Tag Archives: Faith

The Profession Obsession or the Confession Direction

I have a long time friend, Mike, I have known since we served together in the Navy back in the early eighties.  He and I have managed to keep in touch and we talk together frequently, mostly by text messaging.  Besides pre-pubescent level insanity befitting two guys in their mid fifties, we share epiphanies and inspirations and often learn from one another.  Here is the sum of what Mike opened with recently:

What direction is love in your life?  If your theology hinges on your love for God, then the blood and the cross eventually take second place.  This can produce a compulsion to work and brag about your love for God and thinking you have “levels of faith”.

Interesting.  Wouldn’t you say?

loudmouthSo much of the Church has gone the way of professing their love for God and the result is a misinterpretation of what it means to love God.  If it becomes strictly a matter of us loving Him, then the Cross means nothing.

It starts with the Cross…His love for us.

We read, “Love the Lord with all you heart, all your soul and all your mind.”  However, this has become something of a doctrine of our effort toward salvation and approval by God.  It is as if they promote a gauge of how much a person loves God, which is measured in words and deeds.  In other words, the more work you do and the louder you can shout and profess your love for God, the more approved you are and the greater the proof of your salvation.

If you ask me, this sounds tiresome.  How do these “professors” and their faithful followers keep up with this?  Well, it’s like that commercial for a brand of anti-depression medication, where the people carry a paper smiley-face mask with them.  They put on a facade.

Fake it?  Yes.  Put on a happy face.  Therefore, all this profession is a facade in front of others along with an attempt to impress God.

Impress God?  As if.

How can anyone impress the Creator of the Universe?  Peasants.

His love for us, however, outshines anything we can even attempt to do to impress Him. He isn’t impressed with us or anything we do.  He loves us.

Law is profession.handup

It takes no faith to profess something.  You can shout anything you want from whatever vast knowledge or belief you may or may not have.  Profession takes no faith.  There are plenty of pulpit-pounding purveyors of various doctrines out there who profess stuff they don’t understand or necessarily believe. Confession, however, does.

Love is confession

We confess that He loves us.  Since we know He loves us, we love Him in return.

Parents, your children’s love for you is out of response to your love for them.  You don’t demand or command that they love you.  They love you because they know you love them.

How much more does the Father love us?

The danger of enforcing profession.

When leaders profess love for God and enforce (encourage?) the profession of love for God by others, what happens is individual efforts to impress God with our love for Him.  What we may see is people straining to reach God, singing and shouting loudly during “worship service”, as if the louder and more exuberant they become, the more obvious it will be to God how much they love Him.  Many of these people are insecure in the idea of God’s love for them.

Another, probably bigger danger is the judgmental statements that start with, “If you truly love the Lord…”.  This forces people to profess and/or prove their love for the Lord.  It results in the facade of behavioral modification.

God.  Loves.  You.

Learn that.  Agree with it.  Believe it.  Know it.  Take refuge in that.  Just sit back and know that He loves you.  Know that His work on the Cross is sufficient.  Did He not say, “It is finished.”?  We don’t need to stress and strain or prove our love for Him…He loves us, no matter what.

When we embrace the fact that He loves us, our love for Him follows.  Then, we begin to act on that love, when He calls, commands or speaks to us…and we obey because we love Him. We do for Him out of our love for Him and our love for Him is in response to His love for us.

Knowing how loved we are prompts, propels and compels us to love and serve Him.

A very busy man in ministry was once asked how he did all that he did, with the travel and ridiculous schedule.  His reply, “I know that I know that God loves me.”

Let’s not gauge our spirituality or our standing by how much (we think) we love God.  Let’s not measure how much we love God by what we do, how we do it or how we behave.  This is backward.  Our love is incomplete, impure and has its share of conditions and reservations.

We need to go back to the Cross.

We need to remember how completely and unconditionally He loves us.

1 John 4:10 (NIV), This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

This gives us a good starting point toward loving Him.  First – and always – His love, proven at the Cross. Then, our love for Him follows.  It is more organic than demanded.

 

 

 

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Surviving a Weird Life

Too many people grow up in adverse circumstances – poverty, abuse, broken homes, drug and alcohol abuse, and neglect to name a few.  Growing up in these circumstances can produce a variety of issues in the victims, that without proper intervention may have the possibility of turning into life-long problems.  The very least that occurs are memories that leaves one guarded and wary in certain situations.

homesweethomeMy upbringing started out fairly normal.  Mom, Dad, brother, sister, decent house in a wooded setting in a nice Essex County, New Jersey suburb.  But, things began to change.

By the time I was just short of turning eleven, my father had a massive stroke that rendered him unable to care for himself at all, keeping him in nursing homes for the rest of his life (25 years). This left our mother with the task of taking on the entire household herself, besides minding us kids.  There was one serious problem, though.

She was an alcoholic.

Looking back, our mother always had a drinking problem.  But, after our father was taken out of the picture, she became reliant on the bottle to get her through life.  This led to some pretty weird times, some even a bit terrifying.

Public embarrassment could pop up any time.  We often ate out and Mom would have her share of alcohol with dinner.  One time, my brother and I had to walk her out of a restaurant, as she could not steadily walk on her own.  We were not old enough to drive, so that made the ride home rather interesting, too.

One night, she decided we should all go to see a movie at the drive-in.  Being an alcoholic, she perpetually had alcohol running in her system, so even an evening at a movie was not without its events.

The one thing with some people who drink throughout the day is that they can appear sober for much of the day and suddenly go into a stupor, becoming irrational and unwise. This is the way it was for my mother.  My mother would suddenly get slurred in her speech and seemingly out of touch with present reality.

At a drive-in (old days of movie watching from a car), after being there for a bit, she had to go to the bathroom.  But, she decided that she did not want to walk the distance to use the bathroom provided.  So, she simply got out of the car and quietly squatted in a darker area between cars.  I have no idea if anyone saw her or not – I was staying low in the back seat.

I remember one night at a restaurant, I excused myself to the men’s room.  Upon returning, I saw my mother slouching down in her seat, drooling.  I turned around and went back to the men’s room and fought back tears of shear embarrassment.

Another restaurant adventure, she had two double dry martini’s and about two helpings of wine.  The ride home was terrifying, as we dodged oncoming traffic and just about every telephone pole.  Once we turned into the end of our road, she was heading toward the front of a house…I yelled at her and she veered off, crossing the road and took us into a well established oak tree.  We hit on my side. Ouch. Fortunately, it did not make my mug any worse.

For a while, being a passenger was not tops on my “fun things to do” list.  Even to this day, while I really don’t mind others’ driving, I would rather be at the wheel.

I was thirteen, at that time.  Life was weird enough just being that age.  Having to deal with public embarrassments was no thrill.  Of course, life at home was filled with many a loud argument between me and my mother.

That summer of the car wreck was also when her health began to decline.  She began to have leg pain, which is not uncommon for people whose main diet is alcohol. By early that October, she got pretty sick and called the doctor.  These were some of the last days of house calls, so he came over to see her.

After examining her, he came outside, where I was, took me aside and asked me a few questions concerning her drinking habits – how much, how often, etc.  He asked me.  I did say I was 13…right? I answered the best I could.  Looking back, it seems pretty weird that I was the one to ask about these things.  But, I guess I was the closest thing to an adult in the house (my sister is eight years younger and my brother, being deaf, was in a boarding school during the week).

Medication was prescribed for her and she was off the alcohol.  However, the DT’s (Delirium Tremens) were in full swing and the medication basically kept them at bay.  My grandmother (her mother) would be with her during the day and helped clean our disaster of a house and I had the night shift.  It continues to be weird.

If she had to go to the bathroom, I had to help her in as she was unsteady on her feet. That is more than enough for a thirteen year-old boy to go through.  But, every once in a while, she would have an hallucination.  No fun there, either.

She was ultimately admitted into the hospital.  She had cirrhosis of the liver and really should not have been home, at all.  What us kids did not know was how severe this was and our grandparents…her parents…kept encouraging the idea of “when she gets better…”.  She didn’t.

Back in 1975, liver transplants were still experimental, so that wasn’t even a thought.  In her state, the disease was fatal.  She died later that October.

It was the end of a very stressful, weird and surreal two and a half years.

It was even weird at her funeral.  It is not as if we had a great relationship, but she was still my Mom.  At the funeral, it was like I would start to cry and nothing would come out.  It was also surreal, to see a coffin, knowing there was a lifeless shell of someone I was talking to only a week or so before.

~There are so many more details, but I was not about to exhaust too much of one post on this.  I apologize for any apparent gaps.~

I learned a year later that God makes all things work together for the good.  For some reason, I took that to heart, just about right away.

I could see how events lined up – I lived with my paternal grandmother from about a year after my mother died, who took me to church, where I heard why Jesus died and how He wanted to be part of my life and share His with me.  A few years later, I would join the Navy, which would bring me to Virginia, where I met my wife.  Not only has she been the most solid relationship I ever had, but we had those four great kids (and now, adorable grandkids!).

I will likely never know the whole picture.  I don’t really need to.  I simply need to trust the Lord.

“Though He slay me, I will trust in Him” – Job

“Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will not fear evil, because You are with me.” – King David

Many of us have or have had a weird life.  A hard life.  Maybe even a sad life. Perhaps a violent life.

We don’t understand.  We hurt and we cry, we yell and complain, we fight and struggle. We press on, maybe walking, maybe crawling.  We see light at the end of the tunnel, wishing it not to be an oncoming train.  Yet, there is something that always rings true.

The Father is no less loving.  He is no less God.

I survived a weird life.  Some might say it was sad, or tragic.  But, as the years have gone on, I have been overcoming the effects of what went on back then (still a work in progress).

There is a difference between surviving and overcoming.  One gets you through, the other puts you in the victor’s seat.

 

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Grown-Up Stuff…A Few More Thoughts

Get the Church out of the bedroom!

Oh, I can hear the logic, now.  That’s impossible!  We are the Church!  Now, what we need to do is just follow along, here.

Within the Church, there are those who over-legislate sex among just about everything else.  They make rules for frequency, positions, men being in charge, lights out, only in the bedroom, only for procreation…blah, blah, blah.

Where did these rules come from?  As far as I can see…pretty much seems they are made up.

What about, “Be fruitful and multiply”.  Doesn’t that mean sex is only for procreation?

Nope.  There is no indication, not a hint…nuttin’ that gives a clue for that idea.

As for any of the other stuff, it is like someone was afraid of what sex could be and thought it to be something wrong.  There are no limits…whatever position, wherever hands go and whatever they do, oral stuff…all good.  Sex once a week, three times a week, or ten times a week…all good. Before children, as parents and into senior years…all good.  Whatever makes it good for the couple, is all good.

Bed half empty.

I heard a rather sad statistic…about half of married couples are NOT having sex.  What?! If we were to believe TV and movies, it would seem everyone is having sex fairly regularly.  But, then it stops sometime after marriage?  NO!  Whatever opportunities a couple has should be spent enjoying each other. There is nothing wrong with a couple who wants to be a bit slutty with each other.

Whoa!  Did you just use that word?

Yes, I did.  Get over it.  For that matter, if you are married, get over it, under it, on top of it, beside it…or whatever works for you and your spouse..as often as you can.  Go ahead and be a little slutty.

Geez, he said it again.

Mayest thou get over thyself.

Here is a bit of information that people tend to forget.  The whole good feeling, liking what you see, all the good touching, getting all fired up and all…God created that!  He made us that way!  You know what else?  He totally approves of whatever fun you like to have, too.

After all those kids and pizza.

There is that issue of body image.  Women are especially sensitive in this area.  Well, ladies, if your husband still likes being with you, even after all those kids and a few helpings of cake and potato chips, enjoy the ride.  It’s nice if you can stay or get back in shape, but if that guy is still warm for your form, then go and let him warm you up.

As time goes on, sexy takes on all new dimensions, with the help of gravity and maybe a few extra donuts.  And birthday cake. And everything between Thanksgiving and New Year.  Don’t sweat it.  If one of you is getting a bit spongy, likely the other is, as well.

It is not dignified for people over certain ages to engage in such relations.  Anyway, people lose interest after the years go by.

bedfeetReally?  Abraham and Sarah certainly were a fun pair, then.  I doubt they were honeymoon marathoners in their platinum years (at their ages, they passed golden years), but it seems they still had a reasonable fire in the furnace.  Let’s put it this way…if you are of certain senior age-range and still can and want to…go forth and enjoy!

Now, I am not opposed to losing weight and/or staying in reasonable shape.  Honestly, I think that sex can be more enjoyable when two people are less “girthy”.  And, when I say, ‘reasonable shape’, it means we don’t have to go all crazy at the gym and all that.  But, that we should be able to enjoy our time without a trip to the ER afterward.  Out of breath after the big event…expected.  Wheezing like a dying animal for just getting your clothes off…may want to make some changes.

A few more thoughts.

I just shared Anna McCarthy’s most recent post on depression (Just a Jesus Follower).  I think that many of the demands placed on people (by Christians) also affect what goes on between husband and wife.  Honestly, I think the reason so many people are not enjoying sex is because of everything around them.  Not only do we have many two-income households with children and all their demands and activities included, but in the Church we have many demands, as well.  We have to serve this much, we have to obey this way, we have to walk this line, our marriage has to appear like this, our demeanor has to look like that…and on, and on, and on.  We have been pounded with doctrines that have reduced us to often worrying what God is thinking of us, whether He is disappointed in us and even if we met some sort of condition to earn His love for us.  This does not encourage active snuggle time.

God loves you just as you are.  Warts, flab and all.  He created us just the way we should be. He created the sexual urge and did so for more than just procreation.  If you have been missing out on some good times for a while, maybe it is time to sit with your spouse and discuss the idea of getting back in the saddle, again.  Maybe it is time for me to stop using such corny metaphors. In any case, people need to feel free to get as nasty with each other as they see fit for themselves.

What rules?

Here are the only real rules – First, the marriage bed is un-defiled.  Second, do not deprive on another. Actually, these are not so much as rules, as they are declarations of the freedom to be with your spouse the way your spouse agree and enjoy being with one another.

If anyone wants any homework…well…you can make up your own assignment.

 

 

 

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Others, Before Me…Part 7

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Curly

There is little in life that shows love like a pug.

Paul had a great way to list three important things, listing one as “the greatest”, without really diminishing the importance of the others.  In my mind, I think the easiest way to look at this is to start breaking down each of these words…faith, hope and love.

First, I notice that it says these three abide, or in other versions, they remain.  No matter what goes on, who said what, what the law says, how rich or poor we may be…there is still faith, there is still hope and there is still love.  No matter what, they will never be out of style, dysfunctional or illegal.

Now, quickly, let’s take a brief peek at faith and hope.

Faith

In its simplest definition, faith is belief.  However, in my studies, it is not the level of belief which is just mental assent. Faith is belief that is completed by action.  This makes the scripture, “Faith without works, is dead”, make some sense.  Faith can only be complete, or alive, by acting upon it.  And, even then, it is based on what the Lord says – not on what we conjure up and stamp the Lord’s name on.

Hope

One friend of mine put it this way…hope is the emotion of faith.  It has been defined as joyful expectation.  It is not a wish, as we so often use it, like, “Hope to see ya soon”, or, “I sure hope you feel better.”.  Hope is really based on what has been set to happen.  When the woman is expecting, she has hope for a new baby.  When God makes a promise, we have hope in the manifestation of what He promised.

Why Love is the Greatest.

Looking up the word, greatest, in the Greek, it comes out to be…hang on to your seats…greatest.  Didn’t expect that, did ya?  Other than that, the idea of being most important came across.

The beginning of this chapter mentioned how whatever we do, without love, there is useless noise or activity.  Love is the utmost importance.  In 1 John 4, we read, “…God is love.”

We can remember why Jesus came to Earth..”For God so LOVED the world…”

Love is the nucleus of all the stuff…and more…in Chapter 13.  Love should be at the nucleus of all we do.

Love brings us mercy.

Love brings us grace.

Love gives of oneself.  For instance…”Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave HIMSELF up…”.  When the crowds came after a tired and worn Jesus, He stopped and spent time to heal and teach them.  He had compassion on them.

Compassion is borne out of love.

People are built to give and receive love.  In this broken world, there are too many who have been denied love for any manner of reasons.  Who will give them the love they need? Who has enough love to give them?  It should be those of us who know how much God loves us all.

Once we acknowledge and embrace His love for us and rely upon Him to allow His love to work through us, we have an infinite amount of love to share.  Actually, most of us know that love has a bottomless supply.  But, we somehow tend to run out of it…as our patience wears out, as we neglect being kind, start becoming arrogant…you get the picture.

Jesus never did.  Well, as God in the flesh, no wonder.  But, He lives in us, so (humanness notwithstanding) we can love much because He loves much.  he said He would never leave nor forsake and said He would leave The Comforter and we are also told that our bodies are a “temple of the Holy Spirit”.  So, yeah…He lives in us.  His love can shine through.

His love is with no condition.  There is no perfection required.  For that matter, there is no gettin’ nothin’ right required.  We don’t have to change to please Him or get Him to love us more.  We cannot impress Him.

No matter how we dress, speak, look, walk, think, act, make decisions, no matter who we hang out with, what we drive, where we live, where we were born, whether we live in poverty or wealth, if we are good looking or not…we are loved.  All of us.

All of us.  Everyone.  It’s just that not everyone knows it.

We need to be that love.  We need to be Jesus to people.

We don’t need to be the next preaching dynamo or the super spiritually gifted tongue-speaking prophet of the ages.  Without love, all that stuff is, frankly, garbage.  Honestly, I feel there are those who use these gifts on their own steam in order to impress and compel people, to essentially “sell” the Gospel, too often for personal gain. This is not love.

Love seeks to bless others.   Love does not seek its own.  Love puts others before self.   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

The greatest is love.heart

 

 

 

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The Worldly Church

“There’s a stylized, bastardized Christianity that many politicians and celebrity pastors have peddled for years; one that has slowly but surely become our American template. It’s a bloated, opulent, consumerist, aggressive, nationalistic, might is right amalgam that really doesn’t resemble Jesus much at all.” – John Pavlovitz (johnpavlovitz.com)

In the quest to be what actually results in the above description, church leadership has stooped to tactics which include lying, manipulating and over-sensationalizing.  They have misinterpreted scripture and misrepresented the Gospel. They either don’t see it, or don’t care, since they often get what they want.

If you have to lie, manipulate or over-sensationalize in order to prove what you say is right or true, then you have nothing to stand on.  Besides, this is how the world works, not how things get done in God’s Kingdom.

But, there is an audience.  A flock.  A band of followers.moneypreacher

They listen.  They cheer.  They give money.

Nickles and noses.  A faithful audience that hands over money.

They make it all sound so good and specific scriptures (often out of context or ‘clobber’ verses) are used and then, they place Jesus’ Name on it and it is all accepted as right and true.

Not all churches or ministries are like this.  But, way too many in the US are. They could be a small congregation of 30 or a massive mega-church. Tactics are used to hold those people there, control/manipulate them and make sure they give money.

Rather than being “transformed by the renewing of the mind”, it is a system which would act in a manner reflecting the world system of kings and superstars…that is, being “conformed to this world”. To use manipulating tactics to attract and keep people is the world system way.  To do all of this for big money is greedy and selfish.  To aspire for worldly treasures…massive salaries, huge and opulent buildings, power, notoriety and huge followings are all earthly treasures, even if they are dressed up as “Kingdom building”.

2 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV) 

3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds,who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.~

This has been taught as being about general sin and the “unsaved”.  But, if we take a closer look, it is about the Church.  Key..verse 5, “…having a form of godliness…”  Another key, verse 7, “…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”, and “…these teachers oppose the truth”.  That last one has my attention.

I am amazed how anyone who calls themselves a teacher or a preacher would dare oppose the truth.  They appear to speak the truth, but much of what they spread has little to no truth.  Then, if confronted with what is correct and true in scripture, they deny it.  They are convinced they have all the “proof” they need for what they believe and teach.  This is what makes them, basically, dangerous.  This is why we read in verse 5, “Have nothing to do with these people”.  They draw people in, drag them down and take their money.  They do this, all the while believing they are serving the Lord.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!~

This is not just about the people who are “traditional Christians” or pastors by career only, nor is it about the ritualistic religious. An example of the subject of this verse in plain view, right on the television. Yes, the beloved “televangelist”.  Not all people of this ilk are on TV, but these guys are the epitome of what we see in this verse.  They often use false prophecies, sensational End-Time Eschatology topics, as well as, rhetoric and “clobber scriptures” to take their stands against abortion and homosexuality.  They use fear tactics to sway people to the altar and shaming tactics to convince people toward certain behaviors.

controlcartoonThe result is followers, which brings power and, often, massive amounts of money, which further feeds the power.  Meanwhile, they are convinced they are doing the will of God, pointing out that they are doing His will.  Often, however, their speech and actions show some things that are not Christ-like, at all.

They use Jesus’ name as a rubber stamp that they have permission to use on whatever they feel should be God’s will.  They stamp it on the opulent buildings, the huge salaries, the judgmental statements and messages and even the false prophecies.  If they want a specific candidate for office, they put Jesus’ name on that, too.  If they want people to behave a certain way, His name (and a good deal of shaming) is spoken.

By the way…using Jesus’ name to garner favor or to persuade God or people is using His name in vain.  I believe the Commandments these guys blast at people has something in there about that.

There is a faction of the Church, I believe, which will rise up.  They will not rise up in power or come with convincing words.  They will not seek to build huge ministries or massive buildings.  Their goal will not include having a title, a following, a huge salary or a lavish lifestyle.  They will bring one thing.

The Gospel.  The Good News.

Their lives will reflect what we read about Jesus in His Earthly ministry.

Love will be the nucleus of what they say and do.

They will seek to be the Jesus people need.

They will expose truth to and about these modern day Pharisees.

They should be all of us.

We need to be Jesus to a lost and hurting world.

Love should be our nucleus.

As it should be.

As we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

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Trust and Let Go

If you don’t mind, I am going to be a little honest, here.

I don’t trust, easily.  I have lost some trust in certain people – sales people, doctors, politicians.  Okay…those are kinda standard.  Some people have basically lost their trust – former employers and employees, former pastors and a few family members.  My parents even lost a little trust.  I also admit, I have a tough time trusting the Lord.

Of anyone to trust, I should certainly trust the Lord…right?  But, probably because of things that went on in my life over the years, I gained a sense of wanting to control things. When we are in control, we are not trusting someone else.

But, certainly, the Lord is completely trustworthy.  He loves us unconditionally and He “works all things for good…”.  Trusting Him should be easy.  Well, when one is used to taking control of certain areas of their life, trust does not come easy.

To trust is to let go and let someone else take care of things.monkeytrap

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”, we read in Proverbs.  Our heart is our will.  We need to decide whether we are going to trust Him, or not.  We can examine His track record and see that He does work things for good.  Granted, it does not feel like it when things are just perpetually awful, though.

We read in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

This is metaphoric of a dark place.  A place where there is no sunlight.  Kinda scary.  Can’t see everything, if anything at all.  Every sound makes you jump a little, because you can’t see what it was or where it came from.

But, David takes comfort…

  • The Lord is with him
  • The Lord has a rod of protection
  • The Lord has a staff of guidance.

There are those who say that the rod is for our correction.  This makes God out to be some sort of taskmaster, stick in hand, ready to whack us once we step out of line.  Really, the rod is for protection from predators.  One fox gets too close to a sheep and…SMACK!  One snake gets caught slithering around…THUD!  It was not – no matter how convincing a teaching may sound – it was not used to break a leg of a wandering sheep (this doctrine is used by leaders who exercise control over people).

The staff is used to guide.  As the sheep herd move along, the shepherd would use the staff to tap and guide sheep back into the herd so they would stay together, as he led them to other pastures.

Back in Proverbs 3, the other part of the aforementioned verse is, “…and lean not on your own understanding.”  To lean is to find support, preferably solid, reliable support.  Our own understanding is what we see, perceive, or know (or think we know).  This really shows what trust in someone else is not.

God sees the whole picture.  He sees all the circumstances and people involved.  He knows the wisest course of action.  He knows when inaction is the better course.  When we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, we need to seek and wait on Him.

Isaiah 40:31 starts with, “They that wait upon the Lord…”  That word, wait, is the same word in Hebrew as trust.  Personally, I find that interesting.  So, if we are to wait upon the Lord, we do need to trust Him…is this right?  It seems so.

Life is full of struggles and stresses for me and my family, as with many people. But they have appeared to “blossom” in the last few years.  Just when we think we were on a good path, something comes along and seems to knock us off.  Then, what I do, is look for a way to fix it (especially when I feel guilty over being a cause for much of the circumstances), when most of it is not in my control.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe we need to be wise and diligent about things.  But, life does give us more than we can handle.  Yes, the Lord allows more than we can handle.

We are broken people living in a broken world full of broken people.  Crap happens.  We might do it to ourselves or someone else may cause it, but consequences follow.  We are not necessarily “under attack from the enemy”, nor are we (ever) “being punished” by the Lord for something.  Whether we did something out of unwise impulsiveness, outright stupidity, selfish intentions or if someone else caused our circumstances, the Lord is fully aware and has an answer.

He sees the big picture.  Abraham knew this.  Gideon learned it.  Moses caught on.

handholdCan I just rest in Him?  Can I let go and allow Him to take care of these things that are too big for me to handle?  Am I able to allow His wisdom to speak, rather than “leaning on my own understanding”?

Maybe you struggle with trust, too.  I don’t think I am the only one out there.  But, I think, perhaps, if we keep seeking Him and not hold onto that which we think we should control, that maybe…just maybe…we might see just how He will handle things, as we walk together.

 

 

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Did You Hear That?

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

There are those who will hold up there Bibles and claim that we need to “spread the word” so that others might believe.

In other words, shove scripture in their faces.

If we are “lacking faith”, we must paste our faces in our Bibles, thus “hearing”, until our faith returns.  It is as if “hearing” scripture increases our faith.

Sorry, but I have a hard time with these ideas.

oldmanear.jpgThe Bible is not the “word of God”.  The Bible does not give us faith. Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1).  Even though scripture is “God-breathed”, it is not the word of God.  One good explanation – one better than I can articulate – can be found here… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2013/04/the-bible-is-not-the-word-of-god-a-polemic-against-christendom/

Let’s see if we can simply define the main points of this passage.

Faith.  Faith is believing but, as I see it, with follow-through.  When we do what God says, we are acting in faith.  It is based on what God says, first.  Faith is not proven by our works but, basically comes to life in and with our works.

Hearing.  Listening, heeding, giving consideration.  It goes into the idea of obeying, which is action.  So, where are we going with this?

The word of God.  That which God speaks to us.  His commands.  Again…the Bible is not the word of God.

God speaks.  We heed/obey.  Faith is active.ear

Believing in something means nothing, by itself.  That’s just mental assent.  Doing something based on what God tells us is faith.

(Note:  Doing what we think should be done, assuming it is His will and adding His Name to it is not faith.  It is presumptive and can be arrogant. Interestingly, Romans 14 shows us that stuff that does not come from faith…is sin.  Another topic to be tackled at another time.)

Without works (the effort, motion, obedience), faith (belief) is dead. (James 2)

Dead.headstone

It was never given life.  Like, useless.

You can’t kill faith, per se, but it has no life – no substance – if we don’t act upon what we are commanded to do or walk in what the Lord is speaking to us.

It is sort of like, believing your car runs and can get you places.  But, that belief is useless if you don’t turn the key, put the car in gear and drive.

This does not mean that we become useless in the Kingdom because we missed or refused a command by the Lord.  God will not become disappointed in us, become angry with us or disown us.  Grace doesn’t work that way.

Faith is not something we muster up.  It is not something we can measure.  It is not something someone has more of than another.  Faith comes from the Lord.  He reveals Himself and His love to us.  He proves Himself to us and we choose to trust and believe. With that, we have incentive to do and go as He says.  When we do what He tells us, we are acting in faith.

Did Abraham do what he felt he should do and ask God to bless it?  No…he did what God was speaking to him.  But, God spent years encouraging Abraham and proving Himself. Abraham did not move in blind faith, either.  He did what he did based on what he knew about God.  Then, when God spoke, Abraham “believed God”…or, he agreed with God.

Faith = belief = agreement.  From what we see about Abraham, belief = agreement.  He could agree (believe) because he had enough evidence in order to trust God.  Therefore, God’s word was heard and faith came to Abraham.  Abraham could then obey out of that faith.

Quotes about faith, from my old pal Mike…

“Obedience is born from faith, not to get to it.”

“Obedience has to have faith and hope, or it is just religious peity.”

“We don’t work toward faith, but work from it.”

(from a conversation with Michael Willingham, author of Charlie’s Spacesuit and long time friend)

Forget about faith seminars, how to grow or increase our faith, mustering up our faith or considering who has more or less faith. From what we read, faith comes from the Lord.  He speaks, we hear, then we go from there.

As for obedience, it is not like a dog obeying its master.  While there may be consequences, we will not be punished or outcast because we missed or disobeyed a directive from the Lord.  From what I see,  we do that more to one another than the Lord does to us.  Adam and Eve were not cursed for their actions, but their actions did have consequences.  Consequences are not punishment, even though they can serve as a good lesson.

Our ears toward the voice of the Lord.  He will speak, in His time.  We will know when He speaks.  He has spoken through scripture.  But, His word comes from Him, not just from some pages.  He can speak to us directly, too.  Maybe even through another person.  No matter how He speaks to us, we will know it is Him.  From that point, we have the opportunity to walk in what He says.

So, we believe in Him, He speaks and we heed and do as He says.  Seems simple enough. Now, you may read this and see where I am amiss, or maybe you have a better way of describing something I have attempted to describe, here.  I would be only too glad to see and learn from whatever anyone has to say…as we walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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