I’m Just a Passing Through

mountain-path

Is it possible we’ve grown overly comfortable with this world? I saw a preacher I love and respect talking about how he simply doesn’t feel welcome in America anymore. I understand where he was coming from, and I sympathize with his feelings. I do not criticize him for the statement; it was just an impetus that got me thinking. Are we supposed to feel welcome in this world? How welcome did Christ and His apostles feel in their home country, and did it affect their mission or relationship with God?

An Unwelcome Savior

In Matthew 8:18, a scribe approaches Jesus and says he will follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus responds to this by saying, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” In other words, I might be willing to follow Jesus, but am I willing to be an outcast for doing so? Just look at how Jesus’ own hometown receives Him in Matthew 13:54 – 58. The reception is so unwelcome that Jesus goes away without performing a single miracle.

Consider also Hebrews 11:13 – 16:

These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

I Can’t Feel At Home…

When I was growing up in the church, we would sometimes sing a song that went like this:

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door.
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

O Lord, you know I have no friend like you.
If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door.
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

We would sing that, but living it is another matter. Think about going to visit another country. What would you do while you were visiting? Would you spend your whole time trying to make your hotel room suit your needs exactly? How involved would you become in local controversies? Would you even be aware of them? Would you convert every cent of your savings into the local currency? Probably not. Instead, you’d have an itinerary to follow, and, if the hotel sheets are the wrong shade of periwinkle or the local cuisine doesn’t sit well with you, oh well. It’s not like you’re going to live there.

Looking Toward Home

Additionally, those things that can make you feel a bit uncomfortable in another country — driving on the other side of the road, unfamiliar foods, different languages, currency conversions — make you long for home all the more. Again, we might sing, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Those things that make this world uncomfortable and even unwelcoming should, instead of distract us into focusing more on this world, set our eyes above to our true home. They should make us long for our home where God is our light.

We have an itinerary in this world to do God’s work, to live like Christ, and to seek out lost souls to share His hope with. This world is a layover before eternity. It’s a temporary residence. It’s not our home. It’s nice to feel welcome, but it’s not necessary. Wherever we are and whatever the climate is toward our Christian faith, our hope and our work remain the same. Our relationship with God through Christ stays the same.

“Liberal” Is Not a Bad Word

credit to npr.org
credit to npr.org

What do you think about when you hear the word liberal? I was raised to equate the word with all sorts of negative qualities, and I imagine many of you were too. It was a word that denoted an enemy of truth: “His views are too liberal.” It was a word to discredit political enemies: “Don’t vote for that liberal candidate.” It was a word to identify those congregations: “We can’t visit there. That’s a liberal church of Christ.”

When we use the word liberal, we create all sorts of negative imagery fostered by the past twenty or so years of political culture wars. But this post is not about politics or political philosophy. It is not about sound doctrine or church institutionalization. It’s not about church daycare or charities. It’s about individual Christians being liberal the way God is liberal.

Take a look at a portion of the Sabbath law in Deuteronomy 15:12-15 (NKJV):

If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.

Under the Law of Moses, if I owed you a huge debt, I could indenture myself to you as payment. Then, every Sabbath year, those who owned these indentured servants were to let them go free, but it didn’t stop there. The masters were to liberally supply their former servants from their own blessings. The servants in no way earned this favor; their service was paying off a past debt. Instead, this was supposed to remind both servant and master of God’s blessings to His people. As God was generous to His servants, so His people should be generous too.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

– James 1:2-5 (NKJV)

God is liberal with His gifts for us today as well. Not just in the knowledge of His word, but God is liberal in grace, in forgiveness, and in goodness. All good things are from Him, and He pours His grace and forgiveness on us when we cannot earn it or deserve it (see Romans 5). Like the servant in Deuteronomy, we are undeserving of the gifts He bestows upon us. We have a debt of sin we cannot possibly pay, but God liberally grants us grace and redemption in His Son. We should, therefore, be as liberal with our own gifts.

This means we forgive when we don’t feel the other party deserves it. This means we show kindness and goodness to all around us. This means we assume the best when someone is at their worst, and it means we give of our time and resources to benefit others. The first and easiest way we can practice God’s grace is to give — to individuals, to families, to churches, to charitable causes. We can give our money. We can donate food, books, clothes, and other blessings. We can donate our time. If we cannot liberally give of our physical blessings, how will we ever share our spiritual ones?

I’m a conservative Christian, and I seek to conservatively practice the faith brought by Jesus and practiced by His disciples, but we cannot allow conservatism to become a stumbling block. While we seek to conservatively preserve God’s way and prevent worldly influences from corrupting the gospel of hope, let’s also take note of the ways we should be liberal — in our giving, in forgiveness, with grace, with goodness.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; m he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; o he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Romans 12:6-8 (NKJV)

Christianity & Self Worth

worth

In my last post, I looked at the fact that God sees you as valuable. He has done a great deal to care for you and to ensure you have a home with Him for the rest of eternity. We do not have a God that sees us as sinners unworthy of His grace. Rather, we have a God that regards us highly, who sees each and every one of us as valuable and worthwhile. How, then, should that affect how I view and treat myself in this life?

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

I Corinthians 6:19-20

I’ve seen this passage used in the context of forbidding alcohol, drugs, even piercings and tattoos; but Paul is communicating something deeper to us. He tells us that God has purchased us. He has redeemed us at great price. Therefore we should treat ourselves as valuable. It might seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many Christians I’ve known who treat themselves poorly. It saddens me when I encounter brothers or sisters in Christ who obviously think little of themselves, who don’t take care of themselves, who just seem to drudge along with little sense of self-respect or self-worth.

I also can’t say there are any easy answers to that problem. A low self esteem can be a difficult thing to overcome, but maybe these verse can help you or someone you love view themselves as God sees them.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13-14

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

I John 3:1

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:6-7

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

I John 4:4

If you don’t feel very valuable right now, talk to God about it. Go to Him in prayer. Study your Bible, and see the great love He has for you. It may be that you have a hard time seeing the love your family and friends have for you right now, but God will always be there. He is always waiting to lift you up. I don’t think for a second that a single blog post will fix everything, but I hope to inspire you to start seeking help, to start looking upward.

Take care of yourself, for God cares for you. Value yourself, for God values you. Talk to others about your feelings, and let your fellow Christian lift you up. You have a hope greater than anything this world can offer, so don’t let the world knock that hope out of you. You have been purchased with a very high price. God sees you as worth His time, His grace, His sacrifice. None of us may be able to earn God’s grace, but that doesn’t make us worthless. In fact, it speaks all the more to how much our God loves us and values us. It means He has to put that much more effort into our being with Him, and He doesn’t begrudge us that effort. We are His craftsmanship, so let’s start treating ourselves like the valuable souls we are.

Worthwhile

worth

Have you ever thought about what you are worth to God?

Too often, I hear brothers and sisters talk about themselves as if they are insignificant to God – sort of reflecting the question David asks in Psalm 8:4: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” What can we possibly mean in the context of an eternal God? What can one person mean to the Creator of the cosmos, to the Alpha & the Omega, to the Almighty? How can one speck of sand mean anything in the landscape of human existence?

But you are worthwhile to God. You are meaningful to Him. You are valuable to Him.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Psalm 8:3-8

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Jon 3:16-17

When the apostle writes that God loves the world, he means you. “For God so loved you that He sent His Son.”

There is no one in the entire history of the universe who is exactly like you, and there never will be. You are singular and unique, and God wants you to spend the rest of eternity with Him. He made you to be with Him. He has prepared a home for you with Him. He sacrificed greatly so you can be with Him. These are not the actions of a Creator that sees you as worthless. Rather, they are the actions of a God who sees you as worthwhile. So let’s stop beating ourselves up and instead let Him lift us up. Let Him lift us up to His standards, to His love, to His grace.

It begins with the simple realization that yes, you are, as a point of fact, worth something.