This morning I had a bit of a travel/packing wardrobe malfunction. I only had black tights with a leather strip down the side (essentially leather pants!) or jeans to wear to church. Not only did I only have these leather pants and/or jeans but my blouse was not long enough to cover my backside in my leather pants. There is just something about tight leather pants without a long blouse that screams Las Vegas night club instead of church. (In fact, I have actually worn these pants in a Las Vegas night club…yikes!). So off to attend my mother’s church in leather pants with my bum showing a bit more than I would normally permit.
Well when I arrived at church…I realized it really didn’t matter what I was wearing. There were jeans, shorts, sneakers, spike heels, tight red leather pants, fur jackets, t-shirts, flip flops and even a kilt…you name it, it was there. More importantly, you name it and it was welcomed there. My mom attends Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, FL. And more so than any church I’ve ever been to…this church just gets it. Church is not about getting dressed up. It isn’t about appearances. It isn’t about putting on a show. It is about being real. It is about being real with real people. Real imperfect people. People that wear leather pants and are just doing their best to get by in this world.
This church chooses to focus on God, His Word and our salvation in a way that is real to our lives each and every day. Way too often is "church" something reserved for Sunday mornings. Too many people live a fragmented life where God’s Word is separate from your life. You have “life” Monday through Saturday and then church on Sunday. Instead of integrating what you learn on Sunday about God’s love and salvation into your life and integrating your life into your “Sunday” they are separate. Your salvation, love and obedience to God aren’t intended to be silos in your life…they are your life. They are one and the same. This church gets that. The people that go to this church get that. If I can Whip Nae Nae on a Friday, then we can Whip Nae Nae on a Sunday morning (and they did!). I’m not even kidding.
So after a powerful morning and what I consider to be the best service I have attended in my life (which may be an entirely separate blog), I came to a simple conclusion. If it is okay for me to wear leather pants on Saturday night in a nightclub in Las Vegas then it is equally acceptable on Sunday morning. God accepts me exactly how I am. And He is with me equally on Saturday night as He is with me on Sunday morning. He loves me the same. He forgives me the same. He is the same.
Acts 10:34-36, 42
Then Peter replied, "I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation He accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel - that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all....And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all - the living and the dead."
God doesn't care if you are wearing leather pants...he doesn't play favorites. He commands us to preach His Good News EVERYWHERE.
Leather pants, a wild church and people that just get it,
I grew up with a family that owned guns. To my knowledge and memory, they were locked away. As an adult, I am also a gun owner. I keep my gun loaded, ready to use but secure (as appropriate), and I actually know how to shoot it. I consider myself a responsible gun owner because I believe "responsible" is the only way to be if you make the decision to have a gun. Honestly, I keep the gun to protect me from other people with bad intentions and guns. If tomorrow you told me, all of the guns were being removed from our country, with the exception of the military, I could live with that decision. I have no plans to kill a single living being. And in the unlikely event I am attacked or my family is attacked and I decide to pull the trigger...I expect two things. I expect to kill someone. And I expect to be held accountable before God someday for murder. Irregardless of the circumstances around the killing.
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
There is a whole lot of chatter around gun control in our country right now. Every single time there is a mass shooting (or really any shooting), politicians leverage the event to further build their platform. And it disgusts me. The country's problem with violence is not a platform for political agenda. It is a red flag that we have a serious, heartbreaking problem. And the problem isn't related to guns. The problem is related to people. People that need support, help, love, structure and a big dose of God.
The right to bear arms outlined in our Constitutional Amendments originated from a right to be able to defend our country as a united group of people. It was not permission to go kill people. I still very much believe in the freedom to bear arms and I believe the need for war and acts of war as outlined in our history and more importantly as outlined in the bible. War is very real in the bible. The freedom to bear arms, and the many other freedoms, granted to us does NOT give us the right to do whatever we desire. It does not give us the freedom to act like lunatics. We've confused "freedom of (you fill the in blank)" with freedom to do whatever. There is a BIG difference. And the accountability lives with our entire culture: our government, our media, our healthcare system, and our people...each and every person owns a piece of the disaster we've become in this world.
Freedom, accountability and a gun,
As we approach the holiday season, our focus often shifts to that of giving (and honestly, that of receiving). We buy, wrap, exchange and receive gifts galore. Some glamorous and sparkly, others a bit less desired. However, I feel like all too often gift exchanges are more or less out of obligation than rooted in a spirit of giving.
Giving is not always defined by gifts or money and it looks different to different people. I once had a pastor explain giving like this: when asked how much should we give, he replied: Give until it hurts and then keep giving until it doesn't hurt anymore. I couldn't agree more and have used this to guide my own giving in life. I also believe we should challenge ourselves to give things that have meaning to us -- this is where the "give until it hurts" part comes in. For example, if you are the type of person that values your time and is often focused on yourself (and really, who isn't these days!), dedicating your time in service to others is probably a good way to "give until it hurts". If money is something you struggle with, give money. Find what would be a sacrifice for you and give it away. If you find yourself placing too much value on any one thing, you might just challenge yourself to give that away. A couple of years ago, God challenged me to let go of something rather expensive I had once placed a ton of value on. After spending several weeks struggling with the nudge from God, I gave it away to a friend in need. To an outsider it made absolutely no sense. However, in my heart it just felt right. It was my sacrifice in giving. It hurt right up until the moment I gave it away.
Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your hard work and in everything you put your hand to.
Another struggle with giving is also being focused on ensuring what you give is put to "good use." No one wants to give to a scam and see his/her money, time or effort wasted' However, the beautiful thing about a spirit of giving, is your responsibility is only to give. You are not going to be held accountable for what the receiver does with your gift. It's the spirit and act of giving that counts! You have to give without reservation or stipulation. The spirit of giving is about giving. What the receiver does with the gift, is between God and him/her. Your role and responsibility is in the act of giving.
And God actually commands us to give to one another and His commandment to give extends past the holiday season. However, the celebration of Christmas provides us the absolute best example of giving. God gave until it hurt...He gave up the ultimate sacrifice. God gave us His one and only Son. I bet watching His Son die on the cross hurt - I actually can't imagine a greater sacrifice. But He gave to us without reservation. And His gift comes without stipulation. What WE do with His gift, is up to us. We can choose to accept it and use it to greater His kingdom or we can waste it.
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I am so incredibly thankful for God's Spirit of Giving. I can only hope to have an ounce of His Spirit of Giving.
Giving, sacrifice and blessings,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.