Gray or Glory

Originally written and posted to Facebook, January 23, 2014.

I have something to say to many of you I am privileged to call friend. I hope many will read it and be convicted (as I was while writing). But I am primarily thinking of each of you young adults I know through GenJ or CollegePlus. Please consider this my personal note to you. I share it because this world is messy and sometimes confusing and I want you to know that you CAN know what God calls righteousness and that it is okay for you to walk that path, even if all around you seem to be abandoning it.

It seems that much of the world–including our conservative or Christian circles–are sending muddied messages of what it means to live rightly. Of what it looks like to distinguish between right and wrong. If you have ever looked up to a leader you expected to do right and somehow ended up confused or misguided in the end… this message is for you.

First, you should know that Godly Christians who genuinely want to follow Jesus sometimes disagree on things. This is okay. There is incredible freedom in the ability to hold your convictions, yet value those of another. There is great respect to be had when you realize that you can use your freedom in Christ to act a certain way without judging those who are just as free to guard themselves from what may become a temptation.

There is so much room for those who love Jesus to find common ground while holding fast our separate beliefs… beliefs which, as a pastor of mine once said, are still “within the realm of orthodoxy.” (Which basically means that in certain areas, we can disagree while acknowledging that the other person is not a heretic). 😉

Yet there are many things that simply should not be up for negotiation within the Christian walk. God sets the standard, my friends. We are not free to change it, redraw the lines, or somehow set new rules simply because “everyone is doing it” or “they don’t play fair, so why should I?”

Walking like Jesus is not about how long we can play with fire without getting burned.

Walking like Jesus is not about seeing how far down the path of destruction we can tread before we can’t see the way back.

Rather, walking like Jesus means forsaking all that resembles sin or any hint of wrongdoing.

Walking like Jesus means pursuing holiness… “Pressing on toward the call of the prize in Christ Jesus.”

Walking like Jesus means throwing off EVERYthing that holds us back and the sin that clings oh-so-closely while we fix our eyes on the One who started and perfects our faith.

As we attempt to walk like Jesus, however, we know we do so while also walking in a fallen world. A world that is far from perfect and often muddles black and white into a dingy, disgusting gray.

Friends, we are not called to a life of gray.

Yet what do we do when people we respect and love and seem to be genuinely seeking Christ get stuck in the gray for awhile?

First, we have grace. Because we have all been there and probably all will again. And truthfully, I would rather we dig into the gritty parts of life and wrestle like Jacob did with the angel and not come out until we KNOW what it looks like to walk out of the gray and into the glory.

But friends, just because there is grace in the gray doesn’t mean that is what we desire and strive for. It doesn’t mean we excuse the gray as being “not that bad.” It doesn’t mean we join in making messy, grayish mud pies that the world seems to think are worthy of blue ribbons because their vision is so clouded.

We must always be reaching for glory. We will not attain it on this earth, I know. But while we now “see through a glass-dimly,” SOMEDAY we will see Him face to face.

And when we do that, my friends, we must all give account. You must speak for YOUR convictions and YOUR thoughts and YOUR actions just as I must speak for mine.

So when we are confused… muddled… uncertain of the right path because truth is so easily twisted and mixed up with a bit of the lies…

The question we must ask is this:  what does it look like to be in right standing before God? Right this moment, with God Himself living within you and a million saints bearing witness and all the angels of heaven cheering you on?

What does it mean to live rightly in each decision you are asked to make?

Not “how far can I go?”

Not “I’m not as bad as them.”

Not muddling in the gray, pretending it’s glory.

Striving for one thing only–Christ.

And Christ alone.

C.S. Lewis says this… ‎”Your life is a continuum where wholeness is on one end and destruction is on the other. Each decision you make is moving you one direction–towards wholeness and peace with God, or away from Him.”

Which direction will you walk today?

Reflections on Uganda

Originally written and posted on GenJ’s Liberty Call on January 9th, 2014.

I sat in a small, dark mud hut as a soft stream of light cast shadows through the tattered curtain that covered the doorway—the only opening allowing light and air into the home. Squeezed between my sister and another girl on our team, we sat quietly on a small bench, one of four pieces of furniture in the room. The other pieces consisted simply of a chair, a tiny end table, and a cabinet barely higher than my waist. That was all, in a room smaller than my bathroom back home. Vicky, the incredible Ugandan woman who had led us over muddy mountain paths to this home, sat in the chair while our hosts, an aging Jiajia (grandmother) and her 12 year old grandson, knelt on the dirt floor in front of us.

Vicky, who mentors 83 Ugandan children and visits each one at least once a week, was checking in on this family for the fifth time in as many days. We sat silently while she chatted in Luganda, paging through the young boy’s homework while she talked.

After awhile, she turned to us to translate the conversation. She spoke softly and kindly. “This boy… he is like all boys his age. He would rather be playing than helping his grandmother bring in water or wash the dishes or do his schoolwork. She works so hard; but she is old and tired… I come every day to make sure he is doing his work, because sometimes–grandmothers can love us too much.”

Her words brought tears to my eyes, because I do indeed know “boys his age” and grandmothers who “love us too much.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Dwelling Place of God

Originally posted on Facebook, Christmas Day 2013

Christmas, I always thought, was the time of year when things become “better.” A time when people choose grace over personal preference. When the troubles of life hold off for a few days or weeks. When everyone seems a bit nicer, the world a bit brighter, and joy a bit nearer.

Yet in recent years, I have struggled when my expectations did not meet reality. Christmas can be–and often is–just as difficult as any other time of the year. Perhaps more so, as some face first Christmases without dear ones, others struggle through extra time in difficult family situations, or we are struck afresh by the disparity between our great wealth and another’s great need. This year, I heard many say “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas.” And I agree.

But in trying to capture a “feeling” of Christmas, I realized that perhaps I was missing the point.

After all, Christ entered a world lost and broken. He came in the midst of great sorrow and oppression. His people were longing; waiting; anticipating what was to come but not yet arrived. The words of my favorite Advent carol capture the heart of a waiting people; “O come, O come, Immanuel; and ransom captive Israel.”

And then? He came.

The glory of that Christmas was not a facade of a perfect world, but the Hope of a Kingdom brought down to earth.

The glory of Christmas is not ignoring the brokenness, but the promise of redemption in spite of it.

The glory of Christmas is that God Most High became man to walk with us in our humanness.

And yet it is so easy to look around and expect to see our version of the Kingdom. We expect this season to be one of joy, peace, and love. Sometimes, we are blessed with that. But the truth is that the world is still fallen. Broken. Waiting for restoration.

The promise of Christmas is not of perfection, but of Immanuel. God WITH us, walking through the brokenness. And the hope of a Kingdom yet to come.

And so, I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. Not a perfect one. Not a facade of peace and grace. But a celebration of great promise and anticipation in knowing that even in brokenness and pain, our hope is in Christ.

“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 the eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:3-4)