Open Letter To The Church: Sin Is Sin, So Why The Double Standard?

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and clicked on an article a friend shared.  It was about this pastor Rob Bell and the apparent backlash he endured when he, according to the article “asked some questions about reconciling eternal punishment with a loving God, and he examined matters of life and faith that had become foregone conclusions to most believers.”  I haven’t read Love Wins so I can’t speak to what questions Bell asked within its pages.

While I was reading the article, I felt the Spirit of God stirring within me.  Setting off red flags and sounding warning alarms.  At first I shrugged off His warnings, assuming I just didn’t like the author’s voice.  But as I continued to read I couldn’t ignore the warnings any longer and I had to admit that something was just off – theologically speaking.

I nodded in agreement with several sentiments, mainly those pointing out that Christians have the tendency to label and ostracize people they don’t agree with rather than having tough conversations.  It’s so much easier to just write someone off than to wade into the uncomfortable.  But it felt like the author, in a way, was doing the same thing with the Christians who “abandoned” Bell.  He labeled them intolerant and went on to explain why Bell was a brave theologian asking the tough questions.

But never once did the author call out the elephant in the room.  Bell wasn’t simply innocently asking questions.  He was preaching universalism, which is the belief that everyone will be saved because of God’s unconditional love.  Um, nope.  I finished the article, taking away that God was reminding me of the importance of guarding my heart.  I figured it was a teachable moment and that was that.

But God pressed deeper into my heart as I was preparing to shower.  He does this on the regular.  I’m fairly certain it’s because it’s one of the few opportunities for me to be free of distractions.  As I was about to get into the shower He asked a seemingly random question, “Why did everyone commend Lysa Terkeurst’s strength and faith while so many of those same people commended Glennon Doyle Martin’s bravery for being true to herself?”

I hadn’t given much thought to either situations in quite some time, and certainly not that morning.  If you’re not familiar with either of these women, Lysa is a Biblical teacher and speaker, and Glennon is a Christian mommy blogger and author.  Lysa recently announced that she is leaving her husband because of his ongoing infidelity and refusal to put his vows before the desires of his flesh.  Back in August of 2016 Glennon announced that she was leaving her husband of 14 years for her close friend – a female friend.

When God asked me that seemingly random question, I did what I often do with His questions that seem to come out of left field.  I confessed my confusion.  So He asked me, “Why would people grieve with someone who has suffered at the hands of an adulterer when they cheered on an adulterer just a few short months ago?”  The only thing I could think of was that the people who  spoke out in support of Glennon weren’t supporting the adultery, but her decision to live the “lifestyle” that honored her true self.  God immediately pointed out that it’s not our call, especially not for those of us who wave the flag of Christianity.  We don’t get to decide which adulterous act is acceptable and which is not.  He drove His point home by telling me, “Anyone could have come to Art Terkeurst’s defense with the same statement – he was making a decision to honor his true self.”  Ouch.

 

“God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” – James 4:12 (NLT)

 

But here’s the truth God reminded me of – just as we are not to judge, we are also not to pardon either.  The Judgement Seat isn’t ours to sit in.  At.  All.

So, if we are not called to judge others, what are we called to do?  First, God calls us to love one another.  And by “one another” He is saying that His followers must love one another. (John 13:34-35)  We get into trouble when we love according to the world’s standard instead of God’s.  In love, we will tell someone to follow his heart, to do what she thinks is best, to be true to himself.  Unless we are simultaneously pointing people to the Truth, we are co-signing their self-indulgent ways.  We are telling them it is okay to idolize self.  God calls us to love people in truth, and to speak the truth over people in love.  Tim Keller put it so succinctly I won’t bother trying to paraphrase his words.

 

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws.  Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.  God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us.  The merciful commitment strengthen us to see the truth about yourselves and repent.  The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”

 

Here’s the thing, you and I can’t do this with people we don’t know.  I mean, we can try to on a superficial surface level kind of way.  But that doesn’t do anyone any good.  Unfortunately, all things social media invite us to start and join conversations that are meant to be had on a very personal level.  It may be safer for us to “talk” to someone through a screen, but God doesn’t call us to safe.

He calls us to have authentic relationship with our fellow believers, even though relationships are messy and uncomfortable.  But we are messy and broken people.  We may be saved but we are still wrapped in flesh.  And flesh rubbing against flesh is anything but comfortable.

Should people who walk away from the straight and narrow road be ostracized, or commended for being true to their true self?  Neither.  God encourages us to confront our brothers and sisters, first on a one-on-one level, then with another believer, and a group of believers if needed.  Waving goodbye to someone or wishing them the best as they walk away from The Way is not what God calls us to do. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Comfortable With The Uncomfortable

I wrote this a few months ago.  I never did feel led to put in a photo.  Instead I went with a verse.  I’m not sure why God asked me to share this, but I trust that it will resonate with someone out there.

No graphics or photos for this post.  I don’t know, maybe as I go through my day God will give me a visual to share.  But right now, right this moment He’s telling me to just share my heart.

Yesterday a dear sister in Christ texted me a link to a video from the Leading and Loving It #JustONE2016 virtual conference.  I’m not sure what day it was from, but it was good. Like brush off the dust of complacency and do some work for the kingdom, good.  Work I have been too _______ (fill in the blank – tired, busy, lazy) to do.  I’m not talking projects here, either.  I’m talking about the work of boldly living out my faith.  Declaring His truth whenever and wherever I feel His Spirit leading me to.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down, and you can watch the video here for yourself.

  1. Get going – say YES to God without knowing the details, especially the outcome.  Move when He says to and move with urgency.
  2. Get strategic – be aware, be intentional, and be sensitive.  Pay attention to people’s details.
  3. Get uncomfortable – God calls me to serve and wash feet.

After watching that video I decided to sign up for the conference – funny, I thought I already had signed up but I guess that was last year – and watch all of the videos.  They’re sent directly to my inbox so there’s no extra clicking on my part.  The Day 1 video arrived this morning and I couldn’t really relate it to my current season of life.  Lori Wilhite talks about God trading our junk for joy, our hurt for healing, and our pain for purpose.  Believe me, I’ve had plenty of junk, hurt, and pain.  Enough to last a lifetime.  But as of this morning I had no current junk, hurt, or pain to reflect on.  {Or so I thought} I still looked up Isaiah 60:17, the verse she was focusing on, and took notes.  I even added personal reflections to each of her three points.

I could feel God stirring something up within me, and knew He was telling me it was time to dig deeper.  Back in early January I signed up for my second ‪#‎cleanhearting‬ challenge to support the amazing ministry of Revelation Wellness. I wasn’t planning on going through the challenge again. I figured I’d watch Alisa Keeton on Periscope when I could or pull up a scope on Katch.

But I started experiencing heartburn a couple of weeks ago and it hasn’t let up. Heartburn is only something I dealt with during pregnancy. And before you ask, no, I am not pregnant. At first I was in denial, blaming the one meal that might have triggered it. But then I got still and quiet long enough (after several days of refusing to listen to my body) to see that the discomfort is God lovingly nudging me.  Nudging me to look at my habits and idols.

So when I had finished watching the Day 1 #JustONE2016 video, I decided to read the Day 1 email for he Clean Hearting Challenge to do just that.  To identify and confront the idols and habits that are keeping me from doing the kingdom building work God is calling me to do.  Day 1 seemed easy enough – looking at the root of our desire to live clean, a desire God created us to have because we were made in His image and He is clean and blameless.  Looking at Alisa’s very simple and straight forward definition of clean eating – avoid refined and processed foods and eat real food – was just the “Dude, I can do this” moment I needed.

And the let’s do this attitude wasn’t just about the eating either – and that’s the whole point behind the Clean Hearting Challenge, by the way, to pull off the blinders and see that it’s all about the condition of our hearts.  It’s about treating myself better by eating life giving foods more often than fake foods, by getting more sleep, and by moving more.  And moms out there, please hear me when I say that none of those goals are selfish.   When I take better care of myself, I am better able to love the people God calls me to serve and love.  And so are you.

The notion of loving people better got me thinking about February being the perfect month to practice being more intentional in my marriage.  So I took The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your man on Purpose and with a Plan off a shelf and started reading it.  But right when I was getting to the “meat” of the first chapter it was time to get the boys ready for church.

Just a typical Sunday morning.  Until it wasn’t.  I got the twins dressed and fed.  They were happily playing with our oldest until I had to go upstairs and get dressed and my husband out of bed.  As I was getting ready he told me that he decided to sleep in and not to come to church.  I was fine with that since he doesn’t sleep in very often.  But a small disagreement with our oldest turned into something much bigger not only between the two of us but also between me and my husband.  Before I knew it voices were raised and doors were slammed.  And to top it all off one of the twins was refusing to get buckled into his car seat.  I wanted to cry.  And I did.

In spite of my feelings and the tears streaming down my face I went to church. Well, not exactly.  The truth is I no longer wanted to go to church.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I just knew I didn’t want to go.  I almost marched everyone out of the minivan and back into the house, but I inadvertently locked the basement door when I slammed it and didn’t have a key to get back in.

So I drove us to church and apologized to my oldest on the way.  I apologized for my tone and for slamming the car and house doors.  He accepted my apology, because that’s what we do in our house.  We humble ourselves to apologize, and we humble ourselves to forgive.

As soon as our junior pastor started preaching I knew that God meant for me to experience what I did this morning so I could really listen to his message.  Not just hear it, but listen to it.  His message was anchored in Job. It was such an encouragement from my Daddy. It was a reminder that when I make a kingdom declaration – like I did today saying that I was ready to do kingdom building work – that I will be met with opposition. I just forgot how quickly it can happen.

Today I spent some intentional time with God, and shortly thereafter the enemy came at me.  Hard. He attacked my marriage and my motherhood. I wanted to throw up my hands and throw in the towel. But as a daughter of the King of kings I must remember that I am not called to do the easy things. I am not called to be comfortable. I am called to roll up my sleeves and wield the Sword of the Spirit and fight, for the victory has already been won.

From Good To Grace

Christine Hoover’s latest book is an invitation to have a daily reprieve from an addiction to goodness.

I received a copy of this book as a Family Christian Blogger.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced by Family Christian or anyone else.

Years ago, while reading Lysa Terkeurst’s Becoming More Than A Good Bible Study Girl, I received such freedom from God that I thought “Whew, I’m so glad I learned all of those powerful Biblical truths!”  I truly believed that I was cured from the need to be good in the eyes of others.  But in the years since then I find myself continuously surrendering my desire to please others, just to pick it back up.  And then surrender it again.  It’s exhausting.

I know that’s why I connected with the cover of Christine Hoover’s latest book From Good to Grace: Letting Go of The Goodness Gospel.  It shows a woman (probably a mom) sitting in a laundry basket as she thumbs through a book.  I can totally identify with her – too tired to find a “proper” place to recline and read.  Like her, I have to steal away moments to read.  And I’ve loved every moment I’ve spent reading this book.

Godo to Grace 2

She had me at “Good, Bye”

Yes, that’s totally a reference to “Jerry Maguire”.  High five for those of you who got it.  And for those of you who didn’t, you can look it up later.  The book is split up into three sections, each covering three chapters (the math teacher in me was tickled by the symmetry of that).  I’ve only gotten through the first section which is titled Good, Bye (hence the heading above).  Although I’m only three chapters into the book I know that Christine wrote this book just for me.

Sure, I know it’s her story, but it’s just as much mine as it is hers.  She talks of her obsession with being good – trying to win the approval of others and God. My heart winced as I let her words sink in that the gospel isn’t just for salvation; it’s for everyday life.  Too often I wave the banner of God’s power and tout what He’s done, totally neglecting what He is still doing in my life.  I accept that salvation is by faith alone, but somehow expect sanctification to be a different story. Thinking and acting as if I need to go it alone.

The goodness gospel that Christine describes is all about caring more what others think of us than what God does. She writes about putting chains on ourselves and I can most certainly relate.  I take the chains of bondage that Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection freed me from and I wear them like jewelry.  They weigh me down and I remain stuck for fear that whatever I share will be judged, or the presentation of my thoughts won’t be witty or compelling enough.  I question and doubt not only my ability to write, but my calling to be in this arena, or any other for that matter.

Christine spoke directly to my heart when she confessed “Unfortunately for me, a large part of a goodness obsession is an addiction to self.  Goodness is evaluated by activity, completed tasks, responses from others, and results.  It requires a focus on appearance and image and maintaining some semblance of religious behavior […] Goodness fed both my pride and my self-condemnation”  Oh how I wish that I could just create the perfect checklist and be better once I’ve completed all those tasks.

Alas, I know that isn’t possible.  What’s more, I know that isn’t what God wants from me.  Or you.  As Christine succinctly puts it, “He simply wants us to follow him, receive him, submit to him, and […] let what we receive from him compel us outward to serve and love others.”

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of From Good to Grace.  I smile just thinking about stealing away moments to read it.  I must confess that I almost added it to my daily checklist.  I decided not to.  I decided instead to let it remain a “get to” rather than a “have to”.  I highly recommend this book if you, like me, struggle with a goodness addiction.

Faith and Mommy Stuff

I just put my seven year old to bed.  We were praying using the ACTS method our junior pastor taught us last year.  DJ was finishing up his adoration of God – he blew me away with the beautiful things he said about God – when he asked me a question that caused me to pause before answering.  He asked “Is nature Mother Nature, or just nature?”

As a mom who was putting her kid to bed fifteen minutes past his bedtime I was tempted to rush through a simple explanation.  But as a former worshiper of Mother Earth, I knew better than to brush off his question.  So I told him, “There’s the short explanation and the long one.  Which one would you prefer?”  In typical DJ fashion he answered my question with one of his own. “Which one will give more information?”  So the long answer it was.

I’ll spare you all the details, though, and get to the thing I said that God used as a nudging reminder for me.  “When I see a beautiful sunset, I acknowledge the beauty of the sunset but I do not worship it.  I say what an awesome artist God is and give Him all the glory.  Why would we worship the created instead of the One who created it?”

I could tell from his breathing that he was fading.  To check for understanding and also to see if he was still awake I asked him, “Tu intiendes?”  He nodded and softly said “Yes”.

I’m so grateful that I get to put my kid to bed still.  To pray with him and have him ask me questions.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll want to cuddle and pray together, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

What’s your bedtime routine like with your kids?  Do you follow a particular prayer pattern?