Share Your Life

mike-erskine-144525

One of the most important things you can do is share your life. In the Bible, Paul talks about sharing His life with others around him. He says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to SHARE with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Paul was following Jesus when sharing His life with the many people in the communities He found himself in. We should follow in the steps of Paul and Jesus and share our lives with the people God has placed in our lives. Whether they be friends, strangers, foes, or family.

Jesus is an example of sharing your life. Ultimately, He sacrificed His life for His family, friends, and foes. Scripture actually says:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for His friends.

John 15:13

What I’m proposing is NOT a sacrifice of life. It is a sacrifice of SELF. “A pursuing of that which besets us and striving for the life you have ahead”. One that desires a life ahead for friends, families, and foes.

In Jesus’ life, He SHARED all of it. Daily life was lived in community with His brothers – the twelve disciples. They break bread together. Traveled together. Most importantly, wept together. During His final hours, Jesus asked some of His disciples to pray with Him. He did not hide in His brokenness. But instead asked for it to be shared. In the same aspect, when Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared before His disciples so they could rejoice with Him in life.

I’m reminded of different friends in different seasons who have walked through life with me. People who rejoiced and mourned in different areas. One friend and I spent two years incredibly close. We moved to the same town, started the same positions at the same company at the same time. Only a few years apart in age, surrounded by women much older who had different personalities than our uniquely similar ones.

During bad and good times this friend banded with me. There were bad times where clients were homeless, hospitalized, or worse. We would walk back into work and find little gift bags filled with treats of our favorite things and know it was from the other person. There were road trips to different states for training. Fun stories of life. Joy shared in moments of excitement. Maybe our paths were not meant to cross forever. But sharing our lives for a season was worth every moment.

Jesus shared His life in the moments with the strangers around as well. He frequently broke bread with people in foreign lands. No matter their background religion, crimes, or ethnicity, Jesus hung out with them. In the Bible, there is a story where Jesus walked a long journey with two men. That became an opportunity for the man to ask why Jesus would spend so much time with them and learn more about Him.

Currently, there is a group of individuals I know who hung out at the popular college student areas around a town. They hang together as friends in unique places. With arms wide open, they welcome new people that come along. Not just into their meeting but to do life with them. These people keep growing because of their willingness to simply share life with others.

Perhaps that is our biggest calling – to share life. By doing this, we share Jesus. Many of our greatest longings stem from the desire to be fully KNOWN. Jesus knows and loves us. Close friends and family hopefully KNOW us. One of the hardest and greatest things we can do is KNOW and be KNOWN. Break bread together. Cook together. Mourn together. Be broken together. Rejoice together.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Rom. 12:15

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The Eye of the Storm: A Response to Las Vegas

maxime-amoudruz-99191Evil. The thought makes the average person shudder. In the United States, the past months have been riddled with shape-shifting forms of evil. States tore apart by hurricanes, an island left in utter destruction, and thousands of people glued to their televisions as they watched a man shower hundreds of bullets on thousands of people. In those moments, people tend to go one of two directions. The first being, “If God were real He would not allow these things to happen.” Or the people who come to see God in these moments. We all tend to lean one or the other way. Sometimes people do tend to meet in the middle.

What feels way back in the day I took several philosophy classes focused around the existence of God where we discussed these questions. One of those classes was specifically focused on The Problem of Suffering. It was taught by a man who believed in God. If anyone has the right to question God’s existence and why he allows evil, Dr. Schulz absolutely had the right. This man lost his children. Not in an instance but in slow, excruciating pain. Watching life fade before his eyes. Some days that class was excruciatingly difficult to hear – the pain in his voice was evident but so was his devotion to God.

Through this process, I learned about the love of God. We could spend hours debating whether or not God is evil. As a matter of fact, that’s what we did in philosophy. To sum it up, I would use Dr. Schulz’s example of Job. He suffered debilitating pain and suffering but knew God was greater. The reality is there will be evil and suffering.

God created a perfect world. Mankind was not perfect. They brought sin into the world with the bite of an apple. In that moment, the world was imperfect. The fallen angel came along – one who brought true evil into the world. God wanted to give us free will. We could have no evil but then we would have no free will. God gives us the ability for making our DECISIONS about life. He does not force us to do anything. He never wishes evil upon us.

He sent His Son to earth. Perfection in the form of humanity. With one of the worst forms of evil, nailed to a cross bleeding and breathing His last. Living in literal hell for several days so we would not have to. God does not stop all the evil until the end but He did provide us with humanity’s perfection. An example to follow and to help us make wise. One who reminds us of the goodness in the world.

That is what we need to be reminded of in these moments. It’s the man from Las Vegas who says He found God while in the midst of gunshots. The owners of cruise ships who turned them into disaster relief for an island. Companies sending volunteers, food, and supplies to ravaged states. Kind words, hugs, and giving to fellow humans all around. For every act of evil, you can find an act of good.

When you turn on the television and see all the evil in the world, look for the good. We live in a society focused on everything wrong. Imagine if, for every negative incident in the world, we focused on a good one. Evil exists. It’s horrible, horrifying. Something any one of us could be capable of given the right circumstances. My heart goes out to all the families and friends that lost loved ones, homes, and hope. Hope is in front of us though. It’s the moments of bonding after the evil – the way we reach out to each other. A simple touch. An article of clothing. A piece of food. Clean drinking water. If you can’t find the good, look for it. Still can’t find it? Be it. Don’t let evil win.

The Nashville Controversy

ben-white-148794Sexuality – the most confounding, beautiful, and intricate, piece of mankind. Every year it seems to become less and less confounding, beautiful, and intricate. Instead it becomes sordid, animalistic, and controversial. The Nashville Statement  is the latest in the continual tale of human sexuality.

As a social worker for pregnant women, my calling revolves around human sexuality. Without problems in sexuality there would actually be no job for me. However, that would not bother me one bit because it would mean every child, man, and woman were loved, connected. Throughout the years of working with women on issues revolving around sexuality, I have discovered you need to be grounded on your own viewpoints.

For example, I have friends who are outspoken in their progressive viewpoints. They are some of my favorite people – their hearts are beautiful and desire to care for others. I may not agree with all of their perspective but I respect them. If I did not study my own viewpoints on sexuality I could very easily be swayed by the love and care shown to everyone. Through the years I have learned that progressive viewpoints tend to lead to extreme confusion.

If you are a Christian, you believe in a Creator. In Genesis it says:

“God created man and woman in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:27

As a Christian who believes in a Creator someone chooses to believe that He has a design and plan for them. Within the Bible it says:

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered my mother’s in my womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” – Psalm 139:13-15

Articles 3-6 and Article 13 of the Nashville Statement address these issues. They state that  the individuals, as Christians, who signed this document believe what the Bible says. God formed us before birth and created our gender and sexual identity. It is a sacred and beautiful thing that we should embrace.

In today’s society, there is a belief that God created us to be whatever makes us happy. Transgender individuals do not feel comfortable with who God created them so they change their design. I have a lot of sympathy for this. Throughout my years as a social worker I have seen an increase in teenage girls who believe themselves to be boys. What I’ve also seen is that every girl I have worked with who believes this has been heavily sexually abused. Trafficked, prostituted, beaten, raped, and kidnapped. Much of identity is centered in our sexuality today.

Imagine if you had spent most of your life being abused by someone of the opposite gender. Would you want to be a girl then? The problem is instead of working through that trauma and teaching a man/woman to be empowered in their gender they are accepted as they are. We should allow ALL people to feel LOVED and accepted. That does not mean we allow them to continue on their current lifestyle. Would you tell someone with an anorexic that you accept them as an anorexic? Or do you love them and help them heal?

Articles 10 – 14 address LOVING people right where they are at. No matter where they are in their journey or where they’ve been. Every single one of us has some sin in our life. For many of us it is a struggle within our sexuality. However, Jesus covered all our sins. He seeks our hearts, wants to show us His plan and give us a life recovered from our pasts, our trauma, and sins.

“For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

God gave Himself for us to be free of pain, our past, and sin. However, that will not happen on this earth. There will ALWAYS be suffering here and God is to be our refuge. One of the things He has provided us to give a glimpse of His love and a sacred space for us is marriage here on earth.

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:28-32

Christians who believe in a Creator believe that Christ created a roadmap for them. As people who follow the Bible, believers would accept that Christ CREATED marriage. It’s purpose sacred and wonderful. Articles 1-2 and 7-12 address this. The Nashville Statement is reiterating that God created marriage for a man and a woman. Created in their gender identities. Recognizing their sexuality was created to be between a man and a woman. Sex to be within a committed relationship before God.

This recognizes that a committed relationship before God cannot be done between Christians of the same sex. It is very hard because there are people who genuinely struggle with homosexuality from a very young age. They question why a God who established their identity would allow them to experience same sex attractions. As a social worker it is sometimes hard for me to understand.

One of my favorite couples I worked with was a homosexual couple. A lady was pregnant and watching her partner care for her was endearing. The partner knew every need before it even occurred. There appeared to be so much love and care. Imagine how well they knew each other simply because they were both designed female. They understood how each other’s brains work and that helped them know each other well. However, the Bible is very clear that marriage is between a man and woman. It also makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin.

“…the law is not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful,…for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality…and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” – 1 Timothy 1:9-11

The Bible states that sex is designed for the confines of marriage. Anything outside of that is wrong. Even so much as lust. God designed us to live a life of purity to Him. He gave us a plan for our lives and wants us to pursue Him. He created our sex, gender, and sexuality – complicated, beautiful, confounding, and God honoring. It can be hard to stay within those confines. If you are not a Christian, you do not have to subscribe to these beliefs. As a Christian who believes in the infallibility of the Bible, I choose to follow it’s path.

Following the path of the Bible is not always easy. But neither was it easy for Jesus to die on a cross. Jesus example also commanded that we LOVE everyone – just as He loved us. Enough to die for us. Enough to speak the truth in love. I personally believe the Nashville Statement is a great roadmap for modern day Christians in an age of sexuality confusion. If you are not a Christian, I can understand why you may be confused, angry, and disagree. That is alright to feel those things and know I still love you and love being friends with individuals of all viewpoints. If you are a Christian and struggling in the area of sexuality here are links to a few of my favorite resources on sexuality:

For women:

Christian Cosmo by Phylicia Masonheimer

Wait for Me by Rebecca St. James

Dirty Girls Ministries

Authentic Intimacy

For men:

Ransomed Heart

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

For both:

the Bible

 

All the Wrong Things

AlltheWrongThingsSometimes the right answer seems like the wrong one. The wrong answer seems the most appealing. Recently I’ve learned that there are areas of life where things are shaded gray. Some people say things are black and white – yes in certain areas – they are. However, with the nature of my job and life, I often find myself living in the gray.

Multiple options are presented that are equally good but not equally beneficial. “Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.” (1 Cor. 10:23-24 MSG) So when we are considering doing things – we need to consider the effects on others first and foremost.

In the last couple of weeks I was presented with two different career paths. Both were equally great and could be God honoring. One took me completely out of Christian ministry and into the very exciting world of public health and knowledge (if you don’t know me, I LOVE learning new things). The other kept me where I was – in ministry but building up the path for me to open my own non-profit. Let me tell you, they both have great appeal and it’s social work so that automatically means you get to “help others live well”. The verse from 1 Corinthians stuck out to me throughout this process because I recognize that in ministry I have always been blessed to have everything I needed – despite not going into the public sector and very few people being paid to do what I do. That helped me decide to stay within ministry. I knew that things would all work out.

That did not suddenly make life amazingly easy to make a decision though. It’s funny because they say that when you make decisions for God the devil attacks. In the song Center by Matthew West it says

It happens every single time I get close to

Everything I know is good and right and so true

It’s like somebody doesn’t want me to love You

And I must be onto something

The reality is when you make decisions for God – the devil pushes back. He knows you too. Just like God knows you, the devil knows you. He will attack the places that are your weaknesses. The devil can even appear as a great decision or idea. “…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14 ESV) I can tell you almost immediately after that decision the devil started throwing more decisions into my life.

The reality is the devil knows how to tempt you. When he cannot dissuade you from a decision, he can throw things into your life that you maybe thought you wanted or give you opportunities to go down paths personally that affect who you are. One of the things I learned throughout all of this is even working hard to be close to Jesus we will still want to do all the wrong things. Branan Murphy says in his song All the Wrong Things:

Maybe I’m not in control

Playing with fire, it’s taking me over

I light the fuse and I’m watching where it goes

I wish you would stop me

This feels too good for it to be wrong

I’m just trying to follow my heart

This whole song pretty much embodies what happens when you do try to follow Jesus. It doesn’t suddenly become magical. You have to work hard. There are people you may have to leave behind or limit time with or places that no longer become your local haunts. Boundaries may have to be set into your life. Ones that allow you to witness to others but not compromise what Jesus would have you do.

The reality is the more you seek Jesus, the more you may be tempted. The good news is “God will not tempt you beyond what you can handle” (1 Cor. 10:13). What you do is draw closer to God. If an offer seems good but it’s the start of a flicker down the wrong path, turn it down. Brannan’s song describes so well what happens when you start the spark. The simple thing you thought you were doing becomes bigger and bigger until it’s no longer innocent or even in the gray area. It draws a wedge between you and God.

Then you have to journey your way back to even find the spot you were in before. Be careful of the decisions you make. You never know where they may lead. I am grateful for the first decision I made but as I am finding, it can be very tempting to think choosing a good decision does not mean you will continue that or have a suddenly great life. To those facing temptation or decision, I encourage you to look to Jesus and also what is surrounding you.

“I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best not the worst; the beautiful – not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Phil. 4:8-9 MSG