God Confuses Me…

Have you ever noticed how some people throw statements like, “have faith,” or “just trust in the Lord,” around like confetti? Truthfully, I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of that during my years of Christianity. I want to believe it. I want to trust in God. I want to believe that He’s truly and unquestionably always doing what’s right and best (or allowing it to happen). But… sometimes… I witness things or see things that just make me struggle with this… Continue reading

“I AM SUPERIOR!”

So… here goes something else about myself that drives myself crazy… I know that was a weird and possibly incorrect way to word that statement, but I just decided I didn’t care. If you’ve ever had many conversations with me, you likely picked up on an annoying little quirk. I will nearly always find some way to make myself seem smarter or stronger than you or whomever we’re talking about. If you say you took Spanish in high school and could speak a little, I will probably find a way to tell you how I learned it by ear and become fairly conversant. If you tell me you like to run, I will somehow work in that I ran a marathon. I guess we call this “one-upsmanship,” because I’m always trying to “one-up” you. I’m the WORST about this in relation to Scripture and its interpretation…  Continue reading

Is God With Us… Really?: Part 2

When we think of God, the word, “holy” gets used a lot. It means sacred and set aside. It refers to being different from the rest and set apart. God has always been referred to as holy and the Bible makes it clear that He cannot have fellowship with the unholy. His purity cannot intermingle with impurity. It’s not that He doesn’t want to get His hands dirty. It’s that He’s a purifying force and the holiness of His presence does not allow for anything to remain close to Him that is corrupt. This is the reason that even though God initiated a relationship with mankind, He still had to be apart from us. This is why He set His tent close to the nation’s but not in their personal camps. As much as they worshiped Him and followed His representation, they still could not get close enough to touch Him or feel His literal presence… so now even though they have come to know a God that cares about them for a change… they still are separated from Him… Continue reading

Is God With Us…Really?

Throughout time, mankind has worshiped someone or something. There has never been a generation throughout human history wherein an atheistic perspective was the prevalent belief system. We’ve always believed that there is a supernatural being or group of beings behind the scenes of this existence. In virtually all of these historical systems, the belief was that not only were they supernatural and omnipotent, but they were also separate from us… different… apart from us in any real relational way. We were the ants and they were the kid holding the magnifying glass. We were the animals and they were the masters. They didn’t engage with us the way we do with one another. They didn’t understand what it is like to be human… really didn’t even care. Now as Judaism entered the scene, and the identity of Yahweh was revealed to the extent that we could understand His existence… the question pops up… is He any different than those in which we’ve believed in the past…? Continue reading

Not A Better You…

I was listening to a podcast yesterday and it had an advertisement break. The product being advertised had a tagline that was something like, “becoming a better you.” As I thought about this I realized that nearly everything we buy or buy into is presented this way… with a promise that if we use the product, service, or ideology correctly, then we will be an improved version of ourselves. I continued to contemplate this idea and realized this is the way that many people (if not most) approach Christianity. The problem is that Christianity is not about making you a better version of you. It’s not about fixing your broken parts… Continue reading

Repenting of Religion: Part 2

I didn’t mention this in the previous article, and I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before in other posts, but the word “repent” has a very simple meaning. Basically, it means a change of heart. It refers to reformation of the mind and heart. When we hear the word, “repent,” I think we don’t often know its meaning but instead just associate it with some religious mindset in an almost superstitious way. It’s almost treated like a form of incantation although not used to that extreme. When I think of the word, the person that comes to my mind the most is John the Baptizer. He was a fiery preacher whose most memorable phrase was “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!” What did he mean by this… and have we considered it and applied it correctly? Continue reading

Repenting of Religion

“I need to be in church.” “I need to be reading my Bible.” “I should not be doing such and such…”

How often have you said these very things, or thought about them in an almost condemnatory sense? How often have you had something bad happen, either by happenstance or in a context that you brought on yourself, and thought, “God is getting even with me.”?

I find myself in these thought processes every day… on an almost constant level. The truth is: I’m a selfish, egotistical, self-serving, hypocritical, dishonest jackass. I know these things about myself and I’m not proud of them nor am I intending to remain as such. But because I know these things, I find myself thinking constantly about how I should be doing different things and acting in different ways. For example, if I wake up in the morning and turn on SportsCenter and watch it while drinking my coffee, I begin to be plagued with guilt about not taking the time to read my Bible or write on this blog or simply spend time in silent meditation or prayer or… well you get the idea. If I use a word that Christianity has deemed foul or coarse, I immediately begin to think about how much I must be displeasing God. If I don’t attend a church service on a given Sunday morning (such as this one) I feel like I’m playing hooky. If I don’t give a certain amount of money to the church, I begin to wonder if my finances will be cursed.

I don’t know if you can relate to any of this or not. My bet is that you can.

One of the biggest objections to our faith from outsiders is that we have a bratty or draconian god that is looking for any opportunity to “smite” us. This really is not fair, though, because God isn’t the One that makes us think this way. He isn’t sitting on His throne with a checklist like some angry Santa Claus, eyeballing our every move with disapproval and scorn.

For some reason, perhaps it’s control, we tend to always come up with a mindset that encapsulates our relationship with God within a system of rules and guilt. This is what religion is good at. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because it’s the easier way out in regard to answering questions about what God wants from us. Once again, maybe it’s about control.

Christianity isn’t the only guilty party in this line of thinking, to be fair. All religious systems have similar tenets. Even atheism (which is also a religion, by the way…) has rules.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Rules aren’t bad. Rules keep us from driving on whatever side of the road we so please and therefore having a head-on collision or running someone else down and embankment. Rules tell us not to steal, kill, rape, plunder, etc. Rules keep our society in order. Some rules are ridiculous, like the one in North Carolina that says I can’t plow a cotton field with an elephant. Or in South Carolina, I can’t keep a horse in a bathtub. Come on, what if my horse is sick and in need of a warm bath, and all the while my elephant is perfectly capable of plowing my cotton field right across the state line? See what I mean? Let’s be reasonable.

Seriously, rules aren’t bad things. The rules God gave us in the Bible were for our own good, not petty commands that a capricious and bratty god came up with. Some are strange, but they have a context and I’m not trying to dissect all of that right now. What’s bad about rules is that we attach our adherence to said rules to our value before God. In other words, if we do or don’t do these things, then God is pleased with us and loves us more. This is the essence of the religious mindset.

Here’s the thing: our value in God’s economy is demonstrated by what He gave for us. He sacrificed His very own life. He lowered Himself to the form of a lowly human being, all with the intention of receiving a disgustingly bad beating and execution… all for us. He did this, knowing full well how we would continue to mistreat Him and rebel against Him. He did this knowing that even after I made a decision to become a follower of Jesus, I would continue to do the most selfish things and act in the most inhuman ways.

God’s love for me isn’t base in my actions or inaction. His love for me is based in His own eternal and infinite identity. He loves us because that’s Whom He is.

I encourage you to go to church. Read your Bible. Give of your resources to help others and support organizations. Do these things out of a love for Jesus and the love He has given you for others.

But don’t for one minute remain in the mindset that these things are what makes you valuable in His sight because He has made you invaluable. He has made you priceless. Our value is determined by the One that designed us… not by our activities.

 

A Faithless Generation

One of my favorite passages in the Scripture has always been the story of a man who had a demon-possessed son who brought him to Jesus’ disciples to have the demon cast out (Mark 9). However, the disciples were not able to get the job done, and Jesus’ response is that they are a “faithless generation.” I’ve always thought that this statement was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek chastisement of His followers… or perhaps a way of getting onto them the way a coach would get on to his players. Maybe that’s the truth of it… but maybe there’s something more to consider… something insidious in the hearts and minds of man… Continue reading