Posted: October 27th, 2016 |
Filed under: God | Tags: divisions, think |
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Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words. -Proverbs 23:9 MSG
It’s hard for me to not speak up when someone is wrong. There’s a place for it, undoubtedly, but it’s a tender, almost sacred thing. You can’t always assert your way even if you think, or are convinced and convicted, that your way is right.
Dear Convinced & Convicted, flip the roles. Can you imagine someone trying to talk sense to you? It would make you indignant. It would flare up and elevate you on a fiery pillar of pride. Or thereabouts.
What good can come from your mouth when you are breathing in your own righteous smoke? How can you be tender if you’re burning with contempt?
Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself. -Proverbs 26:4 MSG
Silently mute the line and slip away. Unfollow, unfriend, or talk about something else. Turn it off or turn the channel. Do whatever you have to do to not get baited into the foolish discussions.
People compile conspiracies and lure the unthinking and the unstudied with fear as their bait. You can’t eat fear. Fear cannot sustain you.
A proverb quoted by fools is limp as a wet noodle. -Proverbs 26:7 MSG
They mix bits of the truth with their sensationalized scenarios. They imply that nothing can be trusted while asserting their trustworthiness. They make you afraid so they can keep you at their feet. Even when they speak the truth, it’s muddied by the rest of the nonsense they use to bait your attention and recalibrate your moral compass.
Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there! Tigers are prowling the streets!” and then pull the covers back over their heads. -Proverbs 26:13 MSG
It seems like the most dedicated to circulating hearsay are the ones who never check the sources. Their sources use themselves as sources, it all circles back to the gossip ring. It takes too much effort to do the work of making sure they’re not spreading the bad bait, so they repeat the talk of fools and draw their curtains in a little closer.
“Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool. You’ll only look foolish yourself.”
Your time is too precious to have to sift through that much nonsense. Set yourself up to not have to waste it. Don’t engage. It’s designed to create divisions, so engaging with the foolishness ensures the divisions. Let it pass. Not because it’s hopeless, but because you serve a God who is bigger than the weirdness of this life.
Posted: August 29th, 2016 |
Filed under: God | Tags: faith, think |
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Dan King wrote the 29th chapter of Soul Bare. He titled it, “Look At Me, Daddy”.
The message in Dan’s chapter is a soft introduction to the idea that maybe God isn’t asking you to perform for His attention. Dan admits to being a performer. He decided that he would be more active in his faith when he was in his twenties and started doing things he thought God was interested in.
“…I decided to get serious about this God and church thing. Once I did, I was fully committed to the mission of the church. I was one of those guys who refused to be out-served. …Serving was important to me because I thought it was important to God” (page 183).
When people use this kind of language, “this God thing”, “the church thing”, “this faith thing”, it immediately reminds me of religious salesmen. I picture middle-aged white guys, trying to dress like college students, standing in a sea of dark skinned faces in some third world country. Americans feel like rockstars when they go to these places. The people are in such need that they treat the average American like royalty. You get to feel like a god, bringing new stuff to them. I think that might be the problem… feeling like a god. Doing so much. You get the accolades, the gratitude, and the photos. It’s all about “I”.
“…I’ve served in the youth group, led small group studies, led the twentysomethings’ ministry, taught in vacation Bible school, served on the board of directors, taught in the school of ministry and organized major (and minor) out reach events. And that’s just for starters” (page 183).
He continues to name the education he’s received, the “half a dozen ministry opportunities that [he’s] involved with at any given time”, and the missions trips he leads every year. He says that this long list doesn’t adequately illuminate all that he’s done.
“I’ve had friends over and over say to me, ‘Dude, I don’t know how you do it all!’ And others would totally validate me by saying things like, ‘You’re an inspiration,’ and, ‘You’re living the Christian life like all of us should be living it!’ (page 184).
He was undoubtedly offering up his religious resume for his readers. I kept waiting for Dan to write about a soul baring realization that he was making his religious practice all about him, that he had set himself up for failure by putting himself on the Throne of Servitude. But, his realization was a lot more of a soft introduction to a thought process.
“And as I learned that our relationship with God the Father is influenced by our relationship with our earthly father I found myself asking, Why do I work so hard when it comes to my relationship with God? (page 185).
He didn’t have a solid father figure in his life, so he’s still searching for that love. The resume posting, accolade collecting, gratitude seeking, religious photo-op grabbing is all an attempt to earn something that cannot be earned. He wants his earthly father and his heavenly Father to take notice. He wants a strong hand to muss his Opie hair as they walk off into the Mayberry sunset. I know how he feels.
“It sucks feeling like you’re invisible” (page 186).
What I wish people in this position would say is that by believing that their actions can get them closer to the heart of God, they’re also saying that their actions have the power to remove them from the heart of God, which isn’t true. Flipping it around reveals its nature. The truth is the same forward and backward. I wish people in this position would talk about Jesus instead of themselves. Jesus is the only way to the Father’s heart. You can’t get there through yourself no matter how much you give away.
Dan writes about the pull between knowing his “salvation isn’t based on [his] works”, but he can’t graft that knowledge with the belief that God doesn’t want him just “sitting around and worshipping our Savior”. And this is where the hair stands up on the back of my neck. Dan doesn’t even mention Jesus. This reader notices the vague mention of a “Savior” preceded by “our”, not “my”.
Jesus is the way to God’s heart. That’s it. It would be so much better to get to know that basic truth more intimately, and spend your free time worshipping from that place than it would be to spend yourself trying to win the Heart that Jesus already won.
Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote the 30th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “The Cup”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.
Posted: April 8th, 2016 |
Filed under: God | Tags: divisions, freedom, grace, think |
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When I talk to people about the downfalls of organized religion, I often find myself in the company of people who have their own anitreligion religion. If that makes sense… I’m talking about people who create their identity, form their own language, and get really intense about being antireligious purists and rejecting organized religion. I am someone who will move when it feels honest to move. I don’t feel the obligation to perform procedural behavior just because it’s a Christian behavioral norm, so that makes me look a little more liberal than I actually am. It also, strangely, makes me look more religious than I actually am.
I recognize and even respect that there is an important role in the sense of community that people find when they go to church. As an introvert, I spaz out a little at the thought of obligated social interaction. Especially when it pertains to something so vulnerable and, consequently, emotionally charged as faith and spirituality. I acknowledge the need for the organization, especially for people who don’t necessarily read their Bible on their own. I’m not saying that all people who go to church don’t actually read their Bible. I’m positive there are lots out there. But, sadly, far too many don’t.
It’s like the people who are most politically vocal around major elections don’t even vote when the election day arrives. Being religiously vocal around religious topics is no guarantee that the person talking actually reads his or her Bible. It’s strange to hear people bring up the sins of others to neutralize or diminish their own. They wouldn’t need Jesus if that logic worked. It’s unsettling to hear someone talk about the grace of Jesus in the context of their obviously sinful lifestyle. The grace of Jesus doesn’t allow sin, it changes the identity of the sinner. The people who claim to be Christians, but deny Him in everything else are both in the church building every single Sunday and out of it. Both butcher the words of people who are on their own journey toward Truth and make every path look like a path full of hypocrites.
Going to church doesn’t make a person a Christian. It’s not even a criteria. However, in some countries and cultures, it’s a hard fought gift. In others it’s a right of passage. For many, it’s a break from the rest of their lives, and for others it’s their job. I don’t downplay the experience because of what it means to so many people. The worship and the camaraderie are two of the highlights I hear people talk about the most. When you refrain from the pressure to perform and when you resist the trap to conform, don’t make antireligion your religion. If the over production of the sacred is what keeps you from standing near the fog machine, then accept that within yourself without judging someone else’s love for the entertainment. Don’t bad mouth people just because their journey looks different than yours. Antireligion is not better than religion and religion is not better than anti. However, freedom is better than any of it because that’s what Jesus won. Your choice is your freedom, just like their’s is their’s.
Posted: March 21st, 2016 |
Filed under: God | Tags: faith, think |
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While scrolling through my social media feeds, I’m starting to see photos of seas of children running with baskets through grassy fields. It’s a yearly reminder of a ritual with which I have no connection or understanding. I didn’t grow up with any consistency in holiday traditions. Birthdays and Halloween were hit and miss, Christmas was a holiday for other kids, and Easter was barely a blip on my radar. I found my own way of staying invisible while gliding through the days when everybody stops and turns their collective attention to a monument I couldn’t see.
I acknowledge that there is a minor note of sadness to not having some of that magic as a child. I’m only saying that because of the excitement and anticipation I see in other kids during these times. But, I also see the mild confusion when it’s over, getting in trouble for saying things like, “is that it?”, while surrounded with different seasonal flavors, sounds, and textures that the adults prepared. I also see the emotional crash from the sugar high a few hours later. If it’s a physical practice to learn a bigger story, the approach is disconnected at best and irresponsible at worst.
Adults tell the kid that a special day is coming. They plan and prepare for the appropriate rituals of decor, food, and activities while the child bubbles with anticipation. They dress the child up and put on a show of mystery and magic. “I don’t know where that Easter basket came from!” And, I have no idea what they tell the kids about the mysterious eggs they have to search out. Who put them there? The prolifically fertile Easter bunny?
I’m confused about the end game. I know I’m not a kid, so my view has way too much logic, but they’re sending kids out on a cold Spring day to search for things that they can’t eat, if they’re actually eggs. Or, if it’s candy-filled plastic, they’ll get a groin kick to their immune system if they do eat it. I don’t know, maybe the eggs are filled with money and the kids are out there practicing what they’ll do for the rest of their lives — searching for the golden egg with the highest payout.
But, what about Jesus? Where does He come in to this ritual? I became a Christian as an adult, and an actual believer as an even older adult. I don’t understand why people spend so much time and resources on something that makes no sense. I must be missing something. I did a little research and discovered that most of the symbols of Easter are associated with fertility and Spring. I even discovered that the egg is a symbol of the tomb of Jesus? Doesn’t that stretch feel really uncomfortable?
I’m sensitive to lost opportunities to teach people about the story of Jesus. It’s life saving and it needs to be practiced like any other life-saving technique. Thinking back to when I needed it, I found people collectively distracted by busy work rather than people living an aggressive Gospel. Why aren’t kids taught what to do when one of them falls in their spirit? It’s a meaningful intersection of spiritual existence –to battle with the lies within one’s self. “You’ve ruined it.” “God is so disappointed with you.” “You can’t come back from this.” “You’re tainted.” I know these voices and I know how vicious the battle for one’s faith can be. It’s easier to believe in your lack of worth because the evidence is tangible. It’s hard to believe in grace and redemption because you have to lose yourself to it. It’s even harder if nobody else is believing it with or for you.
Easter is the prime breeding ground to tell the story of a risen Savior and clarify what that means for humanity, but it’s one of the few Sunday school lessons that gets cut short to leave time for the festivities. Even if it’s not cut short, it’s a widely ignored side note amidst the fashion show and the main event. The group of people who actually showed up to the place where Spiritual first-aid is taught, are lined up with baskets and sent off in search of trinkets that have nothing to do with Jesus.
I’m not your typical human, and I realize I might be missing something in this whole ritual. But, I’m not missing the glaring results of a group of people who don’t know how to handle it when one of their own needs the Gospel. I don’t care about fertile rabbits and trying to associate the story of a risen Savior with an egg hunt. I mean, if that was the case, wouldn’t the candy (Jesus) break from the egg (tomb) and hunt the people? But, that’s scary and weird and I’m all done talking about it.
“I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God.”– Galatians 1:6-7 MSG
Posted: February 29th, 2016 |
Filed under: God | Tags: change, divisions, faith, grace, hope, judgment, spiritual abuse, think |
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“…God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV
Fear implies that there is no God. Experiencing existential doubt at the disappointment in the behavior of another proclaiming Christian implies that there is no Jesus. Remember this when you’re scrolling and reacting to your social media feeds. God always gets His way.
There is no need to panic. Be an active and peaceful advocate for your causes, but do it with hope and assurance. Encourage from the perspective of “God always gets His way”. Don’t rant and share rants from the perspective of “It’s all on us and time is running out”.
There is no need to push someone who makes different choices than you. Christians have a well deserved and unfortunate reputation for ganging up on their own as though their stance against another solidifies their spot in Heaven. People are not role models. Jesus is. Fellow Christians do not create or maintain standards for their peers. That’s a really quick way to trip and be tripped on this journey.
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the truth, and the life….” He said, “follow me.”
Don’t get carried off in the current of fear. Be graceful with each other today. We are all doing the best we can with what we have right in front of us. We are still learning, and growing, and we will always need grace.