Window Shutters and Keeping up Appearances

I was sitting in my car yesterday with one of the girls from my Sunday school class. We had gone to lunch and were now waiting for her mom to get home because she had forgotten her key and couldn’t get in the house. As we were waiting, she started telling me about her neighbors. She pointed at one house and said they didn’t take very good care of their house and the shutters kept falling off. I looked at the house and, sure enough, two shutters were missing on the second floor. I wondered aloud why we even bother putting shutters on houses since we don’t actually shutter our windows anymore.

Hannah replied, “Because we all think they’re supposed to be there and it just looks wrong without them. We all know they don’t really do anything, but they used to, so we keep them. Houses without shutters just look funny.”

So we put shutters on our houses to keep up appearances. While they originally were designed to protect a home from the elements and storms, they now serve no functional purpose. This brief exchange got me thinking about how I keep up appearances in my own life. I am definitely guilty of seasons in my life when I have done the right things only because my life would look funny without them. I didn’t go to church because it was my lifeline of worship and community and spiritual growth. I went because I didn’t know what else you did on Sunday morning. And besides, if I wasn’t there, people would talk, and that would just be awkward. Just like shutters were originally meant to protect a home from the damaging elements of the weather, the disciplines of the Christian life are meant to protect us from the damaging elements of this world. We are to read Scripture because the Word brings life, not so we can check it off our “Good Christian To-Do List.” We are to go to church to participate in corporate worship and to build up and be built up by our brothers and sisters in Christ, not so that we can be seen and keep up the appearance that everything in our lives are A-Ok.

I began wondering, what disciplines have become shutters in my life? When do I go through the motions to keep up appearances? Is my Christian walk really useful and protective, or is it just decoration that will prove worthless when the times of testing arrive?

Picture two houses with shutters: one with genuine, useful shutters that will close to protect the windows in a storm, and the other with decorative shutters nailed to the house. On a cloudless, sunny day, they are identical. But put those houses through a violent storm, and they will look quite different.

Jesus gave a similar illustration in Matthew 7 about foundations. He said that those who keep up appearances, those who hear His words but don’t obey them, are like the man who builds his house on the sand. His home may look just like a house built on a rock, but when the storm comes, the house built on sand collapses.

So how would you describe your walk with Christ? Is it genuine and functional, fulfilling its purpose to make you both winsome in your walk and safe in the storm? Or is it merely window dressing you use to keep up appearances but will tragically serve no purpose when the winds of life blow around you?

Fuel for a Growing Fire

Some have asked me why I am considering the pursuit of a PhD. Others ask why I have such a passion for teaching youth, particularly middle schoolers. I think the results in this report can shed some light on that.

Youth today view religion as a very small and mainly irrelevant section of their lives. They usually view it as the part that is forced upon them by their parents, a part that they fully intend to shrug off as soon as they are old enough to do so.

I have a passion for teaching youth that their faith must be their own, not that of their parents, and that their faith is the lens through which they must view the entirety of their lives. When our youth’s worldview is shaped by MTV,, and ESPN, we as a church must count the cost of how we have handled cultural issues in the past and determine if the future of our youth is a price we are willing to pay to be able to remain in our comfortable silence.

Big Picture Thinking in an Ever Shrinking World

The story of Aggie Hurst is an amazing example of how God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. When we see nothing but our own, pain, suffering, frustration, or mere inconvenience, we miss the work that God is doing. So often we are stopped cold in our tracks by the adversities that we face in life. Instead of searching for ways to glorify God, we question Him and His plan.
I read this story on the same day that we discussed the book of Job in my Old Testament class. The combination got me thinking about my own life and how I am so often distracted by my circumstances instead of looking past them with a Kingdom perspective. I wonder how, if faced with similar situations, I would react. Would I be like David Flood, who turned his back on God when God did not meet his expectations? Or would I be like Job, who lost everything yet fell down and worshiped. I pray that God would continue to show me glimpses of His kingdom purposes to help my weak faith learn to say, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13.15).

Pharisees in the Local Church?

JD Greear has posted a great blog with his observations concerning Matthew 23 and Jesus’ take on the religious folks of His day. His description of the Pharisees sounds quite similar to many descriptions we hear today of the local church. This is a great read for checking our individual and collective focus and intention concerning how and why we do what we do in the church.

How God Sees Us

If you want to learn something that will really help you, learn to see yourself as God sees and not as you see yourself in the distorted mirror of your own self-importance. This is the greatest and most useful lesson we can learn: to know ourselves for what we truly are, to admit freely our weaknesses and failings, and to hold a humble opinion of ourselves because of them. Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ

My natural inclination is to seek the good in people. I like giving others the benefit of the doubt. Mainly it’s because I know that I want that same benefit from others about fifty times a day. But I am afraid that my desire to seek the good in others has led to my assuming that people are good. John Locke (the 17th century philosopher, not the character on the best television show EVER), declared that man was a tabula rasa, a blank slate of neutrality which is then conditioned to accept either good or evil.

Sadly, Christians have accepted this view of one another and of ourselves. The culture screams, “I’m ok, you’re ok,” and we like the sound of that. I used to have a rather nebulous concept of sin: I could toe the party line that mankind is in a generally sinful and fallen state, but the concept of daily committing specific sins that needed to be confessed and repented of was foreign to me. I had accepted the idea that God knows I’m a sinner and I’m just here on this planet, doing the best I can til He calls me home. But is that how God views sin? What does that belief say about my view of God?

It is human nature to think pretty highly of ourselves. We can think even more highly when we compare ourselves to those around us instead of to the perfect standard of Christ. But when we view ourselves through the lens of Scripture, when we see the standard of God’s glory and realize we do indeed fall short every day and in every way, it should be humbling. There is nothing that will leave you clinging to the mercy and grace of Christ than to daily recognize your own sinfulness and helplessness apart from Him.

But this is not to be some downer post about the depravity of man; although, our total and complete depravity is depressing. Mankind apart from God is a depressing sight to behold. “But if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Cor. 5.17). The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in every believer (Rom. 8.11), and it is that power that enables us to put to death the flesh and its sinful desires. By learning about Jesus, by studying His Word, by discovering what He says about how we are to treat our neighbors and how we are to live, we hide in our heart His word and enable the Holy Spirit to use that Word to defeat the sin that so easily entangles us.

So how to do we see ourselves as God sees us? Through the Bible! It not only exposes our sinful nature and convicts us of it, but it provides the armor of God we are to put on to protect ourselves from the work of the enemy. If you truly want to see yourself as God sees you, measure yourself according to the scale that God Himself provided.