WHEN YOU CAN’T WIN

lightstock_150776_medium_user_6426771

I’d love to claim this is some great blog article, well thought out and written with perfection.  However, it isn’t.  In fact, it’s more just a thought that has been brewing.  I’m fleshing it out here, so bare with me and my train of thought.

I keep camping on this notion that as Christians, we simply, can’t win when it comes to how we are viewed by the general world.

If we adhere to our convictions, if we following God’s commands and statutes, if we accept and preach His word as infallible truth… we are labeled a lot of things.

Intolerant.  Judgmental.  Narrow Minded.  Naive.  Ignorant.  Discriminatory.  Foolish.

But, on the other hand, if we bend or disavow ourselves to any portion of our beliefs, we are hypocrites.

Scripture tells us that we are not to be of this world, but in it.  We need to be present with others, who do not share our beliefs, in order to show them Jesus.  Yet, it is our differences from the rest of the world, that causes them to withdraw from us.

We can’t win.

And we never will.

We couldn’t win in the Old Testament days, and overcome our own sins and shortcomings.

We couldn’t win in the New Testament, when 3 times the rooster crowed & Jesus was denied.

We can’t win today, in Church Age, when we are too busy arguing amongst each other about what is “right”.

And, we don’t have to win.

The victory isn’t ours.  It’s God.

The battle is already won.

Advertisements

HANDLING THE WORD OF TRUTH

MBA

It wasn’t that long ago that I had the view of the Bible as an instruction manual for life.  Everything I needed to know would be outlined in those pages, from being a good Christian, to being a good wife, and a good mother to instructions on how to handle various affairs and what the proper way was to worship, pray, etc.

To be clear, I believe that every word of the Bible is the Word of God, written down by man.  I believe the history as accurate, I believe the miracles are actual, and the promises are true.  I believe Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be, that he died on a cross, and was raised again, witnessed by those whose testimonies fill the pages of the gospels.

It was not in pride that I thought the Bible was written about me, but rather a guide for everyone.  Have a problem, look it up.  Need direction, look it up.  I wouldn’t say I was one of those flip through the pages and see where my finger lands to reveal what God is teaching me types.  I simply believed every story had a point for being in there, something I would learn from it in order to be a better follower of Christ.

I would listen to those who were more learned than I was for interpretation of the word, to understand those things that were not clear to me.  However, I have never been one to take any teachers word as gospel truth.  I have always returned to the scriptures, reading them for myself.  A few years ago, a good friend of mine shared that she reads scripture with 20/20 vision.  This means that when you are given a portion of scripture, be sure to read the twenty verses before it and twenty verses after it, this will put it in accurate context.

Truth is, and we see it every day, people can take a single line of scripture and twist it to support their argument for or against something.  By making sure we always read our scripture in context, we can gauge the accuracy of the argument.  This is how the Bereans were.

Acts 17:11

 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

When presented with the message, they didn’t take the person speaking for gospel truth.  They searched the scriptures to verify it.

As Christians we are charged with going out and telling all the nations about the gospel, sharing the scriptures.  We are charged with handling the word of truth.  That’s a pretty weighty job.  You are accountable for making sure you do not not add or subtract from the scriptures based on your own opinions, biases or desires.

This isn’t a little warning either.

Deuteronomy 4:2         Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.

Deuteronomy 12:32          See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.

Proverbs 30:6          Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Revelation 22:18           I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we are warned about adding to or taking from God’s word.  This isn’t just about adding additional physical words, but it also includes our interpretation.  If we spin God’s word to suit our needs, we are altering his word.  We are not handling the world of truth responsibly.

We are warned throughout scriptures about false teachers, which is why the Bereans are noted.  They are the example we are to follow about searching out the scriptures for the truth, when a new teacher comes to town.  With TV, Radio and Internet Videos/Live Streams we can invite teachers into our living rooms to preach according to their beliefs.  But, as time continually proves, false teachers are filtering their way through the cracks.  It is more important than ever, with the bombardment of so many different philosophies, that we can discern the difference.

There is also another concern, we can’t over look.

There was a time, you can read about it during the book of Judges, where Israel had no real leader.  Joshua had died, there was no king over Israel.  And, basically, the generations that knew what God had done for them had passed away.  Within these new generations, you  had a group of people doing their own thing, doing what made sense to them, what sounded right to them.  They were doing things from making idols to even making up their own rules about what was right.  God raises Judges to help lead Israel and fix these problems, but as soon as the Judge would die, Israel would go right back to their old ways.

Right now we live in a time where the people of God are divided, much like the tribes of Israel during the time of the Judges.  We have different denominations and different schools of thought.  We have no clear leader to help reconcile all these different beliefs.   So we continue on doing our own thing, what makes sense to us as religious groups, or individuals.  Boy, do we need Jesus!

Because we want to believe our way is right, we begin searching the scriptures not for God’s truth… but for our own.  Reading meaning into scripture that isn’t there, to justify our beliefs.  What is worse, we begin to spread our truths to others as God’s truth.  Without even realizing it, we become a false teacher.  We become the thing we are supposed to be avoiding.

We begin to surround ourselves with others who believe like we do, because surely if more than one of us can see that “truth”… IT MUST BE SO, RIGHT?

2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

It really isn’t hard to find someone who is saying what you want to hear.  If you look hard enough, you’ll find it.  If you want to read something into the scriptures that isn’t there, you’ll find a way.

Is that handling the word of God responsibly?  No, not at all.  And, we will be held accountable for that.

I used to read the scriptures as an instruction manual, about how we are to handle our day to day lives.  I am very grateful for the men and women who opened my eyes, and showed me that I was missing the point entirely.

Every story, lesson, detail in the Bible is about Jesus.

Not me, not how I should live my life, what rules I am to follow, etc.

The Old Testament points to our need for Jesus.  Every story.  The Gospels reveal to Jesus to us, as the Messiah.   The rest of the New Testament points us back to a reminder of why we still need Jesus & that He is coming back for a final victory.

 

BROKEN. MENDING.

fabricrip

 

Throughout the Old and New Testaments there are instances where people literally were so upset that they tore at their clothes.  In all instances it came at a time where a person was so distressed, so grieved by what was happening around them, that they literally tore at their clothing, sometimes stripping them off and other times leaving them in shreds.

There were instances where this occurred because someone was mourning a death.  Others were instances where someone anointed by God was mourning over the behavior of those around them, particularly in response to lack of faithfulness or disobedience by God’s people.

Joel 2:12-14
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
    and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
    for the Lord your God.
Rend = tear (something) into two or more pieces.
The Lord wants us to come to Him with our broken hearts.  And more importantly God wants what breaks our heart, to be the same thing that breaks His.  Because, when we are broken for God… we are bound to act on His behalf to heal those wounds.
We feed, clothe and shelter the needy.
We rescue those in despair.
We support and encourage the broken in spirit.
While my heart breaks for these people…. I have never been broken to the point of tearing at my clothes for them.  I never understood that part of scripture, being so broken by this world that I would literally tear at myself, with my own two hands.    
Then it happened the 1st time.  But, I admit I wasn’t grieved for God.  It was a result of an argument with my husband.  It was the only time, he ever walked out of our bedroom and slept on the couch.  The argument was stupid, to be honest, we were both wrong in allowing something so ridiculous to escalate to that point.  I began to weep in a way that I had never known in my life.  And I felt my hands grasping at my clothes.  My husband heard my cries and returned to me.  He could feel my despair, he was broken by my tears.  We apologized and reconciled.  It has never happened again.  But I learned a lot in that moment, I learned how much I loved my husband… more than I ever realized. I realized how important our marriage was to me.  I also realized and accepted my part in what brought us to that moment.  I saw the man whom I was angry at, return to me and become tender and compassionate.  I saw him accept his role in our argument.  We vowed to never come to this place again.  And, we haven’t.
For the first time, I understood the actual physicality of that type of grief, mentioned in the bible so many times.    I understood what it meant to be so broken that you would literally tear the clothes off your body.  It would be several years later that I would experience this grief again, but this time… I was not grieving for myself.  I was grieving for God.
It had been a culmination of things.  I was being hit from different directions by Christians in my life, who were claiming to know what a “good Christian” does and doesn’t do.  In some cases they were united in their attack on a certain subject, in other times they were divided.  Through online media sources, I would see more and more about Christians attacking other Christians.  People who are good willed, good natured people… just trying to get it right.  My heart began to break.  Slowly.  Then, all at once.  I was overwhelmed by emotion.  I found myself in my hall way, leaned against a wall, tearing at my clothes and weeping…. deep heaping sobs…. the only words coming out of my mouth were to God… asking “WHY?”
I can’t even tell you how long this happened for, it felt like an eternity.  My heart was literally broken.  I spoke my heart to God that day. 
A week or two later, I was taking a spiritual gifts test.  When it came time to look at my scores, I wasn’t really surprised by the results.  Gift of Administration, yeah.. I saw that coming.  But I was very sad, as I saw my score for Evangelism was so low.  I went to my mentor, to discuss this with her, because I was obviously failing at the great commission.    I mean, how do we go out and share the gospel… if we don’t… go out… and share the gospel.    
 
It was in this conversation with my mentor, for the first time, I vocalized my broken heart for the church.  I told her that I found myself with greater concern over the division within the church, than I was about those who were not believers.  As we explored this topic… I broke down in tears.  She asked me why I was crying, and I said “It breaks my heart, because they should know better.”
 
After a hug and some encouragement, and my lamenting that I really wished we had a person writing to churches on behalf of God…. she said, “You need to pray about what to do with this.”

She didn’t try and change me, or point me in the direction of evangelism.  She recognized that my heart was breaking, for something that was breaking God’s heart.  The question was, “now what?”.
 
I do not feel of any authority to write any particular church.  Who would listen to me?  Who am I?  But the question of “now what?” lingered.
 
My broken heart could not be mended if I sat complacent.  Indecisive.  Wallowing in my grief.
 
I prayed for peace.
 
Then I did the exact thing that people who have a gift for administration and teaching would do… I researched.  I turned to google with search topics like “letters to the churches of America”… “broken for the churches in America”… “the church breaks my heart”.  
 
I found two very surprising things.

1) I was not alone.  There are others who are grieving with me.  Other people who were broken hearted about how we were treating one another, how divided we were.  Wondering, where was the unity that we should have in Christ?


2)  Not a single one of these letters were filled with any sort of hate speech.  There were not letters written by churches like “Westboro Baptist Church”.  These were letters filled with love for God, love for people, and great pain at what was being witnessed in the church.  Written by every day people like you and I.

And as I poured through blog posts, articles, pastors websites, etc…. everything funneled back to one thing….DIVISIVENESS.

 

We, as a church, are supposed to be UNITED with each other UNDER God’s authority, UNDER the blood of Christ, and UNDER the direction of the Holy Spirit.
We, as a church, are supposed to be IN the world, but not OF the world.  To stand apart from the world, to be seen as different…. salt, light.  Yet, not to be absent from it, walled up in our cities built by man made rules, regulations, and standards. 
We, as the church, are too busy fighting amongst ourselves about the most ridiculous of subjects, that we are seen as nothing more than hypocrites, fools and full of hate.
No wonder the world sees us as hate filled… when we can’t even love our brothers and sisters in Christ!
We stand divided on issues that in the grand scheme of salvation bear NOT ONE SHRED OF IMPORTANCE.
God, doesn’t care if your baptism is a sprinkle or a dunk, in a cement baptismal or in the open ocean.  
God, doesn’t care what the name of your denomination is, so long as it is a bible believing & teaching church.  God doesn’t care how you feed your babies, teach your children, decorate your home, as much as he cares that WE HAVE OUR EYES TURNED TO CHRIST!   In fact, that is the ONLY THING that matters.  That is the ONLY THING that is important.  

We care.  We think our way is right, best and we will defend it against anyone who questions otherwise…. and even those who don’t.  In fact we are almost offensive with it.   Not offensive, as in rude, inappropriate.  But offensive, like in football…. aggressive.  
 
I realized that God was breaking my heart for what breaks His.  He is broken over the divisiveness in our churches and amongst Christians.  He is broken hearted over the infighting between each other, which keeps us from being the love, light and salt He asked of us.  We put so much effort in defending ourselves and our beliefs/traditions/denominations/etc…. that we have nothing left to represent him with.
 
We are told in the scriptures to clothe ourselves with kindness, gentleness, compassion, etc.
Yet we spew venom at each other.
We are told in the scriptures to think of what is good, noble, pure, worthy, etc.
Yet we spend our time pointing at everything that is “wrong” in the world, without pointing to what is right.
We are told in the scriptures that the blessed are the meek, the poor, the peacemakers, etc.
Yet we spend more time attacking others and defending ourselves, than loving and helping.
 
We have allowed topics like… baptism procedure, bible translations, schooling choices, baby feeding, become SPIRITUAL debates.  We fight amongst each other, and take our eyes off of Jesus.
 
And the scariest part to me?  We don’t realize it is happening.  We stand in our righteousness, not realizing we are being played by Satan … like puppets on strings.
 
The battle is not between YOU and I over human decisions. The battle is between US and Satan. Because ANYTHING that distracts us from Jesus, is a victory for him.  Anything that causes division between us, creates division between us and Jesus.  Anything that causes us to sin against each other, creates a veil between us and God.  Anything that causes us pain, pains God.
 
WE break God’s heart every day.
 
And we, as His children, hurt Him more than any non-believer.    When a neighborhood child said “I hate you” or disobeys my rules, I don’t like it.  But, it’s not a big deal to me.  You can’t follow my rules, you are not welcome here. End of story.   But, when one of MY CHILDREN says those words… or disobey me… it hurts.  When I hear one of my children yell to their sibling “I hate you”…. it hurts.  My heart breaks, and I immediately intervene and being the process of reconciliation. 
 
I imagine God feels even worse, when He witnesses fighting between us… His children.
 
My heart broke over the divisiveness in the church, amongst Christians.
 
And I am done.  I can’t change you, but I can change ME.
 
I can only mend my heart by loving, as God has called me to love.  By giving the same mercy, grace, love and compassion that God has given to me. 
 
I will not be a divisive Christian any longer.
 
I choose to be focused on my own sins, my own shortcomings.  I have enough to work on in myself, I will leave YOUR WORK to the Holy Spirit.
 
I will show people Jesus, I will show them Christ through my actions and my life.  I will not try and sell them on my version of Jesus & what living with Christ looks like. I will let the Holy Spirit do that.  I’ll just handle the introductions & love them.  Any work that has to be done, will be in my life and my house.  It’s time for me to start whittling away at my plank.