Friday, December 20, 2013

Schizophrenic faith...

"When we all get to heaven... what a day of rejoicing that will be.... when we all see Jesus... we'll sing and shout the victory..."

That song was playing in my head this morning... RANDOM! But it got me thinking....

You know what I think is going to happen on that day of rejoicing? A big collective sigh of relief. You know what about? The fact that we got there even though we got a lot - a LOT - of things wrong...

I inadvertently upset the atheist set on Twitter earlier this week. I posted an article that I thought was an interesting that surmised that it's not possible for one to be a "good atheist." I think some of the reaction was misinterpretation at the title, because it wasn't saying someone couldn't be a good person and be an atheist, it talked about the contradictions in the "faith" (my word) of atheism. I don't get Twitter updates on my phone so it was hours later before I stopped back by so there was a list of angry and irritated responses by the time I got there, making lots of surmises about me and what I believe. You'd have thought they were Christians they way that they made angry and defensive generalizations. (Wink, wink - get a sense of humor my Christian friend.)

One of the "points" that came up in the ensuing discussion was the inconsistency of our faith. Someone said something to the effect of "if you got a room full or pastors/ preachers in one room and asked them all the same questions you'd get a whole variety of differing answers." And it's true.

There are so so so many topics "we" (the church) disagree on. To name a few: the gifts (uh hello, tongues?); the place of women in ministry and the church; the rapture; the last days (pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trib); pre-destination vs. free will; Arminianism and Calvinism (look it up)... The list goes on and on. And our precious little "Body" is divided all over the place. If we were able to make a person-sized model, the reality is it would be a wretch of a schizophrenic chap.

And every sect of us is totally convinced we are right and our answers are absolute. And let's face facts, we can't all be right. Either the pre-tribbers or post-tribbers have a solid "I told you so" up ahead, I don't actually think we'll have any interest in speaking it when the time comes, but the opportunity will be there for someone (Me, I don't think you mid-tribbers have a shot, but maybe - you'll have the right to give me an "in your face!" if I'm mistaken.

I think it's sad that so many Christians are afraid to admit they don't have all the answers, and instead of denying that there is a certain level of "blind faith" in our faith. There's a leap we all take - for some of us it's a longer wider leap than for others, but at the end of the day, even the most studied and certain theologist or the most "sense it and believe it" prophetically gifted pentacostal has a gap between what they know and what is real.

I think the reality is the world is completely black and white, right and wrong, no subjective truth - and I don't believe that a single one of us is going to get 100% A+ on the quiz - thank GOD that we don't have to pass to get into heaven.  I'm glad that this "walk of faith" is really a "best ball" tournament in life and that only the shots Jesus is hitting are going to count for anything in the end.

That's the one thing that is the non-negotiable - Jesus.  "The Way, the Truth and the Life." He said it Himself - NO ONE comes to the Father except by Him.  Everything else has a multitude of interpretations and they just can't all be right.  And it makes me sad when I see Christian friends get all pent up and heated over their need to be absolutely right.  It hurts me because I've been there.

I've been in that place where my need to fight for what I was convinced was RIGHT and TRUE.  I've felt the rush that starts in the stomach and moves up through the shoulders into the brain.  Your blood pressure elevates and your hands begin to shake a little.  Your breath catches in your throat.  A mix of anger and intensity battles for release. You try to choose your words carefully "in Christian love" but the more you disagree the harder it gets to be peaceable and kind.  And that's just when you're disagreeing with another Christian!  Don't even get me started when you are disagreeing with a non-Christian who actually feels like a threat to your faith.

My encouragement to you is simple: when disagreeing with a fellow believer, take a deep breath.  Remember 2 things.  (1) It's OK if you're wrong. It's possible, and worst case scenario, when it's not the "Christ and Him crucified, raised from the dead on the third day" essential, there's a pretty good chance you could actually BE wrong. It's not the end of the world. (2) It's OK to disagree. It's ok to "agree to disagree"

When it comes to unbelievers (non-believers) - my encouragement to you is this, no one was ever argued into the faith. And you need to remember that just because someone doesn't believe what you believe, or even worse, if they are actually against what you believe, they are STILL NOT YOUR ENEMY. The Bible says it "we do not war against flesh and blood." And if you can stand nose to nose or even "tweet to tweet" against another, they are not the enemy. And Jesus didn't call you to come and defend Him or His word - He called you to love and serve the lost and dying world, and let the Holy Spirit be about the work of convincing.

I'm not arguing against your certainty or your beliefs, I am inviting you to at least accept some small measure of "what if." "What if I am mistaken? What if I missed the mark on some point of the plan of salvation? I have news for you, THAT is why Jesus came for you, because "sin" is just "missing the mark," and you need Jesus to fill in the shortcomings in every aspect of who you are - what you believe, what you do, how you act, what you think, how you love - it ALL falls short, and WE all fall short, and it's why Jesus came. NOT to school us, but He came to save us- from our sin and from ourselves.

I'm not negating the importance of knowing and being in God's word, it's study, meditation and instruction are all critical, but keep in mind we all make mistakes. I am not the perfect Christian, you are not the perfect Christian. We are not all-knowing, not all-understanding, and I say it again THAT'S OK.

Let us not focus on the fight and disagreement - let's focus on the love and the unity in the body - those were Christ's priorities for us. "Love God and love one another," those were His greatest commands. "SPEAK GRACE," the bible says "SEASONED with salt." The key there is the message of His love and grace trumps the nitpicky need to talk about the details of what we perceive as absolute truth (remember I am NOT talking about the plan of salvation.)

What if we were actually approachable? What if we could actually have calm conversations about the differences and confusion in what all the different denominations believe about topics that unbelievers get passionate about? What if we could reason together and not get to the contentious point that our passion overwhelms our compassion. What if our sadness over an unbeliever being lost made us love them enough that we didn't have to beat them over the head with our Bibles? What would happen?

Maybe I am completely wrong about all of this. I'm so thankful I'm getting to heaven on Jesus and not on being right - and not on convincing everyone else I'm right either.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Phil, I think you kinda blew it...

Pulling up my big girl panties before I even start this post because I'm relatively certain I am going to piss off people on both sides of the media highlighted line that has been drawn down the middle of this controversy.

Now it's new, so I have a lot of wonder and questions that are yet to be answered that only time will tell, so (as is the prerogative and point of a blog) I'm just sharing my thoughts, perspective and still forming opinions over the matter.

First off, I don't disagree with Phil's evaluation of homosexuality - deep breath, about to anger the liberals - here it goes, homosexuality is a sin.

I do disagree with Phil's ignorance or preference (I can't be sure which it was) to get descriptive about body parts. I can't imagine that he would speak that way in front of his wife or his grandchildren on the topic so I honestly have to wonder why he would use the terminologies that he did in a national publication. There probably should have been some hesitation there that apparently wasn't. And be honest, if somebody was standing in your living room and discussing homosexuality and talked about it using the same words (whether reiterating Phil's sentiment or one that was the opposing point of view) the words would have likely been offensive.

I will grant you there are probably no small children reading GQ, but one of the things we get in trouble for as Christians is when we compartmentalize our words, actions and attitudes. The unbelieving world likes to point us out and declare "HYPOCRISY!" when we do that, and so we shouldn't do it.

OK, so I can imagine the stirring that statement just caused in all the Christians who are making this a "freedom of speech" issue. First off, I call "Bullshit" on a big chunk of you Christians who are trying to make it about that. We are no better than the liberals who want to silence us - we'd be just as happy to silence them.

But OK, let's make this about "freedom." I've got news for my fellow Christians - your freedom isn't from the American government. The bible tells us that "It's for freedom that Christ has set us free...." CHRIST has set us free. Your freedoms are not from your government they are from the Lord, and even if they are "infringed upon" by the good Ol' USA, it is not apart from the filter of God's mighty (mightiER) hand.

And while we are on the topic, your freedoms aren't even supposed to be about you. The Bible tells us we have them, but we have to keep in mind how our exercise of them affects those around us. Exercising our freedoms has to be about how we impact others.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33

This is where I think Phil really blew it. Did he have the right to say it? Yes. But did it need to be said? No, not really. This is a man who has been gifted with this great opportunity to influence millions of people. And unfortunately with one foolish interview he may have lost the opportunity. Yes, lots of angry Christians will rally behind him and boycott A&E, but we were not the audience he had the power to influence anyway. We were not his mission field. He's now run the risk of losing that opportunity.

No one was surprised by his beliefs. Honestly, I can't help but wonder if GQ didn't have an agenda moving the conversation in the direction that they did. (I have not read the interview but I have a hard time believing that Phil said, "Hey I want you to know what I think about homosexuals.") I think they asked the question knowing his answers and then relished the poor way he expressed them. Phil could have just as easily kept to the less quoted part of his statement "I love all humanity... made in God's image..." (bad paraphrase) He could have even said, "I believe what the Bible says about homosexuality and it wouldn't have erupted in the firestorm that is now blazing all over social media.

At the end of the day that's the part that makes me the saddest. "The I stand with Phil" eruption all over Facebook and Twitter does absolutely nothing to reach out to the lost people whom Jesus loves. Yes, that's right folks, the fags and the homos and the lezbos that so many of us Christians have dismissed as lost causes and threats to our way of life? Jesus loves them, dearly. And He wants nothing more than for them to know that love and when we get all fired up and politicized about a TV show, we, His representatives just push those people away, and the "love of Christ" that is supposed to be pouring out of our lives is drown out by our words.

We say "love the sinner and hate the sin," but when all you're talking about is your right to hate their sin, and the right to do it publicly, well, they no longer care, much less believe, you give a damn about them as people. That Jesus of ours wouldn't have thought twice about hanging out at the gay bar getting to know these folks in hopes of telling them about the Creator who loves them. He certainly wouldn't have been giving interviews to talk about the biblically correct choice of vaginas over anuses, and because Phil did, he dropped the ball on representing Jesus.

Yes, I know, we ALL do that. We all do that EVERY day (I'm willing to guess a few/many of you are pretty convinced I'm doing a lousy job of representin' right about now too)- and honestly, I am not condemning him for his mistake, but to whom much is given, much is required. He has a huge platform and with that platform comes a greater responsibility with his words and where and how he speaks them. And I think he blew it. And that's a real shame.

I still have a lot of curiosity about how things will play out from here. Two hours ago I was a little irked by the so far silence of his family. I wondered if they would be willing to put their money where their faith is and back their father, but the more I chew on it, maybe they need to preserve their opportunity to maintain the platform for the rest of the family. It will be a difficult task, but I hope they figure out a way to do that without compromise. It won't be easy.

I wasn't watching the show a whole lot in the first place (though my family does) but I have to say I will not be boycotting A&E - not that I think it will be some hugely successful endeavor anyway, but even if it was, why would you punish an entire network of people for the decisions of a few bigwigs at the top, that was what I never understood about the "as Christians let's come against" mentality. Not all their shows are pro-faith and pro-family before this incident, in fact I think there have been some pretty questionable and risque programs, where was the moral outrage then brothers and sisters?

At the end of the day the Bible says we are known by our love - and our time in this world is supposed to be a lifetime of a missions trip. That needs to be our first and foremost direction and purpose. Your opinions and your right to have them and express them isn't the point. Jesus is the point, and He did not come to condemn the world but to save it. So let's get about the Father's business.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The path

The older I get, and the longer I walk this walk of faith, the more I realize that the "journeys" of this life really don't come to an end, they just transition from one leg to another, with perhaps a little rest in between or along the way.

The Lord gave me a dream more than a year ago now. (And yes, I believe the Lord still speaks in dreams.) In the dream Neal and I were traveling together on a journey. We walked by and through and circled about an old "location" in our lives, and we arrived in a new place together. We were in a warehouse of sorts and it was under construction. We came in from outside but we were looking down onto the ground floor beneath us which was a long way down.

Without thinking my husband jumped off the ledge and landed safely below. He beckoned me to follow him assuring me he was fine from the jump and that I would be as well. But I would not jump, Instead, I stepped back away from the ledge and turned to my left where I found a long staircase that led down to where my husband was waiting. The stairwell was wide, white and sort of inviting. It was the kind of staircase where the individual steps were very shallow but they were also long - and the stairs curved around in such a way that I couldn't see very far up ahead, but the stairwell was well lit. At the end of the staircase was Neal, right where he landed from his jump, and he was waiting for me.

Now apart from the deeper personal meaning that the dream spoke to me, and forsaking other specific details, I do have a point. Where we ended up, Neal and I, was in the exact same place - how we got there was two very different journeys.

In and of itself, I think it's a good metaphor for the Walk of Faith. From cross to eternity, we are all making the same trip. However the path and journey that gets us there is individual to each and every one of us.

Now let me be clear, I am NOT preaching an "all roads lead to heaven" belief system here. Please note that I have said very specifically that the pathway to heaven begins at the cross of Christ. But the steps we take in between are individual to each one of us in a thousand different ways - to name a few: strengths and weaknesses, victories and struggles, experiences, even convictions, understanding and confusions - all of these things play a part in the stepping stones and obstacles along the walk of faith.

Too often we get a very narrow perception that the way God speaks to us is the way He speaks to everyone. And we think that His convictions for us are a blanket black and white, right and wrong issue.

For example: Neal and I recommitted our lives to Christ within in a few months of one another. For me God did some immediate hard core convicting and took two things away - Stephen King novels and secular music. Reading wasn't an issue for my hubby, but he is the music man. I found myself really bothered by the fact that he still listened to a lot of music that I didn't think was music he should be listening to. At times I felt pretty passionate - even hostile about it.

The Holy Spirit, thankfully, was quick to backing me off preaching it AT my husband, another story to tell, but not the point of this blog. Eventually God did bring some conviction to Neal, and he changed part of the things that he listened to, but he was not called to the entire abandonment of all secular music that I felt compelled to. It was years later when we were in his car and a song came on that I realized at least in part why there was a difference in conviction.

The song on the radio had a very sexual and inappropriate lyric. I was mortified. Neal didn't even hear it. He'd heard the song a thousand times and never heard the lyric. I heard the song and didn't hear anything but the lyric. I'm a word person, I hear words. Neal is a musician and he hears drum beats and guitar licks and melodies or harmonies (insert a laundry list of other musical terms I don't even know enough to come up with) so our convictions were different because we were different. Both of us all the while wanting to honor God in our words, actions, attitudes and lives.

There are a lot of areas the we as Christians have strong convictions and compulsions that the Body of Christ is well-divided over: drink, don't drink, dance, don't dance, movies, foods, music, politics, causes, parenting methods, the list goes on and on.

And too often as Christians we get so busy with our opinions and policing how other people live their lives that we stop putting our focus on what the Holy Spirit is speaking into our own hearts and minds.

But here's the thing - we are not walking the walk of faith in anyone else's shoes. And at the end of the day the Holy Spirit doesn't need us doing His job in one another's lives. We're not qualified to play that role. We're filtering other people's circumstances through our own experiences and that's dangerous ground.

That's not to say that there isn't a place for wise and godly counsel - specifically biblical counsel, there is, but we're not all called to dole it out without invitation. And when I say "the older I get" I am learning this, I am learning from my mistakes more than my successes. I spent too many years considering myself an expert on the lives of everyone else and pushing people away with "insights and opinions" that were never sought out in the first place.

We need to learn to give each other more grace - grace to learn and to grow and tune our ear to the Holy Spirit on our own. The paths are not perfect, but so long as it is Christ that we pursue, the right direction is ahead.