Putting on Love (Reprise)

As long as life continues on earth, Christians and non-believers will have to share the same space.  That's life.  That's just the way it is.

The problem isn't that we share space.  The problem is that Christians expend too much energy concerning themselves in the moral affairs of non-believers and not enough energy on the hearts of non-believers or on church discipline.

Consider that the thesis statement of this post.  I'm going to park on the first half and save church discipline for another day because, man, this is already heavy and I haven't even gotten started.  Probably why I'm up at 1am penning this post.  But when the rhythm Spirit gets you, sometimes you just have to go with it.

So, Christians condemn immoral unbelievers?  Say it ain't so.  I'm thinking I can get an "Amen" from just about every reader on that one, am I right?  Pick any social issue.  It doesn't matter which one.  If you camp on the "other side" of the beliefs of the Christian church at large, I'd wager a guess that at some point a believer has cast judgment on you.

The thing is, that's not the Christian's job.

Consider the parable of the wheat and the tares (or weeds).  In Matthew 13:30, the master says:
Let both grow together until the harvest.  At harvest time I'll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles and burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.
Let the weeds be the non-believers and the wheat be the Jesus-followers.  This is a pretty serious situation.  In the end, at the harvest, there will be a judgment.  The weeds will be plucked out and burned.  The wheat will be stored in God's barn, eternally.

In the here and now, when Christians concern themselves with legislating morality we miss the target.  Without Jesus, a world without terrorism, abortion, murder, hunger, abuse, rape would be moral but that's simply not good enough.  In the words of Ed Stetzer from The Subversive Kingdom,
These are all good things, to be sure.  But without Jesus, those good things are eternally insufficient.  We don't want people to just behave morally.  We want them to know Jesus.  We want a real change of heart, change of life.   We want them to come into the kingdom.
If all we do is fight cultural battles, we are doing very little to add people to the kingdom of God.  Sure, there are going to be weeds, but God will take care of those in the end.  For now - for us - we would do well to focus our energies, efforts, and prayer on converting the weeds of the world rather than plucking them out.
How?  How do we do this?

Well, folks, it's going to have to get a little uncomfortable.

Allow me to quickly spotlight just a few ministries that do some radical work in the lives of non-believers.

XXX Church:  This ministry is committed to serving those struggling with the addiction of pornography.  They show up at porn shows, strip clubs, and international locations, not with picket signs and megaphones to condemn, but with Bibles to show grace and love because they care.  They provide an online recovery program, accountability, and support for men, women, teens, and those in the porn industry who wish to break free.  The 'Jesus Loves Porn Stars' (JLPS) Bible debuted in June of 2006 at the Erotica L.A. convention in Los Angeles. They gave out over 3,000 of these Bibles for free in less than 24 hours.

The Dream Center:  From their website:  Founded in 1994, The Dream Center is a volunteer driven organization that finds and fills the needs of over 50,000 individuals and families each month.  We do this through mobile hunger relief and medical programs, residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a shelter for victims of human trafficking, transitional housing for homeless families, foster care intervention programs, job skills training, life skills counseling, basic education, Bible studies and more. We work to meet people where they are at, to bring them hope and a way off the streets. 

I just recently read about this ministry in Lysa TerKerst's book Unglued.  Go to their Rescue Project website and look around at what they do to meet the physical needs of the homeless, hungry, enslaved, abused, neglected, addicted.  It's incredible.  Over 100 Dream Centers have opened up since the inception of the original location in Los Angeles.  Missionaries from all over the world come to train and take with them the skills they learn from just a brief amount of time at this facility.

Hand of Hope:  From their website:  Hand of Hope is the missions arm of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Our goal is to help as many hurting people as we possibly can, to alleviate human suffering and to help Christians grow in their faith.  Through vital outreaches, practical humanitarian aid and media broadcasting worldwide, we’re sharing the love of Christ to millions around the world.

"Time and again I am impacted not only by the great needs of people worldwide but also by the amazing opportunity God has given us to do something about it.” -David L. Meyer, CEO of Hand of Hope   

Whether it’s through a feeding program, rescuing women from human trafficking, translating Joyce’s books or one of the many other outreaches we’re able to be part of, our goal is clear: to show people that we truly care about them as people and that they are not forgotten.  We believe if we do that long enough, they will eventually want to know what’s different about us and what’s compelling us to do this for them. And that’s when we get to introduce them to our Savior—Jesus Christ.  (emphasis mine)

I am honored to know personally one of the amazing women who has gone on many of these international mission trips, my Aunt Lydia.  She leaves and comes home on fire for the Lord, ready to go again, with a sense of obvious urgency to reach lost souls.

This is what the kingdom of God looks like.  Here.  Right now.  This is Christianity.  Our time on earth is but a breath of air, temporary, fleeting, and instead of simply passing the time to get to the eternal, we ought to be really concerned about our business here and now.  There is work to be done.  Just like in the parable of the talents, from the time the resources are passed out to the time they are accounted for at the end, we must decide whether to bury what we've been entrusted with or to make the most of it.  This is stewardship. 

Again, from The Subversive Kingdom, Ed Stetzer asks:
How can I live out what God has for me with what God has given me?
This is our challenge, as Christians, today and until He comes.  How can we represent Jesus?  How can I live out God's will for my life?  What does that look like?  What are some tangible, real ways I can show Christ's love for others?

These are not rhetorical questions.  What does it look like?  For some it's going overseas to the remotest parts of the world and administering medical aid.  For others it's handing out Bibles at porn conventions.  For some it's offering a drug-addicted prostitute on the streets of Los Angeles a hot meal and a chance to escape her circumstances.

You see, it's a lot easier to fight with someone on Facebook about what the Bible says than to go out and do what Jesus did.

For me, part of my mission is to disciple my family and that is a noble, consuming job.  Sam and I have five eternal souls to devote ourselves to.  That's not small potatoes.  But there is more outside of this family.  There is a world of lost and dying souls.  And right now, I'm feeling the urgency.

I'm going to reiterate my personal 2013 scripture passage that I referenced in the first Put On Love post:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  Colossians 3:12-17
I want to be the love of Christ.   


That's My (3rd) Girl!

I had a unique opportunity last week to spend some one-on-one time with my littlest kid.  Ben was off at day camp from 7:45am-5pm and the middle pair of practically-inseparable girls were off at Grammie's house for a week of girl adventures complete with pedicures, shopping, and Barbie legos.  That left me and Leah in the house for the better part of the day, just the two of us.

Let me just say, this little girl is awesome.

(I like to take pictures of her when her hair is wet because then it looks like she has some hair.)

I managed to get the whole house cleaned with "just" one kid running around at my feet, but I also got to enjoy little Leah in a way that I'm not truly sure I have before that week.  I don't know if it's because when the other kids are here she's just part of the herd or if she took the opportunity that week to really open up and shine.  Either way, it was a real treasure. 

And because I feel like you, the blog readers, know my older kids so well, I wanted to dedicate this post to Leah, who, as it turns out, is no less spit-fire than her bigger siblings. 

Following in the footsteps of her older siblings, Leah is a phenom when it comes to gross motor skills and spends the better part of her day finding news things to climb.  As with most of the lesser desirable skills and qualities I see developing in my kids, I try to look on the bright side.  Like, she's going to make an excellent mountain guide someday.   Because she devotes most of her energy to her climbing, running, and other will-be-athletic skills, she does not do a whole lot of talking.  It's not a concern at 16 months, especially considering the pattern of her older siblings, but she communicates perfectly well with nods, shakes of the head, an effective pointer finger, and squeals of discontent.  This is the modus operandi of Sheppard children.  And it seems even more so for the 4th child with three verbose older siblings. 

While she might not do a whole lot of meaningful talking, she definitely understands us when we talk to her.  "Do you want to wash your hands?" is followed by a vigorous nod and an all-out sprint to the sink where she tries to scale the cabinet hardware as taught by Sarah.  When I tell her it's time for a diaper change, she runs to the living room and even lays down next to the basket where we keep the diapers and wipes.  Even when I try to encourage her to do more talking, like when she kept sliding off the side of the vinyl chairs at the doctors office while trying to climb up onto them and resorted to smacking the chair and staring at me, I said, "Leah, say 'Up, please,'" she just looked at me and nodded as if to say, "Yeah.  Duh.  That's what I've been saying this whole time."

This week has been an exercise in watching her imagination grow.  I don't remember my others doing "pretend play" so early, but then again, maybe it's the pregnancy brain.  She's got her Barbie and Prince Eric dolls having some serious conversations.  Incomprehensible to most, but definitely not to her.  She's also been loving on her baby dolls.  Kissing them, rocking them, hugging them, and pushing them in the stroller.  So she needs a little practice to keep her from crashing into the walls.  Typical woman driver.

You tend to think that by the time you get to number four you've seen most everything.  Not true at all.  Leah is our first to love shoes at such an early age, particularly rain boots.  She literally sprints when she hears either an exterior door or the pantry door open, regardless of where she is in the house.  She pantomimes a very convincing look of sheer, brute force with her arms on either side of the tray when she's finished in her high chair and wants to get out.  When we cry (or pretend to, just to see her reaction), she gets the saddest little pouty lip.  We're not sure if all the fake crying is scaring her or if she's trying to commiserate, but either way, we think it's pretty hilarious.  While she is most definitely not the first child we've had to prefer the emperor's new clothes look, she's the first we've had to attempt to redress herself after completely stripping down.  We can tell this is happening because of the screeches of sheer panic that come from trying to shove a head and two arms through the same arm hole.  I am pretty sure she is the first child we have who is completely afraid of being submerged in any depth of water.  The surf, the two inches of water that collects in the roadside gutter after a rainstorm, and Grammie's kiddie pool all qualify as death traps for this little munchkin. 

It's probably my fault.  I think she's only had two baths since birth.  (We're not gross.  Shower are just way easier in my opinion.  But, hey, at least she doesn't mind water in her face!)  See, though, she's not scared at the top of the water slide.  Just in the pool.  Silly goof.

And then...there are the hijinks.  While I don't think she has the strong will of Ben, the all-out wide-open energy of toddler Abby, or the scary combination of will and athleticism of Sarah, Leah has her own brand of quiet mischief.  And she does it with a smile and a seemingly innocent "Who? Me?" look.   Trust me.  She is not innocent.

Not when she's scaling the table just moments before friends come over for Bible study and shredding all of the napkins.
Not when she's removing all of the dirt from the [sad] plant in the foyer.  (Okay, fine, so maybe she was just trying to put it out of its misery.  A green thumb, I have never claimed to be.)

Not when she's wearing several pair of Mommy's underwear as scarves and finishing off someone's Cherry Dr. Pepper after Sunday lunch...on top of the table, of course.

And not when she busts into the under-the-sink cabinet with child-proof locks not once, but twice in a week and ingests a dishwasher tablet and sprays herself in the face with 409 cleaner.  Turns out, she's okay.  But, really, Leah?  Why?

Couldn't you almost eat her?  She's so precious.  

If you aren't buying it, come hang out with us some day.  She might give you a dirty look at first, but she'll warm up.  Especially if you give her some food.  Preferably candy.  And now, if you don't mind, I'm off to watch her dance while she pulls on her earlobes excessively hard as Sam sings one more round of "Do Your Ears Hang Low?"

One Year Olds, Man.  Crazy.  Crazy Fun.

Back to Top