The Silver Rules – Part Two

We covered the Silver Rule number one: Never confuse God and life. Today we move to Silver Rule number two: Never Confuse Christ and Christians.

Jesus came to save selfish, inconsiderate, self-centered, self-righteous, arrogant, disrespectful, intolerant, immoral, critical, short-tempered people. In other words: He came to save people just like me and you. The very first thing we are admitting as a Christian is, “I am hopelessly lost and I cannot save myself”. The reason Christians get so upset with other Christians is that that these self-professed sinners, sin. For some reason, this takes us by surprise.

I genuinely believe that there is nothing Christians cannot settle between them if they will pray about it, seek to forgive, and be honest with themselves and God. I’ve seen the Lord restore seemingly impossible situations. That’s what Christianity looks like when everyone obeys the scriptures.

Unfortunately for many years I was naïve enough to believe that every sincere believer facing a crisis defaulted to obeying scripture. People have a lot of defaults but “to the scripture” is not necessarily one of them. A decade ago my world was rocked when I became aware of a situation that any person of conscience, regardless of creed or lack thereof, would have had to address. In a healthy situation I would have been thanked but the situation was not healthy and all and my naiveté got blown out of the water.

The result was pain and confusion about God. How could He let evil triumph in His body? I expected Jesus to step in and shine a flood light on the situation bringing truth to light and healing everyone involved. I somehow thought it would all end in something akin to a group hug, which it did not.

Why God Doesn’t Step In

We lost a great deal in terms of time, health, material possession and more. It was terrible for my family and that was so painful. But the greatest torment for me was God’s apparent inaction. I was really tormented by the question, “Jesus, why didn’t You show up and turn on the floodlights?”

I would best paraphrase His answer: “I gave them floodlights. They wouldn’t turn them on”. God’s view of the situation was available in black and white, written down for the forgetful and totally accessible for anyone who genuinely cared to follow the scriptures. Adherence to the scriptures would have saved us and many others a great deal of pain. I had made the mistake of thinking He was silent when He was not. He anticipated the situation and His solution was very obvious. Jesus was always “for us” and never “against us”.

It is not uncommon for people to leave churches altogether because they make the mistake of faulting Christ for the actions of sinful people for whom He died. When we do that, we sin against God. We blame Christ for everything, even as He weeps with us. Whatever situation might cause you to want to avoid Christians, rest assured God has not been silent on your plight. He has always spoken the truth.

The Mystery of the Unseen

We are people engaged in spiritual battle. It involves the world of the seen and the unseen but we can only explain human interaction it in terms of what we see. We see people. We do not see the spiritual forces trying to harm them as well as us. The enemy’s goal is not just to destroy me, it’s to destroy the people with whom I am in conflict as well. Satan is the accuser of the brethren and he does not need my help. I am not saying that to justify sin. The reality is that people do dumb things with no malevolence in their heart at all. They simply don’t think things through scripturally. They are never my enemy.

Take the Long View

We tend to be more hurt by Christians than by non-believers because we expect more of those who seek to follow Christ. The world is totally brutal so when business partners seek to devour each other we are not as shocked. With Christians we expect reconciliation. For quite some time following the incident described above, I kept believing I could talk it out with people. I don’t do that anymore unless they approach me. As long as a bad experience is defining, it still has power, so let it go. Most things can be worked out this side of eternity. Some cannot. I have finally realized, “We are eternal people. I can wait”.

The Only Way to Give Back

Jesus, never, left you nor condoned the wrong done. Don’t confuse Christ and Christians. He gives grace and we all need grace. One day as I battled my warring emotions He reminded me that the only chance I have to give Him grace is when I give grace to another person for whom He died. They don’t know they need it and they aren’t asking for it but I can show them unmerited favor. It is the only chance I have to give back to my Savoir what He gave to me.

Don’t confuse Christ and Christians and you’ll save yourself a world of hurt. Just don’t withhold from others the gift He freely gives you. It really sets you free.

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The Silver Rules – Part One

In starting this blog there’s a couple of things I need to get out of way so those of you who know me well can turn off because you’ve heard me say these things before. For others, let me say these are two of the most important things I learned that are not overtly stated in the Bible, but truths that are absolutely scriptural.

We all know the Golden Rule. I have two “Silver Rules” that keep me sane. I wish I learned these before I set out in ministry. The rules are simple:

  1. Do not confuse God and life.
  2. Do not confuse Christ and Christians.

I could have saved myself a heap of heart ache and confusion if I had gotten a handle on those truths many years ago. Today I will just tackle silver rule number one.

Never Confuse God and Life

More Christians think the Lord is unkind and has singled them out for special treatment because they miss this truth. God is God and life is life. When Jesus said He is “The Life”, He did not mean He is the author of the day to day insanity that takes place on this fallen planet. He did not put your family on food stamps, decide to downsize the workforce at the plant, give you cancer, or promote terrorism. He did not cause the unbelieving next door neighbor to enjoy great health while you struggle to stay ahead of the doctor’s bills. Life in a fallen world is random, unfair and unkind. It looks absolutely nothing like our God.

God is everything life is not. He is more than fair, He is gracious. He is not random but equally compassionate to all. He is not unkind but so full of mercy that when we could not save ourselves He chose to step in and do it for us. He came to this mess we call “life”, to show us that “The Life” looks nothing like this pathetic flurry of activity that fills our day. He willingly subjected Himself to the harshness of the fallen world, to the point of death at Calvary. For six hours He willingly chose to hang on the cross when He had the power to “opt out” any time He chose. That’s pretty astonishing. That’s real love.

Suffice to say, everything that is true of “life’ is not true of God.

Why People Get Confused

We’ve all heard pithy sayings intended to encourage us when life is hard. “God never gives you more than you can handle”. People mean well but that’s a ridiculous statement. There’s a host of things I can’t handle but God will never abandon me so there’s nothing life can do to me that He can’t handle. Yet millions of people recite that phrase like it was true and conclude that God is either a very poor judge of character, or He’s not very nice.

There are Christian songs that suggest that God sends devastating circumstances to teach us something. While it is true we can learn of God’s faithfulness and love in tough times, the idea that He singled us out for special treatment would suggest that American Christians have less to learn than our brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith elsewhere. Do we really believe that persecuted Christians need to learn more about Jesus than the rest of us? Of course not. But that is the logical conclusion if every harsh thing that happens occurs so God can teach us something new. I’ve read my Bible and every hard thing does not come from above. It actually comes from being on a sinful planet and if I never sinned I could put in a complaint. I haven’t got that luxury.

Never Forget Silver Rule Number One

It is guaranteed that difficult things will happen in life. Christians who mistakenly believe the Lord is the Machiavellian hand behind every circumstance will live with a great deal of tension in their relationship with God. Every hardship will seem a personal attempt to improve their overall character and they will constantly be hoping they are “good enough” to avoid the next “test”.

The truth is simpler: every hard thing in life shows us the cost of sin and should cause us to fall “out of love” with the world. At the same time, knowing that the Lord who loves you and redeems you and is nothing at all like this temporary mess we call “life” will cause you to invest your treasure where life cannot spoil or ruin it. This edition of “life” will ultimately kill you. The Lord of Life will ultimately save you. He is the strong shelter you can run to in a time of need.

Hang on to that first silver rule and share it with others: Never Confuse God and Life.

You’re the World Changer’s

I am seated in a mid-morning chapel and the speaker begins with the question, “How many world changers do we have in the house this morning?” Deep in my heart I have an overwhelming desire to jump up and shout, “Just One. His Name is Jesus”. Jumping and shouting in chapel is not my style, so I conclude it is best if I don’t publicly answer what was clearly meant to be a rhetorical question.

The question troubles me because of the expectations it creates. There is no doubt the world needs to be changed. There is no question I need a new rule in the kingdom of my thoughts. Can the world be changed? Yes, it can. Can God use flawed people like me and you to change the world? Yes, He can. Am I a “World Changer”? No, I’m not. The difference between “World Changers” and “World Changer’s” is more than spelling, it is theologically significant.

Most Bible College students are young, full of passion, love for Jesus and the conviction that they and God can do anything. The first three attributes are wonderful and the last one will leave them disillusioned and disappointed. I entered the ministry believing that the history of the church was the history of extraordinary men and women of great faith who went out and gave their all for God. I believed God had called World Changers to do His Will. For the length of time that I lived within the realm of my natural gifting, I trusted the Lord, but my illusion remained intact.

Then I moved to the jungle. Four years later, I understood that the history of church is the history of ordinary men and women, who have been given an extraordinary faith that saves, justifies and makes them holy, who go out and live their lives with the God who has given His all for them.

That is good news and bad news. The good news is: there are no extraordinary people. The bad news is: there are no extraordinary people. If there are no extraordinary people then there’s no excuse from being used to do extraordinary things. You are destined for an extraordinary life, because the life you now live in this mortal body, you live by faith in the One who loved you and gave Himself for you.

It all depends on Jesus. The limits are removed. Given the choice between being one of the World Changers and one of the World Changer’s, I’ll go with option number two every time.