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.





Replacing Jesus

14 08 2015

Many paradigm shifts have taken place this season. Necessary ones. This one concerns Jesus.

How does Jesus relate to my current activities? To housework, homework, to life in general? Does He merely make me a good steward of time and money? Does He make me honest and a good rule-keeper?

Is this why He came and died…to make me honest??

I sense a shift any minute – one so monumental that it will change everything for me. I don’t want to miss this. it has weight (glory!) attached to it.

I read The Great Dance by C. Baxter Kruger. It was eye-opening, although I had to struggle with the concepts at first. My mind could only barely grasp them in the beginning.

The church (at least in America) teaches a “good-cop, bad-cop” God. It’s like having a touchy, militaristic father and a placating, intervening mother who steps in and places herself in the line of fire and takes the brunt of the father’s anger.

Sometimes her attempts fail, though; and that’s when ‘all hell breaks loose in our lives,’ or so we think. Calamity, hardship, ill health.

Mom couldn’t quite assuage father’s fury, and we ‘got it.’

{No wonder the Spirit seems more like a doting aunt who pops in and out long enough to drop off one trinket or another. 🙂 }

The relationship (trinity) of God has been replaced by the holiness (law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice – as we define it) of God. Holiness has been defined as ‘legal perfection’ and ‘moral rectitude.’

This begs the question: “Do I enter into relationship with people for the primary purpose of getting them to ‘shape up’?”

“True holiness is the joy and fullness and love of the Father, Son, and Spirit, their mutual delight and passion, the sheer togetherness of their relationship, it’s harmony and wholeness. Rolled into one word: holiness.” (The Great Dance, p. 25)

I want to tattoo this on my arm:

“Every time God forgives us, He is saying that His own rules do not matter as much as the relationship God wants to create with us.” (Falling Upward, Rohr, p. 57)

Isn’t that Good News?? The best ever, and a far cry from “I came that they might behave better” stuff we hear from spiritual leaders on a regular basis…a ‘re-translation’ of John 10:10. (“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”)

Galatians tells us that the law was never meant to be kept, but to be a tutor that shows us that we can’t ‘behave better’ on our own. It was meant to drive us to God…not to cause us to shrink back as utter failures.

So we teach Christianity thus:

1. God is holy (in a legal sense)

2. Humanity fell into sin and is liable to punishment

3. Jesus Christ came to satisfy the holiness and justice of God

4. On the cross, Jesus bears the guilt of the world, and God punishes Him instead of us

5. God’s justice is satisfied and we are forgiven – morally clean

In this model, Jesus came to rescue us from God.

The cross replaces Jesus as the point of eternal significance; thus, after the crucifixion was complete, He ceased to be of any real and practical value.

No longer needed, He bows out and lets God and the Holy Spirit get on with their business.

At best, He remains important as a shining religious example for us to follow – and to remind God of His sacrifice.

Justification replaces adoption as the heart of the Christian message.

Forgiveness is necessary, but it’s not the sole point of the grand story…it’s not even the main point!*

The focus and goal is inclusion into the existing relationship of the Trinity.

This is the purpose of adoption!

One who has been adopted has been welcomed into a family – given their name, protection, provision, and inheritance along with the other members of the family.

No longer on the outside looking in, they receive all the benefits, love, and treatment of the original family. No ‘Cinderellas’ here! Unless an outsider was told, they would not be able to tell the difference between ‘natural’ children and an ‘adopted’ one.

Further (unless they’re warped!), a couple chooses to adopt because they want someone else to love…more people to love, not someone new, to the exclusion of the old.

In a word, they want:

Relationship!

With all the focus on Jesus as mediator between us and an angry God, we’ve lost the beauty of the Gospel message:

Our adoption as sons and daughters.

Jesus doesn’t exist to protect us from wrath by reminding God that He took our punishment so now God ‘has to’ love us.

He is the connector between us and the Trinity; He mediates the triune life of God – to us!

According to western teaching, once Jesus has the ‘sin thing’ fixed, He returns to heaven and observes us from a distance. This leaves us seeing ourselves as ‘merely human.’

There is no inclusion into the Trinity, no divine life, no divine dance. Life is merely secular…ordinary. Except, of course, on Sundays.

We have no idea who we are!

The western world is crying out for spiritual meaning and the Church has none to give it. We only know how to encourage others to behave better.

Our Jesus is too small.

*YES! The Gospel of Atonement is vital to our right standing with God. Why is it necessary? Because we are born spiritually separated from God. THIS is the problem Jesus came to solve…Adam and Eve ‘unplugged’ from the tree of Life (God as our source for life), and ‘plugged’ into their own knowledge. They made themselves the source for life.

Apart from His death, burial, and resurrection – at which time He entered the Holy of holies once for all and placed His blood on the Mercy Seat – we were without hope.

Thanks to Jesus, we are now welcome to come boldly into the Holy of holies; to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

You won’t find a ‘bouncer’ at the entrance, replacing Jesus.

*****

(In my next post I want to share three verses that took me by surprise!)

This post is far above my ‘pay grade’. I’m still processing much of what I’ve learned – and cannot yet articulate as clearly as I’d like. Thanks for your patience while I work this out!





Born Blind

9 06 2015

John 9 precedes John 10. Go figure!

Chapter 9 is about the man born blind who receives his sight, and the questioning he got from the Pharisees.

It’s kinda funny that Jesus would put clay on a blind man’s eyes, making him doubly blind…and then send him to find the pool of Siloam so he could wash the stuff off. Did he have someone to help him find the place??

Those who’d seen him begging for years marveled.

What do you do when someone receives a miraculous healing? Call in the preachers so they can make sense of the thing.

These folks were no different. Enter the Pharisees…

whose first action was to check their calendar.

Uh oh. It’s the Sabbath. This couldn’t be a ‘God thing,’ because this Man is a rule-breaker!

Displeased with the guy-who-sees’ answer as to by whom he was healed, they call in his parents.

“Was he blind? Are you sure he was blind? Positive? Then how is it possible that he can see?”

Whoa! Did the parents even have time to celebrate with their son?

Their elation quickly shifted to fear as the questioning continued. The wrong answer would get them kicked out of the synagogue…disastrous, since this family was poor enough that their son had to beg. This meant far more than the loss of their “church.” It also meant the loss of society and probably the father’s job. (Jewish New Testament Commentary)

They tossed this ‘hot potato’ back into their son’s lap: “Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.”

By now guy-who-sees is getting snarky. “I told you already (what happened) and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?”

He goes on to say: I don’t know who He was. I only know that I was blind – and now I see. God wouldn’t give a sinner the ability to give me sight. It’s never been done before. If this guy wasn’t from God, He could do nothing.

Now it’s the Pharisees’ turn to be snarky. You were born ‘entirely in sins,’ (Like they weren’t. 😉 ) and you are teaching us??

What happens when you get healed in a church that is ‘suspect’?

These ‘good Pharisees’ called the man a bastard (mamzer…illegitimate son – same thing, Jewish NT Commentary), and kick him out of the synagogue.

Doesn’t this strike you as an odd reaction to a miraculous healing?

While he gained sight, he lost the world around him.

But gained the Lord!

Jesus heard what happened, and came looking for him. With the Pharisees eavesdropping, He addresses the fellow. After a short exchange, the ex-communicated Jew becomes a follower.

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and those who see may become blind.”

The Pharisees pipe in, ” Hey, are you calling us blind?”

“If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say, ‘We see’; your sin remains.”

The judgment of which Jesus is speaking, doesn’t contradict John 5:22, 27-30. That judgment takes place at the Second Coming. The judgment of which He speaks here is to make it clear to people where they really stood in respect to God.

The Pharisees had declared their innocence. They were without sin – and by implication, thus had no need for a Savior.

Unable to recognize either their spiritual blindness or their sin, they claimed to ‘see’ – which left them guilty. Jeremiah 2:35 is an almost-identical statement by God to His people.

Chapter 10 is a continuation of this exchange with the Pharisees.

He is the Good Shepherd; He is the Door for the sheep, who know His voice and follow Him (as the once-blind guy is now doing). A stranger (Pharisee) they will not follow.

Jesus states that those who enter the fold by any other way than through the Door is a thief and a robber.

Verse 10 is the the famous, “The thief comes to steal and kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life abundant.”

Can you see that these Pharisees swooped in on what should have been the most joyful day of this man’s life – and stole everything they could? By kicking him out of the synagogue, he would not be able to live in that town…no Jew would hire him. It meant a loss of family, friends, society.

An outcast when he was blind – now an outcast because he could see.

Jesus implies that these Pharisees are hirelings…merely in it for the money. They don’t give a rip about the people in their care.

Some ‘got it,’ some didn’t. Division erupted:

“He has a demon.”

“Demons don’t heal.”

Jesus also addressed the issue stirring in their hearts – their desire to kill Him. This desire had barely been conceived, but would eventually give birth to the sin of killing out of selfish ambition, bringing forth death – both of Jesus (physical), and the Pharisees (eternal separation from God). (See James 1:14-15; 4:1-3)

This is all very interesting, but what difference does it make?

{giggle}

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion! 🙂





In a Million Years

8 05 2014

Success may be the most deceptive goal we strive for.

We reach and stretch and strain to attain some accomplishment, only to discover that fulfillment is as fleeting as a hummingbird.

There are countless times when I’ve worked hard toward a purpose which was certain to satisfy my longing to do something that matters – something that has lasting value – only to achieve my desired result…and be as unsettled a day or two later as I was before I reached my goal.

My first published book is one of many examples:

I’d learned much about God through various trials and tests I’d endured. My relationship with Him had certainly changed and deepened over the decades. I wanted others to catch a glimpse of the communion He offers to all.

The big day arrived – five boxes of my book were delivered to our home. The sense of satisfaction lasted only an hour or so. Then it felt hollow. It lacked something.

“Your mother would be so proud of you,” one of my aunts wrote to me.

Humph. She’s in heaven, and unable to speak in words I could hear. The idea that she was proud didn’t help much.

Overall, the experience left me feeling flat and underwhelmed.

In the end I thought, There has to be more to life than this.

This led me to wonder why people make such a big deal out of success.

One of the benefits of my mother’s passing was that I began to seriously contemplate what’s on the other side of the grave.

My beliefs were shaky at best. In fact, at one point I told God that I was missing the “worship gene” – the one necessary for an eternity spent flat on my face or sitting on a cloud in a white nightgown while I strummed a harp forever.

“I’m sorry that I feel this way, Lord, but that sounds downright boring,” I exclaimed as waves of futility washed over me.

Writers like C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, and Steve Berger from Grace Chapel in Lieper’s Fort, TN, gave me a new perspective on heaven. I’m deeply grateful to them. Each one peeled back the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next and showed me an eternity that I long for.

“God put eternity in our hearts,” says Solomon. We sense that there is more to this world, that we were destined to have lasting satisfaction and joy.

Since then, I realize that many of the things I used to hope to accomplish may have to wait.

My view of goals was that I have only so many years in which to achieve them.

My wasted youth, foolishly lived, was a sad fact that I would have to live with.

I imagined myself as I stood before God and said, “But Lord, I never got to (write beautiful music, learn to paint, become an accomplished vocalist, etc.),” to which He would reply, “Wow! Stinks to be you. Too bad you didn’t spend time more wisely. Oh well, here’s your harp and nightgown. Pick a cloud and have a nice forever.”

I no longer believe this.

Let’s get some things straight: Hell is the place of boredom, isolation and meaninglessness. Our belief that heaven is this way is a very clever lie fomented by our enemy. He’s done a good job of making heaven seem more unattractive than standing in a “Returns” line in a store the day after Christmas!

He is, after all, a liar.

Having prayerfully considered what heaven is like, and asked questions of God, I now understand that those unfulfilled dreams don’t die with us. They go with us and will come to pass at some point in the future. God planted those longings within us because He intends to fulfill them. I’m so glad!

The psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart.” I used to think this meant that it was my job to dream it up, and God’s to fulfill my wishes.

Read it again, though.

The desires of our heart come from God. He planted the desire there because He intends to make it happen!

This altered how I choose to spend my time. For instance, I’d love to be a painter. Right now I don’t want to invest either time or money in order to actually pursue this hobby. There are more important things for me to do…like interact with people. I can’t do both at the same time. The main reason I haven’t been taken home (I believe) is because there are still lost people that I am supposed to reach.

However, to be able to paint is a desire of mine…a longing. I love to create beautiful things; it feels so good! I believe this desire was given to me by my Creator because it will one day be fulfilled.

Some days I wonder whom God will assign as my teacher. Perhaps it will be Michelangelo or Davinci!

Perhaps I’ll have Bach as my piano/music composition tutor.

Mmm. The conversations I’ll have with Bible characters – King David, Sarah, Paul, John, Dorcas and Lazarus! Perhaps I’ll be given the honor of writing their life stories for heaven’s library.

There will be opportunities to explore the universe…to see sights heretofore hidden from view.

My anticipation is like that of a kid who knows she’s going to Disneyland and can’t wait!

(Not that Disneyland can begin to compare to an eternity with Jesus. 😉 – You know what I mean! )

Have you ever wondered what you’ll be doing a million years from today? You’ll certainly be doing something…

…and it won’t involve attending one never-ending church service in your nightgown and with a harp!

Now that I can let go of the “need to succeed,” I can enjoy life to the full. My satisfaction and value as a person comes from the Lord alone. I love to hear Him say, “Well done.”

At the end of the day, all I may have to show for my time is a cleaner spot in my house, a new post, and maybe a bit worked out on a new song. By the world’s standards, I’m a nobody.

Praise God! I’m not of this world!

I’m the daughter of the King of kings

…and that is enough!

***

Don’t miss Mel Wilde’s post on this matter: Our Problem with Correction

But wait; it gets better! Don’t miss the next post. 😉





Balancing Act

3 03 2014

“We must be balanced.”

You know: we must maintain a healthy evenness to our lives, not too much of any one thing or we’re apt to be diagnosed with mental health issues.

Where did this idea come from?

It certainly did not originate with Jesus.

“Follow Me.”

Leave your livelihood, your families, your homes.

“Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.”

This makes no sense after fishing all night without catching a thing.

“Go out two-by-two, and take nothing with you.”

No hefty bank account set up in advance, no hotel reservations, no concrete plan; just go.

“Love your enemies…”

Not merely those who like you, and whom you like.

“Do good to those who spitefully use you.”

Let people use me for their own selfish promotion? Really?

C’mon Peter – walk on water!

That’s a “balancing act” of a different sort altogether!

Die to self.

How can I ever hope to leave my mark if I don’t promote myself?

“Trust Me.”

Trust Someone I cannot see? How does that work?

I could go on and on.

The Old Testament is full of these same sorts of examples as well.

Um hmm, the Christian life is not one of “balance,” I’m discovering. Many things the Lord asks us to do will make us seem anything but balanced. In fact, some of them will make us look downright nutty!

However, Jesus said that He came to give us life to the full. We’re going to miss out if we take the “safe and sane” route day after day.

There’s a sense of adventure when there’s an element of risk. 

Could one of the contributing factors to OCD and ADD or ADHD be that we are bored out of our minds??

If our life with Jesus is boring, perhaps it’s because we’re experts at the “balancing act.” 🙂

Be bold! Be daring! Take a walk on the wild side with Jesus! He has an adventure waiting for you.

What if I stumble? What if I fall?

I’m glad you asked!

“The eternal God is your refuge…

…and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

{giggle}

He’s there to catch you!

By today’s standards, Jesus “threw caution to the wind” – He had no 401K, no visible means of support, no home, no insurance, and did not live in “survival mode.”

“Yes, but He was God,” you might say.

True, but He chose to live within the limitations of men.

Fully dependent upon God and the Spirit, He showed us what those resources look like lived out in a human life.

Impressive.

The same power that raised Him from the dead lives in us. (Romans 8:11)

We are far from being impotent, dear ones, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and on assignment from the Lord!

It is not likely that we will impact our world when we live by the world’s rules – in this case: “You must have balance.” Little about us will stand out, or make people sit up and take notice.

Jesus came into the world, bringing light into darkness. He’s passed the torch on to us, His ambassadors.

Let’s lose some of our self-preserving “balance” and take a risk or two. Let the world label us however it will. There’s nothing like the thrill of seeing the Lord do things through us that we never imagined were possible in our wildest dreams!