Radical Christianity

I was in church the other day, and as I was singing the songs I realized that I wasn’t even paying attention to the words that I was singing. Then, I began to look around and wonder how many other people were in the same boat as me – just singing words without any emotion or conviction behind them. I would like to say that I snapped out of it with that realization and became so much more sincere, however if I’m being honest, I struggled to stay awake through the sermon yawning so much that it was embarrassing.

I remember a time in college, within the first few years of me becoming a Christian, when I wouldn’t sing the praise and worship songs in a worship service if I didn’t sincerely mean them. I was aware of the power the words in the songs held, and I refused to cheapen them with half-hearted effort and a lack of sincerity. After all, A.W. Tozer once said, “Christians don’t tell lies – they just go to church and sing them”. Sadly, as I became more and more involved in church and ministry, I began to worry about what people would think if they noticed that I wasn’t singing. Would they think I was upset? Would they think I didn’t want to be there? Would they think that I wasn’t a good Christian? Would they think badly of my minister husband because of me? Guys, listen to how screwed up this is: I was so worried that someone would think I wasn’t a good Christian that I became less sincere in my faith! What the heck?!

Radical Christianity image 2

Here’s the thing, though, I know that I am not the only one that has done this. I would contend that most of us are this way. We worry so much more about what other people think than what our Holy God thinks. It’s kind of understandable. After all, the disappointment or judgement on the faces of those around us is much more evident in the moment. We let the voices of those around us drown out God’s voice. People like things that “fit”, things that don’t rock the boat. But that’s the exact opposite of what Christ told us we would be as Christians. If we are following His example, we will be boat rockers who will not at all “fit” with society.

Paul tell us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We quote this verse a lot, but what I think we often miss about it, is that it is an “if-then” statement. IF we do not conform to the world and instead allow our mind to be renewed and transformed by Christ, THEN we will be able to understand God’s will. The world and our desire to be accepted by it drowns out God’s will. If we try to be a “good Christian” by anyone’s standards except for God’s, and God’s alone, we will completely miss the mark.

We were talking the other day in youth group (I swear, sometimes I learn as much as the youth) about how Peter was crucified upside down. This much I knew, but I always thought it was because he didn’t think he was worthy to be crucified in the same way as Christ. While that might be true, other scholars think that it was because he understood that Jesus had turned the world upside down, and so he wanted to be crucified upside down so he could finally see the world as Christ did. If we are truly going to call ourselves followers of Christ, we have to ask ourselves what we are actively doing to follow Him. More than likely, whatever that is, it won’t be the most popular action.

We who have been Christians for a while, look at new Christians that are “on fire” for Christ and either think “I remember when I was like that” or “well, they’ll calm down soon enough. They just have to get used to it” The grace and love that our Savior freely gives to us is not something we should ever “get used to”! We should all hope to live our entire Christian lives as “on fire” as the new Christian we are rolling our eyes at.

Radical Christianity image 1

We have to find a way back to the place of passion and conviction that we had when we first came to Christ. For some of you, maybe you’re thinking that you never really had that for whatever reason, maybe you became a Christian at such a young age that it was just always a part of you, but never really something radical in your life. I would suggest that you begin to pray that you come to a point where you can experience Christ in a fresh and new way. Y’all, Christ WAS radical. There is absolutely no arguing that. If we are not radical for Him, for the cause of Christ, I have to think that we are missing something…maybe everything (Rev. 3:16).

What if we began to base our life, not on what others thought of us, but on what Christ was leading us to do? What if our actions were spurred by Christ’s love – His love for us and His love for others? What if we were more influenced by God’s love for us than what others said to or about us? What if we lived our lives, not for the applause of others, but for a simple “Well done my good and faithful servant”?

What I Wish I Knew (Part 1): Advice I Would Give Young People

For any of you who don’t know, my husband is a student pastor. This means that he is in charge of the youth and college/career student ministry at our church. Working with people in their twenties has caused me to look back at that time of life for me. While, I made very few mistakes and obviously don’t have any regrets (yeah, right), there is some general advice that I wish I could tell all people at that stage of life. Some of which is advice that I wish I was given. For example,

Don’t assume your right now is forever:

When we’re young, and we receive our first “real” job or calling from God, we are so excited. We feel like we are finally fulfilling our purpose. So, when we lose that job or the honeymoon period ends, it can feel like we have failed in our calling. It can truly create a crisis of identity for us. “God called me to be this, so if I’m not that, then what am I? What purpose do I serve?”

This has happened to me multiple times. It started in college when I went on a mission trip to Kenya. When I was eighteen I had received a calling to do missions, and I thought that calling meant that I was to live in an African country for the rest of my life, so when I was twenty I went on a trip to Kenya for the entire summer. Y’all, I have never been so miserable in my entire life! I got sick the first week, and didn’t get completely better until about five months later. It was quite clear to me that I was not going to be a missionary in Africa. Huge crisis! What was I going to do?

Then I graduated college and got my first teaching job, I loved it! I was fulfilling my calling – to love, encourage and believe in those students that others had given up on. Then, I moved and started a new season of life, and I just know in my heart that, at least for right now, teaching is not what I need to be doing. Honestly, I’m not really sure what that is right now…I think it might be sign language interpreting…maybe, but I’m not totally for sure. And you know what? That’s okay. Does this mean that I have lost my calling? No, and what I’ve realized is that I never lost my calling. My calling has remained the same – to love God and love others, giving Him glory in all I do. The avenues through which I fulfill that calling will change, but as long as I am loving Him and loving others, I’m doing just fine.

your calling... (1)

So, maybe you love what you are doing right now and you are sure that it will be what you are doing forever. Good for you, treasure this time, enjoy every moment of it, maybe it will be your forever. However, there’s no guarantee it will be. What is a guarantee is your relationship with Christ, so base your life on that. Yes, what you are doing might be fantastic, but it is not your forever, God is. Base your decisions, your life, who you are, on God, not on what you do or the way that you are fulfilling your life calling at this moment. And you know what, if you don’t like where you’re at right now, the same thing still holds true. You are not whatever it is that you are doing, whatever your job is, so don’t base your identity, life, or self-worth on it. You are who Christ says you are, who He has made you through His redemptive blood, love and grace. So take hope and know that this is not your forever either, God is.

This also means that if something comes your way, and you think it might be from God, but it really doesn’t seem to fit into what you are currently doing or what you feel “called” to right now, be open to it. It may be a fleeting thing that doesn’t change much, but it could also be a new way that God is leading you to fulfill your calling. Be open to how the Holy Spirit might be moving in your life, even if it doesn’t fit with your “right now”.

Hold Onto Who You Are, Especially When Things Are Against You: 

I hope that your life will always be sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. However, the reality is that, more than likely on occasion, it will suck…epically. I’m not talking about the “I have a hangnail and I stubbed my toe and I made a bad grade on a test” type of sucking. I am talking about the gut-wrenching, “will life ever get better?”, “I feel completely abandoned by God and everyone and don’t know how to continue” type of suckage.

First off, I am so sorry for those times. During those times, there’s nothing anyone can say as a solve all. I really wish there was. I wish I could get some kind of “magical” inspiration from God and write some words here that would make everything better during those times, but that’s just not the case. His love and mercy and grace gets us through those times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not still a long, grueling process. During those times, though, it is easy to forget all the good things. It’s easy to forget the times that God has spoken to us, the things that He has told us, and the ways that He has shown us His love. The enemy gets a foothold in our despair and causes us to question all those things. “Well, I must have misunderstood what God wants for me”. “I thought that was true, but it obviously isn’t or this wouldn’t be happening”. “I was told that God would never abandon me, yet here I am”. And this is the time that we have to cling for dear life to God’s promises to us. Yes, I am talking about the scriptural promises. After all, we have the example from Jesus of clinging to scripture during the temptation and the worst times. However, I am also talking about those promises that we have heard Him whisper to us. The things that we know deep in our soul are from Him. It’s easy during the rough times to lose ourselves in the despair, but we have to hold on to who we are in Christ, who we know He has made us into. That desperate clinging to Christ and all the things He has told us, that is what will get us through those times, not some “magical” phrase.

**There will be a Part 2 to this article published next week**