Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Of Things Not Seen

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is hard, hard for me anyway. For some people, it seems rather easy, "Yes, of course the Universe was created in six days. Yes, of course women were created from the rib of the original man. And two of every animal were rescued by a man with a very large boat. And Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. And Egypt was overrun by plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, and locusts. And the Red Sea parted. And Jonah was swallowed by a whale...."

These are just, so unbelievable. I've been turning this kind of thing over an over again in my mind lately - questioning.

Is questioning wrong? I don't know. I think it's a matter of degrees. On one hand, you should be responsible for looking up things in the Bible yourself and studying it yourself and finding the right resources to help you understand it more. On the other hand, some things are just unknowable. 

Some things have to come down to faith.

But this is all Old Testament stuff. The miracles of the time before Jesus, who came as the greatest miracle of them all. The ultimate sacrifice. The one who would bear the wrath of God for all of the sins of those who would believe in him and follow his teachings.

I think about that a lot too. 

The weight of my sins on my heart can be overwhelming. There's a tightness there, a sort of stabbing loss of breath that catches me off guard and leaves me feeling hopeless...and helpless. The feeling of my heart breaking. 

Sometimes I think about how it would feel to have that experience compounded millions of times over, and I wonder if that must have been what it felt like for Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if that was the real torture of the cross. The physical pain, that's the fear of humans. It's horrible, to be sure, but it's superficial.

The crushing weight of the sin of millions would be more than any one human could take.

And maybe that's ultimately what killed Him. Once God the Father turned his face away from his dying son, removing what grace had leveraged from his soul, did the weight of a world of sins end his life?

Did Jesus die of a broken heart?

I don't know. There is no way to know, at least not now. Not in this life.

But I have faith that he did die for my sins. He did take my place and receive the punishment and judgement that I deserve.  

Now, as for seas parting and boats carrying two of every kind...I don't believe it's a lie. I have faith that God saves His people and destroys the wicked. The fine details, well there's just no way of knowing. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Identity Affirming Crisis

"Am I trying to be something that I'm not?"

 I wrote that in my last post, but when I went to edit it, it struck me.

Yes. Yes, I am trying to be something that I'm not.

Anyone who is a Christian is trying to be something that they are not.  That's the point.

People are wicked by nature. We are selfish, prideful, materialistic, wrathful, worldly, impatient, gluttonous, lazy creatures. And if you don't believe me, take a hard look at humanity.

I don't have to teach my kids to take their toys and throw fits if someone else tries to play with them. I do spend countless hours trying to teach them to share.

It's not difficult to be angry and try to get revenge on someone that hurts me. It is to forgive and forget.

Just being near a Target can inspire me to spend the $150 that I didn't think I could afford to donate.

And let's not talk about dieting....doughnuts and thin mints are a weakness.

Now, does that mean that we have no virtue? No. 

Romans 2:15
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, 

We do have a bit of God in us - we know what is right and wrong.

The problem is, we're not set up to follow our hearts or our conscience. We're set up to defy it.

And that's why I feel good when I give in to temptation (<drooooool>...doughnuts...), and why I feel better when I defy it.

I am trying to be someone that I'm not.

Love is patient...

1 Peter 5:
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

“Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honor our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him.” ~ Matthew Henry


I'm lonely. I shouldn't be, but I am. I have a husband, a wonderful mentor, a growing relationship with the church body I am visiting, and many friends who have always stood by me.

But, I'm lonely, and I feel very discouraged at times.

Will I ever feel the connection with God in my every day life that I feel in services? I keep reading all of these posts and essays from people who say that they "love Jesus," and I want to love Him, but I don't feel it. At least, not yet.

I feel humbled by His works. I feel dependent on His mercy. I feel amazed and inspired by His grace...but love isn't the noun that I immediately go to.

Is that the same thing? I don't know.

I know that I'm impatient to know Him more deeply, to feel Him working in my life. But for now, I just feel very lonely and lost. I don't know what to do next. I know where I want to be, but I don't know how to get there. 

So, is that it? Is this the suffering for me? I have to wait.

Patience has never been my virtue, not by a long shot. 

But, I will be patient. God works in His time and in His way. I will continue doing what I can to be worthy in His sight. I will continue searching for Him. I will continue working and reading and building my faith.

I will be patient.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Baby with the Bath Water

It's ironic how many questions you begin pondering when you begin walking in faith. On any other normal day, I don't think about how the universe was created or what my genetic relationship is to chimpanzees. I find it interesting, sure, but it doesn't define my life in any way.

For whatever reason though, these are just some of the hundreds of questions that people have when they approach Christianity. And sadly, it is the inability of science and religion to rectify their differences that turns so many people off.

"But the Bible says that all of creation was made in 6 days..."
Yes, it does. And obviously, most scientists disagree with that timeline. Not all of them, but most of them believe that the universe began with a big bang and that over the course of billions of years everything that exists formed. Being brought up in a pretty typical, public school education, that's what I have understood to be truth as well, and quite frankly, I don't understand how anyone familiar with the science could dispute it. It seems very solid. It seems well-founded, and I mean, I don't think that the scientific community has banned together to try and hoodwink us with some carefully executed, mass dis-information campaign.

But, I don't think that God is either.

Now, how I rationalize it doesn't matter. In fact, rationalizing it at all doesn't matter. That's not the point. There are any number of concepts in the Bible that I cannot fully understand - the Trinity, the justice of God, the presence of sin, predestination, free will, angels, demons, saints, the death and resurrection of Christ, the identifcation of God as "I am" - just to name a few.

Not that I don't understand their definitions, but to fully conceptualize what they are, what they mean, and how they came about, are beyond what many, if not most, of us are capable of.

Can you even fathom just how big our galaxy is? I mean, really, really get an idea of just how far away 100,000 light years is? Did you know that the sun, just our sun, is 8 light-minutes away? Traveling at the speed of LIGHT, it would still take you eight minutes to get there.

If you can, you've got a better imagination and sense of depth than I do because I really can't. Maybe I'm not supposed to be able to. Maybe that's not the point.

I heard an interview on NPR once with this Christian scientist, and the interviewer asked her how she rationalized the two. I was intrigued by her answer. She said, and I'm paraphrasing, that the reason people have such a hard time trying to rationalize science and religion is because they think that science and religion are trying to find the answer to the same question. However, what they fail to realize is that the question for scientists is 'How?', but the question for religion is 'Why?'.

How the universe was created versus why it was created like that are two different ideas, and the truth in one does not necessarily negate the truth in the other.

Now, why do I say all of this? Well, what I've been thinking a lot about lately is how often I have resisted faith, resisted what I have felt in my heart to be true, because of a singular issue like the creation of the universe.

Why does it matter? I mean, really - on a day to day basis, how often does the question of how the universe was created matter to you? How often do you find that Darwin's Theory of Evolution affects your morning commute?

But the power of God to create and why He chose to do it - that does affect me daily. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this what I am supposed to be doing with my short life here? Am I doing right by my children? Why do I deserve their love? Why do I deserve them at all? These are questions that faith does give me answers to. These are questions that I need answers to.

There are so many profound truths in Christianity - so many words of wisdom and peacefulness and hope and love. There is so much good in it. Why would I throw that all away - the baby and the bath water - just because it conflicts with something that I can't possibly understand the greatness of anyway?

Now, am I curious to know? Sure. I'm human, and we are curious by design. Curiosity is the driving force behind intelligence - but it is not uniquely human. Wisdom is, and as many people know, there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom: "Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad."

So in closing, I am thankful that God made me intelligent, and now I pray that He will grant me wisdom. I pray that this stumbling block of "How?" will be removed from my feet and replaced by a stepping stone of "Why?" I pray that God will continue to open my eyes and my heart to His wisdom, His intelligence, and His grace.

Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Friday, February 1, 2013

From Bondage

 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

Being a control freak has both positive and negative connotations.

On one hand, it can be seen as a sign of leadership skills. On the other hand, it can be seen as arrogant. "I know what I want, and I know how I want it, and well if I don't get my way, watch out." Now, this is not to say that I'm a brat. I don't think that I'm mean-spirited about it. I am just really, really, REALLY uncomfortable with someone else telling me what to do and how to do it.

Now, I know that even if I have thought long and hard about something, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right or best idea. It's just the one I am most comfortable with - the one that I have built up in my mind.

Being controlling like this leads to any number of problems - but the most difficult one for me to deal with has been the toll it has taken on my emotions.

When I feel out of control, I get a mix of angry and anxious. I lash out in a useless attempt to force whatever is out of my hands back into submission. I have yelled at my children, my husband, strangers in cars in front of me, inanimate objects, my dogs...I have yelled at an empty sky - at God.

Anger is underscored by anxiety, and anxiety leads me to act foolishly. I over plan, over prepare, try to use every mental faculty I can muster to snuff out any stress-creator the moment it pops its head into my line of sight, but at that moment, I panic. I get tunnel vision and lose all rational thinking ability. All I can focus on is making it stop. Just stop.

Both give way eventually to depression, to an unhealthy level of resignation. I feel overwhelmed and helpless. I withdraw. I lose my voice to the sustained silence of despair. I feel nothing, see nothing, take joy in nothing. I wait for the worst - hope for the worst - because in my mind, it couldn't possibly be worse that where I am.

I have been a slave to my emotions. Put in chains by my depression; yoked by my anxiety; whipped by my own anger. 

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2 ESV)

What I have been thinking about lately and learning about lately is the destructiveness of the sin of pride. And pride is BIG problem for me. 

I am so prideful in my own abilities that I try to control all things - as if I could. That is the sin of pride. I have to let go of this mindset that I can do anything, much less everything. I can do nothing, nothing at all, unless God gives me the strength, knowledge, and opportunity to use whatever gifts He gave to me to affect the world in a way that He sees fit.

"Be angry, and do not sin." (Ephesians 4:26 ESV)

This has become my new mantra at times when I feel my stress level rise and my anger surge. Anger is an emotion, not a sin, but what you do with that anger, how you let it take hold of you, that's the sin. Job was angry, and he questioned God, but in the end, Job was never arrogant - never prideful.

So, my challenge now is to let go of my pride before it ever becomes anger. And it is hard. HARD. But, in the end and by the grace of God, I will be a better mother, a better wife, a better citizen, and a better disciple because of it, giving all glory to God.

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)