Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, peace, prayer, retreat, righteousness, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, trials, Uncategorized

There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

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Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, loss, love, Spiritual, trials, Uncategorized

Do you love Me?

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific --- Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific --- Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”

“Wow!  Really?  Finally!  I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind.  Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected!  And I’m just the one who could get this movement started.  I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz.  We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep.  It’s time for war!!!”

“I’M ON IT!!  I’ve already got some ideas.  I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you.  You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think?  I’ve got my sword ready.  I can defend and fight for our cause.  You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash!  And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right?  And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit.  But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town…   I’ll be safe, right?  I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”

Not exactly how the conversation went.  But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…

The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times.  Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression.  Excessive taxation.  Public mockery.   Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith.  Imprisonment for spreading the gospel.  Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth.  Even unto death.

He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…

Do you love Me?

Feed My sheep.*

Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love.  He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs.  The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints.  They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb.  But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter?  Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees?  Organize the troops to fight the government?  Lead them into war?  No. He said “Feed My sheep.”

If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door.  Arguments rage and emotions are on edge.  Opinions abound and frustrations rise.  Complicated issues demand a response.  Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do.  Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake will find it; that is, life with Me for all eternity.  Matthew 16:24-25

Will we die for our faith?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives.  He called us to death from the beginning – death to self.  Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud.  There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him.  They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope.  Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods.  And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission:  “Feed My sheep“.  Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**

Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do.  He spent his life feeding His sheep.  No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman.  No.  I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all.  Even unto death.

In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us?  Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually?  Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?

I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us?  Pray.  Support.  Give.  Vote.  But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission.  Give action to His command.  Love the unlovely.  Help the helpless.  Stand for the defenseless.  Forgive the unforgivable.  Tell of Him.  Feed His sheep.

 

Do you love Me?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  The real one.

**source:  Wikipedia

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, trials

What would I do?

Videos weren’t videos back in the day; they were reel-to-reel films.  We welcomed the sight of the cumbersome projector in the classroom for it meant a break from the normal routines of our studies.  The films used for Social Studies and Geography classes were my favorites.  Real life movies that gave us glimpses into other parts of the world, a world so far away and different from the small country town that held our school.  Films that gave greater meaning to the words and pictures on the pages of our books.  Films that opened our minds to imagine what it would be like to travel and experience a different kind of life.

There was, however, a down side to this exposure.  At least there was for me.  Along with the unveiling of different cultures and lifestyles, the films often included the difficulties of those living in harsh climates and barren lands and places with limited or no medical assistance.  We saw images of those who had succumbed to sicknesses and diseases for which there were no cures.  Much to my horror, I learned of Elephantitis. Elephantitis is actually a symptom of various diseases which causes body parts to swell to massive proportions, but having heard the word and seen the images, it became to me a most feared disease.  And while I hated the spindly appendages on my body called legs, embarrassed that my ankles were so thin they didn’t stretch out the wrinkles in the cheap, crumpled pantyhose occasionally purchased for me, I could think of nothing worse that having elephantitis.  I silently added this to my rapidly growing list of fears.

Moving from elementary to junior high (now referred to as middle school) the use of educational films continued with the addition of those designed to prevent us from doing drugs.  We saw films filled with needles and pills, strobe lights, swirling colors, and strange music that was supposed to represent the hallucinogenic effects of dangerous drugs.  I cannot tell you whether or not this display was accurate as the films had the desired effect on me – they made me terribly afraid of drugs and the prospects of going to jail (new additions to the aforementioned list).

The use of this type of visual teaching aid was not limited to the public school system; from time to time they were tools of the church:

A lone Christian behind bars, his head in his hands as he sits and awaits his fate.  He’s been captured by those who oppose his beliefs and it is time to choose.  Stand or surrender.  Choose to die rather than live.  That is what he will be asked to do in a matter of days or hours.  Is his faith strong enough?  Will he renounce Christ in order to live?  What would you do?

I remember nothing else from that particular film other than this brief scene.  Permanently embedded in my mental photo album, this image was cause for great concern over many years.  What would I do?  Not mature enough to understand what God would require of me as a child, I feared the end of days would find me a coward.  The last word I would have used to describe myself at that time was brave.  I was the farthest thing from courageous that you could find.  This tortured my soul as I so wanted to please God, but was sure that I would buckle under the pressure of being thrown in jail and my life threatened.  This fear became a biggie on my list.

Looking back, I realize that this may not have been the wisest choice the Sunday School teachers could have made.  I personally would not recommend this as a teaching method for our children.  However, now that I am older and wiser, secure in my faith and confident in His ability to help me, it’s not a bad question:  What would I do?

This morning there are over 200 Christians that have recently been captured by those who oppose their beliefs, and that’s just the latest report from one country.  There are many, many more scattered across this globe.  Brothers and sisters that awaken today not knowing if they will ever see their families again, not knowing if they will be one of those chosen for the next horrific video that will be shown around the world.  As I read the report from the comfort and safety of my home, I wondered “What would I do?”

What would you do?  It’s not a bad question and it’s ok to answer “I don’t know.”  But let’s allow the question to provoke us not to fear, but to pray for those who are afraid.  To be fervent and diligent to remember them and their families that they will be strong and that their faith not fail.  To pray that they will experience His presence in a profound and powerful way today.  And to pray for those of us who live in comfort and safety that we will keep a right perspective on what is truly important.

So maybe the better question for us today is “What will we do?”

…unite with me in earnest wrestling in prayer to God…  Romans 15:30

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:10

 

What will I do?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, Jesus, love, new creation, praise, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized, worship

Missing the point

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you saw a photograph I had made of my children.  I had a wonderful young photographer take two precious pictures and unite them to show that while my son is in heaven, he is still with those who loved him, particularly his sisters.  Lest you misunderstand, I do not believe that he is hovering around in a ghostly form nor does he appear when summoned.  That is a topic for another day…

Most people who’ve seen the photo get it.  They understand what it represents.  A few do not.  It doesn’t really matter to me whether others understand, I only care what my girls think.  I had it made it for them.  I know that when they look at it they completely understand my motivation and my heart.  It was an expression of love that says to them “I know.” “I know that you are grieving.  I know that you love him and miss him so very much.  I know that you hold the same hope as I that we will see him again.  I know.”

I can only imagine my anguish and disappointment if they had received this labor of intense love and simply said “Thanks.  That’s nice.”  It would have broken my heart if they missed the point, if they did not let it bless them and comfort them in some way.

In Monday night bible study we are digging deep in to the book of James.  James was writing to a fellowship of Jewish believers.  Jews who had been steeped in the Law yet had discovered Grace.  His instructions in this particular letter indicate they were struggling with the letting go of the demands of the Law they had spent their lives endeavoring to follow.  As we discuss the verses, we often allow a little speculation and imagination as we try to understand how James’ audience was responding to his words…

They knew that Jesus had died for their sins and that He taught that the Law had been fulfilled, but I wonder how many of them still quietly slipped into the temple area and continued to make the sacrifices they had always done.  Just in case.  Keeping the Law as their back-up plan in case they had misunderstood this Grace that says sacrifice was no longer needed…

I am pursuing this Grace with a determination to get it.  To understand more and more what it is and what effect it is supposed to have on my life.  Yet even while I read the words and know with my brain that Grace says no more sacrifices are required for sin, I still often find myself caught in self-condemnation or works of penance, spending hours or even days mentally and emotionally beating myself up when I have missed the mark.  Part of it is habit – I’ve spent a lifetime believing that this was the correct response to sin in my life. But I wonder how much of this is my back-up plan, the efforts put forth just in case I have misunderstood the freedom of Grace…

How this must grieve the heart of my Father!  He provided the perfect sacrifice for me, a price paid that is beyond my comprehension, so that I could be blessed and comforted and helped and delivered and free.  I want to fall with abandon into this Grace.  I want to live my life in the freedom purchased for me, not wasting my time trying to obtain something that has already been given.  Big Daddy Weave is a group of Christian artists who produced a wonderful song entitled “Redeemed.”  I love the song and it’s in my top 10 favorites because much of it speaks to me.  But there is a particular line that rings so loudly in my soul every time I hear it and I leave you with it today:

“Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.”

 

Missing the Point” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com