I’ve been forced by circumstances to live in hotels for the past seven plus months now. The first three of those months were spent in Houston, TX, looking for more affordable housing which never materialized no matter how hard I tried to find and secure it, or from those people and places I sought help from which in the end were no help at all. And the same situation has been happening for the past four plus months since I returned to Orlando from my trip to Houston.
Hotels are meant to be temporary dwellings, not semi-permanent or permanent housing. And who can afford to live in hotels on a permanent basis anyway? The current weekly rent I pay is $285/week, yet the apartment complexes where I have gone to secure an apartment for half that price tell me I don’t make enough income on my Social Security to be able to rent an apartment from them. And even if I did make enough income I have been told at every single one of them that the size of apartment I’m looking for (e.g., the smallest) isn’t available anyway and I’d have to be put on a waiting list. But then, of course, I don’t make enough income to even be put on the waiting list.
So, I’ve been stuck living in hotels for over seven months now at highway robbery prices compared to apartment complexes who won’t give me the time of day. And, you’d be surprised what I have discovered by being forced to live in them for this long. Welcome to a side of America that most folks (middle class, upper middle class, and the rich among us) never get to see or experience except from a distance if at all. I know I never expected to see or be a part of it either when I was working and I had a steady income that paid my bills. And I certainly never expected this to happen to me especially at an age when retirement was only about ten years away when I lost my job in Houston.
Life can turn on a dime, folks . . . .
I would like to be able to say that Christianity is alive and well in America but I haven’t actually experienced it to the point of receiving actual, genuine help and not just talk or being placated when it comes to my housing situation (and I won’t even include the past six years that I have been unemployed, and I have Christian friends and colleagues who are working in my profession and some of them are in high level positions, too). And now, as if that wasn’t enough to be enduring over six years, I have been forced to live in hotels for over seven months now due to my very low income on Social Security which I never should have needed to apply for yet if I had only had a job for these past six years.
I have been discouraged by what I have seen and personally witnessed from folks calling themselves Christians over these past six years that I have been unemployed and now these past seven months while being forced to live in hotels. If this is what genuine Christianity looks and acts like nowadays in America, I’m changing my religion. No wonder Christianity is losing ground in America especially among the younger generations. What’s there to draw them in? Our love?
Fortunately, as I read the New Testament, what I have experienced from some Christians whom I have sought help from and not received anything in return but talk and placating is not what actual, genuine, lived out New Testament Christianity looks or acts like. So where do I go to find it? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist here in America, but I’m pretty convinced it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack at this point in time. And I’m talking about one-on-one help, and not the “global” answers I’ve gotten in the past, like how Christians have built hospitals and other compassion-based organizations and sent missionaries around the world. (See article titled, “What Has Christianity Done for the World?”) While all of that is vitally important it still misses the point I’m trying to make when it comes down to people (individuals) actually helping other people (individuals) in their time of need and not just leaving them in their wake with a quick “I’m praying for you” statement while walking away.
Christians can be just as mean-spirited as the rest of the world and that should give us (at least those of us who call ourselves Christian) pause for thought. It’s not that we aren’t human but if our Christianity makes no difference in our lives and how we treat others (all others) on a regular, ongoing basis that means something is severely lacking in it. The Pharisees were like that, too. Let’s take a look the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:9-14:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Sound familiar? There is a total lack of love in the attitude of the Pharisee. Instead, the Pharisee gloated from his own confidence in his own self-righteousness. And he looked down on others, too. And where there is no love, there’s not going to be a lot of offering of help, either. Instead, we’ll probably hear, “I’m praying for you,” while folks smile and walk away. Wouldn’t it be shocking to find out that perhaps many of our churches are actually filled with a fair number of Pharisees instead of genuine Christians? An attitude check (especially towards strangers in our midst) is all that’s needed to figure it out. If even one person enters our church and we judge them harshly for any reason (and usually without even knowing them or hearing some gossip about them from others who often have ulterior and self-seeking motives), it’s pretty clear whose side we are really on.
I used to think there were a lot of genuine Christians in America but these past six years have clearly indicated that there might not be as many as I originally surmised. Talk is cheap, and it’s easy to look and act the part when not actually being a genuine Christian. Just dress nice, look nice, act nice, say all the right words, pray properly, and hide the stuff we don’t want folks to know and, hey, we’ll be accepted by most churches today. But in the end, it doesn’t mean anything. And God isn’t fooled, either.
James 4 makes some pretty clear statements as to how we should be living with each other:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
Read that last sentence again. If sinning doesn’t bother us anymore, what does that say about us? And when was the last time we actually submitted ourselves to God with grieving and wailing and changing our laughter into mourning? When was the last time we were genuinely humble before God (and not with the false humility that is so pervasive in many Christian circles today)?
What does matter after all? . . . What are the axiomatic truths upon which all human life may rest with confidence? Fortunately they are not many. Here are the chief ones:
1. Only God is great. . . .
2. Only God is wise. . . .
3. Apart from God nothing matters. We think that health matters, that freedom matters, or knowledge or art or civilization. And but for one insistent word they would matter indeed. That word is eternity.
Grant that men possess perpetual being, and the preciousness of every earthly treasure is gone instantly. God is to our eternal being what our heart is to our body. The lungs, the liver, the kidneys have value as they relate to the heart. Let the heart stop and the rest of the organs promptly collapse. Apart from God, what is money, fame, education, civilization? Exactly nothing at all, for men leave all these things behind them and one by one go to eternity. Let God hide His face and nothing thereafter is worth the effort.
4. Only what we do in God will remain to us at last. . . . (Devotion for September 12)
In my last post titled, “Nothing is Hidden,” I quoted from a 2008 survey that stated that 76% of the adult population in America considered themselves to be Christian, yet the country is in a very sorry state of affairs. Many of those folks most likely don’t have a clue what it means to be Christian other then maybe by attending church or because their parents were Christian. Whether or not we are genuinely Christian is first and foremost stated in John 3:16-18:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
And it is then proved out by how we live our lives. Anybody can call themselves Christian and it doesn’t mean a thing unless it is followed by action and with genuine and sincere love for God and for others. Nothing else matters. Christianity often gets a bad rap in America because many people calling themselves Christian haven’t a clue what it really means nor do they live any differently then the rest of society. However, in John 13:35, Jesus stated “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
And what does genuine love look like? 1 Corinthians 13 states:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
And just in case you’re wondering why there are apparently so many “fake” Christians claiming to be Christian, GotQuestions?org provides a comprehensive answer to that question “Why are there so many fake Christians?“ at this link. Here are two paragraphs from the article:
This question is certainly a legitimate one in the minds of many people. And this is likely due to the behavior of some Christians; however, it is also likely because of the behavior of many who think they are Christians or profess to be Christians, but who are not. The reasons many believe they are true Christians when they are not are many and varied. The false teaching that is so prevalent these days is certainly one reason. When churches eschew teaching sound doctrine, the end result will be congregants who do not know the truth of God’s Word. How can they keep in step with the Spirit, when the Truth is not in them?
Also, some believe their recitation of a prayer or responding to an “altar call” alone may have turned them into a Christian. Many believe their religious traditions, such as being baptized as an infant, secured a spot in heaven for them, or that their plentiful good works alone have put them in good standing with God. And, of course, some believe church attendance alone guarantees salvation. The point is that many who profess to be Christians are not Christians at all. Yet they complacently remain convinced that all is well with their soul. Sadly, many will live their entire lives believing they were Christians only to one day hear these words from Jesus Christ: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23). (Quote source and read more at this link.)
In short, two commandments clearly state in a nutshell how we should be living our lives as Christians. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
That’s it . . . .
Everything flows from it . . .
And nothing else matters . . . .
YouTube Video: “Testify to Love” by Avalon: