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A Stone’s Throw Away from Judging My Neighbor

Published July 22, 2017 by Dawn

“Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matt. 7:1)

It’s the newest hot-button issue. The world loves this verse. Heck, so does the church. We’re throwing it around as a means to fend off anyone who wants to talk about morality because as a society, we’ve decided morality is so last century. I’ve been praying about this one for a while, because there are some scriptures in the Bible that seemingly contradict this one, and we’re all a little confused.

Because this is such a delicate issue, the authority of scripture is the basis of all commentary presented, and I hope this blog reads more like an expose. I also hope you understand that I have spent hours researching scripture and praying over this. I don’t claim to know it all, just want to present the scriptures and I pray the Holy Spirit leads you to the truth of God’s Will.

Let’s just begin here, with Matthew 7:1-5. I’m going to use the NIV text for ease of reading. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Ok, we have the topic of judging, alongside the topic of hypocrisy. This is a great place to start! Most of the time, this text is quoted in part. In effect, “Don’t judge me. The Bible says that.” But look further and you will notice that in differentiating between your plank and your brother’s speck, Jesus is referring to one thing: seeing your own sin. Christians should be introspective about sin before they discuss it out loud. They should know their own sin and then deal with it. To paraphrase, “take care of your sin first.” Christians should not speak of sin if they don’t have a healthy prayer life involving repentance. If we don’t know our own spiritual depravity, we shouldn’t try to help anyone else. When you come to know the depravity of humanity and what you are capable of, you can approach the topic of sin from a place of humility. Humility is so important, especially when discussing sin with unbelievers. When we have a nonexistent or weak relationship with Christ, we cannot help others understand topics such as repentance, forgiveness, and grace. There is no salvation from sin without these.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says “deal with your sin first, then help your brother.” This is where things can get a little uncomfortable. Because we are called to talk about sin … no one likes that truth. For a more in-depth understanding of what Jesus meant, let’s follow Him to the scene of another group of church members discussing someone’s sin.

It’s important to understand, however, that the same Jesus who said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” also said, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s take a look at John 8:2-11:

“At dawn he appeared in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’

”Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away, one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

“’No one, sir,’ she said

“’Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”

Ok, that’s a lot to digest so let’s take it in a little slower. It starts with the representatives of the church, those specifically entrusted to carry the Word of God to the world … the Pharisees.

Ouch, church.

They caught her in the act and decided something had to be done. According to the law, they would have been justified in stoning her. They were zealous for God, and loved righteousness. In this, they weren’t wrong. But when they picked up the stones, the true motives of their hearts were revealed. They didn’t want to redeem her from her sin. They wanted to punish her for it.

We still do this. I shake my head at Christians every day on social media who, zealous for God, only quote the law and lambast the transgressions of everyone who is not in line with it. Jesus dealt with the Pharisees by again pointing out their hypocrisy. He encourages them to take a hard look at their own lives. It’s a humbling thing, to be sure! The bottom line is this: we cannot talk to the world about sin if we do not have an understanding of our own sinful nature apart from the saving grace of Jesus. Because one thing the world is not wrong about is that we Christians also sin! What separates us from the world is not our purity, it’s our repentance. If we aren’t repentant, we are not pure!

The Pharisees also made a public spectacle of this lady. They pointed out her sin in front of a crowd of onlookers and demanded Jesus do something. What they failed to understand is that this approach did not make the woman repentant. It made her ashamed. People who are publicly shamed are more apt to be bitter and hardened to any effect the Holy Spirit might otherwise have.

Therefore, I believe the church, if we must speak of sin, should do so in a way that brings that person to Jesus in private. It is hard to be naked in public, people!

Finally, her redemption happened when everyone else left.

Everyone.

We don’t have to hang over people to see how things pan out after we bring them to Jesus. They will be much better off alone with him than with us anyway. Ultimately, redemption is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can and should present the Word of God without error, and we should pray with and for people. But we are not responsible for anyone’s salvation once we have presented the truth. Their blood be on their own heads. However, if we refuse to share truth because we’re scared of the world’s reaction, their blood will be on us. “When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely  die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezek. 3:18).

Listen, I know it’s uncomfortable. I’ve been dodging this bullet for years. The world is so well-versed on the “Don’t Judge” scriptures. But having read scriptures, we can see that talking about sin is not judgment. Jesus says to help a brother out with their speck after you have dealt with your own. He also addresses the woman’s sin after dismissing the mob. Discussing sin is not the issue! The issue is how we do it! That is where judgment creeps in. When we confront sin with an attitude of superiority, we stand in judgment over our fellow man. When we confront sin with an aim of seeing punishment afflicted, we stand in judgment. When we relish hatred in our hearts toward unbelievers, we are so guilty of judging them. Condemnation is a satanic tool; it resides in the heart of “Christians” who love justice without mercy. We also have to be aware that people are comfortable with their sin, and often love their sin. We cannot destroy them in the process of trying to “help” them. When Jesus said, “with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” he was talking about the measure of grace you extend to others. The measure of mercy. That’s a dangerous thing, church, to mete out judgment! If we aren’t extending love and mercy in our hearts, we are measuring out our own condemnation. That’s scary!

The crux of the matter, then, is this: “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin” (James 5:20). This verse right here should be the driving force of any conversations we may have about sin. It is true: you can catch more flies with honey. We have to be aware that quoting scriptures will never be enough. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). When we speak it in the authority of of God, with the love of God in our hearts toward people and the attitude of Christ about sin, that’s not judging. Speaking truth in love is a possibility. No, more than that, it’s a mandate according to Ephesians 4:15. For that, we should never apologize. But we should tread lightly and for God’s sake, put down our stones!

 

 

 

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Going Through the Motions

Published July 6, 2017 by Dawn

“Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, ‘Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemy.’

“So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

“ When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, ‘What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?’ When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. ‘A god has come into the camp,’ they said. ‘Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods that struck down the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!’

“So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (1 Sam. 4: 1-11).

Isreal, God’s people, were in battle. Surrounded by the enemy and being defeated mercilessly. They were so sure of victory, they went into battle a little under prepared. We know that because they didn’t even take the ark of the covenant with them. It had been at the forefront of their trials in the desert, their crossing the Jordan and stepping into the Promise Land. All the battles won as Joshua was obedient and conquered the land so the people of God could have a place to call home. The ark went before them, symbolic of the presence of their great and mighty God. They knew where their strength lay … for a time, at least.

Then it happened: they went zealously into battle against a great enemy. The giants in the land – the Philistines. Israel, so sure of victory, went into that battle with nothing more than a grand illusion and lost. They had forgotten to bring God into their plans, and subsequently, their plans failed.

An elder knew immediately what was wrong. The ark wasn’t there. But to the new generation of Israelites, who hadn’t been in the desert, it was only a relic. They went after it, of course, and brought along the “priests” as well, but it almost seems like they just set it up ceremoniously on the edge of the field of battle, celebrated their forthcoming victory and again, went into  battle in their own strength.

It amazes me to think of how it happened: they Israelites even shouted in praise that the ark was there. Their praise was so loud, it shook the ground and got the attention of the enemy. It scared the Philistines, and awakened them to their impending doom. Their solution? Fight harder.

It worked.

How?!

I literally sat here and cried after reading this. It’s just like us, friends.

I prayed to understand, because frankly, I’m sick of being defeated. Here’s what happened:  The Israelites were defeated the first time because they went out high on past victories, in their own strength and completely underestimating their enemy. When they were defeated, someone reminded them that their past victories were due to the presence of God among them, so they went back and grabbed the ark. Sadly, to them, it was the symbolism that mattered, not the reality. They went through the motions and expected that God was in it. He wasn’t … because they hadn’t spent time seeking His will and His way to victory.

The really disturbing part is how their hollow worship scared the enemy into action. The Philistines recognized something the Israelites did not: They had brought gods into the camp. Not God. Little Gs … gods. They had brought their own idolatrous ideas and plans into the camp and worshiped as fervently as they knew how. Their enemy noticed and although they afraid, their fear was based on what God had done for the Israelites. Not what the Israelites had done for themselves. Are you getting this? The Philistines’ fear led them to fight stronger and because the Israelites had a form of worship with no power, they were defeated.

This scares me, church. And humbles me. And suddenly, the continuous battles and frequent defeats make sense. Maybe it’s because, instead of truly seeking God, we’re just going through the motions. Maybe that’s why America’s church is powerless and the world is in chaos. Satan seems to be winning because he is, I’m afraid. Because we’re fighting him with gods; our own ideas and strategies are failing us. We have for so long refused to get still before the Lord and seek His face. Instead, we’ve changed the program a hundred and fifty different ways trying to bring people in, but all this time, what we really need to do is bring God back in. Not with our preconceived ideas of how things need to go, or what people want to hear. People need God. They want to hear God. Not you. Not me. They are dealing with deep calling unto deep, but we’re beckoning them into shallow church services. We’ve reduced the movement of God to a program and put Him in a box we refuse to let Him out of. That’s what Israel did. They went back for the box, but they didn’t open it up and let God do what He wanted to do (technically, they were forbidden from opening the ark, but I’m speaking metaphorically here). They were afraid it would look a little foolish, maybe. After all, they defeated Jericho by walking around the walls and shouting. They defeated the Midianites by breaking clay jars and blowing trumpets. All God’s plans, and let’s face it: it was a little weird sharing the war stories. A little humbling. They couldn’t take credit. Maybe that’s why they went out without Him. Maybe they wanted to actually look and feel like warriors instead of weirdos. How’d it work out? Defeat.

I think it’s time to stop going to war without God. Stop trying to win people to our ideologies and get back to what scripture actually says. Stop trying to make it fancy and give it to people straight. Stop worrying about if they like our worship and just worship. It’s not for them; it’s for Him. Stop candy-coating, or polishing up, the truth and give it straight. It is the truth that sets men free, not a confusing combination of cutesy anecdotes and platitudes. Our sermons have become so devoid of actual scripture, the garbage being fed to the multitudes is quite vomitus. No wonder the world can’t stand the church! God himself would like to spew us out of his mouth, no doubt!

Stop doing your thing, church. Do God’s. And if you don’t know what that even means any more, I think that’s a good indication it’s time to get on our knees and shut up long enough for God to speak. He hasn’t changed. He cannot. He will not. Therefore, we must.

Judas is Alive and Well

Published June 23, 2017 by Dawn

“Then Jesus said also unto the twelve, ‘Will you also go away?” (John 6:66-71)

Am I the only one who reads this and immediately asks, “Why didn’t Judas go then?” He had an out, and obviously no fidelity to Christ, so why didn’t he take this opportunity to turn away? I’ve spent hours studying this and I think it’s because Judas had access through his relationship to Jesus, to something that greatly benefitted him. His image, and thereby his ego: He was the keeper of the purse … and he was a thief (John 12:6).

I can’t imagine he was comfortable in his position. After all, Jesus alluded to him early on by saying that one of them was a devil (John 6:70). Did this memory ever prick Judas? Did it come to mind as he reached into the purse while no one was looking? Did he remember Jesus calling him out while he stood in the shadow of the synagogue waiting for his thirty pieces of silver?

Obviously, Judas was a snake in the grass all along. I mean, I imagine when Jesus sat down to eat with Pharisees, Judas sneered and jeered right along with them. We get a glimpse of his true colors when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with precious perfume … Judas couldn’t imagine a bigger waste. “Why wasn’t this sold and the money given to the poor?” He couldn’t stand her devotion to Christ, but he covered his hatred with a piety that likely caused division in the room. His comment likely sowed seeds of distaste among everyone there. After all, the poor were a Godly consideration, were they not? Her humble way of honoring Christ was disputed and I can’t help but wonder if Judas leaned back at every table they supped to with his arms across his chest waiting for an opportunity to condemn the graciousness of God for the sake of the law.

Unable to shake his disapproval, Judas eventually stood in the outer court and pilfered Jesus out to the highest bidder. He was willing to deliver this man who called him friend. Why? Satan had entered him. How can Satan enter someone who is walking next to Jesus every day? All he needs is an opportunity, it seems. Judas provided that opportunity by esteeming his position and his access more than he esteemed his Lord. His rebellious nature was evident in the way he questioned Jesus instead of rejoicing with him. He welcomed Satan by refusing to submit to Christ as his sovereign Lord. To him, Jesus was a man. A man he hardly valued. Thirty pieces is a small price to exchange for eternal life and everlasting love, but Judas took it and betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Let’s pause here and notice the kiss: Judas betrayed Jesus, but still acted like his friend up until the very end. I have thought about this part all day long. How did Jesus respond to this betrayal? I reflected on it first by asking, “How would I?” My immediate response would have been to steel myself against the blow; act as if the crushing weight of it hadn’t affected me at all. As I thought about this, I realized that this approach is the place bitterness firsts digs in. When I have been betrayed, my response is to ignore the feeling of it. But the result is not what I imagine it should be: with every memory, the pain hits me fresh and I have to bury those feelings again. No, Jesus did not respond like that because such a response inhibits immediate forgiveness. To feel such betrayal is sometimes unbearable, but I have intentionally felt betrayal, to see what can be done and there’s only one thing: to cast that upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), or be crushed by it. I know this is what Jesus did. It’s very scriptural. He felt the betrayal wholly and then cast it immediately upon his Father so he could stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). After casting betrayal on the Lord, His help enabled me to forgive, and I know Jesus immediately forgave Judas for hurting him because holding on to hatred is sin and Christ was without sin (1 John 3:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

As Christians, we will be exposed to the person of Judas in one of two ways – I won’t exclude the possibility that we can be exposed to both.

Firstly, we can be a Judas, loving the office in God’s house more than we love God. Loving the attention and the access more than we love and honor our Heavenly Father. We can be Judas by hating in our hearts those in the church who display any kind act toward Jesus, and justifying our hatred by drawing attention to the folly that often accompanies their efforts because God knows how to humble people. We can be a Judas by betraying Christ, or his workmen, by something as seemingly innocuous as slander or undue suspicion. God’s children do well to cultivate self-control under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, to avoid doing harm to His Son!

Secondly, we can be exposed to Judas through others. Every church has a Judas, and every individual will know one. Here, we have to lean upon the example of Christ. Jesus allowed him the money bag. His thievery was evident to all but ultimately, between him and God. Jesus allowed him to self-implode. Judas no doubt experienced deep conviction while traveling with Christ. Jesus was holy and shared a message of righteousness. Judas had opportunity to repent, but embraced his sin instead. Jesus let him. Jesus didn’t turn away from Judas’ kiss, which I am sure made the impact of Judas’ betrayal all the heavier to bear. Jesus heaped the burning coals (Romans 12:20); he didn’t respond to betrayal with hatred in like manner. Jesus defended the innocent from Judas’ charge, but he didn’t berate Judas or publicly humiliate him.

Jesus was (and is) in all ways gracious to everyone, including Judas. This means two things to us: God’s grace will forgive the Judas in us, and we should be gracious when hurt by the Judas in our lives. This much I know is true: Judas is here to test and betray us. Jesus calls him the devil (John 6:70), and the devil “has come to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). However, Beloved, Satan could not defeat Christ, and he cannot defeat those who are completely surrendered to Jesus and sheltered by the Almighty! Don’t be Judas, and don’t be defeated by him either.

Sinners in the Church

Published May 12, 2017 by Dawn

“Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, ‘This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.’ They followed him because he amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.”

Simon was well-known and praised among the people. His witchcraft awed the crowds and led people to exalt him as someone in God’s favor. Sorcery being a demonic activity, we can clearly see that the crowds were wrong. People who easily talked about God obviously did not know God, or they would have seen through the ruse. The crowd was duped by Satan.

 “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw …”

Finally, the message of the cross resonates with the people – and with Simon – and they all get saved and are baptized. Even Simon.

“When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered, ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin’” (Acts 8:9-13,18-23).

After Simon is saved, he’s still chastised by the disciples because his discernment is way off. Peter recognizes two things in him: Simon was full of bitterness and captive to sin.

Full of bitterness.

Captive to sin.

But saved.

What?

I know it’s hard to believe, but Christians can say the right things, be baptized, and still need to examine themselves. Christians can be saved and still be full of dangerous things. Being made holy is a process. God will shine His light on so many parts of us, showing what displeases Him and expecting us to deal with it so we can draw closer to Him. That’s why it is so important to understand that we should not consider our sin a sad biproduct of living. We are freed from the power of sin. We are freed from the clutches of sin and we are capable of saying “no” to sin. We just don’t. We embrace and excuse our sin because that’s easier than getting on our faces and crying out for God to cleanse us. We would rather not know we need help. We would rather be saved and left alone to wallow in our flesh, like a pig wallows in the mud.

Peter told Simon to repent his wickedness. To ask for forgiveness for the thoughts in his heart. He called out Simon’s sin so that Simon could recognize his need. Having a “Don’t judge me!” attitude ensures that you will remain blind to the things the Holy Spirit has chosen to deal with in you. Having any attitude besides humility ensures that a person is unwilling to see themselves for who they truly are inside. In need of a Savior. Not just once, but every day. The Bible tells us to keep with repentance. That’s a continual drawing near to the cross, seeing the savior there and knowing that it’s because of what’s within us.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is within you – unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

In the Likeness of the Glory of the Lord

Published April 20, 2017 by Dawn

“Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezek. 1:26-28)

I read past this the other day with much difficulty. I reread it a time or two, but endeavored to move on in reading Ezekiel. Instead, though, I kept turning back to it. It was like the Lord was beckoning me to really consider what the Word was saying here. So I turned it over in my head, taking it apart word by word until the full meaning of it sunk in. You see, Genesis 1:26, 27 says this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Always questioning my own understanding, I pressed in. “Teach me, Father, what you want me to know in this.”

Here it is: We were created in the image and likeness of God, and created to bear His glory out into a lost and dying world. We should be that rainbow on a cloudy, rainy day. We should be aglow with the radiance of God all over us. On fire from the waist up and on fire from the waist down. Surrounded by brilliant light. Sadly, I have to admit that I am often blowing on dying embers instead. I asked, “God, what will it take to be on fire like that?”

He told me … it’s not an easy thing for anyone. One must be willing to be set on fire. And when the fire of the glory of God comes on a person, it burns up everything that is not of God until that person is walking in a supernatural, consuming blaze in the likeness of God on his throne.

Many of us are willing to pay somewhat of a cost. Many of us will submit to God on one level or another. Some of us will go further than others, willingly taking on the pain of burning a little for a flame.  But very few of us are willing be completely consumed because that means complete destruction to the fleshly nature and we tend to love her … a lot. Especially in these days, because we have been led to believe that our feelings are gods. We worship so much of ourselves without even realizing it. We harbor the flesh when we should be allowing the Holy Spirit’s fire to burn it up ‘til there is no more of us left and we say, as Paul did, “Not I but Christ lives in me.”

God told Moses at the burning bush that no flesh can see him and live. The glory of God is not a trifle. It’s dangerous. You must be willing to be consumed, or not approach at all. Sadly, many of us reach a point in our pursuit where we know it’s safer to turn around than to continue forward and we turn around without hesitation, though God is beckoning us to come nearer still. He knows the cost. He ordained it. But still, He beckons us because he also knows what he can do in  and through one soul that is willing to submit in all things, walk into the blaze of glory and come out on fire from the waist up and from the waist down.

Will you be one? After all, friend, we were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made to operate in that glory. We were made to be consumed by it. Scared as you may be, don’t let fear keep you from your rightful position next to the heart of God, walking about in a radiant light in a world otherwise steeped in darkness. Cast everything else aside that has been distracting you from this one thing and kneel before the Father in complete submission. Let him rid you of yourself so you can be his hands and feet. After all, this is what we are called to. This is what we were made for. On fire from the waist up, on fire from the waist down. Ready and equipped to be the likeness of God in a lost and dying world.

Child-like Sons and Daughters of God

Published February 8, 2017 by Dawn

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19-14).

It probably started out innocently enough. A toddling boy clambered up Jesus’ bent knees and threw his body clumsily into the arms of the smiling stranger, or a little girl ran through a mesmerized crowd and thrust herself into his laughing arms as he sat teaching a multitude on a hillside. At some point, Jesus encountered a child that stole his heart, and from then on, they became a large part of his ministry. Parents who, at one point probably held their children back for fear of upsetting those around them as they listened to the teacher, felt more at ease as they watched Jesus’ playful interaction with the children who no doubt grouped around him, taking advantage of the fact that he was the center of attention. His disciples were indignant. Perhaps Peter went first, grabbing a child before he could run headlong into Jesus’ sermon and accosting him to turn back and find his parents. And maybe James and John, those Sons of Thunder, stepped into the path of a gaggle of kids and put them on the road back to their families. Who knows which disciple reacted first or said what. What we do know is that the disciples wanted Jesus to be able to minister unhindered by the nonsensical interaction those kids were after.

Jesus’ response was precious. In essence, he said, “Don’t stop them from coming to me. Let them come!” And then he said something that applies to all people, regardless of their age: “…for such is the kingdom of heaven.” What does this invitation mean to us? What does it mean to be “such as” a child? I’ve pondered this for a while, made a list of qualities I find universal to children, and will do my best to explore the depths of what it means to be child-like in Christ.

To begin with, children are often more obedient. They don’t spend time questioning the wisdom of their elders. They recognize authority and respect those in authority. Of course, there are exceptions but they are the exception, not the rule.

2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Holiness is a hot topic in the church today, only no one talks about holiness. They talk about grace and accuse anyone whose ministry includes righteous living of being “religious” or “under the law.” But I wonder what minister who truly hears from God doesn’t preach on righteousness and holiness, “without which no man shall see God” (Heb. 12:14).

A child of God is obedient not because he or she is trying to earn his or her way into heaven. It is because the child loves and respects his or her Father. This holiness is God’s desire for us, and His children pursue it because it is His delight. I don’t want to be righteous so that other people are in awe of my life. I pursue righteousness and make hard decisions every day that keep me in line with the will of God because I love Him and respect His lordship in my life. A child of God is not attracted to the laisses-faire lifestyle that says because of grace, we can live uninhibited. Uninhibited is a dangerous path for a child of God to walk, because it is flirtation with the world and the temptations of the enemy. A child of God appreciates boundaries and lives to know the will and happiness of the Father.

In the same strain, that child will actively seek the guidance of the Father so that he or she may know what makes His heart glad. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). He spent time away from the crowds, away from even his closest friends, to be alone with his Father and hear the will of God. He is our example, if we are the sons and daughters of God. Children know they don’t know everything. They seek the wisdom of their elders. They spend time listening and will follow the instructions of someone they trust unequivocally. They ask for direction, they want to know what will work and what won’t. They want to understand the world around them and how they fit into it. Our Father is able to instruct us, if only we will become like children and ask … then listen.

Children are a little intrusive. They do not understand, nor care to understand, the concept of personal space. A parent’s lap is a child’s perch from which he or she sees the world. There is safety there. Comfort. Peace and tranquility. Children love to get close and cuddle. Still to this day, my daughter will lace her fingers in mine while we stroll through the neighborhood, forgetting the world around us and walking hand-in-hand with me like we have since she was a toddler. If I am sitting in the living room after a long day of work, you can bet one or the other of my children (or even sometimes both) will be snuggled up next to me, melting into my side and making it impossible to move. I love this about my kids. I often muse about how much God must love it when a dear child of His refuses to give Him any personal space. I know He must delight in those moments when we press into Him, discontent until we are smooshed up against His ribcage, looking up into His face in adoration. Or as we walk beside Him, our hand in His, losing ourselves in that contact. It’s rapturous.

Another thing I love about children is their reckless love. Children have no prejudices. They don’t see color or sex, they don’t care about socio-economic status and they don’t spend any time worrying about where a person comes from (or comes out of). A child loves to love others. A child of God loves to love others. There are no lines of division. A child of God will love even those who are living in sin, praying earnestly in intercession for those who are taken captive by Satan’s schemes.

I’ve also noticed how much emphasis kids put on eating and drinking. I have a niece and nephew that must taste everything in my house when they come over, and wash it down with a gallon of milk. Children are good eaters. I’m talking, of course, before they become picky. There was a time when both of my kids ate a vegetable and fruit at every meal … the good ole’ days. Anyway, the point here is that when there is food and drink available, kids will eat when they are hungry. And they are mostly hungry. A child of God will exhibit the same kind of ravenous hunger and thirst when it comes to the Word of God and communion with the Holy Spirit. When the Food and Drink are available, a child of God will unabashedly dive in to satiate the spirit-hunger that comes upon them. He or she will take time to feed off of the goodness of God on the regular to keep from starving to death spiritually. And a child of God will notice spiritual starvation and immediately hit the heavenly pantry for a powerful snack or a banquet at the end of a long day.

Finally, children are full of joy. They laugh. A lot. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “… the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Children of God will find strength in being joyful. Satan will try to wreck the lives of God’s children because he knows that a child of God is stronger when joy is abundant. He saps us by destroying all our reasons to rejoice in God. But here’s the secret: God is our reason to rejoice, regardless of our circumstances. Christ alone. A child’s greatest delight is their parents. Not their belongings or their friends. Not their positions of sports teams. Simply their parents. If God’s children can get back to the simplicity of this kind of love, we would be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). We would be strong in spite of the storms of life, because we would live in the joy and delight of our savior.

 

 

 

 

Label Me a Christian

Published February 1, 2017 by Dawn

I feel like these days, I live in a swirling vortex of intoxicating information and I am having such a hard time keeping track of myself among all the smoke and mirrors. It’s a constant struggle to remember who I am when the world offers me an alternate identity, slapping it on me without my consent. I feel assaulted, slapped with an identity that looks nothing like the person I know myself to be, and then I wrestle with it because I don’t want to submit myself to a definition I don’t fully agree with. I thought I’d sit down today and set the record straight so that when the labels start flying, I won’t be confused for one moment about who I am or how I stand in this world.

 

I’m a Christian. I don’t hate women, Hillary Clinton or Middle Eastern refugees. I am a woman, and I don’t hate men either. I think men are amazing and get way too little credit for being awesome. Are there bad men in the world who make horrible decisions? Sure. But there are equally guilty women in the world too. Speaking of equality, I don’t think men and women are equal. Having lived as a single mother for fourteen years, there are many things that happen in my life on the regular that a man would take care of much easier and better than I can and do, and I am okay with that. Please do!

 

On to Hillary Clinton: I didn’t vote for her. I didn’t vote for Trump either. I didn’t vote for the lesser of two evils. I chose peace. I voted in a way that left an abundance of peace in my heart. I have no guilt over how my vote was cast, no regrets and there was no hesitancy in the voting booth. There was a lot of prayer, a measure of peace and a vote that made very little difference in the big scheme of things. I don’t care. I voted my conscience and was rewarded with peace.

 

Bigger social issues like abortion and LGBT? I will always speak out about abortion and I won’t ever agree to say things that make people feel better about themselves. Not because I hate people. I hate murder. I hate that women are given a choice that on the flip-side, still holds dire consequences. Instead of dealing with a baby, they will deal with guilt and shame. You see, it’s a lose-lose situation. I will never not speak up for an unborn child. I will also never speak up from a place of anger or judgment. I don’t have to agree with you on the issues to be loving. Jesus disagreed with a lot of people, yet loved everyone enough to die for them. If the truth sets people free, I am all for it. Since my Bible assures me that’s how it works, I will give the truth in love 110% of the time. The same goes for the LGBT community. I’m not a fanatic, but I do believe that God (our Creator) has standards. He has defined our boundaries and made clear what is and isn’t sin. He didn’t do it to hurt us, He did it because He loves us and would rather see us not under the power of Satan. I will side with that truth 100% of the time, but I will not bash you or hurt you in any way because Jesus wouldn’t do that either. He once met a woman who was “living in sin” at a well and addressed her sin … in love. That’s possible. It’s not hate to disagree. It is hate to lie. It is hate to not love.

 

Do I support Donald Trump? Listen, I’m not scared of Trump or his administration and it’s not because I have faith in him. I’m all for “making America great again.” It sure would be nice for my children to grow up in freedom and opportunity, but it really does seem like a pipe dream at this point. In truth, I see this going south at a very rapid pace. I’m still not afraid. I don’t agree with unvetted refugees, but I also can’t agree that a ban is the answer. If we let in a bunch of the most radical ISIS militants while saving innocent lives, I would consider that worth it. But I also feel like the refugee process is an appeal to pity tactic, a logical fallacy, and that the truth of how it works is very different than the media insists. America will accept refugees that can add to its narcissistic pursuit of wealth and happiness. Our country will not take the poor, innocent children or much-persecuted Christian unless that person or group of persons has a high dollar sign attached. We live in a day of quid pro quo, which is a fancy way of saying, “What do I get in return?” This is why Mexico’s unsecured border is such an issue. It’s letting in a wave of undocumented (untaxable) immigrants who do not contribute to that bottom dollar lining Uncle Sam’s pocket.

 

How do I feel, as a Christian, about Muslims in our country? I’m not afraid. I don’t believe we serve the same God but I also know that many Muslims serve their God about as half-heartedly as many Christians serve mine. Going through the motions without being sold out. For a Muslim to be sold out to Allah, he or she must accept that killing infidels is the most immediate command of their faith, just as loving God and loving our neighbors is the supreme law of the Christian faith. A radical will believe the truths and tenets of their faiths unequivocally. I guess you can say I am a radical Christian. Does a radical Muslim scare me? No. You see, in all of these things, I submit to God. His favor is my delight and obedience to Him is my constant pursuit. I’m not perfect, but I believe in repentance and forgiveness. I have faith that no matter what … no matter who is president, where ISIS is roaming and what kind of persecution might be coming my way, I have a fortress and defender. Rejection by my peers doesn’t scare me. Persecution from the left doesn’t either. Being killed for my faith doesn’t particularly send me into rapturous praise just yet, but one day it might. If I die because of my faith, I will do so knowing I have not been swayed by the vascillating opinions of mob-mentality that is slowly taking over every facet of the American life. I’m a Christian. You don’t define me. I don’t even define me. God does. I live up to His standards to the best of my ability and ask Him to make me more like Jesus every day.