Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scripture vs. Society: Authority

Authority (n.)-
The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience
The right to act in a specific way, delegated from one person or organization to another
Submission (n.)-
The act or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person
Alright let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute, how many of us have problems submitting to authority? I know it’s always been a problem for me.
People, especially the young people of my generation, have developed some serious attitude problems when we are told what to do (God forbid how to do it and when to do it). It’s yet another thing that messes with our egos. We like to think that we know everything or that the best way to figure something out is to jump in head first without heeding any warnings from authority figures or anybody else.
Blowing off speed limit signs and sneaking out to that party our parents said we couldn’t go to have become so commonplace in our culture that we don’t really think twice about them. I would even take it a step further to say that such behavior has even become accepted.
We like to be the sole captains of our souls and we tend to see authoritative opposition, and sometimes even advice, as a threat or a hindrance to the direction that we think we are trying to take with our lives.
A lack of submission to authority leads us very quickly down a very destructive path.  As human beings we let pride take over at the expense of what’s really best for us. Think about it. On the most basic level, addiction can happen when someone decides not to listen when they’re told from elementary school that drugs are bad.
I want to speak directly to my generation and tell them something that I’m not sure they’ve learned yet: We don’t know everything. We need the wisdom and guidance of our elders (of the people in authority over us). And we just might need to pay attention to the speed limit the next time we’re on the interstate while we’re at it.
1 Peter 2:12-14 says to
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to the governors as sent by him.”
Now, at least in America, we don’t have an emperor, but we do have other “human institutions”, like laws, officers, and yes, even our parents. Authority figures aren’t out to completely dictate the course of your life. They are placed here by God to help guide you and give us advice to help us avoid the bigger catastrophes, point out ways that they already won’t work, and save us a lot of pain. It’s a blessing, even though it may not seem so at certain times. It’s for our good.
Ephesians 6:1-3 says:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
So this tells us at least two big things. One, God wants us to submit to authority because He wants the best thing for us. (So we can safely let go of our pride.)Two, a position of authority is not to be abused, nor neglected. Abuse of power is the easiest way to ensure mistrust and defiance. Tyranny is not at all part of God’s design.  And a lack of discipline won’t get anybody anywhere. (You can always tell a group of kids who have an understanding and respect for authority from a group who doesn’t).
I’m sure that when the use of and the submission to authority is done the right way, in a God-honoring way, as it is described in scripture, so much learning, respect, and growth will come out of it. There will be fruit that comes from it. So instead of seeing submission to authority as an automatic annoyance or hindrance, look at it and treat it as a godly trait you can learn from, that will produce good fruit in your life.

Scripture vs. Society: Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Forgive (v.)
1.       To excuse for a fault, or an offense, pardon
2.       To renounce anger or resentment against
3.       To absolve from payment (of a debt, for example)
Random fact of the day: There are 109 verses about forgiveness in the Bible. That should mean that it plays a pretty big role in our lives, right? It’s pretty important. So what is forgiveness, why is it so important, and what does it practically look like in day to day life?
Forgiveness is a cancellation of debt or a pardon for a fault and a willingness to reconcile a fractured relationship. And it’s much more difficult to do than it really should be because as humans, we all have pride problems. We don’t like to ask for forgiveness because it hurts our egos and forces us to admit to being wrong. And we don’t always like to forgive because we would rather hold grudges than let go of resentment.
How great does human nature sound when it’s put so bluntly?
Even though forgiveness might hurt our pride and go against our nature, it’s so much better for us in the long run because it brings healing and restoration to relationships. It’s one of the best ways to show and grow love.
So just how important is it to God that we forgive? Well, Matthew 5:23-25 gives us a good idea.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
God gives us a clear command that before we even come to God, our relationships should be healthy and intact and our hearts are not harboring any grudge or lack of forgiveness. Our relationships with others matter to God because they are a reflection on God’s relationship with us.  We forgive the people that have wronged us in our lives because God has forgiven us.
Colossians 3:13 even says so exactly.
"As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”
But this does not come without a warning in Matthew 6:15.
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
That’s incredibly heavy and should cause us severe spiritual distress. Without God’s forgiveness we are all justly condemned to an eternal separation from God in Hell. That’s what it comes down to. If we hold onto resentment or pain or anger, then it is only our own selves that are ultimately being punished. It’s not about scare tactics or fire and brimstone; it’s about getting from God what you give to others.
Ephesians 1:7 says that:
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
We have been given abundantly more than we deserve. I think the least we can do is to offer forgiveness to the people in our lives when we are wronged, regardless of whether or not we get a formal apology or there is any remorse shown.  God forgives us of the worst possible offenses on a daily(sometimes even minute by minute) basis. We can do no less.
I am more than aware that forgiveness can be incredibly difficult. There are some things that will take every ounce of strength inside of us to let go of. More and more I believe that forgiveness is nowhere close to a one-step process, but that it’s a very repetitive one. I also have come to realize that my willingness to forgive should not depend on the level of damage done or remorse shown. Something as damaging as prolonged abuse should receive the same amount of genuine forgiveness (and with it, the same clean slate) as an inconsiderate comment. And that’s immeasurably difficult to put into actual practice.
There is a line from a movie called Amish Grace that I find myself repeating in my head a lot. It helps me with my heart and mindset toward forgiveness. It is simply this:
 “Forgiveness comes from an open heart and it comes without condition, or it does not come at all.”
So there’s something to come away with, if nothing else. Forgiveness is what the entire gospel is about; it’s the whole story. It’s important to God because it’s a reflection on Him. And it should be important to Christians as well because it’s one of the best ways to show God to others.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scripture vs. Society: Image

Image (n.)- A representation of the external form of a personal thing or person.

Self image- the idea, conception, or mental image one has of one’s self, generally resistant to change.

Self image and identity are things everyone struggles with from elementary school until we’re too old and senile to care anymore, whether that image is positive or negative.  You could probably hear about it all the time over Hollywood news or talk shows. More often than not you’ll hear about self image in a negative light, like we’re programmed to think the worst of ourselves.

Like I said in my last post, people see 40,000+ advertisement images every year. How many of those images do you think have a tendency to put our self images under the microscope (even on a subconscious level)? If I’m being honest with myself, it can be a bigger deal to me than I like to admit.

Negative self images can be root causes of some depression and eating disorders, but could there be more to it than that? Could there be something at the root of self image problems that can make the other issues more preventable? And what does the Bible say about image issues and identity crises?
Ephesians 2:10 says that: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus”.
“Christian” is our identifier; our identity is in Christ and only in Christ. To be preoccupied with how we look to ourselves or anyone else is to be concerned with other identifiers. This is the fastest way to get caught up in comparisons to the other people around us or the images we see in advertisements. That’s when things get destructive and even sinful. All comparison, apart from comparing ourselves with Christ, is sinful. Now, that’s a blunt and heavy statement, but stay with me here.

Comparing ourselves to anyone or any image outside of the image of God is a sinful act because it takes our focus off of Christ and causes us to try to live according to the lower and much more superficial standard of creation. Instead of being transformed to the image of God, we are conforming to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2). We not only set ourselves up to be hurt emotionally, but we destroy ourselves spiritually when we look to others or advertisements to label our identities. It sets us up to be less than holy. It causes us to strive for superficiality, rather than for God’s greater plans for our lives.

What we should be doing is keeping our focus on God and we do that through prayer, staying in God’s word, and surrounding ourselves with other believers who can keep us accountable through a local church.

Our weight, body type, skin color, or anything else doesn’t define who we are. We have to remember that our identity is in Christ.

Beauty really is only skin deep and the mirror lies to you. What’s true about you is what God says about you. And do you know what God says about you?
Jeremiah 1:5… Before you were formed in your mother’s womb, He knew you. 
Psalm 139:16… All your days were fashioned for you, when as yet there were none of them. (You have a divine purpose for your life.) 
Psalms 139:14… You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Can you kind of see the gravity of those verses? God knew you and set you apart for a divine purpose before the foundations of the world. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Webster’s definition of wonderful is 'inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration, extremely good, marvelous.' All of those words biblically describe not just the way God sees you but the way you are, the way He made you.

So instead of running through your flaws that you think define you the next time you look into a mirror, run through the list of words that really do define you and have that point your focus back to the one who created you.