What’s Love Got To Do With It? (2)

Freedom in ChristIn its pure expression in Christ, love is strong, challenging, graceful, confrontive and quite messy.  Love is not static but dynamic. The strength of God’s love flowing through the Body of Christ is often devalued by leadership through compromise and a fear of man. It is diluted in its expression when leaders try to always please people. If there is a fear of people getting offended or losing membership, love is sidetracked from its essence, speaking words that lose power. The world is looking for authentic Christianity.

Christians, in trying to look or sound like the world in order to win people, trying to be culturally relevant, actually lose the essence of power and authority which flows through the reality of love. Love is messy. Love laid the path to the cross for Christ, a messy affair that brought salvation for us. Love is costly and Christ paid the price for our salvation and freedom. We rest in that perfect reality but love indeed produces suffering in our lives in Christ. It is best we not toss the word ‘love’ around so lightly.

The Body of Christ is weakened and devalued in power and authority through a misunderstanding of exactly what love is in Christ. The world desperately seeks authenticity, which the church is sorely lacking in measure. We can’t express love outside of Christ in God. God is love and His love is expressed in Christ through Holy Spirit. Looking to be culturally relevant has stripped the church of the gifts, speaking in tongues, power ministries and deliverance of demons from peoples’ lives.

There are wonderful churches out there that walk in New Covenant reality, expressing themselves through community. They are few and far between. This community flows in power and authority, with true leadership helping people grow into maturity through the expression of love, which is multifaceted in the Body. What that means is that as we gather, we gather to express truth that is gentle and soft as well as challenging confronting – all formed on a foundation of love. Love is not mean or rude but neither is it compromising or easy to hear. Offense abounds everywhere. People are threatened by truth, labeling it as judgment so as not to digest any part of what is being said to them. Leadership is in need of great change and change is here and is indeed coming. Church, as we know it and knew it, is over. What is coming? We will all see in time as it changes in form and expression.

Right now, so much of the church, seems bent on pleasing the needs of people rather than seeking the heart of God and walking in His will and ways, whatever the cost. I am not intent on generalizing here only to state the problem but to look for a solution for us,  stating relevant observations, challenging us to realize that Christianity is costly. Jesus paid the price in full for our freedom. I marvel at that revelation. In turn, that revelation embeds itself deep into my being. I am then willing to walk in a love that takes risks. Love that does not risk being misunderstood, rejected or persecuted is actually no love at all.

Here’s an example of compromise and fear in the name of love.

I was in a meeting some time ago where a woman kept interrupting the meeting. Her need of attention was obvious, along with her deep-seated anger due to circumstances in her life. Words often betray one’s heart as it did hers to me that day. This is where accurate discernment comes into play. What does this woman need to get free, not to be pacified in the midst of her bondage? And, how does one do this in love, walking in wisdom and grace. Knowing when to speak, when to be silent and as a leader, when to correct and challenge to maturity.

People gathered around her to pray. I was told that this often happens so it became obvious that there was a need in her to cause confusion and take center stage. Over the years, I saw this over and over in leadership.

Back to the story. The leader wanted people to pray for her and minister to her with love and compassion – their perceived idea of love and compassion. Yet, this turned out to be love coated in a fear of man. As I watched them pray, I saw that it grieved God’s heart for He wanted her to be free but it would take some words spoken in love’s strength that would shift her into a new place where she would have to make a decision. She would either receive or get offended. It was her choice and once made, leadership would then handle it accordingly. Right now, leadership just perpetuated the problem due to this fear of man.

Leadership gave her a great challenging word to change to be free. She rejected what people were telling her, telling them outright, she was actually okay. The leader then apologized for his word to her. How is this down? Quite easy. With qualifiers that dilute true power and authority. He said something like “Well, this word may be right. I am not sure. Please pray about it. I believe God is saying this but if it does not bear witness then just discard it.

TruthOh my! Why even bother? There was so much qualifying being done that it appeared to be full of mercy and grace. BUT, it was actually full of fear – and in fear there is little faith and even less change.

In subsequent meetings, she did the same thing over and over – interrupting and trying to interject confusion into the meeting with her needs.

Now for some intense honesty here. Over the years, I didn’t always walk in love. That is why God is revealing love’s strength to me today in the midst of my heart healing. I was angry and that came out in my preaching and prophesying. When confronted with this anger, I swung to the other side and tried to be merciful, not confronting, not challenging, thinking that I must learn to be more loving. It did not work. I had to learn about love by looking to the expressions of Jesus as He focused on the Father.  I see love as strong, clear and awesome as well as soft and gentle and tender. I will risk misunderstanding and rejection to focus on growth and maturity in people speaking in love. But,  I will not imprison love within my contained definition. Love is life and love flows – all in its multi-faceted expression.

That was just one example above on a small scale but it shows my point. The strength of love is to be shown in and through leadership without fear of man or people pleasing. Love takes on many different forms and expressions. Look at Jesus………..the creative expression of His Father in heaven, living and moving and being in love.

May the strength of love empower Christians to risk reputations, honor, finances, and even ministry to walk in an uncompromised love of Christ. To love the Body of Christ so deeply and to love people so strongly that we desire change and maturity so that the Kingdom is advanced in greater measure throughout the earth.

In Christ,
Debra

DebraIf you would like Rivers of Eden Ministry to come to your home group, church, or gathering please comment below, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter. Read Our Timeline to get better acquainted with our lives. Marvin and I realize that there are times when small groups of people do not have finances to bring us in. We will still come, as Holy Spirit leads. Just pray and ask.

A Young Man with an Ear to Hear – Part 4/5 – Penetrating Light

There is always a way where there seems to be no way.

Jesus said to him, “ I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6 NKJV)

Light Texture The young man, trapped within the inconsistencies of his own life, languished under the constant noise that permeated the darkness. Escape was not just an option, but the only way out of the constant mantra of hopelessness. One can only take so much before this muted sound takes its toll on the mind, will and emotions. It seems like a never-ending battle.

The sound seeking to keep him under its influence was not prepared for what was coming. Jesus Himself is always there, waiting for the darkness to reach its proclaimed point of victory. His timing is exquisite and perfect. His sound comes forth in this perfect timing. When emotions reach a new height of expression in anger, rage or violence. When things seem to be getting to that edge of wanting out, at any cost. When things don’t make sense. His timing is perfect and His sound is clear.

Jesus is the way and in this way, there is a path of light, life and truth. This is reality. This is the way out and the way in. Out of darkness. Into light.

The light of truth has a voice in Christ. Light waves and sound waves travel forth with creative power, dispelling the darkness. Jesus pierces the darkness with an undeniable sound of love and freedom. There is no darkness able to conquer the light for light is a dominating force without foe. It does not suffer defeat.

“He (Jesus) deals decisively and completely with darkness by entering the dark and hopeless void that separates us from Him and bridged the gap in His own life, death, and resurrection.Cosmos Reborn – John Crowder

Our defeated foe no longer has an inherent substance. The existence of darkness rests only in the power of a lie. Cosmos Reborn – John Crowder

The darkness cannot comprehend the light. Light is truth. Darkness exists in lies. Darkness holds its inherent power in lies. And, lies, darkness and evil has already been defeated by the cross of cross.

Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15 NKJV)

Benicia CrossThe cross of Christ sounds forth throughout eternity with a sound above all sounds. “It is finished.” Christ is the victory for humanity. The power of a lie is conquered and defeated by the eternal sound of truth in Christ. Nothing can stand against Him. He is all in all. His name is Jesus.

The darkness is baffled by His presence. The darkness is confused by the sound of victory. The young man hears this approaching sound in the distance, full of light and life. It rushes past vivid memories of pain, even at his young age. It captures sorrow and grief in its presence. It conquers rage and anger. It brings peace to discouragement and disillusionment. It is Christ, the hope of all young men everywhere.

This Jesus is real, with plan and purpose. This Jesus is the ONE. Young men everywhere seek Him without knowing exactly what they are seeking. In reality, His image and name has been crushed beneath the bondage of religion for so many years that most young men won’t even darken the door of a church any more. But, He is the ONE.

He is out and about. He is here. He is there. And, He is able. There is no other way but in Christ.

In Christ, Debra Westbrook

DebraRivers of Eden Ministry is called to challenge people to a life of creativity, revelation and intimacy in Christ. Marvin and I look forward to hearing from you, allowing us the opportunity to minister in the grace and love of Christ in your gathering, church, home group or conference.  Currently we are planning a trip to Kenya in July in which we are looking forward to establishing new relationships with leaders for a Kingdom purpose. Contact us on Facebook or Twitter for more information.

Creative Expression – Tension and Gritty Grace!

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward––to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision––you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it (Philippians 3:12-16 Message)

SoundwaveThere is the tension of living in Paul’s words. He presses, pulls, falls back, gets up, goes forward, stands still – all in the tension that is resident in grace. Yes, there is tension in grace but not a tension of performance or trying to be accepted by God. This tension is called life, the day-to-day, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the good days and the bad days. Life lived in tension does not strive for perfection. I am on a journey! I accept that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my weakness, not my strengths. So what do I do? I LIVE (in daily tension) of the already, but not yet, Christ who is in me, and yet focused on reaching for Christ day by day.

Why are we so tense in this day and age? Why the striving for perfection? Why the desire to sense we have arrived? Why do we need to be ‘right” all the time or even heard? Why so much introspection and angst over life? Have we listened to Jesus lately?

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me; you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world (John 16:33 Message)

Hello. If I read this correctly what He is saying to do is to learn to live life in peace, unshakable in the midst of its tension. It’s going to be all right. It is alright, right now. That is my word to all of you. What are my qualifications to say this? Well I am almost 60 and I have been to hell and back but I am still standing with joy, peace, love, mercy, kindness and lots of tension, lots of tension. So I prophecy today that life will bring its share of tension into your life, but it’s gonna be alright because He is alright. Does it need to be more complex than that?

Yell, scream, shout, blog till the cows come home about your own inner turmoil, just like me BUT it’s all gonna be alright. I want to preach gritty grace. A grace that does not set you up for any utopian existence but a grace that loves, hard-core loving you and with you in the muck and mire of life’s crap. That’s gritty grace to me.

I want to preach grace that is not self-indulgent, trying to tell you that once you see that Christ is ALL that somehow you will avoid suffering or tension. That’s gritty grace. The grace that helps you stand in the midst of all the chaos. You stand and will continue to stand.

Hand reaching upGritty grace is a journey of the already but not yet. The already being settled at the cross in all its glory but the not yet reality of life that puts me smack dab in the midst of the tension each and every day. That’s gritty and real. I want real. I live real.

So gritty grace is my journey. How’s that going for me? So glad you asked. Let me tell you. Each day I live in the reality of the already beautiful work of His unconditional love, the finished work of the cross and His mercy, which is new each and every morning. BUT, each day I live in the not yet of my own imperfections and I press to apprehend His forgiveness flowing through me to unleash me from the prison of my own rights and entitlements.

Gritty grace is real and will not catapult me into nebulous, generic phrases such as this.

God loves you!

God accepts you, right where you are!

Jesus died for you!

Those are true. Oh yes, they are so very true. But, can I add a bit more to them to keep you focused on the reality of these sayings.

God loves you, unconditionally, wholly, passionately and intimately. He loves like a good Father so that means in addition to those feel good moments, I encounter loving discipline, correction and chastisement. He love me, yes He does!

God accepts me, right where I am, with NO need for any performance to twist His arm to love me more. He loves me so much that He actually uses life to draw me closer to Him each day with its pains, its suffering and more. He is a good God and I can live in the tension that He is a good God, even with the suffering of the world at large. I embrace the tension, sometimes through tears or gritted teeth.

Finally, Jesus died for me and with that comes absolute freedom from guilt, condemnation and fears of all kinds. Oh yes! Yet, He did not die to just make me feel good in a self-indulgent life focused on me, myself and I, the Carnal Trinity as I have heard mentioned in times past. He died for me so that I may live His life through me, in tension.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 Message)

Am I making myself clear today? I hope so. ☺ Enjoy the journey. It’s gonna be alright.

Rivers of Eden. Please pray and consider having Rivers of Eden minister in your gathering, home group, conference or church in 2014. This is our year of release wherever and whenever God opens His doors bringing His grace and His glory through us to those to whom we are called in this season.

You can contact us on Facebook, Twitter, our Rivers of Eden Contact Page, or right here in the comments.

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