Pardon My Tangent: Hunger Games

Spoiler Warning: 
Oh, please dear one, if you are easily offended, would you mind just skipping this post? 
There will not be profanity, sex or violence, however I will be speaking of things which will reflect my personal opinion. If you find that listening to others who have a “different” opinion than you causes you undo stress, I plead for you to pass on by and  come back tomorrow. By the way, if you’re interested in where I stand with regard to communication guidelines, I highly recommend these two posts:
These should explain quite clearly where I stand which will allow you to make a most prudent decision. 

OK, here is the scoop. I read The Hunger Games, and thought the books told a decent story on their own. As a Believer when I read, I hear God and sense His Spirit- I listen and consider what is impressed upon me and am able to communicate with others (who may or may not have the same opinion as me) and in this way exercise my ability to apply what I know with what I read.
When one reads the books, you can see that they would make for captivating cinema by worldly standards.
I saw the movie. Now I do my best to steer clear of much Christian viewpoint for the fact that:

 1. I am a Christian
 2. I have the mind of Christ
 3. It’s hard enough to hear God’s voice clearly when people feel the need to jam their own opinion down your throat whether you asked or not, thank you.
4. I choose to try to keep an open mind and form my own opinions based on God’s leading and my own God given pee brain ie. think for myself as opposed to regurgitate a spin-off of what people (who I may or may not with by the way) are saying.

*PS – of course I check in with Focus on The Family occasionally- I am not a heathen, after all!

 Honestly…like a muscle one needs to exercise discernment to grow in it. Instead of avoid every single “godless” thing. Last time I checked God is sovereign. Really. Although the Hunger Game series is considered “godless”, when a believer reads these books God insights and discussion become possible. It really wearies me that some do want to make their point so much that they are unwilling to see, listen, or consider anything but their preconceived thoughts. Yet these same people will demand to be heard and understood, respected. Seems to me if you want to be listened to and understood, you need to be willing to think and make your own conclusions after reading (or seeing) what you are sharing an opinion on. God really is able to use all to bring glory to himself, in His way, and in His time. The story itself has less to do with killing than it does with political oppression…but to get that you would have to READ it.
Now if this kind of story is  just not your cup of tea, that’s fine. But I find that some will espouse on something they have no idea about based on what they heard or overheard. Which is usually coming from ignorance.
We are told to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Wise and harmless. I thought the series had compelling lessons for Christians specifically, and Americans. We have seen the future and it shall be…history repeating itself? Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Stretch yourself. 
God allows for opportunities to share truth, 
and He can use godless fiction literature to lead others 
to His wisdom. 
He used an ass, didn’t he? 
I know, you are hating me, now. Sorry. 
Don’t forget to read 1 John tonight before bed. 
I forgive you.
OK, enough about that. 
I promise to be good tomorrow- it’s Sunday after all. 

7 Strategies to Help Christians Play Nice

It’s your move.

When I first became a Christian, I spent a lot of time lamenting the fact that I did not have a wonderful Christian upbringing and spiritual heritage as so many of those I began meeting in the church. That was until a conversation I had with a friend named Faith. Not kidding that was (is) her name. Faith and I conversed about our faith. Moving right along. Faith appreciated her Christian heritage but recognized a difference in the faith we both shared. Mine being a little rough around the edges, and a radical conversion experience. Contrast that with her upbringing which kept her safe and secure in a comfortable Christianity. She told me she was a little jealous of my very raw and real relationship with the Lord, and that she had nothing radical to be saved from, apart from perhaps the comfort of her own Christian life. Funny, how God brings different people together in His Kingdom to teach us about His infinite wisdom and goodness while showing us the flaws of our own perception! The fact is I am grateful that I know Him, and He has given me this gift of faith (in addition to a friend named Faith!). A precious gift it is, and one which I will thank Him for eternally. I guess no matter which side of the fence you are on, the fact is the grass always looks greener on the side you’re not on! I listen a lot and observe with the motive of understanding myself and others better. I have compiled a short list of strategies, if you will, to address some of the issues that repeatedly come up with regard to the lives of we who are Believers.

1. When speaking  to another person, especially with different views than your own, try not to allow your mouth to contort your whole face into an expression that looks as if you are chewing clumps of defiled kitty litter.

2. Two words that don’t belong together, ever are Mean and Christian. Seems obvious. But somehow, it really is the one that trips many up, historically speaking. Radical yes, radically cruel, inhuman or down right rude, no. Please go forth and sin no more. Take a tip from the Disney Princesses: “Kindness is important, no matter what you do…” or just try opening up your Bible, anywhere where Jesus is speaking, teaching, or hanging out. That is the example. And no – you do not need to go turning over tables, it won’t have the same effect, and you will probably get arrested. You can read number 7 repeatedly (after you have read the rest) and it will all make sense in the morning.

3. Sermons are great to listen to, but really they are meant to be lived. Do your Pastor, Preacher, Priest or whoever you are receiving “Spiritual Truth” from a favor and don’t sleep through the service he spent all week preparing. Most of all ask God, what He wants you to hear, instead of thinking of all the “other” people who could benefit from hearing today’s message.

4. If there is a certain person or group of people who you feel strongly about “sharing” God’s truth with and yet at the same time  feel a strong loathing for simultaneously. Chances are they are not your mission field. At least not yet. Please stay home, shut up and pray instead. You will make it easier for those Christians who truly have a heart for the person or persons to be about God’s business without hindrance. The truth is spoken in love. Truth without love equals judgement. Stop judging and start loving. On your knees, then, get to it.

5. Please stop reading every book that comes out of popular Christianity and neglecting your own exposure to The Living Word. Jesus said that “Man shall not live by Bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God”. How is it that any Christian can follow Christ without reading what He said daily? A wise woman once told me “. Read Jesus’ words every day, if you want to walk with and know Him”. Not just once in a while. You eat every day, right?

6. Stop playing favorites. Following Jesus means denying the flesh. Christianity is no place for cliques. Boundaries are healthy, cliques are not. It will drive your supposed evangelical efforts into the ground if people are not willing to be real, be gracious and just accept others who are different from them. Period. This means not just saying hello to new people and getting disgusted when they don’t respond the way you expect but, just finding ways to invite them into your life. On their terms NOT yours. It’s called grace. If you have received it, you can give it.

7. Watch your “Blind Spots”. We are to be in the world, not of it right? What are Blind Spots? Glad you asked. They are those places that the Holy Spirit has not convicted a person yet (Believer or Unbeliever) and you feel compelled to reveal, judge, slander, whisper, condemn etc. in a candy coated Christian way which, by the way, fools no-one and is unkind. Read number two again. You are not the Holy Spirit. Re -read number four. Three words for you: God is Able. No really, He does not need your help. Messiah has come and it is not you. Check the mirror. If you disagree, go back to number five.

Well there it is, this is not meant to offend, but if it does, I have another post for you coming up soon called:
“Why Christians Should Be The Least Likely To Be Offended”.  Stay tuned!

A New Israel ?

This is what the Lord says- Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord almighty:
I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
~ Isaiah 44:6

  I have a lovely friend who comes from another country. Recently we had the opportunity to discuss differences between our native countries and how the Lord Jesus found each of us on our distant continents, embraced us in love and turned our lives around. What she had to say got me thinking about this great country I am grateful to live in, which is perceived by most outside nations to be a “Christian Nation”.
     When she first came to the USA she was surprised to find the country she believed to be founded as a nation under God’s authority and Lordship was not unlike God’s own original chosen people, Israel, who were chosen to be a light to all other nations and yet failed, repeatedly in following the God who had chosen, founded and ordained them to be identified in Him. She expressed to me how difficult it was to see this “Christian Nation” with so much head knowledge but no heart for the ever present, invisible, God. As an outsider coming from a country which is comparatively poor with limited freedoms she anticipated coming to a land of opportunities, promise and Christian hope. Coming from a culture which worships many gods she had heard about the country which had one God- The One True, Living God. The hope and truth of this One, Holy God and freedom to worship Him with access to His Word inspired her faith to grow stronger. She shared how the Lord Jesus was able to meet her personally and reveal himself to her and how exciting, real and wonderful it was. This was all prior to her coming to America. Still, as she came to live in a once dreamed of and promised land something began to stir for her beneath the surface. These stirrings came as she began to seek God in this foreign, faraway place and realized that amidst the many church buildings that dotted the countrysides, and despite the spiritual heritage of a rich Christian nation all was not as it would appear. She finds herself challenged not by the reality of crime in our country or the lack of love for God, disregard for truth or even rejection of moral absolutes by the general population. She knows better. She is most challenged by the apathy and complacency of those who supposedly know the same Jesus that she knows, yet seem to be desensitized and even disconnected from His heart. Wow. That is one big, giant Selah, and wake up call to the church. Sometimes it takes an outsider to come and speak to remind us of the Jesus that longs for us to shake off religion and follow him with total dependency and mold-able, available, receptive hearts! No wonder God used prophets. Still does, my friends- the question is, are we listening for His voice? Are we willing to hear and repent? We need to guard ourselves from the idols of today. They are subtle and appear good as we know the enemy of our souls comes as a beautiful angel of light, not the abhorrent being he truly is- Remember, there is no truth in him. We must guard against that which appears to be good and that is idolatry in God’s eyes. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says that the man who fears the Lord will avoid all extremes. (Ecclesiastes 7:18, NIV) Look around friend, our culture longs for simplicity but is driven to extremes in almost every pursuit. Who do you think is fueling that? I have found that God is in the balance as I continually walk by faith. He leads me away from idolatry and into the beauty and wonderful knowledge of His grace. Let’s examine ourselves before God and stop comparing ourselves to others. Let’s remember who we represent and that He himself IS Love.

Lord, I pray  I am never guilty of being apathetic or complacent in my faith. Give me ears to hear when you want to direct me in love. Let me not speak unless, I myself am led by love. Lord, may I never be desensitized to your heart. But may my faith burn and glow brighter, hotter and stronger with each passing day. Keep me from the extremes that lead to the unperceived idols of the day. Let me not be driven by or to extremes but drawn by You alone into that which is good. I pray this for each who reads these words, as well. In Jesus name.

Further reflection: 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, 1 Peter 2:9-12, John 15:19, Ephesians 3:6, Mark 12:29, Isaiah 44:6, 49:6, 9:2, Matthew 5:13-16, John 3:19-21, 1 John 1:5-7

  But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
       He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out it’s roots by the stream.
It does not fear when rain comes; it’s leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
~ Jeremiah 17:7-8
Until next time, I continue In His Grace, with thanksgiving,

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