Posted: December 3rd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, divisions, faith, grace, judgment, love wins, sin, spiritual abuse |
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“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?”
I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.
What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?
Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?
Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV
Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.
God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.
In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.
Use this scripture to guide your thought process:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
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Posted: October 22nd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, grace, judgment |
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I’ve become aware of how small this world is. Your sins are just a whisper in the ear away. The fuel of another’s folly can unite faster than anything I’ve seen in the natural world. It surpasses the slow rhythm of grace by far. So much so, that the sinner believes she is drowning.
She sleeps and prays and plays and thinks, while they meet and whisper and forge friendships and decide. She resurfaces to mend bridges and finds a road block in her name.
The sinner was resting and lost her time. The sinner was praying and can no longer catch up.
So much lost, losing all the time, there’s no way she can gather it back up.
Once a bridge burner, but she has changed. Or has she? She thinks she breaks everything she touches and now she won’t touch anything.
Ignited by indignance, she sets out to fight back. Then comes the hand of the Strong One, the hand that holds her back.
“Pride can make you walk on water, but pride is not my well. You’ve the feet of a disciple with my story to tell. Impulse of vengeance, but who’s to hear you now? The feet of a disciple can’t have anger at the prow.”
Someone who knows the truth of grace cannot be thwarted by being tossed away. No matter how many bridges you’ve burned, you are still not a lost cause.
No matter how many have cursed your name, you are still not a lost cause.
Someone who knows the truth of grace is not bothered by the coldness of everything around her. But, she’s still a girl who wants to be loved and she forgets. She forgets that the cold won’t kill her.
They gather like mice. Forging friendships out of knowing her worst. United by her sin instead of united in His love.
It’s a small enough world for her to know that you gather in His name without including her name. How does that speak the Truth of love and grace to her?
She doesn’t make new friendships. She has not one. How could she?
A disciple keeps walking even when she is slandered, even when it’s true. A disciple keeps walking even when she’s ignored. Pride can make a girl walk on water, but pride is short lived. Only grace can pull her up from the depths and make her walk some more.
It hurts to be excluded, to be forgotten, to be let go. But, you’re still here. You still have worth. Grace gives longevity. Pride sinks unsinkable ships.
You are not cursed. So much so, that maybe you are feeling this overwhelming attack to keep you from becoming conceited. Let them gather. If they were clambered around you, it may go to your head:
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
You have something. You’re on to something. The knowledge of grace and the power it has to completely undo and rebuild you is so powerful that it can go to your head and distract you. Let them gather. Let them be. You have too much to do to pay attention to who likes you and who doesn’t.
There wouldn’t be such a vicious attack if there wasn’t something powerful within you to attack. With this in mind, it may not even be them who is attacking. This isn’t a battle of flesh and blood.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. -Ephesians 6:11-18 ESV
It’s a small world and if you live in it’s smallness, you’ll be sucked in by it’s lies. You are looking in the wrong places if you’re looking for validation by people who may not even know in what way they are being used to attack you.
Are you seriously going to throw your hands in the air and lose buoyancy over these people? Whether they spit on you or hug you does not matter in the marathon of this faith. Don’t let people make you doubt Jesus.
Accept your running position and let’s get on with this. There are plenty of people you don’t know who would find hope in your story of salvation. It’s the people who do know you who are at a loss. They’re too close to the flesh to see the spirit. Even Jesus knew what that was like.
And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there… -Mark 6:3-5 ESV
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Posted: May 3rd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: bitterness, judgment, personal |
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I was sitting at a table facing my husband and the window behind him. The little restaurant gets all of it’s character from being in a turn of the century building. The nuance gets to stay because it makes patrons feel a little cultured. The place isn’t pretentious, but it has a flair of something that brings in the rumpled business man who likes taste more than stature, college boys having lunch with their mothers, and couples wanting to lunch in a place tucked away.
They crossed my line of vision as they walked down the sidewalk. He was young and a bit on the small side. His mechanic’s uniform was too blousy and new to have any street credit yet. Holding his hand was his young wife. She walked slightly taller and thicker than him. She was dressed a too hot for eighty-four degrees, like she worked in an office that was too cold and didn’t get a lot of business. They were just another couple grabbing an afternoon vacation, trying to feel a little human before they have to go back to jobs that just get them by.
I saw them walk in like they had never been here before. I was twisting my lemon slice into my water. I never can get all the juice out without getting it all over my hands. I don’t like to leave the lemon in my glass because I’m not sure how clean it is. If they slice the lemon too thin, it just gets mutilated and I need two or three to really give my water a little lemon bite. I sat smashing lemon bits against the bottom of my glass with my straw while the couple held my attention. It didn’t help that they were at my two o’clock, but there was something about the guy’s body language that made me watch.
He was looking around more with his eyes than with his head, like he didn’t want to be noticed, like he was feeling ‘less-than’. He was holding his own hands, now, and not hers. They were barely breathing, neither said a word. It was like they both felt they didn’t belong but wanted to see what would happen if they walked in. I think the door shutting behind them sealed their presence too tightly and he looked like he wanted to run. He had a dejected look from the moment they walked in, like he was expecting rejection, but he still stood there too afraid to move or make his presence known, but he held his head up. I liked their bravery, even though it wasn’t necessary.
Not a single person in there noticed them but me, and they became a piece of art while I listened to the sounds of glasses hitting wooden tables and forks scraping against ceramic. The low murmur of conversation wasn’t aware of the invisible battle of self-worth that followed them like dust from their road. Only two people were working in the front of the restaurant and both of them were waiters. They sat people as they came in, then waited on them once they were seated. Both were in the back when the couple came in.
The couple gave the world less than two minutes to undo a lifetime of struggle before they turned around and left. They walked in expecting to not fit in and I watched them fulfill their own prophecy. And I wondered, how many times have I done that?
They crossed my line of vision in reverse. A mechanic and his wife holding hands and walking without words. Both heavy with the rejection they brought with them.
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Posted: March 22nd, 2011 |
Filed under: life | Tags: grace, judgment |
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When I write, it’s after I’ve been studying scripture. I discover words to build my life on and I want to write them down so that I don’t forget. I want to know the truth and I don’t care what it is. If there is something I should be doing, I want to do it. If I am wrong about something, I want to know it. Truth doesn’t start with me, it changes me. The more I know, the more it becomes a part of me, the harder it is for something or someone to take it away.
I find freedom in the scriptures. Freedom is a hard thing to believe when I’ve had so many reasons to feel shame, guilt, and uncertainty. I study scripture because, if left to my own devices, I will slip back into self-doubt, which is a symptom of doubting Jesus. If my identity is only understood through His, then I need to continually remind myself of who He is.
If the Truth that has been revealed to me can set me, –flawed-scarred-strong willed me– free, then I can only imagine what it can do for someone else. So, I write…
Instead of writing a message inspired by what I learned, I want to let you in on my thought process as I was learning it:
I was having my devotion the other day and the scripture my devotion book used came out of Romans 6. So, I read Romans 6. I was barely through the first few scriptures when things started standing out to me. I decided to read them in translations that provide more insight (cross-reference scriptures and commentaries) and different phrasing so I could see if my initial interpretation held up.
Here we go:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? -Romans 6:1 ESV
Everybody knows this scripture. It’s used by people on all sides of the issue that grace creates. My thoughts: Of course grace isn’t to be used as an excuse to sin. I’ve never thought that was the problem, but as I talk to people and hear their worries, I realize that there are people who do view it that way. Apparently, there were people in Paul’s day who did, too. It’s not a new problem. However, I never feel like it’s my message to tell people what they’re supposed to do, the pressure on my chest is to tell them what grace does. That is my message because I believe in the power of grace to transform lives. It’s not my idea of ‘right living’, when it pertains to the things God has told me to avoid, that I feel the burden to share. I have them, I obey them, but, when I don’t, I don’t kick myself or doubt my relationship with God. I accept grace, learn from my mistakes (gain wisdom), and move on.
There is a cross-reference for this scripture and it’s this one:
And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. -Romans 3:8 ESV
That’s interesting to me because I have been ‘charged’ with the same thing. I knew I had to read that chapter so I could see how Paul handles the backlash against the message of grace. How does he explain it? And what does, “Their condemnation is just.” mean?
I read that scripture in a different translation and figured out that Paul was saying that if he were teaching to go ahead and sin because ‘grace abounds’, then anyone who condemned him for that would be right. Then he explains that that is not what he’s saying.
Two more verses stood out to me:
What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,”That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” -Romans 3:3-4 ESV
This is awesome because it confirms that God doesn’t take Himself away from us when we mess up. This also references a sentence previously written in scripture and it is found in here:
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. -Psalm 51:4 ESV
David is saying to God: “I have sinned against You. You are right and I am wrong.” He goes on to say that acknowledging when he is wrong teaches him wisdom. He learned his lesson and became wiser for it. Then he asks God to “create in [him] a clean heart.” He knows that he can do nothing to make himself clean. He even goes as far as saying that trying to do it on his own is not pleasing to God.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17 ESV
Another cross-reference scripture is this one:
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. -Proverbs 28:13 ESV
God wants a broken spirit, a broken heart, and for you to know that you are guilty. Sin enables that. You would not be broken if you had not failed. You have to go through the brokenness to know what grace is. When you say it that way, it sounds like sin is ‘good’ because it puts you where God wants you. When you are fully aware of your guilt, it’s a source of hope. However, when you shrug your shoulders at your sin by saying that God will forgive it, you bypass the brokenness and and claim freedom. It’s true that God will forgive, but brokenness is where grace comes to life. It doesn’t make sense to look for freedom when you don’t acknowledge that you have been taken prisoner.
When I write, I write to and for those who are devastated by their sin. I remind them of the hope because they believe they are beyond it. I write to the broken. However, I can’t choose who reads and what they take away from it. If you walk in on a conversation that doesn’t concern you (meaning in this context: you do not see that you are depraved and you are not broken), you will misunderstand what is said. The message of grace is offensive and viewed as ‘dangerous’ to those who don’t feel they need it.
Here is where the trouble comes. There are those who know that grace is the only reason they have legs to stand on. There are those who are in the middle of their own personal hell, brought on by their sin. They desperately need to be told about grace in a way that they believe it and accept it. Then, there are those who have not seen their personal worst just yet and don’t understand the magnitude of grace at all. These are the ones who need a crazy amount of patience because they can be horribly judgmental and end up kicking someone who is broken, making getting back up even harder for them. I say ‘patience’ because if they knew what they were doing it could tear them to pieces. They would need what they refuse to offer from those they refused to offer it to.
There is not a person on this planet who gets it right. That is why passing judgment on another is a death sentence to those who pass the judgement.
All of my cross-referencing, reading, and studying led me to this:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. - Romans 2:1 ESV
That’s the death sentence to those who try to size up another’s life and decide it’s not good enough. The point is, no one is good enough so when someone declares that over another, it falls back on them.
Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? - Romans 2:3-4 ESV
That last part is exciting to me because it confirms what I have been learning for several years now. “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Telling someone that they are not good enough while pointing out their flaws does not lead them to repentance. Kindness does. Mercy and grace do. Telling someone about God’s love for them leads them to repentance.
The religious want to know about God’s wrath. They cast judgment to further inflict wounds as if being aware of sin alone were not good enough. They judge the past as though it could not possibly be covered by the blood of Jesus. They state what they believe when they rub dirt into the wounds of the broken. If you are saved by what you believe (Whom you believe in), then they condemn themselves. God’s wrath falls on that.
Paul, still talking to those who pass judgment on those with broken spirits and broken hearts says this:
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Romans 2:5 ESV
False teachers do exist and this is what Paul says about them:
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— – Galatians 2:4 ESV
False teachers lead people back into slavery. They make people doubt the freedom they received from the grace of Jesus. That’s how you know who is false. When you want to know who is true, look for the opposite of that: People who lead you to Jesus and freedom with the gentle tether of grace. Whatever illuminates the distance between you and God’s love for you is a lie. Whatever draws you to Him, like a child running in tears to safety, is the truth.
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Posted: January 5th, 2011 |
Filed under: God, life | Tags: grace, judgment |
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Every once in a while someone will let me know what they don’t like about me as a writer. Either I’m too heavy on grace or I don’t talk about God’s wrath enough. If I engage them, I find that they are usually people who don’t believe in God’s sovereign power, especially pertaining to His foreknowledge, time transcending control, and purpose in choosing and orchestrating.
From where I stand, grace is the nectar of the Gospel, so there isn’t much else to talk about when grace enters the scene. Also, my belief in God’s sovereign control keeps me from drifting off into cul-de-sacs of confusion and fear.
But, for those who wield a hammer for judgment purposes, lovers of wrath, I found a passage of scripture that refers to God’s wrath. Here goes my best swing at the the hammer of God…
For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative. -Romans 1:18 AMP
We have some ‘holy wrath and indignation’ to work with here. Perfect terminology for those looking forward to seeing ‘God’s adversaries’ fry. The only stipulation is, the ‘holy wrath and indignation’ are for those who ‘hinder the truth and make it inoperative’. So, now we have to figure out what the ‘truth’ is, that way we can make sure to properly condemn the guilties.
The following scripture says that the ‘truth’ has not been hidden, so there is no excuse for those who suppress it.
…that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. -Romans 1:19 AMP
We need to know what ‘has been made known’. That’s what is going to help us understand what ‘ungodliness’ the wrath of Romans 1 wants to lay into.
For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). -Romans 1:20 AMP
The ‘truth’ that ‘has been revealed since creation’ is God’s eternal power and divinity. The truth is, there is no limit to Who God is and what He does, allows, and uses. His divine nature is a mystery and instead of embracing the opportunity to worship ‘in Holy fear’, people trivialize everything to the point of making God someone who resembles themselves. They do this so that they can effectively control their version of ‘the mind of Christ’ and ‘go therefore’ to preach condemnation to sinners. There are many versions of the street corner brimstone artist.
So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification]. Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. -Romans 1:20-21 AMP
People sit on their throne of judgement with their scepter of wisdom petting their bobble head lion of Judah and consider the shortcomings of others in order to determine their eternal position. The disease of the religious insider is the complacent familiarity with the profound evidence, turning the sovereign power of God (which should scare the skin off of us) into pathetic beliefs based on ‘vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations.’ They would much rather serve a god who sits on their mantel, over seeing their living room lives with stoic approval. They don’t hear God speaking any more, their ‘minds have been darkened’, so they feel compelled to speak for Him.
Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles. -Romans 1:22-23 AMP
Not everybody who claims to have godly wisdom and ‘the mind of Christ’ is speaking for God. You have to study scripture for yourself. Develop your own relationship with God so that you can turn to the lying voice and say, ‘My savior has never spoken to me in that way.’
People who have created god in their own image think that God is displeased with the same people they’re displeased with, that God follows them as they walk out on you, and that God can’t hear your cries for mercy because they can no longer hear you.
‘Claiming to be wise, they have become fools.’ Exchanging God for something that better resembles man. It’s easier for the fool to understand.
You know who has exchanged God for their own version of god because Romans 1 tells us how these people behave. They’re heartless and cruel and they give God the credit for it. They’re an excited mess as they grasp at bits of gossip mixed with truth in order to build a better case against another. They’re arrogant as they revel in the strife of another, boasting in their own blameless ways as they ignore mercy, compassion, and love. (verses 28-32)
I think I failed to empower those who want less grace from me and more judgement. They’re counting on God’s wrath to vindicate them.
The only people Jesus condemned were the religious know-it-alls.
But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” -Romans 1:18-24 MSG
The hammer fell on innocent hands so that the guilty can go free.
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