On David and Bathsheba

faith, god, lessons, sin

We talked about David and Bathsheba yesterday with 5th and 6th grade…

…no, I don’t have a death wish.

When I heard this story growing up, I don’t think I got it. I think it was honestly told to me as a warning against sexual sin.

But to focus on the sin itself–whether we talk about the adultery, the murder, the lying–that misses the point completely.

And, as always, a sixth grader pointed it out to me.

When David confesses and repents in the 51st Psalm, he says, “You would be just to punish me.” He knows he deserves everything to be taken away from him-after all, it was God who gave it to him.

David also says, “You don’t desire a simple burnt offering as my sacrifice. What you desire is my heart and spirit to be broken for you–you will never turn that away.”

David knows that, although God could punish him and no one could call him unjust, that God can’t turn away a repentant heart. It is outside of his nature.

Sounds pretty simple, eh? God just requires our heart.

But it sounds freaking scary and outside of our nature.

It is really risky to be vulnerable with God.

It is scary to open our hearts up to anybody, but for some reason, it’s even scarier with the one who made our heart in his own image.

We have this tendency to smooth over our actions and admit they never happened. We move on with our life, and if we feel especially bad, do some sort of “penance” to pay for that sin–say something extra-kind, give extra in the offering plate, make sure we attend church that Sunday, pray more.

But God doesn’t want us to do more. He wants us more.

It’s like we’re back in the Garden of Eden, afraid to be vulnerable with God and let him see the “dirty parts” of us, and so we cover ourselves with fig leaves, thinking he won’t notice.

Because bearing our naked soul is scary.

Don’t just "understand" the other side, EMPATHIZE.

america, Blogs about Heather, christianity, church, faith, freedom, leadership, lgbtq, love, sin, social activism, theology, unchurched
I have half a dozen or so documents in my laptop right now of “potential blogposts” of different rants and ramblings about politics; from Chick-Fil-A to the ability for a Christian to vote different political parties to my stance on gay marriage, I have been wanting to speak out for a while now.  But I have held back.  Why?  Because there are others who can say it better.  Because I’m no expert.  Because I’m still learning.

That is what I want to emphasize today in my all-encompassing post on politics, ethics, and anything else that seems to matter these days.  I am extremely irritated with the election, as both “sides” of the United States are exposing their dirty ignorance and disregard for people who do not agree with them.  It is this mentality of, “If a person does not agree with my political stance, which is the only way, then their entire character must be attacked publicly.”  One day I posted on Facebook, “I think it says a lot about President Obama’s character for him to visit Joplin a year after the tornado came through.”  I wasn’t making a political statement, just a statement of appreciation for the remembrance of a small town near me that had been devastated by a storm.  One parent of one of my youth wrote, “I think we should all worry about Heather’s character.”  Then a full-fledged debate began on my status about gay marriage, Obama being a dirty Muslim from Kenya, etc.  One of my friends wrote, “Shame on all of you.  This status wasn’t about any of that.”  And it wasn’t, but to many Christian brothers and sisters that I respect, a politician that they don’t agree with can’t have any redeeming qualities.

I think it’s extremely dangerous to claim to hold absolute knowledge of any subject.  I’m sure some of you are shocked, as I am a Christian and you probably are too; how can I say that I don’t know undoubtedly that God exists?  Simply, if I knew it wouldn’t be called faith.  I know it in my heart, but empirically I do not know that.  I’m not a skeptic, and I’m not saying that if I don’t know things, that I can’t express my opinions on them; in fact my faith in God precedes all other faiths I have and consequentially demands me to express that faith.  The point I’m trying to make is:  It is extremely important to be empathetic to opinions that differ from your own, for you do not know your opinions to be fact.  In fact, it becomes dangerous when you claim to know it all and aren’t empathetic.

Why?  Because once you claim to hold the key to knowledge on a particular subject, you get arrogant.  You push people away from you with your words and your attitude.  For example:  Those Christians who are outspoken about gay marriage push people who agree with it away; it scars the LGBTQQ community and its allies and pushes people away from the Christ who ate meals with prostitutes, tax collectors, and the self-righteous.  Christians (and everyone else) definitely have the right to discuss their opinions and alleged knowledge on a subject; but if we aren’t empathetic of the other side, we can and will push them away.  I took some time trying to understand the LGBTQQ community a few years ago when a group came to my conservative Christian university to speak out against our allegedly persecuting contract that we had to sign in order to be a student there.  Instead of pushing my doctrine, I took the time to listen; a time of learning and growth.  Once I heard the stories of how they’ve been treated by people inside the Church, I began to understand that it’s not necessarily my place to indoctrinate a homosexual upon meeting them (and that’s just the beginning of that journey).  It went without being said what I believed.  I spent time trying to be empathetic, not with the sole goal of strengthening my argument, but because there were things on the other side of the debate that I never even considered.  And my opinion, although not perfected today, has come a long way.

I think this is also apparent in the Neo-Calvinist movement within the SBC, trying to take it back to its supposed Calvinistic roots and forcing churches to adhere to them and teach them as if it’s an essential truth in order to believe in God.  Every time I found out someone that I knew was a Calvinist, I would judge them.  I am currently very sympathetic to Calvinism, but took a long time telling anybody; I was fearful that I would be labeled as an arrogant, close-minded reformer like many of the Neo-Calvinist leaders are looked at. Also, I’m not 100% sure on any of it.  I once thought I was when I was anti-Calvinist, and then I read scriptures and listened to people and changed my mind.  I might change my mind again.  But more importantly, why is it necessary to be sure on this topic?  It cheapens God’s sovereignty in my claim that I am all-knowing on any subject.  When we become face-to-face before God, we’re going to learn that a lot of our political, ethical, and even religious beliefs were wrong (I honestly can’t wait for God to go, “Heather, remember how you were so arrogant about __? Well, you were wrong, and there’s grace for you because I was more important to you than even that.”).

This goes beyond politics and quarrels within the Church.  This comes to our everyday life.  It is well-heard, “Before you judge someone, walk in their shoes.”  I think it’s dangerous to form an opinion, and especially to claim knowledge of a subject, without hearing all sides.  More than hearing them, but understanding them (taking their place and walking in their shoes).  Understanding a side different than yours takes more than reading a few books or listening to a few podcasts.  It takes learning from people, talking with people.  This should be especially true within the church.  We are to be in community with one another, and it strongly discredits Christ’s love for the Church when we break off communion with one another on topics that we haven’t taken the time to understand.  Maybe that person is a Calvinist because they don’t believe they could have found God without Him choosing them.  Maybe that woman hates hymns because she didn’t make it past 8th grade and has a small vocabulary.  Maybe that man isn’t a fan of small groups because his last one gossiped the entire time.  Maybe that man doesn’t come to church on Sundays because the only job he can find works those days.  Maybe that woman is pro-choice because her sister could have died in a pregnancy.  Maybe that Christian man is a Democrat because the fight against social injustice overrides the need to ban gay marriage.  Maybe that lady is for gay marriage because she separates legal marriage from covenant relationships.  Instead of judging people, understand them.  You don’t have to agree, but you don’t even need to tell them that either (with proper discourse, that will naturally come in a non-pushy way).  You just need to see people the way Jesus sees them: broken, fallen, and beautiful.  Christ sees you that way too.  You are just as much His bride as the rest of the Church; in fact, you are His bride together and that entails the need for empathy.  And at the end of the day, if you still disagree with them, that doesn’t mean their entire character should be shattered, especially if they are a follower of Christ; if you agree on the essential truths of salvation, then you are still a part of the Church and should edify one another.

Occasionally, you are going to run into a person who says while debating with you, “I’m listening to you, but I’ve heard this all before.  I’ve thought through this topic and have my opinion.”  This translates, “I’m listening to your comments, but I already know all there is to know on the subject and there is no new information you can give me.  There is no point in debating me, because I won’t change my mind but will debunk all your arguments in the most mocking way I can.”  THIS. IS. DANGEROUS.  I can’t tell you how much I have thought through, prayed through, and talked through different topics.  I may have strong opinions on subjects, but the day I claim to have it all together: please take me out of the local church before I infect people with my arrogant ignorance. Can you tell I am hurting right now?  Yes.  Because I used to be the person who was arrogant to think that they knew it all and only struck up debates to be the smart conqueror of them.  Because right now, people are discrediting me for being provocative in thinking and trying to be the “Devil’s Advocate” and understand both sides of issues.  But primarily because in a world where we have tragedies such as mass murders, children starving, public shootings, and great moments of glory like the young people beast-moding the Olympics; we are more concerned about our disagreement with a single politician or company that supports an ethic stance that differs from ours than for understanding our brothers and sisters.

ps, as I finish this post, I’m like “what do I even name this?!” hah.

Give Me Your Eyes

christianity, music, sin

Sometimes I hate that I’m so transparent with my readers, because a post like I’m about to write is one of those where I’m DYING to share with people, but at the same time am afraid that people will just laugh at me.  I don’t mind the laughs (I laugh at myself all the time), yet I hope that some conversation and contemplation will spark.

This last week, I have been overly emotional.  I know this is due to a LOT of things, including spending time with my family last week, reading a book recreationally for the first time in a LONG time, just being a woman with hormones, and my cat dying last night.

Every time I see someone hurting, even when it’s supposed to be “funny”, I hurt inside.  I turned on Maury the other day, which I haven’t seen since middle school.  It was showing the top 10 guests of 2010, and every single story broke my heart.  Baby daddy drama, people cheating on each other, best friends stabbing each other in the back; I couldn’t take it all!  So I started bawling like a baby!  Friends would talk to me about the hurts they were going through, and the tears just started jerking!  I couldn’t watch the ASPCA commercials with all the animals needing to be adopted, because it hurt me to see them hurting.

Now, I’m not having an emotional breakdown (yet).  I think that it’s due to my increasing sensitivity of pop culture and how it glamorizes sin and hurt.  I don’t find a lot of things funny anymore.  I really don’t enjoy movies that curse every few seconds.  It hurts me when I see children cursing on television or Youtube, and parents think it’s funny.  I just find a lot of things unnatractive.

My challenge to you is to think about things that you have been desensitized to, and really just cry out to God to make those known to you.  Pray that you can have a heart for the things God has a heart for.  I hope that this week of increased emotions lasts and stays with me, even if that means that I do a whole lot more crying (FYI, I’m not much of a crier).

Here is one of my favorite songs, just for good measure ;)

Murmur Murmur Murmur, Why Am I This Way? MAKE. WAR!

christianity, music, sin

Do you glorify your sin? Are you tripping STILL off of who you once was? Are you putting up barriers because you can’t get past it?

I was. I am. And I am sure that you are too.
This was revealed to me this summer. As many know, I was an intern this summer at an amazing church in Illinois. I learned so much about ministry and about myself. One of my breaking moments was when it was revealed to me that I am so caught up in who I was, that I can’t be who I am now or continue onto who I need to be in Christ.
I see this happen a lot in myself and my friends. I have friends who STILL think that they have a sin that no one else can relate to. There are girls who weren’t exactly pure in high school, and now think that they don’t deserve a good Godly man who, in their eyes, got all their cookies together. There are people who were in gangs and now feel like no one can relate to them, so they fade into the background so that no one will notice them. There are many who feel like their family life is so messy, they refuse to talk about family with people. But the truth is, we have ALL had sin and we have ALL had trials. We put up barriers so people can’t get in. Even I have been guitly of this, I who thought my life was an open book! I never would have thought that I did this! I BLOG MY LIFE for goodness sakes!
If we aren’t putting barriers up because of our sin, we are glorifying it. Oh yes. A friend of mine told me that in his first conversation with a boy he was to mentor, the boy told my friend of all the things he had done: sex, weed, alcohol, gangs, etc. He said it without my friend even asking, and afterwards seemed pleased with himself. My friend just looked at him and asked, “Are you proud of that? Are you happy you did all that? Because you sure act like it!” Sometimes, we think that our testimony is so legit and amazing, that we almost take pride in the sin that he had committed. I am guilty, again. I know many Christians that sit around and talk about what their favorite alcoholic drink was “back in the day” (ha, two years ago?!) and laugh about the times they got flat our drunk and did some stupid thing. Why is this funny? And how can you laugh about it one minute, then try to minister with it the next?
Oh man, this reminds me of a story. A few years ago on a mission trip, I was talking with the girls I was mentoring about their testimonies. I was trying to help them work through them so they could use them to minister to those on the mission trip. One girl told me of how she cheated on her boyfriend, had sex with his friend, and contracted chlamydia. Just like that. I said, “And…?” She replied, “That’s it.” I asked, “And how are you going to use this as a testimony?” She shrugged. She didn’t know. I asked her, “Where was God in all this?” She said, “He helped me through it.” Although true, I was looking for more: “Did you learn anything?” “Yeah, he’ll help me when I need him.” That was not what I’m looking for. How about learning that sin has consequences? Or knowing that God was faithful to you even when you sinned, so you should revamp your life and repent so that you aren’t committing that same sin! I suggested these things, and it discouraged her. She wasn’t ready for a change, just corporate confession to make her feel better.
Okay, scripture time. This was one of the verses this summer that really spoke and got me to really think about what I was doing to myself. Philippians 2: 1-14:

1 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Paul really was a terrible sinner. He had plenty to boast about, too! He was pretty much the best Jew, a “righteous” Pharisee, etc. He made it in the world. He even persecuted Christians. But he counted it all as loss. It wasn’t this mighty thing that he could now tell everyone he met. It was something that he could use to minister when needed. Our testimony isn’t what compels people to Christ. It’s the grace that does, as revealed through Scripture and through our testimonies. My testimony is powerful, I need to understand that. However, I need to focus not on all the bad things I did, but how powerful His grace was to me, that even while I was still a dirty rotten sinner, He died for me and I no longer need to even think about who I was. It is all behind me, and the Cross and my eternal life is ahead of me.
I know this is a long post, but here is something you should watch! It’s a song called “Make War” by Tedashii. It talks about how as Christians, we talk about our sin and glorify it SO much! But instead of glorifying it, we need to be making war with it!

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner

christianity, lgbtq, sin

Christians use this phrase all the time. Non-Christians hate it. Why? Because for some people, a Christian’s definition of sin is not their definition of sin. And that “sin” defines that person.

Not following? I’ll give you an example. Some of you may know that this last spring, a group called Soulforce came to my school (and it changed my life, read about the experience here). They are a group of LGBTQs and allies. For a queer person, to say that you hate their sin offends them, because you are saying that the very essence of them, the very thing that they feel defines them best, is hated by you. So to them, you are saying, “I love you, but I hate the very thing that defines you.” If you were to tell me, “I love you, but I hate that you are a Christian and I find Christ repulsing” I wouldn’t be able to be your friend. Why? Because I feel like you not only hate my Christ, but you hate the very thing that defines me, which in turn means you hate ME.

I think the phrase can be useful, just not with non-Christians. After talking with Soulforce, I realized that using this phrase with people who don’t have a relationship with Christ can do more harm than good.

But is the phrase useless? NO! Yet I think we need to remember what this phrase means. I think it’s a good summary of Ephesians 6:12.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Our fight isn’t against flesh and blood. It isn’t against sinners, pagans, non-Christians, etc. It is against the sin itself–the ROOT of the sin. That root is Satan and the “spiritual forces of wickedness”, the “darkness” that is in our world. That’s why we need to make war against those darknesses. We don’t make war by picketing, slandering sinners, and by telling people we hate what they are doing. We make war through prayer, through spreading the Gospel, and through love.

It can be a good reminder to yourself to hate the sin, meaning the darknesses behind it. But never tell a sinner you hate their sin, because that can keep them away from the light.