david herndon


parenting for sand dollars

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Two weeks ago my family was vacationing on The Gulf of Mexico.  There was a sandbar about 400 yards into the ocean, so as we looked out from the beach the water gradually became darker and then lighter again.  One of my favorite activities each day was to take my 10 year old son, a kayak, and a paddle board from the beach to the sandbar and then along the edge of the sandbar back and forth.  Since the water was so clear we could see EVERYTHING that swam and lived underneath– schools of mullet and redfish, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Sting rays, Blue crabs, and Sharks.

It was beautiful, and even more so because I was sharing this experience with my son.

It was so rewarding to introduce him to the adventure of paddling and to expose him to the beauty of creation – two things that I did not discover for myself until later in my life.  I could also see his self-confidence grow before my eyes as he paddled miles through the week on his own among sharks and sting rays and mackerels.

He’s not a little boy anymore.

One of our last days we drifted over the sandbar and my son exclaimed, “Dad! Look at that sand dollar!  It’s as big as a pancake!”  I looked down and there were hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars – some as small as a poker chip and some, yes, as large as a pancake.  My son said, “Let’s dive down to them.”

Now if you know anything about me you will know that I have an irrational fear of deep water.  I prefer to go no deeper than my knees, my waist at most.  I like boats, kayaks, and paddleboards for the pure fact that they provide a barrier between me and things that can eat me.  I’m more likely to get struck by lightning than be bitten by a shark, but I still panic when my head can’t stay above water without my feet on the ground.  On our honeymoon my wife took me snorkeling in, literally, the most beautiful spot in the world.  It was the first and only panic attack I’ve ever had in my life.  Like I said – my fear is irrational.

And now here was my son asking me to dive down 15 feet in the open water – mere yards from where we saw a shark as big as me the day before.  No air tanks.  No spears.  No cage.  Just open water, the two of us, and hungry, hungry sharks lurking in the deep.  I was torn.

On one hand was my personal fear.  It has proved limiting to life in my past, but it was something I had grown accustomed to and found ways to manage.  It is not my favorite quality for myself, but I have come to accept it and I never try to change it.  It doesn’t make me a bad person or even a bad parent.  In some situations it could probably be a praiseworthy attribute of safety and self-preservation.

On the other hand, I was so proud of my son who in the past several days had become a young man right in front of my eyes.  His sense of adventure and self-confidence had grown exponentially in such a short time.  Did I really want to limit that?

I thought about telling him to go for it alone and I’d keep an eye out for sharks.  In the end that didn’t seem honorable.   So yes – I jumped in.  I dove down.  I swam along the bottom of the sandbar with my son.  I may have peed my pants a little.

Most importantly… I survived.  I even kind of enjoyed it.

It’s been almost a month since that trip and my son still talks about that day.   He tells random strangers that he swam with sharks and saw sand dollars as big as his head.  He is even requesting scuba lessons for his next birthday.   Not only that, I see that same self-confidence at work now that he has started a new school year with new peers and a new teacher.  It’s almost like he can handle anything because he did that.

I know that for most people diving on a sandbar is probably not that big of a deal – kid stuff.  But that one simple dive made a bigger impact on my son than I could ever imagine.

I can’t help but think: What if I said no to him that day?

As parents, we all want good things for our children.  We want them to do their best, to be successful, to make wise decisions, be kind, keep the right friends, follow Christ, give back to the community, be involved in church, and the list goes on.  But are we willing to go first?  How can we desire things for our children that we are not willing to pursue for ourselves?  We shouldn’t let our own fears and comfort zones limit our children’s lives.

So, parents, I issue the challenge to you: get out of the boat, dive into the deep stuff.  You will have to sacrifice.  It will cost you time and money.  It will be difficult.  I may even be uncomfortable.  But your children will follow… and one day they will go deeper than you could ever imagine.

Here are 3 things I think every parent should be involved in for the sake of their children:

1. Church

2. A Small Group/Bible Study

3. Community Service/Missions

So get out of the boat, Mom and Dad.  The water is beautiful.

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hospital

I awoke suddenly to the incessant beeping of the IV machine, letting the entire hall know that it was time to change the bag. Luckily the patient did not wake up since by now I knew how to work the buttons better than the PM nurse.  I settled back into the plastic covered recliner that was my bed and tried to go back to sleep, knowing that in 90 minutes I would be up again, helping take vitals with the nurse.  I was exhausted, but sleep did not come easy.

I was worried.  I was anxious.

This was my life for most of last week.  My son woke up one morning with a stomach ache.  A doctor’s visit, a hospital stay, and then a transfer to another hospital.  It could be appendicitis.  I could be colitis.  It could be a parasite.  “We’ll have to run tests to be sure.”  Tests meant drawing blood, among other things.  Lots of pricking and prodding tended to weary the patience of the strongest 6 year old I know.  Doctors, nurses, needles, oh my.  He was scared.  So was I.  My son was sick and I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it.

So in the early hours of the morning I sat in my plastic recliner and prayed.  Then God reminded me of this scripture:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”

I get it.  I’ve heard like a million Christian talks on how “worry is the opposite of faith,” and how “worry is a sign that we are trying to control God,” and blah, blah, blah.  I know that I shouldn’t worry about making a good impression on the new neighbors.  I know that I shouldn’t worry about that red light when I’m already running late.  I shouldn’t worry about affording to pay for one more Disney trip.  That’s first world problems.  That’s the small stuff.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the big stuff.  What if I can’t afford to pay for all three of my children to go to college?  What if my daughter gets pregnant as teen?  What if one of my sons gets a girl pregnant?  What if one of my children becomes a drug addict?  What if I get cancer?  What if one of my children gets cancer?  What if my wife gets cancer?  What if its not appendicitis or a stomach bug?  What if its something worse?

When you love someone as much as a parent loves a child or a husband loves a wife… how do you not worry?

When tragedy strikes and your whole world turns upside down… how are you supposed to be thankful?

Abraham worried about fulfilling God’s call so he had a child with a woman who wasn’t his wife.  Noah worried about finding land after the flood, so he kept sending birds to their deaths as they flew across endless water.  Gideon worried about battle so he often tested and challenged God.  Paul writes in Philippians 4 the famous “do not worry” passage, but just 2 chapters before he talks about his own anxiety concerning one of his disciples, Epaphroditus.  And even Jesus, the night before his death, sweated blood as he prayed, “If there is another way, let this cup pass from me.”  The bible doesn’t really give instructions on how not to worry.

I hashed this out with God, the beeping IV machine, and the plastic recliner all night.  As I watched my son sleep I couldn’t help but think that my love for him is but a fraction of God’s love for us.  “I would give my life for his health,” I said.  “So would I,” God replied, “and so I did.”

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

This next sentence is difficult to write and perhaps more difficult to read.

God is not as concerned about our health and well-being and general comfort in life as we are.  I’m not saying that He’s not concerned.  Its just that the things we value most are not as valuable to Him.  On the cross, Jesus could have died so that we would never experience illness or disease. He could have died so that we would never experience poverty or hunger.  He could have died so that we would never experience injustice or hate.

But he didn’t die for those things.

Jesus died so that we would never have to experience separation from God.

God is most concerned with our relationship to Him.  The only thing that ever threatened our relationship with God, and thus our eternity, is sin.  Through the cross, Jesus took care of that problem.  So we don’t have to worry about it anymore.  We’re cured… if we want to be.

The truth is that any anxiety I feel is evidence of being more concerned with this life than the life to come.

I may or may not be able to afford three college educations.  My children may or may not become drug addicts.  My son may or may not have a parasite that makes his stomach hurt.  God does not require us to have a college education in order to understand His love.  God does not require us to be clean and sober in order to receive His grace.  God does not require us to be healthy in order to live in His ways.  God does not value us based on our checking account, our car title, or the title on our office door.

In the end none of that really matters because none of these things determine my relationship with God.  None of these things determine my eternity.

I still worry, especially about my family.  I probably always will.  I don’t understand how to prevent anxiety anymore now than I did last week in the hospital.  But I take great comfort in the fact that my eternity has nothing to do with my abilities (or lack thereof) or my wealth (or lack thereof) or my success (or lack thereof) or my health (or lack thereof).

My eternity has everything to do with Jesus’ victory over sin in His death and resurrection.  I can be thankful for that.  No matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) today, my sins are forgiven and my eternity is secure in Jesus Christ.  Come illness, come trouble, come injustice, come hardship… nothing can take that away.

I can be thankful for that.

And that is one less thing to worry about.

Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 



ease his pain
April 1, 2014, 5:05 pm
Filed under: life

Originally posted on david herndon:

If you’ve ever seen “Field of Dreams” you know what that title is all about.  The whole movie is about a son forgiving his father, and it has all of these simple phrases whispered throughout the film.  We’ve all heard “If you build it, they will come.”  The “ease his pain” phrase is not as popular, but recently it became quite essential to me.

I’ve been researching rather heavily the word “forgive,” and what I’m finding is changing everything I believe about relationships.  I’ll try to share what I’m learning in detail but also be brief at the same time – however, please allow my thoughts to inspire you into a lifetime of thought on this subject.

When we commonly think of forgive we tend to think of pardoning a person, letting something slide, we may even consider it a way of forgetting a wrong that was done.  We view…

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more than a fisherman

So I saw this picture yesterday…

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It is a group of protesters from Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside of a Lorde concert in Kansas City.  You can read the full story here or Google it to see more ridiculous protest signs.

What caught my eye were the WBC protest signs. “God hates lukewarm Christians.”  “God hates sluts.”  “God is your enemy.”  There were worse statements but I will not even give the courtesy of repeating them.  At first I was angry with the protesters because this is not exactly good PR for Christianity.  In the end, however, I found myself feeling sorry for them because this protest shows just how much they misunderstand Jesus.

God hates us?

God is our enemy?

Is that how God would describe himself?

Is that even a good evangelism tactic?

If God hates me for my sin, does he also hate you for your sin?

I find this rule often at work in the world.  What people say about God is really a reflection of what they believe about themselves.  For example, a man may say that God hates another person because he himself feels unloved, or worse…. unlovable.  This belief will ultimately take shape in the way he views and treats others.  Believing he is unloved leads to a life in which God’s love is neither received nor shared.

This man thinks he is just a fisherman.

I finally watched Captain Phillips last weekend (it was incredible).  At one point near the end of the movie Captain Rich Phillips has a conversation with Muse, the Somali pirate leader.  Throughout the movie Muse has struggled with inferiority and repeatedly made the statement that he is “just a fisherman.”  He was never surprised when his plans failed to work out.  He never really believed he could accomplish anything.  He believed he was just a fisherman – not a real pirate.  When Muse  finally realizes that his latest plan will also fail he puts a gun to Rich’s head, and the captain says, “You are more than just a fisherman!”

And Muse puts down the gun.  Its like that’s all he wanted to hear.  He just wanted someone to believe in him, and in some very strange way that is what Captain Phillips was communicating to him.  Despite all of his violence, hate, and anger Captain Phillips still saw potential in Muse.

“You are more than just a fisherman.”

It was as if for the first time in his life Muse realized he could be someone different, someone better.  There is still hope for Muse.

As a full-time minister I have all kinds of conversations with people.  People don’t think they can lead a small group because “I don’t read my bible enough.”  People think they can’t participate in a mission trip because “I’m not generous enough.”  People think struggles arise in their lives because “I’m not a godly person.”  My least favorite is when people say something like, “I’m not a good person like you, David.  You’re a professional Christian.  I’m just a (insert occupation).”  As if somehow your career determines your standing with God.  Trust me – “professional” Christians are just as sinful as anyone else.

People often (and unfairly) think poorly of themselves, and so they just assume that God feels the same way.  Somali pirate, Baptist protester, Pop-star, “professional” Christian – we all live life based on our beliefs about ourselves and about our God.  These beliefs will ultimately take shape in how we view and treat others.  If we believe we are unlovable, then we will live a life in which we neither receive nor share God’s love.

We’re missing out on something different, something better.

Let me be the first to say to you today, “You… are more than just a fisherman.”

There is still hope for the 17 year old pop-star and the WBC protester.  There is still hope for the Somali pirates.  There is still hope for the “professional” minister as well as for the accountants and lawyers.  There is still hope for you.   Zephaniah 3:17 says that God rejoices over you and takes delight in you.  Romans says that we are indeed sinners, but God dies for us so that we don’t have to stay that way.  Jesus personally says in John 15:9 that his love for us is the same as God’s love for him.  There are no conditional clauses attached to these statements.  These promises are not reserved for a select few.

God loves you.  He delights in you.  He pursues you.  He sacrifices for you.  He believes in you.

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.  Now remain in my love (John 15:9).”

Jesus deserves every drop of God’s love.  God sees perfection and hope in him.  There is no shame, no condemnation.  Only worthiness.  And Jesus says that his love for you is the same.  He believes you deserve every drop of His love, that you have perfection and hope in you.  He has no desire to condemn you.  He finds you worthy.

God calls us to believe we are loved because of the simple fact that we are.  He sacrificed for us.  He died for us.  Does that sound like hate to you?

Don’t assume God hates you.  Know that He loves you!

Most importantly, live your life out of that love.

 

 

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drunk driving through the crowd

“Suspect in deadly SXSW crash charged with capital murder.”  That was the headline I read on USA Today.  I usually follow the SXSW headlines hoping to catch wind of a new band about to break or a new film I need to see.  This story stopped me in my tracks.  A drunk driver plowed through a crowd of festival attendees, killing three and injuring dozens more.  How does this happen?  How does a person get this out of control?  More importantly how do I protect myself from losing control?

He can explain himself.  He can justify it.  He can make excuses.  But it doesn’t matter.  The damage is done and the headline is written.

Drunk driving through the crowd.  Three people dead.  That’s his headline for the rest of his life.

One more drink, one more TV episode, one more word in the argument. Our all-you-can-eat buffet and reality TV society even seems to encourage a lifestyle of losing control.  Lack of self-control brings down our politicians and religious leaders.  It takes the lives of our party-hard teens.  It costs us our jobs.  It hurts our friendships.  It makes us the most obese country in the world.  It passes around STD’s.  It breaks up our families.  It ruins our lives.  Yet when life gets tough and we get frustrated, our instinct is to lose control.  

Rough day?  Have a few drinks.  

Arguing with  your spouse?  Use a few expletives.  

Feeling unhappy?  Put it on the credit card.

We might not drunk-drive through the crowd, but when we lose self-control the results can be just as harmful.

Depending on the translation, the word “self-control” appears roughly 74 times in the Bible.  Self-control is about social responsibility and personal holiness.  Paul says it is a fruit of the Spirit – evidence of Christ at work in our lives.  Self-control is the root of the Great Commandment.  We express love to God by expressing love to others.  Self-control is more than just new age self-improvement.  Self-control is about caring for others by caring for yourself.  

Self-control speaks more of our devotion to God’s kingdom than any other discipline in life.

Self-control is not just about refraining from (insert vice).  Self-control is about being human.  Self-control is about reflecting God’s image.  Self-control is about thinking of others first.  And since we really don’t have any control in life, its really about depending on the One who does.

We need self-control in our WORDS.  Mike Foster wrote a fantastic article about refraining from gossip.  You should definitely read his blog.  Ephesians 4 further encourages us to think twice before we speak.  There are many things we can say for many reasons, but the heart of the matter is why we are saying them.  If your words are not beneficial for those who hear it (including yourself), then perhaps you should stay quiet.

We need self-control in our ANGER.  The bible is clear (also Ephesians 4).  Anger is not a sin, but what you do with your anger could be.  Self-Control draws the line between reasonable frustration and savage brutality.  Knocking the chair over now relieves stress, but later you have nowhere to rest.  Yelling now feels good, but later no one is listening to you at all.   

We need self-control in our LUST.  Sexual sins carry bigger consequences because they are against your own body.  Our society isn’t doing us any favors in this area, but when we objectify others for our personal pleasure we have failed humanity.  We cheapen our own lives by devaluing others.  If we cannot exhibit self-control in our own purity, we will certainly be a pollutant in others’ lives.

We need self-control in our APPETITE.  One more drink, one more bite, one more dollar, one more rep, the newest car, the nicest restaurant – these things are not evil in themselves.  But when we begin to love things and to pursue things with a majority of our time, energy, and passion we are in a dangerous place.  Most likely the ones who get caught holding the check are those around us.

Finally, we need self-control in our TIME.  On one hand we are a society of 80-hour-work-week execs, and on the other hand we are 24/7 gamers and Netflix autoplay.  Rest too much and you’ll be constantly discontent.  Work too much and you’ll never be satisfied.  You will know when you find someone who lives the balance between work and rest.  They are productive and successful and yet they still know how to enjoy life.  They don’t have the most/best, but they have what they need… and are content with it.  A one-dimensional schedule produces a one-dimensional life.

Perhaps the problems we have in our relationships are less about how others treat us and more about how we treat ourselves.  

 If we can have self-control in these 5 areas our faith, our families, our lives, and our world will be drastically better for it.  We all have seasons of frustration, discontentment, loneliness.  The temptation is to go a little crazy until you feel better.  But God is not a God of extremes.  He is a God of control and order, and He calls us to be people of control and order.

Self-control is about depending on God.  Self-control is about loving others.

Without self-control we are just drunk driving through the crowd.

That’s not what I want my headline to be.

 



a brush with greatness

The other night several of my students were being awarded Eagle Scout and I had the privilege of speaking in their Eagle Scout Ceremony.  I was cub scout myself for about two months, but once I lost at the pinewood derby I gave up altogether.  Not these guys.  These guys are amazing young men.  I was overwhelmed during the service as the workload to become an Eagle was described.  These young men have spent over a decade working towards this accomplishment, growing in Honor, Loyalty, Courage, and Service.

As I observed the award ceremony I couldn’t help but think, “These guys are better than me.”

That’s a good thing!  Its what every youth minister wants – for those you lead to become greater than you.  Its not that I had anything to do with them becoming Eagle Scouts.  They did that all on their own through hard work and dedication.  It is just so encouraging to see what great men they have become, because there have been times in our past when I wanted to strangle these kids!  I couldn’t help but take a brief walk down memory lane and think about other kids I wanted to strangle, kids that are now great men.

Daniel used to interrupt me every Sunday night during my teaching.  He would ask hard questions I wasn’t smart enough to answer.  I’m not sure he really wanted an answer.  I think he just liked showing that he was smarter than me.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Daniel.

Daniel just patented a screw that is going to change the face of medicine and biomechanics and he’s still in medical school.  His intelligence is making the world a better place.

When Jacob came to church all he wanted to do was play Halo on Xbox (which at the time was all brand new to us).  He was so good at this game and he was sure to let you know.  I hated playing with him.  It was no fun.  Really.  And when the church programs were over and I was ready to go home I practically had to drag Jacob and his friends off of the Xbox and out of the door.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Jacob.

Jacob became a member of the team that developed and wrote the Halo game series.  He now works for Bungie and continues to use his passion to inspire others and make the world a more fun place to live in.

Zach was a great kid with a dangerous sense of adventure.  He literally had no fear.  If a frisbee ended up on the roof, Zach would be 100 feet up a tree in minutes.  If someone thought of something ridiculous to do Zach would be the first to volunteer (and most of the time succeed).  Zach’s flirtations with danger scared me to death.  No matter how many times I asked him to stop, he never did.  Most of the time he even talked me into trying.  Sometimes I wanted to strangle Zach.

Zach is now the VP of a successful clothing line.  He and his wife just became foster parents to a young boy who needs a family.  They will forever change this boy’s life with their faith and love.  He continues to inspire me and those around him with his no-reservations sense of adventure and his fearless faith.

Daniel is better than me.  Jacob is better than me.  Zach is better than me.

I could go on and on about past students who now are amazing and are doing amazing things.  I take no credit for it (how could I?) because they have reached their accomplishments all on their own.  The lesson is that “greatness” is in everyone.

Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  Following a long list of things God created, he made mankind last.  Mankind is the only creation that bears God’s image.

We bare God’s image.  We bare God’s likeness.  We bare God’s greatness.  Whether you see it or not, its deep down in there somewhere waiting to come out.  You have greatness in you because you were made in the image of God.

The person who cut you off in traffic this morning has greatness in him because he is made in the image of God.  The waitress that messed up your latte yesterday has greatness in her because she is made in the image of God.  The kids who drive you crazy and make you want to strangle them have greatness in them because they are made in the image of God.

Perhaps this is why Paul is so clear in Philippians 2 that if we want to be like Christ we must never “do anything out of vain conceit,” but we must “consider others as more important than yourself.”  We can’t just consider others more important – we must know that they really are.

There is no time that we are a more accurate reflection of Jesus than when we consider others greater than ourselves and then treat them likewise.

Its true.

They are greater than you…

Because they have God’s image in them.

You may be having the most frustrating experience possible with another human being, but you could be having a brush with greatness!  You could be part of the development of a real world-changer! I just thought I was working with some over-confident, smart-ass, senseless, smelly teenagers.  I had no idea I was working with world-changing doctors, technological masterminds, future world leaders, and Christ-like humanitarians.  I failed to see God’s image in them when I needed to.  I’m trying to change that.

I’m trying to view people – not for who they are – but for who they can be.

I hope you will too.

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the victim card

I grew up with 2 older brothers who could, on occasion, be very good at being older brothers.  I was scrawny and a little under-confident when it came to conflict, so I didn’t have a lot to play when it came to holding my own in the “brotherly love” department.  But one thing I could do very well – play the victim card.  Tears.  Exaggeration.  Screaming & Yelling.  I had it all.  Once I slapped myself in the face and blamed it on my brother just so I could watch TV by myself.  It is a powerful tool… unless you overplay it.  

I discovered this powerful truth: The victim card only works if you are actually a victim.

Eventually my cries and woes became a nuisance to my family.  Instead of getting what I wanted, I was labeled a crybaby and sent to my room.  I had overplayed the victim card.  No one cared what I had to say anymore.  The only choice I had left was to mature, become responsible, and start standing up for myself.  I had to stop being selfish and start thinking about the other people in the family… even when I disagreed with them.  

I saw this cartoon floating around the internet last year, and I saw it again last week when a student shared it with me.  

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In true over-confident teenager form he followed up by saying, “This is what’s wrong with our world.  Nobody cares about Christians anymore.”  Really?  This cartoon is all that is wrong with the world?  He’s half right I guess.  

Sometimes I don’t think anyone cares about the Christians anymore either… at least not in America.  His use of this cartoon is a good example of how (American) Christians play the victim card.  Someone or some group is doing something we don’t like, no one is listening to us, so we whine and cry and point fingers at the mean old non-Christians (which often really aren’t non-Christians, they just don’t “do christianity” the way we do).  

Today its a cartoon about Tim Tebow being shut out of the media and gay rights.  Yesterday it was about Target not saying “Merry Christmas” when you go shopping at 3 AM on black Friday.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but American Christians will probably find something to complain about.  Some judge okays it for two guys to get married or a Christian film gets bad reviews and we all scream “Persecution!”  

Really?  Persecution?  Even if it were true, no one is listening.

Remember: The victim card only works if you are actually a victim.

A lot of Christians do a lot of whining and crying because they think they are victims.  I am not saying they are wrong for believing what they believe.  I am not saying they are wrong for wanting the world to look differently than it does.  I am saying they are wrong in playing the victim card, because quite truthfully, American Christians are anything but victims.  Christians in America have more freedom and rights as a group than anywhere else in the world.  

Christians in the middle east and other parts of the world woke up this morning wondering if they would be martyred as a part of mass genocide.  Christian Solidarity International puts up a map of current attacks on Christians and genocide warnings.  I don’t see America on this map.  When you visit the CSI website you don’t read about Tim Tebow.  You read about people being murdered.  You read about people being stolen from their homes and forced into slavery.  You read about real persecution.  

I almost find it hysterical that Americans play the victim card so well considering that Christians who are truly persecuted, both in the past and present, hardly ever play the victim card.  And they really are victims!  Just consider some of the things people like Paul and Peter said about persecution.  When the apostles write about persecution they don’t use words like “boycott” or phrases like “write your congressman.”  They use words like “endure” and “rejoice.”  They use phrases like “so the world will know Christ.”  Peter and Paul (and probably Mary too) knew that the victim card is not a powerful card.  They understood that to truly defend faith in Christ, you simply have to display faith in Christ… especially in times of persecution.

There is no stronger evidence of the power of Christ than acceptance in the face of rejection, love in the face of hate, and faith in the face of attack.

It is no secret that the American Church is in decline.  I believe a large part of that can be attributed to American Christians playing the victim card.  In a country of 80,000 member mega-churches, multi-million dollar progam budgets, Christian movie studios, and… oh yeah… freedom of religion, no one feels sorry for us.  No one feels the need to come to our defense.  Rather, they want to distance themselves from us and send us to our room for a permanent time-out.  They see us using our resources and freedoms to complain instead of using them to serve a hurting world.  Sometimes they can’t see the love in us because of all the agendas being pushed at them.

What a hurting world needs is to find a loving body of believers who empathize them and a group of people who are ready to come to their defense.  We encounter people “different” than us and all we think is “don’t engage, don’t empathize, don’t be influenced.” What we should be thinking is “engage, empathize, influence!”  John Wesley said it best: “No one cares what you know until they know that you care.”  We are so worried about having something taken from us that we have forgotten to freely give of ourselves. 

We have a wonderful message of hope that this hurting world needs to hear. But how can we win anyone to Christ when we fail to display His love?

It is time that we, the American Church, decide to mature, accept our responsibilities, and start thinking about the rest of the people in our family.  The acceptance card is much more powerful than the rejection card.  The love card is much more powerful than the hate card.  The communication card is much more powerful than the screaming and yelling card.  The empathy card is always more powerful than the victim card.

We are not called to be victims.  We are called to be defenders, to be peacemakers, and (above all) to be reflections of Christ.

I am challenged more than ever these days to make sure that I complain less and display faith more, that I judge less and that I accept more, that I whine less and that I rejoice more… especially when it is difficult to do so.  I hope you are too.

We are not victims.  Let’s stop acting like it.

Since we are no longer victims, now we can be defenders. Try taking one of these steps this week:

1. Pray for the Christians, both American and foreign, who are facing persecution in foreign countries right now.  Visit CSI often and find out how you can help to defend the people who need it most.  

2. Reach out to someone who is different than you in their beliefs, their lifestyle, or even their neighborhood.  Look for ways to accept, embrace, love, and help them.  Invite them to church or to share a meal.  An easy way to do this is to find a local outreach and get involved.

3. When you want to complain this week or you are tempted to play the victim card… Don’t.

*Please note:  If you want to comment on this post, I encourage it.  However, this is not a post on anything controversial.  It is not a post defending any one position.  This is a post addressing the need for the American Church to regain its potential at reaching a hurting world through love and grace.  If you would like to talk about that, please comment.  If you only want to “attack” another side or criticize any particular group, please do not comment.




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