Category Archives: Christian

Unfortunate misconceptions…

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In usual fashion, this post is quite long…ramblings of a sort. I’m honored if you make it to the end. Words fill my heart and head. And when they start to flow, I don’t want to hold them back. I hope each of my words touch your heart and leave you with love and compassion in a cruel world.
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Misconception

In light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida, I’ve heard of and witnessed many stories filled with or fueled by hate. I’ve also heard many stories of the outpouring of love and support for the families of the victims involved in the senseless murders of 49 people and the many others injured, forever scarred by evil desires. It’s a mixed up world we are in and unfortunately, in a time when we should all come together in support of one another, we remain divided, allowing anger to fester between us. These are my own thoughts. Feel free to comment with your thoughts as well, but leave hate out of it. There’s no room for anymore hate. Comments filled with hate, from any point of view, will be deleted.

Misconception – a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding.

Religion – “the belief in a god or group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Tragedy – “an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.”

On September 11, 2001, thousands of people breathed their last breath. A country was impacted by the tragedy of violence, hate, and murder. A country mourned. The world mourned. We still mourn.

December 14th, 2012, in the peaceful town of Newtown, Connecticut, a young man walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 children and 6 adults. The children were 6 and 7 years old…still babies, learning to read and write, to dance, to share with one another, to walk in a line, to whisper, to live, to love. Their lives were invaluable to those who loved them but to that one young man, their lives were meaningless.

June 17th, 2015, in a small South Carolina church, a group prayed together. They welcomed a troubled young man into the church and prayed with him just before he took their lives. A tragedy of violence, hate, and murder.

On June 12th, 2016, at a night club in Florida, men and women danced, laughed, sang, and breathed their final breaths as a gunman ripped their lives away. A moment of terror left 49 dead and many others injured. Hundreds of lives, forever changed, by violence, hate, and murder.

It’s been said that many of these tragedies are done “in the name of religion.”

This is true. Many acts of hate and evil have been done “in the name of religion.” What this means is people, filled with hate towards a select group of men, women, or children, committed acts of horror, terror, violence, and murder and claimed to do so based their belief that in doing so, they would be fulfilling the desires of their god. When this happens, the unfortunate misconception is that religion is to blame. We lump all religions, every group of people who gather to worship a higher power, into one category. We label religion as evil. But that’s where we are wrong.

When religion is based strictly on a set of rules or laws that one believes must be met in order to receive salvation, that opens the door for competition, jealousy, anger, rage, and hate. It creates a need to “one-up.” It puts people in a position of attempting to attain the impossible … perfection. When religion is based solely on the grace and mercy of one man, sent from the Creator of the earth, we are humbled people, learning to extend compassion and forgiveness, understanding we are no better than any other, knowing we are all broken people in need. This removes ourselves from being the source of our own salvation and places that salvation in the wounded hands of the only Savior.

Not one of those lives stolen deserved to die that way. Not one. Not the youngest of the children at Sandy Hook, not the heroes who rushed into falling buildings to save the lives of others, not one man or woman based on their sexuality, their feelings, their desires, period. Not even the men who began their lives as one tiny heartbeat, 10 little toes and fingers, a light, soft swoop of hair on their head, raised and taught to hate to the point they would brutally torture and rape women, or sacrifice their own lives to selfishly and hatefully take the life another, in the name of religion. Not one of them should have died. Not one.

Let’s get something straight…

Religion did not carry a gun into the the flashing lights and crowded dance floors of a night club in Florida and the gun did not walk in there on its own. A man chose to allow anger and hate to fill his heart. He chose to carry guns inside a night club filled with people. He chose to murder many innocent men and women and forever change the lives of many others. A broken man. A man with empty places filled by hate. Religion is not to blame. Evil is. Religion did not fly a plane into the World Trade Center with the intent to kill thousands. Broken men did. Religion did not walk into a church, sit among a group of people as they prayed what would be their final prayers, and then rob them of another breath. A broken man did. Religion did not enter an elementary school, open fire on a terrified, helpless, innocent group of 6 and 7 year olds, and destroy the lives of many. A broken man did.

We are all broken. Hear me, we are ALL broken.

As broken people, we need each other. We need love, support, encouragement, hope, peace, faith. Each of us is designed to grieve, to mourn, to desire fulfillment, closeness, relationships, and more. But in a broken world, we are left empty in many of the places we need, so deeply, to be filled.

For some, those places are filled through work, friends, activities, addictions, religion, etc. Others find themselves filled through what most would call religion, but what I will call a relationship and faith. Faith in something better. Faith in a loving God. Faith in a God who became flesh to teach us, guide us, and love us. Faith in a grander place and a grand design. Faith in humanity. Hope.

A successful relationship comes from knowing someone. You learn about their character. You grow to understand them. Through prayer, through reading Scripture, I’ve been able to understand more about the God I believe created the world. I have learned He is a God of love, not hate. He is a just God, who will punish evil, but at the same time, reminds me to live with peace and unity among all, including those who have different beliefs, make different choices, live different lives, and even with my enemies. He instructs me to pray for my enemy, those who hurt and betray me. Praying for those who hurt me does not wipe away the hurt, the wounds are not forgotten, and the pain is not removed, but the hate that could fill my heart is replaced by forgiveness, love, and hope. What could make me bitter, angry, and hate-filled, instead, allows me to look for the good, to appreciate the blessings, to love the unlovable. Religion is much more than a set of rules. It’s a relationship with the One who gave me life, and gave His own, in order that I may truly live. Without a relationship, without that appreciation, without the mercy and grace given as a gift, we have nothing.

Marriage does not work without communication.
Parenting without nurture wounds a child.
Religion without Christ, the giver of grace and mercy, is empty.

Perhaps we need to create some sort of substantial separation between what we define as religion and Faith. I’m not even sure that works because there are peaceful, loving Muslims. There are peaceful, loving, Buddhist. There are peaceful loving people in all sorts of “religions”. And there are broken people in them, just the same.

As a Christian, I believe we all need…we all need a savior and I believe the source of salvation is not in acts of goodness, service, kindness or in acts of control, hate, or murder. I believe our salvation is based solely on the grace and mercy of a loving God by His own flesh, Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Are bad things done in the name of religion? Yes.
Does that make religion bad? No.

But these words in my Bible, that I believe are breathed straight from God through man, serve as instruction and guidance for my life. They very clearly say that I am not saved by acts of kindness, service, or a good heart, nor am I saved by acts of evil, hate, or murder. I am saved by the acts of one sinless man, the very God I believe in, the one who created everything out of nothing, the one who fills darkness with light, the one who walked on earth in the form of flesh to experience the very same feelings and emotions we experience, in order to draw us closer to Him, to show He fully understands, to set an example before us of how to extend hope, love, and compassion to those around us, who created us with the purpose of doing good. Acts do not make me a Christian and believing in God does not make me good. I am a sinner. I have made bad choices. I have hurt people. Being a Christian, a believer in Christ, a follower of Christ, makes me a person who can freely admit that I have dished out my own fair share of wrongs and had wrongs done to me but am saved by the grace and mercy of one God, who took on the sins of the world through flesh, with the purpose that I will do good in His name. That in the name of God, because I have faith, I will love. I will show compassion. I will try to understand others. I will accept as they are, just as He has accepted me. I will pray for peace.

Do I profess to fully understand all of that? Nope.
Can I explain it without any doubt so that anyone else will also believe? Nope.
Do I have faith anyway? Yes.

There are a lot of “religious” people who spew hate and disgust at people who are different from them.  There are a lot of non-religious people who hate the religious bigots. That means there is a lot of hate going around. I don’t understand why this happens and I can’t explain the hate some are filled with.

Unresolved anger?
Fear?

Maybe there are no answers or maybe there are hundreds of answers.

What I do know is that we are designed with a desire and need to be with one another, to love one another, to support, encourage, and care for one another. From the moment a child is conceived, she has a need. She needs nourishment from her mothers body to enable her to grow inside her mothers womb. She needs comfort and protection as her organs form and she prepares to breath her first breath. And in that moment, the moment she takes her first breath, she needs love, comfort, and nourishment. Without those things, she will die. We are created to need one another.

While some people frown upon the word sin, one fact is, sin separates us. No matter what you believe or don’t believe, as a human being, you are not exempt from the effects of sin (or the wrong/bad choices people make). As a Christian, I believe sin separates us from God. I believe in a good God who can take no part in the evilness of sin, who mourns and grieves with us because of the evil in our broken world, but who promises us a place of peace and hope, to fill the emptiness left by the sinful acts committed by us or against us. As a person, who walks in the flesh, I believe sin separates us from each other. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or if you believe in anything, you are still subject to the effects of sin. Gossip destroys relationships, reputations, and lives. Infidelity puts walls between couples and robs them of the trust in their partner. Jealousy leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of thankfulness in the blessings of the meaningful things in our lives. Rape takes the innocence of an act designed to be pleasurable, fulfilling, intimate, and turns it into something horrific, a brutal, damaging form or torture that follows one throughout their life. Murder not only destroys the lives of many, but it robs the murdered of another moment, another breath, another chance to extend hope and love. It is an irreversible choice.

Sin, evil thoughts or acts, crimes of rape, murder, jealousy, infidelity, and so on, create in us a cold, dead heart. Not in the physical sense, but by us placing the value of a thing above the value of a person, in pursuing our own desires before those of another, in forcing things upon another against their will, in stealing ones innocence, in destroying the lives of others. It takes the love and warmth that was meant for us and replaces it with hate, anger, rage.

Religion did not destroy the lives of more than a hundred people at the Orlando shooting. Hate did.

While some claim hate in the name of religion, what people need to understand is, you cannot lump all those who have faith in a higher power under one title. Religion is not the source hate anymore than a tree is the source of money. An individual persons choices and actions are the source of and result of hate. Hate comes from many different people, religions, cultures, groups, beliefs, and so on. Hate can be found in a classroom, in a church, in a store, on a baseball field, in a group of friends, in a marriage, on a highway, or anywhere and in anyone’s heart.

So can love. It’s our choice what we fill our hearts with.

Religion – “the belief in a god or group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Can religion be the source of hate? Yes.
Does that mean religion is evil or hate-filled? No.

There are many peaceful, loving, caring Muslims who believe their God is a God of peace. There are many Christians who pray daily for peace, grasping for bits of hope for a better tomorrow, believing in a loving God.

And then there are those who have their own motives, fueled by their brokenness, filled with hate.

I can only speak from the Christian perspective because it’s what I know.

Do religious people hurt people? Yes.
Do non-religious people hurt people? Yes.
Do Christians hurt people? Yes.
Do non-Christians hurt people? Yes.

Does the Bible speak of hate, murder, sexual immorality, punishment, war, and many other horrors? Yes. Does that make it hard to comprehend? Yes. Have countless people asked, “How can a loving God allow so much hurt and pain?” Of course. Is it possible for that to create doubt in a loving God? Yes.

Here’s the thing…doubt comes from a lack of understanding. I can say that because I’ve been there. For most of my life, I’ve doubted that I was worthy of the love of a good and loving God. I also spent many years believing He was punishing me for being a bad person. I lived in fear, doubt, hopelessness. I wanted to believe in a good and loving God but I couldn’t imagine one who would accept me.

Broken people need.

They need healing.
They need hope.
We are ALL broken.

At some point, in my own life, I knew I couldn’t make it on my own. I was in a place of desperation. The only choice I felt I had was to depend on a God I couldn’t see, one I feared hated me, one I was certain would never accept me, but one I placed my faith in anyway. It was a choice. I don’t take pride in any of the choices I have made but I am thankful for the direction my life took that led to the choice I made that sunny September morning in 2005. What I’ve learned is the God I believe in truly is a loving God. He chooses broken people. We are broken, created with many needs, leaving us each with empty places, that I believe, only He can fill. He uses broken people. He uses them for good…not evil.

So when someone commits a horrible crime, destroy lives, robbing them of a future, of hope, and they do so in the name of religion, we need to understand there is a difference in them, their beliefs, and mine. Religion is not hate. Religion is a group of people, worshiping a God they believe in, because it is important to them. That does not mean religion can be defined as hate.

Are there some religious people filled with hate? Yes.
Are there many other religious people filled with love? Yes.

Please don’t put us all in the same category based on misunderstanding of religion or the differences in religions.

Personally, I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in forgiveness. I believe in hope. I believe that someday, there will be no more pain, tears, suffering. I believe because it’s what I need. It’s what works for me. I have lived through many tragedies of my own. I have lived a very broken life, with many hurts, many moments of darkness, and many thoughts of escaping this cruel world. I have questioned the God I believe in. There are things I will never understand.

I have sat alone in a cold, empty room, having had everything even down to my underwear stripped away from me and in that darkest, loneliest moment, the comfort of God’s words were all I had.

“I will not die but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

Those words were with me that night. Whether you believe in God or not, I believe those words came from Him, over 2,000 years ago, and in that moment, He used them to comfort me, to give me peace, to restore my faith and bring life back to my worn and tattered soul. He gave me hope that I could breathe another breath, that I could face another tomorrow, that somehow, someway, I could help another through the struggles of this life as well. I was not alone. Though physically, I had nothing but a hard cot, a scratchy blanket, and a set of paper scrubs, I was not alone and He provided exactly what I needed in that very moment. Those words were everything.

And still, I find myself asking at times…

Why does a mother have to say goodbye to her child before it can even take it’s first breath?
Why do people fulfill their own sick desires by violating innocent children?
Why does a man walk into a night club and murder many innocent, precious, people?
Why do we not value each and every life, breath or no breath?
Why does a child face starvation and desperation?
Why are people hated because of the color of their skin, their physical disabilities, or their sexuality?

What brings a person to the point that he or she sees no value in the life of another?

I could go on and on with the questions but there are no answers. The only answer that brings me peace is that the God I believe in is faithful and promises hope, love, and healing. He promises to never abandon, to provide strength in times of need, to hear our cries, to mourn with us.

There may be religious people who hate. But religion itself is not hate. Religion is a group of people in a shared group of beliefs in either a God, laws, rituals or whatever. But hate is what fills a person. Religion may teach works, hate, or murder. Religion may teach hope, faith and love. Each of those things are what a person is filled with and each of those people are given a choice in what they will be filled with. A man who chose to murder 49 innocent people in the name of religion chose to be filled with hate. A person professing to be a Christian, shouting hate-filled statements of disgust and anger towards a group of people based on their sexuality, makes the choice to hate. A person who denying the beliefs of any greater power or a different higher being and in turn mocks, condemns, or ridicules someone else because of their differences in beliefs, chooses hate.

Why? Why are we so afraid of people who are different from us? Why are we offended when someone chooses something we don’t agree with? Why do we feel our beliefs and desires have to be the beliefs and desires of everyone? Why, like God, do we not allow people to make their own choices, and extend encouragement, support, and love? Perhaps if the gunman in Florida had been nurtured and loved, raised to accept the differences in others, to embrace those differences, to love in spite of differences, maybe he would have chosen love instead of hate.

And as a Christian, I know there are many “Christians” who express disgust towards homosexuals, yet when one is found guilty of adultery, gossip, slander, stealing, or something else they deem those “sins” as inadequate compared to what they believe is the sin of a homosexual. What someone does in their bedroom is their business. It’s not mine. It’s not yours. It’s theirs. If you believe in God, then you also know that Scripture says…

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Basically, it says butt out. Mind your own business.

While that may sound harsh, leave the judgment to the God you believe in. If you feel the need to do something or say something, follow God’s word and pray. Don’t pray to change someone who’s different from you. Genuinely pray for them, that whatever is best for them will be, that the God you hold so highly, wrap them in His loving embrace and comfort them in any times of trouble. Cry out to God with your frustrations, concerns and fears. When we fail to trust the very God we expect others to follow and trust, we are no example to them. If we believe, as we say we do, in a loving and just God, then we should show our trust in Him by leaving the judgment and correction to Him and extend to others the grace and mercy He has given us.

The greatest commands are to love God and love others. Before anything else, we love God and others. A friend said to me, “Does your Bible say homosexuality is wrong?” Yes, it does. It also says tattoos, gossip, infidelity, stealing, murder and more are wrong. And it says we are all broken. It says we are all in need of something to fill our empty places. And it says we all have choices on what those empty places will be filled with. And it says if we choose to let those empty places be filled with love, we are full-filling the greatest and only commands we need to follow. By loving God and loving others, everything falls into place as it should.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11

These are verses from my Bible. These are the commands of a loving, sovereign God.

Do bad things happen? Yes.
Does God punish people for the bad things they do? I believe He will.
Does He still mourn and grieve for those who turn from Him, those who do wrong, those who are hurt by the hands of another? I believe so.
Does He offer mercy, grace, and forgiveness? Yes.
Does He withhold that from anyone? No, it’s available to all.
Does He command us to do the same? Yes.

So while there are many things in Scripture that I may never understand, I do know God’s love is available to anyone. And I believe He loves everyone.

“… when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

Christ died for the ungodly. Not the saints. Not the perfect people. Not the holier than thou. But for the broken, the needy, for all of us, not based on religion, sexuality, age, color, or name. We are all His creation. His desire is for not one person to be lost. But with that, He gives each of us the choice. He won’t force us to choose Him. We are free to make our own choices.

A religion may be a group of people who share a common belief, or even believe certain rituals or laws, but each individual is responsible for the choices they make. There are bad people and there are good people. There is sorrow and there is joy. There is pain and there is healing. What will you pour into others?

Many non-Christians or non-religious people say the Bible is filled with hate. I admit, there’s a lot in the Bible that makes very little sense to me, things I don’t think I’ll ever understand but as you really begin to understand the God of the Bible, you see, it’s His letter to us of guidance, hope, and love.

“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 1 John 3:12

Cain was evil. He was affected by sin. Each of us are given a choice. We can allow sin to control us or we can take control of that sin. Cain allowed his anger, his jealousy, to enrage him to the point he murdered his own brother. His deeds were evil. Cain made a choice to commit an evil act.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

Each an every heart that ever beats is precious in God’s eyes. Every single one. And each and every person is given choices in life. The hate-filled men who murdered thousands of innocent people in the name of religion as they brought a country to her knees on a beautiful September morning…they were created, intricately, in the depths of a woman’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. And in a broken world, they had a need. They had an emptiness that only God should fill. Instead, the choices they made led those empty places to be filled with hate and evil. What should have been filled with peace, love and hope, was occupied by plans of devastation and murder, and done in the name of religion.

But religion did not cause the events of that September day. Broken people, who made hate-filled choices did.

Does God allow evil?

Each of those twenty precious babies from Sandy Hook Elementary had value. They had value to their parents, to their families, to their friends, and to a loving God. Did God want fear, suffering, and death for them? I don’t believe so.

I believe from the very beginning, from the moment God took the dust of the earth and formed it into a man, He had a plan. A grand, beautiful plan, but a plan we would play part in. He could have created us as robots that followed everything He desired but instead, He allowed us to make that choice for ourselves. Without a choice, there would really be no meaning or no purpose in our lives. With choices, we would learn to put others before ourselves, to love one another, to mourn with each other, to laugh and be joy-filled together, to pray together, to live together. And with that, we would learn differences, and with differences would come jealousy, anger, and hate. And we would have a choice. We could choose to look beyond those differences in acceptance and love, or we could choose to allow bitterness to take root and grow into a hate-filled heart.

If God is all-knowing and in control, how do our choices make a difference?

Because He is all-knowing, He knows our hearts. Our comprehension and understanding is inadequate compared to Him. After all, He created everything, with a single breath. Can you do that? His ways are beyond our understanding. But He is good. His purposes are good. His desire is for us to choose Him, to come to Him in our own free will…not forced, but to make a choice to serve Him, a good, loving God. Being in control means He is aware of the outcome and in the end, He wins. Evil cannot win. Evil does not get the final say. Hate does not win. Love does.

Some people bring up the Old Testament laws and use them against Christians today, calling us hypocrites. I understand that and honestly, there really are plenty of hypocrites in the church, and outside the church. I’ve been one myself. Again, we are all broken people. I’ve been a thief. I’ve been jealous. I’ve gossiped. And on, and on, and on. And I’ve loved. I’ve served. I’ve grieved. I’ve suffered. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I’m broken just like anyone else.

But I have something that the man who walked into a night club and took the lives of 49 innocent, precious, beautiful sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, did not have. I have faith in a good and loving God. My religion is not hate. My religion is Christianity. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe in a God who became flesh as an example of how to forgive, to love, to care for others, to bring comfort, to serve, to live. I believe in a God who became flesh to show me that He understands the temptations and sufferings I would experience on this earth and that He alone can provide the strength and courage needed. I believe in a God who promises to be with me through every moment of joy and through every painful tragedy. I believe in a God who is not filled with hate or disgust for any person, because after all, He created each and every one of us, loving us from before our hearts even beat for the first time, with a grand plan that someday, we would join Him in a peaceful and perfect world, but only after He allowed us to choose that for ourselves.

Religion is not hate. God is not hate. Evil is hate.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

People have a choice. Love or hate. Choose love. No matter what you believe, no matter what you’ve heard or what the media blows out of proportion. No matter the differences, no matter your location, no matter your history, no matter your future, choose love. Hate destroys what is meant to come together. Love brings unity and that is what God desires. We are “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We are one nation. We are America. We are broken. We are all in need of something. Don’t let hate be what fills your empty places.

Let love win. Let love win. Let LOVE win!

 

 

A Bad Day Wrong…

BadDay

↑ See the picture?  Ever had one of those kind of days?

How do you handle things when something goes wrong?  Does it depend on the day?  The situation?  Who’s with you?  Or do you carry a similar response in any situation?

I ask because as Christians, we are often put into a category, one where standards are higher, room for failure is minimal and everything we do and say is used for or against us.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, the only perfect person to ever walk the earth was Jesus Christ himself.  Even he dealt with problems, hurt and pain.

Do you feel like you are truly able to express things when you are having a bad day?  Or do you feel you have to push your feelings aside and wear the “happy mask”?

I am fully aware that tomorrow might be better but I think sometimes, we try to help one another by saying things like, “Give it to God” or “In God’s time”.  While we mean well, these don’t actually address the issue.  Sometimes, we can go a bit further directing someone to a verse that fits the subject, a prayer or both.  These may very well be just what we need and often times, soaking in God’s word has been the pill that fixed my problem at the moment.

But…

Other times, I just want someone to hear what’s on my heart.  I want someone willing to let me say it, even if it means I say it over and over until I’ve completely forgotten what I was saying.  Sometimes it feels like what I need is just to have my feelings validated, to hear “That really stinks and I’m sorry you feel that way” or “Yes, I’d be upset too!” or maybe even “Sure, you have ever right to be angry!”

More often than not, I think we just don’t know how to respond so we fall on easy phrases.  We depend on familiar words and overused lines.

Would it be so bad to dig deeper into each others heart and soul?  Aren’t we worth the effort?  The extra time?

Instead of saying, “tomorrow is a new day!”, why not validate each other by saying…

“Tell me more.”

“What’s really bothering you?”

“How are you feeling about that?”

“What do you want?”

I’m sure I’ve been the girl who’s used those common phrases but the thing is, I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to be her because I know how it feels to stuff all the feelings down, to feel like it would be wrong to dredge up things, to feel anything, to express any anger or sadness.

I’m also the Christian that others look to for guidance, for hope, for something more so I’m already worried about the things I say and do and how they affect those around me.  I’m already stuffing away some thoughts and feelings because I don’t want to offend or hurt someone else or because I know I should set a good example.

So today, I leave you with this…

We are all broken people.  We all have things that bother us.  We all have bad days.  We all need someone, even if we don’t want to admit it.   Sometimes, I just want to hear that it’s okay, to feel justified in my feelings.  Sometimes I just need reassurance. Sometimes I just want to let my defenses down enough to cry, which is a really big struggle for me.

Being head over heels for Jesus Christ doesn’t make me perfect like him.  It just makes me a girl who knows the standard Christian answers, who knows that God is the almighty and that yes, with him, I can get through anything, but also, a girl with real feelings, who might just need to borrow and ear or a shoulder sometime!

How about you?

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A Greater Man…

So, you all know I love Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study, right?  Well, it’s that time again!  This time, she’s leading a study from the book, Greater, written by pastor Steven Furtick.  The book is awesome – if you haven’t picked up your copy yet, what are you waiting for?  And while you’re at it, hop on over to Melissa’s Blog and join us in the study!

One question that Melissa threw out for us bloggers this week was:

 3. Lifted Up! “The president probably won’t release a statement calling us the greatest anything when we die…Nobody will post a blog entry about our lives…”.  Write a blog post lifting up someone in your life or a person from Scripture who inspires you to live greater!

While there are many people who have helped pave the path in my life, both good and bad, there’s one man that has brought me more peace than I ever imagined.  I didn’t really know of this man until a couple years ago and when I first heard his story, I immediately felt peace.

This man was an angry, ugly, bitter man.  He committed horrible crimes – murder.  He was viscous and evil.  He lived to destroy.

This man swore to wipe out Christianity.

His name was Saul.

On a trip to Damascus with friends, Saul was blinded by a light and then heard a voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Acts 9:4.  Saul questioned who was speaking to him.  A voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  Acts 9:5-6  Saul was blinded.  His friends led him on to Damascus. 

In Damascus, a man named, Ananias, was told in a vision from Jesus, to seek Saul.  Jesus said, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” 

He was telling this man to go to Saul, a murderer, a liar, the man who wanted nothing more than to destroy Christianity, because he was chosen … chosen to serve God, to be a man of God, to love God and to tell others about God.

How unlikely is that?

Wow!  Every time I hear this story, it gives me chills but how reassuring is it that God could love a man who had done so much evil, so much wrong?  He could forgive him and in turn, use his story to glorify the kingdom of God.

Ananias was afraid.  He knew Saul’s reputation, but he trusted the Lord and obeyed.  He went for Saul.   Ananias found Saul at Judas’ house, praying for help. Ananias laid his hands on Saul, telling him Jesus had sent him to restore his sight and that Saul might be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Scales fell from Saul’s eyes.  He arose and was baptized.

Saul became a new man. He changed his name to Paul. 

Of course I’m not sure on all the reasons around why he changed his name exactly, but I have a feeling it had a lot to do with putting his past behind him.  I don’t imagine too many people would just welcome him in to teach about God considering his past goal was to destroy Christianity.  I think it was a good move on his part and perhaps it was a suggestion from God ;)

Anyway, Paul went on to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest teachers ever.  He lead people, he loved people and he shared the things God had done in his life.  He didn’t hide from his past, but instead, he used it, to glorify the one who brought him out of the darkness.

And that is exactly why I chose Paul as my greater man.  Paul has taught me that it doesn’t matter where I came from, God can use me, if I allow him to.  He can take all the dirty, all the shame, all the sin and use it for something greater.  He can use me, yes me, for something greater.  I am not my past but my past is in me and the memories I have carried and held onto are my testimony to the darkness I have come from, and the light I have found.  I choose not to let my story or past weigh me down and burden me, but instead to allow God to use it, to help others, to bring others out of that darkness and to glorify Him!

Paul’s testimony is one of forgiveness, desperation, hope, faith, change, grace.  Paul handed over a life of evil to live a life of glory, to glorify his new Lord & Savior.

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Three T’s for Tuesday – 10/23/12 – Doubt

**What works for my family, may not be the right thing for your family but I have learned a lot through trial and error, mistake and prayer.  I am no expert on families, but I am an expert on mine.  My opinions and suggestions are simply that, opinions and suggestions.  Take from them what works for you and put aside the rest :)

Today’s Three T’s for Tueday:  Tackling Tough Topics is…

Doubt

What are your thought on doubt?

All my life, I remember having doubts.  I doubted the stability in my family.  I doubted love.  I doubted my worth as a person, as a wife, as a parent. 

I doubted people.
I doubted the Bible.
I doubted God.

Even after being sure I had become a Christian and learning to walk a closer walk with God, I didn’t escape those doubts.  They still found their way into my mind. 

As a Christian woman, who had a new found desire to teach, speak and write about God, how could I have doubts?

My very human mind allows things from the world to creep in.  There are many temptations around us that can easily take our eyes off God.  Things as simple as a commercial, a new book, movie, friends, our past…the list goes on and on.

What I find most reassuring now is God’s word.  For a couple years now, I’ve been reading my Bible.  Not just carrying it with me to church or sitting it on the book shelf, but actually reading it, digging into the words, researching words I don’t understanding, and being open to what is being said.  I am doing my own research and not just taking people’s word for it.  Through that, I’m finding I have fewer doubts, especially about God’s word.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Christians are crazy!  There is no proof in God.  How do you know he’s real?”  

If that’s where you are, that’s okay.  I’ve wondered that myself before.  The difference now is I can truly say, whether or not you believe in the Bible, I am living it.  Reading it has helped me.  My life has improved.  I am able to deal with situations now that in the past, would have turned my world upside down.  Things aren’t magically perfect and they never will be.  In fact, we have faced some pretty big doozies around here but through each challenge, I find myself drawn closer and closer to God.

I spent years filled with doubts, mocking preachers, believing I could be a Christian at home without going to church or being preached to.

What I failed to realize was being a Christian didn’t mean just giving myself a name.  It wasn’t just being from the south, growing up in the Bible belt. 

It was more.  

It was a relationship – not with other people, not with a church, but with God.  It was believing that my life could change through His word, by soaking in the lessons, living them.

I grew up believing it was wrong to question things but now, I find answers through those questions.  Are you unsure of what to believe?  Don’t be afraid to ask questions!  One of the best places to turn is right to the Bible.  There are many references, to doubt, found in the Bible.  It’s not something new and so many have faced and worked through their doubts through the help of God’s word.

Do you find yourself filled with doubt?  What do you do to ease those doubts?  Do you believe God’s word can have an impact on your life?  Are you willing to test it out?  To give God a chance to prove himself to you?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.  Proverbs 3:5-8

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Heart for home…

In recent months, God has really opened my eyes to nonbelievers.  It’s easier for me to stomach the idea of nonbelievers in other countries than it is to accept that there are so many nonbelievers here in America, a country founded on Biblical principles.  While I am thankful for the people who feel called to serve in foreign missions, I have a heart for home.

Yesterday, I read a quote that talked about morality and religion and how the two should be separate.

“One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn’t require religion at all.”  ~Arthur C. Clarke~ 

There were many replies to this quote in the particular place that I found it.  Some comments were:

“I sort of agree. We want to get along. But we struggle to find peace and keep it. We are sliding on a scale somewhere between the apes and the angles.”

 “Do unto others as you would have then do unto you. Who needs religion. It’s way too simple.”

 “I think religion has created more hate and racism, putting people together in gangs of different beliefs each defending their god.”

The comments went on and on.  Some chimed in with their love for Christ, but sadly, only a few.

While I agree that there are nonbelievers that are great people and there are people who claim to be Christians who commit awful crimes, there is a difference.  

From my own experience, I’ve always known about God.  I’ve always believed there was a God, kind of.  I wasn’t really sure why I believed other than that’s just how I was raised.  

Well, that’s just not good enough!

To know God, is to be with God, to have Him in your thoughts and your actions, to desire His word and presence.  I didn’t really know God until about a year ago when He filled me with the desire to seek Him, to worship Him, to trust in Him, to know Him.  It took me nearly 34 years to find Him, even though I can look back and clearly see His presence in my life.

I listened to an online lesson by James MacDonald of Walk in the Word.  The lesson was a three part series titled Are You Saved?  While listening, James told a story about asking others how they knew they were saved.  Responses tend to be, “I was baptized”, “Because I know I was”, or “I was saved when I was younger”While those responses may be partly true, they aren’t really how you know!

He also mentioned his daughter-in-laws response.  When asked how she knew she was saved, her reply was, “Because I have a growing hunger and desire for God’s Word!”.  Amen! 

Just because we claim to be Christians doesn’t make us Christian.  It’s more than words, it’s more than a thought…it’s life, the way you live, the way you feel about things, the way you treat others, the way you deal with situations, the impression you give off.  It’s living and breathing the words of God, knowing that He is guiding you and leading you to something.  It’s believing that your past is your past and if it’s filled with ugliness, it’s ugliness that can be turned into beauty, in ways that will glorify Him and sharing with others the grace He has shared with you.  It’s the “growing hunger and desire for God’s Word!”.

I am genuinely interested in knowing what leads people away from God.  What makes you heart angry towards believers?  Is it the way many “Christians” have presented themselves?  If that’s the case, I’ve encountered plenty of false witnesses.  There are many people who claim to be Christian and preach with their holier than thou attitude.  They turn me off too!  If you can’t see the love of Christ in their attitude, their walk, their talk, then they aren’t living it.  Don’t let them be the reason you don’t give God a chance.  Now, what are your other reasons?  Science?  Monkeys?  I truly want to understand better so if you have any insight, please share!

I too experienced pushy Christians.  Some, I think were just doing what they thought they were suppose to do.  Others, I believe, had a sincere concern for me and my life.  While neither of them immediately convinced me to turn towards God, I can look back now with thankfulness as the ones who pushed with love and concern for me.  I appreciate that they cared.  I count them as blessings.  At the time, I was angry with them and wanted nothing to do with their God.  Oh how my heart has changed!

I don’t know what it’s like to not know about God.  I can’t imagine never having walked into a church.  I can’t even comprehend what it would feel like to have never heard God’s words or felt His presence. 

There are things that have occurred in my life that have absolutely no other explanation other than prayer and God’s intervention.  I can clearly see how He has shaped my life, gently guiding me along the way.  Even though I spent years filled with darkness, anger, hate, shame, guilt, etc.  I can still see God’s presence through those times and I know that He is preparing me to help others through my own life.

When I read comments like those above, it makes me sad – not because people shouldn’t be free to make their own decisions, they should – but it makes me sad because I know what they are missing.  I know the feelings, the hope, the faith, the love.  I also know the dark side of life and I can assure you, it’s much grander walking with God by my side and knowing He is with me. 

I want to stress this … maybe you are a nonbeliever or you are unsure about what you believe, or perhaps you’ve tried religion and it didn’t work out for you.  I would like to encourage you to seek out God – not religion, but a personal relationship, one on one, between you and Christ.  If it feels silly at first, that’s okay.  If it doesn’t work out for you, that’s your choice.  But how will you truly know if you never give yourself the chance to feel that connection?  When you find that peace, that overwhelming desire to be in the presence of God, to have Him in every part of your life, that makes it all worth it!

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com