Christians spend too much time judging behavior, particularly when it is not their own. Is that a “judgement” too? I suppose it is.
Christians spend too much time judging behavior, particularly when it is not their own. Is that a “judgement” too? I suppose it is.
Things continue to evolve at a much slower pace than I would like, though I feel some significant things shifting.
I am pursuing the question of “How can I find and feel God’s love?” I’m less concerned with the questions of “Does God exist?” or ”How can I trust God more?” or “Why isn’t God present in my life?” I think these questions get answered by the love question.
This thought was triggered by the attraction of a free Kindle down load of Jerry Bridges’ book Trusting God: Even When It Hurts. A read of the ”one star” reviews confirmed it wasn’t for me and likely another highly embraced book like Not A Fan by Kyle Edleman that misses the mark for me.
The other irony that strikes me is that (at least in my own experience), reading a book about trust rarely gives you more of it. The same as reading a book about love doesn’t rarely makes you feel more loved. They must both be experienced to really become a part of us instead of intellectually assented to from a book.
Another thing that occurs to me is that there are some really deep theological assumptions many Christians hold without realizing they hold them or any idea where they come from. Comparing the “5 star” reviews to the “1 star” reviews there’s a clear distinction between those who believe God permits or conducts evil to achieve good and those that do not.
That struck me as profound and caused me to wonder how many discussions about God never get off the ground because people are deeply rooted in one camp or the other and take their underlying assumptions for granted.
Many people are quick to point one verse in the Bible about “not forsaking the gathering with other believers.” This post at victorious.org about why church attendance is mandatory is a classic summation of all the “important” reasons. It’s the epitome of a classic prooftext including classic stuff like,
The writer of the Hebrew epistle tells us not to forsake assembling together, implying that continued absence can lead to willful sin
Last I checked the writer of the Hebrews had an original audience he was writing to. Might the same principles apply to us today? Perhaps. But don’t tell me that certain parts of the Bible are direct commands to me when in reality they were written in a letter by one person to a group of people in certain circumstances more than 2,000 years ago.
Many of these same people believe categorically that not doing everything that the Bible says to do is sin. I just don’t buy that. Of course they are the sole judges of which commands should be taken literally or not which in my book is trying to have it both ways.
At the church I stopped going to, the pastor was preaching through the book Isaiah and going on and on about “what Isaiah is telling US in this passage.” Again, last I checked, Isaiah was writing to the Jewish people thousands of years ago not people of the 21st century. Are there ideas and principles and parallels from then today? Sure, I’m cool with that. I’m not cool with claiming that Isaiah has a command or message to me today when I wasn’t his intended audience.
This is the classic backdrop for people who think the Bible is an owners manual and magic cookbook that tells you how to live the “correct” way. I like how Wayne refers to it here as not the manual for operating your VCR (Disc 6–How God Changes Us). I was also taken by how Wayne suggest to just start with experiencing God’s love and praying to understand it before any of the other stuff. That’s where I’m starting.
I’m still here. Life, a job, another blog, and another primary focus right now have taken me away for the time being.
I’ve been slowly listening to this fantastic series by Wayne Jacobsen called Transition. Wayne does a fairly detailed walk through of what it means to have a relationship with God in a way I’ve never heard described before including a different take on why Jesus died on the cross and what it accomplished. Very refreshing and thought provoking and makes a ton more sense than a good deal of stuff I’ve been taught to believe most of my life.
Wayne also talks about church and how the Bible is used for purposes it was never intended.
Everyone interprets Scripture on some criteria, the most dangerous ones are those who don’t think they do and presume to merely take Scripture literally. These are often those who most want to force their distorted views on others.
The iTunes link to Transition and Jesus Lens appears to be broken right now.
Who knew one podcast could spawn so many posts. At about the 27 minute mark, Mike talks about putting down all the books down and just waiting–”being.”
I am embracing this idea more and more. I originally thought the gateway to relationship with God was more knowledge. This has been helpful to an extent, but it has its limits. If knowing God is a relationship, then all the “knowledge” in the world about that relationship without experience will be empty. I think that is where I find myself today. This seems like a natural tie-in to Truth and Interpretation.
Another area of my life where I’ve stopped striving so hard and “doing” is finding a church. In my background regular church attendance was always the paragon of a good Christian and sin if you didn’t. I don’t buy that any more.
Thinking more about the conversation with Mike Steele I was struck by his comment about being able to feel loved. I think this can be a real struggle.
It’s easy to assume that anyone can receive love just like the assumption that anyone likes a gift. I have encountered people that have a hard time receiving gifts and sometimes I do too. In the same way I think it can be hard to receive love.
An interesting book I read recently was called Receiving Love by Harville Hendrix and Hellen Hunt. Overall it was very thought provoking if not a little heavy in places. One of the chief points of the book is that if you don’t love and accept yourself, it’s difficult to receive it from others. It also suggests that people often blame the other person for not caring about them or loving them when in fact it is their own inability to receive and absorb the love being sent their way that is the real problem.
I’ve always assumed that I couldn’t feel God’s love because he wasn’t there or I just didn’t get it. I wonder how much of my inability to feel God’s love is the same as in regular relationships where I question if I’m good at that or not.
I wonder how much our own personal make-up and past hurts play into feeling loved by God? I’ve always thought of God in a special category that can break through all of our barriers. Maybe just because it involves God doesn’t make it magically different. Perhaps geting to a better place in human relationships and learning to feel love there will also help me when it comes to God.
We are coming up on two years since we’ve regularly attended church. Am I a different or worse (back slidden–is that a word?) person because I haven’t gone? I was raised to believe this is true. Now I’m not so sure. In fact as more time goes by the more content I feel about not being at church and seeking God in my own way and in his timing.
The thought of not taking our child to church does nag at me, though my spouse likes to remind me that growing up at church didn’t seem to have helped me a lot.
In that light this podcast on Contentedness at The God Journey added more to those thoughts. Wayne says (around the 30:30 minute mark),
I hear question asked, “How are my kids ever going to know God without Sunday school?” and my answer usually is, where I am in this journey now, “How are your kids ever going to learn to follow God if they go to a Sunday school and God just becomes an idea and a manager of principles instead of getting to know God as their father?”
Earlier in the conversation Kevin espouses the same view, noting one of their children never grew up in church and how it hasn’t affected her relationship with God. He also suggests that, “God doesn’t need the structures to enable Children to grow in relationship to him.” (30:08)
I’m still not sure what to think and feel about all this, but I do think they are really onto something with this idea that it is more about being than it is doing (my words).
I love how absolutely raw and honest this conversation with Mike Steele is on The God Journey. Towards the middle there are some long pauses and emotion where you can sense how deeply Mike is feeling and experiencing these things.
I love how he talks about how he had it all together and then how he didn’t. I love how he talks about waiting for God and figuring out what God is doing and joining God there. I love how he completely blows up the notion that it is all about converting souls, “being involved in ministry,” and “doing.”
So much of the Christian sub-culture I grew up in was focused on serving, doing, and converting. Some leaders liked to get people’s attention by stating that, “the Great Commission was not a suggestion.” It was a command that must be followed or sin would result.
Certain charismatic leaders like Tony Campolo knew exactly where that could and couldn’t happen. He made it clear in a talk at my college–working in the inner city with kids without hope? Absolutely. Somewhere where you might make money or be comfortable? No way. In Tony’s words, ”IBM doesn’t need another Christian businessman.” Nice to know Tony had it all figured out for everyone. I wonder if he really believes this or if he was just being dramatic to make a point.
The big takeaway for me from the podcast and thinking about Tony’s statement is that it is nobody else’s business, but yours to figure out what God wants you to do. The timeline will probably not meet other people’s expectations either.
Many corners of conservative Christianity invest a lot energy in being “right” on their theological views and “right” on the moral issues of the day that threaten to unravel society as we know it. I love the second paragraph of this quote from Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle (page 72):
Jesus and Petra are on the same page here. They chose a oneness in kinship and a willingness to live others’ hearts. Jesus was not a man for others. He was one with others. There is a world of difference in that. Jesus didn’t seek the rights of lepers. He touched the leper even before he got around to curing him. He didn’t champion the cause of the outcast. He was the outcast. he didn’t fight for improved conditions for the prisoner. He simply said, “I was in prison.”
The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place–with the outcasts and those relegated to the margins.
I’d add, “it doesn’t matter if others are in the margins or in the swankiest places on earth.” Just stand (be) with people where ever. We make a more meaningful impact in each others lives when we stand with them–no matter where they are–instead of judging where they are (evaluating right vs. wrong).
Now, the super hard part is actually doing this instead of just talking about it and reflecting upon what a “nice idea” compassion is in this post.
It occurred to me today that it is really easy to be “against” or look down on other groups that you don’t agree with. Even as Wayne and Brad critique “religion” and the institutional church they are often careful to note that if what is going on in other places works for the people that are there–more power to them–they want to be careful not to discount God’s reality there. Wayne and Brad don’t do it perfectly, but I think it is something to strive for.
Along the way I found a genere of blogs that do nothing but poke fun at and report on the worst, most painful aspects of Christian sub-culture they can find. At first it was funny and somewhat elluminating but after following one blog track the unfolding drama at a popular church I felt worse.
At first the funny church signs and unbelievable youtube videos were funny. After a while they were depressing–not funny.
I want to be on a quest that makes sense of my world, how I live in it and where God fits into it. I want to expend my energy and focus on finding ways to make things better and experience life in fuller and more coherent ways. I don’t need to read and see repeated examples of how broken Christian sub-culture is. I’ve already experienced it.
In a “law of attraction” type way, it is a better to focus on what I want and am on a quest for and less on all the things I don’t want or don’t like. In other words, put more energy towards the things I want to move closer to and less energy towards the things I want to leave behind.
I’ll continue to examine what hasn’t worked for me, the things I question, and the experiences that were detrimental. Yet I hope that won’t be the overall sum of what I write about. I anticipate a period of time to detox from my past, however my true hope is to take a more optimistic tone and reach a place of being able to explain how I got on the path making sense of my life and the steps I took to put things together in a way that is coherent and helpful to others.
This ends my 30 day challenge to post something everyday–with 23 minutes to spare. Going forward I expect to publish at least weekly or until I change my goal.