Rightous Anger

spiritualinspiration:    Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.”  Wow! If we are not careful, we can get into lots of trouble when we are angry.

I don’t normally share with others my views on political issues. I hate conflict and try to avoid it at all costs. Today, however, I am aching inside for the Church and for those within its body. My heart hurts for those who are  caught in the middle of this through no fault, no decision, of their own. I am angry that, once again, a social/political issue is being used to divide those who have been working as the Church, doing what we are called to do…caring for one another.

I have read so many posts in the last 24 hours about World Vision and the change in their hiring policy, in order to allow those in legal same-sex marriages to work for their organization. I have read articles on both sides of the issue, and both sides make valid points. Articles that are well written, fully thought through, and full of compassion. They open up a way to engage the audience in gentle dialogue, trying to bridge a gap of understanding between people. And then I read the comments to those articles. Comments full of hate, comments full of rage, comments full of ignorance. This venomous poison is what is truly divisive in the church. Poison from both sides.

God is love. Isn’t that what we teach in our Sunday schools, in our churches? We are called to love our neighbor, to feed the poor, to take care of the orphans and the widows, and above all, to love the Lord our God.  How can someone who calls themself a Christian be filled with so much hate for another? I can’t believe some of the things that “Christians” write. Comments from both sides that negate the worth of a human being. Comments that drip with hate and animosity…not towards sin itself, but towards the person. And when there is that much rage, that much hate…people stop listening. No one will hear your opinion, your opposition, if you are shouting. People will not care what you have to say if they can’t hear it over your hate.

We all have differing opinions and different interpretations of what the Bible teaches, on a variety of issues. I have what I believe, you have what you believe. What I know is that there is sin. Sin in talked about a great deal within the pages of the Bible. You and I are sinful creatures. Each of us deal with temptations, deal with brokenness, deal with rebelling against our Creator. From the time of the fall of Adam and Eve, humankind has been broken in sin. The world itself groans in agony over sin.  That is why Jesus came to earth. To pay in full the debt that we owe due to our sin.  To bridge the gap that sin created between God and us.

But who am I (and who are you?) to condemn, to judge? Who is to say that my sins are better or worse than yours? Is a my sexual sin greater than yours? Less than? Is it not as bad as cursing the name of the Lord? What about the idols of wealth and prosperity that I give so much of my time and energy to? Who am I to determine the weight of a sin, and to condemn someone to hell over that sin?

By all rights, none of us, NOT ONE, is worthy of redemption.

NOT ONE!

I love God, I have given my life to Christ. But I still struggle with sin, I still rebel against His love and mercy. I still make mistakes, still act out in sinful ways. If you were to judge me just on my thoughts and actions alone, well….please don’t. If we all looked at ourselves first, worked on the “log in our eye” before checking out the speck in others, we would have a lot less time on our hands to spend pointing the finger at everyone else in the world. You cannot possible know, possibly understand, the relationship that any individual person has with Christ. It is unique to every individual.  If someone professes a faith in Christ, who am I to judge where they are in that relationship? I do not know their heart, nor do they know mine.

The only thing that I do know, with all certainty, is that redemption and forgiveness is found in Christ alone.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t try to help one another when we notice our brother or sister is caught in sin. If you notice something in me that needs to be called forth? Bring it on. But we are charged to do that in love. Name-calling, condemnation, hate…that doesn’t work. We can’t engage in conversations…real conversation…without first having a relationship. A relationship built on loving one another in the way Christ taught us.

And how can we show a world of unbelievers what love Christ has for us if we are so filled with hate? How can we bring people to Christ if we are so busy poisoning people’s minds against Christianity? Those who do not know Christ will not WANT to know Him when they look at how so many Christians act towards one another. Hypocrisy is one of the big reasons people have such a negative view of Christians. And those unbelievers who use hate to attack Christians for their beliefs? “Love your enemies and pray for those who harass you.” ( Matthew 5:44) Do not engage in the same venomous tactics.

It saddens me as I listen and read the way we as a church body are becoming more divided, more polarized.  And I do struggle with knowing what the right thing is to do, to say.  My LGBT friends and family know that I love them, know that I care about them. We can have open dialogue because they know that I care. I care more about who they are at their core and their relationship with Christ than I do about their sexuality.

And those who are pulling their support from World Vision over this issue? Well, you have that right. But please don’t do so without prayerfully considering the ramifications of that action. Who are you hurting by doing so, quickly and rashly? At the very least, I would urge you to give a few months notice, so that another person can come alongside and take over the sponsorship of a child. Please don’t hurt this child, who has nothing to do with World Vision’s decision, in order to make a statement.

Living a Lie

I am auditing a class this semester for the first time since we’ve been here. It has been an enlightening experience, to say the least. The class is titled “Spiritual Warfare”, and it is taking a toll on my heart. Not in a bad, “everything is controlled by Satan” type of way, but instead I have a greater awareness of my own rebellious spirit, running from God, even when so abundantly blessed and loved by Him.

Part of our lesson this past week was on “Guiding Fictions.” This was not a phrase I had ever heard before, and I doubt many have, so let me try to explain. A guiding fiction is a wrong assumption about how to get our basic psychological needs of security and significance met. It is that which we live by, something that we rule our life by, strive for, our reality. It guides our actions, and yet it is fiction. Fiction in that it is based on worldly desires, worldly success. It is not truth as defined by our life in Christ.

Some examples of a guiding fiction would be….

  • I am secure when everything is under control.
  • I am secure when I am in a relationship or married.
  • I am significant when I am financially secure.
  • I am significant when others approve of me, and no one criticizes me.
  • I am secure when I am perceived as physically attractive.

Haven’t we all been guided by some of these in our life? There are so many more that I could name, ways in which I have allowed these untruths to lead me in my life. But the truth is, Christ is who we truly get our needs of security and significance met through. In Christ, we are:

  • God’s child
  • loved
  • a friend
  • justified
  • united
  • blessed with gifts

There are so many Scripture verses that help us to know our identity in Christ. I have listed many of them at the end of this post, and I encourage you to read through them, and write them upon your heart. It is only in His truth that we can be set free from the lies of the world, those lies that would have us feel worthless, insignificant, ugly, hated.

I have struggled with the lie of beauty, the lie that we must make ourselves physically attractive in whatever way possible. We are all born imperfectly beautiful, with a beauty that radiates from a lovely soul. It is our worldly (and especially our Western) views that distorts what is beautiful and negates it, twists it. I have bought fully into to the lie that I needed to succumb to others views of what is beautiful and try to make myself fit within that mold. As a woman, I believe these pressures are greater on our gender. As a mother, I want my children to live into who they truly are, rather than trying to fit into the world’s standards. I want to teach them what has taken me so many years to learn.

My entire life I have struggled with weight issues, even as a small child. I was the chubby kid in our family, and was teased mercilessly by my siblings over it. Though I was somewhat athletic, those pounds stuck, and accumulated. College and the dorm food buffets didn’t help.  It has been a lifelong challenge, and it affected my self-esteem greatly. I was never confident in who I was, much less how I looked.  I hated looking in the mirror. Hated seeing my reflection in a window. Hated the way my thighs rubbed together when I walked, the way my stomach would roll over my pants when I sat. I hated every part of my body, living in the darkness of my soul.  There was a blackness in my spirit, and it was eating away who I was, who I was created to be.  Though I tried to hide my negative self-talk from others, it was a constant dialogue in my head.

With my first pregnancy, I started to begin to respect my body more. I was amazed at what it was doing, as it grew this sweet child, nourished her, gave her sustenance and life. Knowing that I was in full participation with God as this miracle inside me grew larger and stronger gave me a new sense of purpose, and a new awareness of what this body was created to do.  With the aches and pains of delivery, I found a new strength within me that I never realized before.  As I looked upon my daughter, there was an awe that overcame me. An awe in the realization that I helped create a life, that this body that I had battered and abused for so long was a co-creator of a miracle…well, that was a pretty spectacular realization. And with the subsequent births of my other children, I felt this same sense of awe and wonder at the miracle of it all.

I still struggle with finding flaws in my body, with fighting against the negative self-talk that is a running commentary within my mind. I am much more careful about saying anything out loud, however, because I do not want my children to hear that. I do not want them remembering their mom as someone who was obsessive about her weight, or who criticized herself constantly. Rather, I want them to have memories of us, as a family, doing things together, being active and healthy. What I am trying to focus on nowadays is my health, and doing what I can to sustain a long and healthy life, in order to see my children grow and be there for the important moments of their lives.  I have become a runner in the past few years, and am training to run a race this coming weekend. I have it on my bucket list to run a half and full marathon, and I share these goals with my children. I want them to know that they can find joy in activity, that the health of their bodies is far more important than the look of their bodies.

And the lie, the fiction, of finding security in being perceived as attractive? That there is security in beauty? In youth? Though it still influences me, I know that it IS a lie, and I am trying harder to live in the truth. Beauty fades. We age. The world changes its fickle mind with what its standards of beauty are.  Instead, I am living into the truth that my beauty resides in the holiness of my soul. That the place where I have asked His Spirit to reside is made beautiful by the grace and mercy of the Lord.  The lilies of the field may have their splendor, but we are far more loved and cared for than even those. That is where my security lies….in the love of a Savior, in the fullness of the life that He offers. That is the truth that I put my hope in, and it is beautiful.

Our Security in Christ: Romans 8:1-2, Romans 8:28, Romans 8:33-34, Romans 8:35, 2 Tim. 1:7, Hebrews 4:16, 1 John 5:18

Our Significance in Christ:  Matthew 5:13, John 15:15, 2 Cor. 5:17-20, 2 Cor. 6:1, Eph. 2:6, Eph. 2:10, Eph. 3:12, Phil. 4:13

Off-Kilter, Part 2

Something still is tilted in my world, and I can’t seem to re-align. The darkness is deep and vast, and this uncomfortableness within my own skin is tangible. There is a fire, burning away at the ugly, at the broken, refining, forging what needs to be strengthened, purifying.

In so many situations, God uses the people around me to speak truth into my life, shine light into the darkness. Today, that happened again. I was blessed to spend time this morning with a sweet friend, someone whose words of encouragement were a balm to my raw and fragile heart. Her complete understanding, not of all the details, but the understanding of my soul’s pain was refreshing, life-giving. She could relate to the enemy speaking lies, tormenting, and she spoke grace and beauty, redemption and freedom. This is the beauty of having friendships with those who believe, those who understand the struggle, the ways that we are tempted and tortured by the enemy.

The revelation of yesterday, that I am operating, functioning out of this place of fear, is one I am still wrestling with, still working through. For so long, I have placed the blame outside of myself, piled it upon others, upon circumstances, upon things. But no, when it is boiled down dry, it all comes to me and my brokenness.

Fear and unbelief.

Two sides of a coin. Because if I had true faith, what could I fear? And if I am fearful, where then is my faith?

And all that we are asked to have is faith the size of a mustard seed. A tiny seed, only 1 or 2 mm in size, and that is what we need in order to move mountains. I desire, I need, to live into this truth, to allow that seed to grow, flourish. I must, through grace and mercy, weed out that which isn’t from my Heavenly Father, and throw it onto the brush fire. I am still working on how that looks, how it is to LIVE, to fully live, in the truth.  Because I believe that it is different for each one of us. Our paths of faith and fulfillment are as unique as each one of us, because God speaks to each of us in our own way, in His own way, but all in His truth. Your journey and mine may not look similar except for that we have both placed our seeds of faith in the Savior of our souls, and we are living into that love.

“How He Loves Us” by David Crowder Band is on my Pandora shuffle now and the words are speaking to my heart, just at this moment.  I encourage you to listen, rest with it,  just for a moment.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us.