The Gospel of Tolerance

Tolerance. I really hate that word. I’m sick of seeing it everywhere I turn. “If people just had more tolerance…” I’ll tell you that I don’t need “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from my own,” and I’m certainly not looking to develop my “act or capacity of enduring.”

It’s not tolerance that is going to change our world. It’s love. And maybe we shouldn’t “tolerate” everything going on in the world, but we should definitely approach others in love.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world.

Not just the people who would come to repentance. Not just the people who do what He considered socially and morally right. God loved everybody. Even the people who spit in His face. Even the people who drove nails through His hands. He loved them; not tolerated them.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to preach tolerance; He came to lavish love upon a broken and dying world. As Christians, it’s not our job to judge. It’s not even our job to “tolerate.” It’s our job to follow Jesus’ example and love people to repentance. And if they don’t seem to be repenting? Love them anyway.

I’ve read through the Bible multiple times and never found the gospel of tolerance, but I have found the gospel of love. Because the Bible is all about God and God is love.

Learn to love like Jesus today.

The Whirlpool and the Eagle

I was reading through 2 Samuel the other day when I stumbled upon something pretty amazing. I found that the passage looked strangely familiar. I started to speculate that David wrote two Psalms that are nearly identical. Then I flipped through a few more chapters in my Bible and realized that they were identical. The words recorded in 2 Samuel 22 are the same words that are penned in Psalm 18. I didn’t realize that until just the other day.

God wouldn’t put something in the Bible twice for no reason, so I think it’s safe to assume that this is a picture He really wants us to understand. Maybe you should read it for yourself because you might see something other than what I do, but for me, all I see when I read this chapter is an eagle.

One time, when I was walking through a really difficult circumstance in my life, I had this reoccurring vision (that felt like a nightmare when I was wide awake) about a whirlpool and an eagle. I was drowning in the whirlpool, but trying to grab hold of this eagle that was soaring above the waves. The vision made absolutely no sense… until I stumbled upon Psalm 18. This particular Psalm talks about God being a refuge when the floods of destruction are sweeping over you. As I read this Psalm, I remembered my whirlpool, then I read the words, “he soared on the wings of the wind.” I don’t know that I’ve ever had a passage of Scripture take my breath away like that verse did.  The eagle in the vision that I kept reaching out for was Jesus. That one passage of Scripture that is repeated twice in the Bible told me the end of my vision:

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
       he drew me out of deep waters.” -Psalm 18:16

And suddenly there was a safety from the storm that was raging around me. I suddenly felt myself being lifted from this pit of despair. I found freedom in that verse.

God wrote it twice because He wanted His children to see it. He wrote it twice so that I’m twice as likely to be reminded. He wrote it twice so that I’m half as likely to forget. What is He saying twice to you?

The Breaking

The day I received my brand new Bible, I flipped the pages open to Genesis 6 so I could underline a passage that I remembered as the first passage I had ever read from the NLT translation: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)

Now that may sound like a strange verse to want to underline, but I guess I’m just fascinated by the idea that we are capable of breaking God’s heart. I hadn’t really thought about it until I read this interesting fantasy series about a world that had been created alongside earth, but didn’t fall in Adam and Eve’s rebellion. One conversation between two characters  really resonated in my heart. This wise dwarf is explaining the fall of man to the newly crowned king. The young king wants to know if Adam and Eve’s sin is what broke the Most High’s heart. “Nay,” the wizened, old dwarf replies, “this is what started the breaking.”

This is what started the breaking – meaning God’s tender, fragile heart has suffered more than once. Meaning His heart has been broken repeatedly since that moment. Meaning I’m guilty for some of the pain experienced by the Most High.

I think that if we are going to experience a loving, intimate relationship with God, we have to realize that we are capable of breaking His heart – just as we are capable of breaking the heart of a human being. No, God is not human, but since we were made in His image, we humans possess many of His qualities – such as a heart that feels both joy and pain.

Think about this: your heart can only be broken by someone you’ve entrusted with it. God has entrusted you with His heart. He has given you the ability to hurt Him because He thinks you are worth the risk. If that doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will. The thing that breaks my heart is that I know I am the person described in Genesis 6:5. I know I’ve thought and done some things that are consistently and totally evil. In reflection of all this, I wrote this poem:

One single tree, one simple command;

they acted like they didn’t hear it.

One bite of the fruit was a knife in your soul

and already, they knew they were drifting.

So this is what broke the Most High’s heart?

Nay, only what started the breaking.

Every day it is broken again

as Your Word remains ignored.

To say that I’m sorry seems insufficient

when I know that I’ll fail You again.

I’m tired of hurting You, of hurting myself.

When will there be an end to

The Breaking?

 

From the Breaking of Your heart to the Breaking of my chains.

Set me free from this trap I’ve fallen into.

Just to Make You Smile

There’s a Bible on my bed. No, that isn’t unusual, but it is no less extraordinary. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make me smile most.

It all began when I was reading my other Bible one morning. I began to think I’d like to read a different translation – just to get a fresh perspective on the stories I know so well. Sometimes a little change in wording is all it takes to make something come alive to me.

“Maybe I’ll ask Grandma for an NLT Bible for Christmas,” I thought to myself. (I had heard that translation is pretty similar to the original Greek, and I had also heard a few people quote it.) That very day, I received an email from a coworker saying someone wanted to donate new Bibles to the staff. I was dumbfounded. “Wow, God, that was fast.”

I was reminded once again of the joy God finds in making me smile. I guess we’re similar in that manner. I love making people smile. My youth pastor really liked no-bake cookies, so sometimes, on his birthday or Pastor Appreciation Month or one of those “just because” days, I would bring cookies to youth group with me. Just to make him smile. I think we all tend to do those kind of things for people we love. And since God loves you, He wants to make you smile. Your joy is His joy; your delight is His delight. So He sends things like butterflies and rainbows, hot chocolate on snowy days, and faithful friends on “blah” days. Just to make you smile.

So today I accepted my gift with a smile as I thumbed through the pages to get a feel for this precious book. And now, there’s a Bible on my bed. It even has my name stamped on the cover… Just to make me smile.

I Will Be With You

When I think of the changes life brings and making Jesus home even in the midst of the turmoil, my thoughts immediately turn to Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3. It’s probably one of my favorite Bible stories. I love the way God just shows up and confronts Moses, and I love seeing this great saint struggle with his calling. It makes me realize that I am not the only one who sometimes doesn’t like where God is leading me. It makes me wonder if maybe there is hope for me and my stubbornness. After all, look at what God did with Moses.

Here’s Moses. He has fled the country of his birth and is living in the desert with a foreign people. Suddenly, God appears on the scene in the form of a burning bush. Moses is a little curious as to how the bush is on fire but not burning up, so he goes over to check it out. God calls his name, reveals his great plan for Moses’ life, and commands him to go where He has destined.

If I were Moses, I would be a little concerned too. He begins an argument with God that lasts over halfway through chapter four. Only after exhausting every excuse (which God is easily able to combat) does Moses venture back to Egypt to save his people. And while Moses argued long and hard, I gave in after God’s first answer. Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you.”

That promise has carried me through most of my life.

“God, who am I that You would ask me to organize a conference for the girls in my youth group?”

And God said, “I will be with you.”

“God, who am I that I can move 450 miles away from everything I’ve ever known to work with the missions organization I’ve supported since I was a child?”

And God said, “I will be with you.”

“Who am I that I can write a book, take it along to some writer’s conference, and present it to a publisher?”

And God said, “I will be with you.”

It’s the promise that keeps me alive. No matter how old I get, no matter how far I travel from the place I was born and raised, God will go with me. He will be the home that I had thought I left behind.

You may be asking God, “Who am I…?” Rest assured that God will always answer, “I will be with you.”