Christians in Business

Christians In Business- Can We Live Out The Gospel and Run A Profitable Business?

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Are Christianity and Business Success Compatible?

As a Christian business owner myself, it is often difficult to mix the necessity of profits and making money with the language of the Bible considering the numerous warnings about money. Furthermore, I believe today’s culture labels business owners as greedy and always using other people to become successful. We now have a entitled society who bashes those who make money and believes everyone should be allowed to reap the benefits of success, regardless of whether they have sowed seeds of hard work or not. That doesn’t mean that some of society’s arguments about rich, wealthy business owners aren’t valid; it just means that for Christians in business, it’s easy to feel guilty or even sinful to make money and be successful.

Christianity and business (as well as money in general) are both compatible and incompatible. The key aspect that determines which category business men and women fall into are the business’s values. What contributions is the business making to society? Does it simply exist to rake in the highest profits at any cost? What are its core values? Are they consistent with the teachings of Christ? Is the business team using their talents towards the glory of God and to help serve a need in the community through a product or service?

Let me be clear here. I’m not talking about running a nonprofit business. A business has to make money and profits must fall somewhere among the top of key goals. But it must not be the only goal. There has to be something more – a key set of values and principles that it is founded on that are sacred and are never disregarded in search of higher profits. There is no need to apologize for being successful, but success comes with obligation to make a difference in the lives of others.

I think for Christians in business the main question we must meditate on and ask ourselves daily is “Am I running my business to serve me or serve others?” When we keep our focus on others, we can forego all of the guilt and hold our heads high in the face of public criticism of business in general. I think as Christians we often think of serving and helping others in terms of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, etc. And while these are things every Christian is called to do, I believe that God calls each of us to help and serve in different ways. Monetarily we can help, but we may not be called to the front lines on a daily basis physically. Our contribution may be making or designing a product or service geared to bring laughter to a child and put a smile on his or her face. We may be called to help people file their taxes, help people save money, provide a good or service that makes peoples’ life easier or better. And we must make money doing so. But Christianity is compatible with business when we ask ourselves what we can do to help serve the community, rather than serve ourselves. The mark of a great company is that it gives something back. It produces, but it does so by serving a need and making a difference in the lives of others.

Even as Christians in business, we have to make profits, or it wouldn’t be a business for very long. Usually though, when we place others in front of our own pursuits and constantly ask how we can improve the lives of others with our talents, profits naturally increase. What we do with those profits and with the gifts we’ve been given determines whether we’re serving God or serving self. Christians in business have tough obstacles and temptations, but we can be assured we’re in compatibility with Christian teaching when we wake up each morning with the customer in mind, instead of ourselves.


photo credit: Dr John2005 Shoreditch Bridge Portraits 265, Shoreditch High Street, London, 26 August 2016 via photopin (license)

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How Do We Deal With Sex, Lust, Sexuality, Masturbation, Pornography, and Premarital Sex As Christians? (Part 1)

The Fall of Man by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617) Painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558 – 1617 ), The Fall of Man, 1616, oil on canvas, Patrons’ Permanent Fund 1996.34.1

I want to start out this post by stating that I am a Christian and to apologize if this post sounds not Christ-like. The topic is an issue that has brought me much doubt, confusion, and even some anger. I have struggled with the issue since adolescence and continue to struggle with it today. Maybe even more so today than before because I am earnestly seeking a relationship with Christ and issues weight you down and make you contemplate them in much more depth when you are a Christian and not “Sort-of-a-Christian”.

But it is an issue that rarely gets talked about, and I feel many (if not most) Christians struggle with. And that, of course, is the issue of sex, sexuality, and lust. I am hoping to hear from other’s experience or opinions that may shed some light on this topic because it has become the biggest stumbling block in my relationship with Christ, and I assume others as well, living in the 21st century. Once again, I apologize for my lack of reverence or a tone of anger, but it is honesty, and I can’t stuff or hide from what I feel.

Just to make things clear, my bitterness comes from a place of despair and frustration. I have attempted uncountable times to change, to deal with my issues and do what I am told is right by the Bible or by other people’s opinions. I may be able to stay on track for a certain period of time, but I always fail. I do want to please God, but sometimes it feels like the system is broken or not even possible. So after many heartfelt attempts and thorough prayer, I am always failing and that failure and pain may manifest itself as anger.

So ever since adolescence, I have struggled with the guilt, remorse, lack of remorse, anger, doubt, uncertainty, and confusion that surrounds the issue of sexuality. Whether that be lust, masturbation, pornography, premarital sex – they all fall into the same category for me. I believe it can be argued that they are either all sin or acceptable. Maybe not necessarily “right” or “good”, but acceptable. You can dance around the issue all you like, but there is hardly good explanation for accepting any of these issues without accepting all the others; likewise, if one is determined to be sin, you must accept the rest as sin.

The main passage that causes so much doubt and uncertainty for me is Matthew 5:27-28.

“You have heard it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (ESV)

Obviously, I can’t just throw this part of the Bible out and pretend like I’ve never read it. So I, and we all, have a big problem on our hands if the common interpretation of this passage is true. But my question is what does Jesus mean by “lustful intent”? Does that mean that any sexual thought that comes into your mind is adultery? Or is he talking more along the lines of premeditated adultery…that even if you choose not to follow through with your original plan, it is still considered adultery? Take into consideration too that he is addressing married men and specifically mentions adultery, but not fornication.

While I wrestle between the two, I tend to side on option “B”. Maybe because it’s the easier route, but also because if I chose choice “A”, I have to seriously consider believing in a God who doesn’t really make sense or a Bible that is not inerrant. Let me explain. If I accept choice “A”, masturbation is out. Yeah. Yeah. I know the Bible never specially mentions masturbation, but let’s be honest… Who can successfully masturbate time and time again without lusting? It’s really part of the act. I suppose there’s a small sect of people who can do it, but I would argue that has nothing to do with their discipline, but because of their low sex drive and / or chemical make-up.

The majority of people cannot masturbate without lust and have no desire to do so. Now, masturbation is out, as well as everything that follows. So now I’m expected not to masturbate, lust, or engage in any premarital sex from the age of around 11-28 (28 being about the average age people are getting married today), all the while being filled with raging hormones and natural urges to do the exact opposite. To me, that’s just unrealistic and unable to be achieved with any kind of success. And maybe I’m sounding a little harsh and a little angry because honestly, maybe I am. Angry at God perhaps that he would demand this and wire us up so backwards. Angry at the people who simply say to wait to have sex until you’re married, then you can do what you’ve been wanting, end of story. Now don’t get me wrong. I know they are trying to be helpful and are sincere (and maybe are even right), but that doesn’t tell you how to do so, nor explain away all the issues that come with it.

As a young teen, I can just about guarantee I would have done some very stupid, very sinful things without masturbation. The male body is set up so that it craves sex so intensely after after five to seven days without ejaculation that it is nearly impossible to even concentrate on anything besides sex. To me, that alone is enough to raise serious doubts to the common interpretation in Matthew 5:27-28.

If you don’t eat, you naturally strongly desire food. If you don’t have sex or masturbate, you naturally strongly desire sex. This ability is mostly out of our control. You can call it sin, but I have yet to crave to lie if I’ve gone days withing lying. No, sex is not necessary for survival, but it is at the essence of humanity. Yes, there people who live a life of chastity, but most are in religious vocations, and we’ve seen some of the horrors that come out of those situations. I am not mocking them; I respect those who choose that life, but I’d say that for most people it is unhealthy and unnatural. And for many of those who are chaste, they live in monasteries or hermitages. That is not conquering lust; it is simply hiding from it. I hold those in those vocations with utmost respect. I’m just trying to point out that you can’t use them as an example of success in dealing with lust.

Even at the heart of every marriage, every relationship, lust is the catalyst so to speak. If basic lust is a sin, every marriage was born out of sin, even Adam and Eve’s before the Fall. In plain terms, you are attracted to someone romantically because you desire sex from them. You can think many things are pretty or beautiful, but that does not mean you want to have sex with a piece of art, a tree, or even a friend or relative.

There are a handful of other characteristics and attributes that make one desire a partner, but from the first glance that a woman and man share, it is lust that drives them together. The end goal of any romantic relationship is sex; otherwise, we would have many close friendships, but no sexual partners. If lust and sex were not part of a romantic relationship, it would be perfectly legitimate to marry someone of the same sex if intercourse was not a necessary part of the equation.

You may argue that lusting or desiring your spouse is acceptable. But where did that desire begin? Surely, you didn’t date for months or years and suddenly when you tie the knot you magically desire to have sex with one another. No. It started from day one and has been there ever since. If it wasn’t, there would be no marriage.

When Adam saw Eve in the Garden of Eden, what was it that attracted him to her? Surely, not beauty. Adam had already witnessed great examples of God’s creations and the beauty that resides in nature. But Eve was different. She was beautiful, but it was a beauty that he didn’t just want to look at. He longed to touch her, feel her, caress her, and ultimately to have sex with her. And I’m sure it didn’t help matters that she was naked. Was that unintentional? I don’t think so. God could have given them clothes, but he didn’t. They saw each other’s anatomy and were mesmerized by it.

I can’t imagine that there were no lustful thoughts going through either Adam’s or Eve’s mind when they first met. If lust is a sin, how do you become romantically attracted to someone without it? I mean the opposite sex is great, but honestly I think both sides would agree that they are confusing and can’t be comprehended. Without lust, why would I ever choose “Jane” over “Bob”, when “Bob” and I have a whole lot more in common, think alike, act alike, etc.? Without lust, I honestly don’t know how that works. Lust is the mystery that propels us into a relationship with a person we don’t understand. It mystifies us into an attempt to discover the parts of the heart and anatomy that are different from us.

So assuming lust is a sin, how do we deal with it? The obvious answer is masturbation – a release that allows us to refocus and not give into temptation. But as I’ve already pointed out, if lust is a sin, so is masturbation. So now we’re back to square one. A 13-14 year old male is expected to just deal with this flood of feeling and desire in a healthy and God-like manner for the next 10-15 years? Maybe I’m blind, but I just don’t get it. For that to be true, I have to seriously reconsider my perception of God. Either A. he is incompetent or B. he somehow enjoys or is indifferent to watching us suffer. I don’t believe God is either of those things, which is why it is hard for me to accept that masturbation or lust are sins.

The human body peaks in sexuality during adolescence. It propels us to seek out a partner, procreate, and continue on the human race. This is good. But the timing is atrocious. It may have worked well thousands of years ago when humans were getting married in their early teens. It had to be that age because often times people wouldn’t live much longer than 20. But times have changed. We are living longer and waiting longer to get married. I think we can all agree that this is also good. I don’t think anyone can say that it would actually be much better for society if children would get married and have kids at 11, 12, or 13 years old.

The problem then is that, unfortunately, adolescence is still beginning at the same time, and even earlier than, it was thousands of years ago. Could God not see that this was going to be a problem? If lust, masturbation, and everything that goes along with it is sinful, why did God not allow our sexual desires to evolve overtime and for us to “peak” later, rather than earlier? Why would a loving God essentially punish us with a burden of sexual desire, knowing we couldn’t use it for another 10-15 years? That is essentially like taking a starving child out of a Third World country and making them live in a restaurant filled with the finest foods and telling them that this is all good and ok for you to eat, but you must wait at your table for 10-15 years to enjoy it. To me, that is torture. The promise sounds good, as does the promise in the Bible. But there is really no good, practical advice on how to sit in the restaurant starving for 10+ years without wanting the food or, in a moment of weakness, eating it.

Yes, sex can be sinful and has the possibility to be abused, but I would argue that it has a much different dynamic than any other type of sin. Sexual desire is a necessary part of human existence. Without it, the human race would not have survived as long as it has. There is no “good” lying. There is no “good” hate. There is no “good” injustice. But there is good sex. And that’s the main issue here. How do you separate good sexual desire from bad sexual desire? If we read Matthew 5:27-28 literally, I think you’re going to have a hard time ever explaining “good” sexual desire. Even if you are married and you fantasize about your spouse, building off the passage in Matthew, that is still sin and probably could even be classified as rape. Is your wife giving you permission to have sex with her at 10 am? If not, couldn’t that be considered just as bad as rape since the thought is just as bad as the action, applying the concepts from Matthew?  I may be getting a little extreme, but it’s an extreme subject. If you hold a literal interpretation of the passage, there’s implications that come with it that must be explained or justified.

Young children and babies are known to masturbate or fondle themselves. I believe this hints at the fact that it is a natural part of human existence. You think we have problems now with rape and sexual abuse? Try living in a world where teenage boys never masturbate and see what happens. I’m not trying to be crude; that is just reality. When you are starving, you do whatever it takes to get food, regardless of the costs. When you have teenage boys flooded with sexual desire and no way to release those feelings, you’re going to have a bombardment of problems.

I often hear the case that we are fallen, sinful, etc. and that is why we fall to sexual temptation. In some ways I agree, but in others, it just doesn’t add up. Prayer may be our main method of defense, but how do you pray with a raging hard on, a body overwhelmed with sexual desire, and a mind that is consumed with images of naked women? That’s about as real as it gets. But it is the truth. You go a week or more without sexual release, especially as a teen, and your mind is obsessed with sex just about every minute of the day, and your penis is constantly erect.

How do you sit down and concentrate in prayer while that is going on? I don’t know and that question racks my brain and creates an invisible barrier to God. I want to please God and do the right thing, but every time I try, I become a sexual, raging animal. I no longer feel like a human being, but an animal completely controlled by the body’s natural process. I suffer when I carry out my body’s desires because I worry that I am displeasing God. But when I restrain myself, I suffer even more and turn into a person that I don’t want to be.

On either side I suffer. On either side I am flooded with confusion, doubt, anger, lust, worry, and all these emotions put a strain on my relationship with God. Maybe I am the only one in this mess, but I don’t think so. I think all of us who are truly seeking Christ struggle with these issues and are screaming silently for clarity. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers, but the beginning of knowledge is to doubt and question. I am just thankful that we have a loving God that understands our trials and does not silence anyone who questions him. I will continue the second part of this post concerning pornography and premarital sex in a later post, hopefully sometime this week.

A Prayer of the Heart

river at sunset A Prayer of the Heart

You, Oh Lord, are the wellspring of wisdom that is never empty and is always rising to the lips of those who are thirsty. When my worldly eyes go blind and walk towards the cliffs of destruction, you await to halt me – to reattach my spiritual blinders. Man walks by the heart, but is easily strayed from your path by the ways of deceit. But in the midst of chaos you never leave. You remain as a nagging, shouting whisper that beckons me to your presence. And when I come before you…all is revealed. My mistakes, my falters, the ways in which I have followed the desires of the heart and not the desires of the Lord.

The feelings of the heart feel good. That is why they are quick to lead us astray. It is man’s seductress who dresses up in skimpy clothes and asks to be joined. Who can resist? No one without ample prayer and counsel . The heart wants what it wants and will blind us by any means to get what it wants. But you, Oh Lord, are a God of Mercy; A God who waits for those who wander and a Shepherd anxiously waiting to gather your lost sheep and return them to the fold.

When I am led by my heart, stop me! Stall me in my tracks and weigh my intentions against your law. May you no longer let me stray without warning. Open my ears to the still, quiet voice that beckons to be heard. For your wellspring only flows wisdom and from wisdom, truth. Truth pulls back the shades and reveals the world and it’s people as they truly are. But most of all truth pierces my heart and turns me from my worldly pursuits, to your face.


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Discipleship – A Christian Poem About Following Jesus

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

– Mark 1:16-20 ESV

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Discipleship – A Christian Poem About Following Jesus

Don’t let your bondage hold you back.
Don’t let your misfortunes,
Your dark secrets, or your mischievous ways
Blind your eyes to the light.
Don’t let arrogance, pride, fear, or greed
Mute your ears to the command of his call –
“Follow me”
That’s not follow me when,
Follow me if,
Or follow me but…
It is “follow me”
Without restriction or based upon circumstance.
It doesn’t leave time to pack a suitcase.
It doesn’t leave time to say goodbyes.
It doesn’t promise ease or relaxation.
It isn’t a decision to think about and ponder
That sits disconnected from time.
It is a command in the present,
A call to action, right here, right now.
Throw down your nets far behind you
So that you don’t get caught in their snare
On the way forward.
Leave it all behind you
To gain it all in front of you
And “Follow me”

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

If you enjoyed this post, I would greatly appreciate it if you like, share, or comment on it. Follow my blog to receive notifications when new posts are published. You can find my other Christian poems, Lent poems, or inspirational poems at https://alongthebarrenroad.com/category/poetry/


 

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Christians, Stop Dividing With Hate and Follow Christ

chronicles of narnia, c.s. lewisThis weekend I was curious about a certain aspect about writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis’s life. When I sought the information on the internet, I stumbled upon a page and was appalled by the article that was written by a Christian pastor. He basically claimed that because Lewis did not come out and bash Catholicism and deem it to not be a Christian religion that he was a heretic, should not be read, questioned whether he should even be considered a Christian, and gave the impression that the “Chronicles of Narnia” are plagued by pagan myths, witchcraft, and sorcery and should not be considered Christian.

This ridiculous hated and self-righteousness is exactly what turns so many non-believers away from Christ and further tarnishes the Christian name. Are there many aspects of Catholicism that I find to be non-Biblical and apostasy? Yes. But there are also beliefs held by certain Protestant denominations that I consider to be wrong as well. Am I right? Maybe. But it is also possible I’m wrong. To conclude that someone is not a Christian just because they are a Catholic, associated with someone who is Catholic, or even doesn’t belong to your personal denomination of Christianity is a very dangerous and self-righteous game.

I have a big problem with Christians on the far right who use the Bible as a weapon and use it to defend every position they hold. Don’t get me wrong. I hold the Bible in the highest esteem. But just because you believe the Bible is inerrant does not mean that your interpretation is. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t too long ago that people were using the Bible to justify slavery and that those who didn’t hold their view were also “deviating from scripture”. There are literally thousands of Christian denominations in the world. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that not all of them are right. So when these individuals start spouting off about how all their beliefs are right and anything else is “non-Biblically based” the chance that they are right is slim to none. It is likely that all of us have certain aspects of our theology that is incorrect. Your ability to have a perfect understanding of God depends on your perfect interpretation of every verse in the Bible. Just as we all fall and sin, none of us can possibly interpret scripture perfectly.

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone else, respectfully debating someone, or trying to point out their error in love if you suspect it, but to stand upon the roof of a castle built on false pride and declaring everything under the sun except your opinion as wrong is just non-sense and frankly, if anything is non-Biblical, it’s that kind of behavior that frequently fills newspaper stories and the public’s bias towards Christianity.

People, we’ve got enough enemies in the world targeting and persecuting Christians; we don’t need to fight among ourselves. It’s time we set differences aside and agree to disagree on our issues. We need to join together as brothers and sisters in Christ and help each other grow in love. There is so much time spent debating and discussing the Bible, but no action taken. Reading scripture is not the only aspect of Christianity; following Christ is much more difficult than that. What about the poor, the sick, the suffering? What about the homeless, the mentally ill, the starving? Spending your days calling out people and accusing them as not being Christians, is not drawing anyone closer to Christ; it is pushing people away. I believe that we can learn something from each denomination and can coexist without falling to pride and self-righteousness.

The world is tired of dogma. The world is tired of religion with corrupt leaders preaching “my way is better than your way” rhetoric. I am not saying we should fall prey to relativism or deny Christ’s sometimes hard teachings. What I am saying is let’s start spreading that message with love, with joy, with peace and get rid of the constant condemnation. Let’s live in such a way that non-believers know who we are by our shining example of love. Let’s live in a way that really makes the world question their own beliefs and realize that we have a power within us that the rest of the world doesn’t. We are followers of Christ. It’s time we started acting like him.

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The Abundance of Your Mercy – A Christian Poem For Lent

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The Abundance of Your Mercy – A Christian Poem For Lent 

In the hour of my tribulation,
I fail the same trials and tests
Time and time again.
Delighting for a fleeting moment in my selfish pleasures
Before becoming quickly convicted of my sin.

Do I find peace, joy, or comfort in my lustful wallowing?
Surely not more than a meager taste,
Only to leave starving all the more.
So why do I continue to turn away from you
When you hold the keys to my prison door?

I simply don’t have an answer for my actions,
Besides some part of me that longs
For the taste of forbidden fruit.
In my moment of heated passion, my heart deviates from reason
And accepts selfish lies and denies eternal truth.

It is not only action that sentences me,
But waves of remorse and guilt that fill me up
And cut me to the core.
After all my deceit and broken promises
How do I come crawling back and call you Lord?

But let not my finite mind
Rule out the abundance of the love
And mercy that fills your cup.
Let me simply praise your name,
Humbly accept it, and drink the New Covenant up.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

If you enjoyed this post, I would greatly appreciate it if you like, share, or comment on it. Follow my blog to receive notifications when new posts are published. You can find my other Christian poems, Lent poems, or inspirational poems at https://alongthebarrenroad.com/category/poetry/


 

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My God – A Christian Poem About Jesus and Salvation

jesus on cross

My God – A Christian Poem About Jesus and Salvation

My God has hoisted up the world
And bore its weight upon his shoulders
While it was spitting in his face
And driving nails through his limbs like 2x4s.

Who descended from heaven on high
And embarked on a journey unwalkable by human flesh.
Who allowed his body to be hung on a tree
So that you and I might not taste the sting of death.

My God was not meant for sleep,
Nor to be bound by the power of the grave.
My God comes filling cups of unending mercy.
My God comes mighty to save.

Who looked into the eyes of the broken,
Understanding their pain and wiping away their tears.
Who didn’t think a distant God could be grasped,
So he humbled himself and drew near.

My God is not for the perfect and unblemished,
But for the filthy, wicked, and lost.
Who invites you with open arms to approach his table,
For he’s already paid your due with the cross.

Who healed the sick, fed the hungry,
And calmed mighty storms.
Who remained humble through brutal lashings
And reigned wearing a crown of thorns.

My God is the Good Shepherd
And gathers his sheep in his arms.
Who laid down his life
To keep them from harm.

Who came to serve, give grace,
And to pay the price that was due.
My God died for the believer,
But My God also died for you.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

If you enjoyed this post, I would greatly appreciate it if you like, share, or comment on it. Follow my blog to receive notifications when new posts are published. You can find my other Christian poems or inspirational poems at https://alongthebarrenroad.com/category/poetry/

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Hate the Sin Love the Sinner – A Christian Poem

8463251783_b01d980eeeOne of the hardest things to do as Christians is to uphold the truth of the Word, while at the same time not judging or condemning people. Comments like: “If they’re offended at what I say, they need to take it up with God because all I am doing is spreading his Word” seem to be an excuse for self-righteousness and does nothing but fuel hate and anger. Many non-believers hatred of Christianity steams from this idea that Christians are hypocritical and judgmental. In many ways, I think they have a point. But do we just sit back and let the people we care about make sinful and damaging choices without speaking up?

This topic is much easier said behind the safety of a computer screen. When I was wishy washy in my faith and even strong in my faith, I’ve never wanted to be the annoying jerk that feels they need to call out every person’s flaw and threaten them with hell if they don’t repent. But last night, someone I care about mentioned wanting to do something that is totally against God and everything I stand for. Something that I never thought in a million years I’d hear this person say. And anger fueled within me. I became the person I never wanted to be and wanted to lash out at them and tell them how wrong they were. The only way we can spread the Word lovingly is by remembering God’s mercy for us. In the midst of our sin, he sent his son, Jesus, to die for us. We can’t console with love and compassion until we realize that God’s grace is the only difference between the sinner and saint. Never compromising, but speaking from a place of love, not anger.

Loving In Spite Of Sin

Your words set my heart on fire,
Anger burns, steaming like smoldering coals,
But I can’t allow the heat
To escape my mouth.

I close my chimney and seal my lips shut.
But the pressure boils.
Smoke clouds my vision
Without the flue damper open.

How do I stay true to my heart
Without scalding the recipients with my words?
How do I strip away the pride, anger, and self-righteousness
So that only God’s voice will be heard?

How do I keep loving them
When their behaviors disgust me?
How do I walk on the path of truth
With love, but without compromise?

The bonfire burns in my belly
And ash builds on the tip of my tongue.
My conscience is convicted,
But my love is dazed and stunned.

A glance in the mirror
Reveals your divine wisdom
and shatters my arrogant pride
In broken shards scattered across the floor.

My reflection reveals
That I’m just as filthy as the next man.
In your eyes, by my own righteousness,
I am just as unclean as the darkest sin.

And I have not been able
To bathe in soap and water and scrub away
my mistakes by own own actions,
But only by bathing in your precious blood.

Guide me in grace.
May my actions and words
Always wear your face,
And may my convictions be spread with love.

– Poem Written by Justin Farley

If you enjoyed the post, you may be interested in my other Christian poems or inspirational poems https://alongthebarrenroad.com/category/poetry/


 

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Whom Shall I Send?

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.'” (Isaiah 6:8)

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Many times my selfishness wishes my ears were mute to the Lord’s whisper of “whom shall I send”. I have been searching for God my entire life and yet have never completely found him. I feel his presence, but he is not intimate. For many years I’ve wondered why he’s kept me in a middle ground with him. It almost feels better to be without God, than to have him near, but not intimate. It is like trying to be just “friends” with someone you are in love with. It causes more pain than anything.

When you live without God you can get away with turning your eyes from him and doing your own will. When you live in the middle ground, you get no comfort from sin and you’re convicted of it; at the same time, you have no one to run to in times of need. I’ve prayed for him to draw near, but found no relief. Why would God hide himself from me when I was reaching out to him? But over the past year I’ve realized that he wasn’t hiding from me, I was hiding from him. I wanted to go to God and have an intimate relationship with him without losing myself. I wanted all the benefits of his love, but I didn’t want to give him my love.

So I changed. I desperately sought out God and was willing to turn my life over to him. In the past year, I have seen drastic spiritual growth, but there is still something that is missing. I feel like I am now inside the city gates, maybe even inside his palace, but not yet intimate with him. I couldn’t understand it. I do the right things, have turned over the areas of my life I know needed changing, and spend time in the Word and prayer everyday.

But the other day I was thinking a lot about service and all the people in the world who are in desperate need. Out of the blue those dreaded words from Isaiah hit me like a ton of bricks: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Except my answer wasn’t nearly as noble as Isaiah’s. It was more like trying to hide, pretend that I didn’t hear them, or even answer “anyone but me”. I realized in that moment that I hadn’t turned everything over. There was still one area of my heart that I was guarding, and it was the reason I was still left wandering around the city and not in the throne room.

I’ve always wanted God, but I admittedly have a narcissistic personality. Not necessarily selfish, just an obsession with self. If someone asks for help I have no problem sacrificing to do so. But sometimes dwelling on myself blinds me from areas where I could be helping people who are not directly asking for it. From an early age, I knew my connection/desire to seek God was not normal. I remember really enjoying seeking God as a child and wanting to please him until I started reading stories about the lives of saints. God was always doing drastic things in their lives and having them do things they didn’t necessarily want to do. And that scared me to death.

I didn’t want someone to have complete control over me. I didn’t mind serving as long as it was on my terms, but what if God came to me and asked me to do the things that he had of the saints I’d read about? Well, from there on out I was determined to keep my distance from God. I didn’t want to turn completely away from him, but I didn’t want to be close enough to hear him either. If I stayed just outside his radar, maybe then I could get away with pleading ignorance. My greatest fear was that I was going to have a conviction to enter into Christian ministry (missionary, pastor, priest, monk, etc.) because that would mean my whole life would be centered around God. For selfish reasons, I never wanted my job to be focused on talking about God, primarily because I’m deathly afraid of public speaking.

But the other night when I heard the call, it dawned on me that I was still keeping that secret from God. It wasn’t as if I was now unwilling, but I had a grip so strong on that piece of me, that only by God appearing before me and demanding that I answer him would I say, “Here I am! Send me.” And it definitely would not have included the exclamation mark.

For all I know, God has no plans to use me in ministry. But then again, maybe he does. It doesn’t matter his plan, the point is my fear was trying to dictate the direction of my life. I thought that turning over 99% of my life over to God was good enough, but it isn’t. It takes surrendering 100% of your life to have an intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus does not tell us to pretty much die to self, but to die all the way. Anything that you keep hidden or off-limits to God puts a wall in your relationship. No secret is too dirty or wicked for God to deal with, but you have to present it to him. I think we have the tendency to pretend things will just go away if we don’t deal with them. In order to experience the intimacy of God, he has to experience your intimacy; it is not a one way street.

What question are you dreading God asking you or are covering your ears in response to? What desires and wants are you clutching onto while still seeking an intimate relationship with God? May we all have the courage to stop running around with our fingers stuck in our ears and boldly answer, “Here I am! Send me.”


 

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A New Commandment – Love One Another

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“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

A Radical Message

Over the past few days I’ve been reading the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt and only have a few dozen pages to go. I’ve enjoyed the book, but frankly many pages I’ve read clinching my teeth and trying to keep myself from getting pissed off. You see, the main theme of the book is how Christians in the west have completely lost sight of the Gospel message and how our greed and self-seeking is keeping us from Christ. It is a book that really convicts you of areas of the Bible that you know are true but you hate. It’s a topic I’ve tried to explain away or forget about, not because it’s wrong, but because I know I’m guilty. I have wrestled with this for awhile and even wrote about it briefly in an earlier post Showing the Gospel – Love One Another”.

Are You Following the Real Jesus?

We like to believe that as long as we treat the people we know decent, go to church, and even read our Bible that we’re doing the will of God. We like to think because we’re not as bad as “those” people and that we try to be good that God is pleased with us. But is he really? In our culture, Jesus is depicted as a friendly, lovable guy that even non-Christians look to for moral teaching. But is he really? Yes and no. We tend to latch on to the friendly character who makes no demands on us and wants to fix all our problems, but what about Jesus the missionary? What about Jesus the leader who demands that you “follow” him regardless of what is keeping you back? What about the Jesus who interacts with the worst sinners, who dwells with the sick, the blind, the homeless, and lame? And what about Jesus who requires you to die to yourself? You’ve probably been spending a whole lot less time with that Jesus than the friendly, lovable one. I know I have.

But isn’t that what initially attracts us to Jesus? He is like no one we’ve ever seen or will ever see. We’re dazzled by his relentless humility and his relentless desire to heal the suffering. We love how Jesus puts the Pharisees in their place, attacking them for knowing the law but adding or taking away from it or using it to keep them from helping people. Hmm…sounds about like the overwhelming majority of Christians, myself included. It is entertaining to watch Jesus humble other people on paper, but when he plays upon our hearts, it’s not so funny anymore. Because to follow him, he is calling us to relentlessly abandon ourselves too. And that’s much easier said than done, especially in our society.

Following Christ vs Believing in Christ

Christianity is steadily declining in the west, but growing rapidly in the poorest parts of the world. The common assumption is that educated societies are ruling God out of the equation or using rational thought to explain away our need for him. But I don’t think that has much to do with it at all. For some, maybe. But the majority, no. The reason Christianity is dying out in the west is because it has turned into a philosophy that only exists in thought. Christianity was never meant to be something to think about. It is something you do! Following Christ means actually following him and doing the things that he did. It means reaching out to the poor, healing the sick, and helping the less fortunate. Jesus even says “by this” people will know who you are. Would a stranger be able to tell if I am a Christian by what I do?

Faith Without Works Is Dead

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

Sounds an awful lot like the situation that America is in right now, doesn’t it? We try to defend attacks on Christianity from atheists and non-religious people with debates and evidence. But we’ll never win. When faced with two options on paper, are most going to choose option A, which says that you are your own God, that you can do whatever you feel good doing or option B, which says there is an authority over you, you must not do your own will, and you must sacrifice for the good of others? That’s not even a debate. Without God already in your life, human nature is going to pick option A every time unless option B is proven fact, which it never will be. The people that feel the need to tear down religion at all costs will never change their minds by a simple debate. Faith is not something that can be proved on paper. It can’t be or freewill would not exist. I’m not saying that the Gospel doesn’t have power on its own, but the majority of the time, the person hearing it has to be open to it for it to change them. But seeing the Gospel is a completely different story.

The Neglected Evidence

The strongest argument we have for Christianity is the one we’re neglecting the most. If we lived it out the way Jesus calls us to do, it would tip the scales in our favor. There is no other system of religion or non-religion that even comes close to giving people the power of love as Christianity does. Atheists may say they care about people, but they’ll never help people the way Christians can. If there is no God who humbled himself in human form, helped the less fortunate and who demands that we do the same, who is going to help the needy? Now there may be a few people who will, but not enough to ever make an impact. We like to believe that human beings naturally care and want to help others, but let’s stop dreaming. If this life is all there is, why in the world would people put themselves in danger or sacrifice their lives to help someone starving out in the world? They wouldn’t. That’s just human nature. And the majority of Eastern religions teach that this world is not real and the way to enlightenment is to be detached from it. That’s not going to do much for global suffering either. But Christianity says that each and every life matters and that we all have a responsibility to help those below us. Not only does the Gospel say that every life matters, but that every life should matter more than our own.

Imagine if every Christian in the world followed Jesus with the same force as the original disciples. Imagine if they were all desperately trying to end hunger, sickness, violence, and suffering. Imagine the revolutionary power that that kind of love has. Who could watch Christians without being moved by them? Who could watch without wrestling inside, wanting that kind of love? Who could see the relentless humility and not see the face of Jesus? Who could not wonder where this love is coming from? You see, that kind of love is what is going to win debates. That is what is going to open people’s hearts and move them to seek Jesus.

The Cost of Discipleship

Love is our greatest weapon against a world of nihilism, against a world of me-ism. Because without it, non-believers have many valid points. They call us hypocrites and judgmental and maybe that’s a title we’ve rightfully earned. Reading Radical this past week sure showed me I have a lot to think about in those areas. We would rather discuss theology, argue with other denominations, or judge other people than actually do what Jesus commands us. It’s a lot easier isn’t it? The Jesus that demands that we follow him is not one we love. If we’re really honest, it’s one we hate. Don’t we feel it’s a bit extreme when Jesus tells the rich man to give away all his possessions, warns that his followers will me forced to go to places without shelter, won’t let a son bury his father, or let someone say goodbye to their loved ones (Luke 9:57-62;18:18-30)? So we kind of shove those verses to the side and pretend we didn’t hear that or convince ourselves that Jesus didn’t really mean that. But if we’re recreating Jesus to fit our way of life, who is it that we are really serving? Ourselves. Jesus’ commandment is to love one another and that includes enemies and the less fortunate.  Imagine what the world would be like if more of us started actually following Jesus and stopped demanding he follow us.


 

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