The Bigotry is Real; The Love is Realer

Christians are persecuted every day, that is an unfortunate reality. But the other unfortunate reality is that Christians also persecute every day.

And who am I talking about? Me, of course! Sure, we all know those annoying, judgmental people, but I”m here to talk about me. I don’t know about those people, maybe they mean well, but I’ve been inside my own head and I know it’s not pretty. There’s jealousy, there’s pride, there’s hatred.

It doesn’t come over night, the fall from grace. The darkness seeps in, colors your perception, disguises itself as light and truth. And pretty soon you’re all mad at those sinners who are really your brothers and sisters, and you realize that you’re the worst sinner of them all, but you just stop caring in a way. That is a bad place, don’t go there.

You read in the Bible that you should love your enemies, and you half-beleive it, and you half doubt it, so basically you’re just doubting it.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to accuse you of this too.

I know this all sounds really depressing, but it’s not the bottom-line. I’m sorry that I’m so real on this blog- sometimes I feel like I should tone it down a little and just talk about salad recipes. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

I’m not saying that the Bible turns people into jerks. I’m saying that Satan is a clever little _____ and he knows how to twist things around. He can even use  scripture verses. Remember this?

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’[b]

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”[c]
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you,[d] Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”[e]

Matthew 4:5-10

But if I truly believed into the Lord Jesus, I would never think of using the Bible as a way to judge other folks and be a bully. I would be humble, compassionate, joyful, and loving. Oh, if only! I know it’s true, but why do I doubt the whole thing even as I’m writing this! And yet, it’s my only hope. Must bling to it. Must cling for dear life. It is life, friends. Take my word for it- I’ve seen what death and destruction look like. I know that’s what Satan wants. I don’t want to give him what he wants anymore.

The Brood of Vipers

I’ve never been a particular fan of snakes, much less a brood of them (that just sounds disgusting), so if someone called me that, I’d be pretty offended. And that’s just the thing- Jesus is talking to me too.

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
-Matthew 12:34 NASB

We often see the kind, compassionate Jesus, but many are uncomfortable with the angry one. We need to keep in mind that He is God. He has the authority to punish us. This reminds me of a mother or father who hates to watch their child screw up, so they eventually resort to name-calling and anger- anything that will get through to the stubborn kid.

So who is the brood of vipers? The Pharisees. The hypocrites.

Me.

It’s not the prostitutes or thieves that Jesus yells at, but the religious people of his time. The goodie goodies. Why do we think that is?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”

The other day, I looked in the mirror, and I did not like what I saw. This literally happened, by the way, not just a soul-searching thing. The face that stared back wasn’t the happy face on my student ID or in my old pictures. It looked tired and anxious at the same time. Robbed of joy and the glow of youth. It looked like the face of someone who was very unwell.

What happened to me? Shouldn’t I be holy by now? I’ve been abstaining from stuff, working more, trying harder, eating better…

But in the process, I missed out on something very important. I lost joy, hope, peace, love, sense of humor, energy, and quirkiness. I’d cleaned the outside, but the inside was still very bad and empty, in some ways worse, because I was allowing pride, jealousy, fear, and wrath to remain.

I am beginning to understand all kinds of hypocrisy. I am beginning to understand the Inquisitions, Holy Wars, oppressions, divisions, and squabbles. I am beginning to understand why gossipy church wives have remained gossipy and why many would rather be burned at stake than call themselves a Christian.

But I still don’t blame God. I don’t blame the Gospel for turning people into jerks. I also understand why people don’t want to be Christian. Because I know that I myself have fed into these negative images. I know because someone told me so in a very un-subtle way.

So I’m not going to point out that it’s some kind of logical fallacy to claim that because Christians are bad, Christianity is bad. But I will defend the message and believe in it. I will say that it is not the balmy love and mercy of Jesus Christ that causes us to act like jerks, but it is the cold, self-righteous religion that we impose upon ourselves without even realizing it. It is going through the motions and dressing up the ugliness with a facade of meekness and piety. Cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is all moldy and gross.

It’s amazing that it’s so easy to get on the wrong track. You get on the wrong track, you realize it, you want to go back because it’s getting dark, but you keep going because something tells you it’ll pay off.

It’s so easy to get caught up in little rules and miss the boat on the big stuff.

“…Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
Luke 10:41 NRSV

But what, what exactly is that one thing? Don’t we already acknowledge that thing, every time we pray and say things like “With the Lord’s help, with Christ who lives in me, etc?”

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19-20‬ NKJV)
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19-20, 23-25‬ NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ NKJV)

So if I love God, I must prove it. It’s as simple and impossible as that.

Holy Spirit, Are You There?

I wasn’t supposed to think about God for seven days, in fact, I promised I wouldn’t. I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I really, really didn’t want to do it. I almost had to.

Of course, the promise didn’t mean much because I still thought about God. How could I not? Hey, don’t think about elephants. What did you just think about? And it goes even deeper than that. You see, I can’t stop thinking about God because I belong to him.

I still felt so guilty. I still felt so bitter. I felt like I’d betrayed God. I feared he was going to abandon me forever. “You’ve made your bed- now go and lie in it.” I feared that I would die before the seven days were up and be cast straight into Hell. 

And yet, here I am. I don’t think God abandoned me, though. I felt His presence. There were moments that I was absolutely certain of HIs existence and infinite significance. Sometimes, you don’t know just how real God is until others oppose you. Sometimes, you don’t realize how ridiculous and fleeting the world is until you watch someone else continually living for it. 

There were other times that the worldliness took over. I found myself wondering if I really would have a better life without thinking about God, as O had tried to convince me. 

Even now, I don’t feel all that spiritual. I don’t feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I’m writing this. I don’t feel “abandoned by God,” but I don’t feel filled completely by Him either. And I can’t help but wonder if it has anything to do with my denying Jesus (but if I’m going to use that analogy, God did forgive Peter. I don’t know- just saying). 

But one thing I do know is this- that every decent thing I’ve ever written on this blog was the work of the Spirit. It wasn’t me, my talent, experience, or “wisdom.” God forbid that I should be prideful or smug! It was Him, it was Him all along. I just pressed the keys. 

Oh, Spirit return to me! I’ll do whatever you say! Spirit, where are you? Fill me, please, like you filled the apostles, like you have been filling emptied souls for centuries! Pick up the pieces of my heart! Scrub the filth from my mind! 

O, Spirit, where are you when we fight on the side of the road with our brothers and sisters? Why don’t you whisper in our ear as we whisper filthy gossip into the ears of our friends? Where is your healing touch when we feel jealous or angry? 

Why does the flesh win, Spirit? Why does it constantly hunger and yearn, even when the Spirit is filled? 

Why can’t we walk in our spirits? Why do we ignore, belittle, and defraud our brothers and sisters? Why is there so much tension, drama, and awkwardness when our spirits are all rejoicing together? Why?

 

 

There’s the Fruit!

When I was in middle school, I remember going to chapel every Wednesday. They made us wear these really ugly plaid skirts and white oxford shirts. Yes- they had to be white oxford shirts. Our normal white polo shirts, I guess, just weren’t holy enough. 

And when we were dressed thus, we sang many cute songs, one of which is called The Fruit of the Spirit, based on this verse:

Galatians 5:22-23Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

22 And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,

23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law;

 

I used Young’s Literal Translation even though it doesn’t flow quite like the other translations because I like the words long-suffering, meekness, and temperance which are more familiarly translated as patience, gentleness, and self-control. 

Long-suffering- what does that make you think of? Somehow I’m picturing someone who’s been at the bottom of a well for five days, singing “How Great Is Our God,” hoping that someone will hear even though his voice is weak and rough. The word “patience” doesn’t give me quite the same image. “Patience” reminds me of standing in line at Starbucks and repressing the urge to yank the pony tail of the girl in front of you ordering five impossible concoctions. Or maybe I’m just crazy, and the two words are perfect synonyms. 

“Meekness.” I suppose that’s similar to gentleness. But “gentleness” seems more linked to grace and femininity, while meekness is a bit more gender-neutral. Meekness is close to humility, while it also implies gentleness. Yet, one could be gentle without being humble, right? So I like the use of the word “meek” a little better.

“Temperance” makes me think of ladies wearing way too many ruffles carrying signs with pictures of liquor bottles x’ed out. We can call them naive and misguided from our view, but maybe that’s what we all need as a society, more temperance. 

I think what I’m really trying to say is that I like the word “long-suffering” because it involves suffering and not just waiting for good things to come. Patience is when we see the first streaks of dawn. Long-suffering is when it’s pitch black and the only light is in our soul. It’s a reminder that the Spirit will help us in our suffering, help us endure it, well, for a long time. And we will endure it because the “Love, joy, peace, and goodness” will keep us going. Somehow, we will keep going. Somehow, we will feel love, and somehow we will give love. I believe it, even though a part of me screams that it is impossible. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Two Cents on the Immigration Crisis in the Southwest

 

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First reaction: why all the hate?

“Go home?” some middle aged man screams. But what if those people don’t have a home? Why isn’t anyone thinking of that?

I know, as a red-blooded American I’m supposed to be pissed off that undocumented peoples are entering this country and that the tax dollars are paying for it and that this country is in so much debt already…

But come on! These are children! Why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Sure there may be some kind of scheme going on behind the scenes, but nonetheless, how do we know what some of these people have been through and what they are running from?

I have been to Murrieta. I know the sort of people there. They’re the kind of people that make up a large population of this country. Many of them love God, most of them love America, some are a little obsessed about guns… and they work hard and help out. So where is all this, what I perceive as, hatred coming from? Is it really just political, or is it personal as well?

I used to be very conservative politically. Now, I don’t even know anymore. Maybe we should just take down the borders.

Okay, so maybe that’s wildly impractical, but I can’t think of a practical, rational, satisfactory solution. I don’t know. No one seems to know.

 

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Trust: Does It Always Need to Accompany Love?

....why should I trust you?

“Don’t trust anyone. Never let your guard down.”

This is something that I hear all the time, even from other Christians. And it’s not like it doesn’t make sense.

Many of us learn this “lesson” around middle school (or earlier, if you weren’t quite as lucky). I know I learned it somewhere along the way, and I learned it too well. My little friends disappointed me, left me all alone, and since then I haven’t been able to look at other people, or myself in quite the same way. Over time, I went from happy, carefree child to quiet, awkward adolescent (although I can be fun with certain people).

So I can’t really say that I trust people a whole lot. I just wait for them to disappoint me. And when they do, I take their “rejection” personally. “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t they like me? What’s there not to like? What can I change?”

Let’s revisit the love verse. If you are Christian, you’ve probably heard it a million times, but I’m going to post it again because even though I’ve been hearing it for years, it has taken on a new meaning for me lately.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 RSV

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastfulit is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The fact is, people are going to disappoint us.  People are going to downright screw us over.

But you know what? In all probability, we will disappoint others as well. Maybe we will even do our share of screwing over.

So here’s an idea. Maybe instead of always wondering what the other guy is going to do next, maybe we should focus more on our own heart, on what we are doing wrong. Maybe it is better to be a naive little fool who trusts people and believes in humanity and isn’t afraid of the devisings of men because her faith in God is positively overflowing.

But how, how is this accomplished? Should we “trust” that our fellow motorists won’t cut us off? But that’s crazy!

Should we “trust” that the creepy guy in the alley won’t mug us?

Should we “trust” that thieves won’t steal our belongings?

Should we “trust” the credit card company?

Should we trust our friends to be there for us? Our family? Our spouse?

Should we trust God?

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. Personally, I have a hard time believing that people will come through for me because of past experience. My philosophy is, “they probably won’t, but hey, at least God will be there.”

And indeed He will. But should I believe in others too? Won’t that just make it more painful when they don’t come through? (because they won’t… don’t trust anyone!).

I guess it could hurt to try, but maybe I will. I’m not an orphan with street cred or a recent divorcee or a victim of abuse. I’m just another person who learned “the lesson” in some way or another. Maybe I can start unlearning it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Just Can’t Lie to God

It seems obvious. He’s God right? He knows everything. But do we always treat HIm like He knows everything?

Sometimes I hold things back from God, as if they’re not relevant to Him. Sometimes I struggle instead of simply getting off my high horse and asking Him a question.

What makes us do things like this? Why do we treat God as if He’s not God? Why do we think He doesn’t understand our problems, desires, passions, and fears?

“Sorry God, but I want to watch this TV show instead of reading the Bible right now, it’s just so good!”

Wasn’t God there when they shot the episode? Doesn’t God know how it ends? Didn’t he number the hairs of the head of the director? And yet, we treat him like some kind of ignorant backwoods yokel. Or maybe it’s just me who does that. 

We may feel that God just doesn’t know how awesome the world is. He doesn’t understand the extent of what He’s asking us to give up. Or does He? 

So maybe that’s the time that we lie, and hold back, and pretend, and give him the scraps and bones of our charmed existences. 

But you can’t lie to the Holy Spirit. It’s been attempted. Look at the story at the beginning of Acts Chapter 5. 

Lying and pretending aren’t good, but the alternative seems almost as repellent. Honesty? With a God who isn’t afraid to judge us straight to Hell? 

So we stuff those proverbial skeletons in the closet and slam the door shut, still panting as we slowly sink to the floor in shame. But it needs to be done. 

Does it really though?

Lord, I don’t love you at all hours of the day or even close. Lord, my thoughts are evil and full of deceit and pride. I don’t love you with all my heard and soul and strength. I love X,Y, and Z, as you know. 

My soul pants for you, but as soon as it becomes satisfied, it runs after something else. 

But I know that You exist, and, what’s more, I know that You are Good. At my best, I know that I must serve You. Let these truths fuel me for the rest of my life, let it consume me forever.