Shooting Stars in Christendom

 

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You think it’d be a good thing to be a shooting star. After all, they’re the Maseratis of the sky. The phenomenon that draws your eye as it streaks across an otherwise black canvas. Nobody cares about the boring satellite orbiting overhead, but catch a glimpse of that moving light and you’re treacherously waving your s’more stick with flaming marshmallow in the air and interrupting your friends mid-story.

Shooting stars are special.

My pastor was spot-on this weekend, however, in his definition of shooting stars in Christendom, and exactly why that is the opposite of what we want to be. Why? Because as great as their capacity is to draw attention, as beautiful as they are, there’s still another trait they hold.

Fleeting.

I remember how jarring it was the time my dear friend told me she was rethinking this whole Christianity thing. Sure, there was no lack of people in my life who’d gone in and out of the church doors like a revolving door. I knew plenty who took Christianity about as seriously as a New Year’s Resolution. But this friend? This girl? She was so on fire! How was it possible?

She came to work with a bang the year prior, and her enthusiasm for God made waves across town. It wasn’t long before people were gathering at her apartment, driven to explore this thing called faith. I felt like she’d started a little revival—even in my own weather-worn heart. Sure, she was a bit more emotionally-driven (or was it Spirit led?) than I was used to. Yes, I’d heard of a time she used a “word from God” in a way that was self-serving and out of context from Scripture. But she was only human, and given she’d only become a Christian the year prior—and in the type of way that rivaled the drama of Paul on his missionary journeys—it was nothing less than extraordinary how hearts were revived in her presence.

Eventually she quit, relocating to another state for a healing ministry. And a few months later, she called and dropped the bomb.

While I’ve often prayed for her over the years, I also learned something that day, something I was reminded of when my pastor spoke last Sunday. We all know everybody has different gifts, as 1 Corinthians 12 states. It’s a wonderful thing to be the gal with the smile as wide as Arkansas shaking your hand on Sunday. Likewise, it’s all well and good to be the man with his hands glued to his pockets as Mrs. Big-Grin dances down the aisle beside him. God loves the silent types just as much as the vibrant. But the common thread, what’s oh-so-important about it all, is consistency.

I won’t try to guess what only God knows about my friend (and others), and neither will I pretend there aren’t real hardships that sometimes leave people doubting their faith. But I did learn it is so important to step into the circles of those who sometimes aren’t the most exciting Christians around. To build relationships and glean wisdom from those Christians who’ve been around a few terrifying blocks I haven’t turned yet and still came out with faith like a child. Who are they?

Not necessarily my peers chasing around toddlers, but the ones who’ve lived to see their toddlers grow toddlers.

Not necessarily the books with the mirthful young woman on the cover, but the old man who’s been through wars, and cancer, and still has enough hope in his bones to fold his hands in prayer.

As much fun as it is to see the shooting stars of Christendom fly across the sky—whether on a campus or the front page or on stage—the true test is watching to see if their tail lasts, or if their light fades.

 

To all you seasoned Christians who

share your lives with the younger generation,

many thanks and blessings.

 

Melissa Ferguson

 

P.S. If you’re from the tri-cities and seeking an amazing church home,

you’re going to want to click here!

 

That Time Jesus Got Angry

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While there are some folks out there who really do have the misplaced notion that Jesus’ hobbies were limited to holding stuffed lambs and chatting about peace under dim light in honeyed tones, most do recognize that there were gruesome aspects involved. Things like declaring sin was rather a big deal after all, and He had come to conquer it in a way hard to fathom: the way of nails and cross.

But even with so many of us grasping the fact that Jesus was crucified—after all, just about everyone in the United States at least knows what Easter represents—there is still yet another facet about his life and ministry that gets underplayed: his anger.

Oddly enough, the question popped into my head this week as the sun was setting beyond my steering wheel and I drove to our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) meeting:

What did Jesus get angry over?

He didn’t flip out when he talked with adulterous women. He didn’t grab the men by the tunic and shake them for inflating tax prices in order to steal from those poorest for their own gain. No, Jesus was revolutionary for the anti-cultural way he managed to love on those most despised and broken while at the same time boldly stating the truth about the Way.

So, what really got His blood boiling? Because, after all, shouldn’t that be the kind of thing I care about too?

                And it struck me in a new way, in that lovely way that the Bible continues to teach despite the thousands of times you’ve read through that story. The biggest time in Scripture Jesus was positively enraged was after entering the temple and seeing money changers and those selling sacrificial animals. Their jobs weren’t the problem, in fact they were perfectly necessary and legitimate occupations. After all, many Jews didn’t have the luxury of a minivan to toss the goat and doves into when they took the long trek to Jerusalem. So, instead, they’d take their coins and buy the sacrificial animals when they got there. But what was the thorn there that caused to Jesus make a whip out of cords, run around flipping over tables, and scare people out of their minds? And why was this story so important that it’s included not just in Matthew, not just in Mark, but in all four gospels?

One clue is when Jesus exclaimed, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Simply put, Jesus went to the temple and found people exploiting the traveling Jews who needed to exchange money and buy animals. They hiked up the prices to profit from things devoted to God. They turned the holiest and most sacred place on Earth into nothing more than an overpriced coffee shop. They used God for their own profit.

As I turned into my group meeting I wondered, what would that be equivalent to today? And the words practically whispered in my ear: using writing (about God) to magnify myself.

It was a startling and scary thought. For while we as Christians should do whatever we do as for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), it is even more essential to make sure all tasks under the umbrella of teaching are focused wholly on God.

Even James states this, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

Taking on the task of teaching about God, whether through such tasks as preaching, leading a Bible study, mentoring a friend, or in my case, writing inspirational fiction, is not something to take lightly. Because while it is unfortunately tempting to focus your Olympic-level beach volleyball skills or business career on yourself, using something that is supposed to be all about glorifying God for yourself is another level. Ten lower levels. Something that could make Jesus chase you around the living room with a whip of cords.

So, all that’s to say, this is something I’ll have to constantly remind myself of as I continue the pursuit of writing for God’s glory. As editors send feedback telling me to post more blogs about myself, as I wait for a contract that will bear my name on the bottom, as one day (Lord willing) I publish that book or two and find myself under the huge temptation to take pride in my work (and alternatively, plunge into depths of despair should my work receive bad reviews, get fourth in that contest, etc.), I must be mindful to stop and ask myself, “Wait. Now who is this all for again?”

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

 

 

 

Bathroom Shelves and Old Books

The car ride to my in-laws was the breaking point this weekend. The babies decided halfway to Knoxville to scream with all they had in their tiny lungs. For an hour. Normally I just deal with it but on Friday I found myself cowered in the passenger seat, head on the glove compartment, hands pressed over my ears. I felt pathetic. There my husband was, one eye on the road and the other on his crazy wife, seeing me fall to pieces over the same amount of stress he manages to deal with so nonchalantly every day. I felt guilty. There I was spiraling into despair when there are such real and devastating issues of sex trafficking and ISIS—to name a mere two of 1,000,000. Finally, I was just so frustrated at myself. Why was I allowing my mood to ruin what was supposed to be a wonderful evening?

Of course, it wasn’t just the stress of crying babies. There were and are a dozen deep-seated issues that I’ve been shoving aside for some time, not realizing as they’ve quietly mounted like piles of snow on a chilly Vermont curbside. But cowering does not solve such problems; allowing my chest to get so tight it’s about to explode doesn’t solve anything. And I knew it. I just (felt I) couldn’t help it.

And of all the places and people and ways for God to speak to me, to comfort me and bring me back to logic and perspective, it came in the bathroom.

In the quaint little guest bathroom–the place I ran to for escape–there are three shelves in the corner, stacked with magazines. And on the bottom shelf, I saw an old copy of My Utmost for His Highest. I plucked it up and the passage spoke to me:

There are certain things we must not pray about—moods, for instances. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral. It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t.

Just like that, I had the strength to follow through and pray about the things going on in my life. Just like that, God met me and helped me pitch the tar off my heart, freeing me to both enjoy the evening and rationally discuss how to deal with my current issues.

As Oswald says, sometimes it takes a good kick of sturdy words to get back in the game.

 

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

-John 14:26