Mind and Heart Theology

musings from a heart and mind transformed by the Gospel

Hate, Protests, Charlottesville - In need of Mediation

Hate begets hate. That is a natural progression of all humanity that is void of a Mediator.

When I saw a picture this morning of some of the pro-white protestors, a couple of things give me pause:

1) I am glad that they are not wearing masks. We actually get to see who it is that believes with their minds and hearts that white people are superior to others. Listening to some of the rhetoric that they were saying, its not surprising to see and hear that they really believe that whites should be honored and are superior, simply for being white. They are evolutionists, Darwinists, believing that they rank higher on the evolutionary scale than all of us non-whites. If it wasn't so evil, it would be hysterically comical. But it's not funny. It's evil.

Albert Mohler succinctly wrote : 

White supremacy ideology is evil. It's ugly and should have no place in the church. But sadly, it has found a home in many churches. Even though white supremacists may not be wearing hoods anymore, their beliefs are still widely shared, as evidenced by the protest this weekend. I just cannot reconcile that people that hold to white supremacy ideology are indeed Christians. Nope. You can't convince me otherwise. Throughout history, they hijacked the church, pimped out the pews and pastors who preached white supremacy from the pulpits led far too many astray by making others believe that white supremacy is an accurate picture of what God has for humanity. I see Satan and sin's fingerprints all over this.

2) Being that this was in VA, knowing there is much cultural Christianity present in the southeast part of the country (aka - "Bible belt"), not to say there isn't in other parts of the country, because there definitely is. I have just observed, since I used to live in VA and Louisiana for that matter, that there is such a major, often visible divide between blacks and whites in those areas. It becomes the stinky trash bag that needs to be taken out that no one can smell because they have lived in the house for so long. The smell of trash becomes almost odorless to the inhabitants of that house. The chronic tension that occurs between these two demographics stays in the air. Everyone breaths it in and it becomes the "norm". And since the tension is allowed to exist, blacks and whites segregate into their respective churches every Sunday morning, never being forced to address the tension or that very un-biblical divide and stench. The only way that will change is if both parties are willing to hear and be heard. Not just white Christians hearing non-white Christians, but also for non-white Christians to hear from white Christians as well. Conversation is reciprocal. It's not "white people sit down and listen" and it's definitely not "this is how things have always been done".  It's both being allowed to share concerns, hurts, fears, confusion and disappointments. 

3) Without the help of the Holy Spirit, there are people who can't, meaning unable to, differentiate between ideology and a piece of "stone" in the form of a man - on both sides of this issue (Isaiah 42:17). Keeping statues up does not protect history or heritage. Material that is gleaned from the earth and carved into a historical figure is meaningless. Attach meaning to that carving and it becomes an idol. Plain and simple. I can't believe people are still placing value on a man-made carving and attaching value to it, which is a once ancient practice of idolatry (or current form of worship for many other religions, including Catholicism). If these pro-white protestors are supposed to be more "evolved and superior", but they are still behaving in ancient idol worship ways, how does that make sense?

On the flip side, tearing down statues does not eradicate hate. Hate doesn't live in history or in a rock shaped like a man. Hate lives in the heart of man. 

Both sides of this issue believe that hate or heritage began at the founding of our nation. All of a sudden wanna-be history scholars are coming out of the woodwork, using some of the best and ugliest parts of American history to prove points that back up their own ideology and glorify figures who align with them. 

Yes, it is good to look down our short American timeline for educational purposes, but when we compare it to the Biblical time line of the world, American history is like a milli-second snapshot. Our idea of hate is relegated to only what our own history depicts and typically involves our very American issue of racism and discrimination, both the explicit and implicit kind. 

If we stop to look at how hate has decimated other nations, created generational diaspora, wiped out entire families and entire people groups, broken up families, persecuted and beheaded believers and left their blood spilling into the ocean, maybe we can see a bigger picture happening. A picture that goes beyond the constructs of implicit or explicit racism and discrimination. I'm almost embarrassed to think about having to explain implicit discrimination and racism to non-American refugees who have had to run from ISIS in order to survive. 

In order to see the larger scope of hate, we not only need to broaden our very American lens, but we also need to go further back in history. Hate didn't start with that first slave ship. Hate has been around since Genesis 3 and was evidenced in Genesis 4 when a man killed his own brother, which is a pretty significant form of hate. Cain, because of his sin, believed his offering was superior to Abel's. God thought otherwise. Cain's misguided evil superiority ideology motivated him to kill his brother in an act of hate. We are still killing our brothers, but because of the dispersing of the nations at Babel, our brothers and sisters just look different than us, speak a different language or adhere to a different culture. They are still brothers and sisters of humanity, nonetheless. And for those of us who are believers, they are also heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). The only thing that has truly "evolved" is how hate and evil manifests itself in the hands, minds and hearts of sinful man throughout our ancient and modern collective world timeline. Any tried and true history buff will know that. 

What is happening in Charlottesville is not unique. It happens every day in the hearts of man, for serious and trivial reasons (Mathew5: 21-22) The only way to truly eradicate hate and evil is when people are able to heed God's Spirit. That can only happen when people are given new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Without a new heart that is led by God's Spirit, everything else we do to address hate and evil is like putting a Hello Kitty band-aid on an person who is bleeding out because of an amputated limb. 

4) Protests do not change the hearts of men. Protests have the power to potentially change legislation, but hearts...not so much. As a matter of fact, the only thing that protests are guaranteed to change are the forms of the various types of ideology that is influenced by the ebb and flow of contemporary culture...or in other words.....thinking that motivates behavior that is dependent on where a protestor stands on any given issue. People's ideology, when mixed with the often heated nature of protest gatherings, will immediately turn into idolatry. Our emotions, if unchecked, will run wild, become fixed, and become implanted with deep rooted ideological conviction, ON BOTH SIDES OF AN ISSUE. It's never ending.

Hotly debated issues do not need angry protestors screaming at the wind while holding a sign with an "in your face" message in order to be addressed. They also don't need to be screaming at each other, as what often happens at protests, in order to legitimately bring up issues that are on everyone's hearts and minds.

What is needed is a Mediator. Someone who can stand in the middle of a debate and help the one on the other side understand what the other is saying. A mediator helps two opposing sides come together to help settle differences, resolve disagreements and disputes. Basically, a mediator is also a reconciliator.

Because of Adam's disobedience God had a grand scale dispute.  This dispute was a transgression so massive, so far reaching, its consequences became fixed, a fixed rebellion from a Holy God. There is nothing we could do to reconcile ourselves back to God on our own. Our sin gets in the way all the time. All of our good works and keeping of the law is tainted with sin. We can protest to God all we want by keeping our works before him, but they are like filthy rags to him (Isaiah 64:6).

1 Timothy 2:5 says there is only one mediator - the man Christ Jesus. If Christ has the power to mediate between us and a Holy God, reconcile us back to the Father, impute to us his righteousness, then we must also believe that that he has the power to mediate between us and our enemies, or those we consider our enemies due to our adherence's to our various ideologies.  

This may not be the answer that is popular or that many want to hear, but at the end of the day, my answer is always Jesus. We need more of Jesus....not less. 

I don't have the luxury to sit and think about this issue any more. It has taken up all of my Saturday, much to the disdain of my school assignments, my husband and my children, who are crying out for attention. 


Fatherhood - it aint always pretty

For many, Father's Day is difficult. I get it.

I grew up without a father.

the early years

My parents divorced very early on in my childhood. My mother was a 20 year old new city transplant coming from a small town in New Mexico, where chile fields were and still are gold. My father was a new city AND a new country transplant hailing from a back-country deep-in-the-heart-of Mexico pueblito. They married young and divorced no sooner than they got married, but not before having 3 daughters to care for, or keep alive.

I have very few memories of my dad in the lives of my sisters and I when my family lived in Los Angeles eons ago. I remember strawberry fields that he worked at where he picked, back when L.A county had more plots of land growing produce than malls and coffee spots. I remember thinking he had the best job in the world because he had access to all the strawberries he wanted. I remember proudly carrying a pallet of strawberries back into my mother's apartment when he dropped us off, like it was some kind of jackpot.

My father spoke very little English and jobs were hard to come by for a first generation Mexican country boy living in a foreign metropolitan city, in spite of his brand new green card that he secured marrying my American citizen mother. But at the time, we didn't care about any of that. We just knew our young bellies were happy because they were filled with strawberries that our dad allowed us to pick ourselves. When my parents were married, they were a struggling lower working class couple, figuring out how to live a married life. With zero point no life skills, their marriage was doomed to fail.

My mother was abandoned as a child to be raised by her grandmother because her own mother chose to chase after men instead of caring for the children she had with the men she chased. My great grandmother took in her daughter's 2 oldest children to add to her own 9 and cared for all of them by herself in a two room dirt floor home since her own husband died. The only men in my mother's life were her teenage uncles. It's no wonder that my mother was clueless as to what a wife ought to look like, much less what a father's role was supposed to look like in a family structure. She had no reference point.In her eyes, men were irrelevant. Fatherhood was a concept unknown to my mother, as it would be for me.

My father remarried soon after the divorce to my mother was finalized and once a step mom entered the picture, my mother could not handle her own anger and jealousy. Rage filled our apartment life and physical abuse was the only method of discipline my mother knew. We became apartment nomads, moving year after year, in search of a cheaper apartment since my mother lived off of government assistance with no child support from my father, who could barely support his own new family with the odd jobs he picked up. 

Visits with my dad, our new step mom, and new brothers, turned into guilt fests where we had to hide our excitement or happiness after our short visits with him, lest our mother rage out at us and threaten to abandon us to him. In hindsight, that probably would not have been such a horrible thing.

Those visits with our dad became less and less. My mother had men in and out of her life like a revolving door. The concept of a father enveloped into a negative consequence to fear. Our idea of a father was formed through my mother's threats of punishment that eventually became ingrained in the minds and hearts of my sisters and I.

Not only did my mother outwardly express how much she hated my father, she also verbally lashed out at all men. They were all "good for nothing", though I don't think she really meant that because she seemed to have a new boyfriend every other week (but that's an entireley different blog post)

{side note: My father came back into our lives when my sisters and I were in our early 20's. I don't have the greatest relationship with him but I love him anyway. I don't have any expectations from him so I am free to appreciate and accept him just as he is}

the outcome

Naturally, I grew up believing all men were losers too, especially after having two toddler daughters of my own by the time I was 20, with no support from either of my daughters fathers. Cyclical generational sin was rearing its ugly head. My life mirrored that of my mother and grandmother and if I am going to be honest, I didn't believe there was anything inherently wrong with seeing men as irrelevant and/or life destroyers.

By the time I turned 29, I was pregnant with my 3rd daughter. I told that man I was not going to raise another child on my own so he better marry me. That marriage lasted 3 years, with about a year of that being separated due to physical and emotional abuse and infidelity. However, my own patterns of behavior as a wife were not stellar either. I was overly dramatic, combative, argumentative, aggressive and hostile in my character. Regardless of having every reason to be, these character traits were ultimately protective measures against men in general.

I could go on and on with story after story of all my negative experiences with men and fatherhood.  Covering every topic from misogyny, abandonment, sexual abuse, rejection, emotional degradation neglect, etc. What I shared here, publicly, is the easier stuff to write about. If there is anyone that would be expected to be bitter, angry or hurt at having imperfect examples of manhood and fatherhood or feeling cheated for not having a father at all, it should be me. I have 33 years of failed fatherhood/manhood experiences that I could bank my bitterness or sadness on. Heck, I should even be a man-hating feminist.

But God....

But God, had other plans for me that did not include lifelong lamenting towards men and fatherhood. 

A year after God gave me the the gift of faith, he also gifted me with a husband who loves Jesus. God began to show me what a father was supposed to look like, in the form of my new husband. On top of all the painful learning that was taking place, God also chose to give me another gift - our own man-child to raise.

After salvation, I learned the value, worth and necessity of men in the life of a family structure. I've had to learn what fatherhood looks like by watching my husband interact with his step daughters and our son. Sometimes I have accused him of "doing it all wrong", though I really have no earthly idea what "right" is supposed to look like. I have had to plead with God on a consistent basis to help me figure out how to allow my husband ( meaning give up my reigns of self preservation) to take on the role of a husband and father to lead my heart and our family, which has been far from easy.

Learning how to trust my husband to lead our family in his own way, while simultaneously putting to death my inability to trust all men, caused serious setbacks in the early years of our marriage.

There is NO way.....let me say that again.....

THERE. IS. NO. WAY..... I would have been able to do any kind of growing, maturing, or recognizing on my own without the ever present, ever trusting, always leading of God's Holy Spirit. 

The ability to see the Holy Spirit at work in my husband's life as well, is another gift from God. Once I recognized that the Holy Spirit was moving in him to help him lead us well, I realized I didn't have to be combative in my interactions with him.

I had learned and am still learning how to keep my mouth quiet when I think I am right in any given circumstance. When I am not quiet, an argumentative spirit quickly, almost by default, rises up in my flesh that makes things worse. I have to constantly put to death my desire to be "right". I've had to learn how to quench the need to always have the last word. I am thankful that hostility and aggression towards all men, especially the men in MY  life, no longer rules my heart.

God has been faithful to provide what my husband and I both need to continually look to each others interests first (Philippians 2:4). More often than not, my husband does a much better job than I in showing what that looks like. However, I am able to see his selflessness and recognize it, even when my pride wants to dismiss it.

The beauty of how the Holy Spirit works in a believers life is when we are made aware that our own stubbornness can be used by God. Nothing is wasted in God's equation.

1) Remember

Fatherhood and the value of a man in a family structure is massively important to me. I discovered that it was important by reading God's word. I remember what it felt like growing up without having a father. I also remember that I used to believe all men were useless figures in a woman's life.

The Old Testament is filled with the history of God's prophets and leaders telling the people of Israel to remember. Through these historical accounts they were reminded of where (Egypt) and what (slavery and desert wanderings) the LORD had delivered them from and where (the Promised Land) the LORD had brought them into. Remembering their days of bondage and slavery in Egypt, in conjunction with the means in which God had saved them, was meant to help orient their heart posture in such a way that would cause them to worship God in humble thankfulness.

Because I know my own history with fatherhood, or lack thereof, I am able to appreciate my husband with a greater depth, because I know all to well the alternative. I am able to look past his imperfections as a husband and father and see his redeeming qualities that were completely foreign to me.

Psalms 126:3 says that the Lord has done great things for us, so we should be glad. My remembering what God has done, I am very much glad. In my gladness, I celebrate daily. My husband and boy are daily reminders of the great things the Lord has done for me. And for this reason alone, I will never apologize for having a faithful husband, a dedicated, though imperfect servant father for my children and my own man-child to love, train and raise up to one day be a God loving faithful father to his own children and wife. 

Moses writes the book of Deuteronomy to help Israel remember what God had done for them, especially in their redemption from Egypt. Through God's spirit, Moses penned the words of God to help Israel in recollecting.  David writes a song of remembrance in Psalm 105, recounting the mighty deeds God had done for his people. Recollecting/Remembering was not only helpful for their present day circumstances, it is also helpful for our present day circumstances. God did not want the people of Israel to remember simply for the sake of remembering. Remembering demands action. That action was and still is trust.

2) Trust

Rightly remembering what God had done for the people of Israel, God then required that his people trust him. Trusting him was crucial because they were on their way to the Promised Land and they were about to experience difficult circumstances.

God wants us to trust him with all our heart, mind and soul. We should not lean on our own understanding, especially when our experiences don't make any sense. In all our ways, we should acknowledge that we have a good Heavenly Father that knows what he is doing, even if our ideas of an earthly father causes pain or the men in our life has left life shattering consequences. We must trust that our Father above will make our paths straight. Not straight according to our own ideas of straight, but God's idea of straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Jesus is that straight path.
Jesus is our promised land.

Trusting God and believing that Jesus is our straight path and promised land is not easy. We can say with our mouths that we trust God with our bad experiences but our emotions are far from trusting. This is where the Bible is helpful. True trust is external, meaning it must show outwardly.  It's not something we can conjure up on our own. We need help to trust. We get that help by reading our Bibles and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we put ourselves in a position, mentally and physically, where we can rest on God's promises. Allowing bitterness and anger over a past filled with failed fatherhood experiences tells God he doesn't know what he is doing.

Jeremiah 17:7 says “Blessed is the man (or woman) who trusts in the LORD and whose trust IS the LORD".

Trusting in God and his promises is believing that God himself is our only trust and Jesus is our perfect promise.

Trust in God through Jesus must also be done wholly and entirely. Our hearts are directly connected to our minds, our emotions and sensibilities, and our will. Having Biblical trust in God means that we are submitting all of these things to God and His word. When we look at the failures of the men in our lives and allow doubt in God to grow and take root, we are actually doubting God's goodness. We are not believing God at all. The opposite of faith is not doubt in God, but unbelief in God. If this is the case, repent and believe. No earthly circumstance, no matter how painful, is worth unbelief in God.

Tim Keller tells us to doubt our own doubts. When we are filled with doubting God's goodness because of our painful past or present circumstances, let us remember doubting Thomas. Thomas saw his savior crucified with his own eyes. Facts told him Jesus was dead.

Can any one of us say that we have personally experienced seeing the Messiah crucified? Can our circumstances come close to trumping that?

Jesus comes to Thomas and knows that the internal pain he experienced in seeing him crucified caused Thomas to doubt the possibility that there was something better than the emotional pain  Thomas endured watching Him die. Jesus didn't negate Thomas's pain. But Christ wanted Thomas to see that there was something better. That something was showing Thomas that He was still alive. Seeing and believing in a resurrected Christ turns lamenting over our past painful experiences into joy and hope.

Trust in God means seeing Christ, going to Christ and not allowing bitterness, anger or resentment to grow stagnant in our hearts. If we ever get to the point where we say "I will never believe" (John 20: 25) that God is good because of our past or present circumstances, we can look to the Bible and  remember Thomas. We can take comfort in knowing that Christ did not reject Thomas in his moment of doubt. Neither will Christ reject us in our moment or season of doubt.

3) Thankfulness

For those that struggle with celebrating or acknowledging Father's Day because of a past littered with a not so worthy father, or unworthy men in general, I plea with them to: 

1) remember where you come from
2) trust God by looking to Christ
3) if you still have breath, be thankful

In a House of Prayer: The Message of 2nd Chronicles, Stewart writes:

Too often God’s people forget his goodness, and what the Lord has done for them, as they move on to new things, but this was not so in the case of Jehoshaphat and his people. Their rejoicing in God was not momentary, but ongoing. 

Because ‘His love endures for ever’, so too must the grateful response of people who have been so greatly blessed. We need to remind ourselves of the blessings we have received. We do this by regularly setting aside time to count our blessings. There is no better way to remember how God has blessed us than the regular reading of the Scriptures. They constantly show us how ‘His love endures for ever.'

James 1:17 says that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

My husband is far from a perfect husband. He is far from a perfect father. But I rest in knowing and believing that God says he is perfect for me and for our family.

God alone knew what my heart and mind needed to redeem manhood and fatherhood. There is no way to circumvent being thankful for my husband without first thanking God for gifting me with my husband.

Stewart writes : how often do we keep to ourselves the breathtaking news of what the Lord has done for us? May he stir us up to proclaim his greatness!

I never want to take for granted what God called me from --> dead in sin nature
to what he has called me to --> resurrection life
and the power (Holy Spirit) that he allows me to walk in newness of life --> progressive sanctification

Instead of looking at past clouds of stormy circumstances that have occurred in my past, I am learning to look at the seemingly insignificant details of every day life. I am able to then give thanks to God for my husband for redeeming fatherhood and manhood in His perfect time. 

Every day he goes to work to support our family, I thank God.
Every day he comes home from work, I thank God.
Every day he is a faithful husband, I thank God.
Every day he serves others with his gifts and abilities, I thank God. 
Every day he leads my heart when it becomes filled with anxiety, I thank God.
Every day he shows the children love and patience, I thank God.
Every day he exhibits a calm spirit to my crazy one, I thank God.
Every day he holds my hand, I thank God.
Every day he picks up a book that I want him to read, I thank God, even though I know he will never finish it because he's not a reader.
Every day he prays for our family and for others, I thank God.
Every day he opens his eyes and reads his Bible without skipping a beat, I thank God.

Father's Day is every day in my heart and mind. I don't need a day to honor God's gift to me. I will never apologize for having a husband who leads our family well and loves us deeply.

I know that there are some who struggle with this day because of past hurts and I get that. For those that do, all I got is scripture to point you to:

* Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5).

* How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart (Ps 119:2).

* you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:1)

Then I will encourage you to: 

1) remember - the good and the bad in your life, but don't let the bad stuff define you

2) trust God - through the good and the bad stuff in your life by looking at Christ and clinging/reading/studying God's word, the Bible, even when the Bible doesn't make sense. Trust me, eventually it will, or seek out others to help you understand.

3) be thankful - for Christ, because your faith in Christ is the only thing that is ever really worth being thankful for. The rest of the good stuff in your life, is just extra or bonus stuff that is meant to point you back to the Giver. Practice being continuously thankful to the Giver of gifts so that you can appreciate that much more His gifts.

This post is dedicated to and inspired by my husband, a gift from my Good Heavenly Father. 

Stewart, A. (2001). A House of Prayer: The Message of 2 Chronicles (p. 229). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.

Race - a word to kill

Can I just say.....for the most part....I am not a fan of country music.
If I am perfectly honest, I can't stand it.


My husband loves it. What can I say....he's Canadian.

Anyway.....Not only does my hub's love country music, my kiddos do too. It's funny to see reactions of others when they ride in our vehicle. They get a bit confused because my kiddos play lists include the likes of Andy Mineo, and Tim McGraw, Trip Lee, and Dean Brody,  Lecrae and Johnny Cash.

And because I love my family.....I often find myself sitting in short and long car rides listening to....rather being tortured to listen to a style of music that I would never ever, ever, EVER volunteer to listen to on my own. It's just too different from the style of music I prefer.


There is this one song.

My family plays it often.  It's a song about killing words that are mean, negative or hateful.

The opening lyrics are:

"If I could kill a word and watch it die"

The artist, Eric Church, then proceeds to sing about the very many words in the English vocabulary that he wishes he could kill.

It got me thinking about the words I wish I could get rid of.

Easily I came up with that ONE word I wish I could kill and watch die. It is........

RACE.....or.....Racism......or any combination of words with it being the focus.....like "racial reconciliation"

It's an interesting thing....this word "race".....simply for the fact that it's a word that came about to divide.

Why do Christian's use it? Christians are the last people that should be using this word, especially since it validates and supports evolution, in essence, the rejection of a creating God.

And for those that die on the hill of evolution, why in the world are they acting like the premise behind this word is such a horrible thing? Evolution and race are science terms. Along with phenotype, homo sapiens, ethnology, polygenesis. I thought they loved science. 

The science behind the word of race was used to perpetuate superiority....survival of the fittest.....a "useful concept in understanding human evolution and variation" according to one anthropologist who is an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist, academic, and whose alma mater is Harvard and Columbia.

In the age of antiquity and then again during the scientific revolution, which started around the 16th century, the word "race" became ingrained in the first science fields, which erupted into a plethora of all the science disciplines, like physics, astronomy, human anatomy, biology, chemistry, taxonomy, anthropology, medicine, zoology, etc.

Using the word race into these fields further perpetuated and actually scientifically legitimized that differences should be used to divide people into categories. These first science fields fed into a new science modern period (17th - 18th century), which completely transformed the ways in which life, nature and people were viewed.

Away went the long standing, long believed, orthodox Biblical interpretation of the origin of mankind. No longer did they want to believe in something they thought was a backward and unhelpful way of explaining life.

It was "enlightening" for them to create something they can actually study with their eyes and hands, hence ushering in the Period of Enlightenment that questioned and ultimately rejected God with a scientific vengeance. Not only did science make it ok to reject God with their minds, they rejected God with their hearts as well by writing about it through their stories, poems and plays, art and music.

Once the concept of race became normalized, our 19th and 20th century contemporary SOCIAL sciences got involved and began making efforts to erase what science backed up. With studies of "variations" and systems of biological classifications of not only animals, algae, and organisms....but also people, it was going to take some serious work to undo or REDO what those early science fathers did. 

The social disciplines began to see the problems over the status quo "race" conversation.

"ooooohhhhh....look how science explains things that God and the Bible could not", man declared with excitement.

"ooops.....we didn't know science was going to cause people to hate each other more than they already do", man said with caution and confusion.

"let's fix this", man exclaimed with determination and hope. 

They retracted scientific conclusions a bit while concluding that race must be a social construct, not a biological or scientific one. They decided that it was:

"a concept that was believed to correspond to an objective reality but which was believed in because of its social functions".

These social functions, in the sinful hearts of man, were and are discrimination, apartheid, slavery, genocide, greed, oppression. The belief in the word race exposed the effects and curse of Genesis 3. Without the lens of Genesis 3, we are left scratching our heads, wondering why people are so evil to each other.

The idea and framework behind the word "race" declared that unequal, separate, distinct, and exclusive groups of people existed.

1) If they were unequal, not all made in God's image as previously thought, then one "race" must be better than another "race".
2) If that is true then one must rule over the other.
3) If the other does not want to submit to being ruled over, then the one that feels superior give themselves permission to subdue whomever they deem inferior, through force, most often for territory, profit and/or death, thus creating another damaging system of "class".

"have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?" (James 2:4)

In essence, WE let the word race tell us how to act. WE let it dictate how we perceive ourselves. WE let it tell us how to see others. Then.......we create another word, racism, to explain WHAT it is we are doing to each other, based on the word we created to explain who we think we are based on a scientific and now social theory.

It's quite ridiculous really. But sadly, ridiculous turns into hate and death. Instead of letting a word hate and kill each other, how about we just kill this word from our vocabulary?

Have we not figured out that the more we use it, the more fuel we give to it?

Throughout history, people in general have never liked differences.  Differences make people uncomfortable. (You should see my eyes roll whenever I hear a country music song, or worse....whenever a church doesn't play the kind of worship style that I prefer)

These uncomfortable differences make it so easy to categorize people based on these differences.

But......it wasn't always like this.

Once upon a time, we didn’t always separate into likeness and homogeneity. We all knew we were made in God’s image and came from a single source and origin, first Adam and then Noah (Genesis 10). That’s why we tried to erect a monument to let God know we were just like him through the power of working together for what seemed like a greater good --> teamwork and achievement (Genesis 11).

In essence, we were collectively saying that we didn’t need God because we could function on our own. Working side by side, all the different tribes and people groups came together for one unifying function - to tell God he was irrelevant through the sweat of our brow, the work of our hands, and our ability to manipulate the resources of the earth for towers of pride.

God looked down on man and was not pleased.  He was not necessarily angry at our innovation….but rather at our arrogance. We were behaving like our mother Eve who believed that she could be like Him.

“Look at them", God said.

Let US disrupt their plans before they get more prideful in their achievements, he declared to the Godhead.

God knew the sin that we inherited from our first parents would deceive us. He knew that personal achievements and technological advancements would lead us further and further away from him.

However, God was not yet ready for his creation to go down THAT road because the fullness of our sin (Genesis 15:16) was not yet mature enough for the Sacrificial Lamb.

So God separated us through language. Language is a powerful tool and gift from a good and loving Creator. Along with language comes culture, patterns of behavior, norms, music, literature, art, food. All distinct from one another. Even though it seemed like a punishment to be divided, it was actually loving. Separating the nations was a sweet and gentle rebuke - gentle when compared to the Great Flood.

God disciplines those he loves. (Hebrews 12:5-11). God allowed and ordained separation knowing that His Son would eventually be the Great Unifier....the solution to our sin, pride, arrogance. Christ not only reconciles people to each other, he reconciles us to the Father.

For in Christ, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself ALL things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. Colossians 1:19-21.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both ONE and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. And Christ came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:13-22

In Christ Jesus you are ALL sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 2:26-29.

When we reject original sin and the origin of people that comes from the Bible accounts in Genesis 1-3, and 10, we are rejecting God. If we reject God, then we also reject Genesis 11 that explains the separation of every tongue, tribe and nation. This rejection forced us to come up with other theories for the differences and separation of humanity. Instead of seeing the beauty of differences, we wrongfully sought out illegitimate explanations, categorizations, and systems of variations. The word "race" became the junk drawer of bad theology. 

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

So again......if it were possible....I'd kill the word "race" from our language. Without this word, we would not have racism. Then we would not need to figure out what racial reconciliation looks like.

Without the word race to categorize what we do to each other we would be forced to deal with the motives behind the word - which is a rejection of God and His Word, the Bible. We would realize that without Him as our source of truth, the sin of our first parents overruns our God image bearing sensibilities.

Jealousy, hate, evil of every kind, oppression, superiority, inferiority, greed, and oppression runs amuck in our minds and hearts and is evident in our actions.

Instead of seeing differences in our flesh as a reason to divide, we discover that our problem is not necessarily due to our dislike of differences, but rather because we are wretched souls in need of a Savior.

Instead of looking at others to blame for the ingrained hate and discontenet that lives in all of us, we need to look at ourselves. Blame shifting goes way back (Genesis 3).

With the word race in our vocabulary, it's easy to put the blame of hate onto the word "race" without giving much thought into WHY we dislike differences.

So.....let's just kill that word.

Let's not allow it to fuel the sin in our hearts.

Using the word race and especially racism, we are giving our sin a soft place to land, in order to discuss, without end, possible solutions to end racism.

Racism will never end until we permanently erase the concept of biological and social constructs AND usages of the word race.

Scientists wont allow that to happen.
Those in the social disciplines wont allow it to happen either.
All of their hard earned theories, speculations, and life long work will go down the drain.

So the people of the Book must.

Tweaking the first several lines of that Eric Church song, here is MY version.

If I could kill a word and watch it die
I'd poison "RACE", shoot it goodbye
Beat "OPPRESS" when I felt I had the nerve
Yeah, I'd pound "EVIL" to a pile of sand
Choke "HATRED" out with my bare hands
I'd hang "RACISM" so that it can't be heard
If I could only kill a word

Here is the original song on killing words - the song that inspired this blog post.

Cops - an unreached people group

Dear American Christian,

What do you think would happen if you saw law enforcement personnel as an unreached people group to pursue instead of picking up stones to throw at? 

For those that find it easier to see them as the enemy, I guess it's easier to hate them, feel threatened by them, or stay away from them, when they, as unbelievers, act like the sinners they are. 

I am positive that if you had their job, as a believer, you would handle things perfectly all the time. You would never feel the pit in your stomach when you have to stop someone because you are 100% confident that all these image bearers driving around in cars know very well they are image bearers of God and would never attempt to take your life or that of your partner.

If you see law enforcement personnel as the enemy, well.....I am sure you are well aware of the words of Jesus when he says to love your enemies. I guess that's a lot harder than it seems, huh? Surely Jesus meant to love them theoretically and when they do unjust things, point out the error of their ways every chance you get. That is sure to get rid of racism, injustice, and corruption. I am positive that's what Jesus meant when he used the word "love".

Jesus says there are two kinds of people on the earth, the lost and the saved. Sadly, in your Americanism, you have created a third category of people. You seem to believe that just because someone puts on a uniform for work, or holds a certain title, they are expected, and demanded by you, along with all those angry protesters who do not profess to be Christians to "rise above" or "hold to a higher standard".

Let me just humbly remind you that the last time law enforcement personnel were held by a higher standard, they arrested and crucified Jesus in all of their higher standard glory. Last time I checked, I don't believe anyone has the capacity to rise above their sin nature, regardless of what fig leaf they wear for work. And if you truly believe that law enforcement are people that need to be held to a higher standard because they wear a uniform and carry a gun and a badge, then you don't believe the Bible or Jesus for that matter, since he makes no mention of that third category of people, who you believe are exempt from the effects of Adam's sin.

During the time of Jesus's ministry, Rome's version of police officers were the Roman soldiers. They were paid to uphold Rome's laws and in the eyes of Rome and it's citizens, they were held in high regard because they put their life on the line for Rome. Centurion soldiers are the equivalent of modern day police chiefs and were held to higher standards of conduct because they earned it by fighting victoriously against those that opposed Rome. Centurions also had men serving under their authority, approximately 100 or so. 

These soldiers and centurions wore their uniform as their sole identity and they took great pride in their job. These Roman law enforcement personnel were treated with honor by the Romans but not so much by the Jews. The Jews felt like they were treated unjustly and were often negatively targeted due to their Jewish-ness. According to history, the shakiness of the relationship between the Jews and the Roman authorities seemed to grow over tensions between religious expectations and religious thought.

In other words, the Jews expected to be treated a certain way because of their lineage as God's people, but, the Romans thought their own way of life was superior to all other cultures and religions. These two opposing people groups, with their own lens by which they saw life, were on opposite ends of the spectrum but they also knew how to exploit each other for their own benefit. 

Let's not think that our modern day tensions between law enforcement, race and religion is a surprise to a Sovereign God. I have a feeling God knows a thing or two about why people act the way they do, have expectations the way they do, and fail to act justly the way they should.

If we disregard or even undermine that this is a sin issue that dates back to Genesis 3, and instead have certain higher expectations that people should be better than they are, we don't truly know the serious and far reaching manifestations and consequences of Adam's sin. We are in error if we think protests, policy changes, or labeling law enforcement as the enemy will cure people of their most basic problem - embodying a sin nature. 

Fighting for causes without including the Gospel is missing the point. Seeing the need for justice and peace as an all encompassing blanket that needs to be thrown on all of society is completely missing the one-at-a-time people component because at the end of the day, it is individual people who make choices to be just or unjust and/or prejudicial or fair. Systems that are broken (systemic or institutional racism) happens one person, one experience at a time. Unsaved people will always behave like unsaved people, regardless of what they do for work, what socioeconomic class they have access to and how much higher education they acquire. 

When a whole society of people act like unsaved people, the whole lot is broken. To put labels on the broken lot, like institutional racism, is easier to attack because the person component is missing. When we are able to clear out the language that it is these larger broken systems that should be blamed, we are faced with the reality that its not systems that need to be changed, but hearts. Individual hearts.

When racist or corrupt law enforcement act unjustly, they are, for lack of a better explanation, simply obeying their flesh. They act like unsaved people and when they pull someone over, for whatever reasons, they will evaluate the situation, think and act like unsaved people who are led by their emotions and feelings, regardless of the uniform they have on and the weapon attached to their hip or the badge on their chest. They will evaluate the situation based on their past experiences or even their prior stop, even while still trying to be objective for every single situation because duty calls them to. They live day after day on a roller coaster of adrenaline and see things that the average citizen does not see.

Many, not all, don't have a greater hope. Many, not all, don't see the people they encounter on their job as people made in God's image, no matter how much we write about it in our blogs or talk about it at our conferences. When you have dead in sin cops, stopping and pulling over and ultimately pulling weapons on dead in sin people, what do you expect is going to happen? Most situations end well but some don't.

Rising above our sin nature is impossible and it does not matter if we wear janitor overalls, a physicians coat, a business suit, or a law enforcement uniform. 

If that were the case, Jesus didn't need to die or his death was in vain.

If we self righteously demand justice for justice sake, the way the Jews demanded it from the Roman government, then Jesus will never be enough. Jesus was not enough for the Jews and until more people come to faith in Christ and accept him as King and Ruler of their own lives personally and individually, society will stay the same. We will never arrive at a utopian society where injustice is eradicated for good, that is until the return of Christ. 

If we believe the Bible, that is our reality. 

The Jews wanted a tangible leader, who they thought could make things right, according to their own lens, and wanted someone to get those Roman cops off their back. Jesus didn't live up to the expectation that He step up as their King to solve all of their injustice problems. So, they gave him over to the Roman officials, of course, after judging him a blasphemer for professing to be God's Son, literally God in the flesh, and eventually crucifying him. 

But not before Roman "cops" flogged him, ripped flesh off his body, brutally beat him and allowed his blood to spill from all of the newly ripped deep flesh wounds - which is the only time astronomical injustice was played out for the world to see. The injustice that Jesus endured at the hands of finicky yet corrupt people, would be the very thing that would bring life and real justice to those who believe in him - not justice the way the world sees it but personal justice for the redemption of our souls and a reconciled relationship with our Father. 

When the world looks at this kind of justice, they balk, think and maybe even say, "that's not enough". They want more because according to how they view things, the death and resurrection of Christ is never enough to solve problems in real time.

In spite of the Roman cops who were led by their flesh and gladly took part in beating and murdering Christ, there was one Roman cop who took part and oversaw the crucifixion but afterward was able to declare:

"Surely this man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39) 

He did so only because God opened his eyes. People are unable to see Jesus for who he is without the gift of sight and only God gives that gift. People are unable to see other image bearers of God without first recognizing that there is a God to reflect, not just in others but themselves as well.

I am in no way or shape saying that it is wrong to call out injustice for what it is. However, I would caution stirring up an already volatile society with more fuel by commenting on every single scenario we feel "needs to be heard". The secular news outlets, who have no hope in Christ, are doing a really good job at stirring the masses up and they surely don't need the help of people who put their faith, trust and hope in a man who was unjustly murdered for the sins of his people, to stir the pot with them. When Christians join in the choir of angry protests directed at "those sinners" with badges, they need a reminder that we are not called to judge the unbeliever nor should we expect them to rise above their station. Unbelievers with badges are still unbelievers and very desperately need a Savior.

Policy changes do not change people's hearts. 

Wearing body armor will not stop injustice from happening because injustice starts from what is inside our hearts, not what we wear outside our bodies. 

Imagine what it would be like if more cops became believers in Christ the way Cornelius did. God showed his mercy in a big way when he ushered in this Roman police chief into the kingdom of God. 

The scriptures give no indication that he quit his job after God saved him so we can only imagine what kind of cop and leader he was. He probably not only cared about those he led, but he also probably cared about the work ethic of the men under him and made sure, as Roman cops, they did not let corruption be their guide. He might have even shared the Gospel with them.

When salvation is had, it not only changes how someone behaves, it changes how people think and most importantly, it changes how they see themselves and others. Saved people understand they represent and work for the Chief of all Justice, Christ Jesus, who they humbly submit to as their ultimate and final authority. They also begin to see others through the lens of a saved soul, realizing that all people are made in the image God and more importantly,  are in need of a Savior. It's only through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, does positive progressive change happen, which ultimately changes how people react to any given situation.

So, I will ask this again.......what would happen if Christians today, the very ones who love talking about being missional by going overseas or supporting mission endeavors for those that go overseas or even those rare believers who are intentional about wanting to reach the poor and the marginalized in the inner cities of our country, what if in the totality of thinking about being missional  we included reaching our local law enforcement personnel. 

What if one of our most accessible unreached people groups are sitting in cop cars across our country, pulling people over, chasing after criminals, visiting school children in classrooms, standing guard at protests while angry people direct their anger at them.....what if we turned our attention to them? And not in a trite "pat them on the back, we are proud of you" kind of way but an intentional "let me tell you about a man that can help you do your job better" kind of way. That means we will have to actually establish relationships with these law enforcement personnel. We will have to get into their lives and allow them into ours. We have to learn their language, be flexible and creative enough to be available to serve them and their families since their work schedules are crazy. But if we really wanted justice that trickled down, wouldn't it be worth it?

What if we stopped expecting and assuming that they have the power to rise above their sin nature because they have a little bit of training under their belts, are given a badge, and a weapon. These tangible possessions are powerless but we fail to see that. 

What if we actually took the time to tell them about their sin nature along with its consequences. We would then be able to tell them about the hope that we have that is powerful enough to change hearts and allows us to see people for who they truly are - God's image bearers who desperately need a Savior. 

What if........

A love poem to myself

I am loved with an everlasting love.

When he found me I was dead. Rotting flesh. Death smell.

He had to resuscitate me. The Life-giver.

Get life in my blood and my dry bones because dead flesh can’t do anything on their own. 

Sadly, I didn’t even know I was dead until I became alive.

The things I did as a walking corpse made me want to vomit once the scales fell from my former blind eyes.

I was unable to go back to the way things used to be when my flesh reeked of rotting-ness.

When the dead arises from slumber and climbs out of that coffin in the ground, it would be absolutely insane to climb back into it.

No. The person with new-ness of life, walks….no runs….far away from the stench of death that is inside that coffin.

The first someone I met while running told me I chose to make myself alive.

Patted me on the back. Congratulations.

Gave me a card that looked like a parking ticket that needed to be validated from inside the building with the pews.

They say that I have to work hard to stay alive. To keep running.

They used the Life-giver's book to prove it.

But they didn't use the whole book. Just parts. 

What about the other parts, I wondered. 

Don't worry about those parts I was told. 

Just keep running and work. 

If I didn’t, the Giver of Life would personally escort me back to that grave with those worms of death sitting on the bottom of it.

For years I worked. Fearful of dying again.

I had to learn new words like Programs, Mission trips, Ministry endeavors. 

Trying to earn my keep.

Then the Life-giver sent me to the desert and all that work disappeared.

Fear set in deep.

Was I not really alive? Was it a practical joke?

If that were true, what a cruel trickster that Life-giver is.

Then another someone told me everything I knew about the Life-giver was wrong.

Told me I didn’t have to work. My life did not depend on what I did to stay alive but on what He did to make me alive.

The work was not a burden to check off but a blessing to plant seeds. Not seeds of death or fear but seeds of life.

No. way. I thought.

Too good to be true.

I searched high and low for what was right and what was not.

Old seed planters in suits told me the same thing.

I asked the Life-giver. 

He told me to look in his book. Not just the parts. But the whole. 

His book confirmed what those old seed planters in suits were saying. 

But not just suits. Seed planters in robes of old too. 

Those truths were in his book all this time and I missed them. Why didn’t the others tell me this?

Why did they make me fear and carry burdens the Life-giver never meant for me to carry?

Maybe they were scared too. 
Maybe they can't believe it either. 
Maybe they think its easier to earn our keep than to rest in the Life-givers work and grace- alone.

Maybe they think they can appear more important when they can give themselves credit for the work they do instead of giving the Life-giver credit for what he’s done- alone. 

Whatever the reason, I was just ecstatic that the entire book now made sense.

The book was never about my work or even my life.

The book was always about the Life-giver's work- alone. 

Not just bits and pieces. 

But. The. Whole. Thing. 

From fallen beginning to glorious end.

Relief swept over me like a cool breeze coming in from the ocean.

I stopped running.

I’m enjoying the journey of alive-ness.

With seeds in one pocket to plant as I go, I’m smelling the roses. 

With the Life-giver's book in the other pocket, I want to show shoots what all of it says - not just parts.  

From fallen beginning to glorious end. 

That coffin no longer scares me.

Maybe I will use it as a flower bed.

I am loved with an everlasting love.

Our LA mission field update - Rain

I ask myself often, if I am honest, I have to admit that it's daily,  --"What are we doing here in this big ol city?"

I've been tagging our Instagram pics with #misfitmissionariesinla because that's how I honest to God feel.  Moving to an unknown place, with an unknown culture is distressing. Comfort zone is non-existent. Senses, overwhelmed. Emotions, fragile to the point of almost being constantly raw.

We've been trying to buy something to do ministry out of but the commercial real estate side of life is not as simple as buying a residential piece of property. This whole process is challenging my patience and stretching me beyond what I think I can handle. We've been here for 4 months and I actually thought we would be somewhat settled by now. 

How in "la - la" land I was. HA!

We are still living in this tiny apartment that faces north. This means we get zero point no sun, meaning the apartment stays frustratingly cold. I hate cold. It makes me grouchy and melancholy. It makes me not want to get out bed until mid morning and by the time we get our day started, I feel like it's already over. 

Southern Cali has had an unusual amount of rain this year, or so we've been told. With the cold we have had to keep our doors closed all the time. This small act of keeping out the cold and wetness has turned this apartment into a dungeon, or so it feels. We never see our neighbors anymore. No chit chat about the day or the parking or anything. Just the door. Closed.

Can I also add that we have all been sick. The last time I felt healthy was at a Christmas party for my son's homeschool community day. That was December 15. I have had 3 colds since and not the kind that you blow your nose here and there....no sir. These colds were the kind that put you in bed for 7-10 days at a time. 

First I got sick. Then my son got sick. Then I got sick again. Then my husband got sick. Then my son got a violent stomach bug where he lost 8 lbs off his already rail thin frame. Then I got sick again. Then my husband got sick again. Then my son got sick again. At this point, I dragged my son and I to the doctor because I felt like I was going to be sick for the rest of my life. We left the doctors office with prescriptions for steroids, inhalers and allergy meds. Apparently, one of the colds had triggered our respiratory system into a chronic allergy attack that manifested as a cold, per the doc. I started taking Benadryl to see if it would help alleviate the coughing. Though not fully gone, it seems to be helping, or, I'm just slowly healing. Either way, I am praying that none of us get sick again for awhile. 

Some days I feel really connected to our church plant family and some days I feel like we are all alone in this big overwhelming city. People have jobs and pretty active social lives as well....I don't and we don't. Homeschooling, by default, keeps us pretty isolated because we have to be home to do school. With the rain and the sickness combined, we have spent the better part of the last month and a half isolated from church family and just plain isolated. Once I withdraw into my emotional cave, it takes an act of God to get me out. That act has yet to happen. 

I sure wish this was a positive update. I wish I had news to share that was uplifting and exciting. I don't. 
And I am OK with that. 

My teen daughter has been reading a book for her home school studies, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker. This book  addresses the lives of the various missionary giants throughout history. The book does not give an exhaustive look into all the nitty gritty details of what these missionaries accomplished, but the author does a pretty good job in sharing with the reader the bad along with the good. There are parts in the book that make my daughter so angry and frustrated, at times she has to put the book down lest she throw it across the room. She has learned that some of these very famous missionaries had gone years without a single convert, neglected their own children, exhibited racism towards the people they set out to reach and promoted colonialism by idolizing Western culture over the culture of the various ethnic groups they encountered. 

As I have struggled to live out my own faith through the lens of a Mexican American woman in a predominately white orthodox Christian space, I have taught her that there is beauty in ethnic diversity simply because God created us all different. Looking for ways to connect our diversity around one single unifying fact, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ should always be our goal. Promoting one way to live out that faith in which one culture is seen as the norm and all other cultures must toe the line in order to be seen as "good Christian coverts" is just plain wrong. I have pounded this fact into her head for years so when she reads stories of missionaries doing the very thing I have taught her is wrong, she reacts strongly. And I am glad she does. I can help her work out her feelings while she is under my care and discipleship and prayerfully, by the time she is an adult, she won't have to second guess, doubt, or feel like her faith is "the white man's religion". 

In spite of learning about all the flaws of these missionaries, it has helped her realize that being an imperfect missionary is more the norm than not. I am able to walk her through an understanding that people can have a strong-rock-solid-faith for God in such a way that they step out on that faith for good reasons but they are still very imperfect as people. Missionaries throughout our timeline of history have made major mistakes in how they see people, how they treat people and how they believed people were supposed to behave after claiming to have a saving faith in Christ Jesus. People of God who have done great things to advance the kingdom of God by traveling across the globe to un-reached people groups have done so in bodies of sin and death. That will never change. However, instead of learning from their mistakes, we seem to honor them for their missionary contributions but do so in such a way that we look at their lives through rose colored glasses. I didn't grow up in the church hearing the names of these missionaries as many have so I don't have to take off those glasses. They were never on to begin with. 

As we are living out our own reality of being on mission in the city, we have realized ourselves that there are very few "awe" moments where things feel "uplifted" or "joyful" or "successful". Most often things are hard, not joyful, and feel like we hit failure after failure. Bodies give way to sickness, emotions give way to stress, frustrations give way to feeling like we should just throw in the towel. 

Doubt creeps in and questions begin to stir.....

Did God really say?

And it's in these moments, that I get a text message from someone in our church family. 

"How are you feeling?"
"I made a green smoothie for lunch"
"A guy came into my shop today and he seems to be struggling with spiritual warfare, can you pray for him?"

These life giving text messages, even if for a minute in my day, snap me out of my navel gazing self pity and helps reorient my sensibilities. They remind me that we are connected to people and people are connected to us - even though I don't see it or experience it daily.

The love that God's people have for each other is not always tangible and evident....but I have learned that it's faithful.  And the only reason it is faithful is because I have a faithful God. He cares for me and my family in such a way that gives me answers to my never ending list of doubts and questions, even if that faithfulness comes in the form of a seemingly insignificant text message.

We are misfits here in this big ol city. We will probably always be. God knew we would be misfits here. And I am ok with that. 

Poem for the Fellowship of the Unashamed

This morning my husband and 16 year old daughter had the privilege of hearing Steve Lawson preach a sermon that covered Luke 14:25-35, which is about counting the cost of being a disciple of Christ. I was stuck in bed with a really bad head cold and congestion, so even though I could not hear Mr. Lawson preach in person, I was able to hear the sermon due to live streaming (Praise God for technology) 

Mr. Lawson, as usual, unpacked the verses in Luke with wonderfully sound convicting depth but towards the end of his sermon, he closed with what seemed like string of poetical statements that clearly and succinctly declared what it means for someone to live a life dedicated to Christ. I wondered if they came from Mr. Lawson himself or someone else so I went to work to figure out where those beautiful words came from. 

I remembered a few of those lines so I just typed them into a Google search. (again...praise God for technology) 

I learned that the words came from a poem called the Fellowship of the Unashamed. The author is unknown but there are a few possible sources: 

Source #1: Dr. Robert Morehead tells the story a young man from Rwanda, A missionary with Africa Evangelical Fellowship, who was forced by his tribe in 1980 to renounce Christ or face death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was murdered on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room. 

Source #2 : The following is often attributed to an anonymous source but its origin can be traced to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) retreat in Black Mountain, NC in 1966. This confession, ostensibly authored by several attendees, found wider circulation after it was found in the home of an African pastor who had been martyred for his commitment to Christ some years ago.

Source #3: The author is unknown, but is believed to be a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. It was found in his study. 

Regardless of where these words came from, they resonated deeply with my soul and are such a reminder that when we are called to follow Christ, we give up much.....but what we get in return does not compare....namely Christ himself. 

When we have Christ and the Holy Spirit residing in our soul, we can endure all circumstances and situations with confidence.

When my daughter got home from church, she was so deeply moved by Mr. Lawson's words, she sent me these words via text message from Mathew 10:37. 

It says:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 

My prayer for my kids has always been that they love Christ more than they love me. And because I love Christ more than my children, I pray that I love them well enough to lead them to my ONLY source of real deep eternal lasting love - Christ himself.

I pray that all who profess Christ, intentionally seek to live out these words in any way, shape, or form. Living a life of Christ-following intentionality does not occur by accident or happenstance. We must pursue it. Eagerly and with conviction. This poem reflects these very sentiments.

Without further adieu...

A poem for the Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
The die has been cast.
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.

I'm finished and done with low living, sight-walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I won't give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.
And when He comes, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My colors will be clear.

"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" - Romans 1:16

2017 - The Year of Holiness

How do Christians know they are growing in holiness? Galatians 5: 22-23 gives us some insight into what it looks like. It says: But the fruit of the Spirit is 

1) love
2) joy
3) peace
4) patience
5) kindness
6) goodness
7) faithfulness
8) gentleness
9) self-control

against such things there is no law.

For those that are in Christ, these qualities should own us. But most often, they don't. Not because the Spirit's power is weak, but because our flesh is. Hebrews 10:24 tells us that we should be thinking about how we can stir each other up to love and good works. 

This year, I want to focus on encouraging others to live by the power of God's spirit, in essence, to live a life of holiness.

I do have to add a disclaimer though, especially in regards to performance of holiness and true inward sanctified holiness. The effectual power of the Holy Spirit is only for those that are in Christ. In John Owen's work, The Holy Spirit, His Gifts and His Power gives a warning that those not in Christ will tend to strive for holiness out of their own performance. 

It is not necessarily a bad thing for non-believers to engage in good works. At large, we can never outgrow people doing good deeds. Owen writes: 

The world is not in a condition to spare the good actions of bad men; and it is much to be wished that we could see more of the fruits of moral virtues and duties of religious piety among unsanctified persons than we do. 

In other words, in regard for those that are not in Christ, we should never discourage them from doing good. We should never get tired of people being kind, forgiving or compassionate towards each other. However, we should be cautious in calling them sisters or brothers in Christ, just because they do good works, especially, or rather, just because they are church go-ers. 

For church-going do good-ers,  according to Owen, they will often confuse a desire to do good with real holiness. It is not one in the same. Many will often find it is much easier to do a good deed here and there, even showing some aspects of the fruits of the spirit naturally, and might even suppose, because of it, that they are holy beings. However, what sets them apart is that they still engage in purposeful sinful actions. 

Galatians 5:16-17 says: Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. 

First let me clear here - believers do indeed sin. The difference between a person being sanctified by the Spirit and a person not being sanctified by the Spirit is how one views their sin and then what they do with it when it become apparent to them. Owen writes: 

The love of sin secretly influences the mind of many persons; they fear and abhor that universal change of soul which tends to call the destruction of all sin; hence they take up with morality and silly superstitious devotions; anything that will pacify their natural conscience or make an attempt to gain a reputation that they are religious or even spiritual beings. 

Those not in Christ, but think they are, will look at their sin and excuse it, pacify it, culturally contextualize it, in essence, they love it. They don't hate it. They don't feel the inward need in their soul to kill or destroy it. They may even know that how they behave is sinful, in a Christian sense of the word, but they don't really want to do anything about their sin. If brought to their attention by others, it is always rationalized. When sin is loved, then the Holy Spirit does not reside there. It cannot.

For those in Christ, they will mourn over their sin. They will look at their sin and will not treat it flippantly or disregard it. They will not excuse it, justify, or rationalize it. They will seek to do all they can to kill it. And they do so because the Holy Spirit that is dwelling in their soul requires that they do so. They are being sanctified by the Spirit's power to look more like the Savior and Shepherd who calls them. And when they find themselves in sin, they repent and repent often, deeply, and with a sincere heart.

Let me also add, repentance is not remorse. Remorse rarely causes an inward heart to change. Remorse mostly occurs when once gets caught in sin. Oftentimes, the Holy Spirit will urge one to not sin before sin happens. The main question that arises here is "are we listening?"

Notice in Galatians 5 that Paul is telling others "to walk by the Spirit" - meaning it is a present tense application that is continuous. He is urging believers to keep doing what the Spirit urges us to do, without ceasing. 

Holiness is a mystery, no doubt. We can't conjure up holiness on our own and many have a false understanding of it. Some think morality is holiness. Yet others will think holiness is allowing for odd superstitious behavior (for example - covering one'sheads when praying or exclaiming that they feel "holy" or "closer to God" when they enter an old church). Those that cling to morality or superstitious religious behavior to show that they are good, will often overlook the real meaning of holiness. 

In summary, my resolution this year is to call others, specifically Jesus followers, to a life of holiness. In order to make sure I urge others to strive for real holiness, the kind where there is no law, I will look to scripture to show me what it looks like. 

Owen reminds us that living a life of holiness is a work so great that in order for it to occur, we need the God of peace himself, the blood of Christ specifically and the constant urging and influence of the Spirit. Let's not try to deceive ourselves in thinking that making an attempt to live a holy life is a common thing and we only need to perform better - which is basically an empty shadow of holiness.

I figured the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians is a good place to start. 

Happy New Year
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. - Galatians 5:16–26, ESV