It’s not a theological debate

I was recently told a favorite Bible teacher, from my past, had begun podcasting new sermons and I felt a surge of excitement.  As I dug into these new sermons I realized something; this particular pastor fed me spiritual at a time when I was broken, when I was in need of the type of healing only Jesus can bring, and at a place where I felt too unworthy to accept His love.  I am no longer in that place spiritual (Praise God).  I was also made acutely aware of how just two years has drastically changed the lens in which I choose to see – and live out – my faith in Christ.

This teacher is a conservative evangelical pastor, and something he said struck me while listening, a comment regarding the emerging church.  This is not an exact quote, but the comment was along the lines of this: that people today (those involved in the emerging church) are being led astray, being caught up in theological debates, and forgetting what we are here to do … which is love.  This irritated me so much because part of the reason I’m so drawn to ideals of the emerging church is precisely because of the way they love.  But as I thought on this some more I realized every conversation I become involved in, when positioning myself across from mainstream evangelical beliefs, I inevitably end up in a theological debate  …

Women in the church, homosexuality, the existence of hell, denominational divides, Biblical inerrancy, creation vs science, and on and on and on.

This is because [part of] what the emerging church would like to do is set aside ‘core beliefs’ and replace it with ‘love your neighbor’.  And, of course, the conservative/orthodox/ modern-era believer insists, ‘I do love my neighbor, but I would rather be honest then be the reason someone goes to hell’ (Or some other crap reason like that).  The opposing side would then remind that person what love tangibly looks like, and – in fact – their ‘core beliefs’ are exactly what is separating people from the Jesus we know and love.  But just at this moment a specific issue is thrown on the table, a challenge is made to take a stance/defend the issue, and a theological conversation has begun.

I believe God wants us to turn to Him when these conflicts arise, either within ourselves or with others.  And here is the reason I believe this to be true … The more I challenge what I’ve been taught to believe, the closer God draws me to Him.  The more I question who and what is ‘accepted’ by our earthly idea of ‘church’ the more God reveals truth to me.  The more I doubt, not God – but my assumptions about God (a thought taken from Pete Rollins), the more He brings me peace and teaches me what true grace is.

There is a saying they make you learn in rehab that goes like this, “If you always do, what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get, what you’ve always gotten.”  This reminds me of the Christians frozen in fear of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Maybe the wolf isn’t the post-modern idea that church should be whole, loving, and available to ALL, but actually is the box that Satan has you trapped inside … the box that takes you only so far in your relationship with God.  The box that keeps some from loving all in the same way Christ would if He were still walking this earth.

My heart condition, discernment, core beliefs, determination of what is [or isn’t] sin, and doctrine is between the Holy Spirit that dwells in me and no one else.  This doesn’t mean I don’t hold to a certain doctrine or take a side on a theological issue, it means it holds no weight in what my Christian calling is on this earth.  I have been called to love people.  People who feel too ashamed, too unworthy, too messed up.  In my life … I was ashamed.  I was unworthy.  I was [really] messed up.  But the God that I serve was a God of love, grace, and forgiveness.  He wanted me then – just as I was.  And He wants me now.  The same as He does each hurting person.

So today, I pray God will give me the heart to love others in the same way He has loved me and give me eyes to see when my love for others is not truly love at all.

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I am the only son

This video only has some 30,000 views on YouTube.  I’m certain a couple thousand are my own.  It’s just so good, so very good.  Mumford and Sons are at the center of my musical world.  I don’t know with any certainty they are Christians, but I assume they are and don’t care if they aren’t.  Every song has a underlying message of grace, suffering, forgiveness, and love that are undeniable.  And not a romantic love; it’s love of a Christ-like nature.  Love that is immeasurable and unconditional.  I often view their music through the lens of my Christian heart and it’s something that produces hope in me.

Most of their songs are easy to see with a Christian viewpoint, but this one poses a challenge.  The Dust Bowl Dance is the song, and it’s a favorite of mine.  The core of the lyrics are in reference to the Grapes of Wrath, but it goes further than that, and I’ve had fun thinking over the possibilities.  The song is full of passion, incite, and justifiable anger.  This part always stands out to me:

Well you are my accuser, now look in my face,
Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace,
So one man has and another has not,
How can you love what it is you have got,
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store.

There will come a time I will look in your eye,
You will pray to the God that you always denied,
The I’ll go out back and I’ll get my gun,
I’ll say, “You haven’t met me, I am the only son”.

Now, just to be clear, I have no factual reason to believe the only son is a figure of Christ.  But I like the picture it paints when you place Jesus into the end of the song as the only son (and yes, some lady in the audience is holding a song with incorrect lyrics).  But picture it … it’s judgment day.  There are people lined up to face Christ, realizing what they thought to be untrue is actually true, knowing they fell short (the same way we all have), hoping for redemption, and what does Christ do?  He goes out back and gets his gun.

Through the lens of a conservative Christian idea of judgment, Jesus pegging off non-believers with a gun could be the compassionate choice.  And yet, when I imagine judgment I don’t picture Jesus with a gun shooting people down, I don’t imagine him physically picking people up and throwing them into a fiery hell to burn in conscious never ending torture for all eternity.

How can there be a promise of an eternal kingdom that is free from pain, suffering, and tears (Rev 21:4) when eternal torture will still be present in that place after d-day?  I’m not staking any claims on my beliefs here, but it’s the thoughts that I thought today … and I thought I would share.

Holidays are Hard

I bawled in church today like a little girl who just got her pigtails pulled.  Jesus is risen.  Happy Easter.  Holidays are hard.  It’s hard to set out Easter eggs, watch the kid’s excitement in the morning, and not feel overwhelmed that Matt isn’t here to experience it with us.  It doesn’t help that I’m wading through my own messy depression, but reflecting on the mourning of Christ’s death just seems so much more understandable after grieving my own loved one.

Since posting last night, four things have happened that have made me decide to change directions in my writing.  These occurrences have given me a glimpse of the clarity I have been praying for.  The first thing that happened was I listened to a Rob Bell sermon from the 2011 Lent season.  I had started on the sermon series about a week ago.  When I came to this particular sermon I decided to wait before listening; somehow knowing it was going to have an impact on me.  The sermon contents, which did impact me greatly, brought me to the next thing.  I realized I wasn’t putting my trust in God as I have before, and I wasn’t doing this because I was being discouraged by lies from something ugly.  As far as I know, these are new lies, with a new message, that are being whispered to me … which I suppose is why I had so much trouble identifying them as such.  They twisted the truth so that it appeared … well, true.  The third thing?  Illumination Church this morning.  The worship, the resurrection, the sermon, my church family … the whole experience gave me the opportunity to open the flood gates I had been holding back for far too long.  And finally, a conversation with my ever gentle and loving Brad that helped me to more clearly state the feelings I was having, and some ideas on where to go from here.

I think where I am headed is to define who I am in Christ.  I want descriptive, colorful, and hopeful words on which to look to when the lies are whispered.  I’m going to the Bible, and I’m going to find and dig deep into these words.  There is solid ground on which to defeat these lies, and by the grace of God, I’m off to find it.  I want to lean on my risen Savior this Easter and remember His reply to Satan, when he quoted Deuteronomy out in the desert.  Jesus said to him “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  I am trying to live on bread alone.  I love God, I worship God, I look to God for answers, and pray to Him everyday.  But when the sunsets on another day I – far too often – think the results will need to come from me.  Nothing comes forth from me that isn’t of Christ, and I am making myself available to the Holy Spirit to write this truth on my heart.

I wish you all grace and peace on this beautiful Easter!

Finding Something In Nothing

This is the second part of a blog series on the promised new Earth to come.  Read the intro to the series here.

To begin my adventure on discovering what is worthy of the label ‘eternal’, in this promised new Earth Jesus speaks of, I think the best place to start is to hallow out some space.  In order to know what fits, and what doesn’t belong, we must give ourselves the time to decide such things.

As long as I can remember I have desired to honor a Sabbath day.  If there are working parents out there who are able to do this, I applaud you, but for me taking a continuous 24 hour period to do nothing other than “be” simply doesn’t work.  So each time I would dream about the possibility I would end it with a defeated feeling, a shrug of my shoulders, and the thought ‘Someday, maybe’.  When I started to dig into what aspects of our Earth fit into this coming ‘Earth 2.0’ I came to the realization that, in regards to setting reflection time aside, something is better than nothing.  So my plan is to dedicate just one full hour each day to free my soul.

For each person this hour, or Sabbath, will look different, but I believe some of the substance can be universal.  I envision Sabbath as a time where we allow God to pour into us the validity of who we are in Him, by completely ridding ourselves of the notion that we are capable of anything apart from Him.  It is a time to spend with your family, with yourself, and with God.  It is a time you don’t clean, don’t fold laundry, don’t cook, and don’t look (or even think) about your to-do list.  It is a time to reflect on His grace and take time to enjoy His love.  An hour a day with your phone off, without emails, or texts.  An hour that you don’t write, create, or produce anything.  An hour that you don’t waste with convenient fillers, but rather with the TV off, the radio down, and your book closed.  An hour that is truly just about you being alive in this moment.

This time we give over to our Creator, as fully immersed in life and still completely emptied of ourselves, could be the key to seeing what we need to on our journey.  This will not be easy for me, I imagine it won’t be easy for you either.  To spend a full hour without any of my day-to-day, minute-to-minute picking up, getting done, and ‘wishing to do more’ will be a challenge.  I hope it will be worth it.

I would love to hear if you already spend time in self-reflection each day, or for a longer period on a weekly basis.  If creating this space/time was difficult, and if it continues to push you outside your comfort zone?  Does it gives you direction, a renewed sense of being, or peace?  What has worked, and what hasn’t?

The More We Love, The More God Exists

“The more we love, the more God exists” Peter Rollins

For those who may be uncomfortable with the above quote, I apologize.  Not because it makes you uncomfortable, but rather that it does so at all.  Understanding the depths of what it means to love each other here on this Earth, and how much that love will impact the will of God, takes courage.  Over the last year of my life I have had a chance to experience what Pete meant by this quote and I’m overjoyed to share this with all of you.

Last Saturday my boyfriend, Brad, proposed to me.  I said yes.  I am so very blessed.  God is so very good.

And so, it is worth looking at why I attribute goodness to God.  It is not because over the last year He has appeared to me – cash in hand – when financial relief was needed, or because He sent an angel to hold me close when I was certain death was my only option in the face of Matt’s own.  Rather, God aroused the Spirit within each of you.    In the people at my church, at my work … my family and friends … and, at times, even in strangers.  He even aroused the Spirit within those in my life who wouldn’t attribute their acts of love to Christ.

God aroused the Spirit in Brad.  Brad has listened, been patient, been faithful, and been a true Christ follower in his venture to follow his heart and capture mine.  There were moments when we first started dating, and my own wounds were still so fresh, that just his presence brought me the kind of comfort I’ve only ever felt in the presence of Jesus.  He was walking as Christ was calling him to.

There have been moments in my life where God has physically shown up, relieved me, held me, and comforted me.  If the people given to me in my life over the last year, including Brad, had been absent I don’t doubt the power of God to provide the same blessings we have received.  I am, however, fully convinced that the Spirit that dwells within each of us is a vital lifeline to those around us.  Do not shy away from the prompting to love one another, even in the most difficult of circumstances, because we simply cannot know our part in God’s will for others.

I am so excited to marry Brad.  I am so excited to continue to heal and grow as a family, with him by our side.  And I am continually and forever grateful for those of you who have reached out, in love, to my family and me.  We love you.