Monday, October 31

It's Time For a Win/Win!

I know you may be expecting a Halloween post today. Oh, I'd love to share some old pictures. Facebook has been posting my Halloween memories all week. They are precious to me. But, that's not what is on my heart.

I was jogging this morning and writing a blog post in my head. If I told you how many times I do that, you'd be amazed. God has used this blog space time and time again to help me process the thoughts and emotions in my head. I'm an internal processor. Talking things out only works for me when I've had plenty of time to think and plan and rethink and replan. My mind is always full, but I'd never let any of those thoughts out without careful consideration.

In a crazy way, this blog has given me the freedom to do just that. But, I haven't been doing that lately. What I've noticed is that all of my thinking over the past couple of weeks has been in the form of mental blog posts. It's crazy absurd! So, this morning during my jog I decided that maybe God is urging me to write again. And, maybe, just maybe, it's for my own good even if no one else reads it!

A couple of Sundays ago, our lesson was on Jonah. I've been attending an adult Sunday school class for a month or so while we determine where I will serve. It's going to be really hard to leave now, because I enjoy the discussion so much. Our teacher reminded us that Jonah was living in rebellion in a big and obvious way. But, he asked us to think about how we all (in seemingly small ways) live in rebellion on a daily basis. I have not been able to quit thinking about that question.

During every quiet time, I'm asking myself where rebellion shows up in my life regularly. I'm also digging deeper to see where I participate in corporate rebellion in areas where behavior doesn't line up with the message of the Gospel. Every! Single! Time! I'm aware of the same answer.... DIVISION!

I know my last post covered unity extensively. But, based on the Facebook posts I saw this week, it's worth mentioning again. I believe (with all that is within me) that any place where a Christian's actions serve to DIVIDE rather than UNIFY is rebellion!

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11
I'm in a hurry this morning, so I'm just going to be quick and to the point. Is there any way a writer sits down at the computer to TEAR APART a fellow believer for their leadership, writing, or ministry with unity or their mind? The obvious answer is, "no," so I believe it's rebellion against God's call to unity. When another believer takes that negativity and posts it to her Facebook wall and a firestorm of negativity ensues, division is created. It's rebellion against God's call to love.

I'm over it! Joel, Jen, Beth, and Max have taken hit after hit from their own believing family. I don't know any of them personally, but my own walk has been strengthened by their ministries at some point. I doubt very seriously I agree with every, single thing they believe. But, I know they've led countless to the Lord. There will be a large number of people (human beings that Jesus came to live and die for) in heaven, because one of these obeyed God into ministry.And, they can't write, speak, or share anything without being crucified for it.

Jesus left the perfection of heaven, came to this messy Earth, lived a perfect life, and died an awful death to UNIFY us to Him and the Father, and we REFUSE to be unified together. 
I believe it's REBELLION! 

I'm also confronted with the fact that a great number of people were divided because of Christ's message, too. They were called Pharisees! They didn't like what He said, who He said it to, or how He said it. They crucified Him and called it protecting truth. 
When I hear a message I don't quite agree with, my first reaction is to fight it. Fear fuels that desire, because I'm anxious those around me will be influenced in the wrong way. When it comes to my family, my Bible study, or small group, I will share my concerns. I feel responsible to them. But, I share with humility and caution, because I could be wrong! I know I will enter eternity and find out I was wrong on a number of topics, because I simply lack the ability to know all that God knows and see all that He sees. I believe that sin is sin and Jesus is the only way to complete forgiveness. But, I am not 100% sure HOW to respond to the sin or the lack of belief. I'm learning to lean more toward grace, love, and unity allowing the Holy Spirit to deal with the heart of the one I disagree with. 

On that note, the Bible states that there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. What if we are experiencing it through the work of people who are sharing the Gospel in a more seeker friendly way? I'm NOT talking about people who are sharing a new way to salvation or a different Jesus than the one in the Bible. I AM talking about gifted writers and speakers that share the gospel in a way that many want to hear more and more. What if they are experiencing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What if God is using them to pour out His Holy Spirit into lives that NEVER would have listened to any other person? 

Do not quench the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:19

That's Old Testament, 10 Commandments language! I'm not afraid that someone will share a message I don't fully agree with, because I know the Holy Spirit is powerful! When the Holy Spirit lives within a person, God will lead that person on their journey in Him. I AM afraid of quenching that Spirit within myself. One translation says, "Don't put out the Spirit's fire." I'm terrified of being guilty of that. If Jesus came to unify, and I am participating in division, the Spirit is being quenched somewhere! It! Must! STOP!

Y'all, I know I sound like a broken record. I say it over and over! But, we could make a difference in our world if we could agree to disagree YET still love each other! We could cause the unbelieving world stop and wonder what is going on if we could figure out how to be unified with all who profess a belief in Jesus Christ. Maybe they are wrong! But, no person can truly change another person. Only God, through the Holy Spirit can do that. And, all of our bickering, back biting, and slander is quenching His Holy Spirit. 

My ultimate and number one prayer is that God would make JESUS so real and evident in the lives of His people that we would be unable to focus on anything else. When HE is high and lifted up, HE will draw all men to Himself. I believe Satan has won in causing us (in our relationships, in our homes, and in our churches) to FOCUS on minors! Division has been the outcome, and nothing makes me sadder. As believers we ARE a family. If one family member has to "lose" in order for another to "win", it's a LOSS for the family. Enough has been lost! Let's pray for unity!

But avoid foolish and ill-informed and stupid controversies and genealogies and dissensions and quarrels about the Law, for they are unprofitable and useless. After a first and second warning reject a divisive man (who promotes heresy and causes dissension -- ban him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him), well aware that such a person is twisted and is sinning; he is convicted and self-condemned (and is gratified by causing confusion among believers).
Titus 3: 9-12, Amplified Version


Tuesday, October 11

Finding Unity in Disagreement

Oh the posts that have been written in my head since the last time I journaled here. In my absence from the blogging world, we've ended a season of home-schooling, packed up our home and moved 11 hours away, set up house in beautiful Florida, begun ministry again, weathered 2 hurricane threats, and rearranged life a ton of different ways to adjust to all the changes. I've been working on a project that kept me from writing here about the miracle celebration we enjoyed on August 26th of this year. In so many ways, life can fly by in a blur. In other ways, memory suggests it has floated by in slow motion. A lot of the past 5 years feel that way.

Do you know that I'm grateful for each and every moment of those years? I am! I believe God gave me confidence early on that He would redeem and restore and that our family would grow stronger because of the crushing! There have been so many moments when I had to simply hang on to the promise, because there was no evidence to support my hope. Now, though, I look back and see God's faithful hand accomplishing the beautiful work. I'm grateful.

Now, I'm back.

I need to write again!

I need to process the thoughts in my head.

This morning, I'm considering the idea of unity. I love even the sound of the word. Doesn't it seem like something we should desire? It's an awesome word!

How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.
Psalm 133:1

It would be good and pleasant if we could live together in unity! When will we get there? Why does the idea puzzle us? How do we keep making steps towards it only to see it vanish into mid-air?

I believe it has something to do with disagreements. Well, it absolutely has something to do with disagreement! Somehow, we've come to the conclusion that living in unity with someone that holds different opinions is an impossibility. 

One of the reasons I'm so grateful for the story Scotty and I share is that our mess drove us to therapy. There was simply no other way to dig out of the rubble. And, in the safety of several counseling offices we found the freedom to ask questions, to hear answers, and to disagree. Now, Scotty and I agree much more often than we disagree, but the practice really opened our eyes to the reason so many relationships fall apart. No one feels the freedom to hold a differing opinion. 

The list of relationships hindered by division is long, but I'm most concerned with family relationships and church relationships. We are facing times when our families and our churches must be unified. I believe we must provide space for those we care deeply for (or those we should care deeply for) to disagree. 

Right now, I'm facing this test on a daily basis. There are two growing guys that live with me but no longer believe everything I say is the gospel truth. They have a brain, they know it, and they want to use it! Well, praise God! I do want them to learn how to think. But, often, we disagree! I can tell you that Scotty and I would have handled all disagreements with them differently if we'd not spent a good piece of 5 years on a therapist's couch holding a box of Kleenex. We don't do everything right. But, I'm proud of the times we've been able to really listen to their opinion and agree to disagree! The fact that they currently hold a different opinion than I do on a couple of matters doesn't change the fact that I'm unified with them by my love for them. 

In times of disagreement, we are confronted with two options; fight to be right or fight for the relationship. In fighting for the relationship, I've grown to listen more than I talk. Truly, Scotty and I still tie up. We still get frustrated. And, we still wish the other person would change to line up with our personal wants on occasion. But, no amount of talking will change a heart. Only God does that, and it's personal. So, I step back and allow Scotty to relate to His Savior, and I do the same. It feels like I've lost all control, and that's just not true. I never had any control to begin with!

God is sovereign! 

The end!

He knows it all, and only He really knows what's right or who's right in all situations. As my heart on the subject of disagreement has changed, God has been able to teach me more about Himself. I don't care about being right nearly as much as I used to. I care about being real, and sometimes that means admitting I've been wrong.

What an education it's been! Through disagreement, God has demonstrated the beauty of uniqueness in all of creation. Honestly, we don't want everyone to think exactly alike. That would be awful! Our families would be boring, and our churches would be dead! We need disagreements to remind us that we need a Savior! Left to ourselves, we just keep attempting to bully people into our way of thinking. On our own, we stifle creativity with a "my way or the highway" mentality. Refusing to give God our fear of disagreement, will ensure unity is never achieved. And, we will miss the most beautiful picture of Christ's purpose for His people. 

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3
Let's give our opinions, our beliefs, our preferences, and our fear of being wrong to the Lord. Let's join Him in the process. Sure it would take less time to get from here to there if everyone just jumped on board with one person's ideas. But, there would be no unity. People need a voice! We need (I need) to know we're heard. Gifting our relationship with  freedom to share opinions without ridicule and rebuke, opens the door for learning, changing, and growing in the Lord. I hope I never feel too old or established to grow in the Lord through the relationships He's given!

We're called to relationships!. What a messy calling! All of our attempts to simplify the process have led to division, dissension, and God dishonoring conflict.

What if an attempt was made for unity? 

What if we each took one, baby step towards seeing another person's point of view? 

I'm most grateful for the people who've chosen to stay in and fight for a relationship with me. The relationships haven't always been easy, but fighting for unity is always worth it. Anything I've been forced to lay down (pride, my way, the desire to flee, my view of best, pseudo-control) have only been hindrances to my own unity with Christ. 

To me, unity means, "I'm in." It means there is a commitment that no matter how hard the road gets, I'm not going anywhere! Do the people in our homes know that? Do our fellow church members feel that security? The process could get messy. Pharisees won't be able to see it through. I want a Christ-like stamina that is willing to link arms, hold hands, and communicate in love with Christian brothers and sisters. Honestly, we just can't afford to do anything else.