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, American religious figure.

, American religious figure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Really?

 

Actually no I can’t, and neither can you.  I used to always worry, no not worry, I would be terrified of what God would ask me if I submitted all of my life to Him.  Was God going to ask me to go to some jungle?  Would He expect me to the next Billy Graham?  Would I ever survive if God wanted me to be……”insert scary job here”

As a teenager I had worried about these things.  Then I walked away from God and the church in my twenties, vowing never to go back.  That was until 5-6 years ago when God, being the patient and loving father he is, didn’t try to force himself on me, but wooed me.  Gently calling out to me.  Since that time gently coaxing me back me back to a loving relationship with Him.
Now a funny thing is happening with those old worries.  Those worries from my youth are back, the same but different.  At 46, my kids are grown and gone starting families of their own.  Twenty years ago their mother and I divorced so I am single with no real ties to anyone or place.  So now I am looking at those old fears and I wonder what I was afraid of, and where would I be now if I had yielded then.

 Reading too much into the current situation?

My career has gone from being fairly successful to barley hanging on, and I am left to acknowledge that any success, any privilege that I’ve had isn’t because of me.  I don’t know anymore what God has in mind, but instead of doing things my way, I’m trying to do things his.  Easy? Hardly, and trying to figure it out some days is a battle.  Out of my depth, or without the resources, and more than a little concerned with failure.
What if this doesn’t work?  Am I kidding myself thinking I can make a difference?  The only way to find out is to put it out there.  Maybe it matters, or maybe all that comes back is the sound of crickets.  But only one way to find out.  Scared or not move forward try, or maybe more accurately in the words of Yoda “Do or do not, but there is no try.”

What about you?  Is there some thing you should be doing but fear is holding you back, stopping you from putting it, or yourself out there.

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I’m reading “God, no” by Penn Jillette, yes I think reading these types of books are just as important as things like “Mere Christianity” when it comes to being able to explain what you believe and stand for.  Anyway so one of the theory’s about the foundations and reasons of religion discussed is that religion was a system developed by men in order to control others, to keep the masses in line, to give religious leaders wealth and power.  On the surface this has a certain possibility to it, although I cannot speak to any religion besides Christianity, once I look a little deeper this starts to crumble.

Christianity calls for obedience that is a fact, but obedience to what?  God and the teachings of Christ.  Yes render to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, but what about the believers refusing to deny Christ, to the point of death.  Well that doesn’t seem to get everyone in line.  So how about as a way to increase the wealth of the religious leaders?
 

What men do vs. what God commands

Have there been those in positions of leadership in organized religions that have lived off the work of their followers?  Of course, you don’t have to look to far back to see more than a few, Jim Baker ring a bell?  And there is no need to list all of those just in the past 10 years have lied, embezzled, even out right stolen for their own gain.  But that’s what men have done, in stark contrast what God actually does say?
 

To obey is better than sacrifice 1Samuel 15:22

 
So how does that bring power, wealth, and prestige to the leaders of Judaism, and Christianity?  Here is  a book written to control saying to obey, but is that to the benefit of a priest, a preacher or some other leader?  Power maybe but what are we being told to obey?  The Rabbi?  The local preacher?  No, God.  Not man that’s the point.  Christianity calls time and again for the leadership to be servants.  “Let he who is greatest among you be servant of all”. I know that is a radical thought.  No Muslim, no Hindu, no Buddhist would ever teach such a thing.  Only Christianity would dare equate service with greatness.
 
So Mr. Jilette may be correct with regard to some religions in the world, he is most certainly wrong with regards to the religion know as Christianity.
 

If your religion brings you into line with the leaders are you submitting to the civil magistrate? Are you ignoring your real leader?

How much time, energy, and effort am I wasting trying to keep my failures, and short-comings secret from the one who already knows everything. Not only what I have already done but what I will do.

Love that makes no sense

The God who created everything knows not just my past which is bad enough, but also knows my failures to come.  And yet I can not really fathom this, God still chooses to love me.  He chooses to love you, faults and all.  Not because either of us deserve it, or can even hope to earn it.  I can’t, and I see so many trying.  As if that kind of love could ever be earned, deserved or purchased.  Would it even be called love if you earned it?
I don’t think so, I’m not sure what you would call it.  Maybe admiration but definitely not love.  Love real love can only be given and received freely.  Is it conditional?  It seems so at least in that we have to accept it, and why God chooses to love us.

Letting myself be loved when I don’t feel worthy

On the one hand “God so loved the world” however to experience God’s love at it’s fullest, as God desires to love us, we have to stop fighting against it.  Easier said than done.  I want it on my terms, trying to define what is really best for me.  But history clearly shows that for the lie it is.  I have made and continue to make a mess of it.  Yet all I have to do is submit.  Not a pretty word now a days, but what I need to do non the less.  Not easy, but what is really best for me.
Hard?  Yes, not because of God, because of me.  Even though I know that God wants only the best for me, and for you, I let all my junk get in the way.

Here is to submitting on more time.

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If everything was torn away could I, would I still praise God?  A hard question to contemplate.  An even harder one to try to answer honestly.

This year, actually the past couple have been hard on my career, my financials, even my personal life.  Two years ago a romantic relationship I thought would never end did, in an ugly way.  My career ears has been one set back after another.  Friends I thought, believed I could count on won’t even return a phone call.  And yet thru it all I am more thankful to God.  Not for what has happened, but because He keeps picking me back up and helping me to take one more step forward.

A shift in priorities

A few dollars I was not expecting showed up, just in time for new tires for my truck, which needed them desperately.  This past year God has provided, some times from places I never saw coming, other times from friends, family, or work.  Never too late, I haven’t missed a meal, but rarely early or more than just enough.
Not that long ago I would have been a mental disaster trying to deal with all the stuff.  Stressed out over where the money was going to come from or how to pay for this or that.  But now I find myself not just learning to be ok with not knowing, but laughing at how God provides, even when I can’t see how it will work out the night before.
It has brought me to a place of trusting and leaning more on the Father then I ever have.  However that said, I was reading Philippians this morning and I was thinking about Paul, hungry, beaten, all that he went thru and it started me thinking.

Could I praise God in that place?

I don’t know, and I am thankful I will probably never have to find out.
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Assumptions

I was just reading the story of Jesus and the woman at the well and had a new thought.  This woman had been married 5 times, was living with a man she was not married to, but she was not an outcast.  When she went into the town and told people what was going on, they did not mock her or tell her to go away.

Was this woman exceptionally beautiful?  Powerful, rich beyond words?  There seems to be more here.  She is drawing her own water, and yet people will listen to her.  She has been married five times and still has men risking shame and being ostracized to be with her.

I wonder what the whole story is?

I wonder what else do I see, but not see?  Where else in my life am I making all kinds of false, or at least uninformed assumptions?  Often not knowing or even considering the whole picture.  Maybe I should be a little bit slower to react, ok JUMP to conclusions.  Perhaps using a bit more of the Christian ethic, you know that whole judge not thing, would be in order.  And maybe a little more curious about asking questions and willing to learn more.

What about you, are there areas where you have assumptions that might not be true?

As a Gentile by birth, but a Jew by adoption, see Galatians 3:29, how do I interpret the Old Testament?  Is it to be viewed as history?  Or better said history only?  After all we are no longer under the law.  Is it only instruction in the New Testament that is required, such as dietary?  Or should I be dualist in my approach, strive to live by the law while being aware that:

1- I will never be able to fully obey or live up to the law.
And
2- realize that I can not earn God’s approval on my own no matter how good I become at following the law.

But shouldn’t I do the best I can because I desire to please God?

Isn’t that part of loving God?  I love my sons and because I love them I enjoy pleasing them.  For those of you that are married, if you love your spouse don’t you experience joy when they are pleased with your actions?
These are fallible humans capable of being greedy, self-serving, even wrong, but is it possible for God to be any of these things?  of course not.  So how much safer to strive after pleasing God?  Not in order to win His favor, or earn salvation, or force Him to bless us.  But because of loving God.

Because I love God I desire to please Him

And I please Him when I do His will.Do I fail?  Oh much more than I care to admit to anyone else.  I think I have one area down cold, and BAM, I screw it up.  Or I actually get one area of my life under control, in-line with God’s standard only to have Him point out something else and ask, “That’s great, but what about this?”

Will I ever get there?

It doesn’t seem so, but it’s not about what I am achieving as much as it’s about what I am becoming.

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“The real problem for empirical scientists & rational skepticism is we care more about truth than the religious do.”  Aron Ra, “Faith is not a Virtue”

Interesting thought.  Especially since Mr. Ra also believes that those who believe in God have no interest in the truth.  But is the truth rational skeptics, as Mr. Ra identifies himself as, care about the whole and complete truth, or is any partial truth ok?  Or is it that since, in Mr. Ra’s estimation, Christians have no real care for the truth that any care for the truth no matter how small or partial , would be more?  Somehow I get the impression that neither of these is what he meant.

Or, perhaps truth isn’t really all that important to some rational skeptics after all.

So if Mr. Ra is so committed to truth why does he have such an aversion to it?  While busily stating over & over , I suppose in the hope that repetition will make something true, that evolution has been proven, he steadfastly avoids calling evolution a law, the scientific proclamation of true, provable, and reproducible fact.  Fair enough, part of scientific law requires a theory to be reproducible, ie: standing on Earth, let go of an object and it will fall to the ground.
But here is where Mr. Ra’s statements start to break down.  At 10:01 of his recorded lecture at Eastern Illinois University “Because it’s called the theory of gravity”.   Yes that’s right the theory of gravity.  Do you find it interesting that it is now the theory of gravity.  Has gravity been “Plutocized” from a law to a theory?  My guess is that the hope is by reducing certain laws of science to theories it will help elevate the theory of evolution in the public eye.

Change what words mean and change the past.

Once again trying to change the meaning of words to alter the discussion, like an illusionist tying to draw your attention to one thing, while distracting you from noticing the elephant walking off stage.  The desire to alter what words means is a dishonest attempt to win the game by changing the rules.  Hopefully Mr. Ra will move to his stated desire, to be more concerned with the truth.

Although I doubt it

“But God commandeth his love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God commands his love for us.  Not suggests, not hopes for or wishes, but commands his love for us.  Unshakable, unmovable, unchangeable.  His love for us can not go away.  His love for you, for me is immutable.  It doesn’t diminish when we put on a few pounds, or 50. It doesn’t fade when our hair turns to grey, or falls out.  And his love doesn’t turn to another if I become wrinkled, feeble, lose my job, or any other thing you ca do or even imagine.
And when did God love us?  When we were yet sinners. Our God, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, the God of Jacob doesn’t demand that we stop sinning and then He will love us.  God does not say to you or I “Be perfect, get your act together, and THEN I will love you and care for you.”  No, No, No.  He says to you and I come to me all you who are weary, carrying a load that is too much to carry and I will give you rest.
He could have said, Russ once you do X then I will care for you, then I will love you.  God could have said show me you love me, then I will love and care for you.  But instead God says to mankind, I will love you no matter what.  I will love you day or night, summer or winter, when you do right or when you do wrong.

God’s love for you is not dependent on your past

I can hear you now, “But Russ you don’t know what I have done.  If you only knew the inside, if you could see my thoughts, my heart.  My own family won’t have anything to do with me.  My marriage is in shambles.  I can’t find my way out of the bottle.”
Your right I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you’ve done.  I don’t know your faults, your failings, your foibles.  I don’t and maybe if I did I wouldn’t like you much.  But God knows.  God knows each and every lie you have ever told.  God knows every porn movie you’ve ever watched, every curse word that has come out of your mouth even when no one was around.  And every wicked thought that you have ever had.  And in response God says- “I love you.”
I love you when you don’t deserve it, when you haven’t earned it, even when you have abused it.  For you see God says “my grace is sufficient for you.”
Grace: Gods unearned favor, blessing, love.  The gift of Gods grace can not be earned, it can not be bought at any price, for any amount.  You and I can never do enough good things to earn or deserve it.
So you say “I don’t deserve it, God would never give it to me.” So who does God give His grace to?  Who are the heroes and saints God poured out his grace on.
Genesis 6:8- “but Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.”- Noah a drunk
Genesis 19:19Lot says “behold now thy servant hath found grace in thy sight.”  Lot a man who less than 48 hours earlier was ready to turn over his daughters to be gang raped by a mob outside his home.
Exodus “For thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Who is God speaking to?  A hot-headed, spoiled, murderer by the name of Moses
Or Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication.”   David war-monger, adulterer murderer.  David who had a loyal soldier murdered because David had seduced his wife while he was risking his life in battle for his king, David.

So what is it again that you think is so bad that God’s grace is for others but not for you?

God’s grace is a gift given freely from God to anyone who asks.  Not something you can earn and certainly not what you deserve.  But just because it is free does not mean it is cheap.
Romans 3:4 “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”  So what does God say?  Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin IS death.”  Justice requires death, someone must die.  Justice was satisfied by death, just not your death.  God came in the form of man as Jesus. He paid that price so that God the Father can give you and I grace.
This isn’t just going to Macy’s with the credit card to pick up a bunch of Christmas gifts.  These aren’t a few trinkets purchased at the Dollar Store.  This is the biggest gift, this is the most costly gift of all.  This is the gift to end all gifts.  The gift of grace is free but is not cheap.  Make no mistake it cost the giver dearly.  And grace alone, God’s grace alone is enough.

God’s grace is sufficient, no matter what.  And best of all it is your’s for the asking.

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I’m not talking about deserters but those walking wounded that have stepped on a landmine and need a caring, gentle hand to nurse them back to health.  Yes the great physician may have amputated a hand, maybe even a leg, but are we then court marshaling our brothers for being damaged?

We all are walking wounded.  Your limp, my missing limb, we all are damaged.  Yet I see time and time again we look at someone failing, and that being used as a reason to shoot our wounded.  I’m not talking about those instances like those referred to by Jesus in Matthew 18 where a brother is in opposition to God.  But what about the sister who way back when did X, and so today she is still being shunned?  The recovering addict, the former gang member, the ex-con, or even the divorced.

Those people

“People will know you are my disciples because of your love for one another.”  Sometimes we, yes we, get so caught up in what someone else might think, that we lack compassion for those around us.  The congregation(church) I attend used to be known as “the drugie” church.  I almost wish we still were.  Not because I want to see people addicted, but because it is up to us to make God known to those who need Him.  It’s all well and good to belong to a congregation where everyone comes dressed up in their Sunday best.  But there also needs to be a place for the hurting, the damaged, the lost, the Christian ethic demands it.

Love others well.

Expect the best of people.  Raise up God’s standard.  But don’t go adding to it.  Yes Jesus said “Go and sin no more”  but He also made a point of reaching out to Peter after the resurrection.
We, you and I, are not suffering from an abundance of love, and grace towards those around us. Maybe it is time to change that.

Perhaps we should try to love too much.

Yet how often do I do this?  Oh not regarding other people.  I have an easy enough time seeing others and accepting that God is more than gracious enough to forgive them, but me.  Well that’s another story all together.  I think, “But you don’t know what I’ve done.”  The very height of pride, to presume that I am capable of some heretofore unreached depth of depravity.

Compared to what?

The thief on the cross – forgiven, Peter who denied even knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times – forgiven, a man who didn’t just pick on God’s chosen ones but hunted and killed them, yea that guy Paul – forgiven.  Maybe there is a reason God chose Paul.  Not just for 2,000 years ago, but also for today.

Not just for others.

Yes I struggle with forgiving myself, that’s my pride getting in the way.  What about you?  Does your pride get in your way?  Do you repent, ask for, even beg for forgiveness, only to not forgive yourself?

Isn’t it time we stopped playing god and instead,  let God be God.