six hundred forty-nine thousand one hundred eighty-four

I’ve been super inactive on here the last semester, and for that I apologize. This is an adaptation of a sermon I wrote for my final in Biblical Preaching last semester. Hope God uses it for someone else too.

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Once upon a time…I went to this terrible awful place called public high school. It wasn’t actually that bad… When I was in high school, we had this thing called “Project Graduation.” We would basically go from graduation, to dinner, and then all come back to the school for a bunch of games and a photobooth and food and just being kind of crazy with our class for the last time. The goal of it was to keep us from going out and partying by having something for us to do.  The end cap of the night was an auction, and we would spend points we’d earned all year while working sports events or doing various community service projects. I got some random little stuff, a shelf unit, and a cheap laptop… but my absolute favorite thing was a kindle fire. I love to read. I honestly don’t really feel like myself this semester because I don’t have enough free time to do personal reading.

As much as I love to read, I also love just learning little somewhat useless facts. I’m going to combine those two loves and share some random facts about books with you. On amazon, when you search books about sex, there are 300,000. There are 500,000 about Christianity. There are 200,000 about money. And there are over 600,000 books about love on amazon. People are looking for love. They’re looking for an explanation; they’re looking to find love; they’re looking to learn how to give love… Society is looking to fill the need for love in their lives. Thankfully, Christ has made it really clear what His disciples need to do about that.

Let’s look at John 13: 34-35. Jesus is talking to his disciples around the table where they’d dined together, in the room where He’d washed their feet, and at some point in the day before they went to the garden where He would get that traitorous kiss on the cheek. He said, “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”

Just looking at that it may seem like it’s simple, but when it comes to our day to day lives it’s not always so easy to put it into practice. So let’s break this down a little bit, because obviously this was important to Christ, so it must be important to us.

Jesus starts off saying that this is a NEW commandment. That’s not because this is a new concept or anything, but because it is for a new object and a new measure.

So, first, let’s look at WHO this command is saying to love, this new object. The reason this is a new commandment specifically and not just another commandment, is that we’ve already seen this one, and the disciples were familiar with it already in their Jewish culture. He’s alluding to Leviticus 19:18, where the Israelites were told to “love their neighbor.” Now, in their day and age, the Jews had watered down “love your neighbor” enough that they were able to pick and choose who they wanted to love. But Christ changed it. He switched it up from just “your neighbors,” which was more easily twisted, to loving everyone who falls under the umbrella of “one another.”

Now, we have to realize that he’s sitting in a room with his disciples, and the immediate “one another” was the other disciples in the room that day. It seems a little bit odd to tell His disciples to love the other disciples there with them at first. But if we as believers do not love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, how on earth can we then go out and love anyone else? We have to start at home, and make sure our immediate family is healthy before we can go out and start loving everyone else.

Okay, so “one another” was this new object. But now we need to figure out the “new measure” I mentioned a minute ago… So let’s look at HOW this command is saying to love.

The “measure” of this love is “as I have loved you.” Jesus isn’t saying to love someone within our own capacities. We are fickle with our love; we are selfish. Humans as a whole love conditionally. As hard as we try, there’s no such thing as unconditional love within a human heart. That’s not the kind of love Christ is talking about. He’s talking about striving to always pour out the holy and pure love that we receive from Heaven. He’s talking about letting the Spirit guide us into being as selfless and caring and sacrificial as He was.

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus showed them a new standard of love by washing the disciples’ feet and completely humbling himself in a very tangible way. He didn’t just talk about it and expect them to get it…He got down on that dirty floor with his bowl of water and washed their dirty, sandy, tired feet. He did the servants job. He gave these baffled men a glimpse of the love he wanted them to give. The fact that he had just done this for them made his words even more impactful to them in this situation. Obviously, we know that Christ then went on to show them, and the rest of the world, His love in the most absolute way possible, but the disciples didn’t know what was coming yet.

Trying to love like Jesus is asking doesn’t mean you need to go find yourself some nasty feet to wash today, and it doesn’t mean you need to die for someone today, or maybe ever in your life. It means to seek the highest good for another. Agape love sacrifices for others. It is an act of will, a decision, not trying to find some fuzzy feeling for someone. It is a commitment. This Good Love, capital G, is not about your needs or my needs; it’s about God’s will. God is Good, and God is Love, and His will is for us to give this Good Love to one another. When Jesus says, “as I have loved you,” He sets Himself up as the standard by which His disciples are to forever measure their love for one another.

Now we’ve covered WHO we are supposed to love, and HOW to love them. But realistically, I know you’re probably asking WHY you’re supposed to go through life throwing this holy love at people.

That answer is pretty simple: this is a commandment from Christ. It’s not a suggestion or something we just need to think about. He’s saying, “this you have to do for me” because how we love directly effects how He looks to the world. And this loving isn’t some fuzzy feeling; this is Love the verb.

It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t say that we had to like everyone. You don’t have to like someone to love someone. I spent the majority of my life loving but strongly disliking my father. We had an incredibly tumultuous relationship. I won’t go into details here. But there was never a doubt in my mind that I love him. I always have and I always will. But the more I figure out how to love without liking, and try to figure out this Christ-like love towards him, the more I am able to like him, and see that God’s been working in him in the last few years. You won’t like everyone. That’s life. But you’re still asked to show Christ’s love to them.

To demonstrate that we are believers and shine His light, we’ve got to show this kind of intentional, intense love for one another. Nothing will surprise and interest this broken world as much as a group that can love totally and beautifully. It’s not always a big complicated thing to love properly. Vocalize what you’re appreciative of without including “but” or a negative as well. Learn to seek out another believe and speak encouraging words. Hug someone. Find ways to serve your church more or other believers somehow.

After you leave, you’ve got to go finish exams or pack up and move out and you’ll probably be pretty stressed. That stress means you might get in a fight with your boyfriend, or your mom, or your roommate. Instead of exhibiting that Christ-love, you will show anger. You may get road rage driving back home or be stuck on a plane next to the worst person ever. You might want to give this person a piece of your mind…

These are all natural fleshly impulses that we all feel. But God is calling us to live a supernatural life that is dependent upon His strength. John is informing you and me that we can’t live the Christian life on our own for even an hour. We are weak and susceptible to sin. The only way that we can exude love is by constantly abiding in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That has always been Christ’s desire for us. And if we can live out this love in our daily lives, maybe people won’t need to write so many books about love. Maybe they’ll see that the only book about love that they need has already been written, by the One with the love they need.

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sexual equality and the church

I’m feeling very dry lately. My life has been turned upside down by God and I’m not emotionally prepared to actually write about that right now, but I do want to post things. So, here’s a thing I’ve been meaning to post for a while now. I was going to turn it into more of my normal blog style post, but I decided to just copy it exactly how I turned it in. This is an essay I wrote for Comp II, and then turned into my highest scoring speech for my Speech class too. God was all over this one. I’m reading this to myself fairly often lately to help pull some power from God’s calling even when I’m not getting any rain.
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Sexual Equality and the Church (an essay by Kaitlin Popelka)

Throughout the last century, women have come leaps and bounds in terms of receiving more equality, in ways such as reducing the wage gap, taking more leadership positions, and reducing overt sexism. While all of these things are still a problem to some extent, they are much better now thanks to the feminist movement, which focuses on empowering women. Where else do we see women’s empowerment? The Bible. While most people think that the Bible wants women to “sit down and shut up,” Jesus, His disciples, and many Old Testament books were very pro-woman. The Bible is also very clear that salvation and the gifts of the Spirit are for all who believe. Proverbs 31, arguably the most well known passage in the wisdom books, is all about strong woman. Paul himself was vocal about supporting women in the church and had female leaders. While many people unfortunately believe that Christians and the Bible are pro-man, the Bible is actually in support of gender equality.

Countless times in the New Testament, is it said that salvation and the baptism of the Spirit, and the gifts therein, are for everyone – no gender discrimination involved. John 1:12, John 3:16, and Romans 3:22, among other verses, specifically say “all who believe” (emphasis added) (New International Version). Not the men who believe, not some who believe. Females definitely fall under “all.” The Holy Spirit and His gifts are also for “all.” Acts 2:17 specifically says “sons and daughters” (emphasis added) will receive the gifts. 2 Cor. 6:18 says that “sons and daughters” will be children of God. Acts 21:9 talks about women having the gift of prophesy. I am certain that God would not give us these gifts and then not want us to use them. So why would He give women the same power and gifts as the men and then expect them not to use and share it? Why would God ever want someone not to use His gifts to edify the kingdom and church and glorify Him, especially for a reason as small as gender? Genesis 1:27 says “male and female” (emphasis added) were made in His image, so why are there those that would seek to keep spirit-filled, God-called women from using their gifts? For years, women have been kept from holding leadership positions such as pastor, and have been told that because they are female that they don’t have the right to lead or speak out in the church. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says that each of us is a part of the body of Christ, and every one of us needs the other parts of the body to function. Just as I need a heart and a head to survive, so the church needs men and women of Christ to fulfill its functions.

The Old Testament is full of strong women. Women like Rahab, whose courage saved Israel. Women like Esther, whose courage again saved the Jews. Women like Ruth, who followed God, no matter the hardships that came and then saw her reward in God’s plan. Proverbs 31 is all about a strong, godly woman. Does she sit at home and silently wait for her husband to order her about as so many people think the Bible wants women to do? No, she sold her own goods, managed her money, and was a competent mother and wife at the same time (New International Version). She was virtuous and intuitive, and everyone praised her because of it – but they would not have known she was if she was silent and still all the time. Even in the Old Testament days, women were still looked up to at times.

There is a point where using the Bible to focus on women’s empowerment can go too far. In the 1970s, a pastor who saw that his female members wanted more female symbols “discovered” the goddess “Sophia” in the Bible and started worshiping her along with God in his church(“Does” par. 2). This has spread into other churches and is starting to affect their worship of Jesus by replacing Him with this “Sophia” (Holstein par. 3). This is taking things too far, and is not Biblical. God is the trinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and the Bible is clear on that. While it is sad that people have taken the Bible and twisted it to promote women’s empowerment alone, we cannot let that keep us from embracing the incredible, strong, and wise women seen throughout the Bible.

Paul was very pro-woman for his day and age. Many people like to take 1 Corinthians 14 out of context and think that he’s saying that women shouldn’t be active in the church. In an interview with Christianity Today, Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, says, “Many scholars believe that in their new-found freedom, a group of Christian women were disrupting the meeting with questions. Paul was asking them to learn in quietness and talk it over at home with their husbands.” (Beaty 2) She goes on to elaborate that the fact that Paul was telling them to even ask their husbands questions and continue learning about Christ was a huge deal in that time. Paul had women in leadership positions in the churches he helped shepherd, too. Priscilla was teaching Apollos. Sarah Bessey says later in the interview, “I believe that knowing how these passages have been misused would break Paul’s heart,” and, “Interpreting Paul as offering more freedom to women makes everything else in the Scriptures makes sense.” (Beaty 2)

The misrepresentation of Paul’s ideas is a sad thing, and has caused heartache for countless women. However, when we take a closer look at the context and the rest of his ministry, we can see that Paul was all for women being very active in the church. This reflects the fact that Christ was pro-woman and His truth and salvation are for all who believe. Even before the gospel, the Old Testament is full of powerful women that we can look to. It is time we threw off those old misconceptions of what Paul meant and how the older generations chose to see women’s roles, and instead see what the Bible is really saying – and that is that women are strong, powerful, and wonderful parts of the Body of Christ. It’s time we made things equal again.

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Sources:

Beaty, Katelyn. “‘I’m a Feminist Because I Love Jesus So Much'” ChristianityToday. N.p., 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
“Does the Bible Teach That Sophia Is the Goddess of Wisdom?” Got Questions. Got Questions Ministries, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
Holstein, Joanne “Sophia, the false goddess of wisdom.” Becker Bible Studies Library. May 2011. 25 Web. September 2014
New International Version Bible. Bible Gateway.  Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.

police and prayer and pursuit

God is so cool. Just have to throw that out there. I have to shout from the rooftops – but since it’s quiet hours I’ll blog instead.

I woke up and the Spirit was all over me and I was so filled with Him all day. How wonderful. There’s nothing better.

Worship was so amazing at church this morning. And smack in the middle of singing about how “He is freedom” and “He is healing” God hit me with some instructions.

They were simple: pray for a police officer today.

Uh, okay God. Sure. That’s not what I was expecting to hear from you this morning, but if you put an officer in my path, I’ll totally do it.

He showed me that it would be at a traffic stop and that was that. I went back to worship. When we sat down, I put a reminder in my phone and told myself that if I hadn’t seen a traffic stop by that evening, I’d go to the police station and at least just walk in and ask to pray for someone. And you know what?

I forgot.

That reminder on my phone didn’t help at all. And I was torn up about it.

Come on Kait! It’s been forever since you’ve gotten one of those “crazy” instructions. How could you blow this? If He can’t trust you with something little like praying for a cop, how can He trust you to do big things for His kingdom?

I was driving across campus after filming in another dorm with a pal in the passenger seat, and just across the field from my dorm… those blazing blue and red lights; an officer in a traffic stop.

I said, “Will you do something crazy with me?”

She said, “Is it legal to walk up to a cop during a stop?”

I said, “I dunno, but God was pretty clear.”

So we walked across that field (and I almost stepped in literally the biggest ant pile I’ve ever seen) with the flashlight on my phone on so he could see us coming, and when he got out to talk to the driver a second time I called, “Officer? Can I talk to you when you’re done?” and he said “Sure.”

He asked how he could help us, and I said, “Um, can I ask you something a little crazy?” His wary expression melted when I said “So this morning in worship…” and explained that I wanted to pray for him.

And Abe, if you read this, I’ll keep praying for your health. And of course your safety. And you were so wonderful and I’m so thankful for you and the rest of the officers you work with that do what you do.

That hug after our prayer wasn’t three people, it was four. Abe, my friend, me, and very tangibly, God.

Psalm 95:7-8

For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you will hear His voice:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness.

Don’t harden your heart if He calls you to do one of those crazy or weird things… You never know what He could be doing.