Friday, July 17, 2015

Illusions of Perfection

Take a look at the picture above... I'll bet you can pick mine out of that line up in under a second flat. It's the one that looks like it's seen it's fair share of battle damage. Yeah... "nice car, nice car, nice car, Nate's car" ...er...well, van. It's been in two collisions in the last six months. the first, as far as we can figure, was a pickup truck with a plow that hit our van in the middle of a cold winters night. That was a pleasant surprise to find while scraping snow and ice off the windows and lights as the kids are piling into the van for church (note sarcasm). The second happened while my dad was driving the kids back home from their place... on our ten year anniversary. As the car seats are a pain to take out and to put in, we  both just decided he could take our van, with the kids, and we would take his car out for our date. He was stopped at a red light and some lady was texting while driving [seriously, don't text and drive!] and didn't see our van there until the very last second... Oh well...
Why all this about my van? Well, it hit me just the other day that I have never been one to hide my problems, much like my van's dings and dents aren't hidden. I don't necessarily advertise the fullness and depth of my problems, but I won't avoid talking about them with those who really want to know more. This, I have found, makes many American Christians uneasy. I have found that many "Evangelicals" like things nice, neat and tidy. It's like the unspoken rule of the American Church: "You should always have a smile on, even if you are dying inside." Is that what Jesus wanted? Is that what the Bible actually teaches? Heck no! In Galatians 6:2, Paul writes "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (NIV).
When we take a brutally honest look at the American Church, there are a whole lot of superficial "happy" relationships, but when things get real, and they always get real, who is willing to be there, to listen, to cry with, to mourn with, and to uplift? Many are even chastised for not being perpetually happy: some say you have brought this on yourself; some say that you are just trying to get attention for yourself; others might say that you are mired in sin... so shamed and humiliated, not-happy people end up plastering a fake smile on, while telling everyone who asks them "How's it going," that "everything's great!" ...all while they are actually withdrawing and pulling away from people and relationships.
After our fire, a year ago, tomorrow, many, many people gave of their possessions and money and time to help us back up. We received more than we could have hoped for to replace all the physical things we had lost. The response was overwhelming, however, when Kelly and I needed somebody to talk to, someone to mourn with us, there were very few who were willing. A couple good people helped Kelly, but while a couple guys offered to talk with me, the offers rang hollow when I needed them. It hurt... deep. And even though so many had helped us replace our stuff, I felt like nobody cared about the emotional aspect of what happened. And then I felt bad that I felt bad. I tried putting out feelers with certain friends, but everyone kept saying "well at least all you lost was stuff." Then it happened; I was rebuked for "seeking attention," which the pastor warns to lookout for from his pulpit several times throughout each year. And then people at church just began to avoid me altogether. This has been ongoing for a year now, and still hasn't been resolved. I have spent a lot of time talking with God, and I know He's experienced what I'm going through and that He understands, and that has helped; it would just be nice to talk with someone with a corporeal form as well.
However, like in the new Pixar Disney movie, Inside Out, my experience and the experiences of so many others at churches across America, any emotion other than "Joy" is frowned upon, but especially "Sad." "Sad" must not touch anything, or even go outside of this tiny little circle, and if "Sad" does, then it's to be rebuked. I'm not advocating for everything at church to be one big emotional free-for-all... what I am advocating is that we as Christians stop trying to hide our imperfections as to look holier than we actually are, and admit to our problems, for the sake of healing, recovery, and growing, so we can actually become more holy. As the old and cliched AA line goes, "The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem."
Sure, I will lead by example... and since no one in the church wants to hear me say this in person, then here I am on my blog saying that, yeah... I have a problem. My heart is broken, and bleeding, and I need to talk with someone... I need someone to listen and understand... There's no need to give advice or provide feedback, just being there can bring help and healing.
There, that wasn't so hard. I'm sure you can pull away your facade and admit to your problems too.
Friday, July 10, 2015

Allowing Rejection

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in church, doing research for a massive mind-map that I'm working on of the topics of the Bible with Biblical references to each topic, when I realized something, but I have to lead up to it...
God didn't want just another set of drones, programed to worship Him, He wanted someone to CHOOSE to worship, love and adore Him; someone who would see His handy work and apreciate everything that went into it's creation... but to be able to choose, they would need free will, and the ability to comprehend, and reason and emote... and how can one truly appreciate a creation if they themselves can not create in some way, on some level?
In order to give humanity free-will, comprehension, reasoning, emotion and creativity, He had to stamp us with His image; He created everything He did, for us to have something to rule over (that's his first command to us, by the way, to rule), because He knows that as He rules, we would also need something to rule over as well. He doted on us as though He were trying to spoil us; almost as if to give us EVERY REASON IN THE WORLD to choose to love, and worship, and adore Him!
BUT, humanity rejected Him...
Adam and Eve, though deceived, thought that God was somehow holding out on them, and thought they found a better offer than God's offer. While their decision separated them from God, God was not about to give up on them, or their offspring!
God set in motion a plan to allow humanity a second chance to be one with God, but it involved His own sacrifice on our behalf. He not only sacrificed His Godhood to live among humanity, but He knowingly allowed Himself to be rejected again by being put to death so that He could break the bonds of death so that all who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord will be saved!
Now, after all that lead up, here's what I realized:
God allowed Himself to be rejected twice now and is STILL willing to give us this one last chance to come to Him, not so that He can punish us, but so that He can give us LIFE TO THE FULLEST! BUT this is it! It's up to you to decide how you will use your chance to know God. Think of Him what you will, but anyone who gives chance after chance to make things right can't be bad for you.
Friday, July 3, 2015

Offer of Life

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14 NIV
We search for Life in so many places. We can't help but search for Life;  we thirst for Life as we thirst for water!  When we take hold of the false offers of Life that surround us, we end up finding that the satisfaction does not last. We then find ourselves on that search for Life again, be it sex, alcohol, drugs, food, money, possessions, power, alternate lifestyles/orientations, religion, relationships, drama, adventure, adrenaline, or something else that we can become addicted to, other than God. Our thirst for Life always returns.
This is why Jesus came to see the woman at the well. She was looking for Life in her relationships with sexual partners, a common place for men and women to search for Life. Jesus came to her, because He wanted more for her, He wanted her to find Life through Himself,  but not in the same way she has looked for it to this point, but rather on a much deeper, spiritual level. She did find Life, by the way, and when she did, those around her were affected, as many in her village found Life because she found Life.
If you found Life, wouldn't you feel the need to share that with everyone around you?
Friday, May 22, 2015

Offering Life

It's hard not to hear all the accusations toward the church or against certain Christians of being "unloving." The point being that Christians do not approve of certain life choices of those around them and therefore are unloving, while being called to love others; the popular barb is that it is hypocritical for them to not be nice to, and accept everyone. This is all done without even looking at the reason behind their perceived lack of approval. 
Lets say you see someone drowning. Do you stand and watch until they go under for the last time, or do you do something to help? For most, the answer is pretty simple; do something to help them. Let's say you have a friend who is addicted to some pretty hard core drugs. You've watched this friend go from being a strong, youthful, vibrant, person to a used up shadow of what they used to be. You know that if your friend stays on this path, your friend will die. What do you do? Is it loving to just stand there and watch your friend flirt with death, or do you do something to help? 
If you've been following this blog, you now know that the ways of God for us are a demonstration of His Love as they bring us Life, and as anything that is outside or contrary to His ways brings us death. Therefore, what ever brings us death is not love. At some level, many followers of Jesus use this as the reason behind their perceived lack of approval. Jesus offers Life, and we want Life, not just for ourselves, but for those who are suffering in their slow death. We want to lead people to reconnect to the source of Life. 
There are those like the person who is drowning who knows they are drowning and welcomes help and then there are those who like the addict, don’t necessarily realize that they need help. The latter often rail against those who are trying to show them the way back to Life, accusing their would-be heros of all sorts of hateful things. Ultimately it is always up to the afflicted to determine whether they will accept help. Sadly, not everyone will understand or accept the help they are offered.
Friday, May 15, 2015

Life, Love and Other Mysteries

Since God is Life, and as He has demonstrated that true Love brings Life to us, then His ways also bring us Life. If we scan through the Ten Commandments or the Seven Deadly Sins, or really anywhere in the Levitical Law, we can see how God’s commands to the Israelites were meant to bring them Life... or protect them from death. While it’s more of a popular idea that God is a cosmic killjoy, making sure that He is just trying to take everyone’s fun away, He is actually guiding His people away from things that He knows will hurt them, or what will bring us death, in other words.
For example, the Jews don’t eat pork. Why? Because God said so... yes there are several qualifiers, however it gets made fun of... a lot; especially by bacon lovers. However, recent information shows us that pork contains all sorts of toxins that are bad for human consumption. God was showing them the way of Life. Same with shellfish. How about sleeping around with various family members? Sounds kinda gross to us, but that is what the secular culture did for centuries. We now know that this reeks havoc with the human genome! Again, God was showing them the way of Life; might I add that this was all revealed to them a few thousand years before modern medical science was around!
Therefore, since God’s Love for us is Life, anything that is outside of or contrary to what He has revealed to us brings us death; and what ever brings us closer to death, is not love.
Friday, May 8, 2015

What Is Love

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
~1st John 4:8-10
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails
~1st Corinthians 13:4-8
Does not all of this boil down to acting selflessly? God Himself acted selflessly toward us. How? He sent His only Son to us. Why? So God could punish mankind for their evil? Nope. In fact, John 3:16-17 states plainly that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." Rather than wiping us out, torturing us, or any of that, He sent Jesus to us so that we might Live through Him! But there is something more to it than just acting selflessly... God demonstrates His Love for us by bringing Life back to us!
So can it not be said that true, real, actual Love brings Life?
Jesus said plainly in John 10:10 that "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have Life, and have it to the full." So be sure that there is false love out there, and it does not want Life for you. This false love has all the enticement and allure of true Love, but it is hollow... it lacks Life. In fact, it drains you of what Life you have, leading you closer and closer to death; sure sounds like destruction to me...
The insidious part about false love is that most don't know it until it is almost too late. Addictions, be it drugs, alcohol, unhealthy sexual behaviors, porn, drama, food, television, the internet, gaming, and on and on it goes, all share the draw of finding a better life than what you have here, but they only steal it away from you. Anything that steals Life from you, or keeps you from finding true Life, is not loving.
What is Love? Real Love is acting outside of one's own self interest in order to bring the offer of Life to another. And God doesn't even place Himself above this as He leads with His own example.
Friday, May 1, 2015

Reconnecting

Back in the early days of telephone technology, when people wanted to make a call, they could not make that connection themselves. There was a person called an operator who would connect the caller to the desired recipient. Even now, we do not connect ourselves to the people we call, we are connected by sophisticated programs which mimic the functions of those old-fashioned operators, routing each call through many switches to connect us to those we are calling. 
We are all start our lives disconnected from God, who is meant to be our source of Life and we, just like placing a phone call, can not connect ourselves to God on our own. So we remain living in a way, that is not quite dead, but not quite alive, and we are always looking for something that will fill our need for Life, even if we don’t realize it. 
God, being the true source of Life, wants us to be reconnected to Him and His Life so much, that He sent His Son, Jesus, to us so that He could live with us and demonstrate to us what it is to truly Live. Then Jesus allowed Himself to be put to death by those He came to help. In His death, Jesus took the consequences of our pushing God and His Life away onto Himself. Then Jesus rose from the dead, overcame the separation from God, so that we might also overcome our separation from God, through Jesus, in order to reconnect us with God and the Life that flows from Him!
Jesus offers to reconnect us to God, to reconnect us to the source of Life that we were designed for, that we are searching for, so that we can truly Live!

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