Can I vent for a second? I’ve got a pet peeve that is just bugging the day lights out of me and I really need to just air it out…
The dictionary defines a peeve as “a source of annoyance”…i think this qualifies. I hear it all the time, read it in social media, and listen to it sung about in numerous gospel songs.
It is the infamous “hater” – you know, the person or persons that just love to see you fall or fail and conspire against you so they can’t relish in your destruction.
So…this is the deal. There are indeed people out there who dislike, wish you harm, or downright hate you. And yes, they may relish in your failures and missteps. We all have those people in our lives. Paul had those folks in his life for sure. And he many choice words to say about them too…read Galatians 5:7-12 for an example. He spoke of his opponents often, but for one key reason: To point out how his they were distorting the Gospel and leading the churches astray (see 2 Corinthians 11:1-15).
I think his key passage that settled how he felt about his haters is Philippians 1:15-18: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
What strikes me about these examples is that Paul’s primary concern is not his reputation or success, but Christ’s glorification and the spiritual growth of those congregations he has helped establish. That’s not to say that he didn’t care about that; but he reserved his most passionate words for those who sought to take advantage of the flock by teaching false doctrine. I think there is a lesson there for us. And by “us”, I mean, those who are Christians.For what is our primary goal in life but to make Him famous? And are we not told – no, promised that we would face persecution for His name’s sake (Matthew 5:11-12; Philippians 1:28-30). And, in what by wordly standards would seem like an insane twist, we rejoice when reviled – for His name’s sake.
And if that weren’t enough, our mandate from the Lord Himself is this:
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. – Luke 6:27-28 ESV
Maybe I’m just overly sensitive, but to me, talking about everyone who disagrees with us as “haters” does not follow the spirit of Paul’s heart, and certainly doesn’t fall in line with what the Lord spoke of in the Gospels. And even if someone legitimately wishes us harm, why focus on them, seeking to succeed only so you can prove them wrong or throw in their face somehow. AND…if I’m spending all my time speaking, singing, and writing about them, are they not in some sense winning anyway? The final question…if I’m all about overcoming my haters, whose reputation am I more concerned with – mine or the Lord’s?
Maybe I’m just misreading things, misunderstanding the meaning. But it just rubs me wrong…that’s all I’m sayin…
Grace and peace…
“…I rejoiced in The Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that i speak from want, for i have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Phil. 4:10,11 NASB
I was reading Philippians 4 tonight and came to a very familiar verse. I can’t tell you how many times I have read this verse, but today three words jumped off the page for me: “I have learned…” They kind of stuck in my throat as I thought about the context of this verse.
The phrase “I have learned…” tells me two things:
1. It didn’t come naturally
2. It took time and experience
Paul wasn’t born with a “contentment” gene. And he didn’t learn it by living a life of complete ease. Those “whatever” circumstances were no walk in the park…beatings, false arrest, shipwrecks, floggings. And yet he could say he could be content no matter what.
His contentment obviously didn’t come from his circumstances. I mean, who enjoys being beaten or flogged? So that contentment had to come from another source, a greater source that was unflinching and unchanging throughout…
As I continue to ponder this, I come to this conclusion: We don’t learn contentment by getting everything our flesh thinks we need exactly when we need it. And even if we did get it all, we still wouldn’t be content, We learn it in waiting and watching and seeking The Lord. Entrusting ourselves to Him and His timetable.
Lord, help us turn our eyes upon You, so that nothing we face can remove the joy of knowing You…
This past Saturday was…intense. That’s the only word I can come to, and even that seems to fall short. I’ve spent the past few days trying to absorb it all…and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. It was just that good.
Talking about grace is just that good.
Please bear with me as I stumble over my words and grasp for ways to express what I want to say. I feel as though a thousand weights have been lifted from my shoulders. As the light dawns in my heart and I embrace the idea that grace is for the whole of the Christian walk, I feel joy welling up in my soul. Not that I didn’t already know this…but the practice of my life somehow doesn’t match up to my knowledge.
I was foolish enough to think that somehow I must maintain my position in Christ by my performance, that after grace has saved me, I must now keep myself saved. I read this and marvel…surely if Paul were sitting here with me he would be crying out, “Oh foolish woman! Who as bewitched you…?” (See Galatians 4:1-4), shaking his head the entire time. Works are the antithesis of grace – the exact opposite!
The Word is plain – we are crucified with Christ. We have died and our life is hidden in Him. The life we live on this earth is by faith, by believing God. Trusting in what He says, knowing He is faithful to do what He promised. Faith is what pleases God, belief that He is and that He rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) I often think of Hebrews 11, and how the faith of the men and women mentioned moved them to act, to obedience. Just think of Noah: He was warned by God about things “not yet seen”. God said, “Rain is coming. Go build a boat.” Never before had water fallen from the sky…no one at that time knew what rain even looked like! Yet Noah obediently built the ark because He knew God and believed what He said.
How does this apply to me? God says I am holy and blameless before Him in Christ. This is truly something “not yet seen”! I know nothing about what it would look or feel like to be completely blameless. But God says it is true of me. He has mercifully placed me where I so obviously don’t deserve to be. I am to live each day filled with the reality of this gift of grace that He showers on me, “according to His good pleasure which He purposes in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9 NKJV). This is what gives me the power to obey, because I am obeying out of the depths of joy and gratitude such truth elicits.
How amazing is this grace!!
That’s all I can say right now…there is so much, but words failme for now. More to come…
Grace and peace…
“…[H]e has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” – Eccl. 3:11b
In our culture, we are bombarded with messages about how we can find fulfillment in what we do or have. Not long ago, the Lord challenged me on this point. I had to confess I had bought into the fallacy that self-fulfillment is possible. Nothing could be further from the truth; for there will always be that one thing that we need to truly feel we’ve got it. And then once we attain it, it loses its luster and we’re off to the next thing. It doesn’t matter what it is – our job, our marriage or singleness, our kids, our perfectly decorated home – if we seek true fulfillment from it, we will be left empty and rudderless.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 is one of my favorite verses because it reminds me of the reality that true fulfillment comes only from the Lord. Nothing of this earth will satisfy our deepest longings because we were made for eternity. We were made for the Lord, and only He can fill us to the full. There is nothing new or dramatic about that statement; but I need to be reminded of this precious truth on a daily basis. How about you?
Lord, remind us afresh today that we were made for You, and find the answer to our deepest longings in You.
My second year in seminary a group of us took a trip called a “Sankofa Journey”. Wikipedia defines “sankofa”:
Sankofa can mean either the word in the Akan language of Ghana that translates in English to “go back and get it” (san – to return; ko – to go; fa – to look, to seek and take) or the Asante Adinkra symbols of a bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back, or of a stylised heart shape. It is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
The purpose of such a journey is to look back so we can move forward. Most would find this idea preposterous…but in reality, we understand ourselves better when we first know where we have come from. I particularly like the definition “go back and get it”, the idea of going back and “getting” what our history as a country says about how we have been shaped into our various ethnicities, races, etc, so we can more accurately determine a better way forward. I am of the firm conviction that I need to know where I’ve been so I know where I’m going…I believe we all do…
Our journey was a tour of locations that were significant to the Civil Rights Movement. We began in Memphis, travelled to Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, and ended in Atlanta. We were paired up with another person from a different ethnic background, and walked through the journey together, sharing our different reactions and feelings as we faced our collective history. It was a life-changing experience in many ways.
The most significant part of the journey for me was in Memphis, where we visited the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum was built as an extension of sorts to the Lorraine Hotel, the hotel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. The exhibit took you from chattel slavery all the way to the day Dr. King was shot – the final stop being the room where he stayed the night before he died, and a window looking onto the balcony where he stood when the fatal shot was fired. At the time, we were not allowed to walk onto the balcony, but just being there, looking at that quiet balcony where a man was brutally gunned down was enough to jar the senses. At least for me.
After the museum tour, we walked across the street to the building where James Earl Ray fired the shot, looking out of the window where he rested his rifle and pulled the trigger, viewing the weapon used. It was an eerie feeling to be in that room.
I could write pages and pages about that journey and the myriad feelings I experienced through each step – from standing in the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where four young girls died, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma where marchers were greeted with riot police and Billy clubs as they sought to march to the state capitol to draw attention to voting rights.
There are those who would say all this happened ages ago and should be forgotten; but it was not so long ago that battles raged. Many who fought the battle still live among us and bear the scares in their souls and bodies. Race is still a dirty word that raises the volume of many discussions, sometimes rendering them useless in seeking solutions. We see it in our politics, our neighborhoods, our churches…if we believe we live in a post-racial, or even post-racist society, we are wrong. Our country’s identity was forged through the defining of people groups into those who would enjoy the benefits of democracy and those who would not. Race was paradigm through which these decisions were made. Race has shaped who we are as people, to the point that I would even argue we wouldn’t understand ourselves as Americans if we took it away. It is part of who we are, for good or for ill.
I am most concerned with how this has shaped the church in America, I have written and spoken before about my own struggles with race and identity, and how, even in the church I find no true remedy for those struggles. In Christ, my identity is assured; but as I walk through this life, it can be hard to reconcile the truth of my position in Christ with my lived reality. That is a post for another day; quite frankly, it exhausts me to think about it. But perhaps in the near future I will revisit it again…
I chose today to write about this because 45 years ago today, Dr. King stood on that balcony. Forty-five years ago today, the shot was fired that took his life. This man, who dreamt of a day when something as arbitrary as skin color would not determine the fate of his children, or any other child. What is interesting about Dr. King is that he believed in the founding documents of this nation; he loved the vision they cast. And he saw that our country was living far short of that vision. His passion was to see that vision come to pass, for us to live up to our stated purpose as a nation. I am a realist; I realize that we will never reach perfection; that does not mean, however, that we should not seek to do our part in moving us a little closer…
The contrast couldn’t be more stark – the respectable, religious leader and the dishonored sinful woman. The woman’s presence at the Pharisee’s home is scandalous enough; her lavish display of gratitude and love was “over the edge”. But in Jesus’ eyes it was worthy of note. As Simon’s heart was revealed by the words of our Lord, he is chastised for loving little. The woman’s actions displayed her understanding of just how much she needed forgiveness.
As I was reading yesterday, a realization dawned on me, and an answer to a long standing question became crystal clear. For literally years now I have been asking the Lord to help me find my joy again. I love the Lord, but my love had grown stale. Passion was replaced with routine. And while I know we can’t be riding high at every moment in our walk with the Lord, it had seemed so long since I had felt that warmth of soul that characterized my life not so long ago.
I felt like my joy had died.
The death of my joy began when being good became my duty versus being faithful being my delight. The resurrection of joy begins in rediscovering the absolutely audacious love of my God, whose love depends not on my “goodness” but His.
I grew up being “good”. Mostly because I had parents that wouldn’t let me do much of anything else! I am grateful for their discipline and care. Their care and discipline shielded me from so many pitfalls that could have easily found me. Being raised in the church provided a foundation upon which I could build an understanding of how to live.
But that understanding didn’t guarantee that a sincere love for the Savior would naturally follow. The formalities of religious upbringing were meaningless to me because my heart was not captivated by the depth of God’s love – and this through no fault whatsoever on the part of my parents. My hardness of heart sealed that fate, making my drift was inevitable – predictable even. God’s grace that lifted me and led me back was the surprise.
Even after returning to the church and truly giving my life to Christ at the age of 26, it has been so easy for me to drift – to wander away from the only One in which safety dwells. I can drift into reliance on my “good Christian behavior” instead of Christ for my righteousness. In those moments, my love cools. I forget that I need His grace in every moment of every day. Moments of clarity like yesterday are gifts from my gracious Father, sweetly, gently nudging me back where I belong.
O, to be aware more and more each day what it means to say I need His grace, His mercy, His love continually. Not just one time. But all the time.
More later…grace and peace…
It’s February 28, the last day of Black History Month. Wow. That flew by, as it always does. You blink, you miss it…I guess I blinked.
I started the month with a small lament that we still have a Black History Month, and that there is still a need for one. As I reflect on the month that has passed, this thought came to me:
My mom gave me one of the greatest compliments last night. We were talking about various issues, which is our custom, and I made a statement, “I just don’t like it when people get messed over.” And her response, “You get that from your grandma.”
My grandma was a wonderful woman. She was hard to know, but not hard to respect and admire. Her life was characterized by service: to her family, her church and her community. She was very active in fighting for equality and fairness in housing and education in Champaign, Illinois, and was a faithful servant of the Lord at her church. Her drive: she hated to see injustice. And she was not one who sat idly by on the sidelines and complained. She was a woman of action. My mom inherited that passion and has modeled a life of service and advocacy herself.
To be told I am like her is the highest of compliments. And I pray I will continue this legacy myself.
So…about Black History Month. This month is about more than the achievements of notable African Americans that made “history” in some fashion. This is indeed important, and should be taught – and all year around I might add. But it is also the history of family. My family history is rich and broad. I love the fact that I know so much about their lives and struggles. I have a better understanding of myself as I learn about where I came from. And it helps steer me into the future as I consider the direction of my life from this point forward.
If I were to sum it up, understanding the meaning of my ethnic identity is rooted deeply in my understanding of my own family history. As I get older, that understanding has grown, and I have come to appreciate who I am in within that largetr context. This spurs me on to follow in the footsteps of those who came before me and seek to make a difference, even a small one, in much the same way they did.
That’s the real purpose for Black History Month…at least from my vantage point.
Grace and peace…