Tuesday, May 26, 2015

That's Called Fear

When was the last time you acted bravely?

Don’t think back to the time you conquered your fear of heights, or chose to actually take on a dare while playing Truth or Dare. Those opportunities and moments are certainly something to think back on and smile, maybe laugh, or share with the next generation.

But God has called us to something bigger. Heights and dares are small potatoes for most of us when we really feel God’s call to bravery.

Like that one time, when something was going on around you, maybe between friends and the words – God’s words – were on the tip of your tongue, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to say them?

That’s called fear.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Fear is the very opposite of bravery. It’s what hinders us – holds us back.

As we walk into the world, we’re supposed to carry with us this incredible message. It’s a peace offering, and it’s a new lifestyle. And we’re supposed to live it out.

There’s this old phrase, I’m sure you know it. “Don’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the talk.” But in this world we live it – where everything has to be politically correct, I think we’ve being coerced into dropping the talk altogether. We’re afraid. Sometimes it’s easier to simply walk and never say a word.

Oh, sweetheart. Bravery is hard - and in fact, it's countercultural. BUT

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 ESV

THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE. And if you’ve accepted the gift of amazing grace (it’s a love gift) then God lives in you – and you can do all things through Christ who gives you His strength (Philippians 4:13). He will never abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Every time you feel the Spirit compelling you to speak or act – take a deep breath and remember you’re not alone. You’re not acting by your own strength – because by yourself, it’s impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Bethel - Amanda Cook

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

Moriah Peters

No one ever told me
This would be easy
But I never knew
That it could be this hard
Oh the worry the worry the worry
Is weighing on me
Could you help me break down
All these question marks
And make me Brave

I know I know I'm no superwoman
But impossible is possible with You
So no, no, no more running, no more hiding
Strike the fire so I'll be fearless too
And make me

Fight like a soldier
Rise like a warrior
Won't stop till the final day
I want to be stronger
Gonna be bolder
Look up and I see the way
You make me brave

None go with me
Still I'll follow
Through the joy
And through the sorrow
Cross before me
World behind me
There's no turning back

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Have Some Grace

It's all over the news

It's in every facebook news update

And most people have some form of an opinion about it.

If you're against it, you're a hater.

If you're for it, you're a hero.

So the best option is to be quiet. Because the whale that rises to the surface gets harpooned. It's easier not to say anything, or to just smile - neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Because no one wants to be a hater. And who can, with good conscience, condone something they believe to be wrong?

Claiming to be a Christian today goes with some serious stereotypes.

Church history doesn't paint a pretty picture. As a history major, I've paid close attention to the record books, I'm well aware. Many awful things have been done in Jesus' name. But can I say something?

Who I am does not define who my God is.

Actually, that's the real miracle. Why on earth would my God love someone like me?

My God is radically different from the person that I am. When He and I are paired side by side, we shouldn't have anything in common - except for the fact that Jesus loved me (a broken, miserable human being) and gave his life for me. His blood covers me so that when God looks at me, he doesn't see my brokenness, instead, he sees his perfect son.

Even Ghandi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians."

Hmm... See, the reality is this: As Christians, we are called to be imitators of Christ, but more often than not, we come up miserably short.

Actually, if we could imitate Christ perfectly, what need would we have for him?

The standard has been set: Perfection. The only way to gain eternity with God is perfection. And since we can't do it on our own - we need Christ's redeeming sacrifice. His blood covers our imperfections.

That's what I see when I look at Church history up to today - a bunch of broken, weary sinners who've been redeemed in spite of their imperfection. (All of this depending on whether or not they have truly claimed Christ in the Biblical sense - Romans 10:9 "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.") I can't vouch for the personal convictions of historical figures, I didn't know them. But if they had a personal relationship with God, they are forgiven whatever wrongdoings they committed.

Just like you and me.

This is what sin looks like. And despite our shortcomings, claiming Christ means his spirit dwells inside us and equips us to extend Grace to others, just as we have been shown Grace.

That's the Lord's prayer in it's essence. Help me to forgive as you forgave me.

Now I'm sure you're feeling very confused by the way I opened this article. But just hang in there.

As a Christian... this is where I stand on the issue of homosexuality.

It's a hot topic. And most churches have made the choice to toss out Biblical teaching in order to keep peace, stay quiet, or firmly stand on the Bible and beat on everyone who thinks otherwise.

I think that Jesus wouldn't stand for that kind of behavior.

What you have to realize, is that indeed, I do believe that God created a natural way of things, and he blesses he union of a man and a woman. And he blesses the friendship of two people. But we can't mix the two.

HOWEVER. Making this claim doesn't give anyone the right to go on a crusade. God is God and I am not. I don't sit in the Judge's seat. And that same gift of salvation that was offered to me is also for the person who struggles with same sex attraction. And who am I to condemn someone? Me a sinner judging another sinner?

Here the deal. When the Bible talks about homosexuality, it's listed alongside other sins such as lying, cheating, gossiping, stealing... It's a sin. Plain and simple, and ANY sin creates a separation from God that can only be bridged through Christ.

So, as a sinner, I think I can look at another sinner and see someone God created, loves and wants to extend grace to.

Hating another sinner is hypocritical, since I'm a sinner. I've lied, disobeyed, said mean/rude things.

Now, let me make this clear - when we accept Christ's gift of forgiveness, that means "repent." This word means to literally "turn away from." So when I repent of sin, I'm turning away from it and leaving it behind.

I'm not perfect, try as I might, sometimes, I make the same mistake twice. It's hard. That's why we need Jesus so much. That's why his Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us, to equip us with the strength we need to walk away from sin.

So, fellow sinner, how about you and me rejoice in the fact that we are so loved by God that he still wants us, broken as we are, and promises to help us succeed?

Different sins have different physical, earthly consequences. But all sin has the same eternal consequence. And God has eternity in mind. And we're supposed to set our minds on things above. So let's follow Christ's example.