Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's All About Love

Back to my question, "Is there a way to change that doesn't have to do with earning?"   I will start with one of my old journal entries:

S) We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God.  It was all given to us by God's own power, when we learned that he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
O) God has already given me everything I need to please him.  When I learned he loves me, he accepts me, he wants me to share in His goodness--that understanding pleases Him, and everything that happens as a result of that faith is simply His power at work.
A) I don't need to make things happen.  God is in control.  I need to rest in the knowledge of His great love.  Why is that so hard?
P) Help me always to trust you Lord.  Not my own ability.

It is my firm belief that the church has gotten this all backward.  The church emphases effort...striving to please God with obedience and sacrifice.  This will produce one of two things:

1) guilt for not being able to measure up, or
2) pride in being such a better Christian than everyone else.

The thing that it does not produce, (which is the only thing that matters) is love.  Our love for God should only result from an understanding (with the heart...not the head) of His love for us--NOT a constant worry and striving about what we need to be doing in order to gain God's love and approval.  I ask in my application above, "Why is this so hard?", and I think the answer is, "because of the ego".  Our ego, (which I think is the same thing as the  "old Adam"...see "I'm Not Playing" post) is constantly wanting attention.  Our ego is in competition with everyone--the adoration and praise it seeks has to do with accomplishment. So, when we feel we aren't accomplishing what God wants us to do, we feel depressed, because our ego tells us what failures we are.  (or we become fixated on everyone else's short comings)

We need to learn how to "let go and let God", (ugh, I know...who doesn't hate that saying?) but this is a tremendously difficult thing to do.  How do we 'surrender' to (or feel safe with) a God that, when we take a look around, doesn't seem to have anything under control.  Isn't it our responsibility to be the 'hands and feet' of Jesus--and fix the world's sufferings?  The problem is, hands and feet can only function because of the mind.  If we are not connected to 'the mind of Christ', then we are only going to be making a bigger mess of things. (as much as we so wish we could have everyone around us applauding our great service for Christ)

It starts with love.  If your wondering if your connected with the mind of Christ, then ask yourself, "Do I believe I'm loved?"  I used to hate the saying, "You have to love yourself before you can love others", because it seemed selfish to me. (my Christian upbringing taught me that)  It's true though.  If you can't sit with the assurance you are loved right where you are, you need to let go of everything your doing and ask God to convince you. This is where your 'effort' should be--just spending some alone time with God to try to get to know Him in a real way. (I hate to even say "Him", because God is not male or female--but I can't really say "it" either. Maybe I'll make this the subject of my next post, because relating to God as a gender is a big deal I think, especially for women)

One more old journal entry on this subject:

S) I want you to know all about Christ's love, although it is too wonderful to be measured.  Then your lives will be filled with all that God is...His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. (Eph. 3:19-21)
O) Knowing, understanding, accepting God's love into our lives is the key to change.  He is capable of doing far more than we dare ask--wow!  We can be filled with all that God is when we know His love!
A) I want to seek after Christ's love.  It's there--but so hard to grasp because of all my wrong thinking.
P) Lord, I don't want to settle for having a little of your love.  I want to be filled up--and experience far more than I can imagine of who you are. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Losing Faith

Someone I love with all my heart has lost her faith in God, because she can't believe in an all powerful God who allows such horrible suffering in this world.  But when I talk to her, she talks about how she can't forgive God (for feeling abandoned and rejected, because she is gay) -- which of course betrays the fact that she really can't stop believing there is a God,  regardless of how hard she's trying.  But trusting Him is a whole nother matter.  She most likely associates God with Christians, (and the horrible, hateful things they say and do in the name of Christ) and she hangs onto these hurts and refuses to forgive...keeping herself in her own prison.  As much as this saddens and troubles me, I understand it.  I also know I can't fix it.  But I do trust in a God of peace, a God who is faithful to draw her to himself somehow--in ways I will probably not understand. (may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him...the one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.)

I can't help but hear the voice of my Christian past..."God wishes He could save everyone.  But we have free will.  He made a rock that is just too big for Him to move.  If people reject God's love and grace, that is their choice."  But have people really rejected God's love and grace, or have they just not experienced it yet?  Was Paul given a 'choice' to have Christ revealed to him while he was in complete and utter rebellion against him?  

Yes, we all have choices to make, and there are consequences to these choices.  Eternal consequences though?  How could I live another day believing that if this wounded soul I love so much doesn't repent of her 'unbelief' (or her gayness...they are both tickets to hell, after all) before she dies, God will punish her without end?  How can people believe that?  

One word fixes it...one mistranslated word.  And yet the church won't acknowledge the error.  Or even worse, they acknowledge the word doesn't translate to eternal, (in the ONE* place it refers to punishment..."These people will go away into eternal punishment" Matt. 25:46) but they don't think it matters.  I still can't wrap my head around it...sometimes I really think it's going to drive me crazy.     But I have to hang onto the faith that has been given to me...the belief that God has got it under control and that His mercy NEVER ENDS.  I will end with a very personal letter I wrote to God.

You see my heart.  I see it too, though not very clearly.  So many of my thoughts and attitudes are so very wrong.  The hurt I feel...that seems to be the root of it.  It's so very hard to be alone.  How can I be part of the Christian community, when I see things so very differently?  I don't know how to look at my old beliefs and not feel disgust.  But I cannot look at my brothers and sisters and feel disgust, I need to feel love and oneness.  I can trust you to show your people what you want to show them, when you want to show them.  Somehow I need to be able to live at peace in this lonely place.  Please help me take my defenses down, help me to completely open up my heart.  Guard my mind, and keep the judgmental thoughts from getting in.  Show me how to live in grace, every moment as a gift.  Everything good comes from you, and there is no darkness in you at all.  I can trust it.  It's going to be alright.  Thank you. 

* Ok, I found another place in 1 Samuel 3 " For I have told him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. " But again, in the YLT, "for ever" is translated "to the age".  And it makes sense that Eli understood this, because his response when he found out that his house would be punished 'forever' was ‘It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.’


Friday, January 6, 2012

"How's Your Attitude?"

My mom used to ask me this when I was clearly not in a good mood. And my response was never, "Oh dear...my attitude is bad, isn't it? I hadn't noticed. Well, now that you pointed it out, let me just turn this frown upside down!"

I know my mom was just trying to 'snap me out of it'--but really all it did was make me feel angry for being judged, and guilty for feeling angry and ungrateful. I understand though--I don't like it either when people complain...especially my kids. I want their eyes to be 'opened' to just how good they have it, so they can appreciate and enjoy their life--and I get frustrated and angry when they keep whining about everything. But when my daughter was complaining about her eczema, and someone said, "Stop being so negative--God gave you eczema for a reason"...I really wanted to drop kick them.  Similarly, when my best friend told me about someone at church saying to her, "What is God trying to teach you that you are just not learning, that He keeps giving you disabled kids?"--I wished I could have drop kicked them too. But the thing is, I don't exactly disagree with either statement.

I've come full circle from believing God just designed egg and sperm to meet, and after that His hands are tied. (see "predestination" post. Don't worry, it's not so scary) I don't think His hands are tied at all...I think they are active in every second of our lives. I think our lives and all that happens in them is meaningful. But does that mean I think God "gave" my daughter eczema, or that he "meant" for my friend's children to be disabled?

This is where we really have to examine how we imagine God. Do we see an old man sitting on a throne with lightning rods in His hands, deciding who gets blasted and who doesn't? When bad things happen, is it because God doesn't love us anymore? It is because His wrath is being unleashed on our badness, or does He just not care about our suffering?  Because I no longer see God's anger (or wrath) as something separate from His love, (anymore than my own anger at my kids actions changing my love for them), I am more at peace with bad things happening. Maybe it is 'discipline', maybe it's testing--maybe it's neither...how can I know? The thing I hang onto is God's love is present, even in our suffering. I don't understand exactly how the physical and spiritual worlds interact, but regardless of how bad things look from our end, it does not mean God has lost control.  

Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil.  Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this. (1 Thes. 5:18-24)

As far as seeing everything that happens as 'God's will'...I most definitely don't believe that. The above scripture states that God's will is for us to give thanks for everything that happens--it does not say that everything that happens is God's will. Why in the world though, would we give thanks for the things that are bad?  

and be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, for your proving what is the will of God -- the good, and acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Giving thanks transforms our minds...I really think so. And when our thoughts are transformed, our souls are transformed. When this is completed, then we will be the example of what God's will is--a physical example, just like Jesus was. We are involved in this process of course--we are to "examine everything" and "hang onto what is good" and "avoid evil"...but who is the one bringing us through it all? The God of peace...and He is faithful, and He will do it. And that's why we can give thanks for everything...good and bad...because it all has potential to help in the transformation. So, I can encourage my daughter to endure her itches, as annoying and painful as they are, and I will tell her that God is with her in her suffering and understands and sympathies, and is loving her through it. It's not the same as saying "you better thank God for making you suffer so you can learn"...it's more like, "I believe God, that you can take what is bad and transform it into good if we can trust you, and we will walk this road together". But make her feel guilty for having a bad attitude?  No thanks.