Thursday, March 27, 2014

Where is the Love?

If you follow political/religious news or social media AT ALL, then you've probably heard by now about the decision by world relief organization, World Vision, to change its hiring policies to include homosexuals who are married and are faithful to their marriages; while at the same time they require their single employees to abstain from sex until marriage. Okay, here goes: I do not at all agree with the stance that World Vision has taken. They are essentially condoning one sin while still "outlawing" another. They are essentially saying that, "Hey you can work for us if you sin this way, but you can't if you sin that way." That makes zero sense to me, but whatever. That's my mature way of closing that argument: whatever.

On the other hand, sin is sin and WE ALL DO IT! Show me one person who hasn't sinned, besides my Savior. And here's the real issue: isn't one of our Lord's greatest commandments to love ALL? My biggest problem with this whole situation is that now there are professing Christians CHOOSING to pull their support of children who rely on them for food and clean water and shelter and education simply because they don't like what World Vision did. Now, I don't sponsor a World Vision child but I have in the past and I currently sponsor a Compassion International child and as long as my sponsorship keeps her belly full, her thirst quenched, and her family thriving - I really don't care about the hiring policies of the organization. I really don't.

Yes, homosexuality is a sin and God doesn't like it...but he also doesn't like it when we gossip, or lie, or cheat, or (insert sin here). I've grown increasingly irritated with "Christians" who decide to boycott anything that "breaks God's heart." They are the first to point out the speck in someone else's eye without even thinking about the big giant plank protruding from their own. You know what else breaks God's heart? Starving children! So, yes, maybe World Vision's decision-making is a bit skewed and it might be doubling back on a standard they had previously set but when's the last time you made a poor decision or compromised or did something that was stupid? Did people give up on you? Did they give up on your family or the people close to you because of your decisions?

Jesus said feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the widow and orphan. Not sure about anyone else's but my Bible doesn't say "do all these things...unless of course the organization you're working through decides to hire someone who sins openly." I don't see the logic in the arguments of professing Christians who are blaming World Vision for causing them to pull their sponsorship and I definitely don't see how one could sleep at night after choosing to "stick it to World Vision" rather than keep the bellies of these sweet and precious children full. 

Where's the love, folks? Have you forgotten? 
"The greatest of these is love."
"Love covers a multitude of sins."
"Love your neighbor."
"Love never fails."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see the love here. Where is the love in choosing to betray innocent children in the name of religious correctness? Basically, it all boils down to loving the kids and not worrying about what sins are being allowed openly in the workplace of the organization. Love. The. Kids.

That is all.

How could you give up faces like these?
(Image borrowed from )

***Oh, and this just in: World Vision actually reversed its original decision and is sticking to biblical principles in its hiring policy. Great...but the above rant still stands. 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sword at my Side

This ladies Bible Study I'm in right now (and probably for a loooong time to come-praise Jesus) has been a game changer for me. And by game changer, I mean it has totally wrecked my former way of life. I was seriously stuck in the common trap of complacency and comfort...and the sad thing was that I didn't mind it there. That's the problem with a lot of Christians these days....we are content to be complacent. But being complacent is actually spiritually draining - which seems ironic if you think about it. You'd think it would be more draining to actively seek the Lord but it's actually energizing, in the spiritual sense.

When you are simply going through life without seeking first the Kingdom, you don't have the proper attire or the proper strength to fight off the enemy, so when his attacks come (and come they will), you are not prepared. You have no defense. Trying to run from the attack drains you more and doing this on your own will eventually cause you to surrender to the wrong side.

In our incredible study of Nehemiah, we have bumped across countless instances where the relevance of this Old Testament story has blown me away. This really shouldn't happen as the Bible has been, is today, and always will be relevant in any culture but you get the point. In Chapter 4, when the enemies of the Jews rebuilding the wall are threatening death, Nehemiah says this: 

"And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people,“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
15 And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. 16 So it was, from that time onthat half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.18 Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built." 

There is so much in these five verses that I could probably sit here and write for hours and never scratch the surface. So I'll focus on the areas I emphasized in bold italics. First of all, in every trial, whenever you are facing opposition, REMEMBER THE LORD, GREAT AND AWESOME! Before, during, and after the fight - remember the Lord. He is faithful and because He is for us, no one can truly be against us. Because God is for us, He will bring the enemy's plot to nothing. We will overcome in His name. But when you are facing spiritual warfare (as we all are - we just don't see it), life as we live it ceases to exist. We have to have a "from that time on" sort of stance where we decide that we are going to do things differently from now on.

And that brings me to the crucible of this whole passage. 
Notice that the Jews continued to build the wall. They continued doing the work of the Lord despite the enemy's threats and despite the opposition they were facing. They had a job to do. But notice - do not miss it, friends - that "every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built." Isn't that how we should be? Shouldn't we have the sword of the Spirit, that is, the very WORD OF GOD, girded at our side as we go about doing the work of the Lord. It has to be so. The word "girded" as defined on (hey, don't judge me) is this: "to encircle or bind with a belt or band; to surround or enclose; to prepare for action; [and my personal favorite] - to provide or equip with power or strength." The sword of the Spirit, the word of God, equips us with the power we need to defend against the enemy when he comes in the midst of our building and working. 

It's no coincidence that our Pastor spoke on the sword of the Spirit on Sunday and about how the Word does not exist to increase our knowledge but to change our lives. Our very Savior used it to defend against the temptations of Satan in the wilderness and HE WAS THE SON OF GOD. Who are we to think we don't have to have it attached to us at all times. Does it literally mean that you are going to walk around with a Bible hanging from your belt loops, slapping you in the knees as you walk? I mean, you totally could and I will not judge you at all. Maybe you can start a new trend. But it needs to be in our hearts. We need to know it. And when I say, "WE," the first person I'm addressing is myself. In the last few weeks though, I've grown such an affection for the Word and I'm just thirsty for more of it. So as the Lord takes me deeper into relationship with Him, I am keeping His Word, my Sword, at my side. When the enemy comes, I plan to be ready. Who's with me?

Image retrieved from google images.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We've Gotten it Wrong

In an effort to pull myself out of this spiritual slump I've been in, I have been reading more avidly and also doing my best at having some sort of daily bible study. And in my measly little effort to be faithful, God has been even more so and is reaching out and drawing me closer to Him. Oh, how I've missed that embrace.

I finished "Believing God" by Beth Moore which was amazing and now I've started "Radical" by David Platt and it is tearing me up. I haven't picked it up in the past week for the simple fact that I had to give my metaphorical bruises time to heal before diving in again. I've also had the privilege of joining a small and intimate ladies Bible Study on Monday nights with an amazing group of women that I absolutely adore. We are studying Nehemiah and I have to say, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. On top of that study, our small group that meets every other week has started a different study by David Platt called "Follow Me." So I feel like I have been blessed with studies that will stretch my faith, deepen my love for God, and allow me the opportunity to dig into His Word with an unquenchable thirst. Oh, I am so ready for that.

With all the reading and studying I've been doing, I've been thinking more and more about the American Church and the American "version" of Christianity. As I read stories of what Christianity and Christ means to people in other countries and have seen videos of people receiving Bibles translated in their native tongues for the first time, I am truly coming to the realization that America has gotten this Christianity thing all wrong.The Church in America has missed the mark. And it's time to fix it.

I have to say that I am so blessed and honored to be part of a body of believers that is in fact trying to fix it, at least in our corner of Lakeland for now. We are trying to bust through the status quo. The American Church presents a "country club" mentality. It stresses becoming a member of a church rather than a follower of Jesus. It is more concerned with the outward appearance of its building, the color of the carpet, and the programs it offers than it is about the true nature of the souls inside. Sadly, some of the most lost people can be found in a pew every Sunday morning. Your association with a church does not equal your salvation. Now, don't get me wrong. I think it is of utmost importance for believers to be part of a church, or a body of believers that is actively seeking the Lord. The Bible even states that we should not forsake the brethren. Corporate worship is important. As Christians, it is vital to be around other believers to encourage you, pray for you, lift you up when you fall, and hold you accountable. That doesn't happen if you're going the Christian life solo. God created us to be in fellowship. But He also created us to worship and love ONE.

I don't state this to point the finger...because if I were doing that, I would have to have several pointed at myself. I have missed the mark too many times to count. But thanks be to God that His mercies and grace never run dry.

Here's the thing: if you call yourself a Christian, LIVE IT. Don't let that term just be a title. It is NOT a title. It is a way of life...and the ONLY way to Life. To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ - - - that is, to do as He commanded. "Take up your cross DAILY, and follow Him." We have to die to ourselves. We have to make a conscious decision each and every day to follow Him. And you're either following Him or you're following the world, which is ultimately the devil. To "take up your cross" is literally to "take up an instrument of death." It's not glamorous and honestly, nothing about the Christian life is glamorous. If you're following Christ as He commands, you're going to get dirty. Life will be messy. It will be hard. But I promise you, it will be worth it.

Following Christ does not equal crossing off a list of things you're supposed to do each day. It's not a list of do's and don'ts. As our small group leader's wife so eloquently put it on Saturday night: "It's not take up your list and follow Me; it's take up your cross and follow Me." Lay the list down people. Lay it down and simply fall at the feet of Jesus. Be broken over your sin. Allow the King to empty you of yourself and fill you up with His Spirit. In order for the American Church to get past what it's done wrong and how it has failed the lost, it has to start by being completely broken before the Lord.

Last night at Bible Study, we listened to an amazing song by Jimmy Needham called "Clear the Stage." It totally resonates with this topic of getting it wrong and what to do to start to get it right. I was already in the midst of writing this very blog when I heard it last night. It completely speaks to this topic.

A portion of the lyrics:
"Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

'cause you can sing all you want to
Yes you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong 

Oh worship is more than a song"

Jimmy Needham: "Clear the Stage" Let this song speak to your heart!

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