dear Church, it is our time to rise.

If you are weary from the all political talk, if you are afraid for the unborn and for the refugee, for safe places to land, the respect of women and the integrity of men, for the unity of the church, if you are gasping for steady breaths in a panicked world – you are in the right place. Our editor, Rachel Dawson, posed this question on Twitter last week and it affirmed everything I was feeling:

“Daily battling the desire to disconnect from the Internet entirely (it’s hard, heavy, etc) … but don’t want to be ignorant/unaware either. How do we live in this tension well?”

The internet can be a place of abundant kingdom work. But the evil one wants to distort anything that can be used for the glory of God, and I believe that he is using it as a tool of distraction and division today. If we are not careful, it consumes us. Because this is the truth: if there are a thousand voices shouting in our minds about the core of who we are and precisely how we should think, we just might miss the voice of God. As with anything in life, we should know who we are and what our mission is before we say hundreds of accidental yeses as we scroll through a list of both fruitful teachings and faulty doctrines.

If we are not careful, this confusion replaces the people sitting elbow-to-elbow with us. It eats up too much of our valuable time. For some, this means cutting out the internet entirely and reading a newspaper. For others, perhaps for most of us, this means reality checks. Self-control. Intentionality.

R E S E T

The evil one is here, and he wants to divide. Distract. In order for us to thrive in these times instead of retract, we have serious work to do. It starts simply and with us as individuals. We have to strip down every living day and teach the gospel to ourselves. If I am not in touch with the weight of my sin and the freedom from my oppression, then how am I able to make a difference? If I am not grounded in the truth of love, how will I ever be more than another clanging gate, joining the noise of millions?

R I S E

There is a war going on against everything holy. We have received the Good News of Jesus Christ. Man cannot touch or pluck away from God all that is His. We cannot splash an iota of darkness on it or throw more light on top of it. But evil can distort how the Gospel is perceived, touched, and spread. In order to protect the church, the ones saved and the ones to be saved, we have to fight. Let it be known, friend, that we don’t walk into this battle unarmed and unprepared. Whether it is on the internet, in our own homes, or in our cities, Christ has enabled us with everything we need to walk this out into completion.

Christian,

You have a belt of truth that holds everything together. Your words are not your own, you don’t sustain the whole world on your shoulders: God does. Walk in what you know confidently and seek His Spirit to give you wisdom where you do not.

You have a breastplate of righteousness that justifies you and cannot change your name from Chosen to Taken. You are covered in the blood of Christ. You belong.

You own a shield of faith that negates everything – not just some things, but all things – the evil one throws your direction.

You hold a helmet of salvation that secures you. It protects you from doubt.

You’ve got a sword from the Spirit that can slay. The Word of God is meant for our life, peace, but it is also created for our strength and protection.

Oh yeah, and those shoes for your feet? You have sandals that scatter peace everywhere you tread on the earth. You don’t have to walk afraid. You can run with readiness, eager to shed the light you’ve got.

(Adapted from Ephesians 6.)

I am saddened, grieved by the events in our nation. But may I say something bold, something that might shake a few heads? This makes me excited for the church. We have an opportunity here to rise up. It starts with living our one life with integrity, generously giving, always praising and reaching out. Stay faithful with the little things and God will use you in big ways. What sign will we hold above our heads in bold protest? Will we hold up condemnation for either side? Or will we consistently be the evil-slayers, water-givers, bread-breakers, and peace-makers everywhere? Maybe, just now, I finally understand what be the rising means?

R E C O N C I L E

Ephesians 1:13-16 says it likes this: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

If Jesus was so passionate about reconciliation that He gave His life and threw the world in a glorious upside-down motion for the sake of our unity in Him, shouldn’t I dedicate my life towards that same mission? We get to choose what we will be known for. You have to chance to redeem how the church will be seen today. Will they know more about what we are for (light, love, unity, forgiveness) or what we are against (politically, personally, in condemnation)? There will be people you disagree with at every turn. Instead of causing a division with our debates, let’s create conversations. Instead of choosing comfortable silence, speak up in the face of evil. We don’t all know all the answers. If one of us claims to understand everything going on underneath the sun, isn’t that clothing yourself with a kind of arrogance? The way forward to unity during division is through research and spurring each other on further into the love of Christ. If you are in Christ, we must love our brothers and sisters and strive for unity. Be kind, always and with no exceptions. Keep your mind open, while holding your convictions strong. (It’s possible.) Test everything according to God’s Word and at the end of the day change your mind or proclaim your belief more confidently. Will we be known for taking sides and abusing our neighbor? Or will we be known for bold love and mending fences? Will we use the armor of God that is drenched with hope and truth? Or will we stand by the empty promises of man that reap our own destruction?

You are making an impact. Wherever you are, however you are exercising your influence – you’ve got it. However small it may seem, you are called to steward what you have well. Rest secure because in the Spirit, you have a full suit of armor that will withhold you along the way.

“The church of the present – comprised of every Christian on planet Earth – has a rock-solid foundation but it doesn’t have walls. It’s not meant to. It is made up of porous skin. We will have to labor hard and break a sweat sometimes to keep from absorbing the brutality of a culture in love with itself.” — Beth Moore, Entrusted

So wherever you tread today, let it be all be about peace, grace, and justice. May we fight unapologetically for the sake of the Gospel, know that revival starts in our hearts, and that by arming ourselves to be the rising we might continue a holy revolution to the glory of our Father.

 

See this original post where it was born at my home away from home, The Rising.

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you’re not little.

You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.  -Deuteronomy 1:17, emphasis added

I have a friend that I have the privilege of seeing and maybe catching a conversation or two with once a year. She’s not the kind of friend that I talk to on a regular basis or even share the polite update about my mission trips with. But she is the kind of friend that I treasure every rare moment with.

She is the kind of friend that makes me want to read more. In the first five minutes I met her several years ago, I began wishing that I was an extrovert. Sharing Jesus is something she does with every stranger she comes in contact with. Not in the ‘you’re going to hell’ if you don’t listen to me way, but in the ‘eternal life begins NOW because of His grace and this is how He’s changed my life so far’ way. For years, I have admired how she picks up conversations with people – whether she knows them or not – exactly where she would have left off with her best friend.

This girl is a coffee lover, a preacher, and someone radically in love with God. I don’t agree with everything she says, or sometimes what she teaches, but I love her. I love her because she is honest. I love her because she is not afraid of disagreeing with people or being disliked. I love that if she’s talking to you, you are the one and only person on her mind. If you have her presence, you not only have her time – but you have her eyes. She looks you in the eye. (Officially going to add working on eye contact on my list for 2015, because I am the worst at it.)

Her name is Judy Howard Peterson, nationwide speaker and campus pastor at Northpark University in Chicago.

There’s one thing that she said to me that I will never forget, in all of the life advice that she’s given me and our church’s ladies over the years. It was the first night we met. My Mom, my Auntie, and I had went to pick her up at our local airport. As we dropped her off at the hotel here in town almost an hour later, she began to flip through the packets she was going to give the women at the all-day retreat she was here for the following day. She allowed us to skim them over and asked what we thought the women of this community needed the most from this retreat. I don’t remember if my Mom or Auntie replied right away, but then she said, “If you think of anything that the Holy Spirit lays on your heart in the meantime, let me know.” The two women nodded. We began tip-toeing out of her room, giving her the opportunity to call her husband and get some rest before the long day ahead of us. Before we exited she glanced over at me (I was twelve at the time), “If the Holy Spirit lays something on your heart, Emilee, I want to know, too. There is not a 45-year-old Holy Spirit or a 12-year-old Holy Spirit. You and I have the same Spirit within us. He can speak the same way to both of us.” (Or something very close to that effect.)

I cannot tell you the many times I think about that statement and gain courage from it. I’m sure the people in my life had portrayed to me the importance I was to the church body over the years, but it wasn’t until that moment that it had began to truly click in my mind. Or it was just the first time that I had seen a grown woman look me in the eye to confirm it.

No matter how old you are – you are not little. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can feel put down or condemned by God’s children. The people that don’t know how much they’re making a mark on your life. Don’t let them. Respect your authority, but don’t let anyone look down on you. 1 Timothy 4:12 has been a huge verse in every season of my life, helping me and coaching me in confidence in my relationship with Christ.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  -1 Timothy 4:12, ESV

Believing this – that I’ve truly never been little in the demeaning sense of the word – hasn’t been easy. It’s not something that is easy to grasp for some people. Hurtful words have been spoken to me and the scar of their disapproval still remains on my heart. I have never intended to hurt anyone in standing up for what I believe in, however blunt I may seem. But I don’t ever intend to let anyone look down on me just because I’m young. There is one Holy Spirit. If you’ve accepted Christ, He resides within you and me the same way.

I won’t always give the right advice and sometimes might speak in more judgment than love. But don’t we all? It’s for Him that I long to be a friend that could help iron sharpen iron. It’s not comfortable, because it’s about relationships. Relationships between humans with mostly-the-same sins needing the same, constant Savior.

I’m grateful that speaking the truth in love isn’t something that only happens when you graduate college or get married or have more personal tragedies than the next guy. Jesus began speaking with and questioning his teachers at the age of twelve. Speaking the truth in love starts now – at 11, at 17, or 87.

This message is for you.

Keep looking up towards Him, and encourage your brothers and sisters to never look down.

 

 

P.S. To hear from Judy Howard Peterson herself, head on over to the covenant church on January 31st at 9:30AM. The women’s retreat will be held until 2:30PM. We will be discussing Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Click here to learn more or register: http://claycentercovenant.com/2015/01/be-still-and-know/.