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.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: REFORMED MEANS MISSIONAL By Samuel T Logan Jr.

missional

I received a copy of this book at a Christian Writers Workshop, as part of a conference I attended.   Before I get into the review, I need to preface that I read this book stand alone.   I knew nothing of it, or it’s author, or that it was an expansion on the WRF Statement of Faith section on “Mission and Evangelism”.    Therefore, some bits of information (that were assumed the reader would be recognize) went right over my head.  I am not familiar with the World Reformed Fellowship organization or their Statement of Faith,   However, that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t a worthy read.  There are some great bits of information I gleaned from it, so I wouldn’t count it as a loss.  Quite the contrary, it has inspired me to look into the WRF more.   Anything, in my opinion, that stirs up the desire to read further is a victory.  Fortunately, the internet helped me fill in some of those gaps.

In Regards to the Author:  Samuel T Logan, Jr.

Technically Samuel T Logan, Jr. is listed as the editor of the book.  There is no “author” as it is a compilation of various authors, scripture and WRF related information into a singular book.  I can’t entirely give him credit as the author, and to be honest, a good portion of the bits I underlined can be contributed to other authors.  However, Mr. Logan does a great job of binding this information together, transitioning from thought to thought and using his own knowledge and writing skills to fill in the gaps.  There are some thoughts or statements that stood out to me, that are entirely his own.  One must go into reading this book understanding, though, that this is a compilation of thought vs. one man’s perspective.

In Regards to the Book:  Reformed Means Missional

The book is broken down into two parts, the first is “laying the foundation”.   To understand what it means to follow Jesus into the world, our mission, we need to understand the WHY.  But even before you get into the first chapter, the Forward and Introduction are important reads.  In a nutshell the book helps us understand what it means to be missional, a look into the WRF ‘s stance on it, what a missional church will look like, and hitting The Book to understand what Romans has to say about missions.  One of my favorite portions of the first section took a look at the question “What does a Christian look like?”.  Readers, the way the book handles this question alone makes it worth reading.

In the second section of the book, Logan moves us beyond the WHY and into practical application.  Instead of it being a general step by step guide however, the subsequent chapters are devoted to very specific topics of global importance.  Such as violence toward women, poverty, child sexual abuse, etc.  This portion is where we get to see the other authors shine.  Each handling one topic, and handling it well.  This makes the second portion of the book a great reference guide for the future when you need guidance on one of these topics.  Instead of sifting through pages upon pages looking for a paragraph, you can narrow the field to the chapter of the book.  These are important chapters that cover the challenges facing the church today on a global stage and cultural platform without neglecting that these are also issues that can be found in our own backyards.  I am also pleased that these subjects were covered in a very straight forward, yet gentle way.

Highlights from the Text:

“It is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world; rather God has a church for his mission in the world.  Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission – God’s mission.”    Christopher J.H. Wright, Foreward to “Reformed Means Missional” by Samuel T. Logan, Jr.

“When we ask what makes a person a Christian, we are asking about what a person seeks first.”  Reformed Means Missional by Samuel T Logan, Jr.

“I learned the love of God bent down, way into the muck, and mire of this world, into the darkest corners running with rats.  “He was despised… he was pierced… he was crushed… He was opressed, and he was aflicted. I saw that his love led him to become like us so that we might actually become something like him.”  Diane Langberg from Reformed Means Missional by Samuel T Logan, Jr.

Reformed Means Missional

Samuel T Logan, Jr.

New Growth Press

ISBN 13:978-1-938267-75-8

IN THE WORLD

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My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.
John 17:15

There was a time in my early adulthood, I had to walk away from my friends. All of them. They were not good influences on me. When I had made some decisions in my life to change the path I was going down, they were not supportive. I knew at that time in my life, this was not working. I had to walk away. I had to surround myself with those who would lift me up, encourage me & help me stay on the straight and narrow.

In time, I would begin to surround myself with Christians who shared the same convictions. I would grow stronger in my faith. At first it was all very serious, bible studies, church fellowship. We were not having “fun” in the same sense as I did before. I can’t deny that I missed having fun with my friends. Eventually, I found myself within a group of Christian women who were having FUN. We were laughing until the tears started flowing, we were dancing the night away, celebrating holidays with each other. Creating memories & filling that void in the “FUN” department that I had been longing for.

As I was putting myself back out in the world, I started making non-Christian friends too. We would have a good time together as well. But, admittedly I kept them separate. Let’s face it, they didn’t always use the best language and would sometimes have pretty liberal views on politics, religion and life in general. After several years, I decided I was going to have a small gathering of my friends. I had invited one of my non-Christian friends to attend. Unfortunately at the last minute, she had to cancel. But she said something I will never forget… “Gena, I am so disappointed that I couldn’t come and meet the rest of your friends. I adore you, and you are such a great person…I am sure your other friends are too. I wish I could have met them. If they are anything like you, I bet they are lovely.” She was wanting to surround herself with more people like me. What made me different than any of her other friends or acquaintances? Christ.

She saw me as a Christian woman, who cared about people, was a dedicated wife and mother, but she also saw that I was fun to be around. She heard me, when I spoke about my failures and imperfections. She heard me, when I talked about striving to do and be better. Every conversation wasn’t a deep theological debate. I wasn’t trying to spend every waking moment of our friendship trying to convert her. I was simply being a good friend, who loved her, cared about her, and was there for her. As a natural part of our friendship… God entered the picture. If she was going to get to know me, it wasn’t something that could be avoided. The more she go to know me, the more she desired to know more people that were like me.

God doesn’t want us to surround ourselves with only other Christians. If we do that, we can’t reach those who do not know Him. We have no influence on the world. We are not light in the darkness. However, we don’t walk out into the world without His protection. We wear the Armor of God. We understand His love for us, and His desires for us to follow His word. We pray for His protection. We stand firm in our convictions. It is His spirit within us, that draws others to us. We are just the vessel.

A challenge my husband presented me with was to each day pray to God asking Him to make me a vessel in the course of my day.  Asking Him to give me the right words, at the right moment.  Sometimes we have a once in a life time opportunity to reach a person, other times it is slow through the course of building a relationship.

*Written for the TC3 Women’s Ministry Devotion Blog