Cynical Christianity

If I had to choose one word to describe my default way of thinking, I would choose “cynical.”

Yikes.

I hate cynicism. I really do. I hate the way it feels, you know? It’s that slimy, gross feeling. If you’ve taken your dog for a walk and you forgot to bring a doggie bag, but your dog needed to go and you didn’t want to be that neighbor, then you know exactly what cynicism feels like.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the pastor being interviewed said he was confronted by a mentor of his about this very thing. His mentor asked, “Why do you keep smearing crap on your blessings?”

My point is cynicism is disgusting.

But I also love it.

And I hate that.

I love being cynical. And I disguise my cynicism all the time. “Oh, I’m just pointing out what could be better.” “Man, I loved that movie…except the editing was weird sometimes.” “Well, that’s just how life is.” “You can’t be disappointed if you don’t have expectations.”

It’s just so easy to be a critic. We breathe cynicism. We carry around unlimited cynicism in our pockets. We pay $40 a month to have constant access to it. We drink it up. We share it. We pass it around. Cynicism is more common than the common cold.

But, as a follower of Jesus, I’ve never encountered a command from Jesus to be cynical.

Maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe I’m obeying someone besides Jesus. Maybe I’m believing some lies about deserving a perfect, comfortable, happy life. Maybe I need to repent.

I most certainly need to repent.

Sometimes, though, we don’t know what to turn to when we turn away from sin. I know I need to turn away from the sin of cynicism, of tearing down, of being selfishly critical. But what do I turn to instead? I think one of many answers can be found in Colossians 3.

And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:15-17

This passage is so rich. And I think there’s a significant emphasis of which I want to take note.

It’s the trifecta of commands to be thankful.

Instead of being cynical, I believe we’re commanded to be thankful.

Paul starts with the peace of Christ ruling your heart, bringing you into communion with fellow believers. And then, “Be thankful.” Be thankful for Christ ruling your heart! You don’t deserve that. But Christ rules your heart because he wants to, because he deserves to. Because that’s better for you. So you have peace with others because Jesus rules your heart. That’s amazing. That’s something to be thankful for. If you don’t know what to give thanks for, give thanks for Jesus ruling your heart. Give thanks for peace. Give thanks for friendships.

Paul moves on with a command to let the word of Christ live in you, and let the word and wisdom of Christ move you to encourage others and, get this, give thanks to God. If you know the words of Jesus, you will be able to share those with others. To know the words of Jesus is a gift. To be able to hear them and understand them is another. To be able to know, hear, understand, and share them is a third. To be able to do all those things and sing praises to God is a fourth gift–and a most remarkable one at that. We don’t deserve any of those gifts. Yet we have been given them and more. Thanks be to God!

Finally, Paul lands the plane. He says whatever you do, whenever, wherever, with whoever, do it for Jesus; and while you’re doing whatever you’re doing and doing that thing for Jesus, give thanks! Thank God for the morning coffee. Give thanks for that song on the radio. Give thanks for your boss. Give thanks for that paper that’s due. Give thanks for any ability you have, any skill you possess, any holy thought you have, any desire to do good, and any joy you might feel. Yes, this will take you all day.

I had another friend tell me he recently that he was looking at a list of people he was praying for, and while praying and thinking through that list, he thought, There are so many needs. So many people need prayer. And these are just the people on my list! There are so many more people and needs and prayers to pray. This will take me all day!

Then it hit him. When Paul says pray all day, it’s not a suggestion. When you realize how much you have to pray, you end up praying all day. The same thing goes for gratitude. When you realize how much you have for which to give thanks, you end up giving thanks all day.

Now, this isn’t something I’m a pro at by any means. In fact, you might be way ahead of me in this spiritual practice of thanking God throughout the day. I hope if you are, then you start to teach others; and if you’re a day behind, that’s OK. Read Colossians 3 and focus on verses 15-17. Memorize them if that helps. Pray for the Spirit of God to give you a spirit of obedience. Then practice. Practice right now, practice tomorrow, practice the next day after. And when you succeed, thank God. And when you fail, thank God. His mercies are new every morning.

– Matt Welborn

 

Oh The Places You’ll Go

What should I do with my life? What am I passionate about? What job should I take? What if I don’t like my profession? Which direction should I go?

These are all questions that have gone through my mind at some point, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. They are questions that people grapple with, and they are important to think through and seek discernment in. Although these questions are valid, I believe there is an unnecessary pressure in society for people to pick a career and figure out what they want to do with their lives before they have even experienced life. Discovering your passion and pursuing a career is a good goal to have because I know God has placed passions, dreams, and desires in our lives for us to pursue with Him. But sometimes I feel like I need to tell people a 10 year plan for my life in order to validate the intrinsic value of what I am doing in the present, when in reality I have no idea what is ahead, and I am not always sure about what I want to specifically do within the sphere of ministry.

I used to struggle with feeling like I didn’t have a practical passion. I was passionate about things, but not defined occupational things. I would get worried that I wouldn’t find that one thing that I was made to do. A lot of time has passed since then, so I have learned more about life, myself, and what I enjoy doing. Yet sometimes I still struggle with wondering if I’m doing the right thing, or worry that I am not passionate enough about certain things. I could discuss all of my self-reflection and discoveries and blah blah blah…but that’s not what I want to focus on.

When I talk about the journey of life and what I think I want to do, I often tell people that it is not as much about what I do as it is how I live. I don’t always know what I want to do, but I know how I want to live. Let me explain, what I do is valuable, but how I carry out what I do is what matters.

Since I am a follower of Christ, I already know how I am supposed to live. He lays out in His Word how I should conduct myself. I am to carry out whatever I do with faithfulness and integrity. I am to rejoice in the Lord in all things. I am to serve humbly; and the list goes on. Even if I were to do something I had little interest in, I am called to do it well and live in such a way that points others to the Lord. Of course, those are not traits I naturally incapsulate. I’m prideful, I get discouraged, I don’t always have a God-honoring attitude. That is when God’s grace comes in. He is willing and able to produce His character in me. He calls me to reflect His character every day as a witness to others. It is His desire for all of us. He will equip us.

The way I love the Lord and love people within the everyday actions of what I am doing is what is eternally valuable. It is my joy to serve in whatever capacity He wants me to. I am beyond thankful to be serving the Lord here in South Africa. I know it is where God wants me to be at this moment and I am determined to make the most of it; but I can serve here in South Africa doing everything I should be doing, all without submitting to the Lord’s purpose in my conduct and interactions with others. If that were the case, I would be completely missing the point.

I believe we focus too much on what we do with our lives rather than how we live them. Our lives are more than the career we pursue. It is about how we live and ultimately, whom we are living for. Our lives are always drawing people’s attention to something. I don’t want my life to be about myself, and yet so many times that is the message I am sending to others. I desire that everything I say and do come out of a heart that is fully in sync with the heart of God. A heart that longs for people to be in close relationship with Him. I want to love fiercely, be present, and be intentional with my relationship with God and others. If I were a waiter at a restaurant, a lawyer, a housekeeper, a soccer coach, a nurse, an accountant, or any other vocation; my purpose would still be the same. To love God, love people, and make Him known. To quote C.T Studd “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Here’s the truth, wherever God has you at the moment is where you are meant to be. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek growth or pursue being in a different place in life. It means you are responsible to live each moment well, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. In reality, there are people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who are still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, and that’s ok! No matter what age you are, just breathe. Don’t get so caught up in finding what you want to do for the rest of your life that you actually miss your life. Instead, seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of your life. He knows everything about you, what you are good at, what you desire. Let Him show you how you should live and He will guide you in what you should do. Life is short. Love well, explore, have fun, forgive, chase dreams, grow in experience, change careers, or be content doing what you have been doing!

Now I don’t worry as much about whether I am doing the job I was made for. I was made to glorify God in anything and everything I do. That is what matters. That is what fulfills. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17. He made all of us and infused us with certain abilities and passions ultimately meant for serving Him. He knows the complexities of our hearts. I trust that He will continue to guide me and put me in whatever context I need to be in as I pursue Him, my one true passion.

Blessings,

Shannon Roach 

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

 

Stressed Out

49% of Americans say that they are regularly stressed out. That’s based on an article I saw today on my Twitter feed. Now, I don’t know how they’re able to track such a thing, but the study showed that people worldwide are more unhappy this year then they’ve been in the past ten years. I’m assuming it factors in emotional, mental, and physical struggles, but I don’t have all the details. Either way, this is shocking.

When I was attending OBU , I made it a point, a mission in some ways, to live a life devoid of stress. Some might call this irresponsible or lazy, but I can honestly say that that was not my heart behind it. Rather, I saw countless brothers and sisters in Christ who allowed their hearts to be overrun by stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.

As a result of my mission (a stress-free life) I sought to make the mundane fun. My friends helped me by having similar intentions.. Going to get groceries became an avenue for fun memories and experiences. Going to class became opportunities to bring joy to the lives of others. Doing homework was a chance to enjoy friendships. Everything was full of life and vitality. It brought me some of my favorite moments and memories of my whole life. Because of this intentional lifestyle, college was only occasionally stressful for me.

Writing this I realize how much things have changed in my life and heart. That joyous young buck has been slowed, worn down, more stoic. For those of you who know me now this may sound laughable, but you didn’t know me then. My eyes have been opened to the pains of this world, my heart opened to the fears of this world, and my mind overrun by the anxieties of this world. There is clearly a part of this transition that is genuinely good. As a pastor now, not just a wild and free college student, I have a responsibility to lead with maturity and focus. At the same time however, I ache for the jovial young man I once was.

You may not be in my same season of life. Most of my readers are not. But you may feel the same. You think about your life today and you realize that it’s not what it once was. You’re more stressed. You’re more afraid. You’re more anxious.

As believers, we need to reorient ourselves. Many of us bought the lie in the past that Christianity was the easy route, that Christianity was the path to a full and blessed life. All of that is crashing around us as we take our rightful place on the margins of society. This transition leaves many of us looking with rose-colored glasses back to the good ol’ days of Christianity in America.

We must reorient ourselves in Scripture. That’s why I blog. I see the problems and struggles of my fellow followers of Jesus and in my own life and I know for a fact they can only be overcome when we spend time with the Lord in His Word. So I blog, even in my weakness, praying that at least one person would be encouraged by my writings to go to Scripture for hope.

The goofy, jovial me is below the surface of my crustier than normal outer shell. Each time I’m with the Lord, my anxiety loosens its grip on me and I’m freed by the truths of Scripture. It happened just this morning. Check this out:This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. – Genesis 5:1

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3

These two verses are likely not on somebody’s coffee cup or on their pillow or in a picture frame on the wall. But man alive they’re powerful. The language used in these two verses shows that Seth’s relationship with Adam is much like our relationship with God. Made in his father’s image, Seth enjoyed a special relationship with his dad. Genesis 5:1 tell us that we can enjoy this same type of intimate relationship with God, as does Genesis 1:26. We are made in God’s image just as Seth was made in Adam’s image. I wrote in the margin of my Bible this morning, “We are all children of God.” This is the first of hundreds of passages in Scripture emphasizing the theme that as followers of Jesus we have a Father-child relationship with the God who made everything!

This theme of Scripture alone should ease our minds. Where is the need for legitimate worry when God is sovereignly working all things for our good? But here’s the deal. If I didn’t go to Scripture this morning, I would not have encountered this passage and would not have been reminded of God’s grace given to me in this way.

Again, that’s why I blog. I strive to remind people that listening to sermons and going to church can’t hold a candle to experiencing the brightness of seeing Jesus daily through prayer and His Word. I would most definitely be more stressed today if I was not in His Word this morning.

I like what Max Lucado has to say about this topic, “Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.” – Max Lucado

Man, this is truly one of the cures for anxiety. Instead of playing the chaos of this world through my brain ad nauseam, I can choose instead to rejoice in the ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

Part of working in a church is we do get to have front row seats at life change. The other part is that all day long I’m hearing the chaos of our members, or people they know, or strangers. Sadly, 90% of the time someone comes into our office, or calls our office, it’s bad news. Not good news. (I welcome calls of encouragement. I don’t get to hear many great stories. Seriously. Call me sometime.)

It’s easy to take that home. It’s easy to just sit back and rehearse the chaos. But anxiety’s grip is loosened when I take an active step in meditating on Scripture, on God’s goodness. This doesn’t mean naively pretending the world is perfect, but rather acknowledging that God is greater. In the case of today, it means meditating on the fact that I’m able to approach God as His child.

Scripture memory is one way that we as God’s people can dwell on the greatness and graciousness of our Father. In my current season of life, I carry note cards with Scripture on them in my back pocket so that when I have downtime in my day, I can meditate on the beautiful truths of Scripture. The verse I wrote down today to memorize is the following:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

By meditating on what matters in the spiritual realm, I’m able to prevent myself from getting lost in the bad news of today, instead resting in the good news of the gospel.

The times are changing.

God never does.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach