encourager

Posted: February 29th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“…God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV

Fear implies that there is no God. Experiencing existential doubt at the disappointment in the behavior of another proclaiming Christian implies that there is no Jesus. Remember this when you’re scrolling and reacting to your social media feeds. God always gets His way.

There is no need to panic. Be an active and peaceful advocate for your causes, but do it with hope and assurance. Encourage from the perspective of “God always gets His way”. Don’t rant and share rants from the perspective of “It’s all on us and time is running out”.

There is no need to push someone who makes different choices than you. Christians have a well deserved and unfortunate reputation for ganging up on their own as though their stance against another solidifies their spot in Heaven. People are not role models. Jesus is. Fellow Christians do not create or maintain standards for their peers. That’s a really quick way to trip and be tripped on this journey.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the truth, and the life….” He said, “follow me.”

Don’t get carried off in the current of fear. Be graceful with each other today. We are all doing the best we can with what we have right in front of us. We are still learning, and growing, and we will always need grace.

encouragement


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sin wears a crown, too.

Posted: April 17th, 2015 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” – Romans 6:6 ESV

We know that our old self….

My old self was a tangled effort. The right numbers never came up when it was my turn to be measured. I would paint inside the lines, whitewash the shadows, and candy coat the rain. My insufficiency wasn’t a question of my devotion. It was just that I was born beneath the surface and thought I had to work harder than everyone else to catch up to zero.

My old self was a flailing, unswaddled infant. An old woman trapped in a body that defied her dignity.

 …was crucified with Him…

Love knocked hard enough to get me to shave my legs and buy new perfume, but left with someone else at the end of the night. I was a pawn in everyone else’s chess game. I eventually stopped waiting for the phone to tell me why it stopped ringing.

They conspired against me and planned an elaborate going-away party without telling me where I was going. I thought it was finally my turn. No longer held back, I would be an equal. Legitimate at long last.

I was too far from the shore when I realized someone had removed the lifeboat and the roundtrip ticket was missing the return flight. I put on my life vest as I shoved feelings of betrayal with the sun beneath the horizon and waited for it all to make sense.

I was no closer, nor further from “right” no matter what I did. It took failure to realize that all of the sacrifices I could offer would never be enough. The betrayed became the betrayer. The cheated became the cheater. The pawn pulled up her skirt and walked herself off the chess board.

… in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing,…

I buried my pathetic efforts to be a good girl and haunted my grave long after the grass grew in knobby tufts over it. The old girl died hard. I finally realized that I had to get out of the passenger seat because the driver’s self interest never took my destination into account.

Nobody was left to judge my efforts. Nobody lengthened my hem, counted my buttons, or made sure I matched. Like being reborn into a parallel dimension where the streets are the same, but the road signs are missing. I was reborn into a Kingdom where Sin has been stripped of his heavy crown. I’m invisible in the world where Sin still gets the last word. He stands in his elaborate shoes and raises his gaudy scepter over the fearful masses to demand death and threaten penalty of penance. But he can’t see me. I’m free from his reign.

…so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

The “Do This” and “Don’t Do That” life is a façade to mask the innate ache for wholeness. Sin wants Christ’s Bridezilla so consumed with external décor that faithless effort wreaks through her pores as she walks, unwashed, down the wrong aisle.

The reign of Sin is only an echo down the canyons and corridors, but nothing more. The old self wants to climb the heights, run the distance, and build itself into a tower of righteousness, but something keeps moving the finish line further away. You think you’re building something for yourself, for God. But when you’re motivated by sin-avoidance, you’re a slave building someone else’s empire.

There exists a life where the wasps no longer patrol the streets waiting to sting you when you swerve. Law offices have been abandoned and the uniformed have found other passions. You wait your turn because you want to, not because you’re afraid not to. You stay in your lane because that’s what you would want someone else to do for you.

You’re not afraid of the judgment of someone in the old life because it doesn’t apply to you. You’re not afraid of God judging you because He has already passed it. Your only concern, now, is to figure out what you’ll do with your freedom.

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.– John 5:22-24 ESV

Vintage King of Spades


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if we love

Posted: June 10th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“…if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us…” – 1 John 4:12 MSG

Love of this kind is not an impulse from concern nor is it a natural inclination. This kind of love is not a response to a bond, a relationship, fellow feelings for, understanding of, or the result of liking another person.

This kind of love looks for opportunity to be compassionate and kind with deep humility. It’s a quiet, disciplined strength with an even temperament. This love is content in second place and eager to forgive offenses.

“Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” – Colossians 3:14 MSG

We live in a ‘me first’ world where people fill their time talking about themselves. They pause from building themselves up, only to tear others down. They rationalize their humanness and dehumanize the rationale of others. They make a production of not putting on a production and make a melodrama out of the monotonous. It’s “us” versus “them” fueled by self-righteousness and self-serving bias.

“The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God…” – 1 John 4:8 MSG

Don’t make a hometown flag out of divisions based on differences. Don’t reduce your value to how great you are at being a “Christian”. Don’t let yourself be boosted by the failures of others or try to win approving nods with your incessant disapproval. A vinegar-soaked rag shoved in the mouth of the thirsty.

The only thing that sets you apart is your eye witness account of the salvation power of Jesus. Be suspicious of the one who has never suffered on the threshing floor. Be cautious of the one who’s never fallen. Flip everything you thought you knew about standing apart. This is how you know the difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error: It’s not that you love God, but that God loves you. It’s not what you have never done, but what Jesus has done for you.

If we love one another, we will be that “God-Sending-Christ” love in the walking around flesh. We will be that continuous expression in the right now. Only those who know God are capable of that. “What do you do about those in open sin?” Be the “Even so…” You’ve been given one task: Love others. Why would He give you a gown and gavel if you can’t get the first task right?

“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear. Fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”– 1 John 4:17-18 ESV

if we love


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ugly children

Posted: April 16th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

With all of this name calling and finger pointing and scripture touting, this is how you can tell the difference: One accuses their brothers and sisters and the other loves them. One demands righteousness and the other reminds them of it. One flares up against and the other stoops down to support.

I read something in my facebook feed that made me freeze up. I’m very selective with my facebook friends, so I actually know or, at least, really respect those on my “friends” list. I’m telling you this because I’m about to quote someone that I know and respect, then I’ll tell you why I think they’re wrong. I could have just commented on the status update, but I haven’t written to you in a while and I want to start a conversation.

Here is the status update:

There is a new movement toward transparency about sin in many circles of the church. While this can be good, it is also leading to a tendency to hold up our sin as a badge of honor, never even trying to overcome it – becoming identified by it in fact.

It has gotten to the point that those with open unrepentant sin believe they are the future of the church while those without it are viewed as Pharisees. While we all have sin, none of us are excused from attempting to overcome.

Unrighteousness has become the new (self)righteousness.

Beware Isaiah 5:20

I can appreciate personal opinions, and sharing fears or observations. Knowing this friend, it may even be a founded issue to take up. I am, though, extremely protective of the one who messed up. I can’t stay quiet where they are concerned even if the words were not meant for them. I can’t help but feel reprimanded, even if the words were not meant for me.

The comments got more explicit as one commenter put it, “wallowing in our brokenness.” Another commenter said, “Self-pitying group therapy. VOMIT!” They get uglier and more shrill as the comments go on.

I don’t support picking a fight where the people at the center are too fragile to survive any more hits. Clueless remarks that could literally scream condemnation into the core of another person’s eternal existence need a response.

The original post used a scripture, so I’ll use that scripture to support my argument.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!– Isaiah 5:20 ESV

This scripture, within the context of the facebook post, is a death blow to the one who is working through his or her sin and trying to find Jesus through the chaos. Being able to state your sin in an actual church is only a temporary spot, like a toddler finding his legs. It’s a way to take the power away from the spiritual accuser as the person becomes desensitized to the accusation.

The reason that it’s important to become desensitized is because all of hell is trying to convince the person that she is done for. That what they did has caused God to withdraw the sacrifice and condemn them to eternal damnation. If they can call their own failures into the light, they lose their power. These people are in transition. Calling a “special needs class” a “retard class” would make you a monster. Calling a recovery group, of any kind, a group for “self-pity” or “brokenness wallowing” makes you a mouthpiece for the accuser.

The scripture within the context of the rest of the Bible is a literal God-send to the one who is working through his or her sin and trying to find Jesus in the chaos.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” What is evil? (Use the cross reference scriptures to trace the contextual meaning.) It is turning justice to “bitter fruit” and “casting righteousness down to earth” (Amos 5:7; 6:12). “Bitter fruit” is “poison” (Deut 29:18). “Casting righteousness down to earth” is trying to turn it into something “man-made”.

Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit…-Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV

Who is a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit?? (All I’m doing is using the cross reference scriptures.)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…– Hebrews 12:15 ESV

Do you see it yet? I’ll continue….

What does it mean to “fail to obtain the grace of God”?

You fail to believe that “it is finished” and you fail to rest (Hebrews 4:1). You receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.-Galatians 5;4 ESV

“…who put darkenss for light and light for darkness…” This part is talking about your eyes, or your “lamps” (Matthew 6:22… keep following the cross reference scriptures. That’s where I’m getting this.). It is taking something that is good and making it bad (Matthew 20: 15). It’s taking a gift and turning it into something to withhold to someone weaker than you. Like grace. That’s what we’re talking about here. Deutoronomy 15:9 (another cross reference scripture) talks about praising God for the release and then sneering at the one next to you who needs what you have and not sharing with him. Yeah… we’re still talking about grace.

You make someone’s agony your justice and shove your receipt for grace in their face. “…bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Beware Isaiah 5:20.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!– Isaiah 5:20 ESV

Get it right and stop hurting people while they’re trying to heal.

ug


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Yelling Distance: Thoughts on what happened to Hailey

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.. -John 14:27 ESV

… Jesus, please be with Hailey’s mommy.

It’s late and I should be asleep, but I have a lot of questions.

About 8 miles from where I live, a ten-year-old little girl was walking home from a friend’s house. Jean shorts and purple sandals on the first nice day of the year. She didn’t know about the tan truck that was circling her neighborhood. The neighbors saw him, though.

He pulled over when he spotted her. “Where is Springfield Street?”

I don’t think there is a Springfield Street.

She knew enough to ignore him.

He opened his door. “Hey, come here a minute.”

Children comply before they think. Two steps was all he needed.

The neighbor’s said he threw her over his body and into the passenger seat like a “rag doll”.

The neighbor took off running after them while his wife called the cops. A kid followed him in his car but couldn’t keep up.

He drove the five miles to his house in rush hour traffic and nobody caught him. His house– where he had a three-ring binder of perversion. Abused children in photographs.

He was arrested three hours later.

Three hours has to be a record, but he still had time to tie the arms of a child who couldn’t say her “r’s”. He put a bullet in the base of her skull, got rid of his bedding, divided her body between two trash bags, and put them in a rubber storage tote. He bleached his trail and left to go to the store. He was pulling into his driveway with duct tape in his hands when they caught him.

His behavior is a mix of a complete disregard for getting caught followed by bleach-scented self-preservation.

How can someone like this stay off the radar and right under our noses? How does someone go from “respected football coach” to buying that particular roll of duct tape on a Tuesday evening? The unspeakable in between…

Those aren’t really my questions though.

In times like these, we try to find some way to sleep at night. We try to find a piece of good to grab. Mine: She didn’t suffer for a long time. But what breaks me is “what’s a long time when you’re being tortured?”  He’s not out there anymore. But, it confuses me that he was out there all along and we didn’t know it. Who else is out there?

Where I feel helpless and afraid is that this man did this in broad daylight in the front yard of people who were watching. It was so blatant that they had a hard time wrapping their minds around what they just witnessed. They yelled, memorized his license plate, called 911, chased him on foot and another in his car; and none of that detoured him. What chills me is that he was in police custody three hours later and she was already in two trash bags.

I can’t think of anything anyone could have done better. Except, maybe, not letting the 10-year-old walk around the block…like she’s done several times before. …Like I let my kids do all the time. I call the distance I allow “yelling distance”.

When things happen in other parts of the country, I remark at the terribleness of it all, then reiterate that I refuse to live my life in fear. This happened in my community. I can actually feel the space she left. I didn’t even know her.

I started writing this a few nights ago, but never finished it. I can feel myself moving forward now. There is a point when someone can become morbid, so you have to know when to put the symbols away.

Last night about 6,000 people were expected to march in a city-wide candle light vigil, but 10,000 showed up. That’s warming. I didn’t go, but that’s not typically how I deal.

I don’t know what my questions are, really. I don’t think anything could have been done any differently and that creates the fear that I’m left with. This is the part of life where I wish legalism worked. You know, where you can do everything right an nothing bad will happen to you? But I can’t change my beliefs so that they offer something that makes me feel more secure.

I have to get my security from something else. I have to define security. I have to think about what I’m trying to keep secure.

I have to trust in the middle of the scariest insecurity. It’s not a trust that God won’t allow pain to blister me. That’s not how it works. But trust that He’s still God no matter what.

I prayed for Hailey before I knew her name. She was just an Amber Alert with a vehicle description. My girls and I prayed for her when they went to sleep that night. I had no idea that she was already gone. But, I wonder, did God answer our prayers? The man who did this was captured in record time. He’s not out there haunting the sunny days, neighborhood sidewalks, and mindless wanders in our daughter’s sandals. The evidence against him is such that I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him ever again.

See? I’m grasping for the type of hope that allows me to sleep at night, to send my girls to school, and to let them wander within yelling distance.

I don’t know why God allows awful things to happen. Please don’t go to the canned expression that “we live in a depraved world”. We live in a redeemed world full of damaged people. Bad things happen because people are damaged. I’m not trying to push grace for the man in the tan truck. We’re humans with limits and I’m feeling my own limits.

“In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” -Jesus in John 16:33 MSG

I wonder about something though. Jesus said he became our sin. He assumed our sin like it was His. The stuff like the man driving up and down somebody else’s neighborhood looking for somebody else’s baby… Did he know what he was buying those trash bags for? Police found “empty bottles of bleach”. Bottles. Did the Roman soldiers feel the disgust for Jesus that we feel for the man who bought bottles of bleach and trash bags? Did they see the man when they looked at Jesus?

I don’t even know what I’m getting at. I’m just thinking: People have formed an angry social-media mob. They want a chance to be alone with this man so that they can deliver their own form of retribution. I get it. Clouded by anger and fear and a need for justice… I totally get it. Jesus says that He took on the sin of this man. An angry mob formed with His name mixed in spit on their lips. They had their way all the way until the end.

I’m wondering, was that enough? …I’m not really looking for your answer. Just think about whether your faith works in situations like this. As a Christian and as an advocate for unchurched and undomesticated grace, I inevitably think about this stuff. This is where I walk. Is all this- grace, mercy, forgiveness, …-is it real? I have no doubt that it is, but I thank God for the distance that exists between this tragedy and my own sidewalk.

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God. – Psalm 13-14 MSG

I’m not sure that I said anything worthwhile here. I’m just processing.

I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to question the grace that saved me. If it’s not enough for the worst, then where is the line?

Hailey Owens

A candle lit march in memory of Hailey. February 22, 2014.

 

 


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