Give God the Glory: The Mars Hill Controversy

Dear World, and to my Christian brothers and sisters found within it,

My name is Lael Barwood, and almost all of you have no idea who I am.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  I attend the Downtown location, and have been a regular attender for over two years.  This letter is about the maelstrom involving my Church.  I have heard it called an attack, justice, a comeuppance, hateful, loving, brutal, slanderous, and the list could go on and on.  I will assume you get the picture.  In all of this I have found a different word: gift.  The entire mess on all sides has been a series of unexpected blessings and divine intimacy.  “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble” (Psalm 107:2)

In the Bible Paul starts out several of his books with a sort of list of ‘credentials’.  So let me follow his lead and do that here.  I am not some casual attendee of Mars Hill Church.  Pastor Phil Smidt conducted my pre-marital counseling. Both he and his wife taught me invaluable lessons during the Preparing for Marriage classes.  They shared their lives with us, even the not so pretty parts, so that I could have a more holy and Christ honoring marriage.  Pastor Tim Gaydos married me.  I sat beneath his teaching for nearly two years.  From him I have been enormously blessed to witness what it means to be on fire for Jesus.  I was a part of Pastor Bill Clem’s flock when he served at Ballard.  From him I learned the kind compassion of the Father’s heart.  My husband and I have received counsel from Pastor Joel Brown on many difficult issues involving my husband’s daughter.  The Holy Spirit has used his calm strength to point to the balm of the cross.  My soul has found solace beneath the worshipful songs sung by Pastor Cam Huxford.  Ghost Ship has a way of stirring the Holy Spirit in my heart to lift my hands even as tears roll down my cheeks.  I have struggled through a Redemption Group led by Pastor Mike Wilkerson.  He taught me that there is neither shame nor condemnation now that I am in Christ Jesus.  A lesson I often have to remind myself of.  I have learned to be both bold and courageous for Christ through Pastor Sutton Turner as he goes on mission trips across oceans.  When I have spoken with him personally I am always reminded to stand firm for the cause of the Word.  Through my conversations with Pastor Dave Bruskas, and listening to his sermons, I am coming to understand the strength and love of the Father.  That my will and my words and my works mean nothing because only the will, words, and works of the LORD last forever.  Pastor Mark Driscoll is a man I have spoken to a handful of times and only for minutes at most.  Through him I have learned what humility, repentance, and endurance looks like.  My husband is a Community Group leader.  I Co-lead a Women’s Mid-Week Study.  I have served on the Connect Desk at the Downtown Church for almost as long as I have been attending it.

I say all of this to show that I am not unaffected by everything that is going on.  I am in the midst of it.  This is not just my Church, this is my Family.  These are not just men who teach the Word, they are my Pastors.  I am not blindly consuming each service, but I am there to serve the needs of the sheep as best as I can.  I am not immune.  My ears are not deaf.  The above paragraph is not to discount your grievances, but merely to show you that I am involved in my Church.  I actually do not want to discount, deny, nor discredit you at all …on either side of this argument.  What I want to do is thank you all.

You see I am currently suffering from an intense round of PTSD.  For those of you who have been hurt and betrayed in this I can understand where you are coming from.  A little over ten years ago I was engaged to a man who is no longer a part of my life.  I was in a car accident and I had to rely on this man to take me to the doctors, to help me bathe, to get my meds, to help me clean my house, to help me cook, and to drive me to my Physical Therapists.  I loved this man and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.  What no one knew is that for six months after the car accident that man raped me daily, repeatedly, and involved me in other humiliating sexual acts.  I lived in torment for over a year with him, being sexually assaulted for another year after the six months of rape.  So I know what it is like to be betrayed.  I know what it is like to be hurt.  And I know what it is like to be damaged for years because of those things.  Like I said, I do not want to discount, discredit, nor deny any of the pain or suffering you have endured.   Trust me, I know how crappy that feels.

I want to thank you.  All of you.  Every last person who has been involved, or who has involved themselves in this mess with Mars Hill and its Pastors.  I have learned so much over these last few months.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)

The ‘you’ in this is not a person.  The ‘you’ in this is not a group of people.  The ‘you’ in this is not a website or a Facebook group.  The ‘you’ in this is not even the man who tormented me all those years ago.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

The enemy of God meant to crush me, to destroy me over a decade ago.  The enemy of God is still working today to crush and destroy the children of God.  As chaos as erupted outside of Mars Hill Church and within Mars Hill Church God has been faithful to save my life through it.  The Lord has been faithful to bless me as He carries me through this valley of suffering with PTSD.  And I want to share that with you.

Through this I have learned how not to be bitter against the man who abused me.  I always thought I had forgiven him, but in watching this maelstrom around Pastor Mark I realized that my forgiveness was not complete.  I blamed the man who abused me for many things in my life.  Everything about me changed.  I now deal with people much differently.  I have put on weight to keep myself unattractive and to give me license to continue thinking myself disgusting.  I held on to all the ways he wronged me so tightly sometimes that I am surprised my fingers did not break.  I have such good, right, and justified reasons to hate this man.  I have every good, right, and justified reason to see this man suffer consequences.  He wronged me in ways I can’t describe.  I am right to be angry.  I have a right to demand justice against him!  But God …stepped in.

But God.  Those are two of my favorite words.  But God would not leave me here like this.  He used this entire mess to reach out to me, to speak to me.  But God had me listen to a sermon by Pastor Matt Chandler.  It is an amazing sermon.  Here is a section of what he said that has replayed over and over in my head these last few months.

“First, their versions of the conflict will almost always be different, and no one really wants to own anything. Everyone thinks the other person is at fault. If you start asking questions, it gets almost cartoonish. Not to make light of this scenario at all, but if the other person is 90 percent to blame and my 10 percent was how I responded to what they did, there is a common belief that I don’t have to own my 10 percent because they’re 90 percent to blame.

No, you’ve still sinned. You’ve sinned against God and against them. “Well, that sin was only a response to their sin.” It’s still sin. It’s not like God is going, “You know what? I totally get that. In fact, what I would have done…” No. In fact, God has already given us the example of what he would have done, which is initiate and forgive, engage and reconcile. Those of us who have been forgiven, how consistently do we walk in gratitude for the grace we’ve been shown by the King of glory? Not as often as we should, I can tell you that. We’re quick to forget, quick to presume upon the Lord for his grace and forgiveness, God help us.” – Pastor Matt Chandler

I am not to blame for any of the sin committed against me by that man.  But I have sinned in response to that hurt, that betrayal, and that soul shattering moment.  Whether or not that man is a Christian or will ever be a Christian is not a matter for me to consider.  God is very clear about how I am to respond.  God holds me accountable for my reactions, for He gave me His example of His perfect reaction to my own hurt, betrayal, and rebellion.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

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 5:14-21)

 

This doesn’t just go for that man, or Pastor Mark, or Pastor Dave, or your next door neighbor, or your spouse, or your best friend, or your parent.  It goes for everyone. How am I supposed to implore anyone on behalf of Christ if I do not rely upon His perfect justice?  How can I praise Him through His cleansing blood if I hold the sins of others so closely to my heart?  They are not my sins.  Jesus bought every sin ever committed on the Cross.  They all belong to Him.  As my wonderful friend Lee Brown told me a few Sunday’s ago….when I cling to the sins committed against me I am actually stealing them from Jesus.  He purchased them with His blood.  Or do I not believe that?  And if I don’t believe that …why am I worshiping Him?  I have to believe it.  Belief in His cleansing blood is the only reason for joy!

Next, I am the ‘cut and run’ sort of person.  If you had hurt me or betrayed me, or someone I care about, I simply cut you out of my life.  I had no time for it.  But God (see aren’t those beautiful words?) made me a new creation:

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)

“By which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” ( 2 Peter 1:4)

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!” (Galatians 4:9-10)

If it had not been for Jesus I would not be at Mars Hill Church right now.  The moment drama hit the fan I would have left because it is more convenient for me.  I would have given up on friendships and saved my heart the trouble of caring. But in Christ I am new!  In CHRIST I can forgive the man who tormented me.  I can pray for him.  I do pray for him.  I no longer wish him ill.  I do not dwell on him and what he has done to me.  Instead I painfully walk through the wreckage with Jesus and watch HIM heal and make new!!  You all, every last one of you, have helped me learn this.  I have watched you respond and I have seen all those responses to my own situation.  And God has shown Himself to me through it and in it.  Mars Hill is not Pastor Mark Discoll.  Mars Hill is not the Executive Elders.  Mars Hill is a body of believers.  Mars Hill is a church who loves Jesus.  Mars Hill is Jesus’ bride.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2)

Every Christian is a part of that bride.  It does not matter what church you attend, if Jesus knows you …you are part of my family.  The man who abused me could be a part of that bride.  And after all the Jesus has done for me …Jesus has done for all of you.  Who am I to shame you?  Who am I to discount your feelings?  Jesus knows them better than I do.  And I trust His judgment and His justice.  It came at the Cross and we will all fall to one side of that Cross.

“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:17)

So I will not turn my back on Mars Hill.  I will not turn my back on Pastor Mark.  I will not turn my back on any of you.  I pray for you daily.  My heart is heavy for hurts I know all too well.  I do not dismiss them.  I lay them at the nail scarred feet of my Savior.  For you are my family.  God does not quit on His family, and so neither will I.  Pastor James MacDonald has an awesome sermon that spoke to me about all of this.  It is Part 1 in his How to Have Peace of Mind sermon series. In the sermon he asks a few questions that have stuck with me these last few months.  Is this dispute, this argument, this sin I am wrestling with something I will need to talk to Jesus about in heaven?  In heaven will it still matter?  When I am face to face with my Lord and Savior …do I need to point out someone and say that we need to have a sit down?  If not then I need to forgive and let it go.  You are my family, and how we are supposed to treat our family has gotten so messed up, but Jesus made it abundantly clear.  In eternity there are only two sides.

There are only two sides in any situation I will ever get into.  There is no “Mars Hill side”.  There is no “anti-Mars Hill” side.  There is no them against us.  There is no him against him.  There is no me against you.  Whatever situation you can imagine there is still only two sides.  You are either on the side for Christ, or you are on the side against Christ.  And if you are on Team Jesus  then you have only one purpose in life: to give the glory to God.  That is the only question I should ask myself.  Is my reaction to my abuser giving glory to God?  Is my reaction to my abuser pointing people to Jesus?  Is my reaction to this maelstrom around my Church giving glory to God?  Are your actions and words giving glory to God?  If I am not glorifying God and pointing people to Jesus …it doesn’t matter what sin has been committed against me …it doesn’t excuse my sin in return.  Sin is sin.  Either I am on Team Jesus or I am not.  And this entire situation has been a huge blessing in showing me how to be on Team Jesus!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

“for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23)

“’All thinks are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

Lastly, my Pastor—Mark Driscoll—gave a wonderful sermon just a few weeks back about conflict.  Whatever conflict I find myself in at the end is Jesus made much of?  Or is the devil dancing?  Thank you world for bringing me this intimacy and look into how God wants me to live and treat others.  God does use all things for His good.  And I want to give you my gratitude for this blessing.

Sincerely and with a grateful heart,

Christ’s beloved servant,

Lael Barwood

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Christians still killing Jesus

I read an article today that has been gnawing at my brain stem for most of the day.  I found myself filled with an anger I didn’t know how to categorize.  Was it righteous?  What exactly am I angry at?  So I have been gnawing on it with the Holy Spirit, talking to the Lord about what exactly has me so riled in spirit.  I am not used to my spirit being so riled.  My feelings, my pride, or my want to be right is often the source of my riling.  This felt new and different.  And it has taken me most of the day to figure out what has upset me.  As I talked it out with H.G. (aka the Holy Ghost) I came to realize that I am upset because we—meaning us Christians—are still killing Jesus.

I know I have probably just offended you if you are Christian reading this.  I offended myself when I realized I was complicit in the continued murder of my Savior.  But H.G. walked me through this offense and I hope some of you will walk along with me.

So my journey started when I read an article about how multi-site churches are from Satan.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site church, and so I was offended that someone said I basically am a member of satanic gathering.  I have also been a member of a small church of maybe 150 people.  Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Mark Driscoll love Jesus, preach Jesus, and have taught me a great deal.  I am not biased one way or another.  I think both styles of churches are needed to suit the countless styles of God’s children.  I belong to a non-denominational Church, and I have belonged to a Baptist church.  Again, I am not biased on denominations as long as they teach the Bible and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t about what type of church is best, or what style of church you prefer, or the personality of the Pastor you learn the Bible the best from.  That is between you and H.G.

What bothered me is that this article was written by a Christian and was posted for a Christian blog/magazine/website thing.  I don’t know how to categorize it anymore, but I am sure you get the point.   Now I would understand the point of this article if it said that these multi-site Pastors were not teaching the Bible, were not proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the church at all.  Then yes I would understand the article.  But that’s not what the article said.  Instead it went on about how these Pastors are guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  But guess what …every single person is guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  It doesn’t matter if you Pastor a large flock or a small flock.  I am guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  So if a church is ‘from Satan’ because the Pastors sinners, then all churches must be from Satan.

10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The Bible teaches against this.  I don’t go to Mars Hill because I believe it will save me, or because I idolize Pastor Mark’s teaching ability.  I go to Mars Hill because I learn the Bible there.  Jesus is who saves me.  Do some people idolize Pastor Mark?  Sure.  But people idolize their small church Pastor’s too.   If I idolized Pastor Mark it wouldn’t be Pastor Mark’s fault.  It would be my fault.  It would be my sin to deal with and my heart issue.  As Christians we need to stop saying ‘my way of doing church is better and more holy than your way of doing church’.  If Jesus is proclaimed and the Bible is taught, PRAISE THE LORD!  Be grateful and thankful that God’s work is being done.  The world and potential-Christians criticizes us enough, we don’t need to give them fuel for their fire.

When I was a pagan this was a major problem I had with Christianity.  Churches and professing believers tore each other apart, slandered one another up and down the internet, and generally acted like middle-school kids.  And that is how I saw you treat people who were a part of the ‘family of God’.  Why would I want to be a part of that family?  Why would I voluntarily skip into the middle?  When you, as a Christian, come out and call a style of Church satanic…why would any non-believer then go to that Church?  How many people have we just cut off from the saving grace of the gospel because we disagree with how things should be done?  Is it really worth that person’s soul?  Is your opinion of how Church should be done so important that it is worth this cost?  Are you really that prideful?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The article talks about how sinful multi-site church Pastors are.  So I am going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about Pastor Mark Driscoll.  He is not perfect.  He is a sinner.  He gets things wrong.  He says things wrong.  He gets angry.  He needs Jesus’ grace.  He needs forgiveness.  He is just like me.  Imagine that.  Pastor Mark Driscoll isn’t Jesus.  He says that often.  Want to know something else about Pastor Mark Driscoll that so many people tend to overlook?  He repents.  He repents publicly, in front of cameras, to thousands of people.  He apologizes to thousands of people.  He talks about his failures and his sins in front of thousands of people.  Unlike me.  I sometimes have a hard time talking about my failures with just my community group.  I don’t have to eat humble pie every Sunday in front of everyone.  I do it privately with my husband and H.G.

So yay, my Pastor isn’t perfect, but neither am I.  He shows me what repentance looks like.  He leads me in how to be humble, how to swallow my pride, and how to talk frankly about my sin.  And guess what …your Pastor should do this too.  I find it completely comforting to know that my Pastor gets it, and is willing to be humbled before the world so that I learn how to be more like Jesus.  The only perfect Pastor is Jesus Christ who happens to be in heaven right now.  All Pastors have sinned and all Pastors fall short of the glory of God.  We, as Christians, need to let this sink in and we need to stop crucifying them for being as imperfect as we are.

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Stop throwing stones at my Pastor.  Stop throwing stones at Pastors who teach the Bible and preach the saving grace of God.  Just.  Stop.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

The article then goes on to say that as a member of a multi-site church I cannot hold Pastor Mark Driscoll accountable.  As if I should be able to be the accountability partner in my teaching Pastor’s life.  That right there is a huge ego and pride check.  Pastor Mark teaches me the Bible, and preaches the saving grace of God.  Pastor Mark is not my accountability partner.  Pastor Mark is not my friend.  If I had a pressing issue in my life I wouldn’t run to Pastor Mark for the answers.  And guess what ….when I belonged to a small church it was the same way.  Why?  Because they aren’t my personal and close friends.  I don’t hang out with them.  I don’t have them over for dinner.  I am not against becoming friends, but I don’t demand that be a requirement for me to sit beneath their teaching.  The same way I wouldn’t demand a college professor to be my friend before I take his class.

Pastor Mark Driscoll has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible, as do other multi-site church Pastors.  I learn so much from Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor Rick Warren, and many others.  I don’t know any of them.  And I hardly think I need to nitpick my way through their lives and demand they explain everything to me.  If you need that close relationship to your Pastor, then by all means go to a small church where that is possible.  I don’t begrudge you that need, but please don’t call me a Satanist because I don’t share that need.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is my teaching Pastor at my church.  He isn’t my personal Pastor.  Pastor Dave Bruskus is a fatherly Pastor for me.  He is a Pastor I would reach out to for big questions as I have seen his wisdom and love for God’s children.  Pastor Sutton Turner is a warrior Pastor for me.  I see him on the front lines for God’s glory, working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  These two men are accountability partners for Pastor Mark Driscoll …and I completely trust them to do that job.  I don’t feel the need to do it myself.  Now my personal Pastor is actually at my Church at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.  For a while it was Pastor Joel Brown, who is completely amazing at speaking the truth in God’s love.  He was the Pastor I went to when I needed a Pastor.  God has called him away to Mars Hill Tacoma.  So now my personal Pastor is Pastor Matthias.  I am still getting to know him, but I trust him already with knowing he is a man of God’s heart and would give wise counsel.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a member of a multi-site church, and I want people to know that I do have a Shepherd (Pastor) and I’m not just some consumer/groupie who stares at Pastor Mark on a screen.  I go to watch Pastor Mark on a screen because he teaches the Bible in a way I understand.  I do the same with the other Pastor’s above whom I mentioned.  But if that’s not for you, I get it.  We are all called to understand Scripture in different ways; just as all Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit to serve the spreading of Scripture in different ways.

31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

The last point that really rankled me in this article was the critique against the pastors who served these Multi-site churches.  A man needs to be called by the Holy Spirit to become a Pastor.  The Holy Spirit then usually calls a Pastor to a certain church for a certain ministry.  That calling is between that Pastor and the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus warns us very poignantly against calling the works of the Holy Spirit as something evil or from Satan.  We are really not supposed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Which is what we are doing if we are saying what the Holy Spirit has called these men to do is from Satan.  Who am I, and who are you, to judge what exactly the calling of the Holy Spirit is on anyone else?  The will of the Holy Spirit cannot be held in check by anyone’s will, design, or church style.  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a small church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a mega church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a multi-site church, yay Jesus!  We should be rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to still stir up the affections of men’s heart to serve the LORD rather than trying to dictate how that service should look like.  We, as Christians, really need to stop trying to shame one another into worshipping God as we see fit.  Otherwise we are exactly like the Pharisees.

Jesus did not teach like the Rabbis of the Pharisees.  Jesus did not follow their traditions or man-made rules and laws of what worshipping God should look like.  The gospels are full of this battle of wills, of these demands the Pharisees made that Jesus conform to how they thought synagogue should look, sound like, and be lived out.  They were so outraged by Jesus’ nonconformity that they failed to see people drawing closer to God, repenting, and living a new life.  They murdered Jesus for this.  And we are still doing it today.

Church is about Jesus.  As Christians we need to be about Jesus.  And when we lobby accusations and insults at other Christians who are worshiping Jesus in a different way ….we become a Pharisee.  We put our preferences, our traditions, and our own opinions about how serving the LORD should look before the fact that this is really supposed to be all about Jesus.  When we do this we kill Jesus for the non-believer.  When we do this we kill Jesus to the skeptic watching on.  The world around us is killing Jesus enough on its own ….the children of God shouldn’t be helping them.  Stop throwing stones.  Stop giving the LORD a bad reputation by our own preferences.  Enough already.

Is the Pastor teaching the Bible?  Is the Church preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit moving the people toward God?  If the answer is yes …then shut up about how you think things should be done.  Go to a church that suits your needs and worship and praise the LORD for providing us with so many ways to glorify Him!  Put your stones down.

If you don’t like a Pastor, then don’t like that Pastor.  Don’t help the world tear a servant of the LORD down by adding fuel.  Don’t go on various social media’s and spread contempt for the servants of the LORD.  You aren’t serving Jesus by doing this.  You aren’t glorifying God by doing this.  We need to put our feelings and opinions (our pride) aside and seek after the glory of the LORD first ….not the glory of ourselves and our opinions.  As Christians, we need to stop killing Jesus before the world who is definitely watching us crucifying our own.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

 

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)

 

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)

“A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. “ (Proverbs 18:7)

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Who am I before God?

Today I had the honor and gift of being able to sit in the comfort of my home while listening to some awesome Bible preaching and teaching.  My Church set up the Resurgence Conference for free online streaming.  I was giddy this morning for what I would learn.  I was overwhelmed at the sight of so many Jesus loving individuals packed into my church …singing ….praying ….learning …living …and worshipping together.  It was an awesome sight to see the pews packed.  It actually brought tears to my eyes …because I want to see that every Sunday.  And today was a Tuesday.  A day generally not packed full of church goers.  I was in awe of my God blessing me with a sight I always want to see.  It truly was amazing!

What I took away from today amazes me more.  It isn’t something I have really thought of.  All the Pastors who spoke today touched on it spoke into this feeling inside of me, but it was brought home by Pastor Greg Laurie.  Is who I am when I am all alone with God the same person I am when I am around others?  The answer is no.  I am not the same person I am around my family that I am around my Community Group.  I am not the same person I am around my Community Group that I am every Sunday at my Church.  I am not any of those people when I am with only my husband.  And I am still not that person in any of those situations then when I am alone with just God.  I’m just not.  Oh sure I could give you a list of reasons and excuses to “sanatize” my choices.  But I am not going to.

As Pastor Crawford Loritts spoke of today I need to move away from that dissection and set my feet to the path of what I am going to do about it.  How can the awesome and redeeming power of the Gospel shine it’s light through me if I keep putting Yahweh’s lamp beneath a bucket?  So I am going to start with today.  By God’s sense of time this is the beginning of my Wednesday.  And I was blessed with spending the beginning of my Wednesday listening to the teaching and preaching of my Pastor Mark and Pastor Crawford a second time through with my husband.  It was a good start to my day and I find myself at peace with what the dawn will bring me.  And trust me when I say that very rarely is the case.

So who am I when I am alone with God?  At first I thought it was that I am more confident when I am alone with God than when I am around other people.  Because I often feel a mile behind everyone else, completely out of place, and the only platypus among a flock of swans.  I’m not even the same species.  So as I allowed myself to sink into this self-professed confidence before the LORD I quickly come to realize I am not all that confident.  I question myself before and around others, and even when it is just me and no one else can witness my pride …it isn’t displayed in confidence.  It is displayed in second guessing myself, doubting myself, condemning myself, beating myself up …and staying completely focused on myself rather than focusing on the very real and obvious fact that I am an infant in my faith before a timeless LORD who knew all of my sin before He laid the foundations of the world.  That’s intimidating.  It is also so completely loving and humbling that He went ahead and made me anyway just the way I am.  I can’t really wrap my mind around it.

If the last paragraph didn’t give the answer away I’ll say it plainly.  When I am alone before God I am a mess.  I realize that in most of my online social media stuffs that I am involved with I always mention that I am broken, but I don’t think I act that part out.  I keep it hidden because it makes me vulnerable and real and imperfect.  Granted I know everyone knows I am not perfect …but this is a whole other level of imperfection.  I am broken because I am a sinner …yes …but the shattered pieces of me go much deeper than what I allow anyone to really see on any sort of consistent level.  I know we are all broken from the start, when we are being knit in our mother’s womb.  I know that, and I don’t want to try and play the ‘who is more broken’ game with anyone.  I am just saying, and letting you know that my soul … my very core …is shattered to countless pieces in Jesus’ dust pan.  I know I have only allowed Him the briefest moments of times to begin gluing my pieces back together.  I know that every day that passes more of His glue will bind me together with the stickiness of the Holy Ghost.  Just run with that analogy, bypass its flaws.

I am in pain.  In an obvious way physically.  I have told some about the constant level and degree of pain that I live in.  When doctors ask about a pain level between 1 and 10 …I live normally at a 7.  When I sleep it jumps up to an 8 due to the fact I am asleep.  So generally I don’t sleep well.  It isn’t restive.  Every moment of every day I am in pain.  It isn’t a discomfort.  It isn’t bothersome or annoying.  It isn’t mild.  It is burning, stabbing, real pain.  And if you look at me it is doubtful you will see that pain.  It might show up briefly in a wince, but generally people don’t realize how much I hurt.  I don’t want you to know.  I go to great, exhaustive lengths so you don’t know.  I hurt.  All the time.  Even when I am smiling, laughing, singing, and lifting my hands to worship LORD …I am in pain.

The fact I am in pain is not the problem.  It is just how can you see the redeeming power of God for this pain, through this pain, and because of this pain … if you don’t even know I am in pain in the first place?  Hiding this thorn isn’t allowing the light of the Gospel to shine through those gaps and cracks.  Don’t worry I am not about to start whining around everyone, nor am I going to constantly complain.  I just know I need to start exploring the ways of shining the light of Christ through the lens of this agony rather than covering it up.  I know I will need to pray about this a lot, and actually talk with the LORD about this …rather than just at Him because of it.  He had the solution in an eternity before today.

My physical pain was the easy answer.  It is the low hanging fruit.  A piece higher up has to do with intimacy.  Oh I tell people I suck at it because I have absolutely no idea what it looks like and I have never really had living examples of it around me.  The part that people don’t know is that I still have PTSD.  The LORD has redeemed some shallower areas of this, but I haven’t really begun to explore the deeper side of the PTSD pool.  I’ll hug people hello, because that is a greeting.  But a strange man, or a man I am only acquainted with, better not come up to me and touch my arm.  If that happens no one will know it…..but inside I am freaking out.  And it doesn’t always have to be a man.  Touch, in general, I am not very good at.  Being married has exposed this problem in so many ways.

It is so obvious when it is between me and God that when I go out of town with my mom …and we share a bed to sleep in …I will sleep on the edge, corner of that bed so as not to touch her in my sleep.  I get on the verge of anxiety attacks if while we are laying there and the outsides of our arms touch very lightly.  Comfort be damned.  And that’s my mom.  I don’t think anyone realizes that every Sunday at my Church is a miracle of God because if it were any other space, any other place, I would be uncomfortable and looking for my way out.  And I would never go back, much less volunteer eagerly and willingly to associate with random people.  Every Sunday is a miracle in my bucket sheltered world that I can go to Church for hours, being around strangers, and feel at ease and protected while I am in God’s house.  I am in God’s house with God’s people enjoying God’s company learning God’s word.  If you take God out of that I would never go back a second time.  Trust me on this.  But how would you know this.  How can I portray that in a way that isn’t all about me, but about all of His light shining through those shattered parts of me?  And I don’t have an answer for that.  I will pray about that.  I know the LORD has the answer already.

So I am in physical pain, in PTSD to the point where I close my eyes if a commercial or image comes up involving tidy whites.  What else?  I hunger for His word, I hear His commanding voice, and I tend to ignore Him.  I won’t do this in front of others.  Before others I keep up appearances.  I listen to God, I do what He tells me to do, and I portray a somewhat sedated, rebellious, obedience.  Before other’s I choose Him.  But when it is just me and God hanging out …most of the time I will choose myself.  When I am alone with God I sit there in complete disbelief …confused …horrified shocked awe …at how shattered I have become.  I am overwhelmed by my mess.  I am at a loss over the loss the LORD and I look at in the parts of me that have become nothing more than a fine powder …dust.  And yeah, some of that is my sin …but some of that is just bits of me.  Bits of me I lost.  Core elements of me that just don’t work any more ….and so I don’t know how to function as me any more.  I know that the LORD has it all and that I am a new creation …but how does that new created me work, function, and exist?

I sometimes think I knew the answer, or answers, so I try to forge ahead.  And as a lot of my friends have babies and toddlers …my actions remind me of the baby who tries to craw for the first time…but still can’t figure out how to get their knees beneath them.  I would like to say I am a toddler learning how to run …but more often than not I am the babe who still needs to learn how to support and control my own head.  Because I don’t do that very well.  I don’t take every thought captive to the LORD.  I don’t pray on my knees as often as I should.  I don’t read my Bible as often as I should.  I don’t focus on all things that are true, good, and holy from the LORD.  I fill my head with crap, false gospels preached in TV series, or movies, or games, or books, or ect….and if I don’t control my head how can I possibly guard my heart?

Before God I am broken.  The puppet strings of the world have been cut …but that is still the habitual way, the normative way, I know how to move.  I exist beside the LORD looking at the shattered mess of me in horror ….and I don’t know what to do.  I know Jesus is where I need to start.  Jesus is my start, my middle, my end, my energy, my reason, my salvation, my joy, my motivation, my prize, my portion, and my support.  Just to name a few.  Before others I know I put on the front and face of this is who I am, this is my personality, this is where I am from, and this is what I do.  When it is just God and me …I feel less defined and more like a blob.  I am undefined as I set myself to the task of knowing deep in my core …in the spaces inbetween all the shattered pieces of me …who the LORD says I am and how He defines me.  I am learning those truths in the Bible, in the teaching of the Gospel, in the testimonies of the people around me …and I know it is true in my head.  I need it to sink and cement itself in the empty spaces between the pieces of me.  I need to sit, and think on it.  I need to take the time to sit with Jesus at His feet to chew on His words.

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense.  I hope I’m not writing in circles, because I am good at that.  I just wanted to get these thoughts down.  Because good men of God spoke into my life today.  The LORD spoke to me through them.  He made me who I am before Him …and I need to allow His glory, His light, His redemptive power, and His grace to shine through my mess.  He doesn’t want me to sweep it all under a rug or the bucket just because others come around.  That doesn’t glorify God.  It glorifies me.  I’m broken.  I’m a mess.  Jesus is the neat and perfect one.  And only Yahweh can shine light through the murkiness of His followers.  It doesn’t make logical sense.  It seems foolish and folly.  But the world in its wisdom does not know God.  We can’t shine a light through dirt and murkiness.  That is a miracle.  Only the power of the LORD can do that.  Because He is that awesome.  And only HE is that good!

Flipped around Repentance

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You for thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

As you breathed Your last

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my Savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

And the blood ran down

I was standing right there

And the water poured

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

And You breathed Your last

–          Lyrics to “What have we done?”

This is one of my most favorite songs I have ever heard.  It is one of the most difficult and convicting songs I have ever heard.  Several of the bands at Mars Hill church sing this song.  And when I hear it being sung by so many voices around me … I am overwhelmed by this bitter sweet loving pain.  Because I don’t know if I would have been one of the women following Jesus, carrying His cross, and weeping.  Or would I be a scoffer?  Or in passive defiance of the Perfect Lamb by merely watching what was being done to Him?  I do know I wouldn’t have understood the cup of wrath I have been pouring into my entire life … was about to be drunk to the very last drop by Jesus.

And Jesus didn’t just drink my cup.  If every single sin that will ever be committed was but a single drop into that cup … I can’t even begin to fathom how huge that cup had to be.  Jesus drank every last drop.  He endured the wrath of God.  He did it for me.  He did it for You.  He did it for everyone.  Every last single person that has ever existed and will ever exist.  It is mind blowing.  It is completely scandalous!  The Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Ghost did all of this out of a love I won’t ever really understanding until I am standing in the presence of the LORD.

I recently listened to a sermon preached by Pastor Paris Reidhead, and he said that through the cross and the blood of Christ is the only way God could get glory out of a human being.  I wanted to argue with him but the stink of my pride in that argument shut me up pretty quickly.  His statement is bothersomely true; which is why my heart cringes and aches each time I sing “I was standing right there”.  It is why I am continually baffled by the love the LORD continues to pour out on me in spite of the fact that we have destroyed His Son.

It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there myself.  I destroyed His Son with each sin I have committed and will commit.  I drove those nails in every time I deny Jesus because of fear of man issues that honestly mean nothing in eternity.  Every lash of the scourge that tore through His flesh I brought down on Him by willingly walking into and toward as many temptations as I could find.  And, yes, I do know I have been forgiven all of these things and a good deal more.  I know that right now I am hid in Christ before God, spotless and blameless.  I know I am cherished, loved, and a treasured daughter of the LORD.  These are all truths spoken to me from pages of the Bible.  But these heart felt facts don’t change what I have done, or what I still do.

Pastor Paris Reidhead spoke of repentance as well.  He said that most people’s idea of repentance is nothing more than Gospel glossed humanism.  That most people don’t understand the enormity of their sin, the depth of their guilt by a Holy and Righteous God; and, that they only repent and tremble in fear of God because their skin is about to be singed from the fires of hell.  He put it plainly when he said that repentance isn’t about a good person dealing with the punishments of a bad God.  It is about a bad person standing before a Holy, Righteous, and Good God.  That we all deserve hell, because we are sinners and we love our sin.  Every time we sin we have added another drop in that cup of wrath that Jesus drank.

Sure, He already drank it.  But I had never viewed my sin like that.  The LORD knows everything.  He knew how much I would sin.  He knew how much you would sin.  That cup of wrath is precise.  This doesn’t give me free license to carry on as if it is all taken care of.  If I truly love Jesus I can’t.  I don’t want to add any more to that cup.  I want my drops to decrease and not increase.  I am just sitting here so dumb at not having seen something this simple.  The LORD knows what I will do already, but now I am aware of this on a level I simply wasn’t before.  I know I have, but I don’t want to destroy Jesus.  He is my Savior.  I love Him.

Which is why I am really grateful for this song.  I can’t truly repent with all that I am unless I fully understand the weight of my sin.  I need to understand what my sin has completely done to my Holy God.  I know that only being thoroughly wrecked by my sin and failures can I then be picked up by the Holy Ghost to unimaginable heights of freedom in Christ, and drenched in the love of the LORD.  I can’t just take the gift of salvation without lovingly meditating on what this gift cost.  I want to savor every last drop of grace the LORD has given to me.  I don’t want to take it for granted.  I don’t want to see it as something casual or non-spectacular.  God’s grace is scandalous.  And I am thankful for that.

The last thing Reidhead touched on was how we love Jesus.  Do we approach the throne of God with the cross as a bargaining chip?  You know, I’ll take Jesus in exchange for heaven.  Jesus isn’t a bartering chip.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross for my eternal happiness as His prime product.  It is a by-product but it wasn’t the point.  Which is a real slap in the face because I think I have seen Jesus like that before in my life.  Pastor Reidhead then spoke a truth that woke me up, and made me truly examine how I feel about the LORD.  He said that those who truly love Jesus and worship Jesus, and obey Jesus … in their hearts say, “LORD I will love you, obey you, and worship you even if at the end of all things I end up in hell.  If that is where you want me to go.  Because YOU alone are worthy of my love, obedience, and worship.  Because YOU deserve all of me.  Hell isn’t a deciding factor.  YOU LORD are the only factor I see or care about.”

And I had never looked at my faith that way.  Would I still love Jesus, worship the LORD, and obey His laws … if I knew I was going to hell?  Would that change how I feel?  Would His holiness, His goodness, His righteousness … be enough for me to devote myself in abject adoration to the LORD simply because He deserves it?  I would have to say in past times of my life I shamefully say no.  Right now I think I give, and live out, an uncomfortable yes.  I know each day my yes becomes stronger and more comfortable bit by bit.  But this is definitely a lifetime of sanctification to get it there.  It just flips everything around.

I’m not a Christian because of anything I did.  I am saved by the Blood of Christ because I am His reward for His suffering.  He deserves me for the price He paid.  He deserves so much better than I give Him.  God willing, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am starting to change that.  Thank you LORD.  Thank you God.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Holy Ghost.  I am so blessed.  Undeservedly showered by Your grace.  Thank you.  And please continue to grow in me this vine of You and Your values.  For I am nothing without You and I can do nothing without You.  Amen.

The Good Shepherd

“(7) Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  (10) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

(11) I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18)

 

Today is Palm Sunday, a day I only half sort of got and understood growing up as a child.  I have been a Christian for about four years now and I really didn’t get the significance of it until this year.  Today is the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  This day was predicted hundreds of years before it happened.  It was predicted that it would occur on the very day it did occur which is why the people were waiting for the Messiah to show up.  And there Jesus of Nazareth was, on the back of a donkey.  Which is the exact way it was predicted He would enter.

It was a big deal.  The crowd was huge.  People were laying down palm branches for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon—which is where you get Palm Sunday from—as well as their cloaks.  And people only had one cloak.  So they put down their one and only cloak to get trampled on, caked and embedded with dirt and urine and animal waste.  This wasn’t a light gesture……but it would prove to be a heartless and thoughtless one in a few days.  But today throngs of people were gathering and singing out to the Lord, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The King of Israle!”  The people were pumped and excited.  They had all just declared Jesus God, something He had been saying Himself for a while now.

Ne part of the story I had always heard, but hadn’t understood, until today was that the Pharisees were very upset.  They told Jesus to tell the people to stop saying these things.  Then Jesus told the Pharisees that even if the people were to stop the very rocks would declare it.  So in my mind I never understood why Jesus didn’t tell the people to shut up so the rocks would declare it.  How much more of a miracle would that be?  That would be awesome!  Creation itself would acknowledge God before man.  So I just always thought that God didn’t want to perform on command for the Pharisees another miracle they wouldn’t believe.  I didn’t get what Jesus was saying or showing.  It went right over my head until today when Pastor Phil spoke about it.

The rocks are the lesser miracle.  Creation, in all its glory, is always glorifying God and acknowledging Him as Lord and Christ.  The bigger miracle is when a sinner, fallen, enemy of God can turn away from himself and from Satan….repent….and look toward the Good Shepherd….and say You are Christ!  You are God!  You are my Savior, my Hope, and my Salvation!  My witness, my testimony, my voice crying out to Jesus as Savior is more of a miracle than a rock.  Because it wasn’t a rock that was crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”  It was me.  The rocks already know who Christ is.  I am the one who stumbles and has troubles.  I am the one who had to be sought, bought, and saved.  I am the one in need of a Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He did seek me out among the crags in the wilderness when I was lost, alone, hurt, and broken.  He picked me up and He is still carrying me home.  And He is carrying me with scarred hands, and walking on scarred feet.  And so when I read this passage today with the Our Daily Bread meditation I was struck by another thought.  Jesus knew He would die.  He spoke of it more than once.  He spoke of it here.   He said He would lay down His life for the sheep in His flock.  But He also said He was laying down His life for the sheep that weren’t yet in His flock…….but sheep that still belonged to Him.  Sheep like me.  Jesus said that no one would force Him to lay down His life, but that He would do it of His own accord.  He would lay it down because He wanted to, and then He would take it back up.  All because the Father commanded Him.  Jesus had the power and authority granted to Him by the Father; by my Heavenly Father.

So that means as I road in on that donkey, listening to the crowd He knew that in about 5 days He would be struggling to walk that street.  People who were throwing down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground so the hooves of the donkey He road wouldn’t be dirty….soon would be spitting on His raw back as He left a trickled blood trail toward Calvary.  I can’t imagine what that donkey ride was like for Him.  I can’t imagine what it was like to witness the miracle of testimony of faith, knowing it was greater than rocks singing……..and knowing it was empty and meaningless.  I don’t know how Jesus smiled that day.  I don’t know how He hugged children, prayed for people.  I wonder if He shuddered, even just once, when He crossed over the spot where He would fall face first in the dirt with the cross across His shoulders….at the place where Simon would then have to carry it.

I don’t know how He did it.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was still the Good Shepherd looking for lost sheep.  On the last few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday Jesus was still out there, calling out for His sheep.  We do know His voice.  He didn’t lie about that.  I have heard it; and trust me I wasn’t listening for it.  But I did know it when I heard it.  Jesus is still searching.  I was still found.  I am still being carried.  I can still touch scarred hands and kissed scarred feet.

And on Good Friday Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross, or forced into the wolf’s den.  Jesus boldly walked up to the wolf.  Jesus followed the wolf home without fear or hesitation.  He approached the wolf without weapons, without defenses, and without armies.  Jesus sought out the wolf on his home territory, stood right in his face, and essentially said……give me your best shot.  Do your worst.  I dare you.  I can take it.

And the wolf was confused at first, put on a trial, waiting to see if Jesus would lash out.  Would Jesus bring down Holy fire from the heavens to wipe him out?  Would Christ fight back?  So the attack began, slowly at first.  But it built, and as it built it became more brutal.  Jesus took it.  He stood there.  He didn’t lash out.  He didn’t defend Himself.  He didn’t call down a heavenly host of angels.  He didn’t wipe the wolf from existence.  He let the wolf do his very worst unto Jesus’ death.  And the wolf danced away, believing he had won.  That the Messiah hadn’t been prepared for that kind of ‘worst’.

Three days later the stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  And Jesus was alive.  And the wolf had to face the bitter truth that he wasn’t the one who took Jesus’ life…….Jesus was the one who gave it up.  And Jesus is the one who gave it back.  That the wolf’s most powerful tool…….that the wolf’s most destructive force…….death…..has no power what so ever over Christ.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rule and reign over death as well.  So in bitter defeat the wolf slunk away.  Now he just lashes out more viciously……..trying to rip as many of us from God as he can.

You see Satan doesn’t care if you miss heaven by an inch….or by a mile.  Just as long as you miss out on being shepherded into the flock of Christ.  I had never thought of the wolf in that way before today.  There are a lot of first thoughts for me today.  But of all my thoughts I am very glad that the one to remain true and fast in my mind is that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.  He knows my name, and I know His voice

My own hypocrisy

Today in church I listened to a very challenging, and eye opening sermon. My Pastor spoke of the quality of my heart; what do I hold an abundance of in my heart? Because whatever that abundance is will come across in my behaviors, my actions, and my words. What I say shows you, tells you, what exactly is in my heart. And I am not proud to admit it but what my words and my actions have shown is that I am a hypocrite. And I really, really, really don’t like to say that. However, it doesn’t make it any less true. So my Pastor challenged us today. He challenged me to either change to where the abundance in my heart reflects God, and my love for my Savior; or to continue excusing my actions, not caring, and stay exactly as I am.

I know He wasn’t speaking directly of me, but it felt like he was preaching to me personally. I listened today with a troubled heart because I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be one of those people who say they love God, and proclaims themselves to be a Christian…but doesn’t live according to their own beliefs. One of the reasons I turned away from Christianity was because of that. I don’t want to be that reason for someone else. I don’t want to plant that seed in someone else.

So what can I do to change? The first thing I can do is something I have wanted to write about, but have been struggling with actually doing it. The first thing I can do is change how I speak. Words mean something. Words carry more meaning, more punch, and more devastating power than any weapon man can make. But we, as a people, have misused them and abused them. I have done my fair share in distorting the very beautiful gift of language. And I’m not talking about a specific language. I am talking about language in the very basic terms. Words, no matter what language you say them in, carry the same meaning. And I am guilty on many occasions of destroying the very awe inspiring, and breathtaking meaning some of these words carry.

I don’t want to count the number of times I have said the words “I didn’t mean it/that” just in the last year. If I didn’t mean something that way, or if I didn’t mean to say something at all….then why did I say it that way, or at all? Oh I’ll always have an excuse to why I said it but excuses don’t make things right. The truth is that I didn’t want to make the effort, take the time, or think about saying something different or not saying something at all. It is pure laziness.

But I console, and justify, my own laziness by telling myself that if this person truly is my friend, and if this person truly loves me…they will understand and excuse my behavior too. And while yes, that is true, that shouldn’t be the thought process coming out of my heart. Putting all the work, and effort, onto someone else that I love and care for shouldn’t be the dominant thought in my heart. It isn’t fair to the people I love and the people I care for. It isn’t fair to my friends.

I should be showing them my own love, my own friendship, by putting forth that effort and taking that time. Is the pain, and possible misunderstandings, between me and those around me really worth the energy I’ll save by not thinking about what it is I am saying? The people I love, the people I care for, heck the people just standing around me…deserve my time. They deserve my effort. They deserve my thought and consideration.

Then I tell myself I shouldn’t have to be so careful with the people who mean something in my life, with the people who are closest to me. And I am right. I shouldn’t have to. I should want to. I mean is it really so hard to be quiet for moments before I actually speak, to think about what I am going to say, before I actually say it? Is that examination really so time consuming? It’s not. I can’t justify my own laziness. The reason I can’t justify it is because it is wrong. It is self-centered. It is self-serving.

If I can’t back up what I am saying, I shouldn’t say it. If I don’t mean what I am saying, I shouldn’t say it. If I didn’t mean something in a certain way, I should find another way of saying it that I do mean. So I am going to go through some very fundamental and important, basic words that mean something to me in a way I never understood. Granted not in this note, but in following ones. I want you to know what I mean, and why I mean it, when I say something. I want you to know where I am coming from, and where I stand when I tell you something.

And when I tell you that I am completely in love with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, I want you to know I mean it. So that means I have to change. That means saying shoot rather than replacing those o’s with an i. That means I have to cut out words like “damn it” and the derogatory use of “God.” Cursing in general has to go right out the window. Because how can God take my love for Him seriously if I can’t even put for the tiniest effort of saying a word that isn’t so offensive to Him? Sure, I won’t go to hell if I swear, but it is still offensive to my Lord and Savior. Sure, my Mother will forgive me if I lie to her, but does that mean I lie to her every chance I get? No. I don’t hurt the people I love simply because I know they will forgive me. And God, He is certainly worth that effort.

What I say, what I read, what I do, fills up my heart. It, then, is reflected out in every aspect of my life. How can I expect anyone to see the light of my own salvation when I cover it up with small sins that I could easily correct? How can I possibly show anyone I love God when I spend my time on Facebook playing a game that rewards me for terminally depressing another girl? I have dismissed it because it is just a game, but that game says something. My support of that game says something. It makes me a hypocrite. It gives me an excuse. And if I am hurting and tired of my own excuses…..how must my Lord feel?

I have been asked if I am going to become a ‘prude.’ And I’ll be honest, that use to be a fear of mine. That I will no longer be fun to be around because I no longer am willing to do, say, read, or participate in the ‘cool’ things. I’m not afraid of that any more. My life is juicy, sweet, and full of life. I have passions and fires that will never go out, but they will be reserved for the man I am meant to complete. I have a choice of living up to the standards and expectations of man and society…..or to the standards and expectations of the very God who gave me His only Son so that I may live in bliss and heaven for the rest of eternity. There really is no choice, no competition.

So my life needs to reflect it. The abundance of my heart needs to reflect that. What I say needs to show that. How I behave needs to burn with the light of it. You all, every last one of you reading this, deserves that much for me. Every last one of you is worth my time, effort, and energy. You also deserve my apologies for my own hypocrisy. I can’t promise you I’ll be perfect, but I will tell you that I will do all I can to be better.

Starting now.