Beheadings and persecution…

My heart is broken.

The evil in this world is sometimes far too great to bear. The pain, the suffering, the tribulation…just evil.

If you are keeping up with the news, than you will know how much evil is in this world. Specifically, in the Middle East, the evil seems to be rising making the news around the world. So far two American journalists have been beheaded, with videos having gone viral, with messages directed to President Obama. So far thousands of Christians all over Iraq, not counting other areas of the Middle East, are fleeing for their lives however, with imminent threat of death. I watched the news, hearing how various countries and organizations are wanting to help but unable without risk. Still others are pulling out their organizations and their citizens to save their lives. Still others, argue that no one should get involved at all. On social media and in the news, I have seen many people write or post about ISIS and how we [America] need to go in and kill them all. Genocide is never an easy fix or solution. Genocide never is met with peace without sacrifice. And genocide always leaves a wake of destruction for all parties.

This is why my heart breaks.

My heart breaks because my fellow Christians- brothers and sisters of the faith- are being murdered, beaten, tortured, raped and/or imprisoned [like Pastor Saeed in Iran]. My heart breaks because, for people in the Middle East to convert to Christianity, it means that they have counted the cost of faith and serving Jesus Christ. It means that they understand that, if they truly love Jesus, it may very well cost them their life. Alongside the Christians being persecuted, there are still Muslims in the Middle East that have nothing to do with the terrorism, genocide, or hatred, yet fall as bystanders in a cruel and evil fight. These Muslims are the ones that get the bad rep for their faith- though I don’t believe the same faith as them- they are people nonetheless and deserve the right to life. Even still, there are people from countries all over the world that are remaining in the lands of this evil because they are trying to help those caught in the destruction.

There is no peace in the Middle East. How can there be with this evil?

But I know a Peace that can bring healing, hope, restoration, and redemption. The problem is that we limit the reach of this Peace- the peace that comes through Jesus Christ. We, as American Christians, want to pray for the persecuted Church for safety, for protection, for a way out of the madness. We want to pray for them to overcome the physical, tangible hell they are in. We want to have punishment placed on the evil men and women bringing these atrocities. We want to have a perfect outcome in a completely imperfect and broken world.

For you reading this, especially if you claim to have faith and love in Jesus Christ, this is my plea to you: stop treating the evils in the Middle East and pretty much every other part of the world as something we can fix and mend. Only Jesus Christ can restore. I do not belittle the problems in this world by asking you not pray for them. I do ask that your prayers are bold prayers that rely on the power of Jesus Christ, not on our own ability. I ask that you stop praying for protection [only] for the persecuted Church, and instead, pray for their continued devotion and steadfast faith that will remain unshaken regardless of the trials they face. Like the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before the fiery furnace- God can free them from it BUT even if he does not, they can remain faithful to Him to the end. Our God is more than able to deliver us from evil, no matter what that evil looks like. But I also believe, that even if we do not understand why, he can help us through whatever it is that we face.

For you reading this, regardless of your beliefs, do not watch any videos these terrorists post. It only fuels their fear and fire. They want attention. Instead, be aware of what they are doing without continuing to watch the final gruesome moments of someone’s life. Give them- the murdered- respect, please.

And for you Church, I plead with you for this: pray for the members of ISIS, as well as other terror groups. Not for their success. Not for their continued evil. Not for their destruction either. Pray for God to show up in their lives. God can meet ANYONE where they are at, and no one is too far outside of God’s grace and mercy. We all want grace and mercy…until its for the terrorist or murdered or rapist or molestor. Church, pray for the salvation of those that you find to be most evil. Pray for the salvation of these men and women committing these crimes. What if we prayed for them and actually believed that their lives, like the Apostle Paul, could be changed? I’m not saying consequences for their actions shouldn’t come into play, but I have to believe that if Jesus died for the salvation of the world, that includes those that are evil. He desires for the wicked to be saved, not to perish [Ezekiel 33:11]. I am not one to say whether or not any of those members would actually change their lives, but I can at least pray for God to speak to them- to give them the chance at redemption.

That goes for anyone.

No matter who you are, whether you are a person of any faith, my faith, or no faith, I believe Jesus Christ loves you and he died so you could have restoration and redemption. He died so you could have the choice to love him or not. His resurrection offers us a hope and eternity with Him. When I see the evil throughout this world, I break because I see the brokenness that comes when this world lacks Jesus. I see the destruction that is led by selfishness, greed, and hate. I see that for many Christians in this world, to be a Christian, is more than a name or a religion but a literal death sentence for choosing Jesus. I see that we are fortunate in America, for now, to not have the same kind of evil. But I challenge you, don’t take it for granted. If you choose to follow Jesus, make it real, make it known, make it count. Be steadfast and unwavering. Don’t sit on the fence between partial care and obedience. If you are not someone who follows Jesus, or maybe doesn’t even want to because of some of things I wrote in this post… this world will continue to have evil present. It will continue to have destruction. You can choose to go through life with or without a true hope, which I believe, only comes through Jesus Christ.

This world is evil. I choose Jesus either way.

 

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Jesus loves…the people at Exxxotica.

So I find myself here, the night before another outreach with xxxChurch at a porn convention. I’m not nervous like I was last year. I’m not worried. I’m at peace. This time last year I was preparing for Exxxotica in Atlantic City, with no idea what I was getting myself into, and yet here I am a year later, ready and so incredibly excited for this weekend. I’m not excited about porn or getting hit on by horny guys or being on my feet for hours on end [I do that already with working at Starbucks]. But what I am excited about is being able to, once again, go into this world of porn and show people love. The people that attend these adult conventions are normal, everyday people. They are teachers, mothers, fathers, college students, bankers, baristas, coaches, and of course, throw some creepers into that mix. The vast majority are simply normal people and Jesus loves them. Jesus loves the dancers and strippers. Jesus loves the producers and sex toy salesmen. Jesus loves every single person who will be in the Taj Mahal at Exxxotica this weekend.

He loves them tremendously, and I’ll bet money on it that most of them have never really been told of Jesus’ love for them. That is what breaks my heart. Jesus deeply loved people, but what we forget is he loved them where they were at…he didn’t judge them and picket and protest and hate and spit and cuss at them. In fact, he only ever responded violently toward the religious and abusers of his faith in the Temple. He only ever was critical to the ones that knew the love of God but refused to act on it. His heart was open and loving to the poor, the prostitute, the adulterer, the Gentile [those of other races], the dishonest, and so many more. The common factor was that he loved people and he wanted people to know it before he made mention of their sin or wrongdoing. He wanted people to have the choice to love him or not. He wanted people to choose him and accept his love.

That’s what I am going to with Exxxotica this weekend. Good Friday and Easter are right around the corner- the holiday taken over by bunnies, chicks, and candy and often abused by religious orthodoxy. We have missed something so much if we go into Easter without being vocal of Jesus’ love to all people, regardless of the backgrounds or whether we agree with them or their lifestyle. He loved people to the point of surrendering himself to death. He loved people so deeply that he broke his own body so we could have forgiveness and restoration. I want to be able to love people that weekend with the kind of love that is unconditional, accepting, and redeeming- the same way Jesus has chosen to love me despite my own flaws, sin, and wrongdoing. No matter who you are, Christian, church-goer, stripper, porn star, addict, or anything else… Jesus loves you.

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151896991742084&set=vb.8466317083&type=3&video_source=pages_video_set

Beyond Samaria.

Arriving to Toronto, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This trip and convention, I was told, would be much different than the Atlantic City Exxxotica. This was “Everything to do with Sex”  and it would be large still but geared toward couples. I had no clue what that could mean.  All I knew for certain was: Jesus loves people and I was there, in Toronto, at that convention, to share the love of Jesus to people and patrons of the sex industry.

Over the course of three days, we encountered thousands of people. Some were with their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Others were with their partner. Still others were alone. There were all sorts of costumes and personality in the wardrobes present at the show. Calendar men (firefighters specifically), Hustler girls wore their booty branded undies and tops, several body-painted ladies wore….body paint, dancers and strippers of the industry walked around in the latest lingerie and pasty fashions, while still others wore the best burlesque they could. And of course, don’t forget “Thong Man”- the 70+ senior citizen who changed his thong outfit every hour- police, Rambo, army, energizer bunny…. I’m sure he has dozens of different thonged outfits. Who knows where he buys them.  Everything pornographic from couples to dungeon had a booth, though still most gearing their audience for couples. But don’t worry… there were booths for tattoos, body-casting art, back massage chairs, travel Toronto, boots, dresses, and even food trucks! Plenty of fun stuff right? I’m not gonna lie… I bought a crepe from one of the venders. No shame at all. It was delicious.

In the middle of all of that there was xxxChurch. Surrounded by adult toys, sex therapists, and lingerie, we had our neon colored hippy-esque booth. We gave the industry girls gift bags, bottles of water, and tanks. For three days we handed out 2,000 Bibles [book of John actually] and 3,000 stickers. The hot pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” stickers were the attention grabbers and hot commodity of the weekend… other than the porn.  But we got attention. We got everything from confused looks to giggles but often immediate questions on what we were exactly.

That is the point.

In an environment where so many people have been rejected by Christians, here we were xxxChurch in all our neon glory, with a 20 foot booth inviting people to ask the real question they ALL wanted answered… Does Jesus really love porn stars? Does Jesus really love… me? Even though I’ve done [fill in the blank]? So many people wanted to know the love we offered freely. The love that was not condemning, judging or critical. Yes we were and always are honest about what we believe about pornography, sexuality, and God however, the first step we try to stick with is just letting people know that Jesus loves them.  No one in that convention hall was less than enough for God. None were less worthy than myself or anyone else. Not one person has done enough “bad” for Him to reject them. That is the beauty of grace and forgiveness.

By offering love and grace first, it opened so may doors for conversations for people to want to know about God. Between theological discussions and debates to confessions of wanting more to honest conversation on desiring God, we were the Church in the middle of a sex and porn convention.  I can’t help but think of Jesus going to the land of Samaria. He had to go to through Samaria even though he actually had another route option. Instead he chose to go to a city Jews avoided to go to a well that no one acceptable would be at during that time of day to speak to a woman who was a known mistress to many. The Samaritans were bi-racial outcasts of society. And even in their being an outcast, Jesus met this woman who was even more of an outcast because of her sexual behaviors. Jesus chose to show love and kindness to this woman. He chose to meet her where she was not ask her to change everything first. After their discussion furthered he offered something more… forgiveness and new life.  The beauty of the story is that Jesus’ love changed this woman, not the woman changing for him first. His love- unconditional, redeeming, perfect love- was this reason she changed her life and started living different. It was the reason she ran back into town to tell everyone she knew about Jesus.  (read John 4)

xxxChurch goes to these conventions to offer that first step. We go to an area most Christians avoid either because they are critical or because they don’t know what to do in that kind of environment. We go to a group of people, though often glamorized, are still largely deemed by society as nothing less than a lay, a mental image to find gratification, and another person to call a name. We offer nothing but love and kindness to everyone in the building. Of course we want people to know Jesus personally, but its not our job to convert. Its our job to be the Church and love of Jesus, and his job to do the rest. At the end of the weekend, I had such joy in my heart. I know many of those people from this weekend’s convention want to know more. They want to find freedom from addiction. Some might seek restoration for their marriage. Some might want to know Jesus personally rather than just a cuss word. Some might want out of the industry. All I know is that there are a few thousand people that can’t deny that they were told and shown a love that is rare. One worth dying for. One worth going to Samaria for. One worth giving everything for.

[title credit to Sue]

Prayer faith.

We don’t always live our lives believing in our dreams. We dream dreams, but we don’t pursue. We don’t believe they are even possible. Yet, as Christians, we walk around quoting scriptures that God knows, has plans, wants to prosper us, and has great things for us. Do we really believe it? Do we really believe that His words will not come back void? Honestly…most of us will have to answer no.  Most of us don’t live our lives believing that He is able or even desiring to fulfill his promises or our dreams.

In a few moment of honesty, I find myself tonight in deep reflection. I find myself broken and yet hopeful. But moreso I find myself full of thanks for what God has been doing over not just the past few months, but even the past few years. Everything has been part of a plan of preparation, of promise, of purpose.  I have been reading through a devotional book called Draw the Circle.  In summary, the devo is based off the book The Circle Maker.  Both speak on prayer and how all too often we quit on prayers. We think praying for something a few times is enough. We think only reading the Bible is enough. How much do we really believe in the power of prayer and our God?  Reading this book has brought forth so many moments of clarity and brutal honesty to my self. I have been forced to reconcile one major thing: somewhere along the line, I have forgotten that God knows me, cares for me, has plans for me. Beyond that… he knows my heart, my desires, my dreams. Yet somewhere I forgot, or thought they were out of His reach.

Somewhere I stopped believing.

God has been more than faithful. This year God has especially made himself known to me in ways that I never imagined. If someone were to tell me seven, even ten years ago that I’d be walking into porn conventions or strip clubs sharing the love of Christ by simply loving people where they’re at…you never would have been taken seriously. If you were to have told me that I’d travel to so many places around this world, as a teenager I’d think the idea would be great, the reality impractical and impossible. On other realities, if I would have been told as a teenager that I would be [now] a 25 year old single pastor/blogger/photographer/barista I probably would have laughed at you and clearly knew you had no idea what you were talking about. Throughout the last decade God has birthed dreams in my heart, many that are unfolding now, even more that are still yet to pass. Yet I have found myself these past few months especially seeing the little unspoken things of my heart come forth. Why? Because HE IS FAITHFUL. To me, its almost as if God knows that if He were to give me the big dreams now, I wouldn’t have as much appreciation for them. But by him slowing but surely bringing things to fruition, he is gently reminding me that he has not forgotten, that he is able, and than he knows my heart.

Yes my plans look differently now. Even over the next few weeks, some big things are happening that could change everything for me. My life looks differently than what I dreamt up years ago, yet I still know that He is God. Just one example of his faithfulness has been an almost 12 year long dream come to pass this year. It began with simply sending an email, thinking that nothing would come from my inquiry, yet within just a few days, I received a call from a woman named Kelly. From there, it was as if day by day God was saying “See…I am doing something”. Kelly quickly got me involved with the very industry that I have been aching to be a part of… the sex industry. Yes, I am aware that it seems by my wording that I want to be a part of the industry, but the reality is, God opened doors for me to be able to walk right into strip clubs, the dressing rooms, porn conventions, human trafficking events, and trainings, all because of prayers I prayed over several years. Even now, God has opened more doors with the organization and its parent organization. God never forgot. He just wanted things on His timing, because He knew it would be better. Yet even with this faithfulness that has been undoubtedly from Him, a part of me has still been struggling, wondering when God would act on other desires I had.

Just more than a week ago, on several occasions, one verse has come up, each time challenging me in ways that I can barely fathom.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.” [Isaiah 43:19]

I leave you, the reader, with this challenge, do you believe God and His words? Do you believe that if He is indeed the God of the Bible- the one who performed so many miracles- do you believe that He is able to take care of you? Do you believe that He knows your heart, your dreams, your desires, your worries, your fears? He knows you. Period. Trust Him. Put your faith in Him. I encourage you, pick up a copy of Draw the Circle… it will challenge you in so many ways. It’ll test your prayer faith. This past year, especially, has been a season that has affirmed one thing very strongly: God is steadfast, He’s not going anywhere, and He deeply cares and loves me.

Sacred Romance After Tragic Betrayal

 Love of newly weds cannot be expressed in just simple words. It’s something that is defined by passionate actions and the embracing of your beloved. The tender kiss says it all. But what happens when your beloved has the affection of another? What happens when that love is stolen from you? The one you gave your heart to gives their heart to another. Yet it is not only their heart that they give, but their body. In the bonds of marriage you became one, and yet only you remain faithful. Your beloved desired more affection, and more love. Prostituting them self, day after day they are found in the arms of someone else. And you do nothing except take them back.

This is the tragic love story of Hosea, the prophet who married a prostitute. Each night he sat waiting for Gomer, his wife, to return after just giving herself away to another man. And each night he fell in love with her more. With each moment he was separated from her, he desired her all the more. He desired to kiss her and hold her, even though she ran to the arms of other men. She reached a point of such betrayal against her covenant with Hosea, that she sold herself into sexual slavery . However, Hosea, so desperately in love with her, bought her back and took her again into his arms. With each act of prostitution, Hosea felt he could not resist his love for her. This is the tragic romance of Hosea.Though Hosea was in the middle of his own case of tragic love, there is a greater tragedy. The same concept remains: a great love betrayed. God, our creator, desires to be our beloved. He wants our whole heart. This love He has for us is intoxicating and beautiful, just like that of any newly weds. It has passion. Yet we betray this passion. We were created by God to be only His, but we prostitute ourselves to other passions. We may not physically prostitute our bodies like that of Gomer, Hosea’s wife, however, we withhold the entirety of ourselves from God. We ignore His love and passion. Negating His love, we deny it by going to other sources. We all want fulfillment, something to satisfy our desires of love and affection. In spite of this, we completely turn our backs on the one true source of happiness and joy. No passion is ever greater than the passion of God. God created us, therefore, we are His first love and He is ours. He realized long ago that we betrayed His love. But He has never betrayed His love for us. He yearns for us to return. He painfully watches us as we prostitute our lives with some other fulfillment like an addiction, a relationship, or a talent. What He offers to us is His sacred romance. Even night after night of us ignoring Him, He will take us back into His arms. Nothing can satisfy our desires like that of God’s love.

This acknowledgment of God’s passionate, sacred romance breaks my heart because I realize that each day and each night, I potentially betray the love of my beloved-God. I resort to some meaningless answers that continually leave me yearning for more. Nothing has ever satiated by longing for more. Each time I go to a supplemental fulfillment, I recognize that my God is waiting for me, broken by my tragic betrayal, yet He is ready to take me back. I can’t begin to comprehend why He would want me back after such acts of adulterous, disloyal betrayal. Yet No matter how much you have prostituted your life, your love, He yearns for you!!! His passion never fails. His love never fails. He offers to me-to everyone- His sacred romance even after tragic betrayal.

**this is a great song showing the heart of God and His love–He is ruined without our love…**
[“One Love” by Yvonne Parks]

How long I have waited for you,
for you have stolen my heart

Now I am ruined for anything less
I could live forever in your arms
My heart belongs to only one love
My beloved, My beloved, My beloved
I am yours and you are mine

On my face…

What would it look like to truly encounter God? How would I respond if I was met with His glory? Maybe this is abstract to you and maybe you think I am crazy. But I firmly believe that we, mere humans, can be met by God- the Lord of lords. Physically and spiritually. He is powerful in a way that when we are given the opportunity to see His spirit, power, glory, it should do something to us. 

Ezekiel was a man, an Israelite that loved God and believed that he had great plans for Israel, in spite of their seemingly impossible situations and unfaithful hearts. He wanted his very people to be changed by the love, forgiveness, and mercy of God. Driven by his deep love, Ezekiel was obedient to God’s calling on his life; a calling that was ridiculous and made him look like a buffoon. Imagine doing something that was out of the ordinary and different. Imagine. God spoke to Ezekiel, saying that he would be an example to Israel, by living his life to honor God, being obedient to whatever he asked. Without doubt, Ezekiel was faithful. He was first given a vision of something, I believe, an ecstasy addict would experience and believe to be normal. Maybe that is a bit sac-religious or irreverent, but let me explain. I do not fully grasp the understanding of his vision, yet after the vision, Ezekiel fell on his face before God because he was so touched by the vision. He has seen the likeness of the glory of the Lord. Basically, he had seen something supernatural and it showed him the grandeur of God. It changed him. He encountered God…

so he fell face down in worship. 

In spite of my lack of complete understanding of Ezekiel’s visions, I believe fully that those visions showed him a side of God that he had never really known. He was so overwhelmed by God and his glory that he could not do anything but praise Him. By falling on his face, he put himself as low as possible physically as symbol of his worship and humility before the presence of God. 

What does it look like for me to worship God? What does it look like to see God and his perfect glory? His beauty? Majesty? But even more…how would that change me? 

Returning to Eden.

What is Eden? I refer to the Garden of Eden, the original beauty God created as a sanctuary for humans to have community with Him. Eden means “delight”…It was a breath taking. Foliage grew everywhere with unique beauty. Animals roamed gently around the garden. Rivers and streams brought a soft rush of eloquent sound throughout the land. Gazing at stars would have been an extravagant glory as constellations sit high above. Imagine watching the sun rise and sun set over mountains.

Adam and Eve had it all. Creation was in their hands, with the Creator always present. They would walk in utter liberty with the One who made everything. Conversations of love were common I’m sure. They were naked and unashamed of the way they were made. They had purpose- to name the creatures in garden and to be there for each other, including their Creator. But that purpose was quickly shattered by betrayal. Adam and Eve, though they had literally everything, they still chose more. They chose the little tree over the entire Garden. This depravity will haunt humanity through eternity.

This tragic tale of such an requited love…has more.

Thousands of years since, the Creator still beckons us to return. He still beckons our hearts to come back to Beauty. Yet we so often want things our way. We want a little tree instead of the Garden.  We then wonder why our lives are terrible. Or we wonder why things end up failing. Our world today is run by the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Each one going for another tree.

Yet the beckoning continues.

Who is this that beckons us? That calls our names? He is the Creator, yes, but more. He is our first love. He is our Beloved. He desires us to talk to Him again, to walk with him again, to just be…with Him completetly unashamed. He wants us to return to Eden. He wants intimacy, again, with us.  Imagine the beauty that we could have.

We each can go to Eden, exactly where God wants us. Rather than settling for a small tree, we can have more. We can have everything. My Eden will look differently than yours, but its the personal, intimate, relationship with the One who loves us more than anything else, among any of creation. He wants me. He wants you. Return to Eden and see the beauty that you can hold in your palm. Be exactly where God wants you to be…walking with Beloved.

[Love].

I found this to be very interesting. In reading 1 Corinthians 13, I have become so convicted of how I life my life. It is not even just about my faith. This is about being a better person in general. People, even unchurched, will most likely recognize this scripture, but still read the words.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Wow. Now replace “love” and “it” with your name and by the end of reading that verse again…feel like a liar?

[Mandy] is patient and kind; [Mandy] does not envy or boast; [Mandy] is not arrogant or rude. [Mandy] does not insist on [her] own way; [Mandy] is not irritable or resentful; [Mandy] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [Mandy] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I feel like not only a liar, but a failure. I want to be a better person. I recognize that though I am not a perfect example of 1 Corinthians 13, I have an opportunity everyday to try to better. To strive to be better than who I was yesterday. Love is the greatest.

Slaves no more.

Israel, the nation- the people- were not always so. They have such a vivid history of beauty, grace, but also pain and suffering. They were once slaves. Treated unfairly. Suffering. But things did change. God allowed them to have a chance at something new and better. Freedom. He delivered the people from Egypt to the Promised Land. But even that process took 40 years.

My point is not even about the Israelites. Its about you. Its about me.

We each come from somewhere. Some come from a place with so much pain. Others come from what seems like royalty. Regardless of where we come from, we each have a constant developing story. Right now it is being written. Right now you are breathing it into reality. Your story. If you look back through your life, you can see a process. Like Israel, freedom is something we all innately want. We want to know that we are free, that no one owns us. That no one controls us. This is where the stories differ.

My story is a story freedom. You might still be in the wilderness. Or maybe…still Egypt. I allowed for God to bring out of a place that was not good. A place that had no hope and no life. Everything about that time in my life was awful. But when I allowed for God to bring me to where I am now, I have never been more free. I am not but a slave now free. I am not but a sinner now redeemed. All that I am I owe to God for giving me the same freedom he gave Israel. And now I choose to live everyday serving him in gratitude, not obligation.

Deuteronomy 15:15 “Don’t for a minute forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and God, your God, redeemed you from that slave world.”

I never want to forget where I was. To forget means to repeat history- to repeat those areas of my story that I would prefer to remain in the past. I can’t forget. But I cannot remain in those moments. Instead, I recognize the freedom of God daily. And I live from there in the Promised Land. This is what I want…to be slaves no more and truly living in freedom.

Who needs conviction?

Frustrated and torn, I am learning to give up so much. The biggest struggle at this moment in my life is not trusting God with finances, though important, and not trusting that God will guide me. My biggest struggle right now is dealing with fellow Christians around me. God has been beckoning my heart to go much deeper in my relationship with him. He has been challenging me to choose to serve him and his purpose more than my desires. But it is so hard to try to passionately pursue Christ, when all those Christians around me serve him at a very superficial level. I don’t mean this in a judging way, but I do mean it as a concerned friend. Honestly, it is just draining. So many Christians- my friends- at home and in Florida, love God but their actions show not much more than that. Granted, conviction is not the same with everyone. What may be a struggle or temptation for one person may not be an issue at all to another. But my question is about the attitude. Just because you don’t struggle with something, does that mean it still is something you should do [wear, say, act, etc.]? I have become so disappointed and even discouraged by my friends. Language is something that few of my friends care about. Gossip is the very poison that is destroying these friends, and worse, they don’t care or notice. They simply talk about who they think is gay, who is supposedly sleeping with who, or whatever the latest drama is at the time. And what about modesty? Modesty in dress is very important to me. I know this is an area that will always be controversial. I don’t really care. I believe modesty, in dress specifically, must be a part of the Christian’s life. I’m not saying turtlenecks are required, but at least the decency to recognize and ask why we dress the way we do. What response are we wanting really? And specifically for girls, why do we get so offended when someone takes notice of our bodies, if we have it showing like a buffet?

And now I have friends that have no conviction about their behavior. Is it really okay to play power hour and then wake up the next day naked and no knowledge of how the night played out? Is that really the life you want to live? Do you really want to hook up with someone just because you can? For me that is just ridiculous and irresponsible. If, as believers in Christ, we live as a temple of the Spirit, should not our behaviors reflect that spirit living within us? I believe it should.  So why would I want to have drunken nights of nonsense, remembering nothing but the morning after? Why would I want to smoke weed, cigarettes, or even hookah? The body is not being respected, thus I believe not respecting God. The same thing goes for eating right and exercising. Granted, I am still working on being better in shape, but my point overall is that if we truly believe that God lives within us, then why do we behave otherwise?

I am sick of this lack of conviction by Christians. This is specific to the Church. I am sick of these Christians that lack the conviction and compromise the Word with their actions. And I am sick of the excuses. We wonder why the world views the Church as hypocritical or judgment. Our words and actions with the Word do not match up. How can we expect those we try to reach to change if we aren’t even giving them the slightest glimpse of God in our lives? If you’re not hearing God, are you actually seeking? If you’re not changing, are you really trying? I am so drained. I am so drained being around these Christians. I know I am not perfect or anywhere near it. But I at least try. I know this is a long tangent of me venting, but I really needed to let it out. I am sick of trying to hide what I believe and why I believe it, especially with Christians. I understand that not all of my convictions will be held by all Christians, but I at least want to be respected by it. I at least recognize the truth that I am not my own. I am God’s and I want Christ to dwell within me. I want Christ to be reflected out of my life.

|Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.| -1 Corinthians 10:23