Approaching Issues with Grace

downloadSo many issues, so many choices in how to approach them.

There are the biggies: gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, and the list goes on. Then there are the ones that we don’t deal with on a national scale, but they soak into the very same topics as well as permeate our daily lives: forgiveness, tolerance, hypocrisy, mercy, pride, rights, humility…

We separate one from another, because we don’t want to have to apply the same standards everywhere. We can support one issue based on a premise that undermines another. We can set ourselves emotionally aside for one issue but come unglued for another. We point out the logical flaws of someone else’s argument but fail to see our own. Worse yet, we apply God’s Word to condemn others while applying God’s Word into our own lives, inviting him to challenge our own faults and offenses.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he went back to the Temple, and all the people came to him, and he sat and taught them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They forced her to stand before the people. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught having sexual relations with a man who is not her husband. The law of Moses commands that we stone to death every woman who does this. What do you say we should do?” They were asking this to trick Jesus so that they could have some charge against him.

But Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they continued to ask Jesus their question, he raised up and said, “Anyone here who has never sinned can throw the first stone at her.” Then Jesus bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Those who heard Jesus began to leave one by one, first the older men and then the others. Jesus was left there alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus raised up again and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?”

She answered, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.” (John 8:1-11)

How can we approach all the issues surrounding us? Grace.

We can’t force others to walk the same journey we’ve walked, recognizing every truth we’ve struggled to face. We can’t fix all wrongs or become the keeper of all moral rights and wrongs. God is the judge, and he does a good job of it. He doesn’t need our help. He needs our obedience. And being obedient to God means living out the lives he created us to live, becoming more and more like him every moment of every day.

Can you claim to becoming more like God with every moment of every day?

When we walk with God, the issues become secondary. How we approach every person and every situation comes from the core of our faith. We yield to how he guides our responses, and he knows what he’s doing more than we’ll ever know while walking this journey on earth. When we’re concerned with where God has us and what he’s teaching us, we’ll be a lot less concerned with keeping track of everyone’s issues. Oh, we’ll certainly still be engaged in issues, because God engages us in the community and world we live. But we stop trying to fit God into the issues; we let the issues fit into our relationship with God.

God sent Jesus to place a grace-filled path under your feet. Are you walking on it? As you do, you will be living the grace-filled path out loud for all to see and hear.

But the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to true life. (Matthew 7:14a)

The (Un)Easy Path

downloadImmediately the Spirit drove (Jesus) into the wilderness. (Mark 1:12)

It happened right after Jesus was baptized. Off the the wilderness He was driven, and there He was for 40 days, with wild animals, being tempted by Satan.

And that’s how faith feels sometimes.

Vulnerable.

Tested.

Alone.

Following God doesn’t presume an easy path. When it gets hard, we want to run from the wilderness and find something that makes sense to us. We want comfort. We want something different. We often run to something, anything, that gives us temporary relief. We might find a path that is slightly easier, at least for a short jaunt, but in the long run?

In the long run, avoiding the not-so-easy path in the wilderness catches up to us. There are lessons we need to learn there, ways we need to reach out to and trust God. ways we can’t experience when we’re on the easy path, surrounded by what feels a bit more comforting to us. God gets to decide what we need and when we need it. When we avoid that, we avoid Him. And that comes at a great cost.

In fact, pretty much everything of great value in life comes at a great cost. Discerning the truth of the spiritual cost we’re paying takes effort and humility.

Where are you, and what is it costing you?

Claim (Our Own) Truth

240_f_86747267_f0t60rxhbgndvifkhbunxs0jictzxkbdHow can you claim, “We are wise; the law of the Lord is with us”? In fact, the lying pen of scribes has produced falsehood. The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and snared. They have rejected the word of the Lordso what wisdom do they really have?…They have treated superficially the brokenness of My dear people, claiming, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:8-9,11)

We sometimes claim what we want to be true. If we claim it enough, it must be true, right?

Not even close.

Each of us has limited perspective. We have a foggy view of reality, moreso in some areas than others. We can share with one another, acknowledging that someone else’s view of a specific truth might be more clear than ours. But only God has crystal clear vision. Only He can truly fact check us. Only He can be completely trusted. We just have to be humble enough to learn – from Him and through others. We can’t get too caught up in our lack of understanding, while being willing to see our misunderstandings. We need to explore what we can and keep moving forward, because fog lifts.

 

Refugees Need Help

b1n4d1yimaa20_tGive us counsel and make a decision. Shelter us at noonday with shade that is as dark as night. Hide the refugees; do not betray the one who flees. Let my refugees stay with you;
be a refuge for Moab from the aggressor. (Isaiah 16:3-4a)

This seems straightforward to me. I know it was written about a specific situation, but I think when we use the cultural context of Scripture to excuse ourselves from helping people, we’re wrong. We don’t honor God or His Word with that kind of dismissive attitude.

I don’t know how to solve the refugee crises around the world right now. But the problem isn’t new. What’s new is being able to argue about it online in real time, to voice each of our opinions with fears, quick answers, and detachment. As if we’re all authorities who completely understand the core issues and can foresee all the implications of what someone else suggests.

What I know is when we dehumanize others, we dehumanize ourselves.

Our lack of compassion and empathy says more about ourselves than any “issue” we might be addressing. And by issue, I mean people’s lives.

Humility.

It has risks, but so does getting out of bed every morning. If we’re not willing to live bold lives, what are our lives actually worth? Who wants to simply pass time, or waste it on social media, every day?

Risks mean we might get hurt. So might others.

Oh, wait. They already are.

People need help.

The Crushing Cost of Quarrels

water explosion

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (Proverbs 17:14)

Some battles are worth fighting, but quarrels are wastes of time – time we’ll never recover or relive. I know some people who want to argue just for the sake of being able to prove a point and be declared “right.” But “right” at what cost?

Many of the things we disagree about aren’t paramount. They aren’t life-giving or life-changing. Yet through the disagreements, we damage each other. We try to dismantle the other point of view, but in the process, we dismantle friendships. We erode our own credibility. We elevate ideas or even ourselves in arrogant ways. The points we prove aren’t just about the content of our quarrels. We prove many things about ourselves that we might rather ignore.

Watching someone throw fuel on a fire might give a momentary thrill, but it’s destructive. So, the next time you dig in your heels to prove a point or spew your viewpoint on social media, remember: a breached dam isn’t cleansing; it’s destructive.

Worship Today: Open My Hands

I believe in a blessing I don’t understand
I’ve seen rain fall on wicked and the just
Rain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain
That broken find healing in love
Pain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

Assumed Motives

2015-09-04_16-19-24Why do we assume we know someone’s motives?

We think they’re irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, disorganized, or a myriad of other motives. When we don’t like the way someone responds, we can quickly assume we know his or her reason. And rarely is that assumption positive. We can slowly think we know someone in ways that we really don’t.

And that’s dangerous to a relationship, whether it’s at home, work, ministry, or in friendships. We need to be patient enough to clarify through observing patterns over time or simply asking, “Just so I don’t take this the wrong way, can you let me know if you’re (irritated, disinterested, selfish, inconsiderate, etc.)?”

Much of the time, if we’re willing to honestly listen and change our assumptions, we’ll find we’re wrong. And in the process, we’ll let others know we care enough to listen. We’ll try to understand them even when we wouldn’t do things the same way. We’re willing to let someone change what we assume.

And in the process, we’ll deepen our relationships. After all, people are more important than assumptions. People are more important than being right or having things our own way. Listening and being challenged isn’t comfortable, but it’s essential if we want to grow, both personally and relationally.