Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It isn't harmless

This is a struggle we don't face much as warm, comfortable, American Christians. It's more than a struggle; it's a fight. So I don't know if anyone will relate to it or not, but I feel led to share. I am feeling strongly in my spirit that God is bringing the fight to my door.

What I mean is evil. Sin. I've been a Christian my whole life, and so when I hear "sin," I typically think of gossip, laziness, losing my temper with a family member. Sins that yes, are harmful, but aren't the kind of thing that keep you awake at night or burden your soul. When I think of evil this way, as little mess-ups that make my life less than what it could be, it's dangerous. Because evil doesn't seem so bad, so much of a real threat.

In our culture especially, we're trained to rationalize and minimize evil. If someone asked you if murder was wrong, you would say yes, without a doubt. But when we want to entertain ourselves, we watch TV shows and movies about cruel, brutal, bloody murders. Adultery is wrong -- we wouldn't cheat on our own spouses -- but we entertain ourselves with stories about men and women who have sex on the first date, who sleep with multiple people without the blink of an eye, who start and stop their marriages based on whatever they feel.

We say homosexuality is a sin, but we laugh at jokes about it and normalize it by watching gay and lesbian couples in almost every TV show and movie. Because it's harmless, right?

It isn't harmless.

God says in Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

It's easy to be entertained by evil when we feel like it's at a safe distance from our own lives. But not all Christians have the luxury of ignoring the spiritual wars that are taking place around us.

So why am I writing about this? Because Satan is fighting for someone I love, and I finally have woken up enough to see this as the spiritual battle that it is. When evil is destroying someone I love, it is not my job to embrace evil so that I don't offend the person. Even if every other person around me wants to call evil good and good evil, my first love is Christ. And if I love Christ, I can't love evil. If I truly love someone, how can I let evil take hold of them and do nothing?

My purpose in this world is not to treat sin as a joke. God did not put me here to tolerate sin and befriend evil. That is not what it means to love.

So, this is a lonely place. Josh and I are going to truly love by loving people and standing up against sin, and that might mean that people don't like us and don't want us around. We might lose a few relationships. The thought of this feels like a huge weight sitting on my spirit. I don't want to lose anyone I love. I don't want to be persecuted. But I can't persecute my Lord by holding hands with evil.

Today I found a Psalm that comforts and strengthens me. I can fight this fight.

Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

Psalm 37:1-9, NLT

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Suffer nothing from laziness

This morning, Josh and the couple we are hosting, Jason and Stacie, left for all-day meetings at Circle. I was sad to be left behind for the day. As I ushered them all out the door to have a great day, it was time to decide how I would spend the next eight hours of my Saturday.

Immediately it crossed my mind that I could watch TV shows and play video games for most of the day because no one would know. Funny how certain things, for me at least, sound perfectly acceptable -- as long as I do them in secret. One of my biggest temptations throughout life has been to waste my time. But wait, is wasting time sinful? The Bible doesn't say that, does it?

Proverbs 12:24 says, "Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave." It later says in 13:4, "Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper" (NLT).

In Proverbs 31:27, the description of a noble wife says, "she carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness."

Why is it difficult for me to take these words to heart in my own life? It's so easy to read "lazy people" and think that is some well-defined, labeled group somewhere else that doesn't include me. How do I make the mental connection? The verses in Ephesians that I read in my quiet time this morning help me to see it a little more personally.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit...
Ephesians 5:15-18

What I take from verses 16-17 is this: Make the most of every opportunity (yes, even "free" time) and be thoughtful about everything you do. How else will you be intentional enough to know what God wants you to do?

The way I've decided to be intentional today is by investing in relationships -- having my grandparents over and making lunch for them. Maybe that way I will leave room for God to show me what He wants me to do instead of hoarding all my time to myself.

God, this day is an offering to You. Let me bless You in it by living thoughtfully and blessing others.

Monday, May 10, 2010

You mean discipline isn't fun?

My memory verse for today:

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You."
Isaiah 26:3

I went an entire week without my quiet time with God while we were on our cruise, and I feel so disconnected from Him and unfocused in my life. Not like before, but I am more sensitive now to when my perspective becomes more about me and less about Him. And I see now that it is impossible to have His perspective if I am not spending time with Him every day.

There's something that I was feeling even before the cruise that I kept pushing aside. When the newness of pursuing God fades -- for me, after about a month or so -- it takes discipline to continue the same level of relationship with Him. As much as I hate that, as much as I want to stay in a state of infatuation with my Lord, I think this is a natural order of things.

Prayer and meditation wouldn't be called spiritual disciplines if it didn't take a surrendering of my will and a denial of my desires to do them. Often I say, 'I want to serve you, God,' or 'I want to die to myself and live for You,' and yet, I want it to be easy. If it were always easy, would it really be service? Would it really be death of my selfish desires?

I am tempted to brush this struggle under the rug and deny its existence because I worry that if following Jesus is a struggle against myself, then I don't love Him enough. But now I think I will embrace the struggle, knowing it will produce spiritual discipline in me. How much more genuine will my service to God and my relationship with Him be if I overcome the barriers that make it difficult?