Monday, May 26, 2014

Called to Be Fruit Recognizers

I've been told by Christians before "We are not supposed to judge, but the Bible tells us to be fruit inspectors. We're inspecting the fruit in people's life. That's not judging."

A) That is judging, but by using a less critical word.

B) We're not told to be fruit inspectors, see here. We are told we can recognize people by their fruits.

Liz, you're splitting hairs. What's the difference between fruit inspecting and fruit recognizing?

Fruit Recognizing
*holds up some apples* What are these?
An apple.
*holds up some bananas* What are these?
A banana.
*holds up another (albeit smaller) type apples* What are these?
An apple.
Congrats. You can recognize the difference between fruit.
Can you recognize love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control in the lives of believers? (Galations 5:22-23) Can you say, "Yep that person has joy in their life."?

Fruit Inspecting
*places apples on a table* Please rank these from best to worst.
These are green, those are red, these are yellow. The original apples were yellow, so they are the highest quality.
*places bananas on a table* Please rank these from best to worst.
Well, this one is still green. This one is rotten. That one is the best out of the options.
Inspecting implies (to me) that you are measuring, judging, and weighing the options. Bob has less patience than Sally. To inspect, by its definition, means to closely examine, to critically view in a formal manner, especially looking for faults or errors. Inspecting fruit is subjective. How much is enough? How does it display itself in one's life?

The Greek Word G1921 is used in Matthew 7:15-20. I looked at these verses through every English translation on You know what? The word was know 20 times, recognize 11 times, tell what they are 2 times, tell them 1 time, and identify 1 time. I admit, I couldn't figure out what the keyword was in The Message or Orthodox Jewish Bible. You'll notice that nowhere do you see the word "inspect."

Look at the context of Jesus' words: He's talking about how to identify false prophets. He didn't say, "Inspect the lives of believers. You'll know believers by their fruit." He's talking about identifying false prophets. For more information on this, check out this site.

If we are in Christ (the vine), we (the branches) will bear fruit. It's a natural outcome. (John 15).

We are supposed to weigh the words of our teachers, to compare them to the Scriptures. But judging? No. But inspecting fruit? No. By comparing what they say to what the Bible says? Yes.

There are several sites which would beg to differ with my analysis. If you wish to read the other side's opinions without searching the internet, here are four sites here (favorite) and here (second favorite) and here and here. The sites I marked as my favorite, I would mainly argue the semantics of inspecting vs. knowing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When My Comfort Zone Impedes Me

As I write this, I am sitting in my apartment in a Costa Rica Seminary, where I study Spanish and volunteer (by doing office work and teaching English). So I view it as a little ironic that I'm writing how my comfort zone impedes me, when I'm thousands of miles from my birthplace and family. Yet even here, if I'm not careful, my comfort zone impedes me.

It started out naturally...In the church we attended, I wanted to stay close to my husband so I just went to his Sunday School class. After church, people would ask us questions and my hubby would normally answer. Then people started asking me if I spoke Spanish. (We had been in Costa Rica for 3 months). That was a wake up call for me. I needed to be a little more independent from my hubby. I needed to move to my own Sunday School class and visit more with people.

The thing is, it's easy to adjust to your situation and soon, my outside of my comfort zone became my new comfort zone. I was taking Spanish classes, teaching English classes, working in the office, participating in a women's water aerobics class, and attending my own Sunday School class separate from my husband's. This became my new normal, my new comfort zone.

I rarely visited my husband's Sunday afternoon volleyball games with a local youth group, because I really don't care for playing volleyball. So when I went to watch earlier this week and I got asked again if I spoke Spanish, I realized that I needed to leave my comfort zone once more. (We had been in Costa Rica for 7 months). In my questioner's defense, there was a lot of new American students, just starting to learn Spanish, present. I maybe had attended one game in the past 7 months, since normally after Sunday School, church, and socializing, I was ready to be introverted, read, and relax alone. I found my Sunday afternoon plans to be very relaxing and very fulfilling, but I wasn't connecting with the gals who watched the games, but didn't participate. I wasn't learning the names of the ones who were outside my window every week to play.

So my comfort zone was impeding me. I wasn't being social or forming friendships. I made a decision earlier this week when I got asked if I spoke Spanish. I would start watching the games with the other girls. I would visit, converse, chat, and listen. I would learn their names and learn about them. I would break out from my comfort zone, until at last, my new activities became my new norm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Open Letter to Older Adults in the Church

Dear friends with more years than me,

I hope this letter doesn't make you mad, but sometimes we must say things which are difficult to address. I write this letter to plead with you to strike the phrase "Young people today..." from your vocabulary. Now while it is possible for the rest of this phrase to be framed positively, I have yet to hear it as such.

"Young people today don't care about the church."
"Young people today are materialistic and self-centered."
"Young people today..."

With this phrase, you do not give us the benefit of the doubt and assume that some of us are different. You do not admit that "young people" are a diverse and varied group, just like middle-aged people and old people.

With this phrase, you paint every single young person with the same brush and frankly, it hurts. You overgeneralize with negative characteristics. You state your opinion as a fact, without softening your words with phrases like "it seems to me", "in my opinion", "sometimes", "some young people", or the like.

When you start a sentence with "Young people today," every young person within earshot is ready for your words to attack and condemn. Ask yourself, would you want to be singled out as a problem group and publicly condemned?

Are young people today really that bad? In the 1920s there were gangsters, flappers, speakeasies, and bootleggers. In the 1960s there were hippies, communes, free love, and casual sex. Today, there are hipsters, technology, and social media like faceboook. There has been good and bag things about every generation, but my generation is the scapegoat, my generation is publicly condemned from the pulpit.

Yes, there are not many "young people" in churches today. But the same can be said of middle-aged people, old people, and all ages in between.

Instead of condemning the "young people" and then wondering why young people don't attend your services, I encourage you to welcome them (free food is a powerful motivator for attendance). Instead of gossiping about the problems young people cause (it is gossiping), pray for them and also take a look at yourself. You may just find there to be a log in your own eye. People will live up to your expectations or down to them.

I know that there are problems and difficulties in each generation, but when we realize that each generation has its own problems, there's a possibility we can speak about people today instead of just young people.

Please don't overgeneralize.
Please don't state opinion as facts.
Please don't alienate the young people who do come to your church by condemning those who don't come.

Your sister in Christ and a young person,

Liz 'o the Niche

Thursday, May 1, 2014

YOLO!!!!! So Be Careful!

One thing that I don't get about "YOLO" (You Only Live Once) is why this is the phrase uttered before dangerous activities.

In my mind, YOLO should be the catchphrase of carefulness and safety.

Son, YOLO!! So wear your helmet on your motorcycle.
Daughter, YOLO!! So wear your seatbelt as you drive.
No thanks man. I don't want to skydive without a safety. YOLO, you know.

But it's not. YOLO is the phrase of dangerous & stupid actions.

As a Christian, I believe that there is a life beyond this on for me, but I don't want to throw this life away. I want to be with God after my death, but I don't want to do something stupid to get to heaven sooner.

You only live once on this earth, so don't take unnecessary and stupid risks.