The Question I Never Asked

shutterstock_220508812It’s funny how God always gives us the answers we need instead of the ones we want.  Right now, there are many things in my world that are causing me great distress, and I have earnestly prayed for clarity in all of them, waiting for God to answer me.  I have been coming to Him with the right heart, but I didn’t know I was asking the wrong questions.  Instead of providing clarity on all my situations, He revealed to me what I needed in order to hear His answers, and in doing so, He answered the one question I wasn’t even asking: “How do I find clarity on HOW to get clarity?”

When we are walking through difficult circumstances, knowledge is not always power.  Sometimes we end up knowing things we really shouldn’t know.  When others share information or details about things going on around us, even if the information is correct, it will almost always color our opinions of those situations. Our opinion or perspective can be deeply affected by knowing what other people think or have done.  I’m not advocating for sticking our heads in the sand, but I’m saying that sometimes the phrase “knowledge is power,” couldn’t be further from the truth.  Knowledge can actually be destructive, especially to our spirits.  The deciding factor on how knowledge affects us is actually found in the source of that knowledge.  If it is knowledge of God’s word and what He wants from us in the way we live and treat others, then that knowledge is absolutely powerful.  On the other hand, if it is knowledge about what someone else has said or done, we are in danger of being swayed. Most of us want to know the details of all the situations around us, especially if they are “juicy.”  We try to rationalize this thirst and hunger for details as a way of helping us make better decisions.  Sometimes we even claim it helps us to pray better, because we can pray more specifically.  Really?  Do you really think that an omniscient God doesn’t already know all the details?   Trust me; He certainly doesn’t need you or me to fill Him in on them.

In my situation(s), I keep praying for clarity on what I’m supposed to do.  What is the solution? Am I supposed to stand firm?  Am I supposed to walk away?  I just want to know which way to turn, because I don’t have that direction yet.  I don’t want to do something I’m not being called to do, so it stands to reason that my heart would be searching for answers.  But what do we do when those answers don’t seem to be coming?

As people of faith, there is an endless number of quotes, verses, statements and sentiments we use for ourselves or share with others when difficult times hit us.  It’s not that these sentiments or statements are worthless, but often over time, they seem to lose something.  As Christians, it’s sometimes easy to find ourselves just going through the motions.  We know what to say and when to say it.  We know what to do, and we may even do it, but something is still missing.  We feel frustrated, discouraged and disappointed but keep pressing on because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.  After all, isn’t that what God WANTS us to do?  Aren’t we supposed to persevere and keep walking in faith no matter how we feel?   Well, that’s where the disjoint has been happening for me lately.  How do I know when God is trying to move me into something else or asking me to persevere exactly where I am?  Little by little, I found myself inching closer to that question I really should have been asking all along.

When we are truly seeking the right direction in our lives or circumstances, we go through a process of discovery.  We ask and ponder and sometimes even drive ourselves crazy trying to wrap our hands or heads around a plan that will work.  Our hearts can be in the right place, but the fog hanging over it can make it confusing, so we pray and consider all aspects of our situation.  For me, that consideration can actually bring up more and more feelings of discouragement and frustration.  Those feelings can then lead me to a place where I am ready to change direction or make decisions based on how I feel.  When we arrive at these places, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I feel called somewhere else or to something else, or am I just frustrated, bored, disappointed, etc.?”  If our response to that question is that we are frustrated and such, then it’s time to step back.  Being frustrated and disappointed is very different from being “called.”   I know because I’m experiencing it in my own life, and yet God has been quietly whispering to me, answering the question I wasn’t even asking:

“How do I get clarity on HOW to get clarity?”

Self-reflection is one of the most difficult things we can do in times of frustration or discouragement.  As humans, we are outward‑looking people.  It’s much easier to look at what someone else is or isn’t doing than to be honest about ourselves.  The more frustrated we get, the harder self-reflection becomes.  As a result of this truth, I realized I needed to step back and ask myself these questions:

  • Am I doing everything God asks of ME to do?
  • Am I loving radically?
  • Am I forgiving radically?

shutterstock_463471961I know we often look at the word “radical” as somewhat of a bad word, especially in churches, but how did Jesus command us to love each other?  And how are we commanded to treat each other?  We know the answers to those questions.  They are simple answers, and yet so difficult to put into practice because we are human.  We get tired of loving, forgiving and serving others when we get nothing in return from them.  Sometimes in the middle of my discouragement, I am reminded of how often Jesus must have felt the same way.  When I shared this with my husband recently, his response was, “I’m not Jesus.  I’m not divine.”  Although I completely understand the sentiment, it isn’t an accurate one.  We ARE divine.  My mind and body may not be divine, but my spirit is!  As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us.  Our spirit is HIS spirit, so we truly are divine in that one area of our own trinity (body, mind, spirit).  That means we CAN love and forgive radically, but we choose not to because it’s so hard to overcome our human nature.  It’s a battle, and we are always going to fail here and there because we aren’t perfect!  I often feel like the apostle Paul – I don’t do what I want to do and I can stop doing what I don’t want to do!

Where is your heart?  Where is mine?  Is it in the right place?  For example: How do you react if you plan something for the right reasons, and no one really shows up, even though it was something you felt God wanted you to do?  If you truly feel it’s the right thing to do, and nobody shows up, I can assure you the emotions of disappointment and discouragement will wash over you.  I’ve been there even recently, and it can be heartbreaking and frustrating, but that doesn’t mean we should let those feelings affect what we do next.  That’s much easier said than done, because we usually start drawing conclusions as to why some people didn’t show up.  That’s not how we are supposed to be!  We aren’t supposed to be judgmental, and when we are caught up in our own opinions, then we are missing the essence of what God is asking US to do.

shutterstock_507354892Our actions can certainly be evidence of our commitment or the commitment of others, whether it’s to our family, church, jobs, or anything else.  Talk is really cheap, but we need to remember that actions can also be deceiving.  We’ve all had times where we remained committed to our responsibilities long after our heart was no longer in it.  In these cases, it gives the impression we are committed, but the truth is we are just going through the motions.  It’s no different than those who constantly talk about being committed but won’t ever sacrifice or, as the saying goes, “put their money where their mouths are.”  Our service to God in EVERY area of life is between us and God first.  Only we can determine where God is calling us or in what manner He is asking us to serve.  Our responsibility is to Him first, and if we want to have clear direction, we must keep our priorities in order.  Like most of us, I need to humble my attitude more.  It’s easy to feel pious or like a martyr when we feel like we are the only ones doing all the work.  And guess what?  Sometimes you ARE doing all the work.  When that’s the case, it’s easy to fall prey to that mindset, but then we are letting our emotions take over.  God tells us that whatever we do should be done in love.  Period. (1 Cor 16:14) That also means if I am serving, it shouldn’t be out of obligation, and it shouldn’t matter what others are or are not doing.  What matters is whether or not I am doing things from a heart of true love, forgiveness and service.

shutterstock_294695897We naturally want things to be fair in life.  What we don’t consider is who determines what is “fair” and what is not?  God has commanded us to drop our own attitudes, even if they seem warranted and realistic.  It’s ok to feel angry, disappointed, discouraged and frustrated, but God tells us to let it go!  We know it’s true, but I sometimes act like a whining child and think, “Why do I always have to drop my attitude, but they never have to drop theirs?”  Have you ever felt that way?  Well, God’s response to that question is, “You drop it because you are mature enough to know better.”  Ugh – if that doesn’t hit you in the heart, I don’t know what will.  Sometimes the reason God asks so much of us is because we know better. He asks more of us because we are more spiritually mature.  After all, to whom much is given, much is required.  Go read about the concept of the “weaker brother” in Romans chapter 14, and consider that for a moment.  Sometimes being right isn’t always the right thing for us to do.  It really does all come back to love, but instead we sit and complain about fairness.  I have news for you, until you are hanging on a cross with people spitting on you and torturing you to death, you don’t have any right to complain that it’s not fair that you have to treat people with love and kindness in spite of how they treat you in return.

Look, we are commanded by God to love each other as He loves us!  We are commanded to forgive each other as He forgives us.  If we want clarity, then living as God has instructed us is not an option.  I can assure you that my heart is in the right place when I am asking God for clarity and wisdom in my own situations, but I’m not always approaching things with the right attitude either.  Doing so causes confusion that clouds my ability to have clarity.  Have you ever been close in your relationship with God and been asking for him to provide direction but then get confused when He doesn’t seem to be answering?  Do we think that He doesn’t want us to know what to do in life?  That’s ridiculous, but it’s essentially what we are saying when we get upset that we can’t see or hear His answers.

All communication involves a sender and receiver, a message, feedback and noise, but it’s the noise that comes into play here.  Noise is anything that interferes with the clear sending or receiving of a message.  If you are on the phone, it could be static.  If you are in a crowded room, it could be the sound of all the voices around you.  If you shine a flashlight into the dark, it could be a tree that gets in the way of where you are trying to shine it.  You get the point.  Right now, for me, it’s not my situations that are causing the noise that’s clouding my ability to be confident in where God is leading, but rather my attitude toward them.  If I keep saying to myself, “I am doing the right thing, and I’m going to keep doing the right thing, but it irritates me that I have to keep doing the right thing,” then I am displaying an attitude to God that He never wants to see in us as His children.  Others may not see it, but He does and he knows.  The reality, if I’m truthful, is that I am making my own noise and then wondering why I can’t discern the direction God is already providing for me.

shutterstock_756307036.jpgWhen we are faced with situations we don’t understand or are wondering why God doesn’t seem to be listening, we need to step back.  When we are trying to discern whether or not God is pulling and drawing us toward something else, we need to make sure we aren’t squinting through a fog trying to guess what or where it is.  When we know there are things God wants us to do, but refuse to do them because we don’t like them or think they are fair, then we are turning up the noise that prevents us from hearing what He’s trying to tell us.   If we will simply start loving radically and forgiving radically, regardless of what anyone else does, we can start to clear the fog.  When that happens, I can have far more confidence in the answers to my questions.  It’s definitely not easy to do, but it is the truth, nonetheless.  Clarity in the details can only come after we have clarity on the bigger picture.

When we start doing the things we know for certain that God wants us to do, and then we ask Him for clarity in the detailed situations of our lives, He will give it.  If I’m serving, loving and forgiving radically wherever I am, and still feel God pulling at me to move, then I can have peace in the certainty of that direction.  The truth is most of us don’t want to do those things because it isn’t easy, and it isn’t fair by our standards.

So if you are like me, and are currently struggling for clarity in your life, then maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and remember God is not hiding His will from us.  He takes no pleasure in making us guess at what He wants us to do or in us trying to solve our problems by trial and error.  It’s not that He is waiting to answer us; it’s that we need to clear the noise so that we can hear Him more clearly.  We need to clear the fog of pride, discouragement or frustration that is making it difficult to see where He is leading.  We simply need to get our eyes off the raging sea and look to the One who has shown us exactly how we should treat each other.  And then if He moves us on, we can do so in love rather than in frustration and discouragement.

Jesus was radical!  He loved people even as they were mistreating, mocking, abusing and rejecting Him.  He continued to love them in spite of who they were, and He does the same for us.  He forgave everyone, over and over, even though they didn’t deserve it.  He didn’t question their sincerity, or put conditions on His love or forgiveness, and He didn’t drag grudges around with Him.  As a result, HE had perfect clarity on how to approach the situations in which He found Himself.  He had clarity on what to do, how to do it and when to do it, and He followed that call regardless of His own emotions.

shutterstock_32845126We may not be perfect, but if we will become as radical in our love and forgiveness for others as He was, then the fog will begin to clear.  As it says in Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  We can’t cherry-pick the areas in which we follow and then expect Him to make the path clear to us.   He just won’t do it.

It’s amazing what we learn when God answers the questions we never thought to ask.

Blessings.

Time For A “Face” Lift

shutterstock_351834119Our society places a lot of value on beauty and outward appearance.  We think nothing of having work done (or of others having work done) to try and circumvent the effects of aging, and yet we are paying less and less attention to how we look on the inside.   We are losing our ability to be civil and courteous, and nowhere is this truth more apparent than on Facebook and other social media sites.  Over the past 6 months or so, I have been spending less time on Facebook and much of the time I’ve spent was, or is, hiding posts from people on ALL sides of varying issues (political or other).  My tolerance for the intolerance shown by so many people on so many subjects has really worn thin.  Before I go any further, let me just say that if you think I’m one of those people who just wants to stick their heads in the sand and not care, or are not willing to be engaged in thoughtful or even passionate discussion, I can assure you nothing is further from the truth.  I choose to be very engaged, just not online.

These days, there is turmoil all around us.  For one thing, the recent election cycle in our country has really taken a toll on most people and some people are very concerned – some for the same reasons and some for very different ones.  Then we look around us at other divides caused by different belief systems (whether religious or not), and it seems we are in a constant state of disruption and disagreement.  I have news for you: It has always been this way!   We think our debates are deeper or more enlightened.  We think the consequences are greater.  Guess what?  Every generation from the beginning of time has thought the same things.  And yes, people have always fought (and disagreed) passionately over what they believed.  From the beginning of time, there have always been people who were nasty and mean when trying to prove a point or argue a position, but it was different.  They didn’t have access to instant communication with the entire world!  We are bombarded with opinions and even mean-spirited lies about different positions or events.  We have instant information when something happens, and sometimes that information is not always accurate.  shutterstock_516722350That’s part of what is wrong with instant news.  Stories used to have time to develop before everyone heard something and reacted.  We’ve seen many stories that turned out not to be as they were originally portrayed, but it was too late to stop the reactions or public opinion – even when the facts finally come out.  On top of that, there is so much “fake” news that now exists for the sole purpose of stirring people up, or even worse, slandering or attacking them.

We live in a world where we can fire off our opinions immediately online, almost with impunity.  We no longer have to resort to picking up the phone and calling someone to discuss something.  We don’t have to wait until we are “around the water cooler” or face to face with someone before we throw out what we think.  There is something very valuable about waiting before we speak or give an opinion.  It gives us time to rethink HOW we want to give that opinion or state that comment.  We have lost our civility, and it has only escalated the meanness and fueled the fires of anger and hate.  Then we start choosing sides and refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees.  It’s true in our government as well as our own lives.  It needs to stop, but there are days when I fear we are too far gone.

Online we lose so much of what makes us human.  We lose tone, facial expression and body language. We lose accountability, and most of all we lose the trait of being courteous.  It’s easy to be rude when you don’t have to look people in the eye.  It’s easy to tear people down (including those we claim to love and care about) from behind a computer or phone screen.  There are no bounds to what people say or how far they will go to destroy someone who thinks, believes or lives differently.  As I mentioned earlier, even if we do not actively engage in the arguing, it is affecting us.  Even though we think we are ignoring it, we still feel its effects.  Think of it this way:  If you were in a room of people where the noise level and arguing (or fighting) was that loud, you would most likely leave even if you had an opinion that you wouldn’t mind discussing civilly.  Most of us would condemn the behavior we were witnessing and refuse to be part of it, but social media is different.  We’ve turned differing opinions into blood-sport.  We don’t care if a news story is real or fake; we use it as a weapon to go after people who disagree with us.  We’ve become more rude and intolerant as we hide behind our devices.  And that goes for ALL people of ALL beliefs and opinions.  shutterstock_74446510We don’t walk away from people who are rude or aggressive anymore, instead we devolve into them ourselves.  We forget that we are talking to human beings, and instead treat each other like animals.  We are bullies.  We are arrogant and insensitive asses.  We devolve into everything we say we aren’t or that we preach against.  We watch our friends tear each other down and just sit there.  We think, because we don’t read or react to the garbage that rolls through our feeds, that it isn’t affecting us.  But it is.  It wears on us until we finally crack.  I’ve fallen victim to it on several occasions myself.  “It” being that almost uncontrollable urge to fight back or snipe back at someone who is being unreasonable or, God forbid, wrong!  I’ve given into it on occasion, but it has almost always come with regret at some point.

The truth is, Facebook has become Face-less book.  We see photos but not each other.  We’ve become social voyeurs.  Voyeurs see others as objects and have no problem victimizing them as a result.  We, ourselves, have become less human and yet feel more entitled at the same time.  Everyone screams about intolerance, yet everyone IS intolerant.  Why?  Because it’s easy. Because even though we might love the people in our feeds, we feel faceless to them too.  The old saying that “character is what you do when no one is looking” is very true.  People sometimes ask, “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?”  The answers are always interesting, but we are actually living in an age where we have created places where we think we can act like Neanderthals because we can’t be touched.  And then we wonder why our relationships (personally or professionally) are suffering.  We are so used to letting words fly out of our mouths without thought for others that we’ve started doing it in our real lives.  It was bound to happen, and yet we never saw it coming.  I see people who should be leaders acting like children, or even worse, teenagers whose only concern is being part of in the “in” club.  I see people snickering in corners about fellow workers, family members, church members or friends because their minds are being trained to think it’s normal to behave that way.  Just like we do on social media, we are watching it even if we aren’t actively participating.   And just like on Facebook, it is affecting us whether we want to admit it or not.

shutterstock_57395806So why does it matter? It matters because we are conditioning ourselves in ways that are harming us as individuals and as a society.  Our “real” lives are in turmoil.  We hear of tragedies almost daily where someone has attacked or even killed others.  We hear of relationships of all kinds falling apart and everyone is more concerned with blaming each other and making sure they are the one who  comes out “looking good.”  We watch kids bully and be mean to each other but then whine and cry when someone does the same to them.    We wring our hands and wonder why this selfish behavior has become so common, but we refuse to look in the mirror and admit we are part of the problem.  Whether we are actually fighting or being a voyeur, we are part of the problem.  We are more and more desensitized which makes us less and less self-aware.  In our “real” lives, we are becoming quicker to point out others who are being rude, offensive or a host of other negative traits while not seeing our own.

I said earlier there are days I fear we are too far gone, but there IS hope!  We actually can change, but we first have to want to change.   There is a passage of scripture (James chapter 4) that affected me very deeply the first time I read it when I was a teenager.  The entire chapter is great admonition as to how we should live, but it ends with this verse: “Therefore, to the one that knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.”  We forget that not doing the things that are right and good are just as sinful in God’s eyes as doing all the wrong things.  It’s time for us to stand up for what is good instead of defending our positions.  It’s time for us to “think on these things” that are “true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report.” (Phil 4:8) We must remember that our hearts and the hearts of others are not protected behind a wall of perceived immunity.   shutterstock_290171423We are ALL humans.  We are all imperfect and we all are tempted to get caught up in the drama with which we are constantly bombarded.  Instead, let us hold each other close in heart.  Let us truly love each other instead of tearing each other down.  Let’s purge our social media feeds AND our lives of the things that continually remind us of how we are different we are and start looking at how we are all the same.  Yes, it’s time for a “face”lift of a different kind, so I will leave you with this:  “Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Blessings!

Love Really Does Win

shutterstock_290942954Hate.  Anger.  Turmoil.  It seems we are surrounded by it constantly these days.  We could attribute it to recent tragedies or the political season, but I think it’s more than that.  We are a rich country.  I’m not saying everyone is rich, but even the poor in our country have access to more food, shelter and services than many other places.  Here’s the thing about prosperity:  It’s easier to have more time on our hands, and when we have more time, we have the choice to think about the blessings in our lives or all of the things that are not as we would like.  We have more time to think, and yet our thoughts don’t always rest on what the Bible tells us in the book of Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise – meditate on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8) Instead, it seems our thoughts go to those things that are more selfish and divisive.

In our country, we’ve endured a long period of time in which a very strong focus was placed on noticing and appreciating our differences.  As a result, we have gone to great lengths to point them out more and more.  Maybe it is race or heritage, lifestyle or political beliefs, or a host of other things, but we’ve focused on continually highlighting what is different about each other rather than pointing out what is the same.  Diversity (in all of its buzzword glory) has been celebrated and our sameness has been ignored.  The problem is that when we see ourselves as different, it becomes much easier to judge or fear, or to be angry and lash out.  So as a result of our nation’s prosperity – the prosperity our parents and grandparents worked so hard to secure for us – we have had more time to nitpick and tear each other apart.  We have celebrated our differences so much that now our differences are most often the only thing we see.  The beautiful thing about God is that He doesn’t see what we see when we look at each other.  He doesn’t see what is on the outside (and I am not referring only to our appearance); He sees our hearts.  Unfortunately, I think what He now sees disappoints Him more than we can probably imagine.  After all, He suffered and died for every single one of us regardless of our race, heritage, preferences or even our sins!  To Him, sin is sin even though WE like to pick and choose which ones He disapproves of the most.  Of course, it’s never the ones with which we personally struggle, but that’s a blog for another time.

shutterstock_300707297I am a white, conservative, heterosexual Christian.  I also have friends and loved ones who are of all colors, religions, backgrounds and creeds.  I love them all equally.  I may have more in common with some, which leads me to spend more time with some, but I do not love them more.  As a result of my perspective on love, I have some very deep and meaningful relationships with people that others may not understand.  Some would even say I should not have these relationships based on my own “classifications.”  What a load of crap!  I would not turn my back on those relationships simply because we have different opinions or perspectives.  Even the people I encounter and find extremely difficult to even tolerate (let alone love), I am still to love them.  Loving as God has commanded means that I will love others and see them as God sees them.  And in God’s eyes, they mean so much to Him that they are worth dying for!  Do I always succeed at that?  Sadly, I do not.  Like many of you, I struggle to not get caught up into the anger that comes as a result of one side or another (on any issue) becoming belligerent, uncaring and unloving – even if I might agree with their actual position.   Everyone likes to point the finger at others and say they are the “judgers,” but everyone shares that trait in common!  Everyone is a hypocrite at one point or another.  As a result, we end up living lives that are not abundant.  We stress and fight and get tied up in knots internally over the issues that face us, while at the same time God is looking at us saying, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)  God wants us to rest!  He wants us to rest because resting from our labor should be refreshing.  When we get quiet, our minds should turn to Him and to a true reflection of ourselves – not the image we try to portray to others.

The  truth is that if I am honest and understand exactly who I am, then it doesn’t really matter who you are.  Let me explain.  If I’m focused on my own relationship with God and what I need to adjust in that relationship – whether it is to ask for forgiveness or to be more committed or love more purely – then I will not be focused on what you are doing in your relationship with Him or others.  If I am going to try and love the way I am commanded to love, the only way I can succeed in doing so is if I am keenly aware that without Him I can do nothing – without Him, I am nothing.   That isn’t meant to be a self-depreciating flagellation; It is a reality that I did not and do not deserve His love, mercy and grace, yet He gives it freely and continually.  I should be keenly aware of that fact – without any rationalization of who I am, the impure and sinful thoughts that I have, the words that I say, or acts that I commit.  If I am honest with myself and recognize how imperfect, and even hypocritical, I am, then I won’t see you as less than me.  That’s what love is.

shutterstock_419615524After the recent Orlando tragedy, there are a lot of “love wins” quotes once again being circulated.  I realize that phrase has been used for one particular cause, but the reality is that truest love DOES win – the love of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 DOES win!  It wins because it will cause us to be honest with ourselves and take off our masks so that we can see ourselves for who we are.  It allows us to face the truth of Matt 7:3-5 that says, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite!  First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” 

So in light of recent tragedies, and tragedies that are certain to come over the course of time in an imperfect world, love wins.  In light of a political season that is filled with hate and anger from both sides of the aisle love wins.  In light of selfishness and meanness, love still wins.  Why?  Because loving as God love will allow us to not be first and be perfectly okay with it.  It will allow you to forgive, even if no one ever says, “I’m sorry.”  Love will allow you to treat others with compassion – even those with whom you disagree – and trust God to sort it all out.  It may not be the way we want, and it may not be in the timing we want, but my responsibility is to “do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly before my God.” (Micah 6:8)

After all, God didn’t say it was an option.  He didn’t say, “Love the way I do if you feel like it.”  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  (John 13:34).    And if you aren’t sure what that kind of love looks like, then I would encourage you to take the time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

Blessings!

(For an in-depth post on the nature of pure love, click here: Love Is Not Grey)

The Ignorant Battle Cry of Christians

shutterstock_148970525Recently, people of faith all over the world celebrated the resurrection of their Lord and Savior.  They celebrated the God who loved us all so much that He was willing to take on a human body, suffer more than anyone has ever suffered, and die the most horrible, unspeakable death for us because He loved us and wanted us to be free.   You’d think this would inspire these same people of faith to try to live more closely to the teachings of the One in which they have put their faith, but that doesn’t always happen.

Recently, I listened to a member of the clergy speak publicly with such venom and hatred for people who were different, believed differently, or God forbid, were “them old sinners.”  When it started, it was almost humorous, because it seemed almost like a caricature of what the media portrays Christians to be.  But as I continued to listen, humor turned to surprise, then to disappointment and finally to disgust.  All I wanted to do was to shout out, “You are the problem!”  Because the truth is that God loves ALL the world and every single person in it.  He loves those we would classify as “good” as well as those we would say are “bad” (eg. Hitler, Bin Laden, Manson, etc.).  It makes no difference who you are, because in God’s eyes we are all the same.  No matter what we do or engage in, or how we choose to live our lives, He loves us with everything He has.  In John 3:16, we are told that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, will not die, but have everlasting life.”  And then it also tells us that  “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8).  He loved everyone while we were still rejecting Him.  He loves  us before we are “cleaned up.”  He loves us so much that He died for us WHILE we were rejecting Him.  That’s pretty amazing!

In today’s society, there seem to be more attacks on Christianity, but the truth is we bring much of that on ourselves.  If we weren’t so bitter and mean, maybe it would be a little different.  If we discussed our beliefs from a heart of love and lived the way Christ wants us to live, maybe so many people wouldn’t be so angry.  Make no mistake, Jesus told His followers that the world hated Him and as a result, they would also be hated at times.  (John 15:18-25).  So rest assured there will always be opposition to Christ and those who follow His teachings, but my point is that Jesus was about inclusion, not exclusion.  Jesus was about love not hate.  He never spoke with venom.  He never screamed at people.  He wasn’t about pride;  He was about humility.  He wasn’t about condemnation.  He wasn’t about prejudice of any kind.  He was about love.  shutterstock_247287523And yet I sat there listening to this clergyman shouting loudly and passionately how proud he was that he was raised knowing that abortion is sin and that “homosexuality is an “abomination!”  (Yes, that is a quote!)  He shouted about how we all need to “hold fast to the doctrines of our fathers!”  And inside, I was screaming, “NO, we don’t!!”  What we need to do is to hold fast to the truth of God’s word, not simply what our fathers or grandfathers taught us, or even what we have heard out of the mouths of pastors.  We are to hold fast, true and strong to the truth of God’s word, not man’s.  God has promised that if you seek the truth, you will find it, and you may even do so without a preacher.  I know that statement will be considered heretical to some people, but it is God who reveals the truth to you.  A preacher (or anyone else) can only share scripture and live an example before others, but if you are seeking the truth and you ask God to reveal to you what His word means, then He will.  We must study His word to gain knowledge, but the wisdom and revelation associated with it is a gift.   “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach.”  (James 1:5)

Every person’s relationship is between that person, God and no one else.  Do our spiritual relationships affect other people?  They most certainly do, and to hear such passionate ignorance delivered in such an unloving attitude – and  to hear people actually cheer out loud – was one of the most disturbing things I have ever witnessed.  God is love, and to sit there listening to someone who claims to be one of His representatives shout in ways that declared certain types of sinners were less holy than him, made me sick to my stomach.  We are ALL sinners and equally guilty and I kept thinking of the story in the Bible (Luke 18:9-14) of a very religious man that was similar.  In a nutshell, this religious, faithful, church-going man prayed out loud so everyone could hear him, “Oh thank you God that I’m not like these other people!  I thank you that I’m faithful.  I thank you that I follow you.  I thank you I’m not like these robbers, evildoers or other terrible people like this man over here!”  The other man he referred to had been standing a distance away by himself and wouldn’t even lift his head and look up toward Heaven.  He beat on his chest and cried out, “Oh God be merciful to me because I’m a sinner!”   Jesus said it was the SECOND man that was justified and honored.  It was the terrible sinner (in the eyes of the religious man) who GOD recognized and honored.   Every time I hear a Christian speaking from a place of prejudice and anger or hate, I think, “How is it possible that people can’t see why their churches are dying?”  People wonder what’s wrong and wonder what they can do or what program they can start to get people to come.  We try all kinds of things.  We keep trying to make people want to come and worship with us, and the biggest thing we are missing in all of it is love.

shutterstock_63532855Why are our churches dying?  They are dying because of US!  They are dying because we don’t love and forgive as God loves and forgives.  They are dying because of men like this who stand up and scream against one particular sin or another.   They’re quick to shout about homosexuality, abortion, drunkenness or drugs, but they don’t shout about gluttony or selfishness.  They don’t shout about the person who overeats or is a workaholic.   They don’t shout about the person that gossips, which to me is one of the most divisive and damaging sins of all.  They  only shout about the things they haven’t done as if that somehow makes them holier than those who have done them.  And then they look down on those people as if to say, “If you will come crawling over broken glass and hot coals to Christ, then you can be saved,  but you’ll never be as good as me.”  Like the mob in the Disney movie, the battle cry of many Christians is, “Kill the beast!” when our battle cry should be, “Love them to death.  Love them above all.  Prefer them above all.  Love as God loved!”

We hear all the time, “Hate the sin but love the sinner,” but God does not give us permission to hate anything or anyone.  We are supposed to forgive the sin and love the sinner.  THAT is what Christ does.   As people of faith, there are certainly things and behaviors we should not engage in, but there isn’t one perfect person on this earth.  And the moment you start thinking more highly of yourself than you ought (Romans 12:3), you will fall.   If someone is engaged in something that is wrong or harmful, then it is our duty to talk with them to help them understand God’s word and the forgiveness in it, but not out of condemnation.  We are to do it (and everything else) out of genuine love.   I can think of nothing more wonderful than a church where everyone is truly welcome.  We need places where anyone and everyone are welcome to come and learn the truth of God’s word.  We need places steeped in neither legalism nor emotionalism, but steeped in truth – truth spoken from the most loving hearts.   Apathy is not killing our churches, hate is.  Apathy is not what is causing former Christians to turn away and say they want no more of church as an organized religion.  It is hate and meanness that is causing it, because no one has experienced more Christian hatred than those sitting in the very same pews of the very same churches.

As I sat in that room recently, listening to hatred and condemnation being spewed, I saw in my mind’s eye, picket signs, megaphones and people shouting “Onward Christian soldiers marching to war!”  When what I really longed for was a very different battle cry – one that says, “Come to me.  Love your neighbor.  Love as I have loved you.  Forgive as I’ve forgiven you.”  We must remember the battle is not between people of faith and atheists.   It is not a war between good people and bad people.  It is not a war between us and “them old sinners,” because you see, WE are “them old sinners.”  It is a war between me and myself.  It is a war between who we are and who we should be.  We must stop spending so much time crucifying everyone who is different or those who may disagree with us.  shutterstock_235743286We must start tending our own garden and pulling our own weeds instead of mowing down crops we don’t think should exist.  We need to simply turn our own hearts to God instead of trying to turn someone else’s, because we CAN’T turn someone else’s heart to God.  Only GOD can do that.  All I can do is to live my life the way Christ would have me to live, and that means to love and forgive above all else.  It means to stand firm on the truth of His word and not just what my parents taught me or what preachers have said from the pulpit.  I must stand on what God himself has revealed to me through prayer and study, by verifying for myself those things that someone else has said.

There is a Christian battle cry today and it is ignorant and idiotic.  It is bitter, hurtful and mean.  It is condemning, and Jesus was never any of those things.  We need to start loving more.  We need to stop hating the sin but loving the sinner.  It is time to forgive the sin and love the sinner.  That’s what we are called to do.  That should be our true battle cry.

I pray that all of us, especially people of faith, will have our eyes and hearts opened to the truth that love builds bridges.  Love tears down walls.  Love allows people to listen and softens them so it is easier for that “still, small voice” to touch them.  I pray that we will finally stop trying to scream the truth and just simply start living it.

Blessings!

Love Is Not Grey

In this season when so many people are celebrating love, I can’t help but think of how far we have strayed in our society from the true meaning of it.  I’m not just referring to all the attention being given this weekend to a very different twist on affection, but in the general materialistic way in which people have come to approach love and what it means.  I have always been a “lover not a fighter,” and have always loved with my whole being.  I don’t know how to love any other way.  The love God placed in me for the people around me is so big that it is difficult to contain – and that struggle for containment has plagued me for most of my life.  A love that is genuine and pure is something that seems to be more and more lacking in our world.  We’ve drifted so far from the truth of what love is that we don’t just have shades of grey, but a grey fog of misunderstanding.

Corinthians 13So what is true love?  It is something that has become almost unrecognizable today, however, the Bible gives us the definition in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  The interesting thing about it is that nowhere does it mention a warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you are attracted to someone.  It is all about commitment and action, and involves things that often do not come naturally to us.  It isn’t about chocolates and flowers, or special dinners and romance.  Are all those things wonderful?  Yes.  Do they sometimes come out of true love?  Of course!  But if we use these things as our indicator of whether or not someone truly loves us, then we will find ourselves often disappointed.  If we depend on big displays of affection to keep us convinced we are loved, then we are going to spend our lives searching for the next “sign.”  If we really want to understand love, then we must look to God’s word for the very base of it.  If we do, then we will begin to see what love really means, and the contrast it provides to the superficial nature of what the world has created it to be.  We are to love as HE loved.  That isn’t always easy, but just because it is difficult doesn’t mean we can tweak it and change it to fit what we think it should be.  God IS love, and I’m positive He knows exactly what He is talking about when it comes to the subject.  He gives us a complete picture and explanation of it; and He didn’t need 50 shades of anything to get His point across.  He, instead, used only 15.

 15 Shades of Love

  1. Love is long-suffering.  We don’t use this term much anymore, but it means to have (and show) patience in spite of troubles.  It means to endure without complaining.  Obviously, this is not something that comes naturally to us.  As a matter of fact, we say things like “Don’t pray for patience because you’ll just get trouble in order to teach you!”   Patience isn’t just the ability to wait for something, it is the ability to endure provocation, annoyance, trouble or suffering without complaint, irritation or loss of temper.  How often can you say you have truly been long-suffering or patient with someone in your life?  Oh, we endure things, but we certainly don’t act the way love would in the same situation.  Love doesn’t complain.  It is simply steady and even-tempered.
  2. Love is kind. Most of us know what it means to be kind.  Being kind means we have a desire to help others that comes from a place in our heart of goodwill.  It isn’t about being nice so that people will think highly of us, but rather being good to others even when they do not deserve it.
  3. Love doesn’t envy. How many times have you seen someone with something that you wanted and it made you feel upset or angry?  What about when it’s something you’ve desired and even prayed for over the course of a long time?  Do you resent the fact that someone else got it?   Are you able to feel truly happy for someone who has been blessed – whether it is materially, in a relationship or on the job – or do you sit back and think about how much you DON’T have?  Envy cuts to our heart and leaves us feeling discontent with regard to someone else’s advantages, successes or possessions.  Love will never be resentful, but will genuinely be glad for someone else’s blessings.
  4. Love isn’t inflated with pride. It isn’t constantly saying, “Look how great I am!”  When you love someone, you don’t do it so that other people will think you are wonderful.  True love doesn’t worry about getting accolades for what it does.  It simply does them.
  5. Love doesn’t act inappropriately. Love isn’t rude or doesn’t act in ways that are insensitive to others.  It is well-mannered.  So the next time you start to do be rude to someone you claim to love, you might want to step back and think.
  6. Love doesn’t seek itself or its own desires. It doesn’t insist on having its own way.  Do you have a spouse, significant other, family member or friend that you say you love?  Do you ever find yourself insisting on doing things your way?  It doesn’t have to be an overt or even external push for what you want over what someone else wants.  It can also be the tactics we sometimes use to get our way.  Maybe it’s the silent treatment or maybe its tears, but it comes from a place of simply wanting what we want.  It isn’t easy to look at it that way, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
  7. Love isn’t easily provoked. How quickly do you find yourself wearing your emotions on your sleeve?  Are you touchy?  Love is not reactionary.  It isn’t easily annoyed or flares up at the slightest irritation.
  8. Love thinks no evil.  Love doesn’t keep track of the evil done to it.  It pays no attention to the times when it is mistreated or taken for granted.  It doesn’t keep a list of all the things the other person has done so that you can use it in an argument later on.
  9. Love doesn’t rejoice at injustice or wrong-doing. This sounds like an easy one to say we don’t do, but what about when injustice or wrong-doing happens to someone after they’ve been mean to us?  We want people to “get what’s coming to them,” and often rationalize the fact we are happy about the hurt they are experiencing because “they deserved it.”  Love never celebrates wrong-doing, no matter how karmic it may feel.
  10. Love rejoices when truth prevails. Again, this one sounds simple on the surface.  Of course love rejoices when truth prevails!  Ok, so how about if the truth is painful?  Have you ever had someone you love accurately point out one your faults (gently or otherwise)?  Did you rejoice over the fact your weaknesses were suddenly out there in the open, or did you get angry and start pointing out their faults?  Love rejoices not only when the truth WE want to be revealed is revealed (or wins), but it rejoices when the truth revealed is inconvenient or painful to us.
  11. Love bears all things. It holds up under all things that come.  Bearing something means to carry it.  Love is strong!  No matter what happens, genuine love remains steady and carries the weight.  When someone we love is hurt or sick, love gives us the strength to take care of them.  It holds up under the pains of life that come to all of us.  It also bears the weight of the hurt we feel when we are not loved the way we think we should be.  It continues to stand strong through hurt feelings or terrible circumstances.
  12. Love believes all things. This doesn’t mean love is stupid.  It means it is ever ready to believe the best in someone.  Love isn’t cynical.  Love chooses to always look for the best in a person, to believe the good things in them because every person has redeeming qualities.  Love looks for the redemption and not the condemnation in a person.  Love doesn’t listen to gossip and it doesn’t take part in tearing someone else down.  Love continually works to build people up.  It points out what is right with them instead of what is wrong with them.  Instead of constantly looking at all the ways someone we love lets us down, it searches for the things he/she does FOR us.  It believes the best in someone always.
  13. Love hopes all things. In other words, its hope never fades – even under the worst circumstances.  This kind of goes hand in hand with believing all things.  Hope is an expectation, not a wish.  Love expects things to turn out for the best.  It looks forward to the future with desire and reasonable confidence that it is going to be not only okay, but good!  It doesn’t look ahead in time and start looking at all the ways things are going to come apart.  It doesn’t say things like, “That just won’t work,” or “there’s no way to do that.”  Love is an optimist!  Love is not depressed.  It looks ahead with great confidence that everything is going to be well, no matter what the current circumstances may look or feel like.
  14. Love endures all things. It does so without weakening.  Love is steady and enduring, no matter how the storm rages or the wind blows.  Love doesn’t run the moment things get difficult.  It will continue to stand through disagreements and hurt feelings.  It will continue to stand when things go wrong.  When there is illness, financial loss, material loss, it still holds up under it.  When the people around you let you down, it still stands.  When you’ve been hurt, it’s still there.
  15. Love never fails. It doesn’t give up.  No matter what happens in life, genuine love never gives up, because it can’t!  It is something that weaves its way into our spiritual dna and is impossible to remove.  If you truly have love for another person, it never fades or goes away.  Because we are human, hurts will happen.  We hurt others and they hurt us.  Sometimes we will encounter situations where we must remove ourselves from a situation that has become unhealthy for us, but that doesn’t mean we stop loving the person…because love isn’t about feelings.  Love continues to do all the things listed above – even when we are no longer able to be with someone in any type of earthly relationship.  Love desires reconciliation, but knows how to continue without it.  We may never enjoy close fellowship with them again, but it doesn’t mean we walk away internally.  I know this sounds controversial and maybe even abusive to say love never lets go, but it is the truth.  Love – a true and pure divine love for another person – transcends everything on this earth, including our own comprehension.  It reaches beyond our reasoning and allows us to continue loving, in spite of how we have been treated.  It stays.

This is how God loves us!  Love is so much deeper than what most people consider it to be.  When you read the aspects of what true love is, you finally understand that love is not a feeling!  Love requires action.  It requires sacrifice.  It requires commitment and most of the time we all fail to live and love as God loves because we continue to prefer the grey over the white light of the truth.

shutterstock_211224607Truth isn’t always easy.  It reveals us as we are and that sometimes reveals shortcomings we’d rather not face.  When it comes to love, there is another aspect we seldom discuss.  God tells us in His word that we are to love our enemies.  Say what?!  Not only are we, as people of faith, instructed to love our enemies, but He goes on to emphasize the point in Matthew 5:43-48 and says “So what if you love people who love you and treat you well.  That’s nothing special.  Even the most corrupt people in society do that.”  I love that God doesn’t pull any punches and just calls it as it is.  But how in the world is that even possible?  How can I love someone I don’t like or doesn’t deserve it?  We can do it by remembering first what love is and then how God loves US that way even though WE don’t deserve it.   When you realize that love isn’t about what you feel, but what you decide, things become much clearer.  Knowing what love is, frees us to live in ways that can change the world.  It empowers us to love more deeply because we can choose to do so in spite of our feelings.

So the next time we say we love someone, maybe we need to stop and think about what that really means.  Before we make that promise by saying the words out loud, we need to be sure we are willing to actually get out of the grey and truly live in the light of love’s truth..

Blessings!

There Has To Be More…

What in the world is wrong with Christians?  As a person of faith, that may seem like an odd question for me to be asking, but it is one I have been considering for a while.  First of all, the term “Christian” brings up all kinds of different images, experiences and feelings depending on the person who is hearing the word.  For the most part, it is not a positive term, because it is so often filled with hypocrisy and perceived oppression.  I do not call myself a Christian, because although I have been redeemed and saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I do not always live the way He lived or abide by the loving principles He gave us.  So I call myself a believer or a person of faith because I am those things.  But I digress.

My own view of Christianity and spirituality has certainly deepened over the course of my life but the deeper I go, the more I realize how much is still out there.  I was raised in churches that most today would consider very conservative.  There were (as there are in most religions) many man-made traditions that had to be followed in regards to the way services were conducted and how things were taught.  There was no shouting for joy in our churches.  That was reserved for those crazy charismatic people.  There was no teaching about the true POWER of the Holy Spirit, but instead a clinical and sterile teaching about what I would consider the most high-level functions of the Spirit.  shutterstock_222016312We learned that once we accept Christ as our Savior, His Spirit comes to live within us.  We learned God knows everything we do or think.  We learned that He loves us, but we never really talked about that love as a literal, day-to-day LOVE.  It was clinical and sterile because it seemed to me that no one really walked out of the church and actually felt God’s presence with them.  I learned scripture.  I learned the books of the Bible.  I learned principles of God’s word.  I am SO incredibly thankful for my upbringing and the many teachers and pastors I had along the way, because it gave me a foundation upon which I have built a life that has been blessed beyond measure.  Many of you who know me personally or read my blog regularly know that I have felt called to study and share God’s word since I was quite young.  So my life has been filled with searching things out on my own instead of just taking someone else’s word for it.  But there’s something about those experiences in established churches that is both a blessing and yet confining.  Yes, I realize it is just my perspective and I’m not saying anyone else has to share it.  I just feel it is time to share mine.

I have struggled with many things over the course of my life.  There have been eating disorders, suicidal impulses, brain chemistry issues, and many other fears and struggles that we all deal with as we go through each day.  I’ve prayed about these things.  I’ve sought God’s help with them and yet often find myself much like the apostle Paul who prayed repeatedly for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed but the answer was no.  The answer was that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.  So I took that as truth and tried to just power through whatever came instead of realizing God was in it with me. It was (and has continued to be at times) difficult.  Did I know God cares and that He wants to not only be my Savior, but also my friend?  Sure.  I could give you verse after verse that talks about all the ways He loves and cares for us.  I know all the right words…but something was missing.  It is the intimacy of God and the true strength of His power.  After all, if you start talking about these things…wait, if you start actually LIVING these things, you must be some “holy-roller” fanatic that has lost sight of the truth.  So maybe I shouldn’t ask “What is wrong with Christians,” but rather, “What is wrong with ME?”

I am blessed to have been taught by some of the most amazing teachers over the past 20 years of my life.  Some were within the churches I have attended and some have been outside those churches.  GASP!  I know that shocks the traditionalists but maybe there needs to be a little more shocking going on. Maybe we need to listen more to others and pay attention to what they say.  Maybe we need to spend more time determining the message’s validity based on God’s word instead of determining its validity based on the moniker under which it is said. Of course, that requires an openness many of us were taught to avoid and to listen only to people of the same denomination. shutterstock_123443956 What I have found so interesting over the years is how we can teach and learn the truth of God’s word, and even apply it to our lives in most ways, but do it in that same sterile and clinical manner in which many of us have been raised.  It isn’t simply that I don’t want this kind of sterile spiritual life; It’s that I don’t believe GOD wants us to have a sterile kind of spiritual life either.  He desires for us to be in a real relationship with Him, not just a spiritual one.  He wants us to not just know He is with us, but to feel Him with us.  He wants us to understand that He wants nothing more than for us to share ourselves with Him just as we would the people we are closest to here on this earth.  He wants to be a factor in everything we do, not because He wants to control us, but because He wants to help us.

Having a relationship with another human being means there is interaction.   There is give and take.  There is a desire to be near and talk with each other.  And when you truly love someone (purely, not in a romantic sense), there is nothing better than the closeness it brings.  You are part of each other.  Relationship isn’t just about knowledge of the other person; it is being IN IT with them.  We know this and yet we continue to act as though God is somehow removed from us even though we teach that He isn’t.  We are so afraid of talking about our relationship with God in terms we would use to describe our relationships with others, because we somehow think it is sacrilegious to assign human attributes to our Heavenly Father.   I get how some people are so careful to keep their discussion and perspective of God as “holy,” but holy isn’t some magical word!  It means to be set apart by (or for) God.  It isn’t some mysterious thing filled with such seriousness that it wrings the joy out of it.  shutterstock_214295497And on top of that, God used parables in the Bible continually to make things real and understandable to those around Him.  A parable uses the known to reveal the unknown.  So why do we shrink away from the fact that God gives us earthly experiences and relationships so that we can understand more what it means to be in a relationship with Him?  Because some of us have been taught, whether through words or actions, that we somehow degrade Him when we bring Him down to our level.  Imagine that!  I’m pretty sure the God who actually CHOSE to come down to our level and die for us is fine with staying down on our level and communing with us so that we can then rise up to His.

I’m tired of conservative Christianity.  I’m not saying I’m tired of one religion or another; I’m saying I’m tired of all of them.  I’m tired of having this great knowledge and God-given ability to discern His word that has to be put into some box of expression that fits the expectations of men!  I’m not saying I want to run off the rails and live on emotions alone, but there is nothing more “on track” about a relationship with God than the fact a real one will certainly stir emotions!  Relationships are personal.  Each one is different.  We need to all get over the rigid view we have of the truth and embrace it openly, fervently with everything in us.  Only then will we fully begin to experience the true power of His Spirit within us.  Only then will we begin to truly understand the freedom in His word.  If it is true that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” then the truth is the only real relationship we ever have with God is the one most of us are afraid to embrace.  Because anything short of that kind of intimacy with Him is nothing more than simply keeping up appearances.

Blessings!

Life From Death

shutterstock_156553007I watched a video recently from the Smithsonian Channel that was showing how plants have their own version of nerves and electrical impulses (video link posted below).   Although this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone since they are living organisms, it still made me stop and think about a few things.  Just stay with me for a few moments on this.  First of all, after seeing the video, I joked about the fact that this creates a very difficult position for people who don’t eat meat because they claim they don’t want to “kill” something.  I am mostly vegetarian for health reasons but it’s always interesting to listen to those who see themselves as more holy, compassionate, enlightened or evolved than others because they claim to be treating all living things as equal.  I’ve always said that everything we eat was alive at some point (if you exclude the processed crap that is out there).  If you say you refuse to eat anything that has life, then you will most likely starve.  Even most dirt contains particles from things that were once living.

Call me a “hippie” if you want, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that the things we eat have given their life for ours, regardless of what it is.  We are sustained by consuming plants and/or animals that had to die so we could live.  If we stop to think about that truth, it should cause us to be more grateful and respectful toward the things we eat.  Eating should be an honorable endeavor.  Quite frankly, it should make us a little more humble and a little less arrogant about the life around us.  Just because we must eat to survive doesn’t mean we should do it without thought or appreciation for the sacrifice.

shutterstock_133769489This is Easter weekend.   People of faith around the world are commemorating the death, burial and resurrection of their Lord and Savior…and I am certainly one of them.   As I thought about this whole thing with food, I found a striking similarity for those of us who identify ourselves as “believers.”    I have been redeemed and changed by the fact that Jesus died on a cross for my sins.  I am forgiven.  I am spiritually alive.  I am alive because God promised me I am alive.   John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  And the reason I have everlasting life is because Jesus  (who is God Himself)  was willing to lay down His life and sacrifice it for mine.  He endured the most terribly painful, humiliating and horrific torture and death…and He endured it all for ME.  He endured it for YOU.  He did it because He loves us with a love that we can’t completely understand.  He did it before we loved Him.  He gave His life for mine, and just as I should respect and honor the sacrifice of the living things that died so I can eat and be nourished, I should even more so honor and respect the sacrifice the God of the universe made so that I can live eternally.

shutterstock_177898622You see, nothing comes without some kind of sacrifice.  There are no free rides in life.  Somewhere, somehow, someone or something paid (or will pay) the price.  How amazing it is that God knew I had a debt that I could never repay so He humbled Himself and confined Himself to an earthly body so that He could live among mankind and redeem me by taking my place on the cross.  He took my beatings.  He took the ugliness of the torture and the betrayal of His friends.  God, the creator of the universe,who could have called ten thousand angels to kill everyone involved, let them spit on Him for my sake.  He allowed them to nail Him to a tree and mock Him as He hung there.  And then, when it was time, He said “It is finished,” and dismissed His spirit.  They didn’t take His life from Him, He dismissed it Himself.  He willingly gave it up…and He did it for me.

But that wasn’t the end.  Praise God that wasn’t the end!  Because on Easter morning, the stone was rolled away from the tomb and Jesus came out alive!  It isn’t just His death that gives me life, it is His resurrection!  That is why people of faith around the world celebrate this holiday.  That is why we gather in churches across the world with fellow believers and sing praises to the One who didn’t just die for me, but He ROSE for me!  He conquered death and hell and as a result, has both the ability and authority to set me free forever!  I cannot help but sing out the words to that song…”My chains are gone!  I’ve been set free!  My God, my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood, His mercy reigns…unending love, amazing grace.”

shutterstock_74847238So this Easter season, I pray we are all filled with the assurance that we are loved beyond comprehension by the One who has the power to redeem us not only for eternity, but for every day and every moment.  I pray we pause to consider His sacrifice and honor it by spending more time living a life filled with genuine love, not judgment, for others.  We are all just sinners saved by His grace, and the sooner we realize the only reason we live is because He died, the sooner our arrogance and pride will fade into a humble gratitude for the unspeakable gift He gave.

Blessings!

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