The Forgotten

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I see that you are here,
your head aching and your
hands lined with your years.

I am not afraid to touch you,
though your eyes water and
you feel forgotten.

If you could reach out a hand
to touch his cloak,
you would.

If you could fall at his feet,
trembling and seen,
you would.

For now, see that I am here, and
place your throbbing head in my hands.
Do not be afraid, he will not let you go.

 

 

 

Photo: Volkan Olmez|Unsplash
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Untitled

by Hassani Hussein

Amid the confusion, the chaos and the pain
A man emerged, Jesus was his name.
Walking with nothing but God as his aid
And the marks of a Great One between his shoulder blades.

In a barn the revelation came.
Gabriel said, “Mary, you will have a Son and Jesus will be his name.”
She was blessed by God by being the selected one
And surely he was and has always been the Chosen One.

In approaching the “wicked” he had the best of skills,
He purified them with grace and good will.
The perfection they never could attain,
He accomplished through his suffering and pain.

The greatest of men, saving people was his goal
From all honorable people he was vast.
As his was a mission of the greatest task.

He taught us about the Creator of heaven and earth.
God, the one who gives us all more than our worth,
He’s the One we call on and he hears.
He’s always by our side, so we feel no fears,
Helps us back up when we’ve taken a fall.
God, whose epic mercy will shine above all.

Jesus, your words are here to help us through
Every one of them is true.
I’ve never seen you but I love you so.
And in your footsteps, I’ll try to follow.
A smile you give me may stop my fall
You’re the bright rose, and the mercy for all.

Christians Are Hypocrites

This is a continuation in the series “What Are You Afraid Of?” based on a discussion I had with a friend over dinner who said she was afraid I would try to convert her to Christianity.  One of the things she said was that Christians are hypocrites.

When I left my law firm several months back, I had conversations with as many people as I could who I had come to know to tell them I was leaving.  I took the opportunity to describe that I would be going into Christian ministry.  One of the men I told responded by recalling a lawyer he knew who was a “Christian lawyer” and the most difficult lawyer he had ever dealt with because he lied frequently and was belligerent.  At some point, he also mentioned the “Christian politicians” we hear about in the news.  His point was that the Christians he knows or has been exposed to are hypocrites.  They claim to be holy and righteous, but their actions demonstrate the opposite.  This leads, I think, to the conclusion that if Christians are this way, who wants to be one?

I remember feeling heartbroken about his perspective of Christians.  How often I had had this same view.  I remember becoming very aware about what a heavy thing it is to be called a Christian, one who carries the very name of Christ in your identity.  From a linguistic standpoint, when you describe yourself as a Christian, you are saying you belong to Christ.  The “-ian” means “belonging to.”  And “belong to” means to be the property of, to be a part of or adjunct to, and to adhere to.  In Romans, Paul describes himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus” and describes the gospel as a call to “belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1) and to be declared righteous in God’s sight based not on anything we do, but based on faith in Jesus who is righteous and holy and whose actions bear this out perfectly (Romans 3).

I respond to the assertion that Christians are hypocrites this way: First, I acknowledge the truth of it, at least in my life.  I belong to Jesus Christ.  My actions do not always demonstrate this.  I say God loves me, but I often act like he doesn’t.  I say there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but you should hear the things I believe about myself sometimes.  I say I trust God and there is no reason to worry or fear.  I worry.  I fear.  Second, I am clear that I carry Jesus’ name in my identity not because of my own holiness and righteousness, but because of his.  Third, I do not share my opinion as to whether someone else is a true Christian or not.  Fourth, I continue to ask God to, as he has promised, transform me into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and help me be like Jesus in this world (1 John 4:17).  I remind myself that I am a follower of Christ, not a follower of Christians.

How do you respond to the assertion that Christians are hypocrites?

What Are You Afraid Of?

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Not too long ago, a friend of mine told me over dinner that she was afraid I might try to convert her.  When I asked her why she thought that, she explained that whenever we were together, I seemed at peace, told stories that sounded like miracles, and listened to her without judging.  I asked whether these things seemed inauthentic to her, but she said no, they seemed perfectly authentic.  I was stumped.

“So, you’re worried that if you ‘converted,’ you might be at peace, experience miracles, and be able to listen without judgment?” I asked, smiling.  “Really,” I said, “what are you afraid of?”  She smiled back and we spent the next couple hours talking about her fears, which had at one point been my fears:

  • I’m kind of screwed up and I don’t think I qualify.

  • My friends and family wouldn’t get it.

  • I don’t know enough.

  • I don’t want to give up stuff I love.

  • What if the whole thing is a sham?

  • I don’t really think I need it.

  • Christians I have encountered are hypocrites.

  • I have tried reading the Bible, and I don’t understand most of it.

After this conversation, I realized how important it is to remember that I had these same fears and questions, and I struggled with them.  These fears are real and deeply held because they get to the core of who we are and how we are.  As I look back, becoming a Christian was a little like walking off a 9,000 foot mountain into the sky wondering if the parachute would really work.  I also realized how important it is to be clear about how to respond with love and with truth, but also with the acknowledgment that I don’t have it all figured out, and probably never will in my lifetime.

So, for the next several weeks, I’m going to explore how I respond to these fears and questions, how they manifested themselves in me or in people I’ve talked to, and how to seek God’s guidance in responding with his heart and his words.  I would love for you to join me and to let me know what you’re afraid of or how you respond to these fears and questions.

Are You Embarrassed by Jesus?

Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to share your faith in Jesus with people you know – like people at work, your friends, and your family?  So much so that maybe you don’t do it much anymore.  Is it the embarrassment that creeps into your heart?  You know what I mean, don’t you?  Haven’t you had a conversation with someone that falls into one of these categories and after disclosing your faith in Jesus, you feel embarrassed, like you wish you hadn’t said anything?  You wonder what the other person must be thinking and if they will still respect you.  Somehow this feeling doesn’t arise with strangers typically, but only with people you know.  This happened to me at a lunch with work friends.  After accidentally mentioning my faith in Jesus, I was overwhelmed with embarrassment.  But I wanted to push the feeling down and away because it scared me to know that there is something about Jesus that embarrasses me.  The feeling calls too many things into question, doesn’t it?

Frederick Buechner, in a sermon called The Sign by the Highway, tells the story of a man, who, while driving on the highway, sees a large white sign that says: “Jesus Saves.”  His immediate reaction is to wince with embarrassment. Buechner explains that one reason this embarrassment comes is that the words “remind us of old-time religion and the sawdust trail and pulpit-pounding, corn-belt parsons, of evangelism in the sense of emotionalism and fundamentalism.”  But there is something deeper.  Buechner goes on to say that “Jesus Saves” embarrasses us because it implies that we need to be saved.  These two simple words carry our vulnerability, inadequacy, desperation, and deepest longing.  What could be more embarrassing to our me-centered, strong-willed, and fiercely independent selves?

Sharing my faith in Jesus with people I know and have a relationship with gives rise to similar feelings.  Part of it is my fear of being rejected because of association with pre-conceived, negative notions about who Christians are. But the deeper part is that although I present myself as put together, in control, independent, and capable, what I really am, and what my reliance on Jesus exposes, is the opposite.  I am in desperate need of someone to save me.  When I show this to someone else, my ego takes a serious hit, but often, in the process, the other person is no longer distracted by me and sees Jesus.

Embarrassment, as uncomfortable and wrong as it feels, in this context, is an incredible gift.  If we notice and embrace it instead of turning from it in fear, it actually pulls us into deeper reliance on Jesus because it reminds us of our need for him and the fact that he has saved us.  Otherwise, we can tend to think we’ve got it covered or that we can and need to save ourselves.

Have you felt this embarrassment in Jesus before?

Can you see it as a gift from God to remind you of your need and ability to rely on him?

Scripture to consider:

John 16:16-33

Psalm 42