Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chapter Four

The fourth chapter of The Reason for God felt so relevant to today's society. But I think I'm going to be saying that about every chapter. But this chapter really seemed so simple, and yet so profound. Summed up the chapter talks about how the Christians don't always reflect Christianity, and how God's people don't always reflect God. Why? Because we're a bunch of silly, stubborn, self-absorbed, egotistical humans.

Keller puts it this way: "The behavior of Christians...has undermined the plausibility of Christianity for so many people." Every day, ordinary people who are also Christians are failing to meet the standards God sets for us. But what people on the outside don't see, as Keller explains, is that being a Christian doesn't mean you are the best of the best. Instead, it means that you realize just how messed up you are and that you need God's grace because "our moral attempts are too feeble and falsely motivated to ever merit salvation."

Now, I'm not an expert on a lot of other religions, but it seems to me (although I may be wrong) that a lot of other religions emphasize the necessity of winning approval from God or the gods, from praying a certain way or a certain number of times or doing good works or not doing certain things. And in some ways, Christianity does, too, through the commandments and teachings. And don't get me wrong - these are so important. But they aren't how we are saved.

What does this mean? It means that Christians are going to mess up. Some people won't do "enough." Some people will do "too much," and become the people more focused on doing the Christian-y looking things than living out the love and acceptance that Christ teaches; Keller calls these "fanatics." All of these things, from the outside, make Christianity seem hollow. Because what is the point if the Christians themselves aren't doing what they tell others to do?

The point is: that isn't the point.

Although the church and the people that comprise it are ultimately epic failures, that right there is the point of Christianity. "The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." And that's why everyone is welcome. We all need a little Jesus-medicine.

Ni Hao Yall

Psalm 23

I had full intention of finishing my post about the fourth chapter of The Reason for God. And then this post came into my head, and I had to get my thoughts out.

Psalm 23 is one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized, and in the King James Version. I don't recall how or when, but I have known it by heart for as long as I can remember. It is one of my very favorites, and somehow its beautiful words speak a different meaning to me every time, in totally different circumstances, yet are always so profound and relevant. I think everyone needs a Psalm or any Bible verse like that.

The Lord is my shepherd.
Lately, I have been feeling a bit lost, purposeless almost. A large portion of that is probably because high school is over, and the college details are pretty much finalized. For a long time, doing my best in high school and getting into a good college was my purpose. I knew what to do: make my college application the best it could be. Now...what? Obviously, that what is going to college in the fall in the clearer sense, but in a way, I still feel lost. Another part of that is simply that I feel farther from God. Not as if He has moved away, but that I have drifted off, started ignoring Him. This line reminds me that He is my shepherd. As a shepherd guides his sheep, so does God guide my life. 
I shall not want.
I have been in a massive shopping mood lately. My goodness. Hours on Amazon and various other websites and going to stores. But I never buy anything. I look and look and bookmark and save, but I keep just wanting things. The $50 pair of shoes? Want them. $120 quilt? Pssh, I need that. $30 top? I really don't have one like that yet.... Honestly, it has gotten to the point the last few days that my work that needs doing, is being ignored.
I don't need that stuff. I do not need a super fancy new bedspread for college. I don't need a new wardrobe when I'm already concerned about fitting all my clothes in the dorm closet. What I need is God. Because I am giving a bunch of silly material things way more time than I'm giving Him.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.
I know God has my back, majorly. Right now my life is more peaceful than it has been in a very long time, and I am embracing that. There are so many blessings in my life, and I need to focus on praising Him for what He is giving me.
He restoreth my soul.
What I just said is especially poignant in light of where I was a year ago, sixteen months ago. It was a very rough time in my life when I felt very alone, and very hurt. My soul was broken and I remember quite literally feeling like my heart was just worn out, bruised, and sore for a long, long time. Today, I can see how far I have come. God has truly restored my soul. I am not only so much happier, but stronger and more joyful now.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
This is a reminder to me of why I choose to live how I do. It is really not easy to be a teenager or young person in this society and live my life how God commands. But I try my hardest for Him. Because honestly, God is so worth my efforts. He has done so much for me. If I can do something little for Him by trying my best to live an upright life, how can I not?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Come at me, bro.
This world can't stop me. It has nothing on me. I have God at my side. Nothing can stand against me when the King of the Universe has my back. Not even if it was Chuck Norris, Batman, Gandalf, and Doctor Who wrapped into one.
For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
 I know that God is looking out for me. On bad days or when I'm exhausted, I know that I will be just fine because I have God to talk to and the Bible to read. There is an instruction manual to life, in a sense. God's plan, though often cryptic, is laid out in the Bible. There are always words of comfort or wisdom or guidance to be found.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
I cannot even describe the blessings God has put in my life. And I feel like this can almost start to sound pretentious, but guys, I could not have done everything I have in the past four years, or year, or six months, without God. From my grades in school to extracurricular activities that I've been a part of to college and scholarships to jobs. You guys have no idea how incredibly God-orchestrated so many of those things were. And really, I don't either. I just hope I can show my gratitude in some teeny, measly way.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
When I need a reminder that it isn't this world I'm living for.