Saturday, April 26, 2014

Risk and Faith

Risk is required in the exercise of faith. If all were known ahead of time, no faith would be required. Consider Abraham. He was told to leave Ur, the only home he'd every known, to travel to an unknown place by simply following God's daily lead. I doubt Abraham would have told us it was smooth sailing, nor do I think he would say things turned out the way he imagined them.

I am on a faith journey involving risk. My husband and I believe we have usefulness in what God is doing around us in Virginia, so are making needed lifestyle changes to prepare for a longer stay. We are selling our home, taking the risk there will be a home for us when it is sold. Since my home matters quite a bit to me, this feels risky. We're also risking that our jobs will continue in the coming few years. Nothing is certain as we risk except that God is good and that He is favorably inclined toward His children.

When have you risked in faith? What was the outcome?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Righteousness and Truth

Last night I thoroughly enjoyed the movie "42" about Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in major league baseball. I laughed, cried, cheered and rooted passionately for right and justice. I was deeply impacted by the conviction of what was right in both Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. They both chose a very difficult course of action for the sake of righteousness. They chose to walk in the TRUTH that God loves every person.

No one is outside the grace, love and acceptance of God Almighty. He created each of us. His many faceted creation shouts the fact that God loves variety and color. He let the races happen at the Tower of Babel and today we hate based on differences, just as they did in those days. In God's sovereign plan, He is working good out of even that day in history when the people he created acted outrageously prideful.

The power of choosing righteousness was demonstrated in the way those two men walked out their convictions. Certainly, they were not perfect, but they were stubbornly determined. They spoke with their lives rather than their words. Such wisdom.

May we who claim a relationship with Jesus the LORD OF ALL, live in such a way that people will be compelled by our lives to want Him and love Him.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Love and Acceptance - Jesus' Style

My daughter and a good friend posted an article on Facebook today prompted by the current Supreme Court proceedings on redefining marriage written by a member of the Gospel Coalition advocating we take a stand against homosexuality. I agree with the overall premise of the article, but struggled with its tone. I wrote this response to my friend:

I do not want our country to make same-sex marriage equal to God's clear design of marriage between a man and a woman. I have prayed for God to break through with righteousness in the midst of the debates.

However, I disagree strongly with those who attack gay and lesbian people as uniquely sinful and beyond the reach of God's love and grace carried in His people to them. It seems to me the folks who wrote this article elevate homosexuality above pride, lying, adultery, divorce, alcoholism (drunkenness), obesity, (gluttony) and other sins God also hates.

God's instruction to Israel to humble themselves and pray so He could heal their land, contains a principle I am applying and hoping in for this season. It seems to me a call to prayer and humble grace-filled living, not a call to war within the messed up Body of Christ, would be far more God-honoring and productive.

I do not agree with this writer's application of "love your neighbor as yourself." We MUST love and welcome sinners into our homes and churches, exposing them to the truth of God in love, not becoming their Holy Spirit, but inviting them to the best behaviors that honor God and give them abundant life this side of heaven. If this writer's approach is applied, it seems to me a homosexual would experience judgement first and God's love through us second IF they stayed around long enough to experience love. I don't advocate putting practicing homosexuals in positions of leadership in the church, just as I wouldn't want a person still controlled by alcohol in leadership. I wouldn't want a man or woman in leadership who was abusing people, either. The focus on one sin over others grieves me. It is our natural tendency as humans, but we are called to view all things through the mind of Christ in us, the Holy Spirit.

I don't agree with everything I've read by Rob Bell, yet he seems to be hated in this article. When a believer is corrected, there is a process of one on one, then two or three and THEN, if there is no repentance, they get treated like a sinner/tax gatherer (people Jesus loves and hung out with to win them to His Father). I suspect that process hasn't taken place with Rob Bell. He has been publicly decried and defamed by Christians demonstrating to the world that Christians do not love well.

I wrestle often with what action to take in our country where my voice counts in what we do and do not do. I choose to vote for candidates that align with God's heart. Sadly there are fewer of those each election. I express my opinion respectfully to those elected, whether my choice or not, on issues that matter. I pray for God to win.

It is clear to me that as we move ever closer to our Lord Jesus' return, we will experience much more of this and will not be able to sway our country. We will still stand for Christ, I just think the issue will not be what we think of homosexuality, but it will be that we are
Christians who love God and agree with what He teaches us.

A wise woman added this to the conversation on Facebook:
"A quote from Rick Warren reminds us that we have been cleverly set up to fail:  'Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means that you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.' 
So, in this cultural mindset of "all-or-nothing"-"either you love 100% of everything about me or hate 100% of everything about me", we are instantly pegged as being haters, accused of being "intolerant" and "homophobic", filled with hate speech, with an all-or-nothing mentality of "if you don't love us and everything we are, you hate us with everything you are." I don't need to spell it out. We've all felt or heard it. It's a helpless feeling of feeling bullied and overpowered, people incorrectly putting words in our mouth."

Our very lives will be hated, not only our words. Our goodness and love will be hated and that is already happening.

I think ultimately we need to address these cultural problems one person at a time, as Holy Spirit directs. As the hearts of people are won to Christ and His ways, one by one, the tide will turn. We need to actually demonstrate God's grace and love to each person we meet and by loving them in their mess, establish a way into their hearts for God's truth to take root and transform them as He is transforming me.

Yours for transformed lives, one at a time...
Linda

Friday, March 1, 2013

Honor

I have been living among a group of people who highly value giving honor to one another. I have seen the results and am compelled to share about it here.

First, the results:
  • Every person has dignity and is spoken of and treated highly regardless of title, race or circumstances.
  • There is safety to be vulnerable and honest about struggles with one another.
  • People eagerly and enthusiastically serve the needs of others.
  • Gossip is abnormal and assertively discouraged.
  • People hold their heads high because they experience unconditional love.
Now, the reasons:

By one Miriam-Webster definition, we give honor to "one whose worth brings respect or fame." In American culture, that means someone with a book, position, title, money and/or a following on Twitter or a blog!

However, in our church, we honor the ones God loves. At its core, the culture of honor I experience at Lifepoint Church is based on understanding the God-given worth and value of every person. People matter to God, so each one matters to us. By modeling and encouragement the leaders at our church have built into the culture a refusal to gossip, an insistence that we speak of people with dignity and honor and that we fill any gap in our understanding of a person or the situation with trust, rather than skepticism and speculation.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Favor and Glory

Reviewing notes taken during some recent sermons at church, I found a statement made by Pastor Daniel Floyd that put me in a pondering mode again. He said,

Favor is the expression of the God's grace that accomplishes God's purpose for His glory and our good...The favor of God doesn't necessarily bring comfort and ease to my life.

Consider the stories of Noah, Abram, Moses, Joseph, David, Ruth, Esther, Mary and Jesus who all found favor with God AND had great challenges and what many of us would consider unbearable circumstances to endure.

The person I pondered today was Mary, the mother of Jesus. When God "highly favored" her, she became an unwed mother. In her culture this brought shame on her and her whole family. Furthermore, her son was killed by the government in a horrific manner before her eyes. She most likely bore the unkind, even hateful stigma of people around her every day after God favored her. Her life did bring glory to God and I am certain if she could tell us today about her life, she would say every minute was worth it because of the joy she has now.

I must admit I don't have what it takes (yet) to live and embrace such a highly favored life. I am pondering and wrestling with that today. Will you?