witness

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [Acts 1:8]

Beyond the fact that this is one of my absolute favorite verses, and there are plenty of people that are tired of hearing about it, God tends to reveal different focuses through the words at different times. Being a witness and having a witness are two totally different things. One is what Jesus calls us to be. The other is how our actions are perceived by others.

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he hung out with prostitutes?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he went to dinner with a tax collector?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he touched lepers?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he told a murderer he would see him in Paradise?

This is why the Pharisees had such a problem with Jesus. His actions went against their ‘rules,’ but what they didn’t understand is that the rules were his to break since the Pharisees had morphed them into something that was never intended.

Christians get held to a higher standard, and that frustrates me, simply because we are the ones that know the cost of our sin and live as forgiven believers of the God who reigns over the universe. Just because I choose to be a believer, does not make me less human. It means I am acknowledging who I am as a human, and struggling through the sin that comes so naturally. I cannot stop sinning. That is unrealistic. It also does not make me a hypocrite. It makes me real, and not a believer who feels they have to hide what non-believers would term as questionable behavior for a righteous person. I am not righteous, unless you are saying I respond to injustice…then yes, yes I am. I answer to God alone, which means I rest in his mercy and grace.

Believers should be the most real people living in this world.

We should be the ones that are an outward example of real grace. In our own lives, as well as giving that grace to others in radical ways.

We should be what others look at and say, ‘Maybe there is something to the whole God thing. Maybe he is real. Maybe life could be freeing with God.’ So that God can have that conversation with them, because their salvation is not dependent on us. It is dependent on the truth of the Gospel. I pray you hear that, because we need to get out of the way of God doing what God does. Takes the pressure off, right? Credit for salvation never belongs in the hands of a human. God gets the glory…every time.

I was once heading out with a mission team that was a mix of people who find themselves in a pew on Sunday morning, people who would never set foot in church and others who used to but don’t anymore. I love it when God throws those mixes together, because you never know what God is going to do among those people and what transformation will happen while serving.

As we were preparing to leave, I was carrying a heavy box and dropped it on my toe and said, ‘Ah, shit!’

One of the other team members was right next to me, and looked over startled. I apologized, shrugged and said, ‘Sometimes things fly out of my mouth.’

The team member looked at me and replied, ‘I was nervous about hanging out with church people this weekend. We are going to get along just fine.’

It started a great friendship. It also started a new commitment to church in that team members’ life.

All because I am comfortable in the grace I received from a Savior that paid the ultimate price for me, and God breaks through walls that have been built for years in those moments. As well as using the realness we are comfortable with in our relationship with God.

I saw a physical wall fall down between that team member and the rest of the team that day. This example has come up a lot through story telling in my missional community. So much so that most of us like the idea of an ‘F-Bomb Ministry.’ I know. Scandalous. Take a breath for a second, and realize this is a solid idea to reach out to people who believe that ‘Christians’ are too good to associate with ‘sinners.’ We are ALL sinners, folks. When we all step back and realized this, God’s glory is going to burst through a redeemed people.

I have a filter, and sometimes it is looser than other times. But the reality is there are a plethora of people in this world that hold Christians to a higher standard, because Christians have chosen to fake righteousness. Their righteousness isn’t real. It’s just hiding what they think showing others will tarnish how Jesus is revealed. But consider how Jesus lived. His reputation was awful based on the people he hung out with…but while he was with them the Kingdom of God was evident and a Savior was revealed. The Holy Spirit flowed not only on them, but THROUGH them.

The Pharisees were righteous…and look what their beliefs did to not only the believers at the time in martyring them, but in hanging Jesus to a tree.

I’m not interested in being fake, and I’m certainly not interested in tarnishing Jesus. Some would argue my inability to filter all cuss words out of my vocabulary is an awful habit for a believer. Others would argue that since I have a penchant for vodka I cannot possibly be able to serve as a witness for Jesus.

To that I call bullshit.

I respect what God is saying in the lives of others, and I adapt my behavior to show respect to those believers. We are all on a journey with God, and for all I know what he is telling them is what God could be convicting me of tomorrow. However, my journey with God has led me to be comfortable with who he has created me to be and that comfort manifests in all areas of my life. What defines me is his love for me, my love for him and how he has called me to be a witness to what he has done in my life throughout the world.

I mess up. I make mistakes. I hurt people I don’t intend to hurt. But at the end of the day, I am embraced by the loving God who unconditionally covers me with love and grace. The God who loves my quirks. The God who, I imagine, laughs when I do stupid things. The God who smiles when I am holding a kid who needs to be held. The God who knows I will go where he sends me. The God who knows when my filter will be slammed in place…and when it won’t.

Don’t take this post as reinforcement to sin blatantly and outlandishly, I fully recognize there are boundaries. But do take this post as a reminder to talk with God about the parts of you that are hidden and the parts of you that are not. Jesus has put a calling on your life to be his witness, and he is revealed through all of you, because he has redeemed you wholly…not in pieces. And that is good news for a sinful world that needs a lot more witnesses to what Jesus has done in the lives of his people ‘in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’

resurrection

The entire life of Jesus present with God’s creation led up to his sacrifice for us, not ending there at death, but rising again in resurrection. God sent him, so that his life would redeem his creation.

I think of all the times in the Old Testament that God was angry with his creation, and that anger poured out in so many terrifying ways. I don’t think we like to ponder why God’s anger poured out, because we see too many similarities with how his creation exists today.

Disease. War. Hunger. Pain. Thirst. Sex trafficking. Drugs. Death.

It’s endless, right? This world sucks.

But God tried to help us see another way.

God sent Jesus.

The baby sent to redeem creation.

The man who started his ministry by telling people not to talk about him yet, and to stop praying for show.

The man who laid a foundation of belief, healing and community before giving himself to all.

The man whose stories led back to the Kingdom of God. Every. Time.

The man who was a true rebel preaching about helping prostitutes, murders, sick, hungry and poor.

The man who built community with 12 guys who didn’t have a clue.

The man who poured out his heart in prayer for ALL OF US before he was arrested.

The man who hung on a cross while freely giving salvation to a murderer.

The man.

That’s key.

He was born. He lived as one of us. He died.

And then…he rose.

Resurrection.

Life. Real life. Living in the Kingdom.

This world is not the end. This world isn’t even close to the Kingdom of God.

But it had been, until sin crept into that sacred space.

In my imagination, I see it as a big oil dump over creation. Slick, slimy, reaching into every crevice and so hard to get off. After working on getting oil off for a while, we want to give up…toss in the towel and head home where we can escape that hard, nasty, messy work.

But the oil covers our home…this world where we have the privilege to live out our earthly lives.

The oil needs to come off, and God guarantees he will restore it.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [Revelation 21:3-6]

Collective sigh of relief? All of this is meant to only be for a time, then God makes everything new again?

Yes. Undoubtedly, yes…but…

It dishonors the creator when creation sits and waits while parts of creation are in pain.

It dishonors the man who gave his entire life when we choose to not pay attention to his teachings.

It dishonors the world that has been made slick with oil of our sin when we want to throw in the towel on restoring God’s creation simply because it is too hard.

IMG_3533As we lean into the beauty of Easter, we also need to lean into the sin of the world we live in…it is where Jesus lived and died. Not to make us depressed and discouraged, but to inspire and invigorate the life we have living as people called by Jesus. Jesus didn’t die so we could play it safe and wait for God to come and restore it all. Nothing about Jesus’ life and the example he lived for his disciples shows us to play it safe and wait. It calls us to be daring in how we react to the world around us. It calls us to be restorers. If the Kingdom of God is coming, doesn’t it make sense to work toward the restoration that Kingdom will bring? To set right the wrongs around us? To confess sin and find redemption? To see God’s heart, and joy in the lives that the world says don’t matter? To live a live that is honoring to resurrection?

May you find the heart of God while you seek your answer, because each one of us has a different role in working toward restoring the Kingdom of God and any voice telling you different, is not the voice of the one who created you.

good, right & true

What is good, right and true? Not much in this physical world, right?

There is sin, and in sin is brokenness and in brokenness is hurt, and in hurt is where we peel back the layers of ourselves and bare all before God. But who wants to take the surrender and pain that bareness brings?

However, it is definitely not good, right or true that orphans exist in our world.

It is not good, right or true that parents feel their only choice is to give up their children simply because they cannot afford food, clothing or education…or a combination of all three.

It is not good, right or true that Haitians earn on average $4 a day. Do the math, even IF they worked every day of the year, which they won’t, it is less than $1,500 a year…on AVERAGE.

There are a lot of reasons that Global Orphan Project is an excellent fit for me. Just one of them is their intentional work in orphan prevention.

I say intentional, because orphan care is messy and orphan prevention is even messier. When you are dealing with broken people in a broken world living in a broken system with no long-term outlook…it is just messy.

GO Project partners with businesses in Haiti that are intentionally creating jobs, and hiring parents in order to keep families together. A steady job, some with health insurance, is a huge step in keeping families together in Haiti.

The key is helping these businesses create profit by getting the word out regarding what they are doing. If they are not selling, or do not have orders to make…there is not a need for more workers, or even the employed ones. Check out GOEX.org for who we work with, because there are some amazing people running these businesses. We want to see them succeed, and they are inspiring in their ability to be stubborn against what people say can and cannot be done in Haiti.

Even better? Not only is GO Exchange able to partner with those that we are inspired by, but all of the profit from GO Exchange goes back into orphan care…creating a great visual of what sustainability could look like for Haiti and a multitude of other places.

It is not always about throwing money at a situation. Money helps in the right context, but when you are looking at things on a global scale…so many avenues get corrupted and money being brought in without an effort for sustainability within that country is key.

It breaks my heart when governments are apathetic to not just the rights of their workers, but keeping those workers employed. The reality is that believers have an opportunity to make more of an effort to stand in that gap to not only create jobs with dignity, good pay and working conditions, but also support those creating jobs to ensure those being employed are consistently employed.

It is good, right and true to care about the sin in our world on a personal, local and global level, because things are not right in this world. The heart of God is for all things to be set right and restored in our world. The real question is are we supporting those who are making that effort in risky, inspiring and sometimes persecuted environments?

basic needs, pt. deux

It is a given that out of the six of us blogging that I am going to have a different view from everyone else simply because I am the one living in Haiti now. I think the Rethink Church question we are posting today is meant to have us reflect on the things that distract us from the needs around us, which is amazing for a lot of Americans to think about since we are broken people who default to sinful choices in however that manifests for us individually. Rethink Church asks, ‘What are those temptations that rule you and make you turn away from those in need? In poverty, disease and hunger?’

I don’t have a lot of barriers between poverty, disease and hunger surrounding me right now. It is pretty much everywhere give or take a concrete block wall. There is no escape, and honestly, I embrace that because this is something God has been pulling me to be a part of for a very long time.

As a broken, sinful person, even though surrounded by those in need, distractions seep in and I’m responsible to notice those and make corrections to be the best I can be while being with those around me. When I am tired and we are going to the third village of the day…it’s not the kids’ fault that I am tired and grouchy. That’s on me and I cannot waste myself in those situations with the very real excuse of ‘I am tired.’

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. [1 Peter 2:11]

God brought me to 1 Peter this morning…still not sure why, but I found this and I love how it says foreigners and exiles. In New Testament times there was a disconnect between those that followed the God of Moses and those they considered foreigners and unclean through their laws. It was a rebellious life the followers of Jesus led, especially when they embraced foreigners and started proclaiming that Jesus was for everyone.

As Americans, most of the time there is criticism for being passionate about people outside our borders, or foreigners within who don’t speak ‘our’ language. It’s not popular to like Russians right now, people are always complaining about Spanish speakers within our borders and don’t even enter a conversation about the Middle East, right? Recognize the sin in those criticisms and repent, because God didn’t create borders. We did. God created a world that sin crept into, and his desire is for it to be reconciled. But we get in the way.

There are a lot of distractions in the States, especially when the social norm is to be okay with ignoring people in need. How many times have you ignored a homeless person? Or judged them for what they are doing because there are ‘resources’ available? Yes. There are a multitude of resources available, but the bottom line is we do not know their story. God knows their story, and he is the one who calls on us to help those in need. God doesn’t put parameters on who is in need and who isn’t. There isn’t a sliding scale that he uses. He says help them, and a good reference on that is Isaiah 58:6-7.

As believers, we should reflect on this as well:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 4:7-11]

In the moments you feel your human body is the excuse to turn away from the need in this world, know that the strength God provides will be filling and enough for those moments. Don’t allow distraction and sin to keep you from doing the work that God has called you to in whatever context that is for you. We are a part of a global church that is most beautiful when it reflects the heart of God. To him be the glory.

bound

Rock piled upon rock. Some smooth proving submission to a forming substance over a large amount of time. Others ragged and stubborn…all layered in a massive piled formation.

Varying colors of grey, dark grey, mottled brown and pieces of moss in places.

The shape takes form and it becomes alter-like.

On top lays a figure. Struggling, moving and desperate to be free.

IMG_0739A closer look finds wire…not just wire…barbed wire. Every movement pierces the skin. Tearing as each small point finds surface to impale. Over and over again.

Darkness closes in, so black that no light could ever pierce it. Screams flow out of the figure, yet bounce back as they hit the advancing wall of darkness. The pain and terror echoes as feelings of pain and the reality of being trapped start suffocating the figure.

Bound. Unable to move. No sight of freedom. Terrified of what happens next.

No…I am not sadistic. I am pondering a more spiritual image.

Of being bound by the things that are hurting our relationship with God and with others. At the core is usually sin and a refusal to acknowledge what is keeping us bound to it. But the layers…it is layer upon layer upon layer of the excuses we give to make something appear okay, while on the inside we are screaming.

How many times have you felt like something was holding on so tight to you that you would never be free of it?

How many times have you felt bound by something you have no control over?

How often have you felt shackled by the expectations of others that you have no hope of rising to succeed?

What has bound you up so tightly that you cannot possibly consider the possibility of being free?

Being bound is being so wrapped up in something that you cannot see beyond it. Life sucks? See no end in sight? No light at the end of the tunnel much less a tunnel to get through?

But there is…light busts in and Jesus’ love and resurrection become not only real but alive and active in this world. God does not desire his people to be bound to the sin in their lives. He does not desire that you would feel alone. He does not desire that you would feel there is no way out of a situation.

His desire for you is not of being bound so tightly that it will kill you to become loose, and feel as though you have no voice.

His desire is that you would be as delighted in his love for you, as he about his love for you since the beginning of time. That the freedom you feel from the ultimate sacrifice of his son would have you dancing, singing and praising all of the days of your life. Then in your freedom you would be his advocate, his witness…his ambassador to others. To be that reflection of his Kingdom that others need to see, because choosing to be bound takes away the reflection of God and the beauty of his love.

God’s love is not about being suffocated. God’s love does not revolve around what this world and its’ people put on you.

God’s love is sacrificial. God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is freedom in this life and the one beyond.

If you find yourself bound today by something in this world, shake the shackles off and embrace God’s truth…then keep repeating it to yourself, because this world will only try to convince you otherwise every single day.

ate

image

Chinese. If you hang around me enough, you will hear me talk about my constant search for good Chinese dumplings in the US. I will eat Chinese food for lunch AND dinner.

Pick your dropped jaw off the floor, because I will prove it…if you buy.

Mexican. I cannot get enough of the white cheese. Seriously, it’s addicting. And don’t even get me started on guacamole! Oh. My. Gosh. I could eat a bushel of avocados, but when you add the rest…step away from the bowl. I’m not kidding.

In the US we take our food very seriously…but the seriousness is not in whether or not there is food on our tables, it’s found in the fact that we have CHOICES of food. There are so many that go hungry in this world that it completely blows my mind that we have so much that we get choices.

Not every country has choices, it’s just been in the last few years that you hear of something other than Russian food outside of Moscow. And it’s definitely not a question of which Mexican restaurant you want to eat at…there’s only one.

I eat a lot that is bad for me, and I eat too much of all of it. I have a group of friends that is known for their amazing small group snack choices. The yet another that we stuff ourselves into oblivion when we get a night out together.

Relationships are made stronger over breaking bread together, and God created us to be in community…but…we have a tendency of over doing it. I know…pot…kettle…kettle…pot.

But the same is true for my relationship with God. I consume things that are not good for me and my relationship with him. It’s downright damaging to what we have.

Here’s the poster couple for actions that damage relationship with God:

For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [Genesis 3:5-6]

Talk about ruining it for all…their (yes, Eve AND Adam, they BOTH ate it) hunger for things that God said they didn’t need made it rough for all of us.

Put your brain in that moment…when was the last time you KNEW something wasn’t good for you, and that it would drive a wedge between you and God. A raise of hands? Ok. All of us.

But we do it anyway. Adam and Eve ate that damn apple, folks…but when are we going to take responsibility for holding up our end of our relationship with God? When will we stop partaking in things that are bad for us?

We can blame the first couple for the sin in the world all we want, but they are not still eating the same apple. It has passed down through the generations and we’ve willingly snarfed it down.

I ate it. You ate it. They ate it. Now is the time to stop letting it come between us and God, because something even tastier came…bread and wine, anyone? Let’s eat some Jesus instead…