Why the Harsh Words

 

I just don’t get it, and I pray that I never will understand it.    I don’t understand why when two people disagree it has to become so personal.  I fully believe it is possible to disagree with a person and still act like a decent human being toward them.  There is no need for name calling, there is no reason to question someone’s intelligence.

I don’t believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

I don’t believe that all Christians are guiltless.

I don’t believe that all Democrats are evil.

I don’t believe that all Conservatives have my best interest in mind.

I can be concerned about radicals from any religion without hating people.   Just as I am not bothered by those who worry about radical Christians.  Killing an abortion doctor is murder and negates the very thing you are trying to protect… life.    I also don’t believe that everyone working in an abortion clinic is inherently evil, because I truly believe that MOST of them think they are doing the right thing, helping.  Whether I agree with what they are doing or not.

I believe that MOST cops are good and decent people, but that there are a few bad apples.  I’ve never been one to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.  That said I don’t begrudge anyone who has had life experiences that make them weary of those who are in authority.   Authority has been abused, and we can’t ignore that… just as much as we can’t blame everyone.

I believe that MOST people who say and do stupid and careless things are not doing them intentionally.  Perhaps they don’t have the same life experiences to understand cultural sensitivities or realize that certain topics are just taboo.  I know that I am guilty of slinging words carelessly, regardless of what my intention was.  I’ve received some sharp words that cut deep, and I’ve had to weigh them against the person who unleashed them.

I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, forgive a lot, and I am growing more unoffendable every day.

I have a myriad of friends from different backgrounds, culturally and politically.  They have had life experiences of their own, or been influenced by tales of generations before them.  There are those who have walked hard roads, and others who have had it pretty easy.   This means with the current events hitting the news, well … it means I am hearing a lot of people’s perspectives and opinions.  I don’t mind conversation, disagreement, and even some stubbornness.  What is getting harder to accept is the cold, hard, and callous words people are choosing to use.

So much hate.  Why can’t we share our opinions and concerns with out broad generalizations?  Why must we assume guilt on everyone because of what a few have done?  Why can’t we even accept that we may have the slightest chance of being wrong (in part or in total)?

Why the harsh words?  Not feeling the love that we have be called to share with the world… particularly by those who are my family in the faith. 😦

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#Write31Days Challenge – Post 25 – Carefully Quiet

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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 18 – Spiritual Strongholds

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Have you ever found yourself in a building, standing under a chandelier… and suddenly your mind is flooded with every movie you have ever seen in the past.  The chandelier falls, someone dies.  Over the course of your life, subconsciously you have made the decision to never stand under a chandelier.  So, you take a few steps the left and breathe a sigh of relief.

When you were a child, perhaps, you were splashing in the ocean.  Suddenly, a current sweeps your legs out from under you, pulling you out to sea.  A hand grabs you, pulling you to safety.  You were so traumatized by what could have happened, you no longer go into the ocean.  You don’t take your kids to the beach.  You make a conscious decision that the ocean is not safe and to be avoided.

Everyone has some sort of stronghold in their life.  These are beliefs or opinions that are strongly held and fortified in our minds to the point that reason and logic will be locked out.  These strongholds can be based in reality or in our perception of reality. They are often formed by our past experiences, the environment we were raised, and by the people whom we respect or were authorities in our lives.

I have seen plenty of movies where a chandelier falls, on accident or on purpose, and a person dies.  I have personally never known anyone this has happened to, nor have I read about it happening the paper.  Logic and reason stand that the chandelier in any given building isn’t going to just suddenly break loose and fall on me.  It really isn’t a logical fear.  However my perception of that truth can be swayed when I allow those imaginary scenarios to root themselves in fear and paranoia.

The scenario at the beach, that actually happened to me.  It is a reasonable fear, logic would stand that I would be afraid of the ocean.   This was a real life experience for me.  However, that reality also must root itself in fear in order for it to become a stronghold in my life.  I still love the beach, take my children there, and I am not afraid of the ocean.  I do, however, respect it.  I am not careless.    I have not allowed this real life circumstance to impact the logic that being swept out to sea is very rare and small percentage.

As Christians we not only are faced with strongholds in our lives, based on our past or perceptions, that affect our daily decisions.  We also have spiritual strongholds, that have embedded certain beliefs or “truths” into our minds.

For example, if you were raised in a denomination or area of the country where dancing was considered a sin, and you accepted that belief to be true.  You now have a spiritual stronghold, that is going to impact how you engage with the rest of the world.  But, the questions we must ask is:  Is it true?  Is dancing a sin?  What do the scriptures say?

In most instances of spiritual strongholds that come from our environment, how we were raised, or the influential people in our lives… if we truly want to let go of spiritual stronghold… we go to the Word.  When faced with generational or denominational “truths” it is really quite easy to open up the scriptures and do the research for ourselves.  We can see what the scriptures say about any number of subjects, and find truth.  We can study the history of the scriptures, to understand the who, what, where, when, and why of a piece of scripture and then apply that to our own beliefs and perceptions.

We may be right.  We may be wrong.  And, in the grand scheme of things, it may not matter.  Personal convictions are no less important than scriptural mandates, they are just individual verses general.

The most difficult spiritual strongholds are the ones we are self imposing on ourselves based on our past experiences and decisions.  They arise when we live in guilt, shame, and failure.   We become so engrossed with who we once were, that we disregard any of our potential to be better person or live a better life.  We feel unworthy of God’s love, which keeps us from having a true relationship with Him.  This, of course, also means that our faith and spiritual growth is going to be stunted.

And, the enemy loves to use our spiritual strongholds against us.  He knows how to spin our past in a way that makes our sin look greater, more disgusting, and deeply shameful.   Satan puffs up our sin to look so horrible that we feel it would be impossible for God to find us worthy of anything.  We allow this to discount us and discredit us from God’s love, and Kingdom work.  People tend to respond in one of three ways.

  •  They do nothing.  They attend church, read their bibles, pray.  But, they never do anything more than that.  They disqualify themselves from being able to lead a bible study group, give their testimony, or even volunteer for the simplest of things at their church.  They say “who am I, what do I have to give?”
  • They run away.  In this case, the person is so haunted by their past that they are actively running away from God in shame.  They may run to a different religion or no religion, but they are running.  They attempt to hide like Adam and Eve after biting the fruit, hiding from God in their shame.
  • They go extreme.  This person is the one who is not running from God but actually chasing after Him.  They think that God has turned his back on them, or at minimal is deeply disappointed in them.  What they attempt to do is to win back His favor, His affection, by going to the extreme as a believer.  For example, if they had a history of immodest dress and immoral behavior… they will be entirely the opposite now, to the extreme.  Her ultra mini skirts have been replaced by ankle length skirts.  Her long flowing locks may be tempered by a tight bun, her make up drawer has been emptied into the trash.  He may have traded a life of drinking and parties for weekend long, isolated, and silent meditation.

I am certain that at least some of you are looking at the last one and thinking: this is a bad thing?  Yes, and no.   If the reason you have made these changes is out of deep, personal conviction… then NO, this is not a bad thing.  You are to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.  However, if you are making these choices to try and earn back God’s love and favor, then YES … it is a very bad thing.  Keep reading, because I will explain why.

For the better part of twenty years, I allowed a spiritual stronghold to stand in my way.  I was totally ashamed of myself and some of the decisions I had made.  I would pray to God for forgiveness, but I was unable to let go of these things.  I held onto them with a tight grip.  His Word tells us that when we ask for forgiveness are sins are washed clean.   Every time I prayed to God to forgive those sins that haunted me, I was putting them at the foot of the cross & walking away.  Yet, in a very short amount of time, I was running back to cross and snatching them back up.

I was saying to God, I believe you can forgive me for so many things… but not this.  This is too big, too dirty, and too shameful for you to forgive.  I’d begin trying to work them off.  If I read more of my Bible.  If I pray harder.  If I volunteer more.  If I alter my dress, my speech, my thoughts, my life, my everything… then I can make up for this shame.

I was sinning against God, every single time I took them back.

I was saying, God … you are not enough.

When we are sinning, we create a division between us and God.  So, no matter how many good, noble, and wonderful things I was doing… they meant absolutely nothing because I was in sin.  I was doing things for a God that I didn’t trust.  I was reading a Bible, but not believing in the promises within it’s pages.   I was praying to a God that I thought wasn’t capable enough.  I was volunteering for Kingdom work, while believing I wasn’t worthy of being in the Kingdom.

You can change your manner of dress, the way you speak, and your daily study habits. You can pray from dusk to dawn.  You can give every cent you earn, volunteer every waking hour, and take up every noble cause.   Man can look at you in wonder and awe, you can have a million gold stars on your chart.  Women can hold you in high regard, men can respect your dedication and loyalty.  However, you will never feel good enough.  You will still feel guilty.  You will keep doing more and more to win the affection of God, because your guilt tells you that you are not worthy of His sacrifice.

We must let go of these spiritual strongholds, and cling to God.  We must surrender WHOLLY…. EVERYTHING.  We leave nothing behind, we hide nothing, we don’t hold anything back from God.

I know that I am not worthy.  That is why God is gracious and merciful.

I know that I never will be worthy.  The Old Testament reveals this every time the Israelites would turn from God.  The New Testament reveals this as Paul shares that he struggles doing what he knows is right.  I see it in my own life, every time I mess up and have to confess to God.

It is in this knowledge that the beauty of God’s love unfolds.

I am not.  I never will be.  I deserve death.

I was given the gift of Life.

There is nothing I can do that will separate me from God’s love.  I can not run or hide from Him.  There is nothing I could ever do, in my flesh, that will repay God for his mercy, his blessings, or his Son’s sacrifice.  It is arrogant and prideful of me to look at God’s gift, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and say:  Sorry God, that isn’t enough to cover MY sin.

God asks so little of us.

Love God with all of your heart and understanding. – When I love Him, I trust Him.  I know His word, and His promises.  I believe Him.  I hold nothing back from Him.  I am washed clean by HIM and HIM alone… not anything of my own doing.

Love others as you love yourself. – I forgive as I wish to be forgiven.  I love as I wish to be loved.  I help others as I wish to be helped myself. 

I believe, the very first step in letting go of those crippling spiritual strongholds begins when we acknowledge it for what it really is.

Sin.

Confess this sin, ask God to forgive you for taking back what you have put (or keep putting) at the foot of the cross.  Pray for His Word to quiet the voice of the enemy who haunts you.  When you feel the urge to pick it back up, rebuke Satan’s hold on your life.  Then remember you are not who you once were, you are a new creation.  The past has faded, it is gone.  Today, you are a child of God, adopted into his family to start a new life… a far better life than you could ever imagine.

Let my stronghold be the Lord. (Psalm 18:2)

BOOK REVIEW: The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Case for Grace” by Lee Strobel.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

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The first time I read anything by Lee Strobel, it was his book The Case for Christ.  I loved this book because it was practical and pragmatic.  His goal was to determine if there’s credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God.  Thankfully, the truth revealed to Lee Strobel would draw Him to Christ, forming a personal relationship, that would impact not only Lee’s life, but the lives of those He would touch through his writings.  In fact, The Case for Christ and The Case for a Creator are both books I have recommended to people when they are in a marriage where only one of them is a believer.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to get my hands on The Case for Grace, I was eager to begin.  Grace has been an issue my heart has been camped out in for quite a while.  I was very excited to get an chance to get Lee’s take on it.  His books, for me, are like sitting down with a wise friend and getting to the heart of an issue.   His writing is comfortable, familiar, and he is able to see things from both sides of the coin. He doesn’t dismiss abruptly those whose opinions differ from his.

In The Case for Grace, Lee Strobel uses his investigative journalist skills to explore the evidence of grace in the live of real people.  Each chapter encompasses a look into the story of a person who was transformed by grace.  Stories that will take us across the globe, into the hearts from those who suffered abuse or addiction, lives transformed as children and adults.   Lee Stroble intermingles those stores with his own quest for understanding grace in his life.

What really stood out to me, from these various stories, was that in each… despite how different from my own… there were elements that I could understand.  They might be a shared feeling of despair, the understanding of hope they found, and sometimes it was just an insight I had not considered for myself.  Very different stories, but they showed that the gift of grace knows no bounds.  It is available for the abandoned orphan turned street kid, the addict curled on the floor, the refugee…. you…. me.  God’s grace is a gift he freely gives to those whom He adopts into his family.

A Father’s love to the fatherless…. in body or spirit.

The book also includes supplemental materials:  discussion questions, scriptures to reference, and books for continued reading.

The Case for Grace makes for a great weekend read, curled up with your coffee… or a group discussion for small groups or book clubs.

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