for love…for truth…for mercy

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There seems to be a lot of judgment going around church circles lately. Or maybe I’m just more keenly aware of it than ever before. I know that Christians are often believed to be judgmental by those who are not Christians. However, I have never felt that way…until recently. I have always believed that Christians were more loving than judging and more accepting than condemning. Again, perhaps I have missed it or ignored it somehow. Or perhaps, with society’s enormous push towards “tolerance”, some Christians have felt the need to be even more vocal about what they believe to be so very wrong.

I may get myself in trouble here. You may not agree with me – and that’s completely okay with me. However, I just don’t understand the need to be so very vocal about what everyone around you (especially those who are not Christ followers) might be doing wrong according to your viewpoint. I hate the word “tolerance”. I don’t understand the need for the word. I wish that people were kind enough and loving enough that the word “tolerance” wouldn’t have to be such a huge thing right now.

I don’t want to just “tolerate” people! I want to learn to love them! In every situation, every family, every group – there will be people we don’t get along with and we have to learn to “get along” or “tolerate” each other for the sake of the bigger picture. Yes. True. However, a Christian is not meant to “tolerate” their neighbor – we are meant to love them! (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31).

But SO often we are known for our intolerance rather than our love – intolerance to love – what a HUGE gap that is! What are we teaching our kids? To love only those who agree with us? To love them, but to make sure they know they are wrong? Is that really love at all? I don’t think it is. It breaks my heart to see so many groups of people treated so very poorly by the Christian community. Disclaimer: I know SO many Christians who are so very loving and accepting of all of those groups – so I know it’s probably more the exception than the rule. But isn’t it true that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch?! I don’t ever want to be that bad apple! No wonder people don’t feel welcome in the church when well-known pastors are tweeting about God’s judgment of people via the tornadoes, when there are churches like Westboro Baptist who judge and hate all men equally (unless they are exactly like them).

I understand that God’s truth is important. I understand that the Bible is full of truth and conviction, and that it is “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). But there are so many Christians these days who believe it is their responsibility to “divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Yes – it is our responsibility to speak truth….in love…at the appropriate time…and by the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. I am a truth teller. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I believe something “wrong” is happening. I understand the desire to set people right. I really do. I also understand that the purpose of truth telling HAS to be setting people right, helping people grow, loving them with our words and our purposes – NOT judging them or hurting them. Some things are not your business, pastor. Some things should NOT be said in public forums – or at all for that matter. What is the purpose of your words? To judge or to love? Conviction or compassion? To tear down or to build up? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is useful for building others up.” I have that one memorized. Not because I am awesome at it – but because I’m not. I have to pay very close attention to my words – every – single – day. Or I’ll slip. I’ll judge. I’ll show hate instead of love. I don’t ever want to be known for what I stand against – but rather what I stand for.
Jesus stood for love. for peace. for acceptance. for grace. for truth. for mercy and kindness.

Want to be more like Jesus? I do. I don’t want those around me to be reluctant to let me in for fear that I might judge them. Heck – I don’t want to be reluctant to let people in for fear that they may judge me!
I want to be a true Christ “follower”. I want to stand for love….for truth…and for mercy!

Learn to do Good. Seek Justice. Help the Opressed…

I read this passage today in my quiet time.  I can’t get it out of my mind.  I know that it’s just sitting there waiting to mess me up entirely.  I hope so.  I can’t wait for God to mess me up.  Here’s what it said…

“Wash yourselves and be clean!  Let me no longer see your evil deeds.  Give up your wicked ways. 

Learn to do good.

Seek Justice.

Help the opressed.

Defend the orphan.

Fight for the rights of widows.

Come now, let us argue this out, says the LORD.  No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it.  I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow.  Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.  If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty to eat.  But if you keep turning away and refusing to listen, you will be destroyed by your enemies.  I, the LORD, have spoken!”

Isaiah 1:16-20

Hypocritical Worship

“I hate all your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies…Away from me with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.”
Amos 5:21, 23-24

God was talking here to the Israelites who were, according to God, extremely unjust and wicked. They were lying, cheating, oppressing the poor. He called them hypocrites because they talked about worship and sacrifice, but they ignored the injustices happening among them. In these verses it is obvious that these injustices and the lack of righteous living were absolutely essential to worship. They could not worship God on Sunday (or Saturday actually, right?) and act like everyone else the rest of the week.
When our life outside the church walls doesn’t match our life inside the church walls – When we say we love Jesus, but can’t love our co-worker or neighbor – When we promise to follow His ways, but ignore the hurting or needy all around us – our worship becomes hollow. It becomes useless to God. Worship is, after all, more than music – it’s about obedience. I have heard worship defined as “our response to who God is and what God has done.”

I do think it’s interesting that in these verses he specifically talks about music. Have you ever been singing a song on Sunday morning about the amazing grace of Jesus Christ when you realized that you are still angry at your spouse for something that happened earlier that day or even that week?? I have. Have you ever sat in the middle of the worship service and been annoyed or even angry about the odd outbursts of someone who may be new to church and God and who is quite different than the people you normally see come through your church doors? Guilty.

God doesn’t care at all for offerings of worship that aren’t backed up by our lifestyle. He isn’t interested in hollow worship. He isn’t pleased by singing hypocrites – no matter how beautiful we think we sound.

If we seek to worship God, we must also seek His justice. If we seek to worship God, we must also share His grace. If we seek to truly worship God, we must stand up for what is right (no matter what people think of us).

I’m reminded of a song I’ve loved for a long time called Stand by Susan Ashton. Here is my favorite part…

In a moment of truth at the top of the will
I open my arms and let go of my will
And stand with my face to the wind
With the storm beating down
On this sacred ground
If I stand, for the graceI have known
For what I believe
Then I won’t stand alone – no I won’t stand alone.

A Dose of Perspective

I read a post by Tally Wilgis just now that I couldn’t keep from sharing with you. Check it out here. It’s all about his observations during a visit to another church. The best part is at the end…

“Each week when Christians and Selfians collide… someone WILL BE uncomfortable. Why is it that the Christians want to make the Selfians uncomfortable? Why can’t the Christians say “If someone has to be uncomfortable in this transaction, let it be us. I’m okay with letting my saved family do church in a theater with beer ads all around.” The way those beer ads hit many church goers is the same way a stained glass window, a tie, or hymnals hits the Selfians. If I KNOW there will be SOMEONE uncomfortable… I want it to be our church members and attendees. Let it be me! If it will allow my selfian friend to see Christ in his own context… so be it.”

Good stuff – right?

Leverage

I read a post today from Jason Berggren who has made a recent announcement about changing careers to pursue his passion. Here is a paragraph:

“Truth be told, the thought that in 10 years I could be looking in the mirror wondering why I didn’t try to pursue my passion more aggressively also haunts me. We have one life. Let me say that once again. We have one life. One life to leverage all that we can to make a difference with all that we have.”
The above paragraph – especially the last sentence – really hit home with me. Not because I am realizing that there is something more that I am supposed to be doing – but because I’m doing it now. My entire life up to this point has been preparing me to do what I’m doing now. I am absolutely certain that God has put me in the place that I am “for such a time as this”. (I’ve been really taken with the story of Ruth lately – incredible story – you should check it out.)
The underlying passion throughout my life has been music. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive without it. Over the last 3 years (especially this last one) I’ve been learning how to worship through music. Really worship. When I’m worshiping in that way it’s like I’m doing what I was always meant to – like it’s the reason I was created – and that I’m preparing for eternity when I’m singing to God in worship. I am constantly amazed at how much I’m learning in the middle of this ministry. I am just SO honored to be a part of it. I don’t understand why God has allowed me this opportunity – but I am definitely going to give it everything I have – for as long as He lets me do it (forever would be fine with me).
I’ve also never felt this sense of urgency before – that if I don’t tell them about Christ – no one will! My husband and I prayed last night that God would give us scripture to pray for the people of Roanoke – we were drawn to the story of John the Baptist and the calling of the first disciples. When God said, “follow me” – they immediately did. Not because He looked cool, but because they already knew who He was and when He came to town they were ready to give their lives to Him. John the Baptist came first. To tell them. There was something different about him. He was wild and obviously passionate. He was constantly saying “I am not the Christ – but I can tell you that He’s coming – and you won’t believe how wonderful He is!” That’s my passion right now. I want to connect with the people of Roanoke in such a way that they will know that I have passion – that there is something different about me. That there’s something different about Compass.
I have gone off on a tangent – I know. Here’s one last verse from Jason’s blog. At Compass we’ve come across this verse a few times in the last few months – it’s really meaningful to me.
“And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:10-12

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for choosing Compass Airlines…

Most of you know that I am part of a church plant in Roanoke, TX. We’ve had a number of challenges over the last couple of years, most of which have turned into major advantages. Check out Johnny’s post for specific examples.
I’ve been thinking alot lately about the upcoming months and how we will design our services to really make an impact in our area. I’ve come to some conclusions:

I read an article about how before we put together our services we need to know who we are – personalities, etc. I think that up until now we’ve been trying to figure out what will reach people – what people will respond to. Well, if we first figure out what WE respond to, that will help us communicate with passion, excitement and actually reach the people God means for us to reach. God put our personalities together for a reason – and it’s not so that we can do church like we always have. I think we are supposed to play on our strengths, passions, preferences, and styles and then – ONLY THEN – will we reach the people God is calling us to reach. Lets design a service – or Weekly gathering – that WE would be able to get excited about – and want to invite people to. Let’s take the church goggles off and dream a little. We CAN have fun with this. Church is supposed to be fun – it’s supposed to be creative – it’s supposed to be different. People will respond to us if we’re genuine and real – we’ve talked about this a million times. I think that it’s time to put our worship service where our mouth is. It will take major dedication, creativity, excitement, passion, time – but we can absolutely make it happen.

It’s like all of the sudden my eyes have been opened and I see things not for what they were or what they are, but for what they could be. It’s the DUH moment. Actually I’ve had a lot of DUH moments over the last couple of weeks. I feel so stupid that it never occured to me before. God chose us – who we are – our personalities, etc. for this area at this time. We don’t have to wait and see what God will do. HE’s called US to do something. To reach out in an exciting and real way to the people in THIS area and tell them about Him. When we’re obedient to do that – He’ll move in a mighty way. It all seems so simple, now. God has given us the opportunity to be creative – to get excited – to be passionate and to have a blast at the same time. I’ve been saying that I’m learning what a privilege it is to be in ministry and to be a part of God’s will.
It’s like my first airplane ride – I expected something really cool. I knew that it would be great. But when the wheels of the plane left the ground for the first time and I realized that I was FLYING – Words couldn’t express how I was feeling. My mind was expanded at that moment – suddenly the world was a lot bigger – and I was a lot smaller – and it was WONDERFUL! I finally saw a glimpse of the Big Picture – and I will NEVER BE THE SAME.

That’s where we are as a church – the wheels are leaving the pavement. Just like in the airplane – I held on a little tighter to the armrest as the nose of the plane pointed toward the sky and the ground got farther away – we need to do the same now – hold on tighter. There is a natural excitement that we’ll feel just knowing that the plane is going higher and higher and pointing more and more toward the sky – and the higher we get, the looser our grip will be on the armrests. The higher we go – the more we will trust the thing that is holding us up. The higher we go – the more of the picture we’ll see. I’m so ready to fly. I’ve never been more ready.

More on Success

Here’s an excerpt from another daily devotion that I read –

There is a distinct difference between the believer who operates based on living in the Promised Land versus the one who operates in Egypt. In Egypt, the believer sweats and toils to generate an outcome. The final objective is foremost in their mind. Outcome is everything. In the Promised Land, we learn that obedience is the only thing that matters.
We are called to execute, and leave outcome to God. Sometimes that outcome is very positive, yielding a return. In other cases, we may not yield a corresponding return. We may even get a negative outcome. The difference is that we know that we have been faithful to what God has called us to and we yield results to God. God may call each of us to be obedient to situations that may not yield immediate, positive results. It is in these times that our faith must be obedience-based versus outcome-based. What if Jesus had considered the immediate ramifications of whether he would go to the cross? Based on the immediate outcome, the decision would have been an easy one. Who wants to die on a cross? However, for Him there was a higher purpose in that obedience. We are called to this same kind of obedience. This means putting our own flesh on the line daily, dying to our own self-will. This is what it means to be faithful. Pray that God will make you faithful today.

More cool stuff!