Tuesday, January 29, 2013

When an Answer is Needed

In last Tuesday’s post, I outlined how I would be using social media with purpose; and I mentioned that for me, this meant not engaging in online debates.  I would like to clarify this position before being written off as a coward or intellectual sloth, or merely as one who choose not to articulate her beliefs because they are too weak to hold any weight.  The reason I am choosing not to engage in online debates is because I have been involved in these types of online discourse, and I have found that these debates

1.        Honor no one – not God, not my friend[s], not myself

2.        Change no one’s mind

3.        Reflect a poor representation of my God, myself, and others who also hold my opinions.

Thus, I will save my personal disagreements for in-person interactions, with one caveat, which I’ll delineate below.

That being said, I know that believers are called to give an answer for their faith.  And that silence, while at times may be the most prudent response, can make the silent party complicit in the opposing side’s argument or action. 

There is a tension I am exploring between meekness and setting boundaries, between holding my tongue to live in peace and making my voice heard.  I have a responsibility to both use my voice on behalf of those who cannot, or against those who seek to harm, and to stay my strength so that unity and love are given to a world that needs both.       

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

 ~ Proverbs 10:19

Blessed are the meek…Christ was silent in the face of His accusers.  He was silent on the walk up to Calvary.  He was silent when beaten, when insulted, when accused.  Yet, he overturned the money changer’s tables in the temple.  He answered (most) questions directly asked of Him.  At times, He rebuked those who challenged Him as openly as they approached Him.  So, are we to “turn the other cheek” when insulted, when the gospel is at stake?  Are we to be silent in the face of injustice?  Do we stand idly by when we see our fellow humans coming to harm?  I find that there are times when inaction makes us complicit with evil.  When silence itself muffles the call of the Gospel.  For meekness does not mean that we are always silent.  As Christ did, we are to jealously defend the God-ordained, through-the-blood-of-Jesus right, and therefore freedom, of all to come to the Lord unhindered.  We are to call out to the lost, the broken, and the weary with words of hope and truth.  We are to answer those who question us on behalf the God whom we are to represent.  We are to challenge those, as publically as they are presenting their case, who are preventing or marring the gospel.  And we are to do it all with a spirit of love, an attitude of grace, and complete humility – for not a single one of us may boast in anything except the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus on our sinful and fallen behalf.    

In practice, this means that:

1.        Every believer is an apologist.  That means YOU are an apologist.  And I am an apologist.  Certainly not on par with Drs. Lane, Dembuski, or Lennox[1]; but we are still meant to represent God and Christ and the Holy Spirit in our actions, words, thoughts, and yes, arguments.  Figure out what you believe and why you believe it; then learn how to defend it.  Be ready to give an answer for the Gospel at all times, under all circumstances.  Faith in God is not illogical.  It is the most reasoned and rational of all worldviews.  If you’re not sure where to begin, make a list of what you know to be true about God and find the scripture that backs up your statement; if it’s not in there, you need to revisit what you think about God.  Or, you can start with your church’s statement of faith (also called a doctrinal confession, or simply, “what we believe"); same exercise – make sure what they claim to believe is really found in God’s Word.  Or grab a book on theology or apologetics; for if you’ve made it to this blog, you can read and have been given the gift of intelligent thought.  I have been admonished that to waste this is sin.   

2.         If you are being insulted, mocked, and derided for your faith, do not seek the last word.  Turn the other cheek; pray for your enemies and bless those who persecute you.  Always speak truth.  Always offer grace.  Strive with every breath to live out the Gospel with love.  Never retaliate.  Don’t offend willfully.  Be humble and remember that before God, we are all equal – sinners in desperate need of His Son, our Savior.   

3.        If the Gospel is being misrepresented, correct this misrepresentation to the best of your ability, gracefully, as publically as the misinformation is presented.  Do not forward personal attacks against the speaker.  Example: if it’s at your dinner table, only address it with your family and guests.  If it’s a nationally broadcast sermon or speech, use your media outlets to offer a loving, thoughtful, rational counter position.  And heed the call to humility in #2.

4.       Politics do not equal faith.  Gun control is not the same thing as theology.  Yes, faith should map our political opinions.  But when we try to paint God as one brand of political agent or another, we make idols of our political system and mock the Kingdom of God.  The key here is to make sure that your political leanings line up with your theology.  Remember the apologetic exercises in #1?  Put your political views through the same paces – write them down and see if you can find scripture to back them up.  Be mindful of which scriptures you’re employing; and if you find yourself looking to modern television characters quoting Levitcal or Deuteronomical codes, you’re not thinking your position through.  Nor are you really reading scripture.     

 And so I want to encourage you – stand up for what you believe.  Do not be bullied into silence.  Do not allow slander to quiet the proclamation of the gospel.  Yet, do not make the Gospel something it isn’t – political fodder or personal judgment.  Do everything with the love of Christ in your heart, and the humility of a sinner on your tongue. 

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.”

 ~ Psalm 39:1


[1] If you want to watch these master scholar-philosophers and apologist in action, the following are links to actual debates with popular secular scholars.
Dr. William Craig Lane vs. Christopher Hitchens – Does God Exist Debate:  accessed 1/29/13 1:06pm
William Dembksi vs. Christopher Hitchens – Does God Exist Debate: accessed 1/29/13 1:06pm
John Lennox vs. Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion Debate:  accessed 1/29/13 1:05pm

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why I'm not giving up social media...on purpose

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,

but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

~ Proverbs 12:18


Just the other night, I contemplated giving up social media.  For good.  Having just read a vicious thread on a public school system media page in which the adult participants accused one another of stupidity and racism, I lay on the couch listening to the Officer read aloud yet another thread among Christians regarding gun control.  As the thread progressed, it also became increasingly judgmental, malicious, and ended with scripture-hurling bullying.  I was disappointed; and pointedly reminded that only a few short months ago, I was engaged in exactly the same type of discourse – thus I was clearly in no place to judge anyone then or today.  But, having experienced what my actions brought about, I knew I didn’t want or need this kind of negativity to be a part of what I ingest daily. 

Upon hearing my proposition, the Officer reminded me that we primarily use our social media outlets to keep our out of town families in the loop with photos of our kids; so giving it up entirely wouldn’t really work.      

Thus, I decided to apply my chosen one word to my social media channels.  I needed to use these tools to bring God glory, to invite others to know Him more deeply, to share His love to a world in such desperate need of it.  In previous times, when prompted thusly by a pastor, I posted daily scriptures.  And while I believe that God does work in those posts1, I didn’t want to force it.  I had to consider, also, that a good number of my friends aren’t interested in God’s Word at all.  Thus I assume my scripture posts would be skimmed over, if not hidden entirely, and would eliminate my ability to be someone who genuinely cares for them.


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

 ~ Ephesians 4:29


It was then I remembered a two-line note someone sent me months ago, for the sole purpose of encouraging me.  This individual and I have yet to meet in person, yet s/he took the time to let me know I was heard and valued.  Even more recently, a friend with whom we’d been out of touch for a while, sent me a message encouraging me in a very specific way – at the exact time I needed it most.  His words buoyed my spirit and reminded me of the truth I was struggling to grasp at that moment.  There was the epiphany: overcome the malicious content of social media with good.  With encouragement, with grace, with love. 

To be purposeful with my social media this year means:

·         Engage in NO debates [see Thursday’s Tuesday's* post for the parameters of this one]

·         Post updates that are TRUE [not inflated, self-aggrandizing versions of truth], honoring to God and my family, and embody the spirit of GRACE

·         Use my time on these sites to encourage others through public praise or private encouragement.

Yet, because I so easily fall into the trap of cheering on those closest to me – the easiest ones to compliment – I have also set the following goals for purposeful encouragement using my social media:

·         Send PM’s to whomever is on my mind that day – I will be prayerfully considering who to contact each day, and trusting that the Holy Spirit’s timing [assuming that I’m really listening] is perfect

·         Write or tweet an encouragement or praise to one person daily

·         Do this for all my acquaintances by December 31, 2013.

Thus, if you’re my Facebook friend or if we’re connected on Twitter, you can expect an encouraging word from me…within the next 12 months. 

I can’t help but wonder: what if we stormed social media, not with our opinions or what we ate today or how many miles/reps we completed, but with love and encouragement and kindness?  What if we overwhelmed all the negativity and vanity and evil with grace and kindness and goodness?  What if we drown out the anger and malice with an out-pouring of love and gentleness?  What if we dedicated ourselves to purposefully encouraging one another, finding little ways to genuinely communicate that people have value and worth, are cared for, and are deeply and eternally loved? 

That would be an excellent use of social media – and an outlet I’d be eager to partake in.       



1.        I can’t count the number of times someone else’s scripture was exactly what I needed the exact moment they posted it

*As it turns out, I'll have to only post once a week -- this semester is already shaping up to be an exciting busy and formative one.  Thanks.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Purpose for the days when I struggle

                It’s been awhile now, but the memory still crops up every now and again.  Usually when I think about what I wish church looked like; when I am weary of the fight and considering just sitting back, retiring my fervor, and simply signing up for a women’s bible study.  Not that there’s anything wrong with women’s bible studies—quite the opposite!  There are lots of things very right about them.  But because I’ve never really fit in with the women’s ministry crowd, for me, they are a subtle surrender to comfort, and … less.

                 I remember I was at our church-at-the-time, chatting over “what’s going on with you these days” with a former pastor, our then-pastor, and my husband, the Officer.  The Officer had been invited to teach and our pastor was verbally applauding his ability thus, noting his seminary experience as additional reference.  I was beaming, genuinely, because I know that the Officer is a gifted teacher; and I love hearing others praise this quality as well. 

                Our former pastor then turned to me, knowing I, too, was a seminary student, and asked, “What about you, Jen?  Are you teaching here?”

                The honest answer was no; and I said as much, quickly and emphatically, trying to show that our pastor had not extended such an invitation.  I certainly did not want him implicated in allowing a woman to teach.  I did not even want the assumption permitted to linger. 

                The men returned to their small talk; but I couldn’t shake the apprehensive feeling of being found out.  You see, I do have a passion for teaching, a desire to share God’s Word.  And I do very firmly believe that women are capable of doing so.  Not just for the benefit of children and other women; but for the edification of the entire body.  And I believe that women are able to pastor as adeptly and appropriately as men.  I’m not saying I want the job, I certainly don’t consider myself qualified for it.  But I am saying that as a sex, we should be permitted to have it, if we are so called and gifted.  Which makes me a feminist in many eyes; a label I will not shun.  But for fear of using a word with so much negativity attached to it (at least in evangelical circles), I won’t go so far as to say that Jesus was a feminist, too.  Simply because Jesus wasn’t any –ist: not feminist, not humanist, not traditionalist, etc… 

                Jesus was and is a member of the Godhead.  As such, He knew that every single person, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, is fallen and sinful; and therefore in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation.  Jesus knew that without Him, none of us can have a relationship with His Father, Almighty God.  And so, on behalf of all of us, He was crucified for our sins and rose again, victorious over death once and for all.  After which He sent the Holy Spirit, another member of the Godhead, to reside in the heart of every believer: male or female, Jew or Gentile, free or slave.  And the Holy Spirit, God’s presence indwelling the believer, gifts and empowers individual believers as He sees fit, not as humanity deems appropriate.       

                That being said, there are times when I still hesitate to openly share my position on the matter because it goes against so much tradition.  And when flouting tradition, one comes to expect a fight.  People, myself chief amongst, have emotional connections to their theology.  But when one’s theology is challenged, emotions are engaged and we can find ourselves involved in conflict that has the potential to end up being highly divisive and damaging.  Truth be told, I see holding this position as a difficult, long drawn-out pursuit not for the faint of heart.  A rebellion of sorts, not against God’s Word, but against the status quo; against the way things have always been.  Thus, I don’t want to assign allegiance to one who does not chose it; nor is it my place to out someone who quietly supports this truth, but has as yet not given it voice.  Because it is exhaustingly hard to battle constantly with tradition.  And I certainly don’t want to heave the weight of that struggle on anyone; so I find myself doing what I can to make sure the people around me aren’t associated too closely with my ideas, either through purpose or inadvertent assumptions.  I find myself being quiet, holding my tongue, or blithely nodding along when inside my head I’m refuting what’s being said to support the structures of tradition. 

                Which means that compounding the inherent struggle is the reality that there aren’t a lot of local like-minded groups.  Not too many studies or small groups or conferences or webinars hosted by local churches that facilitate this line of thinking.  So for someone in a semi-rural area, like me, holding to this truth can get kind of lonely.  And for all the support I can find in the twitter- and blogo-sphere, I fully admit that humans were designed as relational creatures; and these media outlets are a meager phantom standing in the stead of genuine, encouraging relationships.       

                It is in these lonely and weary times that I want to just quit.  Let someone else do the fighting for me.  It would be easier that way.  But then, I always think about what I want my daughter and son to grow up knowing: what it means to follow Jesus, even when it’s hard or lonely or long.  And I think of what it must have been like to follow Him when He walked among humanity.  His followers had to contend with the Essenes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Gentiles; groups that didn’t often agree.  While Christ did much to correct their doctrines during His incarnation, He didn’t come specifically for that purpose.  He came to make a way for all who desired fellowship with Almighty God.  Even those, mentioned above, who should have known better.   

                Thus in keeping with my one word for 2013, I have decided to be purposeful in my interactions both online and in real life.  First and foremost, I will daily strive to be worthy of the gospel which has saved me. I will seek first to promote the revelatory and sanctifying truth that all who believe in Jesus and follow Him with their whole lives will be saved.  From there, because I know better, I will keep fighting for the truth that Jesus came on behalf of all people; that His Spirit indwells all those who believe in Him and receive His sacrificial death as their own; that God Almighty calls and equips and empowers all those whom He wills, be they male or female, free or slave, Jew or Gentile, for the edification of all believers, the expanse of His kingdom, and the glorification of His Holy and Righteous Name. 

                I will not allow silence to be an assention, a surrender.  I will speak for those who cannot, for those who don't yet have the strength or courage, for those who do not yet know.  But above all, though I may grow weary, or lonely, or afraid, I will rest in truth of gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to give freedom to the captives and healing to the brokenhearted.  


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My word for 2013

I have read a bit about the One Word project among the blogging community.  It is a vehicle whereby one forgoes resolutions, but settles instead on one, pivotal word.  A focal word around which an individual will engage his or her life.  A reminder of what is important, what is worthy, even what is absent or shallow in the spirit during this season of life.  Though, we must not read the words, “shallow” or “absent” and assume a lacking of character; for each one of us has areas within our souls that need more tending than others.  None of us have yet arrived.  To that end, those of the One Word community have endeavored to discipline themselves toward their chosen word, their focus for this year.       

I chose a word for myself last year; one I felt was anemic in my life at the outset of 2012:

And through all that came last year, I discovered the many-facetted beauty of joy.  Even in the hard times.  These delicate lessons carved tracks upon my soul; some worn down with rivers of tears, others pressed into me with great toil.  And still others, perhaps the shiniest ones, touched my skin with butterfly wings, yet left eons-old impression upon my heart.   I can look back and see my word embossed on this spent time.  I am delighted in my deeper understanding and experience of joy.  All it took was choosing the right word to focus on for the year.

Thus I knew I would participate in the oneword365 for 2013.  And coming off of this season of waiting, followed with stagnancy, I needed living water.  I needed life and movement and direction.  I needed to have eyes opened to possibility, to hope, to the wondrous things wrought in the name of the Lord.  I needed to reclaim the wide-open space in my soul where lives my call, my purpose.

~Purposeful ~

*       Having or showing determination or resolve

*       Having a useful purpose

*       intentional

I yearn, in 2013, to be filled anew with purpose.  In every facet of my life, I will be purpose-full.


                in my faith.


                in my marriage.


                in my parenting.


                in my friendships and relationships.


                in my learning,

                in my writing,

                in my loving,

                in my resting.

Purposeful, that though my time on this earth is but a breath, I will have strived to use for the best and greatest good, and for the benefit of my fellow sojourners and ultimately, my beloved Savior King.   

Definition from:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 -- Thank you!

Thank you so very, very much to all of you who have visited this blog over the past year!  I am humbled by your kind words of encouragement, enlightened by your stories and insight, and extremely blessed to find that God has entrusted His Spirit into the words found here. 

I have enjoyed a two week Sabbath over the holiday break with my family, both immediate and extended, and pray that yours has been restful and full of joy (even if it’s of the God-is-sovereign variety).  I will return to a regular blogging schedule next week, at which time I will share my new article schedule with you, as I am developing plans for the direction of this blog for 2013. 

Again, thank you so much for visiting, for listening, for sharing.  I pray that I may have blessed you in even the tiniest fraction of how much each of you have blessed me. 

Happy 2013, beloved friends.