Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

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Truly Unconditional Love

August 19, 2014

Hello friends,

It’s been a while. As in more than 3 years a while. If anyone bothers to visit when I publish this post I’ll be amazed. But I have something to say. I might have several somethings to say, we’ll have to see. Today it comes from the story of Vicky Beeching’s coming out. Yup, I’m going there.

There has been a lot of discussion around this. I think it shakes people in ways other Christians who have come out didn’t because she has been a part of so many different people’s regular worship. And this means that her coming out is personal for a lot of people because worship is so personal for so many people.

The backlash is incredible. So much hate masquerading as concern for her soul, her relationship with God. It hurts me. It hurts me more than if it were directed at me, I think. My cousin, who I will say is a liberal conservative Christian responded to a rather disheartening post with an incredibly profound comment. She said:

         “I have been wrong about so many things i was convinced i was right on in my life. Then i felt like God spoke to me pretty clearly that He really didn’t care too much about all the things i was wrong about, because more than likely, I’m still way off. He told me that He loved that i spent time being with Him and talking to Him; that relationship is the ENTIRE reason he sent Jesus. At this point, I would rather be wrong about what the Bible says on homosexuality, knowing that I have put every ounce of my effort into loving people with no strings attached. So if I felt that God spoke that to me, why would His desire for relationship with Vicky Beeching be any different? I think maybe He is a little less concerned about what she is getting right, and more rejoicing over her continued relationship with Him. I realize many opinions differ from mine, that is just where I am currently at.”

I love this. It’s exactly where I am at, although at the end of the day we may end up with different theologies the premise is identical. I can only speak to the relationship I know I have with God. I value the Bible. I value God’s Word. When I came out to myself, a weird idea to be sure, my relationship with God became stronger, better, more intimate than it had ever been before. I truly believe my realizing I am gay, my accepting my sexuality, was the direct result of God interceding on my behalf. I was blind, I was in such deep denial that he had to push his way through. And when he got through he wrapped me up in such intense love, such insane acceptance, that there wasn’t room for me to doubt myself. There was so much love from God for me that I could not have hated myself, nor could anyone else’s hate pierce that love. 

Over the years I have grown to truly believe that homosexuality does not go against God’s will. But more importantly because of the journey I took I am absolutely, positively, certain that God does not call us to judge for him. Our job, no matter what the “sin” may be, is to love. Love without question. Love without hesitation. Love with everything we have, even if we are utterly convinced that a person is wrong. 

God loves us all. Yes, God desires we grow closer to him. He desires that we do our best to live in such a way that we are living according to his will. But God desires relationship with us above all else. Who am I to judge another person and what relationship they have with God? I cannot know what is going on between you and God. I cannot know how the supposed “sin” in your life is affecting that relationship. It isn’t my place. It’s God’s. This doesn’t mean that we are changing what we view as sin. It doesn’t mean I am compromising on any of the things I believe. It means that I am loving. It means that I am letting God do his job, and I will do mine. It means that I refuse to be the person who tries to get in the way of the relationship another person has with God.

If there is one thing I can ask of a Christian it is this. I don’t ask, nor do I want, you to change your theology. I ask that you trust your relationship with God. I ask that you trust my relationship with God. He’s a good guy. He knows what he’s doing. If someday he convicts me that I am wrong, I hope that I will listen. But until that day I know that he loves and accepts me for who I am. You cannot change this, and I am certain he does not want you to. Love. It isn’t compromising your beliefs, it is trusting your almighty God to do his part and you do yours. 

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Lunch With Fred Phelps

February 23, 2011

On Sunday our sermon was titled “Lunch With Fred Phelps”. I go to a church that proudly proclaims that we are a liberal, Christian, church. The exact opposite of anything that Fred Phelps is. In fact, I think the people at my church are more likely to hate Mr. Phelps than the average American. The point was that it isn’t our job to change people. It is not our job to tell people they are wrong and make them change. It is our job, our responsibility as Christ-followers to love people exactly as the are. We should have lunch with Fred Phelps and not tell him how wrong he is or condemn him, but just to enjoy a meal together. Putting “love your enemies” into this context makes it even more obvious how difficult this command from Jesus really is.

After church L. and I were talking about love and I made the observation that I can totally be respectful and caring toward my enemies, but the true agape love- the love that comes from someplace that has nothing to do with worth or earning it- that I don’t know how to do. I can be the nicest person in the world, but being nice is not the same as loving someone. Love affects our actions, but our actions can be loving without the reason being love. I am completely and utterly incapable of true agape love on my own. But that’s the point. That’s the beauty of it. We can’t. We aren’t expected to. Our role is to allow God to work in our lives to create that love for others inside us. My job is to make room for God to take over until I start to see everyone through God’s eyes and not my own. Because the only being capable of true agape love is God. And the only way we can even begin to experience it is by allowing ourselves to be transformed by God. On my own the best I can do is show respect and kindness. But this is not what God has called me to. God has called me, and you, to a standard that requires submitting ourselves fully to him.

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My provider, my Hope

January 30, 2011

It’s been hard. Not really harder than expected, but harder in a different way. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness and provision as he’s provided exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it, and not a minute early or a minute late. But the waiting, the not knowing, the wondering if the next time I am in need will be the time that God chooses to wait a minute longer, has been exhausting. Draining and bringing me ultimately to a place where happiness seemed a thing of the past. Joy and peace have been ever present, but the giddy let it all go nothing to worry about happy feeling hasn’t been around in a long time. And I realize now that I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t think I could go on much longer without finding that happiness back.

Last Saturday I went to Second City. It was hilarious and in a very weird way life changing for me. It was the first time in months that I found myself truly feeling that happy feeling. The first time in months I just let go and had fun. And that night as I went home and went to bed I felt God telling me that things were going to get back to that again-soon. I went to church Sunday morning and while I can’t say I did a very good job worshiping God at church other things, community and relational things, were amazing and powerful and life-giving. Despite this being the hardest week at work I have yet had I felt a perpetual hope that this was it, this was the brink, the edge of the cliff. And it was, in ways I cannot yet fully comprehend.

The day after the worst day I have ever had at work came I got a call for an interview, which I had on Friday and by Friday afternoon I had a new job. Friday night and Saturday were spent with a girl who came out of nowhere and who makes my stomach tight and my heart beat faster and makes me feel safe. Which is beyond terrifying because I have never felt that way so quickly before, but it’s amazing and beautiful and hope building. And as I sit here looking over the past week I can’t believe how quickly and how greatly God has provided.

He is my hope, he is my salvation, he is my Father. I can see and feel and know in the deepest parts of who I am that God desires my happiness and my pleasure and my peace. Because no matter what happens from here God has blessed me when I was wondering if I could make it through another week. When I wondered what the next week would hold that would provide what I needed, God blew me away with his generosity.

I’m falling now. The edge of the cliff is behind me, the ground is below. I don’t know what it holds, but I know that God is guiding me and that he will place a trampoline at the bottom of the cliff, or perhaps I will fall and find myself broken and not knowing what comes next, but I know that God will be there to pick me up and put me carefully back together. Until the bottom arrives I don’t know which it will be, but I do know that God loves me and I know that love does not seek to hurt.

If you’re at the end of your rope, hold on. If you don’t know how to hold on, then let go. But whatever you do, trust that God is there, that God will provide. Perhaps only exactly what you need, but perhaps he will blow you away with the amazing things he gives you today, this week, this year.

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The Infallible Word

January 24, 2011

The Bible is the basis of so much of the Christian faith. We establish our beliefs and practices based more on what the Bible says than any other tradition or cultural factors. And while I don’t disagree with this, I do wonder if perhaps we place too much importance on the precise words of the Bible.

Over 2000 years ago stories were gathered and recorded. Stories from the Israelites. There’s a lot of good stories gathered, and a lot of really important stories for learning about and recognizing God’s presence in the world. But what’s missing? What stories got lost before being recorded? What stories were deemed unimportant by those writing down the history and traditions of the Israelites? We don’t know, and we won’t ever know probably. Do they matter? Do they change who God is? Do they change how we relate to God? I am going to say absolutely not. If they did then they would be there. God is all knowing and all powerful and if there was some essential piece to understanding who God is missing from our only tool for learning about him then I have no doubt it would never have been missing.

In the New Testament we have all sorts of references to other letters written by Paul and other Epistle writers. We know there is at least one other “Gospel book” and probably many more. Why aren’t they included? What did these letters and recordings of Jesus’ ministry while on earth have that those included in the Bible don’t? What didn’t we get passed on that might help us better understand Jesus and therefore God? I don’t know, and we probably won’t ever know.

What’s my point? It’s really rather simple. When we view the Bible, these 66 “books” that have survived the years to be passed along to us thousands of years later, we need to recognize not only that they were written for a specific people in a specific time and specific place, but also that we don’t have the whole story. I think there’s a reason for that too. Beyond the reality of losing things over the span of thousands and thousands of years. I think God doesn’t want us to have all the stories and letters and records. Because although I believe in the complete infallibility of the Bible I do not believe that the writers themselves were infallible. In other words- Paul might have given bad advice to someone, probably many times. Paul might have misinterpreted something, Peter might have written a letter in hasty response and said something he didn’t mean to say. The message of the Bible is beyond questioning, but those who wrote it, those who contributed their words to the Word, were not, are not.

I think that the problem we face today is based in fear. We fear that if we admit that something might be a little bit wrong. If we admit that Paul might have given a bad sermon on occassion, or that Peter had a temper, or that stories from the Old Testament might not tell the whole story; then we are saying the Bible might not be completely true. Then we face the problem of defending our belief and trust and faith in the God of the Bible, YHWH.

But that’s the thing. It’s scary to think about, but faith isn’t based on proof or science or lack of science or solid foundation. Faith is the trust that God is who he says he is. And we learn who he is through the message of the Bible, but we also learn who he is through his revelation in our lives today. I don’t think saying that the Bible isn’t literally, 100% word for word, beyond error takes away from the complete infallibility of the Word. In fact, I would argue that admitting that fallible human beings are responsible for the written form of God’s revelation actually strengthen faith rather than weaken it. The Bible was never intended to be the final word on faith. It was never intended to be the ultimate means to relationship with God.

The Bible is intended to reveal to us the nature of God. It serves to show us who God is so that we can recognize his presence in our lives here and now. The Bible gives us the basis for relationship, but it does not ultimately give us that relationship. The living, breathing, real presence of God in our lives and world today does that.

 

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I am part of the problem

October 21, 2010

I wore purple yesterday, did you? It was a great idea and hopefully it gave hope to many, but simply wearing purple is not enough- it wasn’t enough yesterday and it isn’t enough for today and tomorrow and all the days to come. Neither is tweeting about love or against bullying. These are all great things, all beneficial and steps in the right direction, but none of these things alone or combined is enough. We must change the way we think about others in order to overcome bullying and hate.

I am part of the problem. I hate having to admit it, but I am. Although I rarely if ever act on my thoughts and feelings I still look at non-Christians as missing something (which they are in some ways but not others). They don’t have a relationship with Jesus, but that doesn’t make them any less of a person that I am, but I think somewhere along the way I got this mind set that they are. Now, people who are my friends and are not Christians I don’t have the same problem with. I see them as people just like I see my Christian friends as people, but unless I get to know someone I look at them and base a lot of how I see them on whether they are or are not a Christian.

I don’t like this and I’m working to change it. But when I think about it I can’t help but see how this mentality applied to any particular group of people (LGBT, religious groups, handicaps, race, etc) helps to contribute to bullying. If we view people as being less than or as missing something that we have then we automatically view them as lower than us and that means that we have less problem treating them poorly. We are far more likely to bully someone if we think of them in a less than whole way.

The end to bullying, and the end to hate,  can only fully come when we change the entire way we view others. When I encounter someone different than myself I need to ensure that I do not pre-judge them, I need to make sure that I don’t diminish them as a person for any reason, and when I feel threatened by their difference I need to recognize this as a fault in me and not a flaw with them. Only when the “other” becomes equal to or greater than myself can I truly love them. And love is what conquers hate, and bullying is born of fear and hate.

I’m still working on it, are you?

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Grace

September 24, 2010

***Part Two of my thoughts on If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person.***

Grace. It’s a big word, full of meaning and various understandings and interpretations. One of the things I will take away from reading “If Grace Is True” is how the authors have chosen to define grace. “By grace I mean God’s unfailing commitment to love”. I really like this understanding of grace, because it shows most clearly what it really is. Grace is God’s love overcoming everything else to draw us to him. It is God’s willingness to do whatever was/is necessary for us to have relationship with him.

One of the arguments the authors make regarding universal salvation is that the Bible presents us with two Gods- the God revealed in the Old Testament and the God revealed in Jesus Christ. They then suggest that the only accurate picture of God is the latter. That God is indeed only loving, and completely and perfectly so. That because of this, we must discard the contradicting testimonies of God acting in the world and instead recognize that because God is all loving and all powerful everyone will be saved eventually, because that is the only truly loving thing that can be done.

Grace is God’s perfect love conquering everything. Grace is God’s love taking us filthy dirty humans and making us shiny, clean, and new. Grace is when even after being made clean we get filthy again and God once more cleans us up and makes us new. And what’s remarkable, what’s amazing, what’s inhuman about this is that God does all of this without being even slightly tarnished by our filth. No matter how dirty I am, no matter how often I ignore the guidelines given me and go and get filthy and run down and beat up, God takes me in his arms and makes me clean again without even a smudge getting on him.

But where I take issue with the argument of the authors is that they believe this is something everyone will experience. I believe it is something everyone could experience, but not all will allow it. God has chosen to allow us a choice whether we wish to be clean or not. The longer we stay dirty the more miserable we will be, even if we don’t realize it. But God will never force us to be made clean and new. God will wait eagerly, but patiently at the door, for us to realize that being made clean and new is better than living in filth. And then no matter how filthy we are he effortlessly makes us clean. Even Hitler, even the 9/11 masterminds, even me. But the only way for us to be made clean is for us to allow God to do it. I believe that. I believe that God has given us free will because he desires a real and authentic relationship with us. To say that God will save everyone is essentially saying we don’t actually have free will.

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The Authority of the Bible

September 22, 2010

***Part 1 of my thoughts on Universalist Theology***

The Bible was never intended to end the conversation, but to encourage it. God didn’t fall silent with the last chapter of Revelation. he continues to reveal himself. It makes no sense to glorify the accounts of our ancestors’ encounters with God while dismissing our experience with him today. (From If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland)

The author of this quote goes on to say that in fact our experiences with God should count as more than the Biblical accounts, and that we should then throw out the biblical accounts that don’t line up with our experience with God.

Now, I can see where he’s coming from. There are clearly some things in the Bible that when we read them seem to reveal to us a God different than the God we see acting in other parts of the Bible, and different than the God we experience. But, who are we to make this decision? What base line do we have for judging whether an experience we have is with God or with something/someone else? The only base line I know of is the Bible, and if we start choosing what parts of the Bible we are actually going to believe then we are adjusting our base line to fit our experience.

When researchers are testing a new product, say a medication, they typically use three groups- control, placebo, and actual drug. When we take our experiences and use them to determine what parts of the Bible are true revelations of God’s character and what parts are misunderstandings or misrepresentations it is the equivalent of taking the group who used the actual drug and using them to determine what the placebo is. It’s backwards, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make sense. We cannot use that which we are testing to determine what we test it against.

The author argues that indeed we can and should, because that’s exactly what Jesus did. He would often take the Jewish scriptures and spin them or totally refute them. I can’t, and don’t, disagree. The difference is that Jesus never states that we should throw out any of the scripture, he simply challenges our understandings and interpretations of what that scripture is saying. In the words of the author, “Jesus challenged slavish devotion to the written word”. I don’t think choosing to trust that the entire Bible is true is slavish devotion. I think slavish devotion is believing we still must follow every rule/law exactly as written, that we must read the Bible and believe that every single story told is something that happened and not a story told to teach us something about God or humankind or both.

Throwing any part of the Bible out means that I am determining what it is that God is actually saying, rather than opening myself up to hear what he says amid the clutter of that which he is not saying to me. Some parts of the Bible are not specifically relevant to my life today, and perhaps are not even accurate reflections of who God is. But that doesn’t make them any less authentic as accounts of God working in the world through history. And because of that, I cannot be comfortable with any theology that is willing to choose which parts of the Bible are valid accounts of God’s work, and which are not.