Archives For love

Tolerance

December 20, 2013 — Leave a comment
This makes perfect sense

This makes perfect sense

Tolerance. Oh how I hate that word. Out of all the words ever, it’s the worst. We use and abuse it when speaking in reference to our fellow man. We hide behind it. Tolerance has become a fortress to hide in, to hide our shame and disgust. Tolerance is divisive, exclusionary, a front with an upkeep that is infinitely exhausting.

Generally in any argument where tolerance is the issue, both sides come off looking like war mongering fools. I speak from experience.

We speak of tolerance when we can’t make the leap of accepting a person or group of people for who they are. Instead of accepting and loving, instead of seeking to build people up or strengthening relationships, we merely seek to tolerate each other.

Like a bitter medicine that has no power to affect a cure, we swallow while holding our noses, trying not to gag.

How did we get here, to this place, right now?

Does anyone else but me feel stuck? Do you feel like there’s no way past this?

I do. I feel stuck, ashamed, and even a little afraid.

I want so much to move past tolerance, into something better, deeper, meaningful. I want to be free to say what is in my heart without fear of excluding any of the people in my life – because I truly love them. Because I truly appreciate their friendship. Because they are important. But I really don’t know how to do that.

There’s got to be a better way than just tolerating each other. The pat answer, the “Sunday School” answer is that we should love each other regardless and unconditionally. That we should respect each other, protect each other even if we disagree. That instead of tearing each other apart, we should build each other up. I haven’t seen much of that lately, have you?

I’ve said this a hundred times, and I’ve not seen or heard anything yet to contradict it – we all think we are right, that we have the answer, that our way is the best. We think we’re the rightest, and that our rightness gives us the right hold each other at arms length when we should be setting our arguments aside and embracing each other simply because we’re all just people, and people – we need each other.

Another thing I’ve said a hundred times, and still mean it – God doesn’t need our help as much as we think He does. Nothing in creation is going to tear down what He is building – not me, not you, not the forces of evil, not anything that society can come up with. What God wants from me, and you, is to show love, grace and mercy to everyone, regardless. He has the power to change human hearts. With or without us – but He loves using how messed up we are, how weak we are, to show how strong He is. Let Him be strong in your weakness, and watch Him change the world!

This is not going to go away. Not until we can get over ourselves, our fears, our misconceptions and preconceived notions of just what is what and instead of taking stands against people, we stand up for people.

You are all my people – and I love you all. I, and you, are a work in progress. I’m not perfect. Neither are you. We have a long way to go – but I am willing to be a peacemaker. I am willing to stand in the gap and help in any way I can. Sometimes it takes one person taking a single, scary, hesitant step forward.

Who will take that step with me?

Spiritual Gifts

October 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

gifts

I can’t tell you how many spiritual gifts tests I’ve taken in my life. About 97000. They all say the same thing – exactly what I want them to say. This is not to say that they are worthless. They aren’t worthless. I think it’s a good starting point for someone who wants to find out what their strengths are. There are better tests for this though, such as StrengthsFinder, which is a wonderful resource.

The thing about these tests is, you answer about 100 questions based on current performance or activities, and it generates a report that has a description of a spiritual gift, followed by a number. The higher the number, the more gifted you are in a certain area.

Just for reference, here is a list of spiritual gifts: exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching, administration, apostleship, discernment, faith, healing, helping, knowledge, miracles, tongues, interpretation, wisdom, evangelism, pastor, hospitality, martyrdom, missions, voluntary poverty. These are listed in the bible in various places – Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 for starters.

Again, I don’t think these tests are the best indicator of what a person’s gifting is. Why? Well – every time I take one, I score very high in teaching, knowledge and discernment, very low in mercy, giving and helping. And believe me, I can teach. I can preach a sermon like crazy. Sometimes I just know stuff. And it’s weird the stuff I can know. Often I can tell what’s going on in your mind just by looking into your eyes, or by putting my hand on your shoulder, or by shaking your hand. I often have insight that is not explainable.

Thing is, I’m not teaching or preaching anywhere. I haven’t met anyone new recently that I can use my Jedi mind tricks on. Sometimes I get a feeling when I’m at work about something or someone but so far it hasn’t led to anything earth shattering.

I’m not complaining – I’m making a point. Where I am in life right now, those things that the tests say I’m best at don’t matter. The things I scored very low on – like a 1 or a 3 – helping and mercy specifically – these are the things I use every day. And I have to say, for someone who scored so low in those things on some random test, I seem to be pretty good at them.

I wonder if these lists of spiritual gifts that we see in the bible are exhaustive? Is that all of them? Or are there as many gifts as there are needs in the Body of Christ?

If you read 1 Corinthians 12, there’s a lot of good info there on gifts and how they are distributed. Verse 11 in particular seems to indicate that God will give whatever gift he wants to whoever he wants to give it to. I wonder if the giving of the gifts might be situational?

When I was a youth minister and pastor, my main function was teaching, plus some administration which I tended to delegate, because ugh. Administration. I also had a lot of insight into people, and I still do. But I didn’t have much mercy, and as far as actual pastoral abilities, well, I kinda stunk at that – counseling, hand holding, being there when there was trouble. Just point me to the pulpit and let me loose.

I spent my energy developing my teaching/preaching gifts and didn’t even care if there were any others. Now my role is almost the opposite. Nobody cares what I have to say – they care what I am going to do for them, to help them, to get them through whatever it is they are going through. And as I said before, I’m actually very good at it. God gave me something new so I could build the Kingdom where I’m at!

That’s my whole point in all this – build the Kingdom! That’s what the gifts are for, that’s why God gives them. If an opportunity presents itself where you need to step up and do something, don’t think, “That’s not my gift. I’m more of a ____________.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard those words, and I’ve even said them myself a few times.

It’s fear, and sometimes laziness. You  might not be a gifted evangelist, but we are all commanded to evangelize!

What it really comes down to is what Paul calls the greatest gift of all – love. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Without love, the use of any and all gifts is self serving. Withouth love, you will bring attention to yourself and not God. Withough love you build yourself and your organization up, but not the Kingdom. Without love, you’re just a bag of wind, and eventually people will see right through you.

Love is what makes the difference. Love is what makes people see God in you and not just you! And who wants to see me, right? If I’m not pointing you back to God in everything I do, I’ve failed in everything I do!

The point of it all is love – God is love, and he should flow through us, through the proper use of the gifts he gives us, to point straight back to him. That’s when things really get good! That’s when people’s lives are changed! That’s when the world around us begins to change!

What do you think God is saying to you right now? About yourself, your gifting, your calling? What is he asking you to do? Who and how is he asking you to love?

Pig in hat

A recent study revealed that about 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians. Mixed in with that number, in order, are Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox (both Greek and Russian) and then a line item that comes in at .3% that’s just called “other.” I wonder who those people are?

I know you probably know this, but not everyone who cries out “Lord, Lord” is actually a Christian. Where I live, there’s a little Baptist church pretty much on every corner, except for the corners with a CVS or a QT. But thinking about it, we can get pretty religious about our pharmaceutical and convenience store needs.

Think about it like this – why is the world so screwed up if all those people are actually followers of Jesus Christ? The best, easiest answer is, it wouldn’t be if they actually were.

I remember in high school, people who were in the running for Homecoming King would always have their bio read during a school-wide assembly, “Yes, he’s the greatest and he knows it! He loves the foosball, hang gliding, galivanting with all his foosball friends, and he’s a member of the [local Christian denomination left unnamed to protect the innocent].” Then all of us who were members of that church would look at each other, and say, “I’ve never once seen him there, how about you?”

I’m thinking back to something I read in Mark the other day. Jesus was beboppin’ around, hitting town after town, doing his thing – a few miracles, some sermons, he fed a few folks, told some stories, and then one day, around dinner time, some of the local preachers and church staffers came up to him and questioned him real good about his heathen, sinful ways.

You see, Jews believed you had to wash yourself in a particular way before eating, or you would be ceremonial unclean.

And now for three short vignettes:

When I was a kid, if you came to church with shorts on, you’d be shown the door. Didn’t matter if you were lost as a goose and had never been and the Holy Spirit himself drove you to the front door and said go in. Shorts were not allowed. Not at church, not at the church office, not at church camp, not on a church trip of any kind. KNEES WERE SINFUL DID YOU NOT KNOW THIS??

A few years back, I was a youth pastor. I met a great guy at a school event, invited him to come to church, and he showed up with a hat on. On a Wednesday night. In the youth building. I had so many people complain about that hat! I thought at first they were kidding, but no, they were dead serious and quoted me scripture that said people can’t wear hats to church. I asked one guy to go study I Corinthians 11, then instructed him to make sure his wife shaved her head before leading prayer before the Wednesday night church supper next time.

In another church we had a youth band. Kids were coming in from everywhere, getting saved, getting fired up, bringing friends, leading bible studies at school – and the catalyst for all that was the band. Sure as heck wasn’t a middle aged bald headed youth guy. Well, there was some praying, too. Anyway – a church member told me if I didn’t “unplug those evil drums and guitars” he would unplug them and they would stay unplugged forever. I think he meant to go all Keith Moon on them.

Anyway.

How many of you were told by your parents as a child, and to this day tell your children, to wash up before dinner? It’s all about the hygene, right? They could have some unknown sand box pathogen and end up on an episode of House.

How many of you are Jewish? Well, they’re the ones that started that. What we call hygene, Jesus called something else. In Mark 7 the religious leaders asked Jesus why he didn’t wash up before eating. He flat out called them hypocrites. Look it up. Wow, right? Way less than tactful, Jesus.

Thing is, he wasn’t there to placate the pastor of some crappy little church. He wasn’t there to uphold the traditional, or to make the religious people happy. He didn’t come to bring peace – he came with a sword. He came to cut his people free.

How can you know someone is who they say they are? Well, a doctor wears a white lab coat, a leopard has spots. Birds fly and bees be. Generally.

“Well, Christians read the bible and pray a lot, and go to church a lot. Sometimes they don’t eat for whatever reason, and some of them when they pray it’s not real words coming out of their mouth. And they have a bunch of bibles.”

No.

There’s only one way to tell a Christian. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

When we can get over ourselves, get past our traditions, give up our hurts and our past, when we can actually love like Christ loved – sacrificially, unflinchingly, unapologetically, wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and without regard for personal safety – then everyone will know! There will be no doubt who and who’s we are.

How do you love? Like a regular person? With strings attached? You can love like that, but don’t call yourself a Christian if you do.