Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Competition in Christianity, Part 1

My name is Jessica. And I am an imperfect Christian.

I think that’s the best preface for what I’m about to open up and share with you.

One evening, about a month ago, my husband and I cozied up on the couch after dinner and channel surfed to find something worth while {which these days, is very hard to come by}. As we were browsing through a slew of “nothingness” something caught my eye – a program called Hillsong TV. I was familiar with Hillsong music as I have purchased several of their praise and worship cd’s over the years {worship leader Darlene Zschech has such an annointing on her voice}. That evening, Hillsong TV was broadcasting a message entitled “When Ordinary People Pray” delivered by its Pastor, Brian Houston. As I was listening I found him to be so authentic, so real, and so relatable. He was delivering a simple, yet profound message – one in which I will never forget.

His message in a nutshell: We are all imperfect. No matter who we are, there are things in all of our lives that need to change. Let’s stop the spiritual competition and be transparent with one another.

Those words really resonated within me.

If you've been a long time reader of my blog then you've read this post in which I talked about letting God more into my blog; that post also shares why I was initially reluctant to do so. But ultimately I wanted to share my heart with all of you more and not conceal my faith and love for the Lord. By opening that door, for some, it brought another commonality to the table and has allowed transparency, even if it's just in a small way, to shine through. Sometimes it's not always easy to lift up our privacy fences but being relatable can have a powerful impact - in fact, transparency and being will to share our testimony has led/can lead many people towards salvation. It's not always easy to live out our christian walk in front of others - God is much more compassionate than people are and He sees into our heart, whereas people cannot.

Yes, I am a Christian– but I am an imperfect one. I am a flawed human being who has been saved by grace and if it weren’t for God’s mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, favor, protection, provision, unconditional love, continual blessings and endless devotion towards me, who knows where I would be.

I have sinned, repented of that sin, and then repeated that same sin again. Again I will say, thank God for His mercy and forgiveness.

I haven’t always followed in God’s ways, abided by His commandments, or have completely walked out His calling on my life.

The day that my father died, I said the following words to God: “HOW COULD YOU!?!” Followed by...“I HATE YOU”.

There are some days that I am conscious to spend time in prayer and others days that I just don’t make it a priority.

Some days I take the time to think about all the blessings in my life and tell the Lord how grateful I am for them, and then there are days that I just…don’t.

Some days I am a submissive wife – some days I’m not. And on those days that I’m not it’s likely because I’m being headstrong, impatient, intolerant or controlling {sometimes all of those things at once}.

Last Sunday I went to church – this past Sunday I didn’t. To be even more transparent, we’ve been out of church for months and have just started going back.

There was a time in my life when I was so on fire for the things of God – when I was passionately, whole-heartedly serving Him with all that was within me {I shared a lot about that time in my life in this post}. I was so mindful of pursuing the call of God on my life and the plans and purposes that He created me for. Nowadays I’m stagnant. However, being a child of God, the Holy Spirit is hard at work in me and He isn’t letting me easily put those things permanently to the way side.

I have been in some really, really unhealthy – and un-Godly – relationships. And man, did God have His hand on me.

In my past I have lied. About a lot of things.

I occasionally enjoy a nice glass of wine or a good cocktail. I used to be so conflicted about drinking alcohol {was it ok?, was it not ok?} – it’s something I rarely do but when I do, I don’t have an internal struggle or guilt about it anymore.

I have been judgmental of others.

I’ve said a curse word or two {or 3,684} in my time.

And while I’m at it I should mention that when I was probably eight or nine years old, I pocketed a few butterscotch balls from the grocery store’s candy bin.

For me, transparency {especially with Christians} doesn’t come easy. And theoretically it ought to, no? After all, jointly we are the body of Christ, designed to [among other things] uphold one another. But I have noticed that we aren’t always naturally inclined to be authentic with one another. Why is that? Could it be because there’s an underlying spiritual competition that exists and it keeps us at bay from each other?

Getting back to the message that I watched on Hillsong TV…..

In Houston’s message he gets into a story about the time when he was going through seminary school. Surely everyone there had to be “holy”, right? One evening a group of men from the school gathered together to fellowship and pray. But on that night, something different happened. One by one, the guys started opening up, getting real, and confessing their faults on to another…one said that he was a chain smoker, to which everyone became wide-eyed and shocked, sitting in disbelief. Because of the first guy’s transparency, another guy opened up and shared that he had an anger problem and couldn’t control his cursing banters or suppress his “wave” of the middle finger to people who he became irritated with. Because of the first guy’s transparency and the second’s guys authenticity, a third guy voiced that he is a compulsive gossiper and cant wait to get out of the place…to tell everyone about the other two guys' issues! Ha! It was quite a funny story – but it was told to make a point….

Prior to that day, before those men had shared some of their imperfections one to another, they would size each other up spiritually – not knowing of the inner, private battles that each of them faced. They would seemingly compete {consciously? unconsciously?} for who was the bigger, better, more spiritual giant. Who would say the longer, better, more fervent, prayer. Who was living their life more closely in alignment with the word of God. All the while they were each intimidated by the perception that the other person gave off – the perception of having it all together. It wasn’t until they became authentic with one another and showcased their flaws that they realized that having a transparent heart, and having an atmosphere of authenticity, and being real one to another, is a beautiful, liberating thing.

In our walk with God, we are always being refined. We don't get saved and then become perfect. We don't have to work, however, for God's love. His acceptance of us comes without conditions. And although mistakes will be made, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus {Romans 8:1}.

So do we be transparent with just anyone about our past pain and our current struggles?

.... Part 2 to Follow ….


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