by - January 22, 2017

Peter, John, Jude, James, Paul. In letters they wrote to the early Church they often referred to the intended readers as “beloved.”  The definition of beloved is: “dearly loved, a much-loved person.”
Most of these men had followed, marched beside, and witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus.  One of them, “after breathing threats and murder against the followers of the Lord,” was struck blind as he marched down a road with the intention of imprisoning followers of Jesus. (Acts 9:1-19)  These men, who were in first person relationship with the Savior, wrote letters to those who believed on faith the news of the Messiah, which was spread through the accounts of these apostles and thousands of others. The reality of his life and Holy Spirit spread the truth as far as believers were willing to take it, and the whole world changed.  Their letters were preserved to guide us in the teachings of Christ while on earth.  Us means those who were not there in the beginning but, who in faith, believe or are seeking to understand and possibly believe today. 

Today, we can read the letters of these first-hand witnesses.  In setting this collection of historical and miraculous accounts as our foundation of truth, we have a guidebook to follow as we go through life fulfilling the purposes of our individual creation.  We can look at our steps, consider our thoughts and ask ourselves a really important question, “Who am I following?”  Is it Jesus?  Or, am I being swayed to follow someone/something else?  Someone who is just another creation like I am, something that is an ideology of today’s times?  Or, am I following the eternal Christ?”  We cannot say in word we are doing one when in action we are doing another.  If you do not want to follow Christ, you do not have to.  But, if you do, your words and actions are really important because people are going to watch for your hypocrisy to justify theirs, and disprove/ridicule the One you say you follow.

Maybe you used to follow him, but you’ve been distracted, disappointed, disengaged, dehumanized or disowned, and in your hurt or frustration you blame him, or his Church so you’ve begun to march away. Not directly relating to the women’s march this weekend, but more of that theoretical march of perspective and loyalties based on real or perceived injustice, or definition of compassion.  Marching is in our vision right now and I like word pictures. I’m sure most all of us have seen faces of kindness and anger, heard words both spewed and spoken, and listened to news commentators tell us how we should feel about either the inauguration or the march this weekend.  But, on what are they basing their foundation of truth? On who's authority do they speak? It’s good to march, I have friends who marched this weekend, but I imagine the purpose varied greatly from one person to the next.  Did everyone know for certain what they marched for? Could the enemy be using mixed messages – women’s rights, abortion, Trump tapes, republicans, democrats, education, to whip many of us up into a frenzy of anger? Words may say love, but so many actions seem to be showing hate.

Jude, in the second to last book in the Bible, wrote these words sometime between a.d. 65 and 80: “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, “in the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.  But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  And have mercy on thoseI'm  who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (meaning keeping distance from what appears to be evil). (Jude 17-23)

That just happened to be my scripture reading for this morning, and it made me think.  “What if someone I love, who I knew had a relationship with Christ, was being tempted through anger, bitterness, and deception to walk away from him? What would my letter say? Should I even have a letter? Should I just stay silent? Should I write out my thoughts to relieve this pressure in me, but then tear it up and not send it, so no one is offended?” 

After thinking and praying through those questions, here is my letter.  Maybe it’s to you?

The very first act of the enemy against mankind was to tell Eve that her authority was unfair.  He tempted her to bite into the lie that God was withholding her rights from her because God did not want her to become powerful; and, Eve bit. In saying this, I’m not equating previous or current government authority to God.  I’m not suggesting that our human authority is actually making fair decisions and we should all just take it.  In. No. Way. Is that what I am saying.  God’s authority and those in authority on this earth are drastically different.  But, the cry today often gets turned into cries against Christians, in drastic over-dramatized and overgeneralized representations of followers of Christ as the media capitalizes on well-timed sound bites.

Constantly through media and news, that same first lie is being told, and Eve is biting all over again. The enemy turns the eyes of women to angry loudmouths who thrash about and are loyal to their agenda, but not in action following Christ. Through them, that same serpent tempts us as we cringe at what we hear, and he says, “That’s God.” That’s what Christians are about.  They hate you and want to put you in chains."

Beloved, that is not God.  Hold still. Stop yelling. Don’t bite. Listen for a minute. You have been lied to.  Yes, many of the chains you carry were forced on you and there is certainly injustice, unkindness, and disrespect that is worthy to march against but know that those chains are not God’s.  And, honestly, some chains you took up and wrapped yourself in, that's not God either.  Either way, with one name, they could all fall off.  

I’m asking you to take a minute to consider what you are angry about and ask yourself if you are honoring God with your stance, or if you might be in contradiction to His Word.  Don’t think about what you perceive to be fair for a moment because maybe all the voices you’ve been hearing have other agendas. Like the timeless agenda since the fall of mankind: to separate you from God.

We cannot pick and choose where morality is important. For instance: 'It’s important in my current president because he disagrees with me, but morality is not my business in past presidents with whom I agreed. It’s important in leaders, but not in my personal preferences in music, movies, television shows or sex life, or how I treat those who disagree with me.' Having double standards on either side of the coin weakens our stance and makes us look like a hypocritical and noisy gong.  If we are so offended by Donald Trump, then we have to make sure we have just as high expectations of righteousness in what we are watching, listening to, and the jokes we say and share. 

If we think he is angry and cruel, but the words out of our own mouths and every post on Facebook we share is angry and cruel directed at others ...then maybe Donald Trump is more your mirror than your adversary.  He has your same passion, but marching in the other direction, so maybe you are a little extra offended?  I’m hesitant to even mention his name because this letter has so much less to do with politics than it does with Christ.  But, I believe for so many, politics has become sacred, because, without Christ, they place their hope in politicians, as well as blame them for the loss of hope.  Despair can run deep when their hope is lost, and arrogance can run high when their hope wins.  Either way, it’s misplaced hope. Temporal. Subject to change.    

Beloved, measure your thoughts, actions, and beliefs with His truth, not with the enemy’s lies meant to draw you away from the life-giving peace and purpose God has for you.  Go upstream toward true righteousness through Jesus, even as the strong current of the massive crowd mixing in both righteous and base arguments like pork-barrel spending in a congressional bill, has a pull on you.  Love the crowd, be a peacemaker, be a light, but don’t be swayed.  Return to your first love, stand firm, walk humbly, seek first the kingdom of God.  When you march, let it not be on sands that shift but on a solid rock.  

What do I know about it anyway?  I've been there. There was a distracted time in my life when the voices of the crowd drew me away and my heart began to grow cold to the things of the Lord.  I couldn’t hear him and honestly didn’t want to hear him in my own stubborn self-righteousness and sense of fairness.  I betrayed him, repeatedly.  Are you?  He let me run from him in word and deed until I saw a life without him, and there was anger, frustration, injustice, fear, bitterness, spite, hopelessness. 

Are you feeling those things?  

In God’s great compassion He stopped me from bouncing off walls and quieted me with His love. Then, he set my feet to march a new path. I was so stubborn that my mind and heart had to break before his healing could come get me. I wish I would have stayed beside him all along, but I so often chose to march for others instead.

From one woman, who was once tempted by worldly ideologies that caused me to doubt God's good character, 
From one woman who previously wrapped herself in chains that God never intended for me, 
From one woman who now writes to you chain-free ...

I pray you will pause for just a moment and ask yourself where Christ is in your life.  Have you left him behind as you got swept up in a crowd; or, are you humbly walking beside him? I pray as you consider this if you see Jesus only in the distance, instead of in your presence, that you have the courage to change course.  He is still there. 

Allow him and his word to help shape your step so that when you do march it is with true authority and power, blessed by God and for the good of all.

Who you follow matters.

With much love..."

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