Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Perfect Love...

     A week ago as I lay in bed talking to God, I mentioned that I was fearful and saddened by the kind of world my girls are growing up in. It was just a passing comment I made to Him before I turned in for the night. The following morning I was awakened by a song. It was playing so loudly in my mind that I actually thought someone had the radio on! No radio...just these lyrics from the Newsboys, "And when the oceans rage I don't have to be afraid. Because I know that You love me. Your love never fails." God woke me with a song in answer to my fears. It's continued to be a sweet reminder as I've watched the world react to the terrorist attacks and the refugee crisis.

     One of the saddest things I've seen is how fear grabs a hold of the body of Christ and tries to render it useless. Brothers and sisters that were once supporters of welcoming refugees into America, are suddenly afraid to. Not only are they afraid but they are filling all of social media with their fears. The hate I've seen between Christians of differing opinions on this issue has by far caused more destruction than the Paris suicide bombers. I can't help but think of how we break God's heart when we allow the devil to divide us instead of prayerfully considering the other side's viewpoints through the light of God's Word. The world needs the church as a whole to be united in love. We have the answer the world is looking for, Christ. They can't see Him because our arguing has gotten in the way!

     We like to think that there are two sides to this problem of whether or not to take in refugees. There isn't. There is only one side. There is only one option and that option is called perfect love. 1John 4:18 says, "There is no fear(terror) in love; but perfect (full grown) love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment (torment) and the one who fears is not perfected (completed) in love."  So what is this perfect love anyway? How do I get some so I can be rid of fear?

     1 John 4:16 says, "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."  God is perfect love. When we truly believe the love God has for us and we make His love our dwelling place, then we have that same  perfect love that casts out all fear living inside of us! For years I have looked only at verse 18 and wondered how I could have perfect love. I had never really read the whole passage in context until now. It starts with us truly believing the love God has for us and then making His love our home...that's what a dwelling place is. It's a place where you can kick up your feet and rest.

      When we are resting in His perfect love we aren't afraid. When His perfect love is dwelling in us, we don't see Syrian refugees as potential terrorists. We see them as "the least of these." Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 that one day the King will say," Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Think about this for a moment...these words came from the mouth of Jesus who went to the cross not just for all of those He knew would receive Him, but for Judas who He knew would betray him. Jesus was an expert when it came to "the least of these"! Jesus was perfect love. He gave His life knowing there would be those who would reject Him, some of whom would literally nail Him to a cross. So why won't we follow His example and take in refugees knowing that some may be terrorists? I believe it's because we've forgotten who we belong to and lost sight of the security that we have when we are living in His perfect love.

     Romans 8:38-39 says it the best, " And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."  This is that perfect love that casts out all fear. This is the love that we can make our home in. It's all we need...and that' the thing. The world is scared to death right now because it doesn't know God's perfect love. We do, so we shouldn't be afraid. We have all we need right here for ourselves and for welcoming refugees. We have God. We have perfect love and nothing can separate us from that love. We are secure.

     Security...perhaps that's why I was fearful and saddened by the world  my girls are growing up in. I had misplaced my security. When we place our security in God and we remember that His love never fails, we won't give a second thought to taking care of "the least of these".  Instead we will love without counting the cost.

   " Perfect love casts out fear. The one who fears is not perfected in love." I don't know about you, but I want to be perfected in love.




Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Call to Prayer...

     Anyone who has been on the internet this morning or watched the news will see that Paris was attacked by Islamic extremists last night. ISIS has claimed responsibility. The media broadcasts are filled with fear and outrage. Facebook is filled with sadness, fear, outrage, and an expressed desire for vengeance. Some of those who want revenge also happen to be fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. A desire for revenge is a natural reaction. It comes from our flesh's desire to take action and fight injustice. God's ways of taking action and fighting injustice are much more effective than any revenge we might seek. God changes hearts.

     While the media and the politicians spend weeks debating what could have been done to prevent this, where we went wrong, and what future actions should be taken to stop ISIS...why don't you and I hit our knees?  Our knees are where we are most powerful. Our knees are where we bend low in prayer before an all powerful God, and become world changers without ever having to hop on a plane and head to Syria or any of the other places that our enemy camps. The reason ISIS is able to do what it is doing is because the world is trying to fight a spiritual battle with man made weapons. When we desire revenge we do the same. Think about it...has it  been successful? Have the armed forces, the intelligence community, or the politicians seen victory with their man made weapons? You can't fight an ideology successfully in the physical realm. Only God can change hearts. This is why we must hit our knees and pray for heart change in our enemies.

     It's not easy to pray for our enemies. It's much easier to pray for the people we love. Perhaps this is why Matthew 5:43-44 says, "You have heard it was said, ' Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  One of the most profound ways we can love someone is to pray for them. When we pray we are going to God on their behalf. What if we did this for ISIS? What if we saw them through God's eyes. They are human beings just like you and I who have been deceived by the devil and are being used for his purposes. Doesn't that really and truly describe us all before we came to know Christ? Do you remember the chains you bore before someone prayed for you and you came to know Christ? Do you remember what it was like to hear for the first time that God had sent His Son for you and forgiven you...forgiven all of the unthinkable things you had done...the things you couldn't imagine anyone ever forgiving you for? Shouldn't we want every human being to be that free, to experience that love? Maybe you are like me and have known Christ from a very young age and can't remember having any chains...that doesn't mean you wouldn't have. Look at ISIS and see that if God hadn't gotten a hold of you at such a young age...you could very well be wearing the same chains and blinded by the same deceptions. Feel the weight of that for a moment and let God use that to soften your heart in order to pray.

     Our world needs us. God could have placed us in any other era, but we are living here and now in this century for such a time as this. Esther was told by Mordecai  in Esther 4: 14, " For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not obtained royalty for such a time as this?"   We can't be silent. It's time for the church, the body of Christ as a whole to hit our knees in battle. Their are members of ISIS who need to receive Christ, Christians who are being tortured and killed by them, and nations who are being terrorized who need deliverance...and we have access to the only One powerful enough to deliver us all!

     "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." Hebrews 4:16


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where Do You Go With Your Broken?

     Where do you go with your broken? I've been thinking about this a lot these past few days. I guess you could say I've been surrounded by a lot of broken. I truly believe that where we go with our broken determines the duration of our brokenness and the extent of our healing.

     Some of us hold on tightly to it and keep it locked inside. We retreat from our loved ones and tell ourselves it's because we're going to deal with it on our own...but we don't. Others of us drown out the hurt or the anger with alcohol, drugs, food or any other number of vices. They become our escape, our way of not feeling and our way of not hearing. Still, others of us rage. We beat everyone who wants to help us with our words...slowly but surely pushing them away. The sad thing is that we often mistake all of this as being a normal part of our process. Some may even think it is healthy because after all, isn't there more than one way to deal with our stuff?  The reality is that all we are doing is more damage that will require more healing, and prolong the duration of our brokenness. Why?

     For those of us who know Christ especially...why? This is the question I've been thinking about the most this week. He is our healer. He is the only one who can truly make us whole. So why is it that so many times we choose to stay in our brokenness...or worse add to it rather than go directly to Him? I suspect it's because we know deep down that it can be painful to bring Him our brokenness. We know that to bring Him our brokenness requires honesty and surrender so that He can tend to our wounds. Honesty and surrender often mean that we have to take responsibility for certain things or maybe even confess other things. Who really wants to do that when they are broken ? Isn't that even more painful? I've noticed something. Just as it is far less painful to allow a doctor to tend a wound initially than to wait until it's infected, it is far less painful to allow God to tend to you from the start than it is to continue on in brokenness and as a last resort come to Him later.

     Emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds can run just as deep and be just as damaging as physical wounds. Let's say you had a wound on your leg that was so deep that it required immediate medical attention, but you decide to handle it on your own. Perhaps you rinse it out with some water and wrap it with sterile gauze. It seems to work initially. The bleeding has stopped and you can sort of hobble around. A day or two passes and suddenly your leg is throbbing. The pain is excruciating and the area around the wound is swollen and red. Suddenly, you find yourself running a fever and vomiting. A friend has to drive you to the hospital, and the doctor tells you that your wound is infected. He doesn't understand why you didn't come in and get it taken care of right from the start. Because you waited, you'll need to receive antibiotics through an IV and have surgery. They'll need to cut down to the bone to drain the infection. Hopefully this will work because if it doesn't, you may very well lose your leg! This is what it looks like when we don't go directly to God from the very beginning with our broken. During the delay we compound the problem until we've heaped upon ourselves more and more suffering...all because we think we can take care of it ourselves or we don't want to face the sting of the initial wound cleansing. By the time we end up coming to Him we are no longer merely broken in pieces. We are shattered like glass. All that's left is a mess of fine particles with jagged edges!  Just like a deep wound needs more than a rinse and some gauze our emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds need more care than we can give them ourselves. We can save ourselves a lot of added brokenness and a lot of unnecessary suffering if we would just run directly to God with our broken.

     This past week I've spent time with some broken people. Some are broken and trying to fix it on their own because they don't want to surrender their lives to Christ. Others are busy beating people up with their words because deep down they are really angry at God. It's futile to avoid going to the only One who can heal us because we are angry with Him. He is a big God with broad shoulders. Nothing we could ever shout at Him in our anger and hurt would surprise Him, lessen His love for us, or keep Him from making us whole...take it from someone who's been there! At the end of the week, we lost a family member who died in his brokenness. He didn't seem to think that God could really forgive someone like him. He chose to drown out God's voice by living in bondage instead of taking a chance on the freedom of God's love.

     Don't let this be you. Go to God with your broken. Ann Voskamp once wrote, "We have a God who sees hearts like we see faces, a God who hears ache like we hear voices, and we have a God who touches and holds and heals our wounds like we long to be held."  Run to Him. He's waiting!