Did God kill Jesus? Introduction

25 08 2015

Mel is good at faithful questioning. His short series, “Did God Kill Jesus?” is the result of his search for truth. This topic is of vital importance to me, for it greatly affected my life (Read my last post, Raw and Real). Please take time to read this series and allow it to stir you to ask some questions of your own. God bless you! \o/

In My Father's House

morpheus-red-pill-vs-blue-pillDid God the Father have to kill His beloved Son, Jesus, in order to forgive us?

Before I can talk about this subject, I’m going to have to play the part of Morpheus. You’re going to need to make a decision.

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Raw and Real

24 08 2015

To know that we’re loved by God with the same love as His love for Jesus is amazing; heartwarming; unless…

…you’ve been abused most of your life…

…and you believe that God punished Jesus in your place;

that all Christ endured was God’s ‘heart’ for you.

He hated you that much.

Aren’t you so thankful that Jesus took the hit for you?

Don’t you want to become one of God’s children too?

Strong words?

Yes. I cringe as I type, for this is completely untrue.

Yet, I see that this is the ‘gospel’ most of us believe; is the reason why some Christians protest abortion clinics and homosexuality and other behaviors to which God is opposed by screaming curses and spewing hateful labels at those who participate.

‘Without Jesus’, they deserve wrath…ours, apparently.

In the loving name of Jesus, amen, of course.

(This is NOT my approval of their ungodly acts – just a comment about our ungodly treatment of them.)

I had many questions for God last year. Ones to which I needed answers if I was to continue in the faith. It was really messy, so I ‘unplugged’ from WordPress to spare you.

Utterly fed up with abuse of any sort, I was ready to ‘dump God’ as the worst abuser of them all.

Hell sounded pretty good: sure, it’s hot, dark, worms never die…but you are alone. At least I wouldn’t be mistreated by others anymore.

Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

It was the ‘all my heart’ bit that got me into trouble.

Yes, His Spirit was dwelling in me, but it was ‘Standing Room Only.’ There was a crowd of ‘witnesses’ hanging out in there as well. People from my past whose words ‘dwelt richly in me’ – words I believed with all my heart:

Stupid, worthless, fat, ugly, lazy, ridiculous, good-for-nothing, inadequate, unwanted, unlovable, and many that I won’t type so as to not offend you. Their voices were so loud that I could barely hear the Spirit speak.

(Through the process of forgiving, most of them have been evicted this year. I’m doing much better. Hearing the Lord much better, too. 😉 )

If you tell a person who’s been abused that the cross was God taking out His wrath for us – on His beloved Son – they’re not going to want to ‘join your club.’

Just sayin’.

After all, children, believe that parents love. Everyone knows that.

The abused child assumes that this is what love does: Dad’s angry about an infraction of his laws. Mom interferes, deflecting Dad’s anger and receives what was about to be unleashed on him or her.

Which sounds a lot like what God’s love ‘did’ to Jesus…

…the innocent suffering wrath that was meant for us.

(Yes, this is what the mind of an abused person does with the ‘Good News.’)

Is this what we really believe about God?

More importantly, is it even true?

Have I rattled your cage? If this is the god you believe in, I sincerely hope so.

We will seek Him – and find Him – when we search for Him with all our heart.

*****

My next post will be a re-blog by Mel Wilde. It turns out, I’m not the only one on this quest. Being further along on the journey, he is better able to articulate what God has also been revealing to him. It was exciting to discover that what God was showing me, He is also revealing to others, and independent of others. Mel is one of many, I’ve learned!

For a more thorough, scholarly treatment of this subject, I highly recommend Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood.





God Loves Broken Pots

21 08 2015

My life, like many of yours, has been filled with great pain, abuses, unfulfilled dreams, and deep sorrow. It was made doubly hard by my faulty beliefs of what God is like.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good (shalom – Hebrew) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

As I surveyed my life, and considered the sovereignty of God, I came to the conclusion that He was a monster. Psalm 135:6 reads, “The Lord does whatever He pleases.” It seemed that He had been ‘pleased’ to curse me with immense misery.

I was once asked, “If you believe that God is so horrible, then why do you love Him?” That was a good question.

I responded with: “He’s all there is, and I have to love Him if I’m going to avoid hell.” I’d had plenty of experience with ‘loving’ hateful, hurtful people.

I assumed that God was like them – I could handle one more.

It was then that God began to reveal His true nature to me through a verse in John. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”

Wow! I began to pour over the gospels, and to study Jesus. I realized how wrong I was in my beliefs about God the Father. He was tender with the people ‘in the ditch,’ but harsh with the self-righteous, religious people.

I hadn’t expected that.

He showed me His broken heart when I spent days on end in a drunken stupor to anesthetize my pain.

He loved me when I dragged the label “Christian” through the mud in every way imaginable.

He loved me when I slandered Him, and blamed Him for every vile sin committed against me – all while I claimed to be His child.

He loved me when I was bitter, hateful, and vindictive.
For almost five decades, He pursued me, wooed me, and sought to win my heart. His patient persistence finally won out.

Time and again He has shown Himself trustworthy. If I took the entire week it wouldn’t be enough time to enumerate the many ways He’s demonstrated Himself to be His every name as given in the Bible:

Redeemer, Provider, Healer, Defender, the Great I AM, and so much more.

He is everything I need.

He set me free from the bondage of people-pleasing, and has shown me time and again that if I seek to please Him, then others’ opinions are of little consequence.

He loves me – and that is enough.

He has become my best and dearest Friend, Confidante, and Lord. He promised a future that will surpass all my hopes and dreams.

With great expectation, I wonder what I will be doing a million years from today…
…it will be phenomenal!

To know God is to experience Him. To experience Him is to discover a love so vast that it is beyond comprehension. It is a privilege to know with confidence that I can trust His love.

Life may have broken this little pot, but my Father loves me with an indescribable, glorious love! Have you experienced this for yourself? I hope so!





Squeamish Truth

20 08 2015

(By the way, ‘Five’ referred to the fifth step as given in Be Selfish – Forgive.)

Start a discussion on the need to forgive God and people get nervous. Some become outraged on God’s behalf that I would suggest such a thing. Some consider me a heretic.

I’m okay with that.

Please take a moment to hear me out.

When we are hurt by another’s actions or words, the Bible instructs us to forgive. There are no qualifiers such as:

Only if they meant to hurt us.

If they said they were sorry.

Only if you’re willing to trust them again.

It doesn’t give qualifiers as to whom we are to forgive either. If we are hurt, then we are commanded to forgive.

As we saw in Be Selfish – Forgive, forgiveness is primarily something we do for ourselves. The offender usually doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s ‘no skin off their nose’ if we don’t forgive them. They’ve moved on and don’t give us a second thought.

Sometimes the One we need to forgive is God.

God is perfect. He never does anything wrong. Not even a tiny bit. He doesn’t have bad days, or whipping boys. He’s no bully, nor does He take out His frustration on anyone.

To suggest that we forgive Him seems foolish and arrogant. I get that. I’ve held that stance myself.

Until I met people who were genuinely angry at God. Seemingly with good reason:

The mother who prayed for a baby, got pregnant, but gave birth to a still-born.

The boy whose sister suffered for years before she died. He earnestly prayed for her healing, she died anyway.

The woman who prayerfully entered into marriage, confident that he was God’s choice for her…only to discover 15 years later that he was having an affair when they got married, and continued having them throughout their marriage.

I’m sure you could add to this list.

Are these people offended with God?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Did God, in fact, do anything wrong?

Not on your life. He is love, and everything He does is for the greatest benefit to the most people.

Tell any of these three, though, that they have no right to question our perfect God, no right to be angry with Him for He does all things well, and see how that goes.

What are they to do with their hurt, anger, and confusion? What else can they do, if they’re not allowed to express their emotions?

They will stuff them.

As any good counselor will tell you, stuffed emotions take on a life of their own. Shoved into the dark recesses of their hearts, they are fodder for the enemy. He will tell them lie upon lie:

God is not good

God doesn’t care

He doesn’t love {me} or He would never have done this to {me}
(the enemy always speaks to us in our pain in the first person, have you noticed?)

{I} can’t trust God

If God is in charge, and this is how He does things, {I} don’t want anything to do with Him

What began as a question about God’s character or nature becomes our belief system about God. Every new hurt that is perceived as coming from God gets added to the mess. Resentment and bitterness begin to grow.

There comes a day when it all comes boiling out. They become staunch rivals of God, doing everything they can to wipe His name out of existence.

Take time to listen to the story of an atheist, and you will almost always discover a point at which God ‘failed’ them…followed by their treatment by Christians who were offended by their outrage toward God.

How differently might things have turned out for them if they were allowed to voice their anger, their frustration, their confusion about what happened; had they received permission to be honest with God?

If, instead of Rebuke denouncing them for their arrogance against Almighty God, Empathy, or at least Compassion, stepped in and gave a safe place to vent, to hear their heart, none of those lies would have remained in the dark to grow like little dust bunnies under the bed.

Brought to the light, those emotions would have lost their power.

Given the tool of forgiveness, they may have chosen to begin the process. As they forgave a little here, a little there, their confusion would have cleared up. The lies would have been seen for what they were, and replaced with truth.

Force a person to be reverent to a God they don’t understand, especially in light of tragedy, if you must; but don’t be surprised when they later spew hateful invectives and go to great lengths to get God banned from everything.

God owes no one an apology.

His love never fails, and He is just in all He does.

I get that.

But we’re humans, with human emotions that sometimes go wrong. An offense is an offense, it doesn’t matter who that may be. Left unforgiven, pain will become resentment and bitterness. We’ve been commanded to forgive…everyone.

We cannot maintain a close relationship with a person by whom we’ve been hurt – intentional or otherwise. This doesn’t work in marriage, and it won’t work with God, either.

So long as hard feelings exist on our part, we will maintain our distance.

We can’t afford to be ‘peacekeepers’ with God. He wants our all – the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they say.

God is not impressed when we lie to Him about how we feel.

He already knows.

He’s ‘big enough’ to take care of Himself, and then respond with love, truth, grace, and mercy.

Once we’ve emptied our heads of the junk inside, there’s room for truth; space for fresh insight and revelation of the character of God.

We don’t demand answers. We may not get one, and that’s okay. What we will receive is peace ~ the type of peace that comes from clearing the air. Our memories of times with the Lord bring comfort once again.

In no time we will be able to say, “I don’t understand; but I know for sure that You have been good, and You will be good to me.”

And that’s the squeamish truth.





Don’t Forget Five

19 08 2015

For years I’ve been ‘stuck’ in a wound that would not go away. No amount of forgiveness brought the release I sought.

I talked through the situation with Abba – literally hundreds of times; yet could not get free of the matter.

I finally wrote it off as my ‘hard heart’ and lamented my lack of spiritual maturity.

This was a serious problem for me because I kept bumping into the same scenario everywhere I turned. That was painful, yet I see the gentle, patient hand of Father whose desire is for my wholeness.

After more than a decade of wrestling with my inability to forgive, yesterday my counselor and I discussed the issue for the umpteenth time. I’m thankful that God has given her great patience with me as well!

At long last, we found the key that unlocked the shackles of my unforgiveness.

It was a small thing, a simple thing, yet every bit as important as every other step in the process, as I learned yesterday. Perhaps that’s why I needed this lesson.

What did I learn?

I matter!

“C’mon! Get on with it,” you say. “What’s the key?”

I had not forgiven myself.

Seriously? That’s all?

Um, yeah.

A long time ago I was offered a supervisory position. I believed myself unqualified for the job. I didn’t pray about it, just declined the offer.  I would be in charge of many people. If I messed up, it could be costly.

However, I had a friend who demonstrated all the qualities I believed necessary to handle the position well.

Um, didn’t pray about that either.

At the next board meeting, I recommended my ‘qualified’ friend.

They agreed, and he was put into the position.

It didn’t take very long to realize that I’d judged this person by his outward appearance – and hadn’t given a second’s thought to his heart.

Big mistake.

Lurking under the mask was a power-hungry, ambitious fellow who didn’t care if people were hurt by his actions or words.

Sadly, many were hurt. Many found positions elsewhere.

Then I became his target.

Perceived as a threat by my ‘friend’, he went out of his way to undermine and discredit me.

His efforts were quite effective, thus when I went to the assistant HR person to discuss the number of ‘casualties’, I was told, “We know he’s hurting people, but he gets things done. Who could we get to replace him?”

I got the same response from the head HR guy as well.

I became frantic, burdened. These were my friends who were being hurt. The more innocent ones were being led into dubious actions and attitudes.

 

Seated on my counselor’s couch, we hacked at the roots of my unforgiveness – again!

“What is it about this that you can’t let it go?” she asked.

We did a little exploration (again), and began to go through the forgiveness process as noted in my Be Selfish – Forgive.

We went through forgiving the person, asking God to forgive them, to forgive me, then ‘forgave’ God for not doing what I thought He should about the matter (!).

All of a sudden, her eyes lit up.

“Hey! Have you been blaming yourself for the outcome?”

I thought about it a minute, and it became crystal clear.

Here, at last, was the key! 

I continued to hold myself solely responsible for what happened…

…Like I’d handed a loaded machine gun to a four-year-old in a mall, who was now mowing down everyone in sight.

That is not a good feeling.

“Yes I have. I was the one who recommended the guy in the first place.”

The minute I forgave myself, BAM! That choke chain around my neck hit the floor. It was the size one might use to restrain Godzilla!

The release and freedom I felt was instantaneous.

Yes, I recommended the guy for the position, but once he was installed the matter was out of my hands.

From that point on, he was the responsibility of our HR department. They saw what was going on – even acknowledged it, and they chose to do nothing.

The outcome was beyond my control, thus not my guilt to bear.

God longs for our wholeness. Jesus stated this when He introduced His ministry in Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

He was content to revisit this issue with me until I finally realized that the one I needed to forgive was me!

You see, I matter to Him. What I think and believe about myself, yeah, that also matters.

Guess what? You matter to Him as well!

Forgive as you have been forgiven…

…and don’t forget Five!





Be Selfish – Forgive

18 08 2015

Okay, this probably isn’t the sort of ‘selfish’ that comes to mind, but it’s truth.

What do I mean?

Forgiving others is something we do primarily  for ourselves.

Most likely, the offending party moved on with life – hasn’t given us a second’s thought since the event.

Meanwhile, we carry the stinking carcass of ‘what they did/said’ around like it’s a prize buck.

Did you catch the word stinking? It sure does. And folks around us gets a whiff of that mess whenever we’re near.

What’s worse is that we pick up the arrow they shot us with – and continue to stab ourselves with it. This happens every time we rehearse the scene.

They injured us once, we re-injure ourselves over and over and over.

Sometimes for decades.

What’s worse is the corpse draws flies…

…which lay eggs that become maggots…

In no time the thing is a writhing mass!

You get the picture!

Yech! 😛

Do I know that this is easier said than done.

Yes indeed, I do.

But this is something I do for me.

I want to be free.

All those flies and maggots? Those are unrelated events that *feel* like the original injury and so attach themselves.

Ever had an over-reaction to something minor?

Yep.

Out popped another maggot.

We do not want to go through life with unresolved issues that cause others to shrink back from the stench.

Ever been around a bitter, resentful person? Not fun.

This is, without a doubt, a nauseating mental image. You’re welcome.

Now you understand why we’re commanded to forgive!

That disgusting illustration describes much of my life…and perhaps why I haven’t had many friends over the years.

This year I decided to do something selfish. Something that’s just for me.

I began to make lists of my offenders and forgive them.

In some cases, a single event required the 70 x 7 times of forgiveness of which Jesus spoke. Nevertheless, I had to let it go – and then let it go – and then let it go…

Sometimes I didn’t fully mean it – so I didn’t lie. Instead, I asked Father to help me be willing to forgive them…

…or even willing to be willing to forgive.

In these instances, I forgave as an act of obedience. That was as far as I could go at the moment.

Next, I asked Abba to forgive them, and to lead them into a vibrant relationship with Himself. After all, He loves them, too. (That can be a tough one to swallow!)

I may select a passage from Scripture to pray over them – like Colossians 1:9-13.

In addition, I pray for myself:

Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me.Give me Your love for them.

(Which doesn’t mean I have to trust them or put myself into their line of fire again. Please note that.)

Those two bases covered, I next ask the Lord to examine my heart and show me where I’ve been tripped up by what happened.

While I may have had no fault in the event, what my heart did with the offense is my responsibility. They didn’t ‘make me’ do or feel anything. That bit was on me.

At the very least, I usually have to confess to hanging onto the hurt. In every instance the reason has been a lack of trust in God to handle the other person.

Sometimes I’m angry that He didn’t blast them off the planet. That’s exactly what I wanted my ‘loving Father’ to do!

I prefer grace for me – judgment for everyone else.

{Yes, that was my ‘outside voice.’}

Which leads me to the next step in forgiveness.

(Don’t freak out on me here)

I need to forgive God.

Did He do anything wrong?

No. His ways are always perfect.

Was I offended by His response to the situation?

You betcha’!

Here’s the thing. I can put on my ‘nice Christian’ face and be incensed that someone would have the audacity to suggest such a thing…

…and let my resentment and distrust toward God continue to grow in the dark recesses of my mind until I walk away from Him altogether.

Or

I can speak what’s in my heart to the Lord; and forgive what I ‘perceived’ to be His disinterest or abandonment, etc.

He already knows how I really feel, and what I believe to be true about Him.

Very often, when I feel distant from God it’s because I’m holding something against Him. The error is entirely with me, but I’m offended nonetheless.

*This is a golden moment. Don’t skip this bit.*

It’s at this point that I ask Him to teach me truth about Himself, or to show me the event from His perspective.

There is something here for me to learn, if I will but have the ears to hear.

Finally, I come to the part that I forget most often:

I must forgive myself.

Not in every instance. There may be nothing here.

{Often, however, at the very least I forgive myself for misunderstanding God and ascribing to Him some horrible characteristics that simply were not true. If this is the case, I circle back around and ask God to forgive me for believing such lies about Him as well. See, this isn’t arrogance. It’s truth. And He desires that we know truth in the inmost parts.}

Right at this point we have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of ‘all things work together for good.’ If this event brought to light a lie I believed about God, that is a good thing indeed.

No, He didn’t bring this injury upon us. We live in a fallen world where hurt people hurt people. But, He’s going to bring benefit to us from the thing if we will let Him.

What others meant for evil, God meant for good.

The goal is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means identifying lies and replacing them with truth.

Back to forgiving myself.

It may be that I accepted responsibility for someone else’ s words or actions. I may have believed myself the one to be blamed, that I somehow deserved what they said/did.

Perhaps I’ve come into agreement with lies about myself: ‘I’m so stupid.’ Or ‘How could I have fallen for that?’

To forgive myself is another useful tool for locating faulty beliefs so they can be dismissed. Dig up the root, and everything that attached to it dies.

We’re not so ‘stinky’ to be around; things begin to change – in us – and we walk in greater freedom, light, and love.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

It’s the healthiest ‘selfishness’ in which we’ll ever indulge.





Our Good Father

17 08 2015

I didn’t have kids just so I could make them follow my rules. I wanted someone with which to share life and love.

In the absence of father-love, as it was during my childhood, all that remained were the rules. I had to keep them “or else.” Oh, I had a ‘dad’ – but never a dad’s heart.

God’s life-long (mine, not His) transformation goal for me has been to unwind this mindset from my thought processes. It’s very hard to let go of my early training.

For instance, it’s hard to trust His invitation to come boldly. Boldness got my face slapped when I was young.

It’s hard to believe in His genuine love and good plans for me. “Love” was phony and manipulative – and usually cost me plenty.

It’s hard to believe that God really wants me. I was unwelcome in my home and spent most of my years in my room where it was safe.

It’s hard to trust that I can come to Him with my struggles, or to ask Him for help. I was taught that I had to figure things out on my own. Requests for counsel were usually met with contempt for my stupidity and inability to handle my own problems.

My function, as far as ‘dad’ was concerned, was to serve him, keep him happy, and stay out from in front of the TV. The thought of being welcomed into relationship with him was given up as a lost cause.

The end result was that I became a self-reliant, people-pleasing loner.

{Not everyone had this kind of experience, thus your relationship with God is healthy and thriving. I am genuinely happy for you, and so thankful that you’ve not had to struggle to believe that He really loves you. Perhaps you’re reading this help you better understand those of us for whom this is a challenge.}

It is for these reasons, and many more, that God has been hard at work releasing me from the belief that His love is also performance-based.

One important lesson I’ve learned is that He created me – then later adopted me – because He wants to share life and love with me.

Perception is everything.

What some call ‘rules’, others see as boundaries. These are invisible fences put in place for my protection. My good Father knows what will bring pain, guilt, shame, and a host of other undesirable emotions. He would like to spare me the turmoil, and so He says, “Thou shalt not…”

He also knows that He is much wiser than I will ever be. He sees the end from the beginning and thus can rightly judge a thing as good or evil.

To the extent that we do not trust God, we do not ask Him to define the issue at hand.

Father, please talk to me about this. What’s Your perspective? What do I need to know or learn here? Where are You in this?

From Scripture we discover that our natural definitions of good and evil must be set aside, and we must learn to discern what is truly good and truly evil.

These were treasures waiting to be unearthed for me. I’m onto something, and so excited:

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil… 1 Kings 3:9

In other words, not lean on our own understanding.

This is vitally important, for:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

From my own life, I could give countless examples of times when I did what I thought was the *right* thing to do – only to have it end in the death of something – most often the end of relationships, dreams, and my integrity.

No, I don’t believe that my Father created me so I could follow rules. He’s not an egomaniac on another control kick. His rules are for my protection, for He knows best what works well for me.

I’m fairly certain that I’ll be happier if I don’t murder someone, steal their stuff, or break up their marriage.

God is the best Father ever. He loves us with the same love He has for Jesus. His desire is for us to know Him – not just know His rules and how to ‘stay off His radar.’

I leave you with this:

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’

That’s a lot of ‘doing.’ These weren’t bench warmers in the synagogue; they were active members.

But listen to the Lord’s response:

“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23

Relationship – not religion. This will make all the difference in the end.

Our good Father wants children, not hirelings.