scienceSo you’re a Christian.  And it’s not always easy.  You do your best to live like Jesus.  But you often find yourself biting your lip or being criticized for what you believe.  It gets old.  You’re the minority, or so it feels.  Spirituality comes up in different situations and sometimes you’re caught off guard.  Afterward, you wish you would have said something, stood up for what you believe in.  Or maybe you just don’t know what to say.  That’s why I’ve written this list.  This is everything you wish you could tell everybody.  Well, I’ll admit, maybe it’s not everything, but it’s a start!  Here are some responses to 10 issues that Christians care about and want to be heard about.

1. I’m not narrower than you are

I hear this all the time: “Christians are so narrow minded.”  I heard it on NPR this morning, in fact.  The person being interviewed said, “We just want Christians to make room in their views for other views.”  I thought to myself, “That’s dumb.”  Because the person being interviewed wasn’t making room in her views for the Christian view.  She was being just as narrow.  So before you criticize Christians for being narrow, keep in mind that you’re being very narrow.  You’re trying to play the victim, when in actuality, you’re the one squeezing us out.

2. Homosexuality

It’s fashionable to uphold the homosexual agenda these days, so much so that anyone who does not hold this view, is persecuted.  Again, can’t we make room for other beliefs?  The Bible says that practicing homosexual acts is sin, so what are we supposed to do with that?  Christians are “people of the Book.”  Are we supposed to go against Scripture?  Are you really sure that you want to go against the Bible?  We had better think twice before going against God’s word.  It’s not something to do lightly.  Do you really think it’s wise to go against a book that has existed and inspired for thousands and thousands of years, in order to side with a lot of contemporary cultural dogma?  Are you sure you know better?  Really?  And, for the record, those who struggle with homosexuality can be Christians.  In fact, only sinners can be Christians.  Christianity is not open to anyone who is perfect.

3. Science

Christians are not against science.  God created humans to practice topnotch science.  God wants us to understand our world and use our minds to make it better.  That’s why he put us here on the earth that he created.  Science is not mutually exclusive with faith.  By learning about our world, we learn about the Maker of our world.

4. Friendship

I’ve heard some people say before, “I don’t need the church, because I’ve got my buddies at the bar; and they accept me and treat me better than people in the church.”  It all sounds so noble, until you think about it.  I’ll admit, there are some real bums in the church, but that’s not the majority of true Christians.  Let’s just think about those “bar friends” for a moment.  I’ve been around those types before, and, from my observations, they treat you nice to your face, but will be the first to stab you in the back when you walk away.  I’ve seen it over and over again.  They have such conditional love.  So, before you make fun of people in the church, be sure to think as critically about those outside of the church.

5. Mocking

Our culture loves to make fun of Christians.  I’ve experienced this over and over, too.  While I’m not going to tell you to stop, I simply want to point it out.  I just want you to notice how much this happens: keep track of all the times that Christians are poked at during your day (television, online, movies, music, at school, at work, etc.).  You’ll be surprised how much this happens.  Again, it’s fine that we’re made fun of, but just so long as you’re aware of it.

6. Yes, I actually want to go to church

Yes, I actually want to go to church!  Those who are not Christians are surprised by this.  “Why would you actually want to go to church…and multiple times per week?  Yuck!”  Just think about what it must mean if someone actually wants to go to church.  It can only mean that they’ve found something satisfying that they can’t get enough of.  So before you mock us for wanting to go to church, realize that maybe you’re missing something.  Maybe you’ve misunderstood what church is, what a relationship with God is, what we do at church, the kinds of people you’ll find at church, and so forth.  Could it be that church is actually amazing?

7. So, my clothes are outdated…

I don’t have the stuff you have, because I might not have the same priorities that you have.  I’ll admit, my clothes are outdated, my car is falling apart, my home is small, and I’ve got a flip phone, but there’s a reason for it!  During WWII, our country had to put on a “wartime mentality,” conserving food, rationing luxuries, etc.  Why?  Because our nation was at war and we needed to keep our focus on the war effort.  Likewise, Christians are living to serve God and others, so they often don’t take care of their own needs.  They “ration” their own possessions, so that they can give more to those who are truly in need.  We’d rather serve others than serve ourselves.  I know what you’re thinking, you know some Christians who live rather opulently—yes, there are exceptions.

8. I am praying for you

Whether you realize it or not, whether you ask for it or not, I am praying for you.  Did you know that?  Christians regularly pray for those who are in their lives (at work, school, community, etc.).  They long to show you God’s love, do a kindness for you, and care for you.  They might not always get the chance to show you their hearts, but, know that you are in them.  You might not know this, but, in any given situation, the Christian in the room will be the one who will most likely defend you, take a punch for you, and show you the greatest care.  Remember that the next time you catch yourself or someone else mocking us.  In fact, behind your back, when we meet at church, we share stories about you, how our hearts break for you, how much we care for you, and how often we’re looking for opportunities to show you God’s love.  We’re often very hard on ourselves when we fail to live up to our Savior’s calling.  But we pick ourselves up and try again the next day.

9. I don’t think that I am better than you

Some believe that Christians think they are better than everyone else.  That is definitely not true.  I am not better than you.  I am a sinner, I need help; and if left to myself, I’d make a wreck of my life.  I’m hopeless, helpless, and full of junk.  The only difference is that God has stepped into my life and saved me.  To be a Christian is not to be better than others, but to have faith in the grace of God.  I want nothing more than for you to know God’s grace.  I long for you to know that God loves you, that he took on human flesh in order to know your plight and release you from it.  Jesus absorbed the punishment for your sins in his body on the cross, so that we could be free from guilt and condemnation.  But there’s more, Jesus rose from the dead and stands as our inviolable source of hope.  Life does not end in the grave, but in resurrection.  I am not better than you; we both need God’s grace in the same amount.  And if God can save me, then he can save you.

10.  I could learn a lot from you

So you know, Christians can learn a lot from those who are not Christians.  We need you!  We’re not trying to put up any walls, but tear them down.  I’m sorry if you’ve had a bad experience with Christians, just like I’m sure you’re sorry that we’ve had a bad experience with non-Christians.  But I value you and would love to talk about Jesus with you.

You can probably think of exceptions to each of these.  You know of so-called Christians who do not live up to these statements.  So perhaps these are a challenge to both Christians and non-Christians.

lions head

Emily Danielle Photography

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if God really cares for us.  In today’s audio post, Sam explores this question and helps us to see God’s love for us.  He recalls a line from C.S. Lewis’ story The Magician’s Nephew, in which Polly says it’s as if all things were coming, “out of the lion’s head.”  This was first heard nationwide on the Moody Radio Network.  If you enjoyed this post, then please share it with a friend.  Click the player below to access the file.  And thanks!

Emily Danielle Photography

Emily Danielle Photography

I was speaking to a group of kids in Chicago from Lydia Home, which is an organization that takes care of kids when their families are not safe. These kids either had deceased parents, incarcerated parents, incapable parents, or unsafe parents. I told them the story of Joseph from Genesis 39. Right away, I made sure that they knew that having faith is not easy. Christianity is not for cowards. You have to be tough to believe in Jesus Christ. Joseph had been rejected by his family, his brothers had faked his death and sold him to foreigners, he was bought and turned into a slave, he was falsely accused, thrown in prison, tempted, and seduced. Those who think that Christianity is for the weak, don’t know Joseph. Here are the ten lessons that I shared with them.

1. God allows bad things to happen to us.

In Genesis 39:1, we learn that Joseph was “bought” from the Ishmaelites. Can you imagine being “bought” like a piece of property? This was the second time that he was sold and bought. But it was all part of God’s plan. I know that this is a tough lesson—remember, Christianity is not for cowards—but God allows bad things to happen to us. God is not the source of evil, but God uses evil to accomplish his purposes. Just think of any character in the Bible; in every case, God allows bad things to happen to them. This is the “norm.” If life is hard for you, then your life is “normal.” But take heart, nothing can separate God’s people from his love and everything that he allows is designed to move us one step closer to him.

2. The Lord is with us, even when it seems like he is not.

Over and over again, we’re told in Genesis 39 that the “Lord was with Joseph” (2, 3, 21, 23). God might cause us to go through hard times, but he goes with us through them. He does not stand back, but plunges into our trials with us. That’s a beautiful preposition: with. Notice that it doesn’t say that God was “against” Joseph. Most of the time, when we go through trials, we think that God is “against” us. When I told the kids from Lydia home this, I asked them about these two prepositions, “Think about a trial that you’ve gone through; did it seem like God was ‘with’ you or ‘against’ you?” Right away, some hands shot up in the air. I called on one of the little girls, who was about eight years old. She said, “when I was being raped, it felt like God was against me.” The room was silent. I validated her response, then called on the next kid. He said, “When I was being beat, it didn’t seem like God was with me.” I validated his response, and then called on the next hand, and the next. Every time, the kids made a statement just like the first two.

As a speaker, I was tempted just to melt into tears, backing off of the point I was trying to make. But I knew better. These were tough kids and they needed a strong answer. Staring down at the text of Genesis 39, seeing the life of Joseph and countless others throughout the Bible who endured brutal circumstances, I was able to say, “The Lord was not against you, but with you.” I know that’s hard to believe, but Christianity is not for cowards. God is with us, even when it seems like he is not.

3. God can cause you to prosper, wherever you’re at and no matter how bad the circumstances.

Because the Lord was with Joseph and Joseph maintained his belief, God caused him to succeed. “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands” (2, 3). Even when Joseph was in prison after being falsely charged with rape, we read, “The Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” (23). God’s economy is bold, isn’t it? God puts his children into the most dismal circumstances in order to show his power. God is not afraid of suffering. When he puts you into a trial, he knows that you have what it takes to succeed.

Think of a flower seed. We expect seeds only to grow in ideal circumstance, with sufficient water, light, and soil. But God’s seeds are different; his flowers will grow anywhere and he likes to prove it. God can plant his seeds on concrete, and they will still grow into flowers. He can dump acid on them, and his seeds will still grow and succeed. He is not afraid to plant his seeds—you and I—in difficult circumstances, because he knows that we still can grow.

We are tempted to think that our circumstances need to get better before we grow, but that’s not how God’s economy works. God’s economy says: my people will get better before their circumstances do. God’s work in us is the source of hope, not his work in our circumstances.

We often say, “When X,Y, and Z start going well for me, then I can thrive.” But God says, “My flowers can grow and thrive anywhere.”

4. Don’t get bitter, get better!

Related to the last point, wherever God has planted you, work with the best of your ability. That’s what Joseph did (3-6; 22-23). Wherever he was placed, he did his best. He didn’t get bitter, but he got better. This is what God created us to do, did you know that? It’s our original God-given purpose, to bring order out of chaos, rooted in God’s command to us in Genesis 2:15. God puts us into situations that are wild and unkempt gardens, saying to us, “Get to work!” Bring order from this mess. Do what you were created to do. Leave it better than you found it. Do you wonder why God keeps putting you into out-of-control situations? It’s because he has made you to be a gardener, a farmer who sows and reaps seeds of hope.

I told the kids at Lydia home, “You all have great reasons to be bitter. You all have great reasons for giving up. But that is not what God is calling you to do. He knows how tough life has been for you, but he is with you and he can cause you to succeed. Maybe some of you, because of what you’ve been through, never thought that you could succeed. Listen to me and hear me say to you, ‘You can!’” Christians are called to face the odds, never to give up, and persevere in the promises of God.

5. You will be tempted.

Just because God was with Joseph did not mean that Joseph would not be tempted. He was. In verses 6-7, we learn that his master’s wife was trying to seduce him, saying to him day after day, “Lie with me.” Being tempted is not a sign that God has left you. And it’s not an excuse to surrender, but a catalyst to fight.

6. The best way to fight temptation is to refuse and run, not to negotiate or reason.

Joseph simply “refused” every time he was tempted (8). And, eventually, he ran away (12). This is the best strategy when dealing with temptation. We’re not called to negotiate with a temptation, to debate with it, or to try to reason our way out. We’re not strong enough to negotiate; the temptation will overcome us. The best strategy is to run away, for we cannot outwrestle our temptations. Don’t try to wrestle a bear, but flee away from it as soon as possible.

7. All sin is really against God.

When his master’s wife said to him, “Lie with me!” Joseph responded by saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (9). Notice that Joseph did not say, “How then can I sin against my master?” Rather, he said, “against God.” He knew that all sin is ultimately against God. Did you know that your sins are not just against other people, but against the living God? Even when we’re going through hardships, our sins are still against God.

8. Temptation increases in power.

To be a Christian, you must be strong. The longer you fight against a temptation, the stronger you need to be, because the heavier the temptation will get. Giving into a temptation when it first presents itself is for the weak. But what if you resist? The next time you are tempted, you will need to be stronger. Imagine bar with weights on it. The more you resist, the more weights that are placed on the bar and the stronger you need to be. Some might think that Christians are weak; but, actually, they are the strongest, for God exercises their souls in the gym of temptation.

9. It’s never too late to pull out of temptation.

I make this observation from verses 11-12, when the woman has his garments in her seducing hands. Even then, Joseph does not capitulate, but fights. It’s never too late to pull away from temptation. Joseph could have said, “Well, since she’s right here and has my robe in her hands, I might as well give in.” He doesn’t. Even on the brink, he refuses. You might be there now. Know that it’s never too late to pull out.

10 The Lord is with us and shows us his steadfast love.

There’s a special kind of love mentioned in verse 21, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor.” This “steadfast love” is God’s covenant love. It’s loyal, enduring love. It’s stabilizing love, for when your feet are slipping. Nothing will separate us from God’s steadfast love, even at cost to himself. He will make sure that we have his love, no matter our circumstances.

Think about a person who is stuck on the train tracks, in the face of an oncoming train. What is the best way to show that person love? The best way to show him love is not to give him a winning lottery ticket, to speak nice things about him, or to fill his stomach with food. The best way to show him love would be to pull him off the tracks. God’s covenantal love always keeps in mind the oncoming train and always does what’s best for us. It has in mind the bigger picture, the things we cannot see. God’s steadfast love ensures that we will be with him in Paradise for eternity.

It’s goal is not to keep us out of trials, but to keep us in a relationship with him. Ask yourself, “Is my trial keeping me from God, or is it pushing me toward him?”

Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.

Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.

Emily Danielle Photography

Emily Danielle Photography

Our lives are like a song.  God is the Composer.  Each note is like another day, hung on the staff of time.  A song with just one note is fairly drab.  A good composer uses all kinds of notes, so the song is dynamic, compelling, and beautiful.  Every day of your life is another note.  Some days are high and some are low.  Some are short and some are drawn out.  There are quick eighth notes and slow whole notes.  Some are harmonized with others, but some stand completely alone.  Some rattle with dissonance.  Some are loud fortissimo and some are soft pianissimo.  Some replay an old familiar theme, but others begin a new theme.  Some are slurred together, but others are distinct.  Some are happy allegro notes and others are sad grave notes.  Some days, there are even “rests.”  Though we each have a different part in this symphony, all of the parts are arranged together for the same song.  Everyone is needed for this great symphony of God’s glory. 

This is the music that God hears as he composes each day of our lives.  While we label our days as either “good” or “bad,” depending on what happened, God labels our days as “music,” for even our bad days contribute to the score.  God selects his instrumentalists from every corner of the earth, all who were created and formed for the song of his glory.  We are secured members of his orchestra, practicing our song here so that one day we can perform it before his throne in heaven.  God says to us, “I have created you for my glory.”  This means that one day, we will fully come alive.  We’ll finally wake up and experience life as we never have before, as the arteries of our souls expand to full capacity, drinking in the love of God until we think we’re going to burst.  But we never do, for our capacity to enjoy him swells according to the boundaries of his presence.

Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.

Sam Kee is a husband, father, pastor, and author.