Hate is always Hate

If you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are not living your life right.

If you have to stand up to be noticed, you are fundamentally and categorically flawed.

…he gave no answer.  – Matthew 27:12

But Jesus made no reply. – Matthew 27:14

And yet, what name is known more than His?  If you want to change the world, drop the signs and pick up a Bible.  Stop chanting and start praying.  Put down the binoculars and spend some time at the mirror.

If we really want to make a difference… we have to stop screaming, “me, me, me!” and start living like Him, Him, Him.

Hate, for noble and good reasons, is still hate.

When I was younger, I remember saying I hated someone very evil.  My mom told me that was not acceptable.  “We don’t ‘hate'” she would say, “its OK to dislike someone, but never hate them”.  I replied once, “well then I dislike them to death!”  It was a hard lesson for me to learn.  Hating seems very natural, but it’s anything but, its a status of the heart.

The lesson my mom learned in her walk with Jesus is that Hate, even for seemingly good reasons, is still hate.  When the Bible tells us to walk 2 miles, what it means is that someone will come to us and demand we go one mile.  That is hate.  It was a form of slavery and societal hierarchy.  And so the response is to go twice the distance expected.

In a similar verse we are told what to do when slapped in the face.  Striking someone on the side of their head is most definitely a hate filled action.  The entire world would unanimously approve and even applaud a return strike.  But Jesus shows us that even when justified, hate is hate.   So how should we respond?  Turn the other cheek.  Let them strike the other side.  Why?  We don’t hate.  All hate is hate.  All hate is wrong.  All hate is from the most evil one.

Jesus has the most perfect response to hate.  He called it love.  And He spent His life showing it to others.  Mastering it in our sight.  Letting others document it over and over how He always chose the natural way of things.   God’s way of things.  The path of love.

And when His story was finished… when He had shown true love over and over again until His whole legacy was a lifetime of love and compassion… He spoke no more.  What else was there to say.  In a final act of love and sacrifice He lay still while hammers injected the world’s hate into his veins.

Fully loving, completely sacrificed to us, we can change the world in a very similar fashion.  We need only stop pointing to the world.  Stop trying to keep the hate scale even on both sides and let it tip over off the table when we collectively stop hating back.  Show the world a love they haven’t seen in years.

And some may look at the world and say that the death of Jesus didn’t have an impact.  Look in your mirror and ask yourself… “is that true?”.  And if it hasn’t… couldn’t it?  God didn’t put a timestamp on love.  It doesn’t spoil.  You can fully utilize it right now no matter how longs its been.

I don’t believe Jesus meant that we can’t defend ourselves when threatened.  But I do believe that we have interpreted our freedom into a chip on our shoulders that says its OK for me to get mine!  I’m allowed to be first.  I’m not going to be treated that way.  I’m not going to allow this.  I’m…. Me… Mine… My….  see the problem?  If we are on our knees before the king trying to do the Father’s business… we wouldn’t even notice the disparity.

Look at our posture.  Standing at the ready.  pointing at each other.  Anger filled, Hate fused.  Look at the posture of Jesus.  Kneeling in prayer.  pointing to the Father, washing our feet.  Love filled, overflowing with grace.  To be Christian means to be like Christ.  How far do you have to go?

 

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Easter Sunday… why bother?

This may step on some toes.  I pray that it steps on the right ones.  I also pray that everyone will honestly evaluate themselves in their current relationship with God and make adjustments to bring Him more into focus at the center.  Amen!

Church can bring out a lot of emotion.

For some, its pain.  Christians are sinners and even in corporate church, we make mistakes that can leave scars.

For others, its discomfort.  Jesus prayed to God that we would be united.  He knew how we would fight.  If it isn’t politics its church politics.  In my life I’ve seen churches split over chosen songs, dress codes, overhead projectors, hand clapping, instruments, and many other seemingly trivial issues.  So why bother?

Especially when very few churches get it right?  The church isn’t where the Christian goes to be built up… its where the sinner goes to put God first.  Think about that for a moment.  How many scenarios exist, where the person in the wrong shows up and dictates how the event is going to play out?  When the sinner shows up and bows humbly before the loving God… church happens.  Everywhere else is, sadly, people vying to be the next pharisee.  To me, its an issue with definition.  ‘The Church’ isn’t that big building.  It’s the loving God that sacrificed His Son for us, so that we might gain, should we choose to do so.  Our acceptance of that sacrifice doesn’t come with judgement or condemnation.  It comes with us loving back.  The Bible says that God is love.  Shouldn’t the church be love also?  It is.  And where it isn’t, it can be.  Why bother?  Because when it is done right… When God is the focus… the world begins to function just as God (it’s creator) intended it to.  The sick are healed, relationships are repaired, bridges are built, and love is shared freely.  Lives are strengthened and when we walk out that door, its a new world to face.  This may sound silly to some, and to those I claim its because you’ve been unfortunate in your church experience.

For those who don’t understand church, or for those who feel lost in one, or for those who have tried and left running out the back door:  I’d like to offer 10 simple rules to measure by.  If many of these don’t hold up well, something needs to change, as its not what God intended.

1.  Does your church consistently hold its values and beliefs in line with the Bible?  Do they do things because a church leader said so, because an established family said so, because their grant said so, or because the Bible said so?  (note the words ‘values and beliefs’.  Obviously, leadership will need to ‘lead’ in clerical, business, and logistical matters).

2.  Are the songs, prayers, and messages building up the members or are they praising God?  There is certainly scripture that gives validity to building up the members.  But what is the core purpose of worship?  “Worship”.  Reverence… adoration… thanksgiving.  That has to be first and foremost and consistent.

3.  Is your church growing?  Or trying to grow?  The issue isn’t about butts in the seats, its about souls.  Does your church’s message care and even yearn to save the lost?  Are you fired up and sent out on a mission after church?

4.  Is the money going to God?  Either in future planning, current budgeting, or missionary spend, is the church making the most of the money?  Are they following the Biblical examples to stretch each dollar, grow each cent, or are they effectively burying it until needed?

5.  Is the message consistent?  One simple example, I’ve seen over and over again:  Does your church accept an offering every Sunday, but they don’t have the time to offer communion as well?  What an odd priority.  With PayPal, credit cards, websites, donation boxes, and even snail mail to the building… collection is the one thing that can happen outside of corporate worship.  But when leadership justifies that it can’t… I see a red flag.

6.  Is the entire message taught?  Jesus is a loving Savior who gave up everything to get to us.  But He is also jealous and can be angered.  He keeps His promises, both good and bad.  (i.e. the floods came when promised just like relief comes when promised).  The life of a Christian is a hard life filled with self sacrifice, scrutiny, and persecution.  God hates all sin and we are not to judge.  Christians are supposed to look different from the world, not following it and /or adjusting our beliefs… etc.

7.  Is every member involved?  Another common malpractice I’ve seen quite consistently is a tiered version of church, where one group will be the leadership of the church and the other group will be the spectator.  Almost divided like classes, an entire group of people will go to church on Sunday, never serving in any capacity and never being asked to.  This feels eerily like how the Pharisees practiced their faith.  They were the ‘in’ crowd.  This isn’t God’s church.  He asked the fisherman, the commoner, the family-man.  ‘Leave it all behind and follow Me’. (he roughly said).  Jesus came to save everyone… so church is FOR everyone.

8.  How welcoming is the church?  This has to do with each and every member.  When a visitor walks in, how many people will they walk past before they are jubilantly greeted?  How long will they sit alone before someone joins them?  How long will they attend before being invited to a small group, a meal at someone’s home, or an event to get to know them better?  We are all some level of shy, awkward, and uncomfortable.  The ‘church’ (meaning God’s real and intended church) will bury those feelings behind the genuine excitement over seeing a new face to potentially join the mission with.

9.  Is the story current?  Is everyone still talking about the good ‘ole days?  Are you always hearing about the last pastor or some amazing family that moved on or has passed?  Churches doing the will of God will have new stories to tell.  New souls, new testimonies, new prayers answered.  It’s OK to reminisce on the past… but we can’t live in the past.  Just like your car, your stomach, and your wallet… that tank has to be filled again, and again, and again.  Jesus didn’t perform one miracle and then go back to heaven.  He spent a lifetime serving the Father and then finally gave up His life as well.  He gave it all!  Not just one thing, 15 years ago.

10.  Are children leading?  Jesus said we are to be more like children.  When the disciples tried to stop the children from coming to Jesus, He corrected them.  “let the children come to me”.  Why would the church not follow this example?  They may not be able to execute perfect exegesis of Revelations but they do know love.  And in many cases, they know love in ways that we have long forgotten.  Not only do they need to be trained, they need to be mentored and allowed to serve as any other member of the church.

No church is perfect.  But there is a clear distinction between those trying to be a perfect church and those trying to serve God perfectly.  If you don’t know the difference yet, I sincerely promise, you want the latter.   I want to encourage you to stand firm.  You will walk in and out of buildings filled with sinners.  When you find a place where the sinners are working with God to live a life of thanksgiving to Him… stick around.  I didn’t provide this list to shame existing churches or to start an argument over semantics.  This is for those searching.  I searched for over 20 years.  And I’m so thankful that I didn’t give up.  It’s far too important to abandon.  In some cases the church will be wrong.  In some cases you will be wrong.  I could easily write about all of the wrong expectations we bring into the church.  (and I might in the future :p ).  For now… encouragement.  Don’t give up.

An often overlooked scripture in the Bible is when Jesus told His disciples to wipe the dust off their sandals and move on when people didn’t receive the message.  Many, many Christians need to hear this scripture and stop trying to force God on people that aren’t ready for Him yet.  But I also find a broader meaning here.  This verse is about freedom.  We aren’t tethered to a location until success occurs.  We are simply asked to try.  Give it all you’ve got.  If it doesn’t work, move on.  Never quit.  There is never a quitting reference in the Bible unless its a tragic story.  Move on?  Yes!  Quit?  Never.  Jesus never quit.  Paul never quit.  Martin Luther King never quit.  Some of us find ourselves wanting to live life among those great and precious names, but only as long as things are going well. (reread point 6).  If you are a threat to Satan (i.e. if you are doing church right) life will not be going well.  He will attack.  But thank God you will be prepared with God at your side and a loving church at your back.

If you feel compelled to visit church on Easter Sunday… GO!  But think about why that is.  Think about what you may be missing throughout the year.  Consider why so many keep coming back week after week.  Talk to some friends that may be stronger in the faith.  Talk to someone at the church of your choice if you go.  One advanced step you can try in the privacy of your own home is to turn off all distracting devices (TV, radio, PC, etc) and speak to God.  You don’t need special words, you don’t need any scriptures.  Just chat.  Tell Him what is wrong.

God doesn’t want you in church… He wants you in heaven.  But the church is such a valuable tool, we often get the message lines crossed.  I don’t want to see you in church because there are some bad churches out there.  I want to see you accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior!!!!!  And that… will put you in search of a good church, serving Him.   God bless!

Jesus Didn’t Come to Win

The world doesn’t understand how Jesus lost for us.

We understand victory.  Triumph.  Splendor.  The cross was a dirty mess and it’s not in our nature to know what to do with that.

If you were a movie producer, how would you tell the story?  Whether it includes explosions, great speeches, or slapstick comedy, most of us would put a happy ending on the matter.  Just before the whip was raised… right as the crown of barbed thorns was lifted up… before the first nail was struck…

Something would have happened.  This wouldn’t even constitute a plot twist, it’s only natural for things to work out in the end.  Killing an innocent man is not a generally accepted principal.  Soldiers would have rushed in.  Angels would have descended.  The earth would have shook.  Supernatural.  Massive.  Epic.  Awesome.  We would have easily accepted these things.  But this story isn’t a fairy tale.  It doesn’t compete with summer blockbusters.

In this story, the innocent is brutally murdered… but the target was us.  He didn’t sacrifice Himself and then pull off an amazing, out of no where, attack scheme that allowed Himself to live too.  This is where we break away from the movies.  We didn’t all meet up afterwards for celebration.  We all didn’t make it.

God’s triumphant plan was not to blow the enemy away.  He came to save the lost.  This was more of a search and rescue.  And as the dust settles, we learn that we are saved through Him.  We learn of His sacrifice  We learn of His love.  And then we realize, He wasn’t just tortured and killed… He took our place.

And so we are left in this moment of miserable joy.  So happy that we are saved, so devastated that our sin held such a cost.  So excited that we serve someone willing to pay this price and yet so mournful of the horrible events endured by the one so loving.  We cheer, we cry, we laugh, we surrender to our knees and tremble.  How could someone do this for me?  What value am I?  And this holy, loving, perfect, one-true-God, He says, ‘this is what I’m willing to do for you… to reach you… to get through to you… to have you near me’.

The world doesn’t understand it because although many have died at the hands of the enemy, the body count still remains at one.  Jesus’ death is the one that ‘counts’.  Our sins are on Him.  For everyone else the price has been paid.  Our death is where the victory occurs.  And we really struggle understanding that sometimes.  We are so used to the phrase, “and they all lived happily ever after…”.  That only works by ending the story before its all over.  For us… because of Jesus… our story starts to get really good in the ‘end’.

And so those that believe sing that God is a “good Father” and that we are “Loved by Him”… perfectly defining the relationship.  A protective Father that loves us and is willing to sacrifice greatly for us.  And we, those deserving of a horrible fate, bask in His love for us.  We are not any adjective.  We are not our professions.  We are not the sum of our status’.  We are defined by God’s love for us.  We are a character in a story told about this amazing triumphant victory.  But that victory has to be chosen by the recipients.

It’s difficult to explain this amazing story where the Savior came to lose.  It takes time to wrap our heads and hearts around the fact that He came to lose for us.  In our place.  Instead of us.  Because He is a good Father and He loves us.  And we are loved by Him.  For 3 days Satan celebrated a short lived and greatly misunderstood victory.  Every day since is a celebration for us.  I think the important take away is that we can’t simply explain this story to others and have them accept it.  We have to show it to them.

They need to see the Savior.  We need to live like Him.  It’s a love story.  For God so loved the world… It’s a story that doesn’t make sense and it greatly needs an interpreter.  We can live those words.  We can share that love.  We can choose to be thankful for God’s gift and respect him with our actions.  We can show love.  We can show sacrifice.  We can teach through our choices.  And when we look enough like our Savior, the world will rejoice in the gift they find in Him.  After all, Jesus didn’t win in the traditional sense.  He didn’t come to win.  He came to love.  He came to serve.  He came to sacrifice.  You could argue He won by defeating Satan, but technically we can still choose to side with either one.  Which means we still have work to do. And its imperative that we learn to love the way Christ taught us.

 

The Greatest Command (aka, Christians, its time to step up)

via Daily Prompt: Seriousness

If you treat someone differently because of the color of their skin, you not only disregard the basic and most important command from God(1) , but you mock His creation altogether.  In short, you cannot claim to be Christian, which translates quite easily into like-Christ, if you do not hold the same attributes as Christ.

This is NOT a one way street.  Its the same law, its the same expectation to and from ALL races.  No one is exempt from the command to love equally.  We are all redeemable by God’s grace.   We must stop throwing out the basic principles of Christianity.

Pro tip on how to spot the lies of the enemy:  You think its ok to ignore the single greatest commandment given to us by God.  The laws of God are not meant to rule us… they are intended to free us.  It’s time to understand the Seriousness of your actions.  Be free of your hate.  Let go of your rage.  Walk away from the lies and step into the truth.  Embrace the love of God.

  1.  Matthew 22: 36-40

Your Love Awakens Me

I love my wife so much, I watched Untamed Heart with her.  It’s a movie from the 90’s with Christian Slater and Marisa Tomei.  In it, Christian Slater has a heart defect and needs a transplant to prolong his life.  He refuses and explains why to Marisa:  “I’m afraid if they take away my heart, I won’t be able to love you the same”.

His whole life his heart was dormant.  He barely spoke and never knew love other than the familial affection he received from the orphanage.  He said that Marisa knew peace and that brought peace into his life.  He fell in love and believed it was his physical heart that allowed him to finally have some peace and comfort in his life.

I’m guessing to most, this concept is either silly or romantic.  To me, its inspired.  Below is a song called “Your Love Awakens Me” by Phil Wickham.  Listen to the words of the song.

“Your love is greater”

“Your love is stronger”

“you called me out of the grave”

“you called my name and then my heart came alive”

“your love awakens me”

We get a clear picture that our hearts have been dormant.  We haven’t known love.  And then Jesus shows us peace and suddenly we come to life.  You could almost say, He gave us a new heart.  Go all the way back to the very beginning of the Bible.  Genesis 1:1.  God spoke words and creation happened as a result.  He didn’t know any incantations or cast spells.  He simply said, “Let there be…” and there was.  This God, this voice, this power… has spoken your name.  If you ever want out of the dark.  If you ever want peace.  If you ever want joy.  If you want purpose.  If you want to feel alive, truly alive… speak His name back.  Call on the name of the Lord and see what true love means to the creator of love.

While I hope this message reaches those that don’t know Him and gives them motivation to begin that amazing relationship… there are too many dormant ‘Christians’ that desperately need to climb out of the grave and start living life entwined with their Savior.  If you have forgotten that love, if you have lost purpose, be awakened!

 

I Loved You First

I think most of us are aware of the dream and often used symbolism of the two lovers running towards each other in the field.  When they finally meet, they embrace with explosive music triumphantly announcing the union in the backdrop.

What I would like to ask is, who takes the first step?  Many of us love through reciprocation.  “I love you too”.  While powerful, that is a response.  It’s clear that Jesus loved us first.  Our life is a response to Him.  When we choose to follow His example, that is our small way of saying, “I love you back”.

What about our love for each other?  The Bible discusses love at great length.  It’s easy to love those who love you.  (“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” – Luke 6:32)

So, how then do we love our enemies as commanded?  Many of us choose to do so by sitting back and waiting for them to make the first move.  They started it.  They are in the wrong.  Etc.  Following the example of Jesus, we must take the first step.  In the field of brotherly and sisterly love, we have to start the charge.  With arms open wide, we must run to the other.  It does not matter if they have not started running, we can cross the entire field to meet them if need be.

This is what Jesus did for us.  He met us.  He came to us.  He loved first.  And He embraced us on our side of the field.  There is no meeting in the middle.  There is no compromise.  We don’t compromise the word of God or His gospel.  But we can love.  We can meet them where they stand and show God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice.  The first move is on the Christian.  It always will be.  We have the wonderful example to follow, after all.  And the world needs to see this.  Let’s show them love.  Let’s show them Jesus.