Have you ever asked an uber-Christian how they are doing and they respond: “I’m blessed and highly favored”? That always makes me chuckle a little because it seemed like such a canned, fake answer. Recently I ran across an article entitled “6 Reasons Someone Wishes They Were you.” that changed my perspective on that answer. As I read the article, I got a nice little reminder that the problems I have are nothing compared to what some people have to deal with and I am indeed “blessed and highly favored” to be me right now.
I am educated. I am healthy. I have family and friends. I have a home. I have some things to look forward to in life. Maybe I’m not as thin or as rich or as problem-free as I would like to be, but being born at this place and this time has afforded me a lot of luxuries that others only dream about.
Luke 12:48 says: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke reminds us that being “blessed” as many of us are, is not just about having an easy life. With that blessing comes the expectation that you are going to do something with it.
What are you going to do with your blessings?
Last time we discussed how the number of people who consider themselves Religiously Unaffiliated is on the rise…
In their Religious and Ethics News Weekly PBS reported: “46 million Americans that our poll found have no religious affiliation, almost one in five. But they’re not entirely secular. About a third describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ ” The article quoted Diana Butler Bass (Author of Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening): ” I think that the main problem that people identify with religion and religious institutions is hypocrisy, is that they look at these institutions and they see people who are more concerned about politics, more concerned about money, more concerned about their own power, and that’s just not what people expect out of a faith institution. They expect some level of authenticity, especially in the leadership. They would like religious institutions to practice what they preach.”
The scary part is not only is the number of religious unaffiliated is growing but young people are largest part of the group.
In another PBS article entitled None of the Above “About one-third of all American adults under the age of 30 describe themselves as either atheists or agnostics or say they just don’t have any particular religion.” In the article Bob Abernathy from the Pew Forum says: “Two-thirds of the unaffiliated say they believe in God, or a universal spirit. More than a third, 37 percent, call themselves spiritual but not religious. About one in five say they pray every day, and the same number say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives. With all that religiosity, then, why do 46 million Americans say they are unaffiliated with any religious organization?”
Some possible answers included in the article…
- “Young people are becoming increasingly willing to tolerate people who are different. To tolerate different sexual orientation, different religion, different ethnic background, whatever. We don’t want to be told that we can’t accept gay marriage or that we can’t support birth control or abortion. You can still be moral and you can still be a good person without being religious.”
- “I don’t necessarily feel like I need to be guided through my relationship with, you know, the higher power or whatever you will call it. I feel like it’s a very personal relationship and I don’t necessarily need to be sitting in a church to experience that relationship. So that’s why I’ve never really been drawn to attending services regularly.”
- “Many of the Nones say they want no part of the conservative politics some churches embrace. Others say society in general has become much more tolerant of non-believers, so it’s easier than it used to be for some people to acknowledge publicly what they have long been in private, to come out of the atheist or agnostic closet.”
So what do you think, do you need religion to be spiritual?
In October 2012 The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released an article called “’Nones’ on the the Rise: One-in-Five Adults have no Religious Affiliation” The article reports: “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling….In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%). “
The Pew Forum describes itself as “a nonpartisan ‘fact tank’ that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world… by conducting public opinion polling and social science research…analyzing news coverage and holding forums…. It does not take positions on policy issues.”
As you can imagine this article set off a flurry of discussion and debate. Similar articles, quoting the Pew Forum as a source, were seen on sites such as CBS News, USA Today, Huffington Post and Christianity Today all asking the question: “Is America Losing its Religion?”
According to a Pew Forum article “The religiously unaffiliated number 1.1 billion, accounting for about one-in-six (16%) people worldwide. The religiously unaffiliated include atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion in surveys. However, many of the religiously unaffiliated have some religious beliefs. For example, belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7% of Chinese unaffiliated adults, 30% of French unaffiliated adults and 68% of unaffiliated U.S. adults. Some of the unaffiliated also engage in certain kinds of religious practices. For example, 7% of unaffiliated adults in France and 2 7% of those in the United States say they attend religious serv ices at least once a year.”
So what do you think, Is America Losing Its Religion?
I recently ran across an article on the Positively Positive blog by Jennifer Pastiloff entitled “Are You Sooo Busy?”
Pastiloff identifies a list of things that people say that no one else wants to hear. Her list includes:
- I am tired
- I am sooo busy
- My Boyfriend/Girlfriend Has Been Treating Me So Badly for Two (or five or eight, etc.) Years!
- Traffic and How Bad It Is.
- My Job and How I Hate It and Have Hated It for Years but Won’t Leave It.
It’s an entertaining article that I’ll let you read it for yourself.
Constant repetition of these tired mantras give them a power they don’t deserve. This article reminded me of a book I read several years ago called Hung by the Tongue: What You Say Is What You Get by Frances P. Martin. One reviewer wrote: “Hung by the tongue depicts the rise and fall of a person just by the words they speak. By taking quotes from the bible and putting them into perspective, Martin shows that success and defeat is born in the mind. We as humans tend to speak what we believe. Martin shows that what we speak can bring on failure or victory.”
As Martin’s book shares MANY verses in the bible that address the importance of controlling your tongue. The thing I find neat is that even the wimpiest of wimps can have a huge impact on the people around them just by their ability to hold their tongue. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but what you don’t say. Sometimes your silence, willingness to be an ear, or ability to refrain from judgement is all of the “witnessing” that’s required.
Next time, we’ll take a look at what the bible says about controlling your tongue.
For the last few posts we’ve talked about the prostitute Rahab who helped the spies in Jericho. One important lesson we learned from Rahab was how wrong our initial impressions of people can be and that is incorrect to judge. I recently ran across a couple of interesting articles in the bible about judging. They bring up this debate about whether or not we as Christians are responsible for each other’s sin.
If you are a fellow Christian and I see you behaving improperly, do I have a right…make that a responsibility….to call you out about it? There are bible verses (in both the Old and New Testaments) that cover both sides of the debate. The articles listed below share some of those verses. I’ll let you read them and come to your own conclusion.
I leave you with this one thought: Let everything you do come from a place of love. If it’s more loving to speak with someone about their “stuff” and help them through it, then do that. If it’s more loving to say nothing and just be there for them, then do that. Because at the end of the day, Jesus’ commandment to us was simple:
“I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you. If you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.”
Today’s featured blog is Candid Christianity by Antwan Malone. Candid Christianity sports the pretty nifty tag line: Candid. Christian. Converstaion. (Re)thinking Christianity One Conversation at a Time. This is a blog after my own heart. Let’s not just accept the status quo of Christian culture, let’s challenge it. And more importantly than merely challenging it, let’s challenge it in a manner that talks about the issues openly and honestly. We may not always agree. We may not reach an official answer. But the debate is never boring. Antwan tackles issues such as homosexuality, religion and politics, and pop culture.
A recent post that caught my eye is Does Small Group Work? The last 3 churches I’ve been involved with have put a heavy emphasis on small group. I am not exactly a “people person” and I have a difficult time warming up to people and sharing my life. To put it mildly: small group is a painful experience for me. I’ve been in one small group that worked very well. I’ve participated in several small groups that I couldn’t wait until the series or workbook was done so I could make an excuse to leave. Right now I’m in a struggling group. It’s a collection of ladies who personally click very well together. The challenge is we are all in the crazy 30’s/40’s period of life where kids and career dominate our every waking moment and getting together is difficult at best. Hopefully we’ll get it figured out.
A few thoughts on small groups from Antwan….
I wonder if small group (or LifeGroups, or whatever) is designed to promote spiritual growth through studying the Bible or by creating a forum permitting us to publicly struggle with the way God’s Word and our lives intersect. In other words, are small groups just glorified Sunday School classes, or are they more like support groups where we all share our failings and seek guidance and help from each other?
Frankly, even Jesus had a hard time getting his twelve to understand what He was talking about. On countless occasions the disciples reveal how out of step they are with Jesus’ teachings, which is amazing when you consider they lived with Him pretty much 24/7. If those are Jesus’ results, then what do we really think we will accomplish with our 2.5 hours a week?
We currently attempt to create relational intimacy and biblical teaching, which is a worthy, if not lofty, goal. But often, the experience is out of balance. Most people need both in significant measure. Piece-mealing these two ideas in compartmental increments only makes us more thirsty for the real thing. Giving a thirsty man a drop of water will only make him more thirsty!
When I first stepped onto the blogging scene one of the first blog’s I fell in love with was The Church of No People. The site’s motto is “What sermon would a pastor preach if no one showed up for church?” This site offers thought-provoking articles that make you look at various aspects of Christianity from a different perspective. It never fails for me that their articles make me go “hmmmmm.” This weeks featured article from The Church of No People is no different.
It started with a tweet that read: “As a Christian I was surprised to find out how much in common I have with atheist.” Ever so curious, I followed the link to discover a delightful article entitled “I stopped believing in god.”
I’ll leave you with one excerpt (don’t want to spoil it for you)
Many times when talking beliefs with atheists, they’ll start a sentence with, “I just can’t believe in a God that…”
And I say, “You’re right…” I’ve got a lot in common with the atheists.
Check out the the rest of the article….
Today, I kick off a new category called Blog Trotting! I will feature interesting articles from other Christian-living-esque blogs. There a many, many, many blogs out there that cover a wide a variety of Christian related topics. If we want to see more unity within the Christian community, it starts with honest dialog. So read what other people have to say, even if you don’t agree with it and strike up a conversation, on Facebook, with your neighbor or co-worker. In the words of Steven Covey,”Seek first to understand then be understood.”
Today’s featured blog is The Gospel Coalition. This blog blog features “a community of voices who promote gospel-centered ministry for the next generation. [They]discuss the Bible, theology, church history, books, culture, and more.” I was drawn to the ability to finds biblical themes in a super hero movie. Their article “The Avengers: Very Human Super Heroes” takes a look at how the the age old theme of the weak saving the world plays out in this movie. Below are a couple of excerpts from the article, but definitely visit their blog to read the article in its entirety…
It’s funny to me that in a world of flying aircraft carriers, lightning bolts, and rage monsters, we nonetheless tell stories about frail and broken people. Yet that’s the core of The Avengers, and of the whole superhero genre generally: Superman is an orphan displaced. Batman, too, is an orphan, a mere human with an obsession with justice lost. Spiderman is haunted by his failure to save Uncle Ben. The heroes we invent all have a flaw weaved into their fabric, which makes their lives more believable and their victories more spectacular.
In the strange world of the Bible, we know that weakness comes before strength. The mustard seed becomes the mighty tree. The shepherd becomes the king. God himself becomes a baby, suffers in every way like us, and dies a criminal’s death, yet that death becomes the catalyst to the liberation of countless captives of sin.