Monday, September 16, 2013

Find Out What it Means To Who?

What do you do when your family, friends, and associates do not respect your religious beliefs?

Oh the bliss of a new conversion.  The feeling of a soul lifted out of the mire to finally discover what freedom tastes like.  I remember my conversion clearly.  The details are for another time but what is important and very relevant here was the belief that I would simply go back and lead my friends to Christ as I had led them to other regrettable activities.  I would soon find that bubble popped. 

My friends, associates, and even members of my family had a very difficult time adjusting with the changes that were quickly happening in my life.  Many were very disrespectful ... very accusing.  I found myself in very serious and challenging situations.  I was at times falsely accused, slandered, and even mocked and humiliated. While deployed in Haiti, it was common for me to come back to my bunk area to find porn magazines laced all over my gear.  I was once written up (called counseling statement) for "making decisions that were detrimental to the morale of the platoon."  I was a private in the US Army ... I made no decisions at all!  I refused to go with my platoon to the local bars.  That was the decisions .. ridiculous.

I was often placed on the worst of duty detail in the military bc I did not go out and drink at the bars on Friday and Saturday nights.  Many times I was sent out for final duty, between 2 - 4am on Saturday and Sunday mornings to find drunk soldiers and bring them home.  

During my deployment to Bosnia, while we were in Hungary waiting to go into the combat theatre, I was placed on the worst duty I ever remember. I remember my company leadership deciding it would be me bc "Hazard doesn't do anything on weekends." I had already pulled my share but being a Christian meant to them that I had anything worthwhile to do.  I remember praying that God would hurry up the time so we could get in country and get away from all that foolishness.

But the Lord was intimately faithful during those times.  They did pass.  I had to learn during those times how to balance keeping myself unstained by the world with going out into the world and making disciples.  In time I learned how to spend time with the people I loved without crossing lines I did not want to cross.

Jesus told us this would happen and the apostles spoke of it too ... so expect it.  

Mat 10:34  "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35  For I have come to 'SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW'; 36  and 'A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THOSE OF HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD.' 

Mat 5:11  "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 

1Co 1:18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

My advice is to begin to play off of it.  It is hard to yell at someone who is always smiling back at you.  I initially allowed myself to be drawn into conflicts, even physical at times, over my faith.  I learned it did nothing to help ... only made matters worse.  When I realized that it was the presence of Jesus in my life that they actually despised, I had pity on them.  I also learned that by reacting that way I was only playing into the hands of the enemy ... that what they despised was in me and through me, not of me.

I remember the breaking point with my platoon.  We were deployed in Bosnia ... mid deployment.  My friends were constantly asking me to join them ... to hang out with them ... and I was always turning them down to go to the chapel.  One day one of the soldiers, MH (an atheist), asked me if my God was ok that I was never willing to spend time with the same people who were willing to give their life for me to spend it day after day with some people that were otherwise strangers.  It was God speaking through him ... I knew it then, I know it now.  I was hiding in that chapel.  I told MH that I wanted to hang out with them but they were always watching porn and talking about stuff I didn't want to hear.  We made a compromise ... one that taught me lessons I would and will need for the rest of my life.

1st It's OK to stand up for yourself and you can do it without insulting the rights and beliefs of others.  When Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek (Matt 5:39, Luke 6:29) He was not telling us to cower down ... it was almost Godly defiance.  "If you're going to slap this cheek for serving God, might as well slap this one too.  You're not going to change my stance!"  

Tell your friends where you stand.  Make it clear you want to spend time with them but you have lines you cannot cross.

2nd I learned that if I am not in the world, then I cannot reach the world.  My attempt to surround myself with only believers was simply a defense mechanism ... not one that I intended mind you ... but one none the less.  Most of my social group totally wanted nothing to do with me ... but by this time we had developed a pretty strong core group of believers within our unit ... it was safe there.  But if we truly have the cure to unrighteousness, then we should be strong enough to be out among those walking in it or our cure is worthless.  What it boils down to is that we don't want to fall to sin, so we try to cleanse any opportunity of it out of our lives by separating ourselves from people who may lead us back to it.  How weak are we and where do we really stand if we can be led back to sin by those we are called to go and rescue from it?  Consider this:

1Co 5:9  I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 

All too often, we try to make greenhouses for ourselves to live in ... to have a life devoid of distraction so that we can feel holy ... strong ... by attempting to block out any chance of temptation.  Living in the world means we are going to be subject to it.  

It was soon after that I learned that the same type of lack of respect also exists within the church membership.  When I started spending just two days a week with my platoon members, I was accused by some of the members of our chapel group of living a double life and going back to my sin.  These are doctrines that many church congregations live by ... we were just all baby Christians then ... yet this is the philosophy of so many established churches ... and it is spiritual abuse.  FYI - I led several members of that platoon to Christ ... and the atheist, MH, is also serving the Lord today.

We can never expect to be treated any better than Jesus was ... or any of His followers that have gone on before us.

1Pe 2:21  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22  "WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH"; 23  who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 

My advice?  Be at peace with your friends as best you can.  Remove yourselves from their company if and when they get involved with things you have no business being around ... then try again.  Invite them to Bible studies ... offer to pray for them when they are suffering.  Invite them to events.  If they refuse you ... if they drive you away, then go in peace.  You cannot expect people who have not placed themselves at the cross to find any value in bearing it.  I wish I could tell you something much easier but I promise that if you will leave them in God's hands, and do nothing to get in the way or take them from His into your own, then they are the best place they can be, no matter how uncomfortable they get.

I will close this blog with one of my favorite hymns ... a promise of God's faithfulness when we trust Him and obey His word.

Trust and Obey

When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He does richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Don't be confused.  LEARN STUFF!!!
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  1. What really amazes me is when people who have in some way, ridiculed you because of your beliefs are the first to run to you when their lives are in turmoil. They request prayer and will remind you daily to not forget about their request. It's almost as though they think we, who live out our faith on a daily basis, will have favor with God, when speaking on their behalf. I don't mind at all.....the text or FB messages....... And I am thankful. I am thankful that maybe, in this broken world, they have been able to witness just a glimpse of Who lives inside of us. :)

  2. Well said ... it is Him in us that they despise, yet in His love for them, often draws them to Himself. We are called to be a light. True light is despised most be those seeking to blind the lost into believing their counterfeit is nothing more than a cheap reflection.

    This little light of mine...

    Thanks for your comments

  3. I also liked your "greenhouse" analogy. I am the first to admit being guilty to moving into one. But what you said is so true, and I'm paraphrasing of course: if we as Christians are purposefully avoiding those of the world and their environment, just so we're not tempted, how is that demonstrating our inner strength? I don't think God wants us to hide away in a safety zone, as we won't ever expand his kingdom that way. I am in no way trying to get a free ticket to a night of partying and drinking. That would lead to an entirely different blog post discussion. My only point is that we should not feel the need to hide. We should take the opportunity to spend time with those who may otherwise not ever get a glimpse of the light which is inside of us. There is no need to give into the temptations of this world but demonstrating the strength to resist it, now that's a class that most non believers would sign up for.

  4. I think it's a natural cycle for every believer in transitions from "glory to glory" to realize that, once again, we have isolated ourselves to those who think like we do ... it's either a cycle or the believer is just stuck. Even those that claim to stay "outside of the box" end up only dealing with others like themselves ... so in essence they are just in another one. It is a constant challenge for me too.