6/23/10

Building Your Reputation with God

If we are saved by grace, why should we live like Christians?  This is a very common question among belivers and non-believers.  I've asked it of myself many times.  It seems useless to live according to God's word when we know we are bought and paid for.  But that question is only asked by people who think, at one time or another, and whether they are aware of it or not, that Christianity is some program or process specifically designed for their benefit.  There are many answers to this question.  I won't get into all of them, but I have found one that I believe to be true. 

We live as Christians to build our reputation with God.  A good reputation takes time to build.  How you build your reputation can affect the reputation itself.  A company may make a good product, but if the sales representatives push the customers too hard or the business is run poorly, the quality of the product is irrelevant.  To build a good reputation, you've got to be consistently genuine, over time.  People are quick to pick up on your motives.  And God, even quicker. 

I still haven't really answered the question.  Why does building our reputation with God matter? Because God treats people differently when he knows he can trust them.  It's true.  I'm not saying he loves more or less.  But he does use the people he trusts. 

When Satan came to God and told him he'd been roaming the earth, God immediately asked him if he'd considered Job?  God trusted Job because of his reputation with him.  "Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." God knew that whatever Satan did to him, he could take it.  Job went through hell, theoretically and, almost literally. 

What do we learn from this?  That God allows people to suffer if he trusts them?  Maybe.  But that's not the point.  We all suffer.  Character is built through suffering.  But we also learn that God blesses those he trusts, immensely.  After Job's suffering, God blessed him more than he ever had.  God gave him thousands of camels, sheep, donkeys and oxen.  His daughters were more beautiful than everyone else's daughters.  And the guy lived to be 140 years old. 

Millions of people look to the story of Job when they are suffering.  God used him for those millions in need of relating, and for hope.  God trusted him.  And Job lived up to his reputation.

Lord, help our faith.  Build our character so that you can trust us with your work. 

6/16/10

Prayer Checklist

It's strange how we approach Christianity, as if our habits and ideas should be applied differently in carrying out our faith than in other areas of our lives. 

Depending on your personality, you may or may not love checklists. I make them all the time. I could not live without checklists. If I don't write something down, I will forget it. I make checklists for the grocery store, for my school assignments, for my work assignments, even things I need to do around the house. But not once have I ever thought to make a prayer checklist.

I have the hardest time remembering to pray. I get so stressed about something and praying about it is usually my third or fourth response. And when I do remember to pray, I cannot remember half the things I meant to pray for. This is a problem. Especially since praying is the sole way to talk to God.

So, I've decided to try out my habit of checklists in my faith. I've made a folder in my e-mail account with a daily prayer. It's something I wrote up that I feel like I need to tell God each day that I am alive. I also keep a small notebook with me. If you work in an office, you could just use a sticky notepad. I use the notebook to write down prayers that I want spend time talking to God about. This gives me a constant reference to those prayers. It also keeps my faith practical.

What habits or ideas do you have that keep your faith practical?

6/9/10

Audio that speaks to you, wherever you are.

If you haven't stumbled onto the glorious world of audiobooks, you should try it.  If it's a book produced by Audible.com, "Audio that speaks to you, wherever you are" is the first thing you'll hear before the book begins.  I love hearing that sentence because it means I have found a good book to listen to.  My commute to work takes about 25 minutes one way.  From work to school is another 30 minutes.  You don't realize how much time you spend in your car until you can measure it with books that are 5-6 hours long. 

So far, this summer, I have already read three audiobooks - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller; On Writing Well by William Zinsser; and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  If you don't have much time to sit down and read, audiobooks are the way to go because you can read them anywhere. 

I've got to warn you, though.  What you listen to will shape how you think.  When I read Million Miles, all I could think of was how to tell a better story with my life.  What can I do that would make good memories and build character.  When I read On Writing Well, I thought about writing about anything and everything.  Definitely a must-read for wannabe writers.  And when I read Lord of the Flies, everytime I saw a little boy on the street, I wondered if he was capable of killing a wild bore or murdering someone. 

I've realized that that effect on how we think is true of anything we put into our minds, even if we don't realize it.  The music we listen to, the news we watch, the friends we have.  They all have some part in shaping our moral and spiritual compass.  That said, if you haven't already, try an audiobook. 

Got any good book suggestions? 

6/3/10

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I read a book once that told a story about an experiment with chimpanzees.  The chimps were isolated in a room with a rope hanging from the ceiling. There were bananas at the top of the rope. Each time a chimp would climb the rope, the scientists sprayed it with a water hose. The chimp would frighten and jump down. After each chimp had been sprayed, the scientists began to replace one chimp with another that had not been sprayed.  When the new chimps saw the bananas, they started to climb, but the others immediately grabbed them and pulled them down, scolding them for even trying. The scientists replaced each chimp with a new chimp until the room was filled with chimps that had not been sprayed.  The new chimps were pulled down and scolded each time they had tried before, so they stopped trying for the bananas.  The experiment worked. The scientists were left with a room full of scared chimps.

We've all heard the cliche - you can do anything you put your mind to.  For the most part, that's true. No, I'm never going to be a professional basketball player, but then again, I've never had that dream. When people say that we can do anything we put our minds to, it's usually because they've done something very significant that was near impossible, and they want others to feel what they feel. When I hear someone say that, the cynic in me wants to yell, "That's not true!" But no one that has ever been in that position ever left room for cynicism in their life.  If you look at any great athlete or actor or doctor, they didn't get to where they are without honest confidence in what they are capable of. 

The problem with finding confidence is that we depend on others too heavily to give it to us.  And plenty of people are willing to limit you, mainly because they wouldn't have the confidence to attempt what you're trying to do. The sprayed chimps pull you down because they're afraid you'll be sprayed too, or worse, you'll reach the bananas.  We get these messages everyday.  It's not likely that someone is telling you everyday that you're a failure, but they don't have to.  People live out their lack of confidence in themselves and others.  And we absorb this line of thinking. 

If you don't tell yourself who you are and what you are capable of, others will.  They will set the standards for your behavior and limit your potential.  Yes, this sounds cliche, but it's true. For more on confidence, check out an earlier post - Is Confidence Biblical?

6/2/10

What I hate about Christianity.

Ok, I don't actually hate anything about Christianity. But I do hate the way it's used sometimes. Christianity is like Frodo's One Ring. Very powerful, but if put into the hands of the wrong people, it can be a deadly weapon.

Last year, the Christian Legal Society hosted a forum called, "Is There A God?"  The goal of the title was to pose a question so intriguing that people could not resist coming to the event.  It worked.  Over 50 people came, a large number compared to other events we had.  Students wanted to know if we could prove that there is a God.  It was a very interesting discussion.  There were all types of denominations of Christianity and other religions. 

One student sat through the discussion without participating, until the end.  He told us that he grew up in a Christian home, but later became an athiest.  The leader of the discussion politely asked what caused the separation from God.  It was very tense in the room. The student said that although his parents claimed to be Christians, they used the religion to control and manipulate him, and even abuse him.  He couldn't believe that a loving God would allow the awful things that were done to him in Jesus's name. I remember him saying that his beatings were in the name of Christ.  I had heard of people in these situations, but had never heard someone share their story.  It was disturbing to hear how Christianity can be so distorted. 

That day, I realized the awesome responsibility we have as Christians. When we claim Christianity, we have the power to shape the perception of Christianity.  I don't know why God has entrusted us with this job, but he has.