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Trying to be a Christian Again …

October 28, 2012

This morning I was reading an article on President Obama’s spiritual journey over the past four years (during his Presidency), and came across a quote from him that struck a chord.

“I came to realize that without a vessel for beliefs, without an unequivocal commitment to a particular community of faith, I would be consigned at some level to always remain apart.”  He said this in reference to his salvation experience and being baptized and joining the Trinity church in Chicago.

Due to what I would call, “Divine Providence” as well as God calling on my heart, this struck a deep chord within my heart because this morning, like most all Sunday mornings I woke up wishing I had somewhere to go to church.  I miss connecting with a community of faith. My heart is grieved … it is truly grieved at this loss.

So, I wake up this morning and this is the first article I read …

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/27/in-obamas-first-term-an-evolving-christian-faith-and-a-more-evangelical-style/?hpt=hp_c1

And as I read it, tears are rolling down my face.

I remember when I first heard the name Barack Obama, and that he might be a contender for the presidency.  I am ashamed to say that my first thought due to the sound of his name, was, “He’s Muslim.”  It was my aunt Martha who told me about him and she insisted that he was not Muslim.  (because that has to matter, right?)

As the 2008 elections (primaries and all) went into full throes, I became intrigued by the philosophy and rhetoric of Barack Obama.  So I decided to research his background, starting with “Dreams of My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope” — two of his personal auto-biographical works.   With those same claims that he’s really a Muslim bearing down from all sides, again, “Divine Providence” would put me in some situations where I had to learn more about Islam and Muslim culture.  I believe by God’s design I was challenged to face and deal with any prejudice and misunderstandings that I was holding onto regarding this.  It was almost like God was insisting that I “pee or get off the pot” with my critical thinking.

As I studied then, and continue to study and think critically, I am convinced of a few important FACTS concerning Barack Obama’s faith …

1)      As the Bible says, “God sees the heart of man …” I’m certain there are people in this world and even in the days of King David, who “questioned” or doubted his commitment to God.  Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that “he was a man after God’s own heart.”  The Bible also tells us of his incredibly immoral decisions and failures. And still … he prayed and he praised and he worshipped God and begged God to cleanse his heart and direct his path … and God loved David.  AND God loves Barack Obama! (whether His children do or not)

2)      Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9 says, “that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”   Barack Obama has and continues to do this daily … I believe that he is a follower of Christ, thus he is NOT MUSLIM. He professes this in his written works, his speeches and there are many spiritual leaders who work with him that attest to his faith’s journey. 

3)      Barack Obama’s faith, and “faith journey” is ultimately between him and God — just like mine and anyone else who walks or has walked the face of this earth.  How dare we question his relationship with God?   We will “each” answer for ourselves and I do believe there is a verse in Matthew 7 that says, “Why do you notice the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”   That’s so very arrogant.  We need to examine our own “audacity” as we scrutinize a fellow brother in Christ.

As I read over the referenced article, I am reminded of how my faith has been questioned and scrutinized by others and even sometimes … by me.  It’s a painful, hurtful encounter — what I now believe is a weapon of spiritual warfare.  But, even with that knowledge, I struggle to understand why those who claim to follow Christ choose to be “agents” of spiritual warfare for and toward others.  (And don’t stake any claim to being a “fruit inspector” because I’ve got a whole other message about that)

When I was first saved, I was overwhelmed with the presence of Jesus in my heart, and the manifestation of His Love through those who were a part of the community of believers I joined.  I was like a sponge trying to “get all of Him and the Bible” that I could because I wanted to  be a “good Christian”  and “fit in” and not feel like an outsider anymore.  

One thing I didn’t realize early in my faith journey is that “it is a journey” — “a marathon” and by no means a sprint.   I also did not realize that even “Christians” or Christ-followers are fallible — each will sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).   Thus, God’s GRACE is demonstrated daily in this living, breathing relationship with Jesus (Romans 5:8).   He is faithful, and just to forgive us of our sins when we confess our sins to Him. (1 John 1:9)

And yet, we who follow Him, are not so gracious.  Matter of fact, while ANY sin that we commit breaks the heart of God, we tend to put sins on a scale of “acceptable” and “unacceptable.”  Big Sins vs. Little Sins!  A preacher friend of mine once explained it this way:     “Sins are simply a manifestation of SIN.  And what is SIN?  Sin is not believing God.” 

So, if you bear false witness against your neighbor, such as “Obama is a Muslim” — then you are demonstrating that you don’t believe what God says in the Ten Commandments.  If you wish for “or covet” your neighbor’s house/car/wife/donkey … once again, you are not believing God and what He says about doing that.  If you steal, meaning “take something that is not yours” — whether it be a penny on the street, a pencil from the office, or a pot of money from the bank, you are not believing God.  AND yes, if you have an adulterous affair, or murder someone, or if you take the Lord’s name in vain, or worship something (money/food/drugs/people/statues) more or instead of Him —- YOU DON’T BELIEVE GOD and this is SIN!

Recalling my own journey “with Jesus,” my faith and our relationship has evolved and it has grown.  Where I could once only digest milk, and throughout the years I have lived both as an anorexic and bulimic when it comes to feeding on the Word of God, I can attest to this … that my hunger or craving or need for the spiritual nutrition and sustenance of God’s Word has never waned.  I need it. I cannot live without it. And when I don’t get it, I feel starved and malnourished.

Just like our bodies are ever changing and evolving and growing … so are our spiritual souls. We thirst and hunger for righteousness and nothing will ever satisfy but God and His Son, Jesus.  This can be deemed by some as “Christianese” or “religious rhetoric” — but for those who have experienced this longing and have “tasted to see that the Lord is good” — WE KNOW IT’S TRUE and AUTHENTIC.

So why can’t Barack Obama, like me and you, have a journey too?  Why must he be “condemned”[ by those who say they love and believe God], for the same growing, evolving, learning and crisis of belief that each and every follower of Christ goes through and comes out on the other side, stronger/wiser/deeper and in a more authentic, transparent relationship with God?

Perhaps as President of the United States he is expected to defend himself and his faith more than the average Joe. Is that right??  So if he has done that and professes Jesus as his Savior and if he continuously cites his faith and scriptures (teachings of Jesus) as his inspiration and motivation … how can we say he is not the “right kind of Christian (if he is actually one)?”  Or how can we continue to doubt his relationship with Jesus altogether?

AND by the way, when was the last time that you were called up and did DEFEND YOUR FAITH and beliefs?   Did whomever you were speaking with “take you at your word?”

1 Peter 3: 15-17 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

All this still reminds me of an encounter I once had with someone whom I now recognize was working as an agent of the enemy through spiritual warfare.

Again … my heart ached to be in church … to hear His Word taught and preached … to sing songs of praise and worship … to fellowship with a community of believers.  But I was fighting off fiery darts from every direction. I was beaten up by words of disdain and disrespect from “agents of evil.”  I was failing in most every aspect of my life, but trying to hang on to whatever shred of hope I had which was founded in my relationship with Jesus.  But I felt pressured to prove that relationship was true and real.

And in the midst of these struggles, my faith was mocked through the words of a woman  who consistently kept strife stirred my family], when she remarked, “Oh, I heard you were  trying to be a Christian again?”

A weak/broken/leaky vessel, her words pierced my heart … and I lay across my bed weeping and crying out to God … “Yes. YES! YES I AM trying to be a Christian again! I’m trying but I’m obviously failing.  I’ll never be of any use to You, God!”  

Through my journey of faith, I have come to recognize the spirit behind those mocking comments.  I have also come to realize that I don’t have to “try to be a Christian” — I am a Christian because I have accepted and profess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I don’t have to prove my relationship with any man or woman … my name is written down in His Book of Life.  So … in the end, we can all read it there together!  I do know that my relationship with Christ should be evident by the life I lead, the words of my mouth and condition of my heart and the work of my hands.  But I also know that “this relationship is sealed” and I’m His, and can continue this journey for all my life and beyond — and “man has no say so in it.”

I expect, with all the constant negativity and disparaging remarks,  that President Obama has had to have many of those kind of “crying out to God moments.”   I hope (and expect ) he has worked out too, that his relationship is sealed by his own acceptance of Jesus as Lord.

But from the referenced article, “the irony, in Obama’s case, is that despite his orthodox words [spoken at the annual 2012 national Easter breakfast the he hosts] – “There’s “something about the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective,” – polls continue to show widespread confusion about his faith.”

“Only half the country can correctly identify [President] Obama as Christian, according to one recent Pew poll, while 17% falsely believe he is a Muslim.”

“He’s a Christian and he professes his Christian faith – I don’t know what else this man has to do to get that into folks’ ears,” says Kirbyjohn Caldwell, who was also close to George W. Bush.”

Can you imagine knowing that your heart longs to follow Him … but you are under constant scrutiny and having to defend that you are NOT what others  say you are?  Can you imagine the inner turmoil that he must be experiencing, having to consistently hold off those fiery darts?   {Jesus can more than imagine such scrutiny and persecution.}

President Obama has said,

“While I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’ (Acceptance speech at the DNC in August 2012)

AND still, he’s ridiculed, persecuted, mocked and doubted regarding his faith and belief in Jesus.

I do believe that God is Sovereign … Omnipotent and Omniscient and Omnipresent.  I believe that He holds the world in His hands.  It is by His Hands that men are given power, might, and influence.

Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”      

Furthermore, from Paul’s direction in Romans 13, I believe it behooves us to recognize authority with honor and respect — even when we disagree on some topics. 

From Romans 13:2, “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”  That seems to be the standard regardless of who is the leader and at what level of authority he/she has.

Oh, I know that many may read this and say, “But what about abortion?” and “What about all this gay marriage stuff?  How can you profess to follow Christ and support those practices?

Another quote from President Obama is “No one is PRO-abortion.” 

That’s almost true.  There are people in this world who have strong beliefs concerning overpopulation and that whatever means of birth control it takes should be put into place to handle that problem. (Read up on China)

But there is a difference in being “PRO-abortion” and “PRO-choice.” 

Have you ever considered that one day PRO-CHOICE may have another twist?  Let’s say that the world’s population is unmanageable and women/families are restricted to having ONLY ONE or TWO children.  What happens when a woman gets pregnant with the third child … WHO SHOULD DECIDE if she keeps the child or aborts it??? 

DON’T MISUNDERSTAND ME … I do not support abortion as a means of birth control. I have first-hand experience with the devastation this can cause on the emotional/mental/spiritual and physical health of a woman.  I also understand that these “choices” are not always made out of “convenience” but rather desperation.  I feel that my personal commitment and responsibility in this issue are to support means and circumstances that will help women make the right choice.  CHOOSE LIFE, please! But,  just as we each are given the daily choice to sin or not … the “CHOICE” ultimately lies with each individual.

Yes, in my opinion, it is a “child” not a “choice.”   But don’t think this “government control” of population is an outlandish idea — remember Moses and then when Jesus was born too — and the genocide of all children under two years of age.  And just recently in China, a couple became pregnant with their third child and the government was forcing an abortion (in the 7th month) if the family could not acquire the $1500 fee/permit to keep the child.  (Their weekly salary was about $5)

Another irony is that those who are quick to judge others based on this one issue (PRO-CHOICE), are equally adamant about the government having less control over their private lives particularly regarding gun control, money and regulations over what we eat, breathe, handle and “drill for.”   I recognize the “fine line” —- do you?

On the same note … these same “no government control” folks, also want to control the “relationships” that people have.   I know … I know … you think it [homosexual lifestyle] is  immoral.  Most Christians would say it goes against the Bible.  Would you say that?

Well, I know that there are places in the Bible that speak against it, and I know that great travesty has occurred where great immorality has taken control.  Thus, this is not a new issue, is it?   It’s been a part of mankind’s existence …. since existence began.  I don’t understand it myself as I am not inclined toward that way of life.  But there are other aspects of mankind’s existence that I’m not inclined toward and lack understanding as well.

But I do know, that even in my heterosexuality, I have been immoral.  And that lifestyle wreaked havoc for me, and interfered with my walking, talking with God.  I knew it, but I made the personal choice and suffered whatever consequences came my way. 

There was a time when being a divorcee was like a plague upon believers.  There was (and may still be in some mindsets) a time when it was considered immoral for a black man and a white woman to marry. Some consider these more “sins against society,” rather than sins against God.  Those situations had their own repercussions, but again, these were personal choices.

We can show grace for a wide variety of “societal sins” — and we can bring great condemnation for a whole other list of the same.  But once again, who placed us as judge over another person’s soul and salvation?  Isn’t that a sin in and of itself  … “us trying to be God?” Oh the arrogance!  And OH

Personally, I think the whole problem with our current state of affairs in government, and quite frankly, the whole state of affairs within the church and community of faith is … CONTROL!

It’s all about our innate desire and need to “be in control.”

 “We are trying to BE God, instead of letting HIM be God.”  AND that my friend, is a sin with some mighty profound repercussions because WE’RE JUST NOT VERY GOOD AT IT AT ALL!

After that woman mocked me so many years ago, I worked through some issues and finally realized that I need to stop “trying to be a Christian” — and JUST FOLLOW HIM.

I hope the President gets to do that too!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 30, 2012 8:22 am

    Amen….and, Amen!

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