Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Speaking Boldly For The Lord

"At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There the spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders."

This morning's Scripture is Acts 14:1-3 but it's what verse 3 says that I want to focus on.

Many times, when i feel troubled by an issue going on around me, or if i feel concerned about the sinfulness society has come to, a well meaning sister or brother in Christ may say 'Well you need to speak out, be Bold for the Lord!'- however, i think that when the Church (especially here in the US) talks about being bold, we really mean being loud, noisy, and in the worst of cases, combative.

When speaking about being bold for the Lord, we should use the example of Paul and Barnabas:

1. They Came into the City doing what God called them to d
This is important, because it shows that Paul and Barnabas did not go out 'looking for a fight'. This conflict came up after they found themselves in a position where all they were doing was following God's plan. They were called to spread the Good News, so they did.

2. When things started to turn sour, they continued to follow God's will
Here we see another key point. The act of boldness was continuing to do that which they were called to do. To be bold in the Lord is to continue to walk in His word and to walk in His will when the currents of the World tries harder to push you in every which direction.

3. God gave them the 'Stamp of Approval'
Finally, and maybe the most important lesson from the scripture, is the fact that God himself confirmed their actions by exposing his power and glory in their favor. If you are doing what God wills for you to do, he will ALWAYS give you his blessing- a signal that what you have done in His name was good.

God may call us to be his body, but he does not call us to be his soldier- He may give us his Holy armor to fight the spiritual battle that we face everyday, but it's for self-defense. We do not go looking for conflict, we stand firm in conflict. The only offensive move we make is speaking truth and acting in love.

Peace be with you,
Tabby <3

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back to the Basics: Love

I have come back home for Christmas break- hopefully this means i can blog more. I'm probably going to go back to doing my personal devotions and blogging about it, sharing scripture that popped out at me.

These past few weeks I have been confronted by the idea of God and love. Including myself, many Christians find love to be the focus of God- God is love. However it has become clear to me that the definition of love for a lot of Christ followers has become watered down. More specifically, because God is love and because i am to strive to become like God, I must not judge; judging does not come from love. I do not know where this idea of a separation between Love and Judge came to be (i mean i have some theories but i won't get into that here).

There is a type of judging that is unhealthy and comes from a heart of malice- this is the one that people dislike and the one that many today try to stay away from (you are in the wrong with this kind of judging). However, to judge is not something that is wrong in itself. When an individual has a problem with heroin, isn't it out of love that their family and friends come to him to speak truth about his addiction? That is judgment being made and it is out of love.
If we look at the relationship between parents and their children, do not good parents put boundaries around their children and have consequences for crossing those boundaries? Do not good parents punish their children for doing wrong? And isn't all those things done out of love lest the child finds out the hard way what consequences and punishment does follow out of wrong doing. That is judgment and it is done out of love- I'd rather learn what consequences mean by my loving parents than by the state prison.

Many Christians forget that it is possible, and sometimes necessary, to judge and punish someone out of love. Of course the next question would be how do we know a punishment is coming out of love?

"4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Unlike what we may hear at weddings, this description of love was intended for the brothers and sisters of the church. This is what love looks like to each other. And when we judge one another this is the heart that it must come from.

But how do i know that we are called to judge one another? after all Matthew 7:1 says 'Do not judge, or you too will be judged.' however if you take time to look at the context that scripture comes from, you get this:

" Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'let me take the speck out of your eye when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the lank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Matthew 7:1-5

The command isn't to never judge under any circumstance, but to warn the brothers that the measure that we judge each other is the measure that we God will judge us. How do we make sure that we do not judge in hypocrisy? we make sure we judge in love.

A point that i want to make clear- I do not say that judging includes people outside of the church- even in the scripture above it refers to the other person as being your brother. Again, in 1 Corinthians:

"What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you."
1 Corinth 5:12-13

This is where the Christians who focus on love are right. outside of the church, or outside of the family, our job is to love- Love like Christ loves. We do not condemn those that our not yet our own. However, inside the church it is a family- we are all part of God's family and we are all part of God's house. God is as holy as he is love, therefore anything that is not holy in the body must be confronted- but confronted out of love (the last scripture here is taken out of context- read all of chp. 5 to understand what Paul is speaking about). A family that truly loves one another will confront a member when they are participating in acts that are harmful to themselves (like the intervention with the heroin) and to do things that are not holy is something that affects our spiritual walk, let alone our spiritual peace, with God. Therefore, if i care for my sister or brother in christ, i will love him or her, yes, but i am responsible for judging her as well.

Therefore, as a final note; when you are being judged, if it is from a loved one, do not get defensive. Instead, trust the character of the person talking to you- wouldn't him or her have your own best interest in mind if they are confronting you? Wouldn't they say something to you if they thought it was in your own self-interest to listen? If that is the case, examine the speck in your eye because they probably have already examined the plank in their own eyes.

My pastor back at school said this in a sermon not to long ago: It is wrong to say God is Loving and Just. No, because God is love, he is also just.

I'll leave with a hymm performed by Sufjan Stevens:

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing


Come Thou Fount of every blessing; Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, Mount of God's unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I'm come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be! Let that grace now like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above

Peace be with you,
Tabby <3