Walk the Line

This morning as I read through Romans 1, these words in verse 8 jumped out at me -

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.

The Christians in Rome lived in the epicenter of the known world, and their faith was vibrant and influential. My MacArthur study Bible states in the footnotes that “The testimony of the church in Rome was so strong that in A.D. 49 the emperor Claudius expelled all of the Jews because of the influence of “Chrestus,” which was undoubtedly a reference to Christ.”

It made me wonder… as we find ourselves in the most technologically connected time in history, where in one stroke on a keyboard we can share our words with the world… is it our faith that is proclaimed? Are we honoring Christ with our online presence? I fear that all too often the answer is no.

As words are flying around the blogosphere about World Vision, this seemed like an appropriate time to share this post again (originally written in the midst of the Chick-fil-a controversy in August 2012.)

It’s a tricky time to have internet access.

Social media has given us an unprecedented platform with wide arrays of people whose lives have intersected with our own over the years. In my facebook stream, the thumnail images of church members, extended family, high school buddies, college roommates, long-lost childhood friends, former co-workers, and new acquaintances mingle in a strange virtual social mixer. We all barrage one another with pictures, status updates, location check-ins, game scores, and song lyrics and think of it as connecting with one another. It’s like a virtual friendship form of speed dating with hundreds of people, without ever having to look someone in the eye.

Now let me just say, I love facebook. This week I reconnected (in person) with a friend I haven’t seen in almost a decade, meeting her husband and boys for the first time. Without facebook I wouldn’t have known their names, seen their pictures, or even have known that we were going to be in close enough proximity to meet up for a brief but sweet reunion. As a person who has moved several times in my life and lives far away from family and dear friends, social media is a real gift.

But sometimes, social media can be incredibly destructive. We hunker down behind our laptops and feel less inhibited to throw out words without weighing consequences. Like that obnoxious person at a social gathering who likes to throw out political or theological jabs just to stir things up, we can quickly become caustic and biting, forgetting that those little thumbnail pictures on the screen represent real live human beings with baggage and wounds and emotions that we simply cannot even come close to understanding without face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball communication.

No doubt, every person who has a facebook account, twitter account, and/or personal blog has learned the hard way that words can be interpreted in a host of unintended ways once they are posted online. We have wounded, we have been wounded.

Social media and online interaction of all forms can be a tremendous way to share truth. But we must never forget that we are commissioned to share truth in love. We must walk this line carefully, for we are all prone to fall off toward one extreme or another. Love without truth is destructive and misrepresents our God and His revealed Word. Truth without love leaves carnage in our path as we rip open festering wounds of hurting people – and the danger of online interaction is that we can rip open a wound with a status update, close our laptop, walk away, and never see the mess we left behind.

Whether it’s a status update about Chick-fil-a, or the upcoming election, or a host of other potentially explosive topics, we must beg God for the wisdom to know how to walk that line. How to use social media as the powerful tool for good that it truly is, and avoid needless offenses that simply layer larger callouses on wounded hearts, closing them off even more from the Gospel they so desperately need to hear.

The Gospel is inherently offensive as it lays open our souls and exposes us for what we really are. People will be offended by us if we live like and speak like Jesus – His peers hated Him enough to kill Him. But may they be offended by the truth we lovingly present, and not by the haphazard way we wield the sword of online communication.

Lord, teach us to walk the line.

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The thing about fishing

I often find myself reading the Scripture and wondering about the backstory of the people who weave in and out of the narrative. Peter is one of these people.

Peter seems like a guy who is used to getting stuff done. So I find it interesting that his encounters with Jesus are bookended by times when he couldn’t get anything done. A fisherman with no fish.

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. {Luke 5:4-6}

Professional fishermen working all through the night had caught nothing. But at one word from Jesus, their nets were overflowing, breaking with the abundant catch.

It hadn’t really occurred to me until recently that this was not the only time Peter experienced this with Jesus. In fact, this same occurrence caused him to recognize Jesus on the shore after His resurrection.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”

He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. {John 21:4-7}

I can’t help but imagine that Jesus had a little sparkle in His eye as He suggested that they cast on the other side of the boat to “find some.”

In both instances, these men who had grown up in the fishing trade – with weathered faces and rough hands – found themselves unable to catch a thing. But when they followed the simple direction of Jesus, their nets were overflowing.

Being fishers of men is a funny thing. It’s not really about our skill set or experience at all. It’s about listening to the voice of Jesus and casting out the net when He commands, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it seems pointless and hopeless to do so. Even when the net has been cast there in the past and come up empty.

We need to stop relying on our own skill set – or being intimidated because we don’t feel like we have a skill set.

Just listen for the voice of the Master. And when He says cast out that net… do it. You just might be surprised by what He does.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. {Luke 5:10-11}

 

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Discipling our kids: one simple rule of love

The Child's Caress - from http://www.marycassatt.org

The Child’s Caress – from http://www.marycassatt.org

One day I heard an explosion in the family room. Not a physical one, an emotional one. My kids were losing their minds with one another! I entered the room to find out what kind of tragedy had happened and realized that they were fighting over who got to sit on the couch.

The couch. You know, the piece of furniture that could comfortably seat 5-6 children.

That day I instituted one simple rule with our kids that has been tremendously practical and helpful for me in the daily grind of parenting.

People are more important than things.

If you are acting like the couch is more valuable than your brother who was created in the image of God, you lose the privilege of sitting on the couch. Because people are more important than things.

If you are fighting over a toy and acting like that piece of plastic has more value to you than your sister who was created in the image of God, the toy will be put away for a while. Because people are more important than things.

If you are frustrated with your sibling for coming into your room and messing with your things (a valid frustration that should be addressed), but handle this problem in an explosion of anger that reveals you value your crayons or your cars or _______________ more than you value your sibling who was created in the image of God, those things will also be off limits for you for a while. Because people are more important than things.

This has been helpful to have one phrase that I consistently parent with – and allows me to continue the ongoing process of helping them build a Biblical worldview. I can’t force my children to genuinely love one another. But, I can model for them foundational principles of what love is and what motivates it.

Humanity is valuable because we were created in the image of God – and God was willing to pay an infinite price to purchase us out of sin. People are really, really important. When I treat people like they don’t matter, or like a thing I really like is more valuable than they are, I am living a lie. It’s simply not true. People are always more important than things.

The exhausting process of daily disciplining our kids can give us a wonderful opportunity to disciple our kids – to teach them to know, and live, and think, and communicate the truth.

It has also been extremely convicting. Every time I use this phrase it causes me to internally pause and reflect – am I modelling to my kids that they are more important than things? That they matter more than what I am working on? More than my clean kitchen? More than this task I “must” get done right now?

That’s my cue. My kids are more important than this laptop, so I probably should wrap up. Do you have a simple rule that helps teach your kids what it means to show love to one another? I’d love to hear from you on facebook!

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Grace for the dusty days.

This is a repost from July 2012. The circumstances are different today, but the sentiment is the same. I needed the reminder – perhaps you do, as well?

I am weary.

The reasons why seem small and insignificant. A spider in my mailbox. A back ache. Toddler tantrums. Preschooler tantrums. Coffee stains on carpet and my clothes resulting from aforementioned preschooler tantrums.

That list is small and seems trite, but today it feels heavy. My heart is aching like my back, and the weariness sinks down into my bones. The stains of this broken world are embedded on my heart – I am a broken woman, too, forgiven but flawed. Like those coffee stains on the floor, the evidence of my sinfulness seems to seep stubbornly to the surface on the weary days. My anger flares. My tongue is quick.

Mommy tantrums are the ugliest of all.

Some days I feel too broken, too small, too ill-equipped to live the life God has given me. How can I be the wife, the mother, the teacher, the leader God has called me to be when I am simply… me? God formed our limited humanity from the very dust of the ground- and some days feel “dustier” than others.

I think Satan loves to whisper it to us on the dark days – have you heard him? “You are unable. You are a failure, a disgrace. You are broken. Unusable.”

Twisted lies.

I think of Elijah, worn and weary even after seeing God’s mighty hand on Mount Carmel. God had powerfully shown up and defeated the prophets of Baal. This should have been Elijah’s moment of triumph! But wicked Queen Jezebel’s threats shook him to his core and sent him running for his life.

In 1 Kings 19 we find him alone, sitting under a bush and crying out in brokenness, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

I think Elijah was fearful and weary, and he had heard the enemy’s lies deep down in his heart, “You are unable. You are a failure, a disgrace. You are broken. Unusable.” I think Elijah felt at that moment the smallness of his life in comparison to the great work God had called him to. I think Satan wanted to vividly remind him of the secret failures of his life to cripple him from boldly celebrating the victorious work of God through him.

Elijah was a great man, but he was a limited man. Flawed, dusty, and small.

The tenderness of God toward his weary prophet touches my very soul. God does not lecture him, or tell him to stop sulking. He watches over Elijah as he sleeps, exhausted, beneath the bush. He sends an angel to wake Elijah and nourish him with fresh-baked bread and water from a jar. Elijah sleeps again, and a second time the angel returns and wakes him with the words, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”

The next event in 1 Kings 19 is breath-taking. God once again meets his prophet and asks him tenderly, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

God was not in the powerful wind, or in the earthquake, or in the fire. God spoke to his weary and broken prophet in a gentle whisper.

Lord, I hear you whispering, “what are you doing here, Kristi?”

I am weary. The journey feels like it is too much for me, I feel alone, and I am tempted to give up.

The enemy loves to whisper, “You are unable. You are a failure, a disgrace. You are broken. Unusable.” Remind me that he is telling me only half of the truth.

  • I am unable and limited and… dusty – but through you I can do all things.
  • I am a failure – but through you I have become an overcomer.
  • I am broken and I have failed many times – but you have washed me white as snow.

Thank you for knowing my frailty, for remembering with compassion that I am dust. Please nourish my heart with the Bread of Life, revive me with Living Water. I am coming to you weary and burdened, and I need true rest for my soul. Thank you for your grace in  the dusty days. Your grace for today.

 

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