Thinking of the countless Wednesday nights that I sat in a Bible Study in a school, in a classroom, in a church sanctuary. Thinking of my many pastor friends all over this nation that gather with their congregants to study God’s word in sanctuaries, classrooms, basements, etc. I keep wondering if one of them might be next. I keep thinking might we be next? I went to my office yesterday and sat in meetings all day – important meetings, kingdom meetings with people who I know care for me – but only one person in that office asked how my heart was as relates to what happened in South Carolina. Sadly, I was not surprised. Not an indictment on my colleagues, but an indicator of a bigger problem that is affecting this nation, especially the Body of Christ. We don’t see one another. We don’t love one another. We just live among one another, existing and tightly controlling when and how our paths might cross outside of the office or outside of the local church body. When will we have the courage to admit that we hate? When will we have the courage to admit that we overlook injustice because it is easier than facing it? When will we have the courage to admit that we don’t love equally across ethnic lines? We Have A Problem and if we’re not careful, it will carry us away – down a river of death, pain, and ultimately separation from the will of the God we say that we love! Yes – I am affected by the tragedy! I am affected because we try to make these images trite, common – we act like its just another tragedy. What’s the difference to us whether it is a boy with a hoodie; a man stealing cigarettes; a man who just robbed a store; or, a group of people studying the Word of God! This thing is escalating! This tragedy – this act of our enemy Satan – has rocked me to my core! Not just a racial attack – but an affront to the Christian faith as well. There is no alleged shooter here — there are no alleged victims; it is all crystal clear! This guy intended to do evil and he did just that. Call it mental illness; call it hate; call it demonic activity — SEMANTICS! It is evil. It is demonic. It is sin. I am not praying for reconciliation or peace – I am praying for truth! I am praying that we will open our eyes and put feet to our faith. I am praying that the Body of Christ will ensure that our behavior will match what we say we believe so that we can be change agents in this world. We need to admit, as a nation, that there is a problem because only then will we have any chance at peace. Yes, my heart breaks that they were murdered — but not just because they were black and murdered — because they were murdered at all!
As Lloyd and I watched Selma last week and reflected on the many injustices that people of all backgrounds have had to endure in America based upon a person’s/group’s belief that they were somehow superior — it prompted me to think about the fact that we often form our own truths. We take our opinions and our personal views of right and wrong and hold to them as truth. It can be something as trivial as a person who believes that you should never wear white after labor day; or something as serious as America does not need/want a woman or minority as their president. It can be as silly as you have to have turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving; or as critical as not wanting to host your colleagues of different ethnicities in your home. It can be as ridiculous as whether the television should be mounted over the fireplace; or as severe as not wanting your children to date a person of another ethnicity. We – all of us — take our own opinions and hold them out to be truth.
I’ve heard it said that truth is a matter of perspective. I’ve heard it said that truth is a matter of experience. I’ve heard people say that they walk in ‘their own truth’. What defines truth is morphing into something unrecognizable. Truth becomes truth based upon what notable person said it; which political party said it; which news outlet reports it; which group of friends holds it to be true. The fact is — there is but one truth; The Truth — the Almighty, True and Living God.There is no shadow in Him — no deceit – no hidden agenda – no preference for one group over another – no ulterior motives. When you want to know what the truth is — Just Ask God. Listen to Him through prayer; worship music; scripture on tape; bible reading; etc. As you lean into Him – you lean in to Truth. Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified in Truth. Jesus declares that He is the way, the Truth, and the life. The truth is not merely what is said — it is a force – The Force by which we must live our lives.
Don’t you want to live free from the strongholds and encumbrances of this present age?? Lies are the stronghold of our enemy, Satan. Lies are what are dividing us and causing us to think more of ourselves that we ought. We are mere clay – we are vessels to be used by our King — we are servants of the Most High God. We are not autonomous entities who operate in our own strength and power and we Do Not have the wisdom necessary to form our own truth!
When we hold fast to the Word of God; making it the guide and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and to teach us, then (and only then) we will know Truth. Knowing the Truth about who He is and about who you are in Him – You Will Live Free. You will not hold to irrational thoughts as truth; you will not even hold to your own personal feelings as truth — you will be able to stand in the Truth.
I want to learn to stand on His truth in all that I think, say and do! I want to reflect His glorious majesty on this earth and not my own lackluster shine. May He make my heart to live His way; love His way; believe His way. Help me Father to walk in Truth! Help me to walk Free!
“and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32 NASB)
No matter what is happening in this broken world, I am an overcomer. So many things in the last few months have happened to make my heart heavy, sad, broken — it can be difficult to muster the strength to hold on to joy and peace. But — I have chosen to hold on to joy and peace. As believers in Christ the adversity, grief, heartache, woe and injustice that we experience is to be expected. We are not citizens of in this earthly realm; our home is in heaven – we are foreigners here, aliens on a journey. It would stand to reason that we will experience enmity, bigotry, bias, hate. The world will not embrace us nor will its systems treat us with fairness.Sadly, many of us, who are citizens of heaven, have forgotten our place and are treating other citizens of heaven in ways that we should not — but I digress.
As we grieve the things that happen to us on this earth, we can rejoice that we are not alone nor or we forsaken! We have a great High Priest who is acquainted with the troubles that we face. He is limitless in His mercy and grace and He invites us to cast our cares upon Him. We are His chosen children – He loves us and wants what is best for us. You see, the world wants us to believe that all is lost, that our case is hopeless, that the battles will never end, that we are less than deserving of a peaceful life. But God has told us over and over again in His word that this is simply not true. We will overcome!
We can hold on to joy — because our hope does not lie in the things of this world or in the systems of this world – but in He who cannot and will not fail; in He who loves truly and perfectly; in He who is our all! Much like those three Hebrew boys who were in the burning furnace, we have to make the choice to believe that there is One that sees us, hears us and will deliver us in His own perfect time. We have to choose to embrace His truth – He is our peace.
Yes, it is painful; it is unfair; it is discouraging — all of it feels so wrong; but don’t lose sight of the truth that it is not contrary to what our Lord has spoken to us. He has foretold that the trials would come; but more than that He has revealed a future victory that no world system will be able to snatch from us. The troubles of this world can touch my flesh and they can prick my heart, but I will not allow them to swallow my heart and He will not let them cover my soul in darkness. I am very grateful that my life is filled with friendships that include people of all races, colors, religious backgrounds – I am blessed to have good friends across the color spectrum. But even if no one down here values me, I know who made me and I know He adores me. Man can hold me in disdain, but He is exalting me as His called out one. I am an overcomer — and I intend to live like it. Make the choice to believe His truths no matter what is happening around you so that you can experience his peace that man cannot understand. The one who dwells within you is greater than any issue that you might face. Don’t lose heart – in the end, you will win! Yes! In the end He will reign!
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Lately it seems that many different people and ministries are touting themselves as the definition of discipleship – or missions – or evangelism – or whatever. Some of what is out there is very interesting and even very helpful. But much of it comes from a closed view of what the world is and who God is.
But I know a man who earned a college degree and had a promising career – but saw a place in God’s kingdom for his gifts and answered the call of his Lord to put personal desires on hold to introduce people to the abundant life in Christ. This fellow went on to earn a masters degree at a prestigious institution, which earned him the credentials to ask for the job of his choice in the gospel ministry – again he put his personal aspirations on the back burner and moved, with his family, to a remote place where they can only depend upon God and one another. Each quarter this man invites leaders that he hardly knows to come and live with his family and ‘do life’ with them – while he also takes his 4 years of seminary and condenses it for these leaders so that they will leave him, after two years of quarterly visits, with a seminary education – minus the expense.
All the while – his wife and his sons get to watch him live and lead – and they too are moved to live lives of sacrifice not for personal satisfaction, but so that people whose lives that they touch will be forever changed by the power of the gospel that not only brings salvation – but true life – abundant life – real life. His wife and sons look at his life and say This Is Discipleship!
What is Discipleship, you may ask?? As they have seen it in his life; it is living in community with those whom you are called to disciple wherever you are in the world and no matter the cost – for the cost of discipleship is STEEP! Discipleship is getting into people’s lives (and allowing them to get into yours) and doing life with them so that they can see it, touch it, feel it, hear it and become all that God intended them to be – and so that you too come away from the experience changed, renewed, strengthened and empowered for godly living. Discipleship is sacrificing YOU for the other guy in order that we all may reach maturity in Christ. Discipleship is living the same way behind closed doors that you do when the door is wide open so that others may come to know the living Lord as their King and Savior – this is discipleship – the way Jesus did it with the twelve – life on life.
I won’t mention this man’s name – there is no need. But when I look at his life, I see Christ – I see a disciple maker – I see a bond servant of Christ who has come to love the world so much that he not only gives them the gospel, but he gives the world his very life! If he ever reads this, I pray that he’ll know of whom I speak – and he’ll know that at least one person in the world looks at his life and says – This Is Discipleship!