Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Pet Peeve and an Encouragement

I've been seeing memes and pictures like these on the internet lately:

I'll be honest: I don't like being told that my faith is weak just because I don't hit the share button.

At the end of the day, I know that my faith is defined by how I live, not by how many times I "like" or "share" these kinds of posts. I believe that it's better to show Jesus in my everyday actions than to nauseate people with "Re-share for Jesus!" posts. My hope is that Jesus' presence in my life is perfectly obvious without my having to re-post these pictures all over the Internet.

A lot of the pictures I see are also quite discouraging. In fact, if I were a non-Christian coming across these photos, I'd probably be buying into the stereotypes that the world makes for us: "Oh, those Christians are always guilting people into their beliefs. They're such hypocrites! Isn't their religion about loving and encouraging?"

I'm not trying to be harsh on people that put pictures like this on their social network feeds. If their goal is to share Jesus with others, then I applaud them for having their heart in the right place.

The problem is that these kinds of pictures do not accomplish the goal well.

Here's a simple question: if you want to introduce others to Christ, is guilting them or pressuring them the right way to invite them into a lifelong, loving, committed relationship with Him?

I don't write this post to be judgmental, mean, or preachy. I'd like to gently remind my fellow brothers and sisters to think before you post, and continue to build each other up in Christ.


"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." --Ephesians 4:29

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Season of Change is Coming Soon

I was just thinking a minute ago about how seasons sometimes have subtitles.

Winter: the cold season and the season of Christmas, the new year, and even Valentine's Day. (A thought just occurred to me about Valentine's Day. It is a holiday in which we celebrate love, but we celebrate it in the middle of winter--it's cold, nasty, and difficult. Doesn't that in and of itself represent what love is all about? How love is about caring about someone or wanting the best for them, even when it's cold, nasty, and difficult?)

Spring: the season of new beginnings, life, and resurrection. (Obviously, that would be why we celebrate Easter in this season, but we also celebrate Mother's Day, and late into the season, we celebrate Father's Day. We celebrate the lives of those around us in the spring.)

Summer: the season of EXTREME heat, and the season of rest. (I find a lot more pictures of the beach and vacation articles on Pinterest during this time of year, don't you?)

And finally...

Autumn (I like the name autumn better than fall!): the season of change and color.

Autumn is not here yet, but it's coming soon. (Did you know the autumnal equinox is next Tuesday?)

I always think that this time of the year is strange--when we are all ahead of the autumn season. School has started, so all the parents and students are saying, "It must be fall, since we're getting into the school routine and starting sports [and other extracurricular activities]." I have even seen Halloween decorations and specialty costume stores put up. My grocery store is covered with candy bags decorated with spiders and ghoulish faces on them. Halloween commercials are now found on every television channel.

Yet, when I look outside at my backyard, the tree is still green--not a hint of orange, red, or yellow. All the bees are buzzing around flower bushes, the sky is still as blue as a robin's egg, and it's 86ยบ at only one o'clock in the afternoon.

Autumn usually means that I don't have to see ants crawl into the side of the house. It means that I get to enjoy how the wooden fence in the backyard gets wet, dark stains from the hundreds of raindrops and how the cold foggy mist feels on my face after a rainstorm. It means that I can wear sweaters, scarves, fuzzy socks, boots, and blue jeans every single day of the week, and so will everyone else I know. It means that I can bake pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and drink caramel apple cider at coffee shops. Autumn is the season of reading books next to a fireplace, sleeping with extra blankets, and enjoying comfortable walks outside, knowing that it won't be too hot or too cold.

No wonder we are all ready for the fall...but it's not here yet!

Right now is the season of patience. It's the season where farmers are preparing their fields knowing that it will rain soon, and there will be plenty to do when harvest comes. Right now is the season where everyone wants something in their lives to change, and they anticipate it wholeheartedly.

It reminds me of the seasons of life we have with God. How we impatiently anticipate a change that God is about to grant to us, but He hasn't quite decided to do it yet. It's that difficult season of waiting.

Right now in my backyard, it's still extremely hot. The tree is still green, even though I really want to see it turn orange and red. I likely won't see the flames blazing in the fireplace this evening, and I didn't notice any fog or mist in the atmosphere early this morning.

But I know all of those glorious things about the season of change are coming. I trust God that He's going to give us those gifts...in a little while, but not quite yet.

What do we do in a season of patience? What do we do when we're waiting on God to bring change into our lives?

We pray, we breathe, we worship, we meditate on God's Word, and we take in the gifts that He's already given us for right now.

I heard this at church yesterday: waiting on God is not necessarily the same as waiting in line. It's more like how you want a waiter to serve you when you are at a restaurant. Waiting is the act of serving God, not a lack of action on God's part.

The gifts that I can appreciate about my backyard right now is that the tomato plant is still producing yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The tree may not be orange, red, and yellow, but throughout the summer, I've seen it in dozens of shades of bright and dark greens. I've seen tons of squirrels and birds visit the tree and appreciate it more than I have. I have enjoyed the feelings of putting my hands in cold water, and seeing how my face looks when it's sun-kissed.

I still anticipate, but I can still appreciate. And that is the beauty of patience, even when I long for the season of change.

"O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'" --Isaiah 25:1, 9b