Sunday, January 28, 2007

They will know we are Christians by

Philippians 2:1-5: If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...

If you have heard my opinion on the subject matter, you know that disunity in the church is a something that really angers me. There can be differences of opinion and it is okay to call someone out on mistakes that are made but the church is still supposed to be unified, period. it isn't easy, notice in the above passages that Paul had to write "if any" often. I think he was making a plea because it is hard...but it is still necessary. The Bible is clear in multiple places that the Church is to be unified. Here is why...the Church (universal body of believers, represented by the local church also) represents Christ and represents His love. We are supposed to stand out and be different, in a positive way. When the Church (and church) cannot get along with each other, what does that look like to nonbelievers? Not good, that is why we must show one another love...not because we agree with each other always, but because we are to represent lives changed by Christ who are willing to show forgiveness because He gave us forgiveness. Obviously, this does not happen. I am married to a minister, who is a son of a minister, I have gone to church for my entire life and I go to a school that trains for ministry...I see it enough that it has become a sore spot for me. So please allow me to step on my soapbox for a moment.

My school has once again made it into the newspapers. The administration has done something (along with many other somethings) that they should be "called to the carpet" on. I am not addressing that here but I do agree that there is a serious problem (among others) that must be addressed. My irritation and the purpose of my soapbox is with the people who went to the papers with the story. I do not know all of the avenues they took before leaking the story but I do know that one of those people has an "axe to grind" with the school and has not been responsible with his concerns in the past. I cannot believe that the leak to the media was a last resort for a great burden he felt. I read his blogs every once in a while and he shows a lot of immaturity in his dislike of the administration, therefore losing credibility. The Bible explains how a Christian is to address another Christian caught in sin. It NEVER says to include nonbelievers and talk badly about people who represent the Church in front of them. Why? It is as I said earlier, because it misrepresents Christ. This administration does not represent all of the people that attend that school, the denomination or Christians in general but a nonbeliever may very well not know that. My degree is marred, partly by the acts of the administration who represent my school but also by these men who have now spilled this dirty laundry to people who did not need that information. A person reading the story more than likely will never be in position that they needed that information about the school. But, that person could end up in my counseling office or a student's future church and find out what school we graduated from. That information about one administration's mistake may be all they know about the school and therefore what they will assume about me or that pastor. These people have hurt the students of this school more than helped because of the manner in which they chose to address the problem.

I have no patience for people who spread negative stories in the church just to do it. I have no patience for the churches that make mistakes that make it to the news. I have no patience for people who put their own selfish agenda over the mission of the Church (not just their local church). I have no patience for the church at the corner of a busy street near by who puts negative messages about types of church services on their signboard. I have no patience for the leaders that put themselves in positions that cause problems in the church. If you have a problem with your Christian institution, confront the person that is the cause of the problem and take the steps outlined in Matthew. If it can't be done civilly then just leave the church, find a new one and don't talk badly about your old one. It is not to let people get away with doing wrong (that is why I said to confront the person) but it is to prevent harm to the spread of the Gospel. God is clear in his Word that he will take care of those who have done wrong, especially those in leadership. Let Him do his job and we just need to do ours. Its pretty simple, just get along because we are all in this life together and are given the same mission. It would be a lot easier to run this race if we weren't so busy tripping each other.

I will now step off my soapbox.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A "Rent"ed Life

I recently watched the movie based on the musical Rent. The basic premise of the movie and musical is a year in the lives of young adults living in the poverty stricken Alphabet City in New York City. Struggles and choices common to that area are reflected in the characters including living with HIV and AIDS, homelessness, homosexuality, drug use and abuse, promiscuity, interpersonal struggles and many others.

There were parts of the movie that were offensive to me but I knew they would be there. In a society where we are inundated with immorality, it can be easy to become callous to what should be offensive. Sometimes it is a relief to know that I can still be offended. That is beside the point though.

The movie's soundtrack and talent is wonderful. For that, it was a good movie and what I had been told by others that made me want to see the movie. I can appreciate creativity done well, even if it is not my style. As a person who is interested in the emotions of people, it was interesting and thought provoking to view the experiences of people who know they will soon die a painful and early death because of a virus they have contracted (regardless of the reasons it was contracted, that is a heart breaking existence).

Additionally I am glad I saw the movie because I like viewing things that make me think afterwards. My husband nicely tolerates my "what are your thoughts about this and that" questions afterwards. This was a movie that opened up many questions and thoughts for which I will, after this long introduction, write my thoughts on.

One of the more popular songs from the movie has the lines "There's only us, There's only this, Forget regret, Or life is yours to miss, No other road, No other way, No day but today... There is no future, There is no past, Thank God this moment's not the last..." This line is the basic attitude of the movie. Most of these people will die in the next few years and their current existence does not have much to offer. Therefore, all they have is right now and they will make the best of what they have because they have "love".

My husband and I talked about this afterwards and what we thought the message was that the writer of the story was trying to show. At face value, it appears to be what I just wrote, that you have to live for the moment. What was the attitude though about this reality for these people? I did not think, as liberal as the writing was, that the writer was trying to say that it was positive, or even was okay, that this was their existence, it just...was. Rather, it was quite tragic (and I don't think the writer tried to dispel this) that they just had to deal with their current state because they thought had no other way out.

How many people live like this in our world? As we continued to discuss our thoughts on the movie, we agreed that the writer did not give a solution to how the characters lives could be any different. This was probably because he himself did not know the solution. Notice the emphasis on "the".

What a tragedy to see young people who cannot look to their lives with any meaning besides what is happening now. It is because they really have no hope in the (or for a) future. I do not pretend to know what it is to live in poverty or with a deadly disease. I do know though that regardless of my situations, I can rest in knowing that I can at least hope for my future and never have to settle for "what is". Paul writes in Philippians 1:21 that "to live is Christ and to die is gain". This is a man who had suffered in this world through severe beatings, imprisonment, persecution...and even when that was not going on he lived as a man on the run without a home or comfortable existence. Yet, this man knew how to live in life and not just deal with the circumstances. In his hard life, he celebrated because he was suffering for Christ. He could also look forward to the future because that held a life of eternal joy in heaven.

That is how a young person living in poverty, diseased and alone can live a life that is more than for today. That is the solution. A knowledge that this existence, regardless of current circumstances, is one that is for Christ and that there is a wonderful hope for the future is how a person does it.

The movie is both good and bad. I will not recommend someone to see it because it is full of immorality and I cannot put my stamp of approval on it for those reasons. Personally though, I think the lessons learned within it made it a movie that I benefited from watching. I have a visual reminder of how blessed I am that I get to live today for eternity. My life is not one that is temporary, or rented. Rather my life is securely owned by God for permanent residence with Him.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Big Role

I recently attended a youth retreat. I'm not even sure how many of these I have been to now in the last few years. In many ways it was the same as the others...but in other ways it was one of the better experiences in my life.

This was largely to do with all of the opportunities to get to do what I love to do in life. I got to speak, teach a small group, play the piano for worship with my husband and spend time with some great young women as they needed me. All of those things (maybe besides the piano part...though that even counts because I was helping my husband with what he is called to do) are areas that I know God gifted me in and it is just fun to get to do what I was created to do. Sometimes it is hard and I think to myself that it would be a lot easier to be a secretary instead of a counselor. But it is so rewarding and God always has carried me through even when it hurts. I was emotionally worn out from this retreat but what a cool time. I might write later on my thoughts on what I spoke on.

The standout from this weekend came when I had a teenager ask me to be her "big sister in Christ." She is a sweet girl that I have known for a few years and honored me with her trust this past weekend. As I have thought on it more it has reminded me of my "big sisters" in the past. I can remember them from as young as being in sixth grade and they have continued. Remembering them has humbled me that I am now in that position but on an even deeper level now because of the time spent with this girl. I thought those older girls were so wise and almost perfect. How then do I fit into that role? If anything, it has made me spend more time praying for that young girl. It has also made me desire to still have that big sister. A problem with seminary is falling into a belief that I have a lot of knowledge...and I do compared to a lot of people at church merely because I have studied many books and sat through numerous lectures. But, what I lack is wisdom and that is far more important than knowledge. As I have thought on it, I am going to begin to look for an older woman who can be that role for me.

Snow Day!

What a wonderful thing to wake up to an unexpected snow day! All of the places that could require us to be somewhere today are closed and Mrs. Tea is brewing...this is a good day!