The greatest thing about following God is the mystery. The tension between the “I don’t know” and trusting in God’s promises. For those of you who know me, you know that I am a hopeless truster in the promises. I think to myself all the time, “If God’s Word says it, I should just take the plunge and believe it.” I don’t think I am like that because I’m “super holy”; I think it’s because I want to believe the “what if?” As I read the scripture I see God’s heart for this world, His love for this world and His promises for this world. God does not pull punches, this world is broken and hurting and under the direct influence of Satan himself. And yet, as I read, there is a hope for this world and it is the Good News of Jesus Christ that is proclaimed...get this...through the church.
I know, I laugh sometimes too. “The Church??? I know you don’t make mistakes God but that might not have been your best choice.” For many people, myself included, the Church has been a source of pain and hurt as much as (or more so), it has been a source of healing. Broken people ministering to broken people is a recipe for a mess.
But what if? What if as a group of broken people we took seriously God’s promises that if we would only be obedient, His Spirit would work through us in miraculous ways. What if a group of broken people decided to fight for unity instead of fighting to be right? What if we looked to the needs of others instead of only to our own needs? What if we really saw Jesus as our example to emulate and learned to forgive, to reconcile and to love people right where they are at and then watch God transform them. That “what if” would turn into a place of miracles, a place of forgiveness, a place of restoration, a place where people could encounter God and be surrounded by others who aren’t perfect, but know what it’s like to be forgiven and if they can be forgiven, anyone can be forgiven.
That is a place where everyone would like to be. That is a place that, deep down, everyone wishes existed. That is what the Church has been called to be. The idea of obedience has been misunderstood for too long. In our society today, obedience means blindly following rules, taking all the “fun” out of life and nothing could be further from the truth. The joy of obedience comes when we understand that when we live the life that God has called us to, not only are we filled with purpose, freedom, grace, mercy, forgiveness and joy, we get to share that with a world that is begging for what God offers (even if they don’t know it).
If you are a believer, join me and let’s stop asking “what if”?” And start experiencing the reality, the freedom, the power and the joy of obedience.
I'm getting sentimental in my old age. I'm only 40 right now, by the time I'm 60, I'm going to a mess!!! As I read through the description of the terrible events that unfolded in Las Vegas, I kept thinking, "That was someone's son who died." "That was someone's little girl who was killed." My heart broke as I read about people sharing their stories of the chaos, fear, panic and death that surrounded them as a man opened fire on innocent people. As a parent, all I want to do in this world is protect my kids, which always brings to reality my human limitations...I can't always be there to protect them. A thought, especially in our day and age, that would cause me severe anxiety; if I didn't have the Bible.
God, in all of his wisdom, knows what it means to love as a parent (better than I ever could) and so he tells me, "Raise a child up in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
God, knowing my love and concern for my children, tells me to teach them. Teach them about Him, His love, His law, His grace, His commandments, His forgiveness; and that will guide them...He will guide them.
And when God teaches, He doesn't pull punches. The book of Proverbs is all about gaining wisdom. Many of them start out with, "Pay attention, my son," In Proverbs 5, that phrase is followed with this, "For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave."
I can't picture me walking with my 10 year old and saying, "Son, that's an adulteress. Stay away or your life will be ruined." But this is exactly how I'm supposed to raise my children, by calling out evil for what it is, evil!
We live in a world where children are being exposed to innocent people being shot, leaders (on both sides) constantly calling each other names, people ramming cars into crowds, bombings, stabbings and beheadings. I can't keep my children from being exposed to this and so I have to teach them,
"Son, that's evil. Stay away or your life will be ruined."
Like we see throughout Proverbs, wisdom begins in God's Truth, and God's Truth is clear that evil needs to be condemned as evil.
Why do I need to point out evil? So others, like my children, will know it when they see it. This is not how we treat people. Life is scared. All life is sacred. It doesn't matter how young or old you are. It doesn't matter where you are from or where you live. It doesn't matter what color your skin is. Everyone is created in the image of God and I must protect that, and I must teach others to protect that.
Lord, may we condemn evil wherever it shows itself. May you grant us wisdom to see it and courage to stand up to it. Help us to remember that evil cannot destroy evil, because many people are forgetting that fact. May we never stoop to the level of evil. May we stand tall for Your Truth, though we be mocked, persecuted or even killed. Help us as Your people, Your Church, to show the world that there is a better way and that way leads to You. Be with the people who came face to face with evil in Las Vegas and those who have faced it and are facing it around the world. Comfort them, be near to them and heal them.
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who mistreat you."
"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
Luke 6: 27-28, 35-36
Even as I wrote these words from Jesus, my mind kept thinking, "You don't know what people have done! You don't know how hard this is!"
But, I know God knows how hard it is. "He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." The life of Jesus was an object lesson in living this out.
And now, if I want to follow Jesus, I have to follow Jesus...everywhere. He calls me to examine the deepest parts of who I am; those areas of my life where pride and arrogance continue to hold sway over my flesh. The mere fact that I try to make excuses, to plea my case that my situation is different and so I am justified in my anger and hatred, shows that I am not yet completely sactified.
There is work to be done and Jesus is the one doing it.
Here is the truth that we all need to hear (I'm bringing you into my conviction)...we have all been hurt; many of us by people who were the closest to us. If we do not love, do good and bless those who have hurt us, we have not yet submitted our entire lives to Christ. If you read these words of Jesus and say, "No! Never!" are we really following in our Master's footsteps? Are we willing to let Jesus do the hard work and choose the easy path ourselves?
Believe me, I am acknowledging the difficulty but I also testify to the indescribable joy and freedom found in following Jesus. Every step of faith I've taken; every one more difficult than the last, I have found strength, I have found grace, I have found Jesus ever faithful.
Never have I taken a difficult step of faith and said, "Well, that sure wasn't worth it." In fact, it is the exact opposite. I have always come through amazed and glorifying God and the reality is, the more difficult the step, the greater the presence of God.
WIth that in mind, may all of us choose to forgive. May all of us make the hard choice to follow our Lord wherever He calls us.
Crosspoint Friends Church meets at Morningside Presbyterian Church
1201 E. Dorothy Lane
Fullerton, CA 92834-6242
Sunday @ 9:00 am