When Did We Become Ok With Being The Pharisees?

In recent days we have all seen and heard that Target has made a choice to allow those who identify as Transgender to use the restroom of the gender they most identify with. As a Christian I understand and identify with the biblical view of the argument. I do not, however, identify with the hatred or anger that I’ve grown to see among so many professing Christians (and non-Christians alike).

You are probably wondering what this has to do with the Pharisees and why I am choosing to write about this. So let’s explore the Pharisees for a moment.

As we read through the New Testament we see that the Pharisees often did and said things that were religious, but often were out of hate so they could continue ruling and living in their own way. As Jesus enters the scene of scripture, we see something vastly different. We see a man that chooses to love those who have made choices that the religious elite disagree with, that Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit disagree with. Yet, Jesus won these over not through hate or brash remarks. No. He won them over in love.

In the past I have seen, and said something almost identical to that above: “Jesus wins because of love” and I’ve been told that it is more complicated than that. So I ask, is anger or hate – or hate crimes as I have seen professing Christians threaten on social media – an acceptable response to this issue? Based on scripture, no it is not.

Yesterday as I spent time reading the Word I read:

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be friends with the world makes himself an enemy of God”
(James 4:4).

Two things happened immediately after I read this verse. The first, was conviction. I was convicted by my lack of seeking God on this matter. I began asking Him what a biblical response to all of this would look like. The second, was realizing that hate and anger are equivocal to friendship with the world (just as much as complete and total acceptance of the issue).

The answer I feel like I received is not going to be one you may like (especially if you are currently in the boycott group). I feel like He kept bringing me back to the same thought over and over: “remember those I loved. Have I not loved you in you? Think of those I chose to love when others hated.” The other big thought He kept bringing me back to was, “you cannot choose who I adopt.”

I went back to scripture on the prodigal son, the woman at the well, the many who were demon possessed and healed … I kept going back to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “love does no wrong* to a neighbor; therefore love is fulfilling the law” (Romans 13:10). I kept thinking of the way Jesus chose to love and even went out of His way to encounter and love those that did not fit the Jewish mold. The story of the good samaritan was a story on loving others that are outside our culture and in need. Jesus went out of His way to speak to the samaritan woman at the well. This was counter cultural for Jewish people at the time. It was looked down upon and risque even.

The way Jesus loved is part of what angered the pharisees. As I watch the hate flood through Facebook I’ve decided not to be part of that. I’ve asked God for His guidance and the more of that I ask for, the more compassion I feel for a new culture of people. A culture that professing Christians are refusing to love. A culture professing Christians are literally saying they would beat people up and following it up with “it’s not hate, it’s respect.”

A dear friend of mine a few years ago said something so profound, and I’m not sure he or I realized its depth at the time. He said, “we’ve grown up being told we can do or be anything we have put our minds to. It is the American way. We’ve never had to wonder if we could get married if we could love someone. We’ve always been taught we can do both.” As a nation we have been taught we can do anything we want. We are Americans. There is no doubt that you can be pulled out of poverty. No doubt that you can own your own business, go to college, have as many children as you want, etc.

Yet there are now groups of individuals being told they cannot and will not receive service in certain businesses (particularly small businesses) under the guise of “rights”. There are a groups of indidviduals that are being publically told they will be beaten up for using bathrooms in public places under the guise of “protection and safety”.

When Jesus approached a group of men wielding rocks and large stones and looked through the crowd He saw a man and a woman accused of adultery. His response was not “right on, stone them for their sin”. No. NO. His response was “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Jesus’ ministry focuses on the individual, not the group. Yet somewhere along the way we have missed that. We look at a group of individuals and say “HOW COULD YOU?” but we forget that group is made up of individual people. We forget we are part of a group of individuals. We forget that the group we are attempting to cast stones at can see our faces. They know we profess Jesus. This is why they do not want to be Christian, because Christian looks like nothing more than hate to them.

When we stop hating and we start loving, when we stop trying to cast stones at every person that doesn’t look like us or talk like us or think like us and we start looking at how to love them… when we do that, that is when we will see the world change. That is when we will see a break through. That is when we will realize God adopted us to be His sons and daughters; not the other way around.

When we are adopted we do not get to chose who else gets adopted. To professing Christians I ask, if there were transgender people in your church or if there were anyone from the LGBTQA community in your church would you love them? Would you welcome them? Would  you treat them with the same amount of respect and kindness as you anyone else? Does God’s word not address this very thing?

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9)

If less people were yelling and threatening and more people were pouring the love of Christ into the LGBTQA community, would there not be a drastic change in our society? Would there not be a drastic change in the way Christianity was viewed?

I pray for you, Christian reading this who is angry with me at my comments, for your blood to stop boiling and the Father to bring you back to His word.

I pray for you, Christian reading this who is struggling with how to respond to recent matters, to seek God’s word and ask for His guidance. For God to take you deep into His word and reveal His truth and His love and push you to do the same for others.

Finally for you, LGBTQA community member I pray for healing on your heart. That the hatred and anger that has been shown to you be restored by the only one who can do that, Jesus. That He open your heart to Christians who love like Jesus and live like Jesus and show you the hope that abides in Him.

When we love like Jesus and live like Jesus, the whole world will change. But until then, we will see nothing but hate and anger…

* emphasis added by
** all links attached to verses are the entire chapter to maintain context of scripture

Lovely

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Yes, this is a post about Valentine’s Day, on the day before Valentine’s Day …   Scrolling through my newsfeed, twitter-feed, blog reel (and every other form of social media that could possibly exist) this morning I realized everyone was … Continue reading

Phasing as Often as the Moon

One thing about living in a new place, I get to make new friends. I love making new friends. I love loving people.

One of these new friends and her sister came over one evening. She is recently back from India, where she had spent the last year. We were praying for each other and she said, “I don’t want to try and make my life here mimic my life in India”. I knew exactly what she meant. As I looked around my house I realized I had almost attempted to make the set up similar to that of my apartment in China.

Living my life from China (or India or anywhere else anyone has been) is not really the point of coming back. The Father had me , and my friend as well, return from abroad. My life here is not to look like my life in China. There are some good things that have been incorporated into my personality that I have brought back with me. But trying to live my China life in Arkansas is not really practical. The Father didn’t bring me to China 2.0.

There are life lessons that I learned from being there, but there are some lessons to be learned living here as well, whether in class or spending time in the Word or otherwise. My life here looks different than my life there, and that is a good thing.

My life here now includes 40 hours of work a week and 9 hours of class plus lots of extra study/reading for class. It includes new friends, a new city, and new roommates. It includes candy (other than Snickers and Dove chocolate) and much easier baking. It includes pizza (!!!!!!!). It includes a class in non-profit management and learning what it means to be an administrator. It includes international students.

The moon has phases. The seasons have phases. The world around us has phases. We have our own phases. I feel as though my life has phases that circulate about as often as the moon; but I can’t say I’m mad about that. It keeps life interesting.

Bring on this phase, and the pumpkin spice lattes!

Life as I Know It

It has been six months since I’ve returned to the US from living in China. Almost everyone has asked me the same question, “isn’t it great to be back in the US?!” You would think that I would have formulated a good answer by now or I would just say what people want to hear, “yeah it’s great”. But my answer is not that simple. My answer is no and yes and some days. My life looks drastically different than it did exactly 1 year ago from today. A year ago I was an English teacher at an extra curricular English school for Chinese students. A year ago I was still serving with a women’s organization. A year ago I walked everywhere I went, or took public transportation.

This year is completely different. In January I returned to China from Bangladesh. In February I returned to Arkansas from China. In March I moved to central Arkansas. In April I started a new job. In May I applied for graduate school for the 2016 semester. In June moved in with two of my sweet friends. In July I celebrated my birthday stateside for the first time in 2 years. In August I started graduate school (I was accepted and pushed up to Fall rather than Spring).

My life is a stark contrast to the one I was living before. Recently I was telling someone stories from China, Bangladesh, and my testimony. She looked at me and said, “you’ve really lived your years.” It made me feel wonderful and weird all at the same time. My stories don’t seem crazy or extraordinary. They seem normal. They are my normal.

Remembering the past two years of my life feels like I’m looking into someone else’s life. How was it just six months ago that I was living somewhere completely different. I can close my eyes and still see the mountains from my apartment. The smell of cilantro still makes me want to eat 牛肉面 (beef noodles). I try to find excuses to speak Chinese everyday because I’m afraid I’m going to lose my ability to converse. Last night I dreamed in Chinese, which hasn’t happened since living in China. It is the small things that take me back to grocery shopping at the market up the street from my house, going to work to see adorable little Chinese faces staring back at me, or even spending time with friends once a week regularly.

My life is still busy. It is still full. It is still great. Sometimes it just seems as if my life is that of different people. I’m a person who wants to spend the rest of my life in another country. Living anywhere doing anything under any conditions. I’m also a person who is going to graduate school, has a salary and benefits, who is studying a degree that could lead to amazing job opportunities in the future.

There are days when I wake up and hope to open my eyes to my room back in China. When I open them, I am in my house in Arkansas. I’m not mad, a little sad, but I know that the Father has brought me back for a reason. He asked me to follow Him to China. I went. He asked me to follow Him to Bangladesh. I went. He asked me to return to America and I cried. I fought. Then, I returned. Now that I am here I keep trying to leave (already, yes). My job allows me to work with individuals from all over the world. International education is incredibly important to me. It is at the core of my being.

Before returning to the US, I sat asking the Father why He wanted me to return. Why is it I’m coming back. I felt He gave me three words: Educate. Empower. Encourage. It applies to so many things, but specifically for me to women and children. Educating women in who the Father is and who He has said they are. Empowering them to live in light of His truths. Encouraging them to teach that to other women. It also applies to low-income populations (in the US and abroad). Educating those without quality education. Empowering them to learn, grow, and create a better (town, city, country). Encouraging them to use their education to make change in their cities and countries.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have it all figured out yet. I’m here because I was asked to follow. I’m here to live and to trust and to follow where He leads.

Battle of the Hippie Soap

SoapAs of late I’ve become more aware of how unhealthy my lifestyle was prior to moving to China and even since returning. Everything I eat is loaded with sugar, factory made/processed ingredients, and now dairy; because, China. I’ve also realized how stationary my life is/was and how pretty much everything I use is manufactured. As my family says, I’ve kind of become a hippy – but one who refuses to give up chocolate.

In China I decided to stop using shampoo and conditioner, I used baking soda and water. It made my hair feel weird, but it curled so well and I felt better about my looks. Yes, yes I did. After a rough day of odd reverse culture shock, I decided I’d start using shampoo again, but I wanted to use something that wouldn’t take away from the new found curl and bounce and happiness from my hair. I found this amazing shampoo. It is paraben free, mineral oil free, and (something I can’t pronounce or spell) free. It makes my hair feel and smell good.

Last night I ran to Target to get a few things I was running low on and remembered I wanted soap (and about a bazillion other things, because Target). I found soap that was much like my shampoo in being free of a lot of things. Plus there is coffee in it! (I heart coffee). The soap was a little more expensive than what I’m used to paying for, but I noticed it was pretty large. Larger than your average bar of soap. So I took that into account. Not terrible for me, win. Costly, not so much a win. Large enough to be worth the money, win.

I came home, ate dinner, and decided to break in that new bar of soap. Little did I know that the bar of soap would try to break my ankle … While showering and trying to figure out how to wash myself with an awkwardly large bar of soap, I dropped the bar. No worries, it just made a lot of clunking noises that made the family wonder if I had fallen and couldn’t get up (I have old lady tendencies …). Thankfully no one came to the door. Then I dropped the bar again. This time, the bar went straight into my ankle. It went for the kill shot.

At first I didn’t really know what had happened. It all happened so fast, I thought maybe one of the cats had come in and starting biting my ankles, but no. There were no cats. The stream of pale red, almost pink blood like water was coming from the bar of soap. Its battle scar of falling and throwing itself into my ankle was mocking me as it said, “you tried to keep the other bars of soap from killing you from the inside, I’ll make up for it on the outside.”

I made it out of the shower and limped away. Once safely away from the bathroom and telling the family about the terrifying experience I just had, I noticed a welt right below my ankle. It is the size of my thumb. Although my soap attempted to kill me outwardly with force instead of inwardly with cheap manufactured ingredients, I will continue using it until its dying day.

The soap may have won that battle, but it won’t win the war…