Saturday, November 12, 2011

Method Christianity

If you've ever taken a drama class - either in high school or college - or ever studied much about acting, you're probably familiar with what "method acting" is. In a nutshell, method acting is remaining in character AT ALL TIMES - even when cameras aren't rolling. Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, & Daniel Day Lewis are amongst some of the more well-known method actors. The main reason behind doing this is that it allows the actor to better portray the character, because - in a sense - he/she has BECOME the person they're attempting to play. After awhile it just becomes natural to the actor - so much so that it becomes difficult to break character. When Jim Carrey filmed the movie "Man in the Moon," he stayed in his Andy Kaufman character during the whole filming period. Can you even imagine acting like somebody else for that long?

However, most actors tend to just turn off the character when the cameras stop rolling. - They go back to their normal lives and act however they want to act - and few see this side of them. I want to try and relate this to Christianity. Now, since we've taken on the role & responsibility of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, we are to act like one at all times. However, the tendency with many Christians is to "turn it on" when church is in session (or around church friends) and turn it off when the "cameras aren't rolling." Do you agree with this?

As Christians, we should be practicing the "method" technique. - Never turning it off. Everything we do, say, and think needs to reflect that of a Christian mindset - whether we're by ourselves or around others. Think about what Proverbs 23:7 says; "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Our hearts need to be in the right place - all the time. We can't just be acting when we walk in the doors of the church building and then be somebody different when we're by ourselves.

The word heart is used almost 1000 times in the bible. - It's obviously something that is extremely important to God. The actions we do, the things we say, the thoughts we have; they're all reflections of what is in our heart. We have to be strengthening it and protecting it from Satan. (James 5:8)

Most actors turn off their character when the cameras aren't rolling. But we're not actors - we're Christians and we have to make sure we don't step out of character.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Qualifying the Called

I read a quote recently that I thought was pretty interesting. It said, "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called." This is a pretty awesome quote when you stop and think about it. Often times I find myself making the excuse, "I'm not good enough to teach others the gospel" or "I'm not qualified enough to do that..." I let myself think too often that I'm not good enough to spread God's word - and as a result, nothing gets done. Can you relate to this at all?

It's in times like those where we need to stop and think about all the people that God called on that weren't perfect people... In fact, the beginning of the quote that I used above also said the following; "Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old... and Lazarus was dead!"

So... what's our excuse? Right? Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:2 to "Preach the word - and always be ready!" There's no reason why we shouldn't be striving to teach others about Christ and lead them to him. If we wait till we feel like we're "qualified enough" then we might just lose the chance of leading another to God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Failing to Forgive

We all know what a grudge is... There may be people in our lives that we hold grudges against OR who hold grudges against us. Two people could even be holding grudges against each other. And most of the time when a grudge is held, the people involved act very unkind to one another.

When we hold a grudge against somebody, it prohibits us from fully forgiving them from whatever they've done to wrong us. While it's never easy for us to forgive others when they wrong us (especially when they don't ask to be forgiven), as Christians, it's something we have to do.

One of the greatest passages of scripture that teaches us a lesson on forgiveness is found in Matthew 18. Jesus talks in verses 21-35 about an unforgiving servant:

21Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.[a] 23"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[b]24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[c] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servant[d] fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[e] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[f] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

This is a parable that I've read several times before but failed to notice something till just recently. I never thought twice about the "ten thousand talents" part of it. Ten thousand talents back then was basically an unfathomable sum of money. It would have been well over 100 years of work... just impossible to obtain. And it was immediately forgotten about by the master. While on the other hand, a hundred denarii would have been basically a day's work for a servant - yet the servant couldn't forgive his fellow worker and look beyond this. This is why this passage is so amazing. We do some horrible horrible things in our life - things that should have severe punishment - and we've done (and do) them time and time again. Yet, God is able to just throw them away - showing us the most amazing amount of grace and mercy. Yet, when others wrong us - even if its something small and trivial - we hold grudges and/or don't forgive them. When you read this parable it's so easy to say, "Wow, that guy's such a hypocrite for not forgiving the other servant!" - But we're just as guilty sometimes, are we not?

Forgiveness can be incredibly difficult at times. But if we're striving to be Christ-like in everything we say and do, we have to forgive all who sin against us.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

Why is it difficult to learn to be happy with what we're given? We live such blessed and full lives but yet we always want just a little bit more. I'm sure we've all used the phrase; "The grass is always greener" in reference to wanting something somebody else has... But sadly, this is the way a lot of people look at life. They convince themselves that - though things aren't exactly how they want them to be, it's just the way it has to be and they need to learn to live with it... Now it's probably safe to say that we won't get everything we want in our lifetime, but having the "I just need to learn to live with it" outlook won't allow anyone to be fully content with their life. As Christians, it shouldn't be a motto we live by..

Going along with that - however - a common misconception is that contentment is automatically tied to Christianity. But we should realize that contentment is something to be learned, sought after, and gained. - It's not just given to anybody who decides to take on the the role of a disciple of Christ. However, I believe that once we take on the responsibility of being a Christian, we have no reason to NOT be content with our life. We've made the most important decision that we'll ever have to make and if we continue to live like and for Christ, we should be happy.

When I think about having a happy and fulfilled life, I think about Paul and the trials he faced. And even though he went through some horrible situations, he was able to remain content. He tells the church at Philippi that he counted everything as loss in order to gain Christ (Phil 3:5-8). He also had a firm grasp on the fact that earthly things are quickly passing away... In 2 Cor. 4:18 he writes, "As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." For me, this is a difficult concept to grasp and hold on to. And again, I think this is why so many people are unhappy - because it's so much easier to focus on things like being better looking or having better jobs, fancier cars, more money, etc because it's right in front of us. But we have to remind ourselves of Paul's words listed above and in 1 Tim. 6; "Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content."

As Christians, we know what's truly important and that we have no reason not to be happy if we're living right spiritually. We need to remind ourselves of that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Danger of "Chilling Out"

I recently took on a new position at a production company in California. The job environment is positive and everybody is very friendly and encouraging - which is great. But there's one interesting thing about my job position - It is such that I am able to finish the vast majority of my work with a decent amount of time left over in the day. The job is challenging and hands on, but somewhat limited in the amount of work needed to be done. Now for some people, this would be a dream job... In fact, if given a similar work situation, some people would maybe stroll into work late and sneak out earlier than everybody else. While it has been tempting to "chill out" after finishing the daily tasks, I've been attempting to seek out other things that I could do to help out others with their work load. This has actually given me more daily tasks and allowed me to build a stronger relationship with my co-workers.

I can't help but apply this situation to my spiritual life. It's very easy to find myself going through the motions - sometimes thinking my "job description" as a Christian just entails going to church 3 times a week. Then after that, I can just "chill out" till the next assembly. This is definitely something Satan wants us to think. But truth is, there's a lot that CAN be done (outside of just going to church) that we as Christians should be doing.

In thinking about this, definitely one of the first passages of scripture that came to mind was something Paul wrote about in Colossians 3. He writes (in verse 23) "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." This is similar to what the writer of Ecclesiastes writes in 9:10 ("Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might"). I also think about what James warns us about in his letter - (2:26) "Faith apart from works (deeds) is dead."

Truth of the matter is, there's so much work that can be done - it just comes down to asking yourself the question, "how much do I want/need to do?" It's important for us to work hard and aggressively in all areas of our life, but spiritually speaking, we have to make sure we're working our hardest and putting all our effort into serving the Lord.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year - A Daily Resolution

The start of a new year is always exiting for me. I always look forward to seeing what the year holds for me - what kind of challenges I'll face, what kind of opportunities will come my way, what kind of new friendships will develop. And it can sometimes be exciting to think of "starting over" - a new year to get back on track - with whatever it is you're struggling with. That's why 'new year's resolutions' are so popular.

Resolutions, in my opinion, are good to have - especially if you can stick with them. It takes motivation and determination to stick with a goal and make it part of your life - and those are great characteristics to have. In fact, those are the kind of character traits we need to have as Christians.

As you may have made some resolutions at the start of this new year, whatever they may be, let me encourage you to add one more to the list - if it isn't already on there. Plain and simply, we need to draw closer to God and make sure He's the top priority in our life. In fact, we shouldn't just make this a "new year's resolution" - how about a "new day resolution!" Everyday that we wake up, we should make the decision to put God first in our life and live according to His Word. This is one resolution we can't let fizzle out...

It's extremely easy to let our own selfishness get in the way of putting God first. We start to make sacrifices with our time. If there's something we want to do or accomplish - we tend to put everything else on the back burner. As I said earlier, it's great to have goals and make new year's resolutions - but we CANNOT let these goals and ambitions get in the way of serving our God. Remember, Jesus told us to "Seek first the Kingdom of God - and all His righteousness..." (Matt 6:33). Likewise, Paul told us to not set our minds on things here - but on the things above. (Romans 8:5).

As we start 2011, we obviously want to make it a great year. And it DEFINITELY will be if God is the top priority in our life. Let us remember what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul." Let us have this mindset and practice this love for God on a daily basis.