salvation

All posts tagged salvation

Because He First Loved Me

Published June 18, 2017 by Dawn

I had a very humbling experience the other day. I was lying in bed the other morning It was really early … like, the birds weren’t even up yet. I laid there hoping for the best in terms of falling back to sleep and eventually slipped into a nap. I had this dream that the Lord was looking for me, searching deeper and deeper into the depths of this really dark pit. He finally made it to the bottom, still faithfully calling out my name. There at the bottom, he lifted up this thick covering and there I was, hiding underneath it. I looked up at him with fire in my eyes and venom on my tongue as I hissed, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

I was a little kid who had lost a game of hide and seek. The Lord searched until he found me, and to my shame, when he finally found me, I was insolent and hateful. I had the sensation that this dream was a picture of Jesus. He was searching out the deepness of my heart, looking for me. I was humbled to hear myself whisper such a horrendous thing to my Lord. His gentle love in that moment humbled me greatly as I heard the Spirit whisper, “…because he first loved me.”

Being transparent seems easy for me, but I have to admit that this one was hard to even delve into for myself, much less admit it out loud for the world to know. I’ve prided myself for years … Is it okay if I get really transparent here? I might not have admitted this out loud to anyone before, but the truth is that me not being who I once was is a huge deal (to me). I took pride in it for years. Being redeemed, being transformed … I took pride in that. You will say to me, “That’s not Christ-like.” I know, friend. I know. I couldn’t help myself. I know that person, and I know myself now. I know the pit I came out of and I felt the weight of escaping it (though now I know I didn’t feel hardly anything compared to what Christ carried for me), but I felt it and the memories made me very proud to be where I am now. Are you hearing the echoes of pride as you read this? Is it turning you off? I am so sorry. I just want you to know what happened to me the other morning and to understand, you have to understand where I was at. I was proud. Of myself.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the arms of Christ. I have patiently bore the suffering for His name and His purpose in my life. I have not created my own way and called it good. I have remained as faithful as I can to His Will. Don’t abandon reading now … I know what this sounds like, but bear with me. I have, through all of this, nurtured this pride that somehow, I have attained “good enough” because I have strived for holiness, wrestled with flesh and maintained a firm hold on my own righteousness.

Yes, I credited God with my mouth. I thanked Jesus from my heart. What he did for me on that cross was amazing: buying me from the clutches of sin so I could pursue holiness. And each step forward, I patted myself on the back. That’s why Christ uncovered me. Because all this time, I have given credit to myself for something I could never have done on my own. There, in the secret place of my heart, I watched in horror as my child-like self hissed “I hate you” to the one who sought me, found me and pulled me out. What is there to be proud of when you know yourself like this?

That wasn’t the worst part, though. That wasn’t what did me in. Here’s what did it: He looked at me tenderly in that moment and I could see it on His face. He loved me in that moment.

Something happened. I broke. Jesus, hearing my rebellious heart hate Him, looked me in the eye with such compassion and reached for me anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood the cross until this moment. I have spent endless hours reading the Word of God, drinking in the love story of He and Us, but the truth of it never hit me as powerfully until this moment, when His compassion destroyed my pride. I can’t even love Him without Him first loving me.  To me, that would be the easy part compared to some of the things I have been through. If I can’t even do that one thing without His help, how can I claim credit for anything?

I can’t.

Not only do I know now who I am without Him, I know fully what I am capable of. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I have done nothing. Without Him, I’m full of wickedness and a lover of darkness. I only have light because of Christ. I only walk in light and share light because of Jesus. Paul bids me to “take care lest ye fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and now I know just how far I am capable of falling. I am also humbly aware of just how much Jesus has done for me, in spite of myself. Not only am I ashamed of my pride, I am ashamed of my propensities outside of Christ. I thought I had a hold of righteousness, but it turns out I am fully capable of making the devil blush.

I’m in awe of Him. I am in awe of a God who can know this about me and still love me fiercely. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and I am so unworthy. Who could blame God for dealing harshly with someone like me? But that’s the incredible thing: He doesn’t.

He loves me.

Not just me, though. You too, friend. You too.

 

Dear Lord,

Your love is so incomprehensible. I can’t fathom the depths of your mercy. I am so humbled and grateful. Please continue to heal me and lighten what’s dark and forgive me. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your compassions that don’t fail. I love you … now, even from the depths of my heart, I can honestly say I love you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. You are so good.

 

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What Went Down That First Easter

Published March 27, 2016 by Dawn

“It … is … finished.”

Jesus’ last breath sent a shiver up his spine. Hiding in plain sight among the stragglers still standing near the cross, Lucifer shuddered as a coldness swept over him. He stared up at Jesus feeling victorious, but something about his death seemed all wrong.

He knew prophecy. The power of the spoken word. He had been there when Yahweh has spoken the earth into existence. He stood glorifying the King with the rest of heaven’s hosts that day. He marveled then, and marveled now, at the power that enveloped each word spoken by God. He was bitterly jealous of the Almighty for that very reason. It was a power Satan did not possess.

Distressed by the icy grip that had taken hold of him, Lucifer quickly fled toward Sheol, content that the Son of Man was no longer living. Unbarring the gates, he descended into the halls of torment to breath in the familiar comfort of man’s agony. His home. His paradise.

“Lucifer!”

The grip tightened. The coldness seeped deeper. That voice. He thought he’d never hear it again. He thought it was over. Hadn’t he just heard Jesus say it was finished? Wasn’t it supposed to be finished, then?

Lucifer turned in terror, straining to identify the sound coming down the stairwell from above. It was the unmistakable sound of destruction. His beautiful gates, with their familiar sqeauky hinges, were now being ripped irreversibly from the thick walls of the cavernous hovel he inhabited. A deafening crash followed as no doubt they were tossed carelessly, yet forcefully, aside. Frozen on the landing, Lucifer could do nothing else but cower as he heard the quickly approaching footfalls echoing as if a gigantic being were headed toward him.

“Accuser, I have come!”

Beads of sweat formed all over Satan’s cold, jaundiced man-form. Jesus stood before him, whole and towering menacingly. All the authority Lucifer had feared in God was in His son, and he knew he was powerless. He couldn’t muster the courage to even mumble a reply.

Jesus held out his hand. “Give them to me, now.”

The command was enough to draw the demon’s hand out of his cloak involuntarily. Against his will, he thrust the keys forward. His hand was shaking violently. The thought of Jesus touching him was terrifying and repulsive.

“Here! Take them!”

Jesus reached out and pulled the keys out of Lucifer’s hand. Clenching his fist around them, he commanded silence from all of the underground world. Looking hard into the face of his enemy, he spoke with such assurance, Lucifer could only stand mutely, whimpering in agreeance as his role in the universe became an insignificant minutia for all of eternity.

“All power and authority has been given to me. You will hereafter be a minor detail on the fringe of humanity. Though some will flock willingly to you, others will only be harassed by you. None will be conquered or overcome without their willing consent, and after the times have reached their fulfillment, you will be cast out into utter darkness for all eternity. Is has been decreed and will surely take place. Sin and death are hereby defeated. There is no power in hell, no power in fear, and no power in you that cannot be conquered by just the whisper of my name. Mankind will forever more subjugate your kingdom with the power alive in them. It is the same power alive in me. Tremble, you cowering snake. Today, I have crushed your head. It is finished!”

Without another word, Jesus turned and left. Satan sank to the floor, unable to combat or defend his realm. He felt the power drain from him. He heard the faint tic-toc of eternity echoing through the halls and for the first time, abhorred the sound. Utter darkness. The Lake of Fire. He knew his time was near the end. How much longer he had, he could only guess, for no one but Yahweh knew the times appointed. He trembled in fear. Jesus had overcome. God had won, just like He said He would. Lucifer crumpled up on the landing there and let out a piercing howl. He had been stripped and beaten. Defeated. Yes, he felt it in his marrow. It was finished.

 

 

Crucified with Christ

Published March 8, 2015 by Dawn

Have you ever followed Jesus up Golgotha’s hill? Have you ever walked behind his broken, bleeding body, traced the jagged lines cut in him by the whips, and wept at his pain? Have you ever cringed at the weight of the cross he bore as he slowly stumbled up to the brow? Have you ever closed your eyes and clenched your teeth tightly against the blows of the heavy hammer that drove thick nails through his hands and his feet? Have you ever watched them hoist your bleeding Lord above the jeering, mocking crowd?

Did you ever stand weeping while the soldiers mocked his faltering breaths? Did you hear them bartering for his clothes? Did you hold his grieving mother as she wailed for her son? Did you stand under the flickering of torches in a strange midday darkness, listening for his moans to indicate he was still alive? Did you hear him say it? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?”

Did you brace yourself against the chilly wind of that awful black day, when darkness hovered so close to the ground, waiting pensively for his last breath? Did you raise your face to him and weep? Did you hear him cry out in anguish, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!” Did you listen to the stillness afterward, right before he breathed his last? When his chin fell forward, finally giving way to death, did you groan inwardly?
Have you been crucified with Christ?

 

I just crucified Jesus. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done. I can’t do anything but cry. I have killed my Lord and my God. I have walked with him up Calvary’s hill, being both the soldier and the friend, and I have watched myself crucify Jesus. I watched him suffer under my heartless torment, devised by the wickedness in my own heart. I stood at his feet and simultaneously wept and jeered. I was both of them, the good and the bad. I heard him say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” My heart fought with the sword meant to pierce me through. Thank God for prevailing! I watched his last breath, felt the anguish of his soul when he cried out in my place, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” His question unanswered, he breathed his last. I WATCHED HIM DIE!

The words of Thomas echo in me, “Let us go too, that we may die with him.” Because Jesus calls me friend. Just like Thomas at the thought of losing Lazarus, my heart is rent and I can’t leave him here. How can I walk away from him, my best friend, bloody and torn upon that cross? Instead, let me die here. Let me die here with him, my soul’s lover. My husband. My savior. My King. My God.

If I must get up, if I must continue to live here, let it be only because of the risen Christ within me. “For I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live. Not I, but Christ that lives within me.” Because I can’t bear to do this again. Knowing that I have crucified him myself with my sin. With my silence. To see myself standing there, clothed, before a naked Christ. Undeserving yet fully forgiven. I am unworthy!

The Shame of a Prostitute

Published January 19, 2015 by Dawn

Gomer covered her face in shame after hearing the name Hosea had chosen for her son. Lo-Ammi. “Not my people.” Her husband knew her shame and disgrace. He had found her many times in the beds of other lovers, and sometimes, even in their own with other men. She had been driven by her body into the arms of many others, and Hosea had always taken her back. Called her back. Dragged her back and demanded she stay. Her beautiful daughter played softly in the corner, her older son standing near his father watching Hosea hold the newborn near his heart. Lo-Ammi. Gomer watched him, painfully aware that he already loved this baby that was most likely not his own. Just like he loved Lo-Ruhamah, her little girl. Lo-Ruhamah, “not loved.” He had given her that name at God’s command, and yet, he loved her fiercely. She brought a light into his eyes no one else could. She seemed to be the apple of his eye. Hosea was the strangest man she’d ever known. And she loved him … but not more than she loved herself. She didn’t love anyone more than she loved herself. Not her husband, not her children, and not their God. She knew that. She wished it weren’t true, but she didn’t know how to love anyone, really. She rolled over and covered her head to block out the people in her life, and accepted this new child like she accepted the rest: with resignation and weariness.

***********************

I am fascinated by Hosea. A man called to be a prophet, chosen to represent God’s love affair with the children of Israel, and told to marry a prostitute. I can’t even imagine that kind of obedience. God asked for the best years of Hosea’s life and then gave him heartache. And told him to love it, to chase it, to hold onto it no matter what. Hosea obediently married Gomer and was given a son. His firstborn was his own. The children to come were bastards claimed by a man in obedience to the Lord. I believe God filled Hosea with all the compassion and love it would take to deal with the promiscuity of Gomer and to raise her illegitimate children like he was their own father. And I love that about Him.

I imagine the days in their home. Lo-Ruhamah looking lovingly into the eyes of her daddy, this man who called her daily “not loved,” as he held her and gently rocked her to sleep. Lo-Ammi running out to greet Hosea every day after work, running into his arms and hugging his daddy with chubby baby arms. Hosea putting crying children to sleep; they miss their mommy and he’s inwardly torn between his anger and pain on their behalf, and his concern and worry for her. How many nights did he go to bed wondering where Gomer was? How many times and in how many different ways did he excuse her absence in their home? How did he react when she came home on her own after nights spent in other beds? How did he respond to friends and family who knew her shame? How did he explain the names of his children to his mother? I imagine he kept a close eye on his daughter as she grew up, and spoke to her often of the woman he hoped she would be. I hope he told her often that regardless of her name, he loved her. I imagine him working side-by-side with Lo-Ammi, a son who was not his people. I hope he assured him that he would always be there for him, no matter what. I hope Lo-Ammi had the assurance of the prodigal son: that dad would always be there watching and waiting for him to come home no matter where he went or how far he ran. I know by the way Hosea chased Gomer that her children knew the depth of his dedication to their family.

Hosea’s obedience served as a daily reminder to the people of Israel of how much God was committed to them. That no matter how far they run, no matter how many gods they chased after, and gave themselves over to, He was continually calling them back to Him. Although they were so  called unloved and not His, He claimed them and loved them unconditionally. In Hosea 2:1, the Lord says, “Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.” And with that, God reversed the name spoken over them.

Hosea’s story also represented the New Testament dedication of Christ. He came for us. He calls us His bride, and loves us enough that he was willing to take on our sin and our shame. We are Gomer, sleeping around with many others, giving out real estate in our hearts to lesser gods. Being beckoned by a Husband we hardly know how to love. Being drawn back to a man who, like Hosea, gave His life for us. Hosea gave his life in that he was obedient to marry a prostitute and raised her children, enduring a lifetime of heartache and shame because of her. Jesus gave his life to death on a cross, enduring our shame. He looked at our sin and said, “I hate it. And it’s not mine. But I’ll carry it. I will bear it for her, because I love her so much. I am committed to her.” And no matter how bad it hurt, no matter how hard it got, he set his face like flint and endured it for us.

I’m also encouraged by this because when others look at us and decide that we are unloved, and when others don’t want us, we have a Daddy who will hold us and love us anyway. In spite of our shameful past, His arms ache to hold us. We make Him smile. We are the apple of His eye. We are claimed. We are His. He loves us.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)”

Another Pentecost

Published June 8, 2014 by Dawn

Peter walked briskly through the dusty road, his hands loosely swinging by his sides. His pace let everyone around him know his was on a mission and soon, there were several following his lead. They’d seen the look of determination on his face before and knew exactly where he was going: the upper room.

Peter swatted at the fly darting annoyingly at his face, and whispered to himself, “Jesus.” He immediately felt the aggravation melt away, but his attention caught the edge of Mary’s flitting skirt and his muscles tensed with that familiar ache. He forced his face forward and whispered again, “Jesus.” He walked faster, watching his feet move through the street to avoid the constant distractions. Then a scream pulled him from his concentration and he looked up just in time to avoid the donkey barreling toward him, dragging its harried owner. Peter breathed hugely and whispered, “Jesus.”

By the time Peter made it to the upper room, he’d endured a solid hour of temptation and distraction. The name of Jesus had become like the pulse of his heart, gushing from his lips. Never had he felt so attacked … or determined. He settled himself near the window in the upper room and closed his eyes as others trickled in. They whispered in wonder, and he continued to press in despite the hissing noise that was trying to tear him away. “Jesus.”

He’d been up for hours now, unable to sleep. Finally, he responded to the Spirit calling him and he went to the upper room. Although everyone was wondering why he was there and if he had something to share, he kept his eyes closed and his mind on Christ. Eventually, they all followed suit and began to pray with him. Their eyes were no longer on Peter, no longer on each other. Like a mantra, they whispered throughout the room, “Jesus.” Time lost all meaning, and Jesus was now on their lips, now on their hearts and minds. Then suddenly, Peter felt the wind began to blow gently and peace descended on him. As the breeze picked up, he felt the strangest mixture of heaviness and lightness all at once. He opened his mouth to breathe deeply, and after one huge inhale, words began to spill forth. Strange words. Words he had never heard before, but felt from the depths of his stomach came rushing out of his mouth, accompanied by the greatest power he’d ever felt. It reminded him of Jesus.

The room erupted. Noise came from every corner. Peter opened his eyes to see fire hovering above the heads of his friends and family, and incoherence spilling from their mouths. Still the power coursed through him and he lifted his hands and refocused his mind on Jesus. Before long, he heard a huge commotion in the streets below. He looked out the window and was greeted by a thousand astonished faces. Some were snickering, some snarling, but many were simply perplexed. He heard one say, “They’re all drunk!” And those around him laughed. Suddenly, fire filled Peter’s heart and a flame touched his lips, and he leaned out the window and said loudly, “Men and women of Jerusalem! These men are not drunk as you suppose! They are filled with the Spirit of God!” The crowd instantly fell silent, listening intently to the melodic sounds coming from the upper chamber. Then one shouted jubilantly in Greek, “I know that language! It is my own!” And others throughout the crowd, who’d only journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, shouted in their language as they recognized their words spilling forth from men and women of Galilee and Nazareth. And within minutes, a great throng of people heard about Christ for the first time, in their own language and from the mouths of everyday townspeople! Peter, pulsing with the power of the Holy Spirit, became animated and began to describe emphatically the life and death of Jesus, refute the accusations and lies of the Pharisees, and proclaim Christ to the multitude. When he was finished, many walked away with something to think about. But three thousand gave their hearts to Christ, repented of their sins and were headed for the Jordan to be baptized!

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This is fiction, I know, but it’s on my heart today. Today is the anniversary of Pentecost. Happy birthday, church!

One thing I noticed about the church, though, is the way it’s changed over the years. It all started out as a gathering of prayer. Check out Acts. It was all about gathering with fellow believers and praying. The evangelism was a small part of the church. The prayer was as common as breathing itself. The men and women who began what we call church today were men and women without titles, without degrees, and without any other motive in gathering but to pray, exhort and encourage one another. They weren’t the most prestigious in the community, and they weren’t the pageant winners. They were the hungry, yearning for something more than what the Pharisees were doing in the synagogues.

Poor Jesus. He used to be the focus. He used to be the purpose of the church. Without realizing it, church has become so much more than it’s humble beginnings, and because of that, so much less. Miracles are no longer common occurrences, the anointing is so faint we can barely recognize it, and when we do get a healthy dose of the Spirit, we are so uncomfortable, we shut Him down and toss Him out quick so we don’t lose anyone. It seems we’d rather come in and go through the motions than wait on him in a very vulnerable, humble atmosphere of prayer. Are you still wondering why the church is incredibly ineffective in today’s society? Could it possibly be that instead of pressing in to know God and hear His heart for the world, we push in to the pews, settle our bums there and listen for the “in closing …” announcement of the pastor. Do you really think Satan would have a fighting chance in a society that has decided to pursue Christ alone? Peter saw three thousand saved one day and five thousand the next. We aren’t lacking the numbers, church. There are just as many unsaved sitting in our churches, and billions more who don’t bother with church at all. If this is war, we are the laziest, most selfish soldiers who ever enlisted.

Oh, the truth hurts so much. I’m not pointing fingers, for sure. I’m just as guilty. But for once, I’m suffering from some major motion sickness. As much as I love the gathering, the praise and worship, and the encouraging and uplifting message, I’d trade it all for some heavy anointing and glory to the degree that the only thing I can do is lay prostrate at His feet while He cleanses me, restores me and fills me up to overflowing. I’d like to be so full of the Spirit, I change the world without saying much of anything. Simply being here, walking among the hurt and the lost, and dripping the condensed power of God all over their circumstances. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is in me. Peter’s shadow healed people! Renew your works in our days, Lord!

What’s it going to take? I could be wrong, and realize an opinion isn’t worth much, but here’s mine: It’s going to take some people who are willing to admit that what we are doing isn’t working all that well. Sure, it’s cool, and it’s good for us. The Pharisees thought what they were doing was also cool and good for everyone. But was it powerful?

In closing, I’d like to say this: we all keep talking about revival and we are yearning for something more. I just wonder, what will it take for us to humble ourselves? Will it really take catastrophic events, or is it as simple as the church coming together to seek His face. Not just talk about how it’s the best thing we can do, but really doing it. Calling off the masquerade, dropping our masks and getting real with God. Losing our self-righteous veneer and getting real with each other. Humbling ourselves, repenting and turning away from the sin that we are steeped in, and seeking His face. This is how we take America back, church. Not with another program, but with another Pentecost.

When I lose my mind …

Published August 22, 2013 by Dawn

A few Sundays ago, a man at my church sang a song that took me way back. It was a song I heard when I was a young girl that I used to just rock out to. You know, a song that speaks so highly of Christ and tells your salvation story so well. A song you can’t help but dance to. And I couldn’t. I was up on the platform, sitting with the rest of the worship team and couldn’t contain myself. I was dancing in my seat! I have to admit, this is not the norm. My church isn’t exactly charismatic, doesn’t worship like that at all …. Like, ever. But I was lost in the joy of this song to Him. I wasn’t thinking of anyone else but the Lord and the truth that was being sung. I was thoroughly engrossed and enjoying myself.

When he finished singing, I let out a whoop so loud in exaltation to my God, and clapped like a fool. The lady next to me shot me a look that silently asked, “Have you lost your mind?” With no defense, I had to silently admit to myself, “Yes, I have.”

I don’t know exactly what was going on inside my head at that time. I was lost in the worship and joy of my Savior. I love what Christ has done for me and inside of me. Sometimes, I guess I just lose my mind a little. I try not to. I know it’s not cool to do that, and definitely not normal. Or socially acceptable. I’d apologize, but I know it may happen again, and then what?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of David dancing before the Lord as he brings the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem. His wife Michal looks down from a window and sees David outside making a fool of himself and thinks, “He’s lost his mind!” She actually despised him so much in that moment because of the scene he is making. After all, he is the King. Seems he should have a little more pride and dignity, right? When the celebration was over, David went home and Michal jumped down his throat about it. Forget the tight-lipped glare. She gave him the what-for! “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls … as any vulgar fellow would do.”

I love David’s response. I have prayed for this level of devotion for many years. He said to her, “It was before the Lord … I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed after all was said and done, by my behavior that Sunday. Humiliated in my own eyes. But in that moment, I was worshipping Him recklessly.

I came across this verse in 2 Corinthians that speaks to such displays. Second Corinthians 5:13 says this: “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God. If we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Honestly, this verse says it all. What the Lord did for me, what He ransomed me from and the price He paid to secure my heart and my eternity, blows my mind. I can’t get over it. And sometimes, I just get a little nuts about it. I forget any one is around and I lavish on Him and I allow the fullness of joy to spring up in me. Sometimes, I pray to Him without regard to time or the noise I may be making. Sometimes, I dance or clap or shout. I’m not thinking about anyone or anything else. Just Him. And I express the love that overwhelms me in a way that may seem a bit … overwhelming. I don’t mean to be offensive or distracting or ridiculous. I just have a temporary lapse of reasoning. All the other times, the times of composure and soft worship and whispering to Him … in other words, when I’m in my right mind … that’s all for you. I don’t want to freak you out or drive you away so I contain myself until I get home. There’s plenty of time to dance around and shout to Him while I’m cooking or cleaning. My kids don’t mind. So if you will, please overlook my random acts of insanity. I just lose my mind a little when I think about what He’s done for me!

Setting Things Straight…

Published May 7, 2013 by Dawn

I’ve been meaning to write all this for some time. Well, since Pastor Rob Bell came out that he supports gay marriages. It wasn’t just his support that bothered me so much as the things he said about the church. I’ve been praying about the topic since then, which is I guess my official reason for not putting this out there before. I want to be firm on where I stand and I want to, above all else, represent the Gospel to the best of my ability. I find need to finally write it because I need to clarify things for myself and for anyone who cares to hear me out. I make no apologies.

Let me begin by saying I believe in love. I believe that we are capable of loving all types of people, and I believe you can love someone God did not intend for you to love just as easily as you can love someone God did intend for you to love. Love is an abused emotion, quite superficial and self-seeking this side of Heaven. And because it’s more of a self-serving thing, it’s easy to love almost anyone, because the love is mostly directed toward yourself. Who doesn’t love their own self?

I also believe in love in the sense that God is Love. I believe as equally in unconditional love as I do in the conditional love we tend to serve up. God’s love is unconditional and unquenchable. And I believe that we are capable of this kind of love as well, with the Holy Spirit residing in us. This is the kind of love that possessed Jesus to live 33 years enduring intense trials here on earth, culminating in a criminal’s death on a cross, to ransom the whole of humanity back to God. Dying for people who have always, and still tend to, reject you? That’s some intense love.

Just as surely as God is love, God is also righteousness. This is the part that hurts our carnal selves, because God has standards, and people do not. God did not say to us, “If it feels good, do it. It must be right.” He said, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:7)” That means we are responsible to recognize sin and refuse to let it overcome us. Romans 8:21 puts us all on level ground by saying that “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace.” But even that does not give us the license to continue in our sin, because Paul goes on to say that “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment…” In other words, Jesus died for your sins, so you are free to admit them, accept His sacrifice and forgiveness, and walk in a newness of life. But if you reject that newness and continue in your sin, you have pridefully rejected God’s will for you.

If I could, I’d reprint the Bible in its entirety so I don’t have to express my thoughts in the absence of God’s whole Word. But since people are more willing to read my little blurb than the Bible, I chose to use the verses I have used to discuss the ongoing conversation surrounding homosexuality and the crisis it brings to the church. While “crisis” may seem like a strong word, I can call this present situation nothing less than that. Homosexuality and how Christians should or should not react became front page news not too long ago, when mega-church Pastor Rob Bell came out in support of gay marriage. Since then, there’s been a firestorm. The LGBT community expects Christians to decide for or against them, and staunchly opposes all those who are against them. But even then, I think that wording is wrong. You see, as a Christian who believes that “all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16)” I have to accept the good, the bad and the ugly. To me, it’s all beautiful because if I let the scripture have it’s way in me, I become more like Christ every day. I believe it’s only bad and ugly when we refuse to let it change us, but then, it’s really not the scripture that’s ugly … it’s us. Therefore, I am not against anyone. The Bible is against sin, and offends those who refuse to submit to the dealings of the Holy Spirit. I must agree with the word of God, whether it is accepted or rejected. If upholding God’s values makes me unpopular, that’s okay. I’ve been unpopular for lesser things. I’m no longer living to please anyone else but my Audience of One, the Lord.

I don’t think anyone who cares to know how God feels about the matter can deny having read Romans 1:26-27, in which Paul distinguishes between natural relationships and unnatural relationships between men and women, and he calls unnatural relationships “shameful lusts.” Of course, I don’t have to do an extensive elaboration on what the Bible says about homosexuality. We all know God does not condone it. Did He tell us to avoid those who practice it like the plague? No. This is where the church is wrong. Did He tell us to rejoice in their lifestyle? No. This is also where the church is wrong. How do we reconcile these two things? By accepting the person without accepting the sin. Which means Christians can love people who sin just as Christ did, without condoning the sin. He didn’t shame the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t condemn her. But he didn’t approve of her sin, and she knew that. He didn’t shove it down her throat. He just let her know where he stood on the matter and he didn’t change his mind to make her happy. It was up to her to accept that in her relationship with Christ.

With all of that being said, let me now remark on the article that came out in the Huffington Post regarding Bell’s recent comments on homosexuality and the church:

“In response to a question regarding same-sex marriage, Bell said, ‘I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.’”

Jesus didn’t affirm people wherever they were. He said to the woman caught in the act of adultery, “ … Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. (John 8:11)” Not “go and continue on in whatever you think is right, or whatever works for you.” He wasn’t afraid to call her actions sin, and he made no apologies for speaking truth to her. He left her with a pretty heavy decision. For her to “go and sin no more,” she was going to have to walk away from a relationship that didn’t please the Lord. Surely this hurt her, and my heart aches for her pain. I too have been confronted by God about things in my life that displease Him, and have been torn away from things I would have liked to hold on to. But the decision to become closer to Him meant I had to let go of the sin that separates me from Him.

“[Bell] said, ‘I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people.’”

The Bible says, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that lead to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)” Mr. Bell, I don’t think it has anything to do with politics. Jesus created that subculture, and even turned away a lot of people by saying things that made people uncomfortable and challenged their way of living. And I don’t think that subculture is dying. It’s been around for over two thousand years. It may be quiet right now, but just as fervently as some pray that it dies out all together, I am praying that those following the narrow path will rise up to challenge this false word that’s going out.

“’…And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.’”

Frankly, I don’t think there’s been enough noise. I think those who know the truth that sets men free have been way quieter than they should have been, and that’s how the world got in this present mess. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus himself said he didn’t come to bring peace. “For I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)” Jesus wasn’t willing to leave people in their sin. He loves everyone, but His love is so great that He’s not willing to appease the masses by saying that sin is okay. Some things displease God and those things, if we desire salvation, must be acknowledged and submitted to God. God wasn’t looking for superficial “loving and compassionate people,” because the kind of love you are talking about hinges on whether or not God approves, or His bride (the church) approves people. That’s conditional. If love and compassion have to be bought, what kind of love and compassion can it possibly be and how much worth my returned affection is it? I love people, regardless of their sin. The Bible approves this, because the Lord did this also, remember? “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)” But Christ didn’t die to leave us in our sin, but to bring us up out of it, if we will let Him. I love people, regardless of their sin, but I love people way too much to waiver in my faith for their vanity. I love people to the extent that I am willing to lose their goodwill by being honest with them.

*scriptures taken from the New International Version

*http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/rob-bell-comes-gay-marriage_b_2898394.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false 3-18-13 By Greg Carey