Venture beyond your perception

Social media can be a real blessing and a real pitfall. I enjoy Instagram a great deal more than I enjoy Facebook for many reasons. Facebook my feed is usually bombarded with political posts and judgments from people who are called not to judge and hatred from people who call themselves tolerant. So you see, even though I have tweaked my feed, I still see these things and generally just shake my head, un-offended.

But tonight, I’d like to challenge your thinking on a subject that few seem to venture into without being extreme one way or another. Tonight I saw another post from a fellow believer who was outraged about another lost court case against a Christian florist who refused to make flowers for a “homosexual wedding.” I understand full well what the Word of God says on homosexuality but are we called to judge persons of a same sex attraction? Let me set this up.

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Colossians 1:5

“‘On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there,  and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”‘ John 2:1-11

Alright, I think I set this up well enough. So, just a few things to highlight here; Drunkenness on wine leads to ruining your life, Jesus is the exact representation of God Himself and Jesus turned water into wine after people were already wasted at a wedding. Hmmmm…. is this the Bible contradicting itself or did Jesus see the Father’s heart for this newlywed couple and bring out more wine so that the wedding celebration could continue?

Do you think Jesus was sitting in a corner writing a list of all the people that were at the wedding who were drunk? Do you think He was happy to be there and celebrate with them? I know that this was most likely a “straight” wedding but the sexual orientation isn’t what I’m zooming in on, it’s Jesus seeing what the Father was doing in those circumstances in spite of what the word says about drunkenness on wine.

If we’re going to shrug and say, yeah but He was Jesus! But didn’t you die, were raised and seated with Christ and given His Spirit? Why wouldn’t we seek the Father’s heart in regard to other situations that seemingly challenge what we read in the word? This is such a huge subject matter, I could probably spend weeks camped out on it. Jesus challenged the Pharisees continually, from washing hands, to hanging out with rabble to healing on the sabbath. If we are under the new covenant (which we are) then love is our highest command. And love, covers over a multitude of sins.

I guess what I am saying here is that there are a lot of things that happen in this world that go against the word, things that are also heart breaking and unthinkable. Humans were given free will, we don’t always do what we should with our freewill, whether it breaks laws and statutes or not. Sometimes the choices we make harm ourselves and others. We already know this. Why are we still outraged and put it on blast all over the internet when it happens? Why aren’t we more inclined to share what we love, rather than bash what we hate? The way I see it, posting all these horrendous or Biblically “offensive” things that happen in the world is no better than standing in the person we’re judging’s face and calling them every name we feel is applicable.

Would you stand in front of an abortion clinic and call all the women there whores? Would you tell someone who is in a same sex relationship how bad they are and how they’re not going to heaven because of how they are living? What about the thief? Or the person with a problem with alcohol or drugs? Are you going to slander them in their faces too? Why not go after the young girl who stole a pack of gum when she was in middle school? Don’t you want to know who these people are before you place your judgments on them? They are people! God sees them and loves them. Don’t you want to know their story? Jesus hung out with the rough and tumble, talked with them, ate with them. Got to know who they were… He loved them. You will never get someone to see things “your way” by telling them how awful you think they are.

I am going to end this with some final thoughts. ” A gentle answer turns away wrath,but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King jr.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Jesus had nothing but love and compassion for those around Him. When someone caught His gaze, in the midst of whatever kind of life they were living, they saw nothing but love on His face. That was one of the most beautiful things about Him, His compassion. We are called to be imitators of Christ.

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Love overrides all…

‘“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”’ John 8:4-11

Can you even imagine the scene? This woman who was caught in the act of adultery was likely dragged out of bed naked or maybe partially naked and thrown into the dirt and called out for her sin in front of a crowd. She was probably scared; mortified, felt completely exposed in more ways than one and possibly repentant. Who knows what kind of life she lived up until this point. Maybe she was a prostitute or had been sexually abused at a tender age, forever impacting how she viewed sex. We don’t know but one thing we do know, Jesus treated her with dignity in a terribly undignified situation.

I like to think that Jesus was writing in the sand as a sign of His lack of interest in the Pharisee’s antics. I like to think there was an eye roll in there somewhere too. He already knew what they were doing before they even brought the woman to Him. His answer was spoken to them in a language they could understand, the law. But His answer to the woman was given through grace.

” For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

” God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” 1 John 4:17-19 MSG

Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn it and if we have the same standing in this world as He did, then why are we running around hitting people over the head with the Bible? Why are we getting into arguments with each other about doctrine? Didn’t Jesus tell us to love one another, so that others will know that we are His disciples, His friends? Why is the church so dang mean? Why do we judge others? Why do we shut them out? Why do we not include them because they are different? Or are caught up in an addiction or a lifestyle that may be considered less than savory? Why!? We aren’t here to judge either! If we judge, we are driven by fear and if we fear, love is not perfected in us. If Jesus didn’t judge, then nor shall I! Did you not know that love covers over a multitude of sins? Love raises others up out of muck they are in. Love puts a smile on a persons face and reminds them that they are valued. Can you imagine the impact you can have on people if you just do the very thing Jesus called us to do, love others? Can you see the smiling faces? The filthy coats that will be shed because someone was loved back to life?

I can remember not feeling loved or accepted, it was an awful feeling. The enemy hisses in your ear that you’re not valued and that the world would be a better place without you. It is a heavy burden to feel so low and unloved, or worse, unlovable! There are people out there who have never felt loved, never had someone ask their name, or pay them a compliment. There are people who aren’t even treated like a human being, with a real beating heart in their chest, just like you and I! That is a horrid, horrid truth to consider but it is a fact! And because we have God living within us, we have the distinct honor of loving people. Not just certain people but all people!

We are the church! This isn’t someone else’s problem, it is ours! This is our commission. This is our privilege, our honor. This isn’t a burden or “our cross to bear,” it is an honor. Papa is love and because He loved us first, we have the ability to love others.

Allow your compassion run wild. Let your love set fires in hearts, in communities and in the world! I would rather die and have God tell me that I loved too much, rather than loving too little!

Yeah but what about this scripture that says this, and this scripture that says that!? Just love, pure and simple love. Judgement isn’t our job, just love. We can take and piece together scripture to support our agendas and leave a whole trail of destruction behind us, as the church has already done. I don’t want to hear another story about someone who went to church and got hurt or shut out. It took an awful lot of courage for those people to walk through those church doors after their last bad experience and we’ve gone and done it to them again? Love is of the utmost importance, Jesus said it is the highest command. It isn’t our place to determine if they “deserve it,” just love them. Don’t expect anything in return, just love them.

Papa is so good to have already filled our hearts unto over flowing, now we just have to get out there and let it spill out all over the place! Throw love around like glitter, make the whole world around you sparkle! Let His glory shine through you! Oh man, what a beautiful thing! I am so psyched right now, love, plain and simple, endless love!

God bless you all, I hope this fired you up too, to get out there and just love on others. You won’t run out, you won’t grow tired and your life will be far from boring! Let’s light the world on fire with love!

Don’t believe the lies

There are some things in life that sound far too simple to grasp and yet, for some reason are difficult to believe and take within ourselves. Believing that Jesus died for you may be an easier concept to grab a hold of, most people manage to grab hold of that. For many the offer comes along at just the right time, much like a beacon of light on a dark night or a life raft. So we cling to it with all of our might. But now what? There is so much more!

Following Christ isn’t sin management. It isn’t checks and balances. It isn’t getting all cleaned up on the outside, while still living in despair within. It isn’t a list of do’s and don’ts, even though many teachings out there will have you believe it is. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

You are infinitely free from all of the above. You are free to be you while you walk along with your Lord every single day. When you said yes to Jesus, you died and were raised to life with Him. The old has gone, the new has arrived, His Spirit lives within you. He is there for your benefit, to guide you and to shape you into your new likeness, if you are willing to let Him in on it. You still have the free will to say no, but why would you? Life with Jesus is a beautiful relationship, the most beautiful relationship you will ever have! He has nothing but good things to say about you. He adores you and thinks nothing but good thoughts about you. His will for you is always the highest thing possible, He wants you to reach your fullest potential.

“I can’t afford to have thoughts in my head about me that God doesn’t have in his.” Bill Johnson

You know how when you mess up, your mind begins to reel and the next thing you know, your whole countenance has changed from light to dark? It’s like a snowball. It begins with negative thoughts that then begin to manifest themselves as problems around you. You break a glass or you hit every red light on the way home or your spouse shoots you a look that wasn’t joy filled. The life that we experience begins with the thoughts that occupy our minds. If you are busy thinking illegal thoughts about you or someone else, your mind darkens and what you see around you is more darkness or negativity.

Changing your thinking isn’t the crescendo, it is believing what you are thinking. Many people believe in Jesus but they don’t believe Him. Yep, that’s right, they don’t believe Him. They don’t believe all the good things He says about Him. This is the hardest part, this is where most people miss the bus on living life abundantly. Why is it so easy for most people to believe the terrible things that are said about them and not the kind and truthful things Jesus says about them? Because their faith was in others, rather than the One who truly loves us. Their identity is found in others, rather than the only One who knows who we are inside and out. Once we shift our focus from others to the only One who truly knows, the opinions and words of others fall to the wayside.

This is freedom. This is the one thing that if we don’t get this, there will always be some sort of anchor attached to our legs. We may move forward a little but with great striving and grief, not with ease and grace.

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Ephesians 2:7-10

Hinge yourself upon this. I know I have shared this scripture with you before but it is infinitely important and applicable anytime. God does it, from start to finish. Say yes, that is all. With each step, say yes to Him. Anything you hear that is contrary to what He says about you is a lie. The lie may come from someone you love, do not condemn them but trust that the Holy Spirit within them will align them with all truth and simply remind yourself who you are in Him. That is all that you ever need to know about yourself, what He says.

Until we stop believing the lies, there isn’t much of a difference between us and the rest of the world. We can’t be tossed about by every word spoken over of, we are called to be different, to be certain, unshakable. This isn’t anything you can muster up on your own remember, God does it all from start to finish.

There is so much more to this blog, it will likely be multiple parts but I believe this is a good place to begin. I pray this blessed someone today, God bless you all!

Who do they see when they see you?

“Let them see you, In me
Let them hear you, When I speak
Let them feel you, When I sing
Let them see you
Let them see you in me” Song; Let them see you, JJ Weeks band.

When the road is hard and long and you have been waiting forever for your breakthrough, what comes out of you? When you are among other people, are you kind and patient and loving? When a friend is down on their luck, do you encourage them and give them a hand up? 

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:46-48

If you allow this scripture to sink in, it will guide you in the art of loving like Christ. What risk is there, being loving toward strangers? If we know who we are in Christ and know that our Papa loves us, there is no sense of rejection. If we can’t even manage to welcome people from outside our church into the 4 walls we call church, how are we any different than the rest of the world? People go to church every week looking for the answer to the age old question; why am I alive? The physical building of the church can lead someone to that answer. But they have to feel welcome there. Church isn’t a country club for the elite saved folks, it’s a hospital for the once sick, in process of recovery! We are all in process. Never think so highly of yourself, that you have arrived, you are changing and evolving and growing just like the rest of us. I certainly don’t want to go somewhere, where I feel like I have to try and fit in. I already should fit in because we are brothers and sisters in Christ and that is enough. If you think there is more than that to qualify, then that thought pattern needs to be thrown out.

You have what it takes to be like Jesus, more than you may comprehend. You already are like Jesus, He lives within you, His spirit moves and breathes within you. Allow His warmth to wrap around others and love on them. Allow His peace to permeate wherever you are. Let His words leave your lips and fall upon the ears of those around you. The people around you are dying to see Him, you may be the only Bible someone reads. It is more in how you conduct yourself, than it is in what you say. The Pharisees were the holiest of holy but Jesus had bones to pick with them at every turn. They talked an awful lot and kept themselves quite cleaned up but the conditions on their hearts and their motives stunk. We don’t want to be found to be anything like them.

Throw love and kindness around like glitter! You’ll never run out and it doesn’t matter if you ever receive it back because Papa sees what you do and He will surely reward you well.

I hope this encouraged someone today. I know it’s a hard line but it hurts to hear about people trying out church and leaving saying they will never return. For someone who doesn’t know Papa yet, that’s a difficult situation. They went looking for something and allowed themselves to be vulnerable enough to go and somewhere along the line, they were let down. Heck, I’ve recently had some less than stellar church experiences but I know who Papa is, so I’m not discouraged. I’m sad about it, sure and it needs to change but we will continue our search for our new church home. It just won’t be the places we have already gone. I don’t want a red carpet but I do hope to see love for Jesus and love for your fellow believer. You can’t really have one without the other. Jesus did tell us, to love one another as I have loved you. If we miss that target, we’ve missed everything. God bless you all.