In the Midst of Azusa, Forgiveness Was Found

azusa

First, just in case you don’t know what AZUSA is…. 110 years ago, on Azusa Street a revival began. On the 110th anniversary, many church leaders, congregations, believers, musicians, etc came together to pray for a new revival.  The church is calling out for a third great awakening.

I have never personally witnessed an event of this magnitude, in fact the only revival I have ever attended was a community one held at a local church.  I was in middle school.  There were a LOT of people, but nothing like Azusa on Saturday, April 9 2016.

First, I want to comment on the diversity of those who came to worship together.  I was not their live, but watching online as much as I could throughout the day.  When the camera would pan the audience and the stage, there were so many colors… ages… genders… just, people.  God’s people.  Together.  In one accord.

I found myself brought to tears each time I heard the Word of God spoken, prayers, or songs of Praise… in a language that is not my own.  English. Spanish. Native American. Hebrew. Arabic. Latin…  it was just beautiful.

Second, I want to point to the overall theme of the event… while the church was calling out for revival… they were acknowledging that we have to get ourselves in order before it can.  There was so much emphasis on getting our own houses in order, so that the spirit of revival can be unleashed.

If we want to usher revival in we have to clean our house first. 1Tim3:5 If anyone can’t manage his own family, how can he manage the church

If you look at the great revivals of the past, those who witnessed it would tell you that there were small pockets of revival happening at the same time in various locations.  Small movements that grew into great movements and spread like holy wild-fire!

What was the core issue that Azusa pointed to, that the church needed to get in order?  Unity under Christ.  We’ve been divided too long, doing what seems right to men and our own minds.  We have allowed man’s notions of what is “godly” to divides us against each other.  Denomination vs. denomination.  Christian vs. christian.  In order to unify under Christ, we must begin with forgiveness.

We must get our house in order as a church, to be a vessel of revival into the world. Forgive and seek forgiveness

Division is one of the things that breaks my heart about the current day church.   We have put ourselves first, our way of thinking… interpretation… worshiping… praying… studying… etc.  We hold people to our “standard” of what righteousness looks like and quite often we are incapable of living up to that standard in the first place.  We allow pride to take root, and then we elevate ourselves about other believers because they are not as wise or knowledgeable as we are.  And then we see friendships divide, churches divide, denominations divide.

We watch our family crumble.  Then a bitter root takes hold, because that bitterness helps us justify our choose to separate, judge, and criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We justify our sin of division, when Christ has called us to reconcile to each other and be one body, one church, under Christ.

We wonder why our prayers are not answered, yet we are in active sin while bitterness, pride, and unforgiveness are sewn into our hearts.  We wonder why our ministry isn’t moving forward, when we have become our own stumbling block.  We wonder why God is not blessing us, when we are constantly building up a wall between us and Him.

If you are holding bitterness, a bad word about God’s anointed, anger toward someone, hate… we are in sin.

When we allow that bitterness to take root, we can speak and act terribly about those God calls His children.    We are criticizing God’s creation, the work He is doing in a person, the mission He has put on their heart, and even God himself!  Because, we are created in His image.  This doesn’t exclude the moments when we are holding unforgiveness, bitterness, or critical thoughts about our own selves.

Every time we criticize our sister/brother in Christ, we are being critical of Jesus who lives in them. God help us.

If it goes unchecked and that bitterness takes root, it can make itself a comfy home in our heart and lives, and it will choke out everything good that tries to come into our life. We can become so focused on the root and it’s offshoots… we miss what God is doing around us.  We become wrapped up in it’s vines and become slaves to it, unable to serve God because we are bound to anger and hurt.

Holding unforgiveness in your heart toward someone, you both are slaves in bondage to it. Free your slaves. Jer34:8

We will keep adding to the weight of the baggage we carry, and we will carry that baggage far longer than God would have us.  It will become heavier, slowing down our walk, weighing us down, stealing our energy, our hope, and our future.  We can’t reach the blessing, when we are dragging dead weight behind us.  Eventually it will win, and break you down until you just give up.

What is the baggage you have been carrying for TOO LONG, that is slowing you down & holding you back from blessing?

We are told in the scriptures that if we have an offense between us and our brother, we are to put our offering down and go handle that first.  We are not to bring our offering into the temple until we have reconciled.  So, until then, every offering you make is empty.  Who is it that you need to forgive?  A friend, relative, church… yourself?  Are you carrying the weight of your own sin?  The sin Christ died for, and cast to the depths of the sea… did you fish it back up?  Are you taking it back from the foot of the cross?  Are you saying… “everything but this Lord, this sin is too big for you.”

God help us.

We can’t bring our offering to the table if we are holding a grudge against someone. Who do you need to forgive?

When we are focused so much on our own pain, bitterness, anger, and what we see as unfair… we miss the fact that our world is mourning and crying out in pain.  Instead of crying out on their behalf, we say:  WHAT ABOUT ME?  What about my pain?  What about my situation?  What about my hurt?  Where is my help?  Where is my blessing?

People groups around the earth are crying out in pain, will you cry with them. Will you mourn with them?

We can not unite under Christ when we are too focused on our own selves.  When we are seeking my own needs or blessings first.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

If Christ can call out to the Lord to forgive those who stood against him, accused him, crucified him… why can we not say of our oppressors, “Lord… forgive them… they know not what they do.”

We need to get on our knees and pray.

Lord, let there be a sweeping release of forgiveness across the country between all people, unite us seventy-seven times seven!

We need to forgive others, and ourselves.  Our past, is our past. It was washed clean and we need to stop picking that back up.  We need to take that stronghold of shame, and let it go.  We need to believe that we are that new creation in Christ, a new thing… a new work, where we are continuing to grow in our pursuit of holiness.  A good work He continues in us until the day of fruition when we are united with the saints in Heaven.

Lord, free of us of our bondage to sin… our wayward steps… our critical words… and our flesh. Spirit come.

Lord we repent of our attitudes of separation and division, let us reunite under you! Amen.

Lord, set the captives free! Spirit, move us to mourn as one body & move us to unite under Jesus

And, we need to pray as if we are the only ones praying.  We need intercessors who are standing in the gap for those who are too weak to pray, or too broken.  We need intercessors to pray for the lost, the prodigals, the ones who have gone astray.  We need to pray fervently, as if everything depends on our pray.  Then when we are all praying, as if we are the only ones, there is a complete community of intercessors praying on behalf of YOU too.

Pray as if no one else is praying. If we all pray, as if no one else is praying we will all be intercessors.

As forgiveness and healing sweeps across our body, and we unite we become a city on a hill, shining the light of the Son, for the lost to find their way home.  We begin to look different from the world, not because of our dress or the words we speak. Instead we look different because we love differently, we forgive even the unforgivable.  We will not be divided but united under the Truth.  Standing in agreement of His Word, and let by His Spirit instead of our own thoughts and our own flesh.

— John 16:13 —

When the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

In our brokenness HE is magnified because in our healing HE gets the glory.

We must pray that the Holy Spirit will flood our hearts & compel us with your Word, let it pour out of our mouths, a sweet song to a weary world.   So that we can go out and disciple the nations, starting here in our country.  One person, one family, one community at a time.  The mission field is here, in our own back yards.  We still have unreached communities here.  We have missionaries coming INTO the United States in order to preach the gospel!  We must get our house in order, and then we go… we go out beyond our backyards, into the unchurched communities, and then into the world.   Sharing the gospel, baptizing the people, making disciples, and building up leaders to continue the good work.

Lord, send a fire of revival into the hearts of your people. Let us touch the communities around us in a mighty way.

Praise God for what is about to come.

This brings me to my third point, what I took away from Azusa.  I watched church leaders…. catholic, messianic, denominations, cultures/ethnicities… forgive each other.

If others can forgive, so can I.  And, so can you.

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#Write31Days Challenge – Post 25 – Carefully Quiet

fence

There are some subjects, that I am carefully quiet about.  It isn’t that I have an opinion, or that I am disregarding biblical truths about the subject.  I’m just careful about when I speak, what I say, and how I say it.  I brushed on this topic a few days ago on my abortion post.  While I am prolife, and stand for the life of the baby… I am carefully quiet when it comes to slinging names at the women who have had an abortion.  There are too many women grieving, receiving post abortive counseling … to recklessly throw my words across a screen or in a public gathering. 

Many women who are aggrieved by their choice already feel guilt or shame.  Their hearts are burdened, and many of them are secretly so.  Not every woman who has had an abortion is ready to share her story.  I have no idea who among my social media friends, or those reading this blog, may have had an abortion.  Instead of casting judgement upon the women, I would rather focus on the lives I am fighting for and love on those who are broken over their decision.    So, when it comes to social media posts on this subject, I am carefully quiet.  I think through which news articles I will share, or memes make my point.  I focus on saving life versus condemning women who already suffer.

I have seen too many people on social media, that are representing our faith, become reckless with their words.  They do not thing beyond themselves and their opinions to the women who are sitting on the other side of the screen, the ones receiving the arrows that are being shot.

“They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.  They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear.”

Psalm 64:3-4

These types of posts are often written (or shared) without any careful thought or concern.  A quick click of a button, and the damage is done.  There was one instance , where a woman I know shared an article on social media that was really cruel.  When someone called her out on it, she ducked the rebuke by saying that she had only shared it in order to read it later.  This was either a lie to save face, or total irresponsibility on her part.  It didn’t matter the damage was done.

“Words once spoken, like an arrow from a bow, cannot be recalled.”

It may seem obvious at this point that we should be more careful what we say in public settings about big controversial topics.  Maybe we are being a bit careless, letting the tongue fly in the face of unsuspecting victims.  We could use a little more caution, think through what we are going to say, or take a quick pause before hitting the share button.   This is great, but we need to also think through the less controversial things we say recklessly.

I know of several women who take a very strong stance that not only is motherhood is the greatest calling that God gives a woman, some go to the extreme and claim it to be the only calling on a woman.  Be a wife, be a mother.  End of story.  They share internet articles, blog opinions, and scriptures to validate their claims.

I can’t help but think of all the infertile women reading those posts.  

I know of women who are keyboard activists in regards to the idea “breast is best”, who use careless words to support their cause.  They shame mothers away from bottle feeding using statistics, quotes, and shame.

I can’t help but think of the young moms I have encountered who feel like failures because they can’t do the basic thing their body was designed for.  They cry because they have been shamed into thinking they have now compromised their child’s future.

Why do we feel that we are so right (or righteous) that we can just sling words without any concern for what we are saying, how we are saying it, and whom we are saying it to.

There is a reason the scripture refers to our tongues as a sword, or that our mouths will reveal our hearts.  Judgmental, divisive, and angry words reveal a bitter, proud heart.

When we take the time to stop, and carefully consider our words… we discern what to say, how to say it, and when to speak.  We also learn when to be carefully quiet.  Not because we don’t have truth to say, but rather because we love those who are hurting.  We are willing to take a pause and look for a better way.

 

#Write31Days – Post 4 – The Big Picture

soapboxIf someone were to come to my home right now and look in the snack basket on top of my fridge, they would be shocked.  There are approximately thirty packages of chocolate pudding.  They would wonder why I would let my kids have that instead of healthier options.  How irresponsible of me as a parent, right?  I should be teaching my children better eating habits.

However, they would be wrong.   What they don’t know is the whole truth, they didn’t see the big picture.  The truth is that I put in thirty packs of pudding and thirty packs of fruit cups packed in water, not syrup.  My kids have been choosing the fruit over the pudding.

I would be judged on what someone thought I was giving them, not realizing that they were actually seeing the option my children rejected.  This is what happens when we assume based on what we see, without having more information… without the bigger picture.

We can apply this same idea to the scriptures when we are not looking at them as a whole.  The truth is that the scriptures are filled with harsh truths and loving compassion.  We are judged by what others see, not what they don’t.

If all we throw at the world is judgment, condemnation, and “tough love”, that is what the world sees.  We give them rules to adhere by, a long list of do and don’t commands, and set an expectation of my way or the highway.  Then, the world sees God as a looming ogre, unable to be satisfied, angry, wrathful, unmerciful.  No wonder, they wouldn’t have anything to do with Him.

If all we throw out into the world is Gods’ love, mercy and compassion, that is what the world sees.  They see a God that lets people get away with sin, because He loves them so much.  They will see no need to change who they are, to no longer conform to the world because God’s love is easily given.  No wonder we see people filling our pews, but no sign of change in them… nor taking God seriously.  This is where we are judged as hypocrites because we call our selves Christians, but we don’t act like it.  There is no evidence of it.

God is not fully represented to the world if we are only giving them half the picture.  We can’t only show a harsh and demanding God, just as much as we can not only show a gentle and loving God.  Neither of these views encompass God as a whole.  They do not reflect the overarching story of the scriptures.  They eliminate parts of God’s character.  We have to share the full measure of God in order to have a real affect on people’s lives.  We need to know that God loves at the same time as being called into obedience.

We need the healthy doses of scripture that help us make better decisions, avoid temptations, and long for holiness in our lives… just as much as we need the sweet encouragement of a loving and forgiving God.

If we are only representing a portion of the scripture, we are being irresponsible with The Word and with our witness to others.  We are living half of the life God calls us to live, believing half of the Truth we’ve been entrusted with.  We are also giving to others a half truth, half story, that doesn’t fully reflect our wonderful and marvelous God.

#Write31Days – Post 2 – Fall of Faith

brokenmug

When I was a small child, we would go to the beach often.  I was holding on to a raft, talking with an older woman.  We had been chatting for quite some time but I hadn’t realized we had been drifting.  I was called back to shore, and realizing it would take too long to swim back on the raft, I decided to walk back through the water pulling the raft behind me.  But there was something I didn’t know…

The woman was treading water.  I thought she was standing.  I took a leap of faith and I nearly drowned.  That event has had a major influence in regard to how I view the ocean.  It made me untrusting of the sea.  That doesn’t mean that I stopped going to the beach, or that I wouldn’t get in the water.  I still loved boat rides and splashing along the shore.  However, I learned the hard way to respect the dangers that ocean presents.  I take precautions when I am in the ocean, such as checking the rip current reports or the weather before we head out.  I no longer assume that it’s safe to let go of the raft.

Recently I was posed with the question:

How do I begin to trust God again, when I took that leap of faith and it failed?

What I have learned since the day, is that the ocean is not the one who was untrustworthy.  The ocean is, as the ocean is.  It doesn’t really change, the dangers are always present.  I was untrustworthy with the ocean.  I made assumptions.  I didn’t look at the environment around me and make a educated decision.  I didn’t ask the woman next to me how deep the water was.  I just jumped, recklessly into the water.

God is trustworthy.  He is unchanging, all knowing, and perfection.  He is worthy of our trust.  If a leap of faith fails, I believe it is the person who was untrustworthy.  A leap of faith is never done recklessly.

If God puts it on your heart to walk across the street and hand a stranger $100 bill, you should take the leap of faith.  Do what God is asking of you, despite not knowing the person or the reason why.  However, that doesn’t mean you cross the street without looking both ways.  That would be reckless, you could get hit by a car.

Leaps of faith are not reckless, they are bold.  When God asks us to take a leap of faith, it is going to be a bold step and potentially will make us feel uncomfortable.  Yet, we don’t make that leap blindly.  We must get the full picture of what that means, so that we make no assumptions and we are not caught off guard.

Occasionally, it may be God’s intention that your leap fails, but understand that failure is only YOUR perspective.  From God’s perspective there was a purpose and a lesson in that failure for you.  It may be a stepping stone to get you prepared for a bigger task ahead, to point you in the right direction, or help refine your call.    If it is a true God ordained failure, that leap will be redeemed somewhere.  It won’t happen just to make you miserable, lose everything, and be a total waste.  It will serve a purpose and you will see it eventually.

If you take  a leap of faith, and it turns into a fall… unredeemable, no purpose, no lesson… you took a reckless leap.  How was it reckless?

  • Your Timing, Not His –  There are times when we can see the destination God is taking us to, we recognize it as a leap of faith, but we want it so badly NOW that we rush God’s blessing.  We try to do it in our own timing and not His.  Then it doesn’t work out, and our faith is tested.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His timing.
  • Your Strength, Not His – When a person has a goal or a dream, they are by nature do-ers.  They want to make it happen, and they will put in a LOT of hard work and effort into it.  They will continue to dump time, energy, and money into whatever it is.  Then it fails.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His provision.
  • Your Desires, Not His Calling – Sometimes a leap of faith, is really a fall into our own desires.  We want something so badly (even godly things) to happen, that we justify it in our minds as what God wants.  We jump right into the deep end without affirmation , and then everything falls apart.  But, it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting His counsel.

If you examine the scriptures, there is not a single piece of evidence that God is reckless with His people.  Bold?  Yes.  Asking them to do the impossible?  Absolutely!

BUT….

God always goes ahead, preparing the way.

God always is with them, providing for their needs.

God always comes behind, protecting and securing their journey.

Every single time that calamity comes upon His people, it is NOT because God failed them.  It is a result of His people losing faith and trust in Him, trying to do things in their own way, in their own timing, and making reckless decisions.  They took their eyes off of God, and looked only at themselves.

A God ordained leap of faith will never fail in HIS purposes, in HIS strength, and in HIS timing.

If you truly believe you took a leap of faith, that failed, I would challenge you to carefully and prayerfully examine that leap.

  1. Was this God’s desire for me?  Or my own?
  2. Did I rush God’s blessing?  Was I impatient?
  3. Did I try to make it happen on my own?  Did I not trust?
  4. Was I discontent during the process?
  5. Did I make reckless decisions?  Did I seek God’s counsel?
  6. Were there any affirmations outside of myself to confirm this calling?
  7.  Was I faithful in prayer and obedient to His word, during the process?
  8. Did I doubt God’s protection and provision during the journey?
  9. Is there a lesson I was being taught that I might have missed?

Pray that God would reveal the truths to you about that leap that became a fall.  As we begin to see truth, our trust is restored in God.   We also begin to recognize how untrustworthy we truly are when left to our own devices, and learn the hard lesson to fully rely on God.

Peter took a leap of faith, when he stepped out of the boat.  Not because of what he thought HE could do, but because he believed Jesus.  He didn’t trust his own ability, He trusted Jesus’ power.  It was only when he looked at himself that he began to doubt, and started to sink.

You may think that your Leap of Faith turned into a Fall.  But, God’s work in you may not be completed yet.  He’s reaching out his hand to you, to pull you back up onto your feet, and step out onto the waters of trust.

Christian Love, I wonder…..

Recording Artist Tori Kelley was in NYC and went through a walk in Central Park.  She overheard music from under a bridge that caught her attention.  She went to check it out and came across this amazing trio.  She ended up doing an impromptu session with them, singing Hillsong’s “OCEAN”.

So moved by the trio, their talent, and their rendition of the song, she invited them to perform at her concert the next night.  Someone filmed it.  Hillsong heard about it, and posted it to their facebook page.

Honestly, I just love moments like this.  When we capture raw talent, mixed with someone who has been polished by industry.  There is beauty in that rawness.  I found tears streaming my face, as I listened.  His accent.  Her voice.  Their unique melody.  The simple strumming of her guitar.  They were in that moment, faceless … just four people praising God in secular places.

I was moved.  I went to the comment sections to share my appreciation & thoughts…. and that is when things derailed.

There are in fact two sets of comments.

The ones directly on Tori Kelley’s page where the video was originally posted.

Then the set of comments on Hillsong’s page where the video was shared.

The comments on Tori Kelley’s personal page were nothing but supportive, a secular artist took a chance to share a beautiful song, and it was loved.  Their were comments by people who knew the song already, for sure, but also a slew of people who had never heard it before.  It was so amazing to see such a positive response.  I sincerely searched for one single negative comment, and couldn’t find one.   Why did I search?

… because of the comments on Hillsong’s page… by Christians.

There was plenty of negativity there.

I’m not going to quote the comments exactly, but they could be summed up into the following paraphrases:

“I am disappointed that Hillsong would share this video, I can’t let my daughter watch it because of what Tori is wearing.”

I love Tori’s voice, but she should really dress a lot more modestly.”

“What would Tori wear if she knew Jesus was first in line to her concert?”

“Why are you wearing short shorts on stage to sing about Jesus?”

…. and those were just the nicer comments.  There were a few I just couldn’t bring myself to share here.

1 Corinthians 13

Love: The Superior Way

13 If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast[a]
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.
But as for prophecies,
they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
10 But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end.
11 When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
12 For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
13 Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

I’m going to be really transparent, and it’s going to be a bit uncomfortable for us all… I think.  But, I do believe that is where conversation begins.  I promise… it will all tie together in the end…..

My social media accounts are a HOT mess right now, and have been for some time.  I count myself lucky to have a diverse group of friends, with a diverse group of opinions.  I often find myself sitting in the middle… afraid to speak… because I really don’t know what to say.  I don’t feel informed enough, and I don’t feel qualified either.

My husband and I have never discounted a human being’s value or rights, based on their gender, color, or sexuality.  We have never allowed these external characteristics to cloud our view of their internal character.  I have certainly had friends over the years where we didn’t agree on every subject, and yes religious beliefs and politics included.  However that has never interfered with our ability to love one another, to care for each other in time of hurt and pain.  My children have learned this too, and their friends represent every color of the rainbow.  They see character, not color… or gender… or sexual preferences (which does begin to be an issue as your children enter teen years).   I observe their standards for friendship, and what I notice is their standards are based entirely off of character.  A friend who lies, is quickly out the door.  A friend who makes derogatory comments, doesn’t last.   A friend that causes hurt, to my child or others, is kept at a distance at minimum.

So…. my heart breaks every day as I read my social media.  Because, no matter how much we have impacted change within our children… there is a greater world out there that hasn’t changed all that much.  And then, I still  find myself stuck in the middle.  I really have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against, or to have a cultural history of deep seeded pain and torment.  I don’t understand what it feels like to be a part of socio-economic group that is still fighting for away to rise above or get out from repetitive history.  I have never considered an abortion, or fought for the right to get married.  I have never been so poor that I needed to steal or sell drugs to supplement the income my family needed.   With the exception of a time in my wilder youth, I also don’t know what it feels like for someone to naturally assume you are guilty, or up to no good, based solely on the color of my skin.  I’ve never been treated poorly by those in authority because of my skin color or my gender.

Because of this, when it comes to a lot of what I see on the news and in social media…. I still feel unqualified.  Even more so, when I watch those I call friends who ARE qualified can’t even agree.    When you are observing a situation in any part of the world, and those whom it does impact can’t seem to agree… how do we even begin to understand.  It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and suggest someone make different choices, to point toward those who perpetuate stereotypes, and think we can just simply say “STOP”.  As if it was that easy, to just stop being who you are… to just stop being a product of your environment… to just stop being everything you have ever known or recognized to be truth.

We can look at a smoker, or a heroin addict and have compassion and empathy, we understand how hard it is to stop those addictions.

But we have no compassion on cultural, society, economical, and even personal choices that have become rooted as truth for someone.  We think we can simply say “stop being who you are”, and that person can just shake it off and change over night without any further temptation or struggle.

I want to be clear that I am not attempting to debate any scriptural truths.  On certain subject, the scriptures are pretty clear.  Even when you look at it deeper, understanding the cultures and time period they were written.  We recognize that our worlds are not that much different, and biblical truths then … are biblical truths now.

What I am wanting to address though, is the behavior I have witnessed amongst those who are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Some of the most vicious words, mocking tones, and just down right disrespect have flowed from some of their mouths recently.

But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
Matthew 15:18

When I saw the posts about the Tori Kelley/Hillsong video posts, I threw my hands up in the air.  I was angry.  Here we have a secular artist, sharing a song about God, in a secular setting… and some Christians had nothing better to comment.  Instead it was an opportunity to tear this artist down because of her attire.

Even though Christ invited us to come as we are.  He wouldn’t have told a prostitute to go home and change first.  He wouldn’t have told the leper to clean and bandage himself up.  He wouldn’t have told a woman to go home and get her husband.  Christ reached out to those who sought after him.  He responded to the woman who slipped her hand through a crowd and touched the hem of his garment.  He took the long way on certain trips, because He had a divine appointment on the way.  In fact, the harshest words Christ had… they were not for the unbelievers, or the ones who genuinely were willing to listen.  His harshest words were for the Pharisees, Saducees… the leaders who KNEW better.  The leaders who called everyone to live by a standard that they themselves didn’t live up to.  Leaders who twisted and added to the scriptures in order to get ahead in the community, to keep their status, and to make people do what they felt was right.

As I look at those who God reaches to, I see a God who loves the unlovable.  He forgives the unforgivable.  He changes lives and hearts, from the hardest stone.  Who calls to His people to come unto Him.  To cast their burdens, to drop their yokes, to be freed from their slavery, and to simply follow.

While I may not understand what it feels like to be be discriminated against, dodging literal and figurative bullets of hatred, there is something I do know….

I do know what it feels like to be loved, immeasurably by God.  By my husband.  By my children.  By my friends, who love me even when they don’t agree with me.

I do know what it feels like to be unloved, by critics and people who didn’t bother to get to know me as a person.

I also know what it feels like to be judged, criticized, unfairly treated, spoken down to, treated as less than, put down, berated, and ostracized by OTHER CHRISTIANS.

I my entire life history, the worst treatment I have ever gotten….  the people who have made me feel the worst about myself have been those I have shared a faith with.  And, I am watching this play out daily in my social media news feed.  Regardless of the situation…. Ferguson.  Charleston. Bruce/Caitlin Jenner.  Gay Marriage.  Abortion.   Heck, even on issues as nominal as practicing yoga, homeschooling, how we dress, if we breastfeed, the number of children we have, etc….

The greatest hate and judgement that I have see has been coming from a group of people that were told LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  It wasn’t a direction to head toward.  It wasn’t defined to a specific group of people.

We were told LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS.

And, what I see is an awful amount of HATE toward others.

I’m not saying to LOVE means to accept or agree with everything.  Not at all, we can still hold to the tenants of our faith, disagree with people, the government, the world… but still LOVE.

My love for you defies what clothing you wear.  My love for you defies what movies you watch or music you listen to.  My love for you defies the choices you make in your life.  My love defies any earthly explanation because my love was defined by the ONE WHO LOVED SO MUCH HE GAVE HIS LIFE ME.

When I try to live up to that kind of love, it often means putting myself and my agendas on the back burner and simply loving others… for who they are, where they are.

Instead of feeling hate toward those who are facing the ugliness of a fallen world, that give into temptation, that are walking away from God, or simply trying to fly under the radar…. I feel pain and sympathy.  It’s not a joking matter, to make internet memes about and snarky jabs.  We shouldn’t be joking about this, or standing above it in righteous indignation.  We should be weeping, we should be praying, we should be clinging to God and asking for His forgiveness.

We are called to do our best to live at peace with everyone… yet we are not living at peace when we have a hard heart toward a group of people.  We are not living at peace when we try to force our beliefs upon others.  We are not living at peace when we think we can say anything we want because we are “speaking truth in love”.

Too often the words “truth in love” have been used to soften the blow of judgement.  “I love you to much to let you go on sinning, let me tell you what to do…. “.  As if I have any clue what any person should do?  Am I without sin?  NO!  As Paul said… “Of the sinners, I am the worst”.  Which is why over and over again we are reminded in the scriptures… he is who is free of sin can cast the first stone…. take care of the plank in your own eye before you worry about your brother’s splinter.  It is why we are given and entire chapter about LOVE!

We were not told just to love, but HOW TO LOVE.

And we are failing miserably at doing so.

The job of conviction has been taken, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  He does a good job at it too, because I’m convicted daily at how I fail.  And, considering the fact that I fail daily… I am not even qualified for the job.  It’s not up to me to convict anyone of their sin… or to change people’s hearts.

My job is to love.

  • Love God.  In doing so, my life and person may seem different to others.  Living as an example, striving in the daily to exemplify God in a way that makes others take notice, ask questions, and do the work He has called me to do.
  • Love Others.  In doing so, I will have opportunities to share God with others.  For those who believe, those opportunities will be in sharing life together, growing with each other in His will.  For those who don’t believe, I will stand as a light in the darkness… of hypocrisy and hate.  I will share that God loves all, always has and always will.  He died for all, not some.  I will show real love, showing Jesus in my life, and I will leave the rest up to God.  And, I as I love others, so will my children and their children.  I will create a legacy of love that will extend into the future.

When I die…. and people talk about me…. what I hope they say is:

Gena, she loved God and was always striving to know Him better.  She loved people, she had compassion for others, caring more about them than her own self.  She wasn’t perfect, never pretended to be.  She asked for grace, and gave a lot. She never held a grudge, always spoke with love, and trusted God to shape her life.

This week, my eyes were really opened to how little love some “Christians” show toward each other, let alone to the public.  It’s no wonder the world views us in such a negative way.  It’s easy to blame the world, it’s easy to write it off  because the scriptures tell us we will be persecuted and hated.  So, we use that as license to just say whatever we want carelessly.   The more I read from others, the more I wonder…. is that reason? Or, have we done it to ourselves?

Have we painted a view of Christianity that is unloving of anyone who doesn’t see things exactly as we do?  We don’t need the world to divide the church, or hate the church.  We are doing a pretty good job of doing that on our own.  We have more people leaving the church in every generation.  We are dividing ourselves up into groups and camps that believe  our understanding of the scriptures is better or “more accurate” than others.  We can’t comprehend that we may be wrong, or at least partially incorrect.  We stand on “biblical truths” that most of us couldn’t even defend with the scriptures, because we haven’t taken the time to read it for ourselves.  We stand on what others interpret, their opinions, their understanding.  We look for speakers and “authorities” who agree with our interpretation in order to validate our opinions.  Yet we never test them to the scriptures or look to challenge our beliefs.

We have crippled ourselves in regard to REAL knowledge, and then we believe we have the RIGHT to stand above anyone else and dictate how anyone should live “by faith”.

This isn’t the first time this has happened either, you’d know that if you read the scripture.  Biblical history is full of instances of believers who thought their way was right, who didn’t test the scriptures for themselves, who had hearts that were hardened toward other believers who didn’t do things “their way”.

WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY JESUS CAME!   We needed Christ’s ministry as much as we needed his sacrifice.  His death paid the penalty for our sin.  His life exposed truth, exemplified how we should live, love, pray, serve, and share.  His words spoke greatly of LOVE, and when Jesus spoke hard truths… he spoke them with love.  He wept for the people.  When was the last time you wept for the world?  He had compassion for the world,  “Forgive them, they know not what they do!”  —  This wasn’t just a prayer for those who crucified Jesus… it was a prayer for everyone, past … present… future.   Jesus was falsely accused, falsely imprisoned, falsely judged, falsely executed.  He could have called down the powers of heaven, wiped away everyone who stood and spoke against him, leaving only believers and followers.  Instead, he called into the heavens for forgiveness.

Asking for the forgiveness of a sin the people couldn’t even recognize as a sin.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world.  As for me, and my house, WE will serve the Lord.  We will live a life that shows a love for God and His Word.  We will live a life that loves others, has compassion for others, and in our love and compassion we will introduce people to Jesus.