Confessions of a Phony

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This weekend our church hosted a Sportsman’s Dinner where we drew over 400 people to listen to hunting industry star Jason Cruise talk about life, hunting, and God’s love for us. With him returning on Sunday to speak during worship services, the whole weekend was a bit of a sportsman’s paradise. The church was decked out in antlers and camouflage, there was a significant increase in the amount of blaze orange in the service and everything had a bit of a manly flare to it. Surely this was church as it is meant to be! Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it certainly struck a chord with many outdoorsmen.

As I sat in church, thoroughly enjoying myself, I was struck by the troubling thought that despite my appreciation of all things manly and redneck-ish, I am a fraud as a wild-game hunter. Don’t get me wrong – I love the outdoors. I dress in boots, jeans, and flannel shirts and I grow a hunting beard every winter. I wear Duck Commander gear and my favorite places to shop are Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. I carry a camo pocket knife and own multiple guns. I speak fluent redneck and can even understand Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty without the captions. I read books about guns and enjoy a variety of hunting and outdoor blogs and magazines. I even have some (old) hunting stories in which the big one got away (barely).

Yet when it comes to being a hunter, I am a fraud- a phony. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I’m a “wannabe”. I think of myself as a hunter and an outdoorsman. I like that association, and would probably hunt if I had the occasion. But I have to confess, wild animals are not trembling at the sound of my name. All of my outdoorsman ambitions have resulted in zero impact on any critter. In fact, I haven’t shot a living thing since I shot that bull in the rear end with a pellet gun when I was 12.

I offer you this elaborate confession in the hopes that you can see the obvious parallel that I came to see. Worse than a phony hunter is a phony “wannabe” Christian. You know what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about Christians that mess up and sin. That’s just real life and we deal with it and move on. I’m talking about those people that call themselves Christians, but don’t really understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They spend a lot of time at church. They hang out with other Christians and are fluent in Christianese. They dress the “right” way and probably wear the best Christian gear and carry the biggest Bible. In fact, they have a variety of Bibles and even have a pocket version they carry everywhere they go. They read the greatest Christian books and Bible studies and listen to all the best preachers. They have incredible stories about “that one time” I told somebody about Jesus. Yet when it comes to being a genuine follower of Jesus, they’re a fraud.

There not a fraud because they do all of those things. In fact many of those things are great. However, they’re a fraud because that’s where it ends. Just as I never actually go out and hunt, they never leave the church building and do anything to make a difference in this lost and dying world. They have an enormous amount of knowledge and can certainly pass for a Christian, but all of their efforts at looking the part make zero impact on the world around them.

Jesus assumed that his followers would make a difference. He knew nothing of a passive faith that affected only the believer. He told his disciples to “go into all the world”, not “stay in all the churches.” In the grand scheme of things, being a fraud of a hunter doesn’t make much difference at all, but being a fraud of a Christian could make an eternal one. It is not my place to judge anyone’s profession of faith in Christ, but we are told that we will recognize both true believers and counterfeits by their fruits. I know that there is the possibility that one might truly be saved without living the life, but that is not the norm. The normal expectation for the true believer is that we will passionately follow Christ in all that we do. We will love and forgive. We will proclaim and live the gospel. We will leave the comfort of our safe little church buildings and we will minister to the least of these. That’s what the normal Christian life should be and I challenge you today to consider your own life. Are you a genuine follower of Christ or just a “wannabe”?

Do You Love Me?

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To the surprise of no one who knows me in the least, I must confess that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it’s the over-commercialization or the phoniness of the day. Or, more likely, I just don’t like to be told that I must feel or express a specific sentiment on a specific day (not that I have authority issues). Whatever the reason, I just don’t care for the Valentine’s Holiday.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against love or marriage or happy relationships or many of the other things that Valentine’s Day is supposed to represent. I just don’t like the day. However, through some reflection over the past week, I have come to appreciate one foundational assumption behind Valentine’s Day: love professed should be love expressed. Despite the way I feel about the holiday, I believe that this is the primary sentiment behind it and I am in whole-hearted agreement. Eventually, if we truly love someone than we will demonstrate it in some observable way.

While everyone enjoys being told that they are loved and appreciated, eventually those verbal assurances fade into inefficacy if not supported by some kind of action. This is a major reason that so many children and spouses feel unloved despite the fact that their spouse or parent would adamantly profess their love. It is also why churches are filled with Christians who claim to “love the world” at the same time that the world feels hated or neglected by the church. It is also why the Bible always speaks of our obligation to love one another in terms of action rather than feeling.

The overwhelming assumption behind the command to love is that our love will be expressed in an observable fashion. That is why Jesus said in John 13:35 that “your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” As a genuine follower of Christ, a prominent part of our responsibility to God and testimony to the world is a life that manifests His love to those around us. As Jesus did, we must love and accept others, offer forgiveness, live selflessly, be kind, and treat others as more important than ourselves. After all, this kind of genuine, observable love for others is evidence that we actually love God. As 1 John 4:20 says, “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Take this verse to heart and learn this valuable lesson from Valentine’s Day: Love professed must be love expressed or it isn’t genuine love at all.

Speak the Truth – Even About Politics

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I was recently perusing social media when I came across a statement purporting to be a quote by a prominent Republican Presidential candidate. Now, I don’t generally spend much time or energy in the political realm, but this statement caught my attention for a number of reasons. One reason was that the statement was so oddly harsh toward the candidate’s own party as to be ridiculous, but another reason was the large number of Christians I knew and mostly trusted who were sharing this statement as fact.

Though I at first moved on and turned my thoughts to other things, I eventually gave in to the thoughts nagging at the back of my mind and decided to do a little fact checking. Very little effort quickly revealed that, sure enough, the statement was a hoax. Now, there is certainly nothing shocking about fake quotes on the internet nor am I naïve enough to believe I have always been able to detect these hoaxes as easily. In fact, the only reason I share this incident is because it got me to thinking about the virtue of honesty. For a Christian, few things should be more important than being truthful. After all, it is through “speaking the truth in love” that we can grow into mature Christlikeness (Eph 4:15).

Admittedly, I more often than not find myself addressing believers about the need to be loving in their speech, but on this occasion I feel compelled to ask my brothers and sisters to be certain that they are speaking truth. As Christians, we claim to know the one who is “the way the TRUTH and the life.” We say that we follow the “Word of TRUTH.” We proclaim the Gospel as TRUTH and we belong to a kingdom of TRUTH. And yet, when it comes to issues of this earthly kingdom (in which we are merely temporarily passing through) we are willing to compromise our position of truth and use the fleshly tools of lies and deception to get our way or persuade public opinion. May this not be so in the body of Christ. I pray that we can stand up for what is right without compromising truth.

We are blessed to live in a nation where we can participate in government and we are blessed as well with numerous platforms to share our opinions, concerns and positions. I encourage all Americans to take advantage of these blessings. Be involved in social and political issues if you feel led. Be bold as you stand up for what is right and for what you believe. Just make sure that as you stand, you are being truthful because greater than any political position you may hold is the position you hold in the family of God. And His family is all about the truth!