A note from Amy.

Are most Christians really just hypocrites?

There’s something about announcing our Christian beliefs that immediately opens us up to accusations of hypocrisy. The word seems to get thrown around a lot as an easy way to call someone out for disagreement, unkindness, or just in general not doing what other people want us to do.

I certainly understand how this has happened. Let’s be honest; Christian actions throughout history (and even in the news today) stink of hatred, apathy, meaningless violence, and other qualities which everyone can agree are the opposite of good Christianity. Understandably, this has made the world skeptical, even scornful, of the true depth of our Christian faith.

I am aware that when people know I’m a Christian, my actions are immediately under a very harsh microscope. Any unkind word, any clash of opinion, any failure to pay attention to details that others deem important, brands me instantly as a hypocrite. Obviously, Jesus would be doing much better than that. If I’m not exactly like Jesus, then of course I am a hypocrite, as are most other Christians. 

There is some merit to this argument. After all, Jesus himself warned that it is better to have a millstone around your neck and be drowned in the sea than to cause another person to stumble (Luke 17). As “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth,” (Matthew 5) we are called to set ourselves apart from the sins of everyday life so that others can see Jesus through us.

Hypocrisy is defined as “behavior which contradicts what one claims to believe or feel.”

What do we believe and feel?

I believe that I am deeply flawed. I feel that I am sinful. I believe that Jesus is the only one able to love me enough to die for me, and that He has a plan to help me overcome my flaws.

Instead of giving up or pretending to be perfect, how about honesty and transparency? How about letting others know how much we struggle…and how much God is present in that struggle alongside us?

Isn’t that truly what being the “light of the world” is all about? After all, light illuminates the truth rather than hiding it.

The world may always see us as hypocrites. That’s because we have not been honest or transparent about God’s love and what it really means to us.

Let’s leave hypocrisy behind and work to become the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” that God created us to be.

Is This Really The End?

What is the true nature of Heaven?

Having lost several good friends close to my age, abruptly and unexpectedly, I’ve been forced to confront this question.

There are no real answers, of course. But as much as I try to ignore it, the reality of my mortality finds me in the middle of the night, sits on my chest, and relentlessly looks me in the eye.

It is horrifying to think that all we’ve done on earth could be for nothing, that those we love will abruptly disappear one by one, ending with ourselves. It’s a thought that can bring real despair.

But at the same time, it’s impossible to believe that this life on earth is all we get.

Some might think it’s vanity or hubris to believe the soul lives forever. Yet it can’t be denied that our minds and spirits constantly strive for something better and more satisfying than this earthly life. 

C.S. Lewis once said, “The fact that our hearts yearn for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.”

God created us with this feeling that we don’t belong here so that we can find our way home to Him.

We will someday leave behind our frail physical bodies to find the real peace and rest for which He created us.

But what can we do to draw closer to Him while we’re here on earth?

Romans 8 says: “If we live according to the flesh we will die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Knowing our flesh is only temporary, let’s rely on the Holy Spirit that lives within each of us to draw closer to God every day.

Then, when the end of our earthly life finds us, it will approach as a familiar and beloved friend, instead of a terrifying phantom.

God has prepared a dwelling place for each of us. But we don’t have to wait. We can begin to taste heaven while we are still here…and in doing so, we can truly live forever.

Christmas Spirit

Are you in the Christmas spirit?

For me, the Christmas Spirit can feel hit or miss at times.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth brings me great joy. I love the old Christmas hymns, love setting up our manger scene and attending Christmas Eve service. 

But sometimes all the crazed consumerism strikes a jarring note of dissonance in God’s Silent Night. 

When I see videos of Black Friday shoppers lined up in front of stores, or rooms crammed with presents yet seemingly empty of Jesus, I feel grumpy. REALLY grumpy. It seems to me as if the Lord’s birth has been commandeered as an excuse for a marathon of competitive greed. Often those who celebrate Christmas with the most determination also seem to be the ones who have shut Jesus most determinedly out of their hearts the rest of the year.

Yet despite this, I can’t deny that Jesus appears to be miraculously at work within those same hearts. 

As if by magic, everyone suddenly seems kinder, more generous, more open, more ready to offer a smile or a helping hand to those who need it.

To quote Charles Dickens’ immortal description, Christmas is “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

This is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of “the Christmas Spirit.”

It’s also a very good description of the life that Jesus calls us to live every day…not just during the Christmas season.

As Colossians 3 says: “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other…Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.” 

Whether or not Christ dwells in their hearts, God allows each person this brief moment to feel his presence, and experience the call to live as He wants us to live.  And the joy is so great that they can’t help but let it overflow with showy light displays, piles of wrapped gifts, the most gorgeous Christmas tree. And I must admit that’s pretty amazing.

It really is true that the news of Jesus’ birth, as described in Luke, still represents “good tidings of great joy that shall be to all people.” All people everywhere, no matter where they live, how much money they have, or even their relationship with Jesus the rest of the year. 

We get this brief moment in time when the whole world feels the pull of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.

And I say…God bless it.

Amy Gardner

I’ve experienced many things: marriage and divorce. Having children and losing them. Illness and healing. Leaving home and returning. I have worked as a private tutor, a language teacher, a freelance writer, a teaching assistant working with autistic children. I also lead a Women’s Bible Study and play the piano in my church. But at the end of the day, it’s not about me or anything I’ve done. It’s about God and the message He calls me to convey. The interaction between intellect and faith has been my life story and purpose. My humble hope is that I can help others understand how broad and all-encompassing the experience of faith can be.

Please comment. I love discussion, and thrive on it.