Why so judgemental? Let’s be real.

Growing up it can be so easy to have your passions and dreams squashed. Even the interests you have can come under fire unless they meet the standards of those around you. One place that I have seen interests and passions die, is within the church.  With this over religious view that we have to conform to a certain way to earn God’s grace. This is so wrong, we have been created individually to have our own passions and interests and this is still the same when we have our own faith.  At the end of the day, our faith is our own relationship with Jesus. No traditional view or person can give us that so why allow them to control you.

Don’t get me wrong traditional views within the church can really help some people to enhance their faith, it can be a very humbling experience and one where great joy can be found. However,  I think a lot of the time that traditional views within the church can kill faith. The belief, that unless you can conform to a certain way of living then you are not accepted.

That is just pure judgement, instead of getting to know a person for who they are and where their interests lie. It is just these premediated judgements. However, we all fall into this trap of judgement but it is how we choose to pursue it. Do we realise that we are doing it and make amendments or do we relish in judging how others choose to live. One of the saddest things is that Christians are more associated with the things we hate about people and our condemnation of them. Where did we go so wrong, our second greatest commandment was to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This may sound critical but if you are using your faith to always be critical and judgemental of others, you must be pretty unhappy with your life. Judgement is not loving. Judgement is not your job so don’t use it as the basis of your faith. It grates me because it is so easy to pull other Christian believers into judgemental ways and they think it is the norm, that is definitely not what their faith should be rooted in.

One parable that I think we can learn a lot from is ‘The parable of the gold coins’(Luke19:11-27). In which a master gives 10 or his servants a cold coin each. Then he goes off for a few years with the command ‘See what you can earn with this while I am gone’. It goes on to say how faithful the servants were with his coin, one servant due to his faithfulness was able to take charge of ten cities. As for the last servant ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it in my handkerchief… you take what is not yours and reap what you did not sow’. The actions of the servant results in him losing everything. I think many of us can fall into the same trap as the unfaithful servant, we have been blessed with these passions and talents to use. It is up to us to use them in whatever avenues we have,  regardless of if it goes against the norm. We have to stop being too scared to do stuff because it is out of traditional boundaries, we need not to become like the unfaithful servant and rather be prosperous with what we have. Be a blessing to others and allow what you have to grow into something far bigger then it ever began.

Let’s just be real…

At the end of the day we are human, we are not this perfect being because we have a faith. When I first became a Christian I believed that I had to sit and read my bible, pray constantly, shun everything that was not Christian and only listen to Christian music. My 15 year old self would sit and read her bible 3 times a day would try and shun everything not Christian. Let’s just say this did not last long because I felt like I had to do it, to me it was a duty and I just could not keep up to that standard. Now in my early 20’s I do still read my bible and pray. You can normally find me with and up to date Christian album but that is not all I am about. What I have learnt over the past few years is that faith is my relationship with Jesus, that is what grows and develops me. It is what has led me down many different paths and has led me to become who I am now. I am a girl who loves drinking  overly sweet coffee. I like listening to bands like All Time Low, Paramore and Mayday Parade. Who likes a night out spent down the pub. I devour books, love talking to people and I normally dress in black. Although some Christians may look down on some of the decisions I have made in my life and some of these views have been voiced. I am not ashamed of who I am and it does not make me any less a Christian, it is all about learning and making mistakes but then learning to grow as a person. I use opportunities to spread love and kindness. I always try to accept people for who they are and have learnt that judgment makes you a bitter person. Therefore, I try not to let it have an impact on my life.

At the end of the day it is just about growing in our faith and growing up as people. In a few years’ time some of things that appeal to me will have lost its appeal but I do pray that my faith won’t. That each day I would grow more and more in my love for Jesus and for people. I have learnt especially over my years at uni that people have many different perspectives on what the Christian faith is meant to look like. You can learn new perspectives from them. However, having so many different views leads to fights and a lot of judgement. The Christian community is a big one and we all have our passions and different ways of ministering to people. It is remembering that someone else’s faith cannot be your own, going back to the parable. The unfaithful servant could not hide behind the success of the others.

Keep Jesus at the centre of all that you do in your job, social life and even in your other passions. Remembering that your life has purpose and over the years that purpose will change but keep striving to be the best you possibly can be. Don’t let the judgement of others effect you to where it stops you living with the purpose that you have been born with. Allow Jesus and your faith to guide you not the judgements of others.

By doubt we sink, by faith we walk!

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, “You of little faith why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-36)

So many times we fall into a similar situation as Peter. We have our eyes set on Jesus and through faith we are doing things that we never thought we could do with our lives. Then out of the corner of our eye we catch a glimpse of the storm (the battles that we face in the world) and we begin to doubt. The doubt swamps our faith until we drown in fear and we cry  out to be saved. The world can throw many incredible storms at us. Loss of job, illness, not being where you want to be, family problems, etc. They are so easy to be overcome by because they are the here and now, they are all you are focused on. As we have seen in this passage, as soon as Peter called out to Jesus, Jesus reached out to him. It is time we took our eyes off the storm and allowed Jesus to help us walk on the water, to do the impossible.

There always comes a time in our faith when we like Peter ask Jesus, “Lord , if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” . We all want to test the water/ to test our faith and meet Jesus on a new level. However, with this new step comes greater responsibility. There will be challenges and barriers and things that can make us fear but as it states in the Bible “With God all things are possible”. However, what is so easy for us to do is to run back to what we are comfortable with. This is presented by Peter being overcome by his doubt rather than faith.

“Come” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus.

This act shows how much faith that Peter had. The fact that he willingly got out of the boat and walked with trust to a person he loved. This is a perfect example of what faith is meant to look like. It is about taking that first step into the unknown and trusting that God will guide you. Sometimes it will be an experience like Peter’s where it begins with faith but then we end up drowning in doubt and fear. These are all learning experiences. There are the examples of different levels of faith found in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23). To have faith is so important and it is not something that we should allow to be so easily drowned by doubt.

So now we come to the pinnacle of Peter’s faith where instead of continuing to keep his eyes on Jesus he gets distracted by the world around him. I think this links perfectly into the Parable of the Sower in regards to the seeds that fall among the thorns. “but the worries of this life and deceitfulness of wealth choke the word making it unfruitful”.  There is such beauty and incredible joy when we allow faith to rule our lives. When all we desire is to be God’s child and to walk in faith by the spirit then incredible things can be done. To doubt does not make you any less a child of God but it does lead to you doubting the true power of God. This is seen with Peter he was already doing this incredible act of walking on water. Jesus was guiding him but then he chose to focus on the storm which led him to doubt the incredible act he was doing which resulted in him sinking in the depths of water he was in.

However…

This account gives us hope that Jesus will never give up on us. As soon as Peter called out for Jesus to save him, Jesus immediately reached out and plucked him out of the depths he was drowning in. This is such a reassuring truth that Jesus never gives up on us. As soon as we cry out to him our situation begins to change. We may not see the change imminently but throughout the Bible we see time and time again peoples’ life change when they put their faith in God. For example people life David, Esther and Daniel.

There will always be storms around us but when we allow Jesus to take control there is a renewed sense of hope and peace. Even in this account we see that the storm does subside that it does not last forever. V32 ‘And when they climbed into the boat the wind died down’. Jesus is always in full control and sometimes we cannot comprehend why some storms last longer than others or are so much more painful. But, we can trust that Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us.

How many times do we get through the storm and have the same question in our head ‘”you of little faith,” he said “why did you doubt?”’.  A lot of time in life we feel like we have to battle on alone but we forget that we have an all-powerful God who loves us and wants to fight for us. We are told to leave all our burdens with him. We live in a world that is full of uncertainties such as terrorism, life threatening illnesses and disease and an unstable job market. Sometimes life can be very cruel and take loved ones away or we ourselves face trials. I think when we give up our hope especially in Jesus we allow our storm to win. This should not be the case. It is about having the faith to tell your storm how big and powerful your God is.

How do we stay focused on Jesus?

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields it fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers. 

We need to remind ourselves of the good things God has already done in each of our lives. This is one thing I am constantly reminding myself to do, I am one person who so easily gets distracted by the storms in my life. It is about remembering Jesus’ faithfulness in the last storm, he is not about to forsake you in this one.

Hebrews 12:2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scouring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus knows what it truly means to suffer and he endured it, Jesus will help us too.

Let’s have those incredible experiences of faith where we walk on the water, facing not our storm but our hope in Jesus who is with us every step of the way.