Tag Archives: Jesus

Seeking Justice, Loving Mercy

“There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground” (Amos 5:7 NIV).

“There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth” (Amos 5:10 NIV).

“There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:12 NIV).

“You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness” (Amos 6:12 NIV).

Two times, Amos was given visions of Israel’s destruction. Two times, Amos interceded with God on behalf of Israel. Two times, God relented.

After a third vision, God says, “I will spare [my people Israel] no longer.” And this time, Amos doesn’t intercede, because a prophet can’t carry a burden that God lifts.

I couldn’t intercede in what happened today, try though I did. I’ve spent the past few months crying out to God for justice in this situation. I’ve spent the past month pursuing an opportunity for justice in this situation. I’ve refused to participate in injustice against myself.

I paid for all of it.

I processed all of it.

I interceded for the people involved through all of it.

I let all of it go. To God. I let all of it go to God.

And that’s important. Because if had been entirely up to me, what happened today wouldn’t have happened.

But I am not my own. I belong to Someone Else. I am fiercely loved and jealously protected. These things are never entirely up to me.

I thought I would be displeased by what happened today. Instead, I feel the love, the protection, the vindication. The fierceness of all of it.

I feel best knowing that even though what happened today had to happen, you are in merciful hands, and if you lean in, all good things will be yours.

Lean in.

Lean in.

Lean in.

As someone reminded me last week, you harvest what you plant.

“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24 NIV).

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will do this; He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:5-6 NIV).

 

 

 

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Our Broken World and the One Thing We All Seem to Be Forgetting

“It’s 2016. How are we not past this?”

Do you know what I mean? This is the Digital Age! Information at our fingertips! We should know better. And when we know better, we should do better. It was one thing when we were cave-dwellers, grunting and beating our chests, right? It was one thing in the 15th century when we didn’t have Freud to analyze our fear of other, right? It was one thing in the American South when we actually believed we were benevolent, taking people away from their families and homes, because we were giving them a better life, right? It was one thing in the sixties when the new ideology clashed with traditional and created a turbulent time, right? But now? In 2016? We should be past this. I mean, we’ve had billions of years to evolve. Billions of years of history and experience. At this point, this should pretty much fix itself, right?

But somehow, racism persists. Human trafficking persists. Sexism persists. Poverty persists. Abuse persists. The idea that one group knows what’s better for another group persists. The raping, pillaging, and plundering of creation persists.  And somehow, the leading presidential candidates in the United States are a man who whines about anything that goes against him like he’s a five-year-old and a woman who has built her career hiding things. (Not that there aren’t other choices, but they are what the majority of our nation has chosen.) Somehow, this isn’t fixed yet.

How? How are we not past this?

I believe – no, I know the human race cannot fix our own issues. That much is clear from a history of repetitive and increasingly pervasive mistakes. Or it should be, but somehow, in spite of our proven track record, we still cling to the idea that we can and will fix ourselves – if we just put the right officials in office in November, if we just talk enough and do enough about the issues, if we can just get everyone else to see things the way we do,… well, you get the idea. But it’s still not enough, because there is always something (usually in the form of someone else) standing in our way. Other people are always the problem, and we are always the solution.

This tells me we need something other and infinitely greater than ourselves to make things right. An outside force greater than the sum of our parts.

I may not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, may not always have the best relationship with the Church, but let me tell you, I believe in Jesus.  Jesus is the Only One able to make our wrongs right by restoring our relationship with the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. Living in harmony with God is the only way we can live in harmony with everything He made.

We cannot hope to do this ourselves, okay? We have failed ourselves, history shows, and let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking we haven’t. Let’s not let the enemy deceive us into thinking we’re doing pretty good on our own.

It’s time to look to Jesus. Time to surrender our independence from God, to surrender our independence in trying to be God. Time to recognize our need for Him, our inability without Him. Time to let God be God, and to just delight in being the created, which is all He has ever asked of the human race.

For those of us who already believe in Him, it’s time to talk more about Jesus. Time to show a hurting world that Jesus is the Only One who makes wrong things right, the Only One who can show us the Heavenly Father. Time to prove He’s the Living God by letting His Life live in us. Time to stop talking about what we can do, and start talking more about what He can do.

“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.   I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.  Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:15-20 NRSV).

 

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I’ve had to let something go…

I’ve had to let something go in order to keep my faith in Jesus.

I’m not referring to the things we normally talk about when we discuss following Jesus – you know, the works of the flesh or the sacrifices we have to make in carrying our crosses. I’ve had to let go of something far more orthodox – that is, something most Christians consider fundamental to following Jesus and their faith in Him.

But as I’ve dealt with certain doubts since my preteen years, and as these doubts have escalated to critical levels this year, this thing could not be less fundamental to my faith in Jesus as Savior from sin and the way to the Heavenly Father. In fact, as things have boiled down, I’ve discovered I can either have faith in this one tenet and let Jesus go, or I can have faith in Jesus and let this one tenet go, but I will not be able to hang on to both.

And since Jesus is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and this particular tenet – well, it’s been one of the worst, I’m going to stick with Jesus.

I’m breaking the rules, I know. It’s supposed to be all or nothing, I know. I’ve seen individual faiths crumble because people thought they had to believe both, or neither, okay? Because in a situation where people are forced to choose both or neither, they inevitably choose neither. I’ve decided that’s not going to be my story, so I’m going take Jesus, and leave the rest.

I believe God can be entirely known through Jesus, and Jesus alone, because Jesus is God. I believe absolutely everything must be filtered through Jesus, because Jesus is the Word of God – if it stands in Him, it stands, if it falls in Him, it falls. Jesus is my final authority.

Which is, as a Christian (literal meaning, “little Christ”), exactly as it should be, in my opinion. (Again, orthodox Christianity disagrees with me.)

So, yes, I’ve had to let something go in order to keep my faith in Jesus. And, yes, I know it puts me at odds with most people I know. And talking about it publicly?

I’ll probably get multiple calls from multiple people.

I’ll probably get called multiple names by multiple people.

Multiple people are probably going to lose all respect for me, because their respect for me has been on the basis of my grasp of this one tenet.

I’m probably not going to be allowed to minister in certain capacities.

If I don’t fall in with orthodoxy, I’m probably going to be treated a certain way by the Church.

But I’m not going to pretend – not for my own comfort, and not for anyone else’s – and I can certainly handle what comes as a result.

Oh, yes, I’ve let something go in order to keep my faith in Jesus.

And I’m not ashamed or afraid, because I’ve kept the most important thing: Jesus.

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#FindingGodChallenge: Introduction

The first #FindingGodChallenge has been issued: find a Bible verse, a song, and a moment with God from your life that show God is with you and meet back here next week to discuss!

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People-Pleasing and the Book of Galatians

I used to be a bona fide people-pleaser.  It sickens me now, actually, how much I lived for approval and affirmation from others.  The validation was a high, and eventually I found myself unable to live without it.

While I had nearly always been a people-pleaser, I had not always had approval or affirmation or validation.  I was like a little kid bouncing up and down, shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!” until finally someone did. Overnight, people were impressed with me, and that felt good. Really good.

Problem was, those things I did to get people’s attention were not really me.  I didn’t really want to showcase my doctrinal prowess, run myself ragged serving the church, give resources that I didn’t actually have, or fully embrace ideologies I didn’t fully agree with.  I felt like I needed to in order to keep people interested, because really, what was I to them without these things?

I felt enslaved, and I resented it.

Eventually, I couldn’t keep it up, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I lost my approval, affirmation, and validation from others.

Then, I felt like nothing.

One day, I was reading the book of Galatians and came across this verse: “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10, NLT).

It took me reading Galatians (and this verse) several times before I began to understand that my people-pleasing lifestyle was not pleasing to Christ.  When I lived my life to please other people, I was enslaved to them and what they wanted, and I was not considering what Christ wanted.

I began asking what He wanted, thinking He was going to give me some big old to-do list.  And because I’d been (mis)taught that the only way to serve Christ was to serve His Church, I assumed it would involve many of the same things I’d been doing before.

To my surprise, God told me, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a, NKJV).  Another translation says “cease striving” and that really hit me in the gut, because I had been striving – going to unnatural lengths to earn approval, affirmation, and validation.  As I gave up ministry after ministry to be still in God’s presence, people kept telling me I was going in the wrong direction, but I knew (although I didn’t fully understand) that God was pleased with the direction I was taking. I didn’t need to be doing more to please God.

God told me,  “I came so that you could have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, paraphrased).  I began to understand that I already had everything I needed to enjoy what God called me to.  I had been living a half-life because my schedule was so jam-packed and I was convinced that the more of myself I gave, the more I would be given by God. (Oh, the legalism I had gotten myself into there).  I didn’t need to give more to please God.

God told me, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made you free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1, NKJV).  This was the hardest for me.  When people would offer their insight on what I was doing (without understanding why), it was challenging for me to remember that I had freedom to step away the way I did.  I wanted to explain until they got it (i.e., approved), but I found that I no longer needed to. I was exactly who and where God called me to be, and that became the most important thing.  I didn’t need to be more to please God.

It was like the gospel 2.0, although I’d been following Christ for around for years at that point: Christ had already done what needed to be done, given what needed to be given, and been what needed to be in order to please God.  I have God’s approval because of Christ.  Beyond that, I say with confidence that God is pleased when I seek Him and His call in my life.

And God’s pleasure is all I care about.

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Happy 23rd Birthday, Whit!

Dedicated to the fearless truth-speakers in my life:

my dad, Mark Thomas, and my dear friend Whitney Gross.

Thank you for not accepting the things I accept too easily.

~ the dedication of The Field

962965_10201716767741147_1471129219_n(Photo Credit: Melody Ellison, 2013)

Dear Whit,

Happy, happy, happy 23rd birthday, friend!

I know your birthday is not technically until tomorrow, but I was thinking of and praying for you on my drive home today.  You’ve been a fearless truth-speaker to me during some of the roughest seasons of my life, and I am so thankful for the times you have given me the eyes to see beyond what is right in front of me.  You are such an incredible person, and I sense that you need those eyes back tonight, so let me see if I can be a fearless truth-speaker to you.

God still has something big in store for you, but don’t despise the day of small things. I know this season has not turned out the way you had hoped and planned, and I know how disappointed and frustrated you must be, but God is not done with you.  Although unexpected circumstances have come, God is not reduced or lessened in your life.  He has something He is doing for you, in you, and through you.  As in, right now.  And maybe He’s doing it in the thing you’ve overlooked as not a big deal or insignificant.  Our God is both a big-picture God and a God of intimate detail, so keep seeking Him in the small stuff, and the big things will become clear.

Don’t be afraid to pray specific prayers and remain open.  After a door slams in our face, a door we deeply desire, it can be tempting to stop praying specific prayers and say, “Whatever, God.” You had gone through your door, you were living your prayers, and I know being snatched away from that is disheartening.  God has given you your heart for this world and for the people in it, so keep asking and seeking and knocking for the deepest desires of your heart.  No, God’s call doesn’t always look the way we think it should, but He’s given it to you for a reason, and He intends to bring it about in your life.  Keep trusting Him and remain sensitive to His leading, even if it could lead to more frustration, disappointment or discouragement.

These things will change, so find joy in where you are at and what you have now.  Our lives consist of seasons.  Some good, some bad, some long, some short.  I think God does this so we remember the impermanence of our lives here on this earth.  You are not going to be where you are at forever, or even for the rest of your life, although it may feel that way now.  And this season? It’s giving you what you will need at some point in the future.

I love you, dear friend, and am praying for God’s very best for you in the coming year.  I pray that He shakes up your life in ways that grow you closer to Him.  I pray that He gives you continued direction and purpose.  I also pray for the people you love in the country you had to leave.

Mostly, though, I’m just thankful.  Thankful to have had you in my life as a fearless truth-speaker, as a fellow-adventurer on this life journey, and someone to just laugh and cry with when life gets to be too much.

I’ll leave you with this verse: “Forget the former things and do not dwell on things of old.  See, I am doing a new thing, even now it springs forth.  Can’t you see it? I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Again, happy birthday, dear Whit!

Love,

Lyd

Untitled(It’s a lid! You see what I did there?)

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Dear Men, I Do Not Exist For You

[I really think I’m going to have to start issuing ruffle warnings.  As in, your feathers are about to be ruffled.  Consider yourself warned.  Ruffle, ruffle.]

Dear Men,

I do not exist for you.  I do not exist to satisfy your desires or to cater to your whims.  I am not obligated to respect you,  like you, befriend you, be attracted to you, date you, marry you or sleep with you.  There is nothing wrong with me if I am not drawn to you (and not necessarily anything wrong with you, either, I must add);  I am just not here – living this life at this point in time and space – for you.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That is, the divinely-appointed purpose of humanity, of any life, of my life “is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”

My life is not now and never will be about your needs.

Yet I’m told it should be.  And I’m not just hearing it from secular culture, I hear it from the Church.

I will never forget a conversation I had with a godly, older married friend a number of years ago.  We were discussing whether or not it was right or okay to have something you would leave your husband over when entering marriage.  She maintained that it was not right or okay, that a woman who had such a contingency was not fully committed.  I admitted that I felt I would leave my husband if he was ever unfaithful to me, because I didn’t think I could recover from that.  She returned with, “If a man’s needs are being met in marriage, he won’t ever go outside of it to fulfill them.”

That scared me off of marriage for a long time after that, because what the mess kind of standard is that?  I’ve been asked many times about my singleness: did I struggle with my sexuality? Was I a commitment-phobe? Was it because I had a front row seat to a messy divorce? Nope.  It was because for many years I was deathly afraid of marrying the wrong man; I mean, the really wrong man.  I was afraid I’d end up loving and marrying a black hole of need that I would never be able to satisfy.  Maybe I’d be sick, or upset, or otherwise just not feel like “it” and he’d take his needs somewhere else.  And of course, because for whatever reason I wasn’t up to giving him what he needed (forget my needs), his infidelity would be my fault.

I reject that now.  I reject that my actions ever FORCE someone to sin.  I reject it because I am not now and never will be held accountable for someone else’s sin.  God is never, ever, EVER going to ask me if it ever happens, “Lydia, why was your husband unfaithful?” In my feelings of betrayal, should I ever encounter infidelity in my marriage, God’s not going to say, “Okay, but Lydia, what could YOU have done better?”  That is NOT how God operates: “A bruised reed He shall not break” (Isaiah 42:3a).

And in case you’re wondering, I now also desire a healthy, Christ-focused (not husband- or wife-focused) marriage.

Where I am now in my attitude is unfortunately not the point, however; the fact that I was ever terrified of marriage because of being blamed for someone else’s sin is a problem.  And it’s not a problem because my attitude toward marriage was wrong; it’s a problem because someone placed (or at any rate, tried to place) a burden on me that God never intended.

This burden is not rare in the church; in fact, it’s all over the place, anytime a husband is unfaithful to his wife.  And it all boils down to this: the wife is spending too much time on things other than her husband.

Every time I encounter this attitude, the old fear in me rises up, and I spend days and weeks vanquishing it again.  I have to re-remember that I am not living this life for the pleasure of any man; I’m living to glorify and enjoy God.  I have to re-remember that any man who stands in the way of that is not worthy of my respect, good feelings, friendship, attraction, time, commitment, or body.  And since I am having to re-remember it, I am re-reminding you, dear men: I do not exist for you.

It’s ironic.  The Field contains this sort of romantic subplot, and I was really conflicted about whether to leave it in or take it out.  I left it in because it’s so personal, but until today I hadn’t been able to formulate why it was so personal.  It’s only sort of romantic because the heroine doesn’t choose her love interest; she chooses her purpose.  And that’s what I’ve had to do a time or two.

Because I don’t exist for men.

 

 

 

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Nobody Goes to Hell Because They’re Gay

Nobody goes to hell because they’re gay.

This is going to ruffle some feathers, but that’s okay.  More and more, I seem to be in the business of ruffling feathers.

I just want to be incredibly clear.

Nobody goes to hell because they’re gay.

Just as nobody goes to hell because they’ve committed adultery, or murdered, or committed suicide, or molested a child, or violated an adult, or lied, or been arrogant, or whatever sin you deem as heinous or innocent.

If that were the case, we are all going to hell, because we have all sinned – we are all sinners. I don’t care how good or moral we think we are, sin is a part of our DNA from the time we are conceived, and we have all violated God’s perfect standards at one time or another.

There is one thing that separates those who are going to hell from those who are not, and that is Jesus Christ.  He is the only One who met God’s perfect standards, the only One who did not sin.  And He is the only Way anybody can access God, the only Way anybody can have victory over sin, the only way to eternal life.

In order to understand why we even need Jesus, we have to acknowledge the existence of a God who is not us.  He is completely perfect, and therefore, He is completely other from us.  He does not operate the way we do, or the way we think he should.  He cannot tolerate sin and requires a payment for it.

In order to understand why we need Jesus, we have to acknowledge that we are all sinners, no matter how good or moral we deem ourselves to be.  As sinners, none of us can hope to live perfect lives, and therefore, we are disqualified from ever being able to pay for our own sin.

That’s why we need Jesus, because God is perfect and we are not and cannot hope to be.  We need Jesus because He is God’s perfect Son and the only One qualified to pay for our sin, the only One able to bring about a new way of life – which He did, by being crucified and rising from the dead!

It’s so simple, and yet, the way I’ve come to see it is that two things stand as roadblocks to accepting Jesus in our human thinking:

1.  We have a construct of God that makes Him like us when He is not.  We have this idea that He thinks and acts the way we do when He does not.

2.  We don’t like to think of ourselves as sinners, unworthy to approach a God who is entirely other from us.  We are all about ourselves, our strengths, our worth, our independence, and we can’t stand being told that however good and moral we may be, we are not good enough for God.  We can’t stand being told that our lifestyle choices condemn us in God’s eyes, but they do.

While the sins of homosexuality, or adultery, or murder, or suicide, or molestation, or rape, or deception, or pride, or any other sin you can name absolutely keeps you from God, only one sin dooms you to hell: rejecting Jesus and your need for Him.

Without Him and His payment for sin, we are all hell-bound sinners.

In Him and with Him and only because of Him, we have the power to change lifestyles that violate God’s perfect standards. I’m not saying we don’t still struggle with sin or stumble in sin, but we do have power in and with and because of Christ to overcome!

These aren’t my rules.  These aren’t Phil Robertson’s rules, little as I care for his approach.  And as a sinner myself, I’m not judging you for how you choose to live your life, or what you believe about God, or what you believe about yourself.  I just want you to be aware that there is a Judge, He is perfect, and at some point we will all answer to Him, and we will all be evaluated by His standards, not the standards we’ve created for ourselves.

When I come to the point where God holds me accountable for my life and the sinful choices I’ve made, I’m not going to be able to say, “But look, God, I did this, this, and this right,” not because I haven’t done good things, but because those good things simply don’t make up for my sin.  Only Jesus does.  He is my only plea in God’s court.

Jesus is the ONLY plea in God’s court, and if you think you’re not going to hell because you’re good enough on your own or because the god you’ve formed in your mind wouldn’t send you there, I don’t care how you’ve lived, you’ve got another thing coming.

 

 

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Remain Open

I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind so much as I did this morning.  I’m pretty sure my brain is fried.

Here’s the story.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I began asking God to open a very specific door for me.  After a few months, the door opened, and I was poised to walk through it.  The week the door opened, I had a dream that I really believe was a vision from God for my life.  One morning, I was reflecting about this door and this vision, and God told me, “You can have this if you really want it, but I have better for you if you just wait for Me.”  I made a choice to trust God that morning, and little by little the vision for what God wants for me has become sharper and sharper.

Doors upon doors have been closed for me.  This week, though, I was faced with yet another open door.   A door that made perfect sense, except as I prayed about it, I had no peace about walking through it.  I felt like God was saying, “This isn’t it.  Keep walking.”

And that’s what I had every intention of doing.  I got to where I was going this morning and I found myself reasoning, “Well, it’s not like this is a bad opportunity.”

Then I’d come back with, “It is if it keeps me from what God wants for me.”

“How can God not want this for me?”

It would be easier than more waiting, more walking.  The feeling that it’s not quite right is easy enough to bury given enough busy-ness or the justification that it’s a good thing.  I mean, technically, since God is prompting me to say now, it’s sin, but it’s … a good thing.

But I can’t do it.  I have to keep going just to see what God has in store, because I can’t see two feet in front of me right now. I have to believe He has told me “no” for a good reason, just like He did thirteen months ago. So I’m going to keep walking and remain open for whatever God has in store for me, even if it’s just more of what I’m doing right now.   He’ll bring that vision about if and when He wants.

I just have to trust and obey.  And remain open for the right opportunities.

And write a bajillion more blogs about waiting and waiting on God and transience and interim seasons and endurance and patience and faith and obedience and things that don’t make sense and all that good stuff God is teaching me through this.

Yup.

 

 

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With The Future In Mind

I watched a short called ReMoved on the Relevant site a few weeks ago.  (Watch it here).

It hit me in the gut for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is that God has laid it on my heart to someday foster (and adopt) children.  It is something I regularly pray for my future husband and I.

The week I saw this short film, I was dealing with things from my past (and I suppose present to a certain extent) – a lot of pain and anger.  And I’d been wondering why it was so important for me to have gone through the pain in the past, and why it is so important for me to deal with the anger now.  I wondered why God hadn’t intervened in the past and why He  has forced me to confront what I’ve been through.

As I watched this film,  I felt God tug at my heart: This is why, He whispered.  In order to minister to the children I bring to you,  you need to understand where they are coming from.

In a place even the closest to me have not always been privileged to see, God is teaching me to love hurting individuals, who’ve been wounded by something warped and twisted that parades itself as love.   In a place of sticking to very difficult things, God is teaching me to persist in loving hurting people who are continually lashing out at me.   God is teaching me to be a continual outpouring of His love, His goodness, His righteousness, His grace; to walk with people, I mean really walk with people, even when it gets ugly; and to obey Him, to be exactly who and where He wants me to be.

Every part of my story He has written with the future in mind.

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