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Our hearts and prayers are pouring out on behalf of those who have been injured and killed during the terrible spasms of violence over the past few days, including the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the Kroger hate attack, and the violent threats of the pipe bombs.

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By Randy Kilgore on October 30, 2018

Pipe bombs shipped to the “enemies” of Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump himself using the word “enemies” to describe the media. A gunman can’t get in a black church, so he shoots up a Kroger’s instead. Then this, a man calling Jewish people “enemies” charges into a synagogue and murders eleven of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Even before the funerals begin, we know voices of anger and greed will drown out the weeping and public compassion that are so often our first responses to these episodes. This almost guarantees that what is remembered from each of these frenzied acts of cowardice is the increasing levels of hate and anger they arouse---and the celebrity status awarded to the perpetrators.

What’s even more troubling about the unfolding of these familiar echoes are two realities: First, the love that ought to emerge from the army of Christians who make up a large part of the population barely makes a peep. Even when it manages an audible peep, the talking heads splinter any unity of response by pitting them against each other. “Liberal Christians” is a dirty phrase to most “conservative Christians”; while “conservative Christians” are “full of hatred” according to the “liberal Christians.” Having thus split the party most charged by God with countering evil and hate in this world, the rest of society is left to fight not only the horror and shock of the original violence, but to also attempt to counter the discouragement brought about by watching Jesus’ ambassadors fighting and flinging words in anger.

There is no political influence important enough for Christians to divide the Kingdom; there is no moral issue important enough for Christians to lay aside their duty to tell people about Jesus; there is no personal right or policy or economic theory important enough to justify abandoning Jesus’ call to love. There is but one hope for humanity; one hope for a human; one hope for all the other things just listed, and that hope is found in restoring ourselves to the love of God so He can accomplish His purpose through us.

When the disciples came to Jesus saying 5000 people needed to be fed, He said “You do it” and they divvied up five loaves and two fishes amongst the many---with leftovers. Why? Because when He tells us “you do it”, and we obey, He will bless that effort.

When He left the Earth after His Resurrection, He left the building of the faith and the Kingdom to twelve flawed disciples who’d just failed Him miserably roughly two months earlier. They went out and “did it”, and they literally changed the world.

Now, in the midst of all this pain and sorrow, Jesus commands us to love other Christians so much that our unity overcomes our disagreements and we once again change the world…while we await the day of His Second Coming. In the meantime, let’s start by praying for and caring for and loving on the families so hurt by the accumulated collateral damage wrought by evil and by the failure of we Christians to fight it with love.


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BE HUMBLE, BE GRATEFUL, BE CONTENT

By Cheryl Kilgore on October 19, 2018

Entitled.

It seems everywhere I go, I am hearing stories about people feeling entitled. I started wondering if it was "a thing". You know... something that really is a problem.

Here is how the word "entitled" is defined: Entitlement means believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

We've all seen that guy. He's the one that's so important he shouldn't have to stand in line like the rest of us. Or the one who asks whoever is standing in his way, "Do you know who I am?" That one always cracks me up! Or maybe the one who "gestures" to you because you aren't driving fast enough.

Wealthy people are often accused of feeling entitled. Our world values money above all else, so people often confuse wealth with importance or intelligence or spiritual maturity.

It's not fair to dump all of the world's problems on the wealthy, though. I have gotten to know more than a few Godly people that happen to have wealth, and they've used their money to bless a great many.

Besides, who is wealthy? Probably the one in the room who has the most... that could be the billionaire in a room full of millionaires. It could also be the child in the classroom who has a big bag of candy that the others would like to share.

As Christians we know that we aren't entitled to anything! Yet followers of Jesus Christ are given everything. By that measure, we should be the most grateful, but are we?

Am I? God has been working on my heart lately and asking me to be humble, be grateful, be content. He's been pointing His flashlight into some areas of my heart that need an upgrade. What I mean by "upgrade" is when you think you're doing a good job on something and then God points out that you could be doing better.

It was pride that made me hesitate when friends wanted to provide meals after my surgery. I'm not used to being the recipient of help, and I was uncomfortable being the "served one". That was pride!

When I'm looking at something new and shiny that I don't need, but want, because mine at home isn't new or shiny... that's a lack of gratitude.

And my most prevalent sin? Lack of contentment. I always want to be moving forward; I want things to be perfect; I want things to be as good as the ideals I carry around in my head. God reminds me often that things will not be perfect until eternity, and I need to just chill out and be content with the numerous blessings I've been given.

Jesus was entitled to everything. He had all the power, He had all the riches and He really was the most important person in any room. But that wasn't His agenda.

Jesus came to seek and to save. He came with humility. He was grateful for all His Father had given Him. He was content with His mission, which was the most horrific experience ever suffered.

How could we possibly feel entitled to anything?


MINISTERING TO ASSAULT VICTIMS

IN THE WAKE OF THE KAVANAUGH EPISODE

By Randy Kilgore on October 9, 2018

In the midst of finger-pointing and blame over the nastiness that was the Kavanaugh nomination process, a wave of damage ripples through the lives of thousands of victims of assault. The damage is caused by post-traumatic stress, and manifests itself in many ways, including one where a tiny voice whispers in their heads this lie: “No one believes you.” Given our busy schedules, we often forget about friends and loved ones who are suffering a replay of their own nightmare. This leaves them alone, to struggle silently through their pain. We need to reach out to the people in our lives who may be going through this, and to remind them they are not alone.

  • Start by asking them if recent events are causing them to re-visit their own assaults. Do they want to talk about it?

  • Tell them the voice in their head is lying. Remind them God knows the truth and you believe them, too.

  • Tell them it is normal for victims of assault to suffer these doubts.

  • Help them understand the assault is not happening to them again, even though it may feel like it. Most victims of assault suffer some form of post-traumatic stress, and PTSD, when left untreated, often causes victims to replay the events, experiencing them emotionally as if they were really happening to them again.

  • Encourage them to separate themselves as much as possible from the message boards and opinion pieces, which these days are filled with mean-spirited and damaging comments.

  • Connect them to professional help if their lives seem consumed by or disrupted by their present re-living of the episodes.

  • Help them know how much you love them and want to be with them; many victims think of themselves as damaged goods, and wonder if people really want to be close to them.

  • Finally, be certain to remind them God loves them, wants to hear from them, and mourns their pain with them.


What Message Are We Sending?

By Randy Kilgore on September 24, 2018

Children and young adults are bombarded on all sides by forces competing for their attention. Ads in print and in visual media teach them not only to buy, buy, buy-- but to buy this product and hate that one. News sites, politicians and even some parents add “noise” to the background of their lives, injecting fears of war, dangerous illnesses, etc....  These build as a theme in what they hear.  They learn to “buy” this philosophy, idea or political party while hating the others. At the same time, their hormones and their peers are teaming up via the messages in some of their music and movies to entice them to live sensual lives even before they’re fully aware of what sensuality entails. They’re also hearing the adults in their lives talk about “hating the immigrants” or “hating the people who hate the immigrants”; “hating the liberals” or “hating the people who love the liberals”.  Even in the church pews, they’re hearing church members talk of “shunning gays”, and now---incredibly---they’re hearing the unbiblical message that there’s “no such thing as a gay Christian.” 

Imagine, then, what Dylan is feeling when he realizes he needs to talk to someone because for some time now he has known he is attracted to members of the same sex. At a time when he most needs unconditional love; when he most needs to be able to ask hard questions and have them answered in loving ways, when he most needs the support of his family, friends and church, it’s anyone’s guess what message he’ll get back. In far too many instances, “coming out” results in angry and hurtful exchanges, or weepy, emotional cries of anguish, and judgment and condemnation. Small wonder, isn’t it, that so many of these episodes end in suicide? 

This is not the message of Jesus; nor should it be the message of His Church. 

Loneliness and isolation are a dangerous combination in the physical side of our lives; and they are also a dangerous combination in the spiritual aspect of life as well. Lonely people often hear an insidious voice in their heads telling them no one cares, while still holding out some hope that someone will come along to break their loneliness.  When isolation is added to the equation, most of a person’s hope is drained because not only are they lonely, but there’s no one around even to accidentally stumble across their pain. 

That’s why the attacks by some evangelical leaders on people in the LGBTQ community are so hurtful.  Not only do these attacks strike at the weakest moments in some of their lives, but they often double the hurtful impact because the ambassadors of Jesus are expected to be loving.  When these ambassadors are not loving, or even when they’re just intentionally silent when shunning someone, it blindsides the hurting. This is particularly true for people who grew up in the church and are now pariahs in those supposedly safe havens.   

So how best do we help the Dylans’ of the world? First and foremost, we seek to introduce them to Jesus as their loving Savior. Next, we love them unconditionally, the same way Jesus loves them—and us. No shunning, no separations, no conversion therapies; no being kicked out of the home or the family; Jesus condones none of these acts.  Then, when we’ve demonstrated our ability to be civil, and even more, to be Christlike, then we sit down with them to answer their questions as candidly as we can.  For children who grew up in the church, the number one question for them is most often “Am I still saved?”; “Does God still love me?”; and “How do I live my life now?”   

Here’s the flip side: We can’t attack the people who are attacking them! That only fuels the rancorous debate that serves no one. Especially for that young person who may be considering hurting themselves, the last thing they want is for them to be the cause of hurt in their parents or their church’s life. Many have tried for years to hide their same-sex attraction in order to avoid hurting or embarrassing their immediate families as much as to avoid hurting themselves. When we as Christians go after the people who are causing them heartache, we’re most often going after the people they love the most.   

Despite what many on both sides say, there is a middle way forward, and that’s what we hope to teach and use to minister to everyone who presently finds themselves marginalized by the body of Jesus and His followers in the pews. It is the way of Jesus: Gentle, loving, free of venom or retaliation; and most of all, sacrificially merciful, the administrator of the only kind of grace that saves.  When we lead with the love of Christ—unconditionally—we’ll find ourselves being led by Jesus Himself.  When we lead with any other purpose, or with any conditions, we soon find Jesus has moved on to minister without us.