who were heavily into drugs.  I went and found instant popularity. I tried to spend time with my brother and be friends with his friends first, but I couldn’t do it.  I wanted friends, lots of friends.  I was very outgoing and within a week had more friends than I ever had in Idaho.  My focus was purely on myself, popularity, and boys.  But within that week, after feeling guilt over hanging out with my brother’s friends as they sought drugs, a few girls approached me and invited me to their church.  I had never really been to church before, but these girls were beautiful, the boys they hung out with were beautiful, and they were also popular.  I said yes and the next day I went to this huge church that had more people in the youth group than in my school back home.  I had never felt so loved in such a short period of time.  I was surrounded by happy people who wanted to be my friends. Within the week of going I had a basic understanding of Christ and I became saved. But my focus was still on me.  I wanted to be popular within the church.  I wanted them all to love me and look up to me and I wanted all the boys to want me. I really had no plans for obedience to God, but I was striving for obedience to the group.
A month and a half after moving here I had amassed a large group of friends, a boyfriend, and self validation.  Since my goal was my friends and  nothing else I had been ditching my science class with my boyfriend to go hang out with the people from church who had that period for lunch.  I had already learned about cumulous clouds and ROY G BIV back home so I didn’t feel like I needed to go to class.  But on April 20th, 1999 my boyfriend and I were outside of our science hallway, ready to go to the library to hand out with his friends when an overwhelming feeling came over me, telling me I had to go to class.  I tried to shake it off, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t even move a step forward.  I told him I needed to go to class.  Disappointed, he went to his class too.  I was sitting in class, re-learning things I already knew, being angry with myself for not going to the library, staring out the door where I could see the library and the stairs to the cafeteria wishing I was there, when the floor began to vibrate and a stampede of kids came up the stairs.  It was senior prank day, so my table mate assured me it was probably just another mustard hazing or something.  It took two seniors coming in saying that someone was shooting in the school before we closed our doors and hunkered under our tables.  
The next hour I heard gun shots, screams, what sounded like bombs, and the constant sound of the fire alarm and class bell.  Soon we heard nothing but those bells.  We sat under our tables for hours, not knowing what we had heard or the depth of what had happened.  When it had been long enough without a gun shot our teacher turned on the television and we were stunned.  The first thing we saw was Patrick Ireland coming out of the library window, leaving a bloody trail on the glass and wall.  I was in instant shock.    Only then did I begin to pray.  I prayed that my friends were okay.  Shortly thereafter I saw my friends Crystal and Erika on the news.  They were frantic, but they looked unharmed.  A wave of relief covered me, thinking they were all okay.  The teacher turned off the tv and my thoughts and prayers turned to my brother, hoping he had nothing to do with this.  I knew he wasn’t at school because it was a “holiday” in the drug world, so I didn’t worry about his safety but I was scared for his involvement.  I felt a wave of reassurance that he wasn’t and just stayed under my table waiting to leave.  After over 4 hours of uncertainty we were rescued by the SWAT team who had us at gun point until they knew no one in the class was involved.  They forced us to face to wall, and sometimes crawl, on our way out of the school to avoid seeing what had happened just outside our door. Up until that point, I thought everyone was okay. Injured, maybe, but alive.  We ran down the grassy knoll outside of our school and through the fence across the street and were taken to the elementary school to find our parents.  
A youth leader at me church saw me walk into the school and called my parents to reassure them that I was fine.  When I turned a corner and saw my parents I saw the fear on their faces and my heart sunk.  I couldn’t speak, because I was afraid of what I might hear.  On our way home the radio said there were 50 students believed to be dead.  I asked my parents to take me to my church.  It was youth group night and all my friends were there.  My friend Erika who I had just seen safely on the news, ran up to me, embraced me and cried that our friend was missing.  She never came out of the library.  People were talking about how some kids had hidden in the vents of the ceiling, maybe she was there.  I knew in my heart it was not going to end up that way.  I was in such shock that when I went home to watch the news, praying for a miracle for her, I couldn’t remember her name.  I couldn’t remember anyone’s names.
It hit me at that moment what Christ had done for me.  My life had been spared. My mind had also been spared having to see what my friends had seen.  I knew in that instant that the overwhelming feeling I followed that wouldn’t allow me to even take a step towards the library was Christ.  It caused me reflection back to the times I had felt that before.  He had saved me from ever doing drugs, having sex, retaliating, and many other things that would have harmed my future in Him.  That was the moment that I dropped to my knees in obedience.  I had no doubts of His sovereignty, love, grace, and mercy.  I also knew that He had been in every second of my life as long as I can remember.  That was the moment that I truly gave my life to the Lord.  
In the weeks and months that followed I completely changed.  I didn’t speak for nearly two weeks because I just couldn’t. (I was insanely outgoing, perhaps annoyingly so.  I had to fill every empty space.) The reality of what had happened was very difficult to process.  I still had tendencies toward wanting everyone to like me, but I was much more focused on the Lord.  Being at the school where my friend died and all the regrets and guilt that came with that became so overwhelming that I transfered schools, and did my best to not let anyone know which school I came from or what I experienced.  I was very involved in my church and spent nearly every day there.  
In my life since I have made many mistakes, lost sight of my obedience and shamed the Lord.  I have had nightmares for years and insane fear over dying and losing those I love in a violent way. But I have never not felt His love and presence in every aspect of my life.  Realizing just how much He loves all of us is so overwhelming and beautiful that I want nothing more than everyone to know our Savior.  I am not the best evangelizer and I am praying He changed that.  Even after all we went through my family still are all unbelievers and the fear of them not living in eternity with our Lord can be crippling at times.  I can hardly remember a life without knowing God and I can never go back.  Nothing is worth an eternity apart from our Lord.  No amount of money, popularity, boys (or girls), or any other selfish tendency.  Our lives are amazingly short and we don’t know if we will only life to 15 or to 105, live each day serving the only everlasting truth - our Savior.