Tag Archives: belief

Seeing My Life as a Natural Disaster

I had this moving picture running through my mind the other night as I lazed within an early morning lucid lethargy. (It was, after all, somewhere in the neighborhood of three a.m.) However, I had the coherence to realize what I was picturing was something that most likely resembled how I envisioned my spiritual journey thus far and oddly resembling one of those “worst natural disasters” shows on the Discovery Channel . . .

I’m being rushed along by these swells of floodwaters: Rushing rapids and swirling eddies, the water a thick muddy brown with debris strewn everywhere, the water moving with surprising speed. It dawns on me that this is the rushing river of my life, cresting its flood stage, overrunning everything in its path on a headlong rush to the sea. I’m moving swiftly, bobbing along barely able to keep my head above the water as it ebbs and flows; pointlessly trying to swim upstream, sideways, this way and that; trying to reach any shore, any outcropping of land, root or tree.

Finally I see a form on a distant rise of dry land; a man, but unlike anything I’ve ever seen: A brilliant figure in a stunning white robe, glowing like lightning or the brightest midday sun and I understand this to be the depiction of God though I can’t see his face.

I swim frantically, my arms thrashing, waves crashing against my face and my body, forcing me back, pulling me relentlessly downstream. Yet somehow I make it to the edge of the shore, throwing my arms up to rest against the raised, dry ground, grabbing fiercely to the glowing white robe as if it were a lifeline, holding on with all my might against the thrashing current.

This would have been a fitting place to stop. After all, up to this point everything I’d envisioned was ripe with symbolism and deep with meaning. Yet it continued . . .

As I’m holding onto this ethereal garment I begin a concerted hand-over-hand climb using all my strength against the thrashing, beating waters. I slowly begin to pull myself away from the raging river when I notice the torrents of muddy water are splashing up onto the robe and the edges of the cloth begin to soil with the dirt and debris. I pause, wondering why? And could the mud and debris of my life’s raging river actually foul the robe of the Lord? And what would/could this possibly mean? Is the muck and dirt of my life soiling my vision or image of God? Or is the Lord willing to meet me at my river’s edge, willing to step into the filth of those waters, rescuing me as it were, from the uncontrollable torrent, mud and debris of my life?

Still I was not done . . .

As I continue to ponder this the robe begins to tear. Suddenly a large swath of fabric rips free in my hand and once again I’m carried along by the muddy rapids of my life’s floodwaters. I look at the still glowing piece of fabric in my hand and wonder if the garment of the Lord would really rip free in my grasp due to the violent pressures of the river, and what would the symbolism be here? Have I been wrenched free of the saving presence of God do to the forces and stress of my life? Or is it that even within the rushing flood of my life’s river, I carry a piece of the Lord with me?

. . . I’m not sure.

I don’t know as I’m supposed to figure it out at this point. What I do find interesting is that I don’t remember my dreams that often yet when I do, the ones I tend to recall most vividly are usually ripe with this kind of symbolism. When I’ve talked to my wife about them, she usually, almost nonchalantly, points out the most obvious implications, usually having to do with some questioning I’ve done with, or to, God; or an issue or problem I’ve been flustered over for some time.

It’s God’s language, and God’s timing; I don’t claim to understand any of it. I simply accept it, marvel in it, and take it that He still considers me one of His and still worthy of having a conversation with: Knowing full well that I won’t understand a lick of it.

Of course He’ll just smile and say, “That’s why I had you marry Cheryl.”

I’ll just shrug modestly and go, “. . . yeah.”

I think I’ll go talk to her now . . .

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When Showing God’s Love Means Walking Away

My wife and I are participating in a bible study home group. I’m having a hard time getting motivated into the topic, though. You see, we’re studying a series entitled, “The Forty Days of Love” facilitated via video by Pastor Rick Warren and based on the book, “The Relationship Principles of Jesus” written by Tom Holladay. The book spells it out that our model for how to love the people around us is shown in how Jesus loved the people around Him.

Okay, I get that. No problem there.

But it keeps hammering home how God, through Jesus, showed His love to everybody, and how He asks us to do the same.

See, that’s my problem.

If by “showed His love to everybody” the writer means that through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross He died for all people’s sin everywhere for all time then yeah, I can understand that. But that’s a bit of a lofty goal for us mere mortals to undertake . . . the whole laying down our life for both our friends and enemies alike.

But if the writer meant “showed His love to everybody” in that Jesus was the ultimate example of how to show love then there’s something I’m missing.

If you were poor, afflicted, a child, a disciple, and so on, then yes, I see how Jesus was a definite example to be emulated. Even if you were but a mere face in one of the many crowds that yearned to hear the words spoken by this Messiah, I can see the connection. But what of the Pharisees?

How can calling an entire group of what were at the time highly influential men within the Jewish society a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites” in any way construed as love? How is overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple showing love? I could see that Jesus’ anger towards these people was borne out of their displays of pompous superiority towards the rest of society, or in their taking advantage of the very poor and less fortunate that Jesus cared for so deeply. But I still don’t see how those examples is showing love to them.

According to this study, I’m to show love to everyone I come in contact with. Not out-and-out affection, but grace, acceptance (a topic I’ll dive into more deeply later), and kindness.

I hate to keep bringing this up, but I work in retail, and there are some definite Pharisees in that lot if I’ve ever seen any. Ask anyone who has spent any time in the restaurant or retail game about that customer who takes the term “service” literally. Who makes no bones about the fact that you’re presence is a nuisance even though you are trying to help them; and the fact that they need your help at all is yet another annoyance. To this day, my wife and I still talk about the man we encountered at a wine tasting event that made us literally feel like fourth-class citizens. If you’ve ever seen “Caddyshack” he was the Ted Danson character . . . to a tee (no pun intended). “Some people just don’t belloooonnngg.” I thought people like that only ever existed in movies!

How do I show love to that?

Maybe it’s just the biblical examples my wife and I were reading, but quite often within His encounters with the “Pharisees and the teachers of the law”, Jesus was more acerbic than loving. For example . . .

Luke 20: 1 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

 3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

 5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

 7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”

 8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

This example, at least to me, doesn’t show making an effort towards grace, acceptance or kindness. He certainly doesn’t answer their question. He, in essence, tells them to go to . . . Sheol:

One of the participants in our group brought up that this may be an example of Christ showing love towards these people the way a parent, at times, shows love towards their children through discipline. Jesus’ intent was towards love, but his actions were towards discipline and correction; “Tough love” so to speak. Yet, also brought up was that along with the discipline applied to a child often comes a later time of explanation, teaching, and understanding. If such a time were afforded to Jesus and the Pharisees, it’s not revealed within scripture. One is left to assume that Jesus opens up the verbal can of smackdown on these Pharisees, and simply walks away.

There is for sure no small amount of peace that comes from the knowledge and example of Christ; a peace that includes no small amount of confidence and self-respect. Being a Christian does not equate to being walked over, but there may involve a certain amount of walking away.

Maybe too, “showing love” for these types of people involves occasionally speaking up, in a loving way of course, that their actions or words are insensitive and unnecessary. The people you speak to won’t like it of course, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll think twice about their next encounter with a “server”.

Unfortunately, I’m still not above telling them to go to . . . Sheol.

Having a Fathers Perspective

I think I’ve learned the most about my relationship with God through being a parent. I get it now: God “the Father” is a literal term. I also think that if I’m one of God’s children, I must be about nine years old in His eyes. That’s the age my oldest son is and I can already see the parallels.

My son still asks for my advice, but doesn’t always take it; I’m becoming but one of many options available. I see him in certain circumstances where I wish he’d ask for my advice. There are times it seems where I could teach him something, maybe show him a better way or even prevent him from hurting himself or others, physically or emotionally. But he doesn’t always ask, and I don’t always intercede. I just bite my tongue and think to myself, “This could end badly.”

I’m not sure, but I just have this sense God feels the same way about me.

My son still seeks my approval or consent for things he’s done or things he’s thinking about doing. Yet those times are becoming fewer and farther between. Even when he does, there are times when I want to tell him, “You don’t need my permission here. You don’t need my direction. You know this stuff already, just do it!”

In the same way, I still ask for God’s approval. I find myself still asking for silly things like ‘signs’ that I’m on the right track or making the right decision. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in asking God’s agreement or in continually letting Him in on your plans. (He knows anyway but I think He just likes to be in on the conversation.) But in my own case, I believe God sometimes uses these opportunities to remain in silence. It’s His way of saying, “You don’t need my consent here. You don’t need my direction. You know this stuff already, just do it!”

Where the key is, is in the aftermath of those moments, after I’ve sat in the overpowering silence; cursing my stupidity, doubting myself, my faith and my relationship, wondering if God is truly there for me. That’s the time that I have to forcibly remind myself that I’ve asked God to lead in my life and I have to trust, within the silence, that He’s still there: That the stillness I hear is neither disapproval nor rejection.

I cried out with no reply
And I can’t feel You by my side
So I’ll hold tight to what I know
You’re here and I”m never alone
      –“Never Alone” Barlow Girl

It’s God saying, “Do you trust me or not?”

My son, in many ways, is still a child. He’s still learning, exploring his boundaries, triumphing in his successes and licking his wounds in those “teachable moments”. I’m very proud of him and very worried about him; both because he’s my boy and because he’s just like me. Yet, within both the chaos and the silence I’m always there for him. I always have been and I always will be.

Again, I’m starting to have this sense God feels the same way about me.

The Faith of Disciples: But When?

What if Jesus turned out to be just a normal guy? Or worse, just another crackpot with a messiah complex and a lust for power and a flair for theatrics?

What would you do (as a believer or not) if proof arose that, instead of being the son of God, he turned out to be nothing more than the son of . . . Joseph.

That’s a question we eventually all face, whether you ever cross the line of faith or not. In fact the entire past, present and future of Christianity rests on the answer to that very question. But I’m not wanting to instigate a major philosophical debate here. I’m talking more personally.

What would you do? Would anything change about the way you live your life? Right now, today?  Why, or why not?  Do you think living the way Jesus asks us to live is nothing more than a “get out of hell free” card? Or more of a moral compass? Or a waste of time?

I’ve been thinking about what it means to have “faith like the disciples” lately. That’s a popular topic among some Christian circles; having “faith like the disciples”. I think that’s also a very unfair comparison and/or expectation for today’s believers to aspire to. Sure, we’ve been given the Bible, and I’m sure we can spout volumes of historical documentation to the truthfulness within those pages. But we weren’t alive during those times. The Gospels–in fact most all of the New Testament books–were written by first hand eye-witnesses to the life and times of Jesus. Imagine the awe and wonder of being one of Jesus’ disciples, or even being one of those people healed by Jesus or one of the children blessed by Him. How much easier would it have been to witness all these signs and miracles and believe that Christ was exactly who He says He was. And yet today we’re supposed to have faith like that?

That’s a pretty tall mountain, don’t you think?

Here’s a scenario I think resonates more deeply with people today, whether you have any kind of faith in Christ or not . . .

Imagine being a disciple of Christ the day after his crucifixion.

How’s your faith now?

The one, or the One, who you’ve put all your belief in, all your faith and hopes, has just died . . .

. . . Like a normal guy.

NOW what do you think, believe, or hope for?

Even before He died, while he was still on His way to the cross, Peter was all, “No, I’m not with him! I don’t even know him!” Three different times! (How often have we ever done that?)

Imagine, after His death, the trust and conviction necessary to keep believing that Jesus truly was who He said He was. Could you do it? Did they? Do you think there may have been a few doubts? A few questions? Maybe a little anger? Disillusionment?

I do. It sounds kind of like me sometimes.

I mean, how could you not? The disciples were human after all, and Jesus was supposed to be . . . God! Now He’s dead. How hard must it have been to maintain the level of faith and belief they had when He was alive? To maintain any faith at all?

Like C.S. Lewis has said, Jesus either was exactly who He said He was; the Son of God: Or he was a lunatic; a crackpot with a messiah complex and a lust for power and a flair for theatrics.

He didn’t leave room for anything else.

He wasn’t just a “nice guy”. If He isn’t who He says He is, look how many people he misled . . . and continues to mislead to this very day.

He wasn’t just another prophet. You don’t lay claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah and the king of the Jews as just another prophet.

You and I have a choice, as does everyone, as to whether He is who He claimed or not.

No, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the faith of a first century disciple, unless you want to talk about that first day or two after Christ’s death. But I guess even having “some” faith is the whole basis of belief in the first place. As long as it doesn’t end up being the sum total of your life’s quest for answers. “Some” faith is a good starting point for further growth; a further seeking of answers.

And you and I have a choice.

And you’re to have the faith like a disciple.

And it’s the day after He was crucified. Now . . .

What would Jesus you do?