God is Love

Day 48: Charlottesville

The first time I wrote this I started with, "I don't know where to start" but then I wrote like 2 pages of stuff that the internet deleted. So now I kind of know where to start and finish, but I'm frustrated that I have to write it again because my feelings are more developed and less raw now. However, I'm going to try and write it all over again because it's something I believe needs to be written. 

Maybe you aren't aware of what has been going down in Charlottesville, VA lately, so I'll start with a quick summary. I think it was back in February, the city voted to take down a General Lee statue in "Lee Park" and rename it "Emancipation Park". This decision spurred the anger of many white-nationalists, in turn making Charlottesville one of the most racially tense places in America. 

This weekend people (members of the KKK, alt-right, white-nationalists etc) came in from all over the country to protest the removal of the Lee statue, for a rally called "Unite the Right". Counter-protesters have come together in much larger groups any time these racist groups have assembled to let them know that their racism and hate is not welcome in this country. As the crowds packed the streets, someone in a gray Dodge Challenger sped through the crowd, hitting several counter-protesters before slamming into two other cars. As far as I know a 32 year old woman lost her life, and over 20 others were seriously injured by the impulsive attack. 

I don't post political things on the internet because I'd rather not give someone reason to dislike me before they get to know me personally. However, I will stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. Somehow, the line between politics and the treatment of humanity has become blurred, so let me clear it up a bit in this case.

 

Hatred and violence against humanity is always wrong. Plain and simple. 

 

Yesterday morning I sat in church and listened to a great sermon. Typically, great sermons talk about God's love for humanity, and how that love will change the way we love each other. I love those sermons! But honestly, I don't remember much about the sermon, because when I got home my thoughts were much more consumed by what happened in Virginia than what I had learned in church. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I had spent my morning learning about Jesus while these counter-protesters in Charlottesville were actually being Jesus. Let me explain:

Being a Christian means simply to be a follower of Christ. It means to walk in His footsteps. To treat others the way He would treat them. To love the unloved and defend the defenseless. It means we are to stand up for love in direct opposition to hateAs children of a God whose law is unwavering and whose love is infinitely unconditional, we are to be extensions of those virtues to a world in desperate need of them.

So as I was literally sitting down in a pew, learning about this God of love and justice, there was a multitude of people literally standing up for it in a street as if they were bowling pins as a hate-fueled sports car came barreling through their protest.  

I'm definitely not saying we should all quit going to church and replace it with any protest or social justice rally we can find. However, when there are people so blatantly mistreated in our communities and we don't stand up for them while call ourselves Christians, we are taking God's name in vain AND lying! 

Here's the deal; I fully recognize that we live in a world full of gray area, and it's difficult to know what to boldly stand against and what not to. However, what happened yesterday is easy! There are groups and organizations today who still ostracize, demonize, and marginalize other human beings based on the color of their skin. This is wrong and as Christians we shouldn't be quiet in calling it for what it is.

I don't care if their reasons are justifiable or not, if someone simply FEELS mistreated, hurt, rejected, less-than, persecuted, or simply lonely, then as Christians we should be the FIRST to treat them with kindness, to give them healing, acceptance, value, safety and companionship.

While I believe this post applies to everyone in the world, regardless of their faith, I'm looking at myself and my fellow Christians first. We don't have time to sit around and wait for it to affect us directly. If evil, hatred, and violence is in our country, it is in our community. We must overcome evil with good. We must stand up for love in the face of hate. 

Jesus set the perfect example of liberating the oppressed. We have to stop pretending like there is no opportunity to follow it. 

Day 22: "The Big Sick"

So tonight, Morgan and I went on our first date (as a married couple)! I feel like it was one of my more creative, grand, romantic gestures of my life; we had dinner and watched a movie. Morgan shot down my hopes of watching Spiderman, but there was a movie showing neither of us had heard of, and after laughing through the trailer, we decided to watch The Big Sick.

The Big Sick is a story about a Pakistani comedian in Chicago that falls in love with a white, American girl, who ends up very sick and in a medically induced coma, fighting to stay alive. I'm not really interested in giving a synopsis, or becoming a movie critic of any sort, so here's why I'm actually writing about it. Also, it was a great movie, if you can get past the many F-bombs. 

Anyways, as we're watching this young man struggle through this stressful, heartbreaking experience, I couldn't help but think momentarily about how I'd feel in that situation. I quickly came to the conclusion that it would crush me. Anything happening like that to Morgan would devastate me. I don't know why I thought so deeply about this in the middle of a movie, but I did, and I realized something that I believe to be true.

Love is an emotion that magnifies all other emotions. The more I love Morgan, the more angry I am when she says something hurtful (not that that has EVER happened). The more I love Morgan, the more sad I am when she's heartbroken. The more I love Morgan, the more annoyed I am when she's annoyed. The more I love Morgan, the more I am happy when she's happy. The more I love Morgan, the more devastated I would be if anything were to happen to her. 

This is kind of morbid for sure, but it just made me think about God for a second. Surely, He could have loved no one more than His own Son. Not only that, but His love is so deep, so selfless, and so perfect, that if this theory of mine is true, then He definitely isn't always just a jolly happy character floating in the sky, much like the way kids imagine Santa in the North Pole. No, as He watches us, and loves us, deeper and deeper each day, His heart breaks more than ours ever could, His joy reaches levels we haven't experienced yet, frustrated, happy, angry, sad...

But the thought that was loudest in my mind, was that Jesus is God's perfect Son. A relationship so perfect with love that literally it destroyed death. Literally. And He had to watch His son get put to death by the very people they were trying to save. The level of heartbreak He must have experienced. Yet He didn't stop it, because that's also how much He loves us, too. 

It's late, I'm tired, probably getting sick, so I hope that made sense, and that the love of our Creator blesses you today!

Day 19: Hand-in-Hand

When talking about Christianity, it seems like the description-of and love-for WHO Jesus is should go hand in hand with conversion and a change in lifestyle as we learn to obey Him more. However, if you believe something going "hand-in-hand" means it is simple, then you're probably wrong.

Watch.

The high five has some very complicated nuances that, if missed, can make for some pretty hilarious highlight reels on YouTube. You've got to consider several key elements. 

#1 

Make eye contact BEFORE reaching out your hand to initiate "the five".

#2

Make sure you clearly have an open hand. It's not rock-paper-scissors.

#3

You must be clear on whether you're "up-high" or "down-low". Don't be Ronny Turiaf.

I'm only scratching the surface here. Anyways, my point is that even with "hand-in-hand" (high fives) there's an order to things. I know this analogy is a stretch, but its way more entertaining than just me talking about it.

Most sermons you hear fall into one of two categories: either they are all about Jesus and who He is/what He has done OR they are about you/what your life should look like as a follower of Jesus. Most people would say these go "hand-in-hand". This means you can't get one without the other, as they are equally important/interchangeable... but if you watched the videos above, you know it is just not that simple.

There absolutely has to be a clear focus on one specific part, and the rest falls together. In the high-five, I believe the key to nailing it is to lock in some good eye contact while yelling "HIGH-FIVE". That's it. 

When it comes to Jesus, the key to nailing it is to talk about Jesus' unconditional, unfailing, unchanging, all-encompassing, never-tiring, infinite, personal, indescribably selfless love, and that's it. The lifestyle change, the obedience, will undoubtedly follow. 

However, if you have the privilege to talk about Jesus to someone and your main focus is on that lifestyle change and perfect obedience, you have now set an expectation that no human being can ever maintain. You've set them up for failure. They may obey for a time. Shoot, they may obey for a LONG time. 

But it's for the wrong reasons. And it's unsustainable.

Last analogy- It's like balancing a broom on your hand. If you look at the bottom of the broomstick, where it's touching your hand, you cannot balance it very long. However, if you look at the top of the broom, way above where the point of contact is, you can balance it til your arm gets tired. Where you put your focus determines your success.

In your mind, and with your words, ALWAYS put your focus on WHO JESUS IS. Plain and simple. The rest will fall into place. 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
— 2 Corinthians 3:!8

Day 16: "If God's not dead, why do we talk about Him like He is?"

Few people can make God feel like a real person who loves and cares deeply about you, just by talking about Him. Mollie is one of those people. Literally every time I hear her talk about Jesus I feel like I know Him a little better, and that He loves me a little more. 

If you haven't heard this yet, PLEASE take 19 minutes to listen. Then subscribe to the YouTube channel, because her husband uploads videos of ALL her Jesus talks. 

What if we were intentional to live tomorrow like God is alive, and all the things we know about Him from the Bible are true? What would that look like? 

Day 12: Special Saturdays

“The world, though fallen, is not all sorrow and misery. In nature itself are messages of hope and comfort. There are flowers upon the thistles, and the thorns are covered with roses.”
— Steps to Christ

I have grown to love finding lessons of redemption, grace, and examples of God's character placed intentionally into God's creations for us. Here's an episode of an interested mini-series called The Record Keeper. Since I'm not giving you background or context or anything, just skip ahead to 5:20 and watch 'til 6:20. 

This kind of rabbit is born deaf, blind, and without an immune system. This is incredible for an animal that eventually has the most incredible set of ears, and 360 degree vision. How do they get there? That's what blows my mind. Such a blatant lesson for fallen humanity that God didn't NEED to throw in, but He did. 

Fully depend on God, and He will develop your spiritual immune system, your eyes will begin to see things the way He does, and you'll be able to hear Him more clearly. 

Blessings!