Missing Our Mission?

Are we missing our mission? And by that I mean are we, as Christ followers, forgetting that our primary mission is to introduce others to Jesus? There is more to it than that as we grow, but if we try to make it as simple as we can, we should be living in such a way that we are able to share Jesus with other people.

Their acceptance or rejection of Jesus is then up to them. That’s not on us. But what is on us is sharing His love with all those that we can. As I look around our world today, however, I’m afraid that the answer to my first question is a resounding ‘YES’! We are missing our mission. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at some of Jesus’ last words, both before and after His crucifixion.

After washing His disciples’ feet and commanding them through His own actions to become servants, Jesus added what He called a “new command”. John records it this way in John 13:34-35:

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

People will know you are Christ followers by the way you love one another.  That’s basically what Jesus is getting at here. Pretty simple.  William Barclay, in his commentary on this passage added some good information. Jesus is calling His disciples to love each other as Christ has loved them. In other words, for us, it is a call to love those we come in contact with, especially other Christ followers, the way that Christ has loved us.

But how has Christ loved? Barclay added four ways that Christ has loved us; Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly. That’s how we are to love one another if we want to be known as His followers.

Then, on the mountainside after His resurrection, just before ascending to Heaven, Jesus leaves us with His final command.  Matthew records it in chapter 28, and most of us know it as “The Great Commission”. These are His final words to His disciples, and it is a command that is passed to us as Christ followers. Verses 18-20 read:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Sharing Christ with others, making disciples, and baptizing them into Christ. That’s our mission. It’s not complicated, although, I think we make it complicated. One note, baptizing others is something we are commanded, and we get caught up on that, however, we miss another essential part of this command. Making disciples. That means helping others grow in their relationship with Christ. Christ followers make other Christ followers.

But back to my first question. Are we hitting this mission? Maybe to some degree, but I have to admit, my heart aches as I continue to watch Christians rip each other apart because they interpret passages from the Bible differently than one another. I am a part of a few different minister and restoration movement pages on social media. Instead of encouraging one another, what I see more often is attack after attack.

I’m all for a good debate. Debate is healthy. But what I see all too often is the attitude of “I am right and there is no room for anyone to disagree with me. If you disagree with me you are completely WRONG, and therefore are less of a Christ follower than I”. And let me just say this: I am sick of it.

Disciples make other disciples

We are called to make disciples. You can’t make disciples if you are not a disciple yourself. Disciples make other disciples or Christ followers make other Christ followers. Remember what Jesus said in John 13. I’m paraphrasing, “Love one another as I have loved you. By your love they will know you are My disciple”. How did Jesus love us? Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly.


What I am seeing from other Christ followers is anything but loving one another. And I’m talking to both sides of the debate. Most recently it has been over the topic of “women in leadership”. I’m not going to get into the debate. I’ve got friends and respected minds on both sides of the issue. For my purpose today, however, where you land on this topic is not the important part. It’s how you choose to present your interpretation.

We should be better than the world around us!

We focus so much on our differences. We are saturated by that in out culture today. It’s not just in the Church. But we should be better than the world around us! None of us are going to have it all figured out correctly. And we’re never going to agree 100% with anyone. But just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you can just completely rip them apart either.

I’ll wrap up with this. Again, I’m talking to both sides of any debate, especially debates among Christ followers.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

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Where Was God?

*I am blessed to have the opportunity to write articles for our local newspaper from time to time.  Below is the article that should be published in the Oct. 12 edition of the Canton Times.*

Where is God in all of this? You hear that question all the time, especially after something horrible takes place.  You get a cancer diagnosis, a loved one dies, you lose a job that you really needed, or 59 people are tragically killed and over 500 are injured at a concert in Las Vegas. Another question that is often asked along the same lines is “How can you believe in God with all the pain, evil, and suffering in the world?”

I get it.  Tragedy makes us stop and wonder. In fact, in response to the tragic events of Las Vegas, I posed this question question to the teens in our youth group this past week because they are going to hear questions like this as their friends discuss the broken world that we obviously live in.

The reason we live in a broken world is not because there is no God or that God has chosen to be absent.  It is because He has decided to give us free will. Free will is what makes us human. We get to decide how we live our lives. It is through free will that we get to chose to love God. Without free will, our love for God would not be a real love. Think about it. If you are forced to love someone, is that real love? No.

But at the same time, because we have free will, we can choose to do something that harms ourselves or others. Free will led to Adam and Eve sinning in the Garden of Eden. Free will is what allowed Cain to kill his brother Abel over jealousy. But it was also free will that allowed Jesus to choose to go to the cross as payment for our sins.

Why does God allow events like Las Vegas to happen? Where was He? He loves us enough to give us free will because He wants our true love. Events like Vegas happen because we forget God. He doesn’t forget us. Where was He? You can see Him all around in the stories of people sacrificing their own safety in order to help one another.

Romans 8:28 reads, “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That doesn’t mean that He causes bad things to happen. But when bad things do happen, something good is always going to come out of them. We might not ever see the full effect, but all things are worked for the good of those who Love God.

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God is Always Faithful: Times of Transition

You may have noticed that I have been unusually silent on Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak.  Life has been a little hectic to say the least over the last couple of months.  With all the craziness, however, one thing has remained perfectly clear.  God’s plan and timing so perfect, especially when we don’t understand exactly what is going on.

At the beginning of July, I was informed that my job in Carlsbad would be ending at the end of the month.  Around the same time that that happened, I was contacted by two different churches asking me to come visit with them for potential preaching positions.  We worked out the details to travel to these two church beginning in August and began fervently praying that God would open the doors to where He had in store for us next.

Well, God never disappoints.  I knew that in my head, but I also knew that His timing is not always when we want things.  I was preparing myself for the possibility that I would not step directly into another ministry position right away.  But this time, God had different plans. 

These past couple of months have been an whirlwind of emotion as we have said goodbye to friends and the town that we have called home for the last three years, and as we have moved to Canton, Oklahoma to begin preaching at Canton Christian Church.  Canton CC logoWhile I understand God’s faithfulness to us, I am absolutely blown away at how quickly He led us here to Canton.  We arrived in town just under a week ago, and I preached this past Sunday to officially begin my ministry here.

 

I don’t know what you are going through.  Times are tough and life has a way of throwing curve ball after curve ball at us.  Don’t lose hope.  God’s timing and plan is perfect.  He has proven that to me over and over again.  If you are going through something that you need prayer to help keep you focused on God, please reach out to me or someone else you trust.  I would be honored to pray with and for you.  Above all, never lose sight of the fact that God loves you!  Life is never promised to be easy, but it is worth it when we follow Him with our whole lives. 

As I get settled in here in Canton, I plan on trying to get back to regularly posting.  I’ve missed writing the last couple of months as life has just been crazy.  As my wife said after this past Sunday, “The best is yet to come!”

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Thoughts From That Other Jesus Freak

*Yesterday, I posted an article that I had written as a guest post for a friend of mine.  He has written a guest post for Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, and I am excited to share his words with you today.  Peter writes at https://www.onlyopendoor.com/ about the Church and why we need to be involved.  He’s also the youth minister at First Christian Church in Lovington, NM and in his own words is, “That Other Jesus Freak”.*

My 15th birthday was a day of joy and total sorrow. Just like any other birthday, I got to choose a friend to join me and my family for dinner at a restaurant of my choice. After dinner, I was told we would take my friend home, then head home for a bit before anyone was allowed to do anything that evening. It was then that my parents sat my brothers and I down in the living room. I knew something was up, we never met this way. That evening, my parents broke the news that my father only had months to live.

Years later, I had the opportunity to become a youth pastor in Arizona. I was fresh out of college, well, I was 26 at the time I graduated, and this was my first chance to work in the ministry. I was excited and scared to be moving from Minnesota to Arizona. Things started off so well, but they didn’t end up that way. After only months, I started to feel the negative attitude of some in the church, and it never really got any better, which ultimately led to my negative departure.

These stories are not meant to depress you or make you feel sorry for me. I share these stories because as a Jesus Freak, I feel the need to share the positive side of these negative stories. You see, God answers all our prayers. You might be thinking, you prayed that God would take your father? That would be insane. I prayed for my father to be healed. I prayed to be able to do God’s work and to grow in my own spiritual walk. God’s answer is not always the one we want though.

You see, my father was healed. He was a Christ follower, and I truly believe that he has a new body, free of tumors, in heaven. Not exactly the healing I wanted at the time. I also would have loved to continue working with the students I had in Arizona, but God wanted me to take some time away from ministry to grow personally before landing me in New Mexico as a youth pastor once more.

There will be trials in our lives, especially if we choose to follow Jesus Christ. It isn’t an easy life to be a true Christ follower. If it were easy, there would be more people that would give up the things this world offers to follow Christ. There will be tough times ahead.

But we can have comfort in Christ through these tough times!

John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (CSB)

Being courageous is sometimes easier said than done. It is not easy to be courageous when you are faced with uncertainty and loss. But Jesus also tell us this in Luke 12:25-26

“Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? 26 If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest” (CSB)

We cannot live our days worrying about what will come. We MUST learn to trust that God will provide us with what we need. When the times are tough, call on Him. When things are going well, thank Him. Don’t worry about what the world will think of you when you follow Christ.

“I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, there ain’t no disguising the truth.”

Thoughts from that other Jesus Freak, Peter Wernimont.

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Make It Your Own

*This post originally appeared on my friend Peter’s new blog here.  Check it out and follow his work there.*

CHRCHPeter asked me to write a guest post for his new blog.  It’s been great getting to know him over the last few months since he moved to New Mexico.  We’ve collaborated on a lot of stuff for Guadalupe Christian Camp, and he is the only other person I know with a “Jesus Freak” tattoo.

I’m a lot like Peter in how he described his experience growing up in the church.  My grandparents weren’t in ministry like his, but I grew up basically in the church anytime the doors were open.  And that was great.  I love that I grew up that way, but I came to a point in my life that I walked away from the Church.  Here’s some things I’ve learned from and about my experience of walking away.

I used an excuse of something I was frustrated about to justify walking away.

During my time in youth group, I was all in.  I was a leader in the group, especially in the last two or three years of high school.  It was that youth group that helped me through the death of my father as a fifteen year old.  One of the main things that we fought hard for during my time was a united group.

As we entered the youth group as seventh graders, it became pretty apparent that there were some major cliques in the group.  The students in the class before me and my class fought very hard to dispel the cliques, and try to be as united of a group as we could be.  Not trying to brag, but I feel that we did a pretty good job of that.  We tried to be friends with everyone in the group, and hang out with everyone as much as possible. 

After graduating high school and moving to the college age Sunday school class, however, I found out real quick that those cliques had reformed there.  Instead of trying to get rid of the cliques, I used them as an excuse to start slowly walking away from the Church.  There were other subconscious factors that lead to this as well, so I used it as an excuse.  It started as just missing Sunday school, but slowly and surely it go to the point I would miss a Sunday altogether.  And then the next thing I knew, I was skipping multiple Sundays and using my job as an excuse.

I thought it was possible to be a Christ follower on my own.

I convinced myself through this whole thing that I could maintain my relationship with Christ on my own.  I didn’t need to be going to church every week.  I was planning on going into ministry any way, so I was in a good place.  Pay attention to this section if you don’t pay attention to anything else.  I was dead wrong.  One thing I have figured out in my life is that God created us to be in community with Him…and with fellow Christ followers.  Christianity is not a path that can be easily walked without love, support, and accountability from a community of other believers.  It just can’t happen.

The more I tried to follow Jesus on my own without that community, the more I just started really going through the motions of my belief and faith.  When I ended up going to Bible College a couple of years later, that translated into just having fun and not taking my faith, or my studies seriously.  Here I was, living on campus surrounded by fellow Christ followers, but I was still just pretending and going through the motions.  You cannot follow Christ on your own…at least not very well.

The longer I was away, the harder it was to go back.

I think subconsciously I started realizing this, but I had walked away from a true Christian community for a few years now.  A simple turn back to God was all that was needed.  Think of the story of the Prodigal son.  God is ready to run to us when we finally take a step back toward Him.  But it’s not always easy to get to a place where you are ready to take that step.

Pride in trying to do it all on my own was a huge stumbling block.  Again, I really think I saw what was happening, but I thought that I could fix it on my own.  I had this.  I could come back anytime I wanted to.  But the longer I was away, the more pride got in my way.  It’s hard to stand up and admit, even to God, that you’ve messed up. 

It wasn’t until a relationship ended in a very hurtful way that I truly began to wake up, to realize that I desperately needed God and a strong Christian community to truly live out my faith.  But I also realized something that would really change everything for me…

My faith was not my own…yet.

I realized that the faith that was so strong even through my youth group years wasn’t really my own.  I had been raised to believe in Jesus, to know the Bible stories, to go to Church, and all of those things are great.  There is nothing wrong with any of it.  But at some point, you have to take that faith that your parents instilled in you, and it has to become your own.

I was baptized because all my friends were getting baptized.  It was just the natural thing to do.  I loved God, don’t get me wrong, but I was living on a faith that was given to me by my parents and my friends.  And that’s a good starting place.  You just can’t stay there the rest of your life and truly live the way that God is calling you to.  It has to mean something to YOU…not for someone else, but for you. 

There is a passage in Mark 8 where Jesus is talking to His disciples.  He asks them the question “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  They respond, “Some say Elijah, others John the Baptist, still others a prophet.”  And those were good answers.  They were putting Jesus up there with some of the heroes of Hebrew history.  But that’s not who Jesus really was.  He then turned the question from who the crowd thought He was to the disciples.  “Who do you say I am?!”  Peter spoke up and gave the first confession of faith.  He said “You are the Christ!”

When we are living by someone else’s faith, even if they are correct in their understanding, we can be like the crowds.  Jesus is important.  No doubt about it.  But He may not be seen as Lord of our lives.  We have to answer Jesus’ second question.  It’s not one that He just asked the twelve disciples 2,000 years ago.  He is asking us as well.  Who do you say that Jesus is?  Until we view Jesus as the true Lord and Savior of our lives, and therefore put Him in the proper place in our lives, we will not be living our own faith.  If we are not living our own faith yet, then it’s easy to make excuses and not gather with other Christ followers.  That’s why the percentage of people who claim to be Christians and the percentage of people who are actually active in Church is so drastically different.

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Kraig Birchfield is the main author on crosseyedjesusfreak.com.  You can check out more of his articles there.  He is first and foremost a Christ follower.  He is a husband to Kelley, a writer, preacher, and a Crosseyed Jesus Freak.

Defending the Faith Conference

--How do you stand up for truth in a word gone mad--

I wrote a bit of a teaser for it yesterday, but as promised, I want to tell you about Guadalupe Christian Camp’s upcoming “Defending the Faith Conference”.  This is the first annual apologetics conference that the camp is going to be hosting on July 29-31, and I would absolutely love for you to join us.  Let me get some housekeeping issues out of the way.  If you are interested, make your plans now, because there are only a few days left for the early bird rate of $45 per person.  After July 3, the price goes up to $55 per person.  All you need to do to register is to contact David Shaw at dcshaw529@gmail.com, letting him know how many will be joining your party.  Then you pay when you get to the camp on Saturday. 

How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!

So let me pose a question.  “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”  That’s exactly the question that we are going to be trying to walk through during the main sessions and the Q&A times throughout the event.  And that is one of the most important and relevant questions that we as Christ followers need to answer in our own lives.  We have to be ready to give a defense of our faith at a moments notice.  That doesn’t mean that we have to have all the answers.  That would be impossible.  But we need to be prepared.  In fact, Paul challenges Timothy with that specifically.  In II Timothy 4:2-4, Paul writes the following to Timothy;

2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 3 For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Verses 3 and 4 sound like Paul was looking directly into our time.  There is no absolute truth anymore, according to the society we live in.  There are many ways to God, and the fact that Christianity claims to be the only way to God is insensitive…or at least that’s what the world around us is screaming at the top of its lungs.  All paths lead to God.  Well, if you are a Christ follower, then you know that that is not what Jesus taught.  Jesus made a very bold claim in John 14:6-7.  He said;

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Like I said, that is a bold claim.  But Jesus backed that claim up by going to the cross and God raising Him from the dead.  We have to stand firm.  We have to be bold.  We know the truth: Jesus is the only way to God.  But we have to speak that truth in love.  That’s what we are going to be discussing in this inaugural event held at Guadalupe Christian Camp.  I, along with three other area preachers, will be presenting on a variety of different topics.  Stephen B, a Christian comedian will also be there on Saturday night presenting his comedy routine.  This promises to be a great weekend, and we would love to have you join us.  The camp is located at 56 Christian Camp Road, Carlsbad, NM  88220, about an hour outside of Carlsbad. 

Let’s come together, and answer the question.  “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”

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Refreshed and Refocused

I’ve been absent for a little while.  My apologies for that.  But I was working a week of church camp last week at Guadalupe Christian Camp for Jr. and Sr. High students.  While I had access to internet there, I felt my time was more valuable investing in the week there instead of trying to write for “Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak”.  I mean, I had to write a sermon while I was there anyway, so I didn’t take anymore time for this.

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It was a great week.  We had 38 teenagers and quite a few adults from West Texas and Southeast New Mexico that attended the week, and I do believe that lives were changed.  We had a speaker from Illinois that blew it out of the water, as well as a Christian band from El Paso that was just as interested in investing in the lives of the teens there as they were about playing music for the evening sessions. 

We got to get away from our normal hectic schedules and spend time with fellow Christ followers, up on a mountain, away from distractions.  Although it was a scorching hot week, we were able to enjoy God’s creation together in a few different ways as well.  One of those was spending time at Sitting Bull Falls, hiking and swimming one afternoon (the temperature gauge in the van I drove read 108 degrees when we parked at the falls).  On Friday morning, we went on the annual hike to the ridge that has quickly become one of my favorite places that I have seen in person on this earth. 

As tired as I have been since returning, the physical exhaustion has been well worth it.  I came back mentally, emotionally, and spiritually refreshed.  That’s something that I’ve needed for a long time.  I got to spend time with other ministers, discussing our churches and what things we need prayer and support in.  Just bouncing ideas off of others is so beneficial.  I got to have some good laughs with the other adults there as well.

One thing happened on two separate nights, however, that may top any camp experience I have ever had.  Well, not really because I received my call into ministry at a week of camp, but this was awesome anyway…just not on the exact same level.  On Thursday night, we were having a camp fire/smores night, and a couple of the band members were there playing acoustic guitars.  The night was coming to an end, and I jokingly asked the lead band member if he knew “Jesus Freak” and explained my website.  They didn’t know the song by memory, but looked up the chords and started playing.  That is when a bunch of the other adults and I started singing our lungs out to an impromptu jam session of “Jesus Freak”.  It was incredible.

Then, the next night at worship was supposed to be more of a concert style worship with the band.  Wally told me early that night that he was going to call me from the sound booth to come up to the stage to help him with something, but that it was for the kids.  I asked what, but he wouldn’t tell me.  When he finally called me up, he handed me a mic and said they were going to play “Jesus Freak”.  I got the other guy at camp with a Jesus Freak tattoo to join me on stage, handed him the mic, because I don’t sing into mics, and we got to sing on stage to a live version of “Jesus Freak”.  As you could imagine, this Crosseyed Jesus Freak was flying high after that.

It just reminds me of where our focus should be though.  Where does your passion lay?  This world tries to distract us, but if I’m going to claim to be a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, I need to be focused on Jesus 100% of the time…or at least as much of that time as I can be.  We have to be strong in our faith.  That’s why this event that I want to tell you about is so important. Guadalupe Christian Camp is getting ready to host its First Annual “Defending the Faith Conference” at the end of July.  Check back here tomorrow for an article about that, but if you are in southeast New Mexico or west Texas, consider joining us for this conference.

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Betrayal

I was texting with a friend of mine back east this week.  I hadn’t had a chance to check in with her in a few weeks, and I could just sense something was wrong through some things on social media.  So I checked in on her.  I asked if everything was ok.  She had recently started dating someone, and I just had the sense that something bad had happened to that relationship.  And unfortunately I was correct.  He had ended the relationship with my friend, and she felt betrayed.  Her heart was broken, and she was still processing what was going on. 

We didn’t have a lot of time to chat at the time, but the whole situation got me thinking about betrayal.  I don’t know what it is, but there is just something in human nature that seems to make us betray one another.  If you have never faced the betrayal of another human being, I would count you very fortunate.  Even Jesus Himself was betrayed.  And that betrayal came from one of His twelve closest companions over the last three years of His life. 

My heart hurts for my friend.  She deserves so much better than what happened.  But the fact remains that we all face betrayals from time to time.  That doesn’t make it any easier to process them when they happen though.  Whether it’s a significant other turning their back on you, a friend spreading a rumor about something that you told them in confidence, a co-worker stabbing you in the back to get ahead, or whatever other betrayals you could imagine, being betrayed hurts.

Betraying others hurts as well.  And whether we want to admit it or not, as much as we have faced betrayals from others, we have probably betrayed someone ourselves at some point. Whether we wanted to or not.  That doesn’t make it right, but that is the reality of sin.  It makes this world that we live in broken.  And broken people treat each other horribly at times.  That’s where God’s grace comes in.  Through a relationship with Him, through the blood of Jesus, we can set aside that human nature, and strive to treat each other with love and respect. 

God will never leave us or abandon us.

That doesn’t mean that we will never sin or mess up again.  Of course we will, because we live in a broken world.  But that is no longer our default setting if we have truly given our lives to Jesus in being a Christ follower.  People are going to betray each other, and that hurts.  Pretty much everyone of us knows that firsthand.  But here is the best news of all.  God will never leave us or abandon us.  He will never betray us.  The author of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 13:5; “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.”  He is quoting a passage from Deuteronomy 31, where God promised that He would never abandon His people.

Put your trust in God.  Give your life to Him.  Life will always be tough.  We will mess up, and we will hurt one another.  But we have a promise from God that He will never betray us!

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Marriage is Not a Competition

I’m not the perfect husband.  In fact, I get marriage wrong more than I would like to admit.  I love my wife, but there are times that I don’t treat her as well as I should.  But I’m trying to get better.  I’m trying to love her with the love that she deserves.  I want to have the strongest marriage possible.  In other words, our marriage is a work in progress.  Most are.  I’m not a marriage expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m trying to be the best partner I can be for my wife.

I write that to get to this.  We have seriously got to change our attitude, thoughts, expectations, and even our jokes about marriage in this country.  This is especially true if you are a Christ follower.  I almost wrote this post a couple of months ago, but decided not to at the time.  I can’t sit silent any longer.  We have an incorrect view of what marriage should be.  It’s a partnership in life and love, but most of the time you hear it talked about as a competition.  Who gets the most out of it, and if you’re not the one winning, what do you need to do to get what you deserve? 

At least that seems to be the attitude that is most prevalent in our society today.  Let me give you an example.  This is what finally pushed me over the edge to write this post.  I came across this picture the other day on social media.  It reads, “Marriage is simple. Your wife does whatever she wants and you do whatever she wants.”

Marriage, really?

Really?  That’s what we think about love and agreeing to spend the rest of our lives with someone anymore?  And it’s not just this one picture or thought floating around out there.  It is hammered down our throats everywhere we look.  There is a winner and a loser in marriage relationships.  Fights are normal.  Make sure you win, no matter the cost.  There is an episode of the sitcom Friends that shows this same thought process.  Monica and Chandler are discussing something, and Chandler thought they had already come to a decision.  Monica, however, makes another decision.  Chandler responds with something like, “but we’ve already discussed this and I won.”  Monica’s response is the attitude I’m talking about here.  She says, “…and now that you’re marrying me, you don’t get to win anymore.”

Like I said earlier, I’m not a marriage expert, but that attitude is not healthy.  I know that most would argue that the picture above is something that was done as a joke.  I would agree, at least I would like to think that.  But even if that is the case, it eventually leads to a misperception about marriage.  If you joke about something long enough and to enough people, you start to believe it, even if you never intended to in the first place.  And the real issue is that a fellow Christ follower is the one that posted the picture.  That’s not the Biblical picture of what marriage should be. 

The same day I saw the pic above, I found what follows (shared by the same person).  You see the difference right?  Like the description says, it’s not about control.  It’s about respect.  Mutual respect.  No one partner any more important than the other.  A true partnership.  There may be different roles in a marriage, but it should be a true partnership. 

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That’s what I see when I read the instructions for marriage throughout the New Testament.  It’s not about the man being the dominant partner.  It’s not about the woman being the dominant partner either.  It’s about a true partnership.  Let me share this with you.  This is part of a wedding ceremony that I did last year.  Names have been removed for privacy.  It starts with a reading of Ephesians 5:21-33.

Let’s take a look at what Paul writes about marriage in his letter to the Ephesians.  Reading from chapter 5:21-33;

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Over the years, this passage has been taken out of context and been used to say only that women should submit to men.  But there is something so beautiful in this passage when you realize that Paul is actually giving equality to men and women in marriage.  During the time of Paul, women were considered little more than property, so when Paul turned around and said that husbands were to love their wives as Christ loves the church, that was a radical new idea. 

So, Groom, while it is true that Bride is encouraged to follow your lead, you are encouraged to love her sacrificially, putting her wants and needs in front of your own.  You are encouraged to care for her.  You are encouraged to love her with an unbreakable and unending love.  And you are encouraged to love her in Christ.

Bride, the same can be said for you.  You are encouraged to love Groom sacrificially, putting his wants and needs in front of your own.  You are encouraged to care for him.  You are encouraged to love him with an unbreakable and unending love.  And you are encouraged to love him in Christ.

Marriage is not a competition between two people, and when we treat it like it is, even in a joking manner, we make a mockery of what God intended to be a life partnership.  One that He uses to also describe the relationship that He wants with us.  Christ followers, stop falling into the trap that society is perpetuating.  Marriage is a beautiful thing.  It is God-honoring when done correctly.  We are to be helpmates to one another in our marriages, not fighting against each other to see who can “win”.  When that is what we focus on, neither partner truly wins.  It’s a loss across the board.

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Give Honor Where Honor is Due: Remembering the Fallen, and the Sacrifice of Jesus

Memorial Day

I want to take a moment this morning to honor and thank all of those that have given their lives for this country.  Memorial Day is much more than just a 3-day weekend and an excuse to grill out (although I do plan to do some grilling today).  It’s about honoring those that have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the freedom that we enjoy in the U.S.A today.  In that vain, we showed a video yesterday in our church service honoring those that have fallen.  You can watch the video here if you’d like.

We showed it right before our message time, and I followed the video with a short reminder.  It wasn’t scripted and I didn’t record it, so I don’t remember word for word what I said.  But it is this reminder that I want to write about this morning.  The video, in case you didn’t watch it, was a recording of a speech that late U.S. President Ronald Reagan gave regarding the sacrifices that so many have made to make and keep this country free.  At the end, he said something along the lines of “we will always be willing to make these sacrifices, because we are AMERICANS”.

While I think it is a very good thing to honor and remember those that have fought and died to keep this country free, we, as Christ followers have to remember as well that our citizenship is in Heaven.  We may be Americans, but more importantly, we are Christ followers.  We have countless men and women that have given their lives for this country and our freedom.  But we have to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for this whole world (and us individually). 

Adding to those thoughts, we need to realize something.  All to often, we get these out of order.  And it’s easy to do so, because we can often see the results of the sacrifices made for our freedom.  They are tangible.  We see the families of those lost.  We can visit places like Arlington National Cemetery.  So it is easier to wrap our minds around these sacrifices, and because of that, we celebrate, remember, and honor these more than the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.

Our allegiance, as Christ followers, needs to be Christ first.  I’m not saying not to have pride in your country.  I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t be honoring the men and women of our military.  I’m not even saying that we should cease to be patriotic.  Anyone that knows me knows that I have a high respect for our military.  I love this country.  The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays every year.

But what I am saying is, if you are a Christ follower, you need to be living for and celebrating Him more than our country.  You need to be placing your allegiance in Christ above your country, meaning that if and when something goes against Christ and His teachings, we follow Jesus.  With or without our country, and the freedom that has been fought and sacrificed so hard for, none of us really have a chance if it wasn’t for Jesus.

Our military men and women have a long history of fighting for our freedom, and I am so thankful for that.  But Jesus is the one that made the ultimate sacrifice that paid the price for our sins.  A price that we could never pay on our own.  Because the wages of sin is death, and He paid the price for anyone and everyone that is willing to follow Him.  The apostle Paul tells us about this sacrifice and what it really means for us.  In Romans 5:6-8, he writes;

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

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So, while you are celebrating Memorial Day, remember first that it is more than just a 3-day weekend and an excuse to grill.  It is about honoring and remembering those that have given their lives for this country.  And it is right that we do so.  But also remember that the ultimate act of sacrificial love was performed over 2,000 years ago, on a cross, by a man that didn’t deserve what He went through.  Jesus willingly went to the cross for my sin, for your sin, for the sin of the world.  Ultimate freedom is found in Him, and only Him.

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