Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Peace of Dietrich & the Suffering of God


Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God.  I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer.  At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed.  His death ensued after a few seconds.  In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardley ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.
H. Fischer-Hullstrung

I woke up very early this morning.  I often have trouble sleeping.  So what do you do when that happens?  Well, if you're me, to try to get some reading in.  And this morning I finished the 542 pages of Eric Metaxas' whopper of a book titled, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy."

It was by far one of the most beautifully written books I have come across in ages.


If you do not know who Dietrich Bonhoeffer was, suffice it to say that he was one of the greatest Christian minds of the 20th century.  Born in to an aristocratic and highly educated family in Germany, he was one of the few to stand up to Adolf Hitler and the demonic forces of Nazism.  Even though he had numerous chances to escape persecution, he chose instead to stay in Germany for his parishioners and his patriotism, and joined the plot to destroy the Nazis.  As a result, his life was required from him.

Here is a brief synopsis.



____________________


A few days ago, I saw a posting on Face Book about a fellow in Arizona who is being "Persecuted" for his faith.  Apparently, this fellow has been holding worship services in his backyard on Sunday mornings.  As I understand it, he has even built some barn-like structure back there.  Needless to say, the neighbors are not thrilled about both the noise and the cars parked all over their street.  The authorities were not amused either.

This man, who is a pastor, has flat out told the authorities that he is not holding church services, and that he simply built an extremely large recreation room in his back yard.  As I understand it, he has been arrested for fire & safety code violations on his not-a-church building that simply has large masses of people at the same time every Sunday, playing games while singing about Jesus, and then hearing a casual lecture from their host that just happens to contain a sermon illustration...while playing foosball.

That poor pastor!  What a victim.


____________________

Bonhoeffer thought it the plain duty of the Christian--and the privilege and honor--to suffer with those who suffered.  He knew that is was a privilege to be allowed by God to partake of the suffering of the Jews who had died in this place before him.  According to Schlabrendorff, the crematorium at Flossenburg was not working, so the bodies of the men hanged that morning were burned in piles, and in this, too, he had the honor to be joined to the millions of other victims of the Third Reich.
Eric Metaxas

I largely view the Americanized church to be a bad joke.  We assume that this country is ours by divine right.  I have even heard of people from outside the U.S. say that to Americans, America itself is God.  We have certainly joined many other groups in growing and nurturing a victim mentality.  In America, the church is not a "Victim"...except of itself.  The church does not "Suffer."

Yet God does suffer.  I realize that more & more.  And I am coming to believe that in suffering, we draw very close to God...or perhaps he draws us to him.

It was through the suffering of Christ, that humanity has been offered redemption.  The suffering of Christ was deeper and more painful that we could possibly imagine.  The God of the bible, the God who became flesh & blood so as to identify with fallen humanity, and become the very problem (Sin) that poisons our relationship with the divine.

This God suffered.  This God still suffers.

____________________

He had hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil looking men in civilian clothes came in and said: "Prisoner Bonhoeffer.  Get ready to come with us."  Those words "Come with us"--for all prisoners they had come to mean one thing only--the scaffold.  We bade him goodbye--he drew me aside--"This is the end," he said.  "For me the beginning of life."
Payne Best


No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that our, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence...Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith.  But that is just what is so marvelous, that we now can transform death.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What happens to the person who embraces God with all their heart?  What happens when one's understanding of this God is too deep for words?  What happens when the Love of Christ is so overwhelmingly felt that it consumes you?

You have faith, hope & love.  
But you also have no fear...of anything.

And you have perfect, perfect peace.

To the one in whom the God of the bible teaches this lesson, they could never be stopped.  That person is already with God.





Bonhoeffer was thinking about God's highest call, about the call of discipleship and it's cost...He was thinking about the deep call of Christ, which was not about winning, but about submission to God, wherever that might lead.


"Simply suffering--that is what will be needed then--not paries, blows or thrusts such as may still be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight, the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must simply be to suffer faithfully." (Bonhoeffer)


It's hard to escape the conclusion that Bonhoeffer was somehow thinking prophetically, that somehow he could he could see what was ahead for him, that at some point he would be able to do nothing more than "Suffer Faithfully" in his cell, praising God as he did so, thanking him for the high privilege of being counted worthy to do so.
Page 196




I wept a great deal reading this book.

Someday, I would like to be half the man that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was and still is.


"This is the end," he said.  
"For me the beginning of life."


Peace

Joe

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Crack House Church

"My concern is that most of the actually existing church acts as a type of drug den with the leaders being like the nicest, most sincere, drug dealers..."


I always enjoy Peter Rollins.  He's a Philosopher out of Northern Ireland, and a Believer.  He always seems to have an interesting take on the modern church, particularly as it exists in the U.S.  I finished his book, "Insurrection" a few months ago and it really challenged me.  And because I said so, you should read it too.

I highly doubt that I have to agree with everything a person says to enjoy them.  In fact, I think it is often best to hear things that I do not agree with, but will cause me to consider other sides respectfully. (Then I can be informed enough to hit them with a 2x4 like a good Calvinist.)

That was a cheap shot.  :)

Anyway, when I can make out what he is saying through his accent, I find that Rollins challenges me on multiple levels.  Most of the time I agree with him.  Some of the time I think he may be going to far, but is trying to make a point. Other times I simply scratch my head because he is way above the bucket of warm velveeta bubbling between my ears.

I saw him post this on this groggy morning.  Thought I would pass it along.  Enjoy, and remember kids, crack kills.


Crack House Church from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

It's just a thought.

Peace

Joe

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sheep & Goats...and TNT.


When the son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the NATIONS will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats...Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."


Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we do all of that awesome stuff, cause we're kinda clueless here?" (My edit for the sake of space & time.)


The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me."


Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was... (Repeat the second half of the first paragraph)


They will answer, "Lord, when didn't we do all of that awesome stuff?"


He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these my brothers, you did not do for me."  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Matt. 25:31-46


So yesterday at Living Waters, Scott was preaching a series on difficult passages & parables.  Yesterday's text was the above...minus my edits.  Today, at the gym, I was listening to a podcast from Imago Dei, and it happened to be on the very same passage.  Go figure.

Oddly enough, this is one of my top favorite parables of Jesus.  But it is also a very chilling passage if you stop to consider it for awhile.  There is quite a bit going on in this parable, much of which we often choose to ignore.  I figured that I would put down my own thoughts, and hopefully none of them will be too heretical.

For starters, this is indeed a passage about judgement.  It's difficult to escape that.  It is a judgment that encompasses all of humanity, but those who call themselves Christians seem to stick out.  Second, despite what some might jump to as a conclusion, it is not a passage about salvation by "Works."

There IS a debate as to who exactly Jesus is talking to here.  Is he talking to only those who claimed to follow him?  Or is he talking to everyone?  I err on the side that he is actually talking to both...but that it is a particular warning to those who claim to follow him, i.e. "Christians."  For starters, it says that on judgment day "All Nations" are gathered in front of him.  So this would indicate pretty much every person who ever existed.  Everyone is calling him "Lord." (Which could indicate only those who claimed to follow him, but also, since it IS judgment day, and everyone recognizes Jesus for who he really is, and therefor obviously refers to him as "Lord," that it could include the entire human race.)


What ever...


Now, the separation that occurs IS a result of behavior.  That having been said, it still is not salvation by works.  No!  No one gets into heaven because of their morality or nice behavior.  You can keep your legs crossed until you die, and help every old lady you see across the streets.  You still will not impress the Holy One. (Your casket will say, "Returned unopened" with a big smily face and numerous gold stars on it...and that's as far as it goes.) Salvation is by grace, and grace alone.  "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

The separation IS a result of behavior...but it is behavior born out of belief, of faith, of love.  At the last supper, Jesus told his disciples "If you love me, you will obey my commands."  He did not say, "If you obey my commands, then I will love you."  One is behavior born out of love & relationship, the second is behavior born out of duty.  There is usually very little love in duty.

The first can only be created by the Holy Spirit.  When a person turns their nasty, little, sin-filled heart over to Christ, he sends his spirit into that person marking them as his for good. (Eph. 1:3-14) And it's at that point that the Spirit begins that whole Sanctification thing that makes Believers look more and more like Jesus over time.  Anything other than that is you trying to fix yourself on your own...and that never works out very well.

The best way I can sum up this entire passage is this, but forgive me, because I do not know the author of this quote:

"This passage does not deal with the ROOT of salvation.  
This passage deals with the FRUIT of salvation."

____________________


I like fireworks.  I liked them more as a kid.  Now, I tend not to blow things up as much much because it freaks out my dog.  Still, from time to time, I loves me a good ol' bottle rocket.  I like to shoot them out over the lake.  Sometimes, I like to shoot them in to the lake to watch them blow up under the water.

There have been times where I have lit one and it appeared to go out...only to blow up 30 seconds later.  I have learned the hard way not to approach a bottle rocket for a minute or two, even if it appears to be a dud.

There have been times where one of my rockets has gone sailing into the yard, but did not explode...at first.  I always warn folks not to touch those rockets.  You can probably figure out why.  If they listen and believe me, they will not touch the rocket.  Their belief will result in action.


So, let's say that I decide to plant a few M-80s under your chair. (Shame on me!) I am merely curious as to what will occur once said bomb goes off under your plastic lawn chair...plus, I have a long fuse so that it will give me a few minutes to hide behind something safe.  Unfortunately, you decide that now would be a great time to sit in the sun and begin Tolstoy's "War & Peace."  I am a prankster, but not a malicious one.  So I warn you of the impending experiment in minor explosives and gravity.

If you believe me, what will you do?

You can speak with your lips that you not only hear me, but that you believe the truth of what I am saying, but if that belief does not result in action...do you really believe?  If you say that you believe, but then sit in that chair anyway!  Well, off to Goatland for your behind and that poor chair.

True belief will always result in some type of action.

____________________


It would appear that Jesus is warning his followers, "Listen, if you really follow me, you will live a different way.  You wont be able to help yourself.  You just will!  That crazy spirit of mine will just make you do it because you really want to.  If you aren't living that way, then you might want to ask yourself if my spirit is there at all."

None of this is a matter of perfection.  Jesus never promised that until the final day of redemption.  It is more a matter of being a fruit tree. (Matt. 7:15-23, and Gal. 5:22-26) If you are anything like me, my tree needs plenty of pruning.  And the Spirit does exactly that to make an actual Believer produce his fruit.

I heard a preacher say on this process of sanctification, "I'm not all the way where I should be, but I'm not all the way where I once was."  I like that.

____________________

One item of note that Scott pointed out yesterday was the reaction of those that Jesus was speaking to.  They all seemed surprised.  The folks who had been living a certain way in which the "Least of These" were being cared for, didn't realize that they had been doing so.  Same for the second group, except in reverse.

BTW: Don't let yourself be taken by the idea that Jesus is only referring to the "Least of these...my brothers," as other Christians.  He doesn't use that term with the second group.  He simply calls them "Least."  Certainly Believers are to take care of their own, but they should never stop there.  How we live out our faith everyday, in every way and circumstance...and with every other person, says a great deal about where our hearts are.


____________________

The Western mind-set is interesting.  It has it's roots in Socrates & Plato.  It is often very Gnostic.  For Protestants in particular, head knowledge is of paramount importance.  We elevate it above all else...to our own peril.  Certainly there is an important place for such things.  But at least in America, the church is often content with just that.  It makes us live in a bubble.  And that bubble is better when it gets smaller.

So we pray a prayer, sign a card at church camp...and then we burn some secular CDs for good measure. (Burning Modern Jazz CDs and anything by Garth Brooks is acceptable.  Satan co-wrote all of that anyway.) All is right with the world.  We have our "Get out of Hell" ticket, so now we can hide in our churches and bible studies...with all of our "Christian" friends.  We will not engage this fallen world unless it is to vote on a select few issues that some talking head told us was all that Jesus cared about...and often they will make them up for Jesus.  Maybe, from time to time, we will go out and "Be a Witness."  We will hand out really poor tracts, hold up some signs, yell...or maybe just evangelize total strangers who we know nothing about but know that they are "Sinners," so we will tell them so and feel good about ourselves even though they thought about pepper spraying us before they fled.



Don't look at my heart!  I prayed a prayer.  Don't look at my indifference to the suffering of others.  I signed my name to a pamphlet!  Don't look at my hatred & superiority towards those stuck in sexual sin.  I'm a VIRGIN!  Don't look at my gossip, slander and judgmental attitude.  I vote the right way.  And what ever you do, don't look at my ultimately not giving a damn about the least of these.  So what if my fruit looks like dried raisons and prunes?  I'm "Religious!"

That and a dollar wont even buy a cup of coffee anymore.

____________________

C.S. Lewis said; "When we get to heaven will be surprised on two fronts: #1. We will be surprised at who is there...who we knew for sure would not be there.  #2. We will be surprised at who isn't there...who we knew for sure would be there."

I don't think Jesus will be surprised...but he will probably be very sad.





And here is a song for his American Bride...



It's just a thought.

Peace.

Joe

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"God Bless America" The Rant




And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Rev. 21:3&4


So yesterday was July 4th, Independence Day.  As usual, I had to work on it.  That's not such a bad thing.  We have been having a truly brutal heat wave, so staying inside is a decent option.  Plus, the fireworks really freak my dog out.

Last night at work, a buddy of mine showed me a clip from a new HBO series.  I thought it was brilliant!  I'll show it later, but first...

____________________

Ooo, wait!  Let me set out this caveat, first: I lovAmerica!  I really do.  I think that we were incredibly fortunate to have the Founding Fathers that we did.  It was the perfect timing of the Enlightenment meeting the founding of an amazing experiment.  America is unique in that in many respects, it was an idea before it became a nation.  As such, it was the first nation, to my knowledge anyway, that was not based on ethnicity, so much as it was based on a philosophy of how people should be governed.  I am also very happy that I live here.  I vote in every election...even little municipal ones.  I pay my taxes.  I support our troops.  I love cops and firefighters.  The only law that I knowingly break is that I enjoy going over the posted speed limit. (OK, from time to time, I also kick kittens and bunnies.)

____________________

And now that I stated the above...

Am I the only one who gets bugged when you hear people, especially politicians, say "America is the greatest country on earth"?  When you hear people say, "God Bless America," does it annoy you a little?

For starters, anytime I hear a politician say that we are the greatest, it always feels like they are trying to kiss my back-side.  Seriously, stop doing that!  Don't brown-nose me for your vote.  You just say that because you know it's a handy catch phrase, and if you don't say it your opponent will hit you with it.

Secondly, do we have any idea how idiotic, rude and arrogant that phrase sounds to people from other countries?  I have friends from Canada, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.  What are they supposed to say when they hear us spout that line?  "Yeah, dude, my country sucks!  Yours is so much better."

And as far as "God Bless America" is concerned, how dare we insist that God bless us?  I wouldn't mind it at all if I saw bumper stickers that said "Please God, Bless America."  That would be much more fitting.  What are we, a country of Health & Wealth, prosperity freaks that treat the Holy One like some cosmic genie? (Just rub the bible and God will grant our wish.) For what reason do we presume that God has to bless us simply because we say that phrase?



Over the weekend, I got into a little spat with a fellow who accused me of ranting.  I wasn't, but I did commit the sin of pushing his buttons a bit.  It's a bad habit of mine.  I have a difficult time resisting messing with people who leave a door open so wide that you could drive a truck through.  So I pushed a few and he kind of popped a bolt.  In the end, I don't think I was doing the ranting.

Hey, I apologized.

Anyway, since I was accused of ranting, I figured today was as good as any to actually do one.  So here it is...

____________________


America is a contradiction.  We believe in personal responsibility, but don't actually mean it.  As soon as you try to hold people accountable, you are accused of violating personal freedoms.  At the same time, we really aren't supposed to help people, because that would also violate your personal freedom...unless it's voluntary, at which point the majority of us say "No."  And then, each person's definition of freedom seems to be different.

The fellow that I mentioned above used a phrase that I have heard before.  He was annoyed with me because I had said that, over all, I thought the new healthcare law was decent because it meant that almost everyone would now have some kind of health insurance. (I never said, nor will say, that it is perfect.)

Feel free to read what I posted that got a few people so hot & bothered. 
http://www.trippingandstumbling.com/2012/06/american-sodomy.html
Pop your own bolt too, if it pleases you.


N-E-Way, so he says in response to the idea that our taxes should be used to aid the less fortunate, "You would subject your fellow citizens to slaver?" (Key the sound of brakes screeching.) Slavery?  Paying taxes is the same as slavery?

To be fair, I didn't know the guy was a Libertarian at first.  I guess the whole concept of income tax, sales tax, property tax, etc. is a type of slavery to those folks, so they bristle at the thought. (Much like my bristling at the posted speed limits.)

Now, I've listened to a few folks who actually have been slaves in this modern era.  The sex slave business is still booming around the world and in this country.  Plain old regular slavery is still robust in certain areas, too.  This country has it's own history of slavery. (Hey, the Czar freed the slaves of Imperial Russia before we had to fight a war to free our own.) So for the life of me, I had no idea that you could equate paying taxes with slavery.  Makes you wonder what Harriet Tubman would say if she heard that.

To be fair, this country was kind of founded on that thought towards taxes.  The colonies didn't want to pay taxes to help the motherland pay off the 100 million pound debt it had spent protecting us from the Frogs in the French & Indian war.  God forbid we should pony up the dough for our own defense.  So we accuse the King of England of enslaving us with taxes.  See, taxes equal slavery!

And when we do gain our independence?

<--- Boo Yah!

Oddly enough, John MacArthur, who I am not exactly a fan of, says that America was born in sin because it violated Romans 13:1-7.  I'm happy that we have our independence, but I'm not sure that shooting people over taxes is the best way to handle that issue.

____________________

So another friend of mine said the other day that prays that America will repent.  In his case, he generally means for us to repent of our modern sexual sins and increasing secularism.  I would like to point out that there is nothing modern about either. (See the above cartoon.) This country has been messed up sexually from the beginning. (Just ask Washington and Jefferson's female slaves about certain romps.) What do you expect when Ben Franklin can't seem to keep his pants on?

But let us not forget that all of these founders were "Born-Again Christians" who got the United States to ask Jesus into it's heart to be it's own personal Lord & Savior on July 4, 1776.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who actually say that Jesus helped write the Constitution.  A fellow named David Barton actually says that everything in the Constitution can be found in the bible.  Which is true!  Both documents are full of vowels, consonants, adverbs and adjectives...nouns too.

Other than making a lot of money off of incredibly gullible people who want to have their ears tickled, Barton is a leader in the Neo-Pagan movement, where the cross of Christ is wrapped in the American flag while Jesus flies an F-16 across it.

Does this country need to repent?  You bet it does!  And it and every other kingdom of man has needed to repent from their inceptions on up to today.  And they need to repent for a lot more than sexual immorality so that we can regain some mythical past where everyone could sign Bethel Universities' statement of faith...and then head on down to the slave quarters for a good ol' "Rogering" topped off with the breaking of an indian treaty here and there.

This is/was a "Christian" country?!?!?!  

Since when?

____________________


The following video is the opening scene of HBO's new series "The Newsroom."  I hardly ever watch TV, which means I live under a rock according to some, so I haven't seen the show yet.  But this is what my buddy showed me at work last night.  I'll warn you in advance that it has profanity in it.  That having been said, I love this clip.  It pretty much sums up my feelings about this country and our current hyper-partisan climate.

Ooo, a couple more things before I stop my rant.

#1. I'll quote Monty Python for this part; Democrats, Republicans,  Conservatives and Liberals...You empty headed animal food trough wipers!  Marxist, Socialists and especially you lunatic Libertarians...I fart in your general direction!  You brainless, drones of the TEAbag movement and your Koch Brother masters, AND you spineless, leaderless, pointless members of the O.W.S. monement...your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!

#2. Leave Jesus out of all of this!


God Bless America!



He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.
Rev. 22:20

Oh yeah, I hope you all head a great 4th of July.  :)

Peace

Joe

P.S. As reward for putting up with my rant, I shall now give you a handy way for you to show your dissatisfaction at our Fascist/Socialist overlords and their theft of our liberty.  By simply following the sage wisdom & advice of Sammy Hagar, you too can stick it to the man.



Monday, July 2, 2012

Down




O YHWH, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O YHWH.  Psalm 139:1-4 


Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.  Psalm 4:1



Can you hear when we call?
There where we fall?
Standing our backs against the wall.  
Top of our lungs, hallelujah.  
Where pain and love bleed into one.
Matt Kearny

So I ended up having the weekend from hell.  Without going into detail, I'll simply say that it was a waste of my existence.  In fact, the entire month of June appears to have been a waste of time.  The weather, family dynamics, incredibly bad timing, etc.  The cherry on the sundae was last night at work.  Brutal.

They all seemed to conspire against me.  Maybe that makes me sound like a whiner.  So be it.  One way or the other, you take all that and combine it with the usual mess running around in my head and it all did a number on me.

So, what do you do when times like these come at you?  Where is God in all of this, and how do you seek him?

____________________


I really love the people at Living Waters.  That's the little body of folks that I go to every Sunday.  We meet in a Middle School.  The building is not the church.  The people there are the church.  I love my church.

I've been burned more times than I can count be people who call themselves "Christians."  I am always, and hopefully always will be, on guard around American "Christians."  Trust must be earned.  You do not get my trust by simply breathing, nor by wearing a label that says you dig Jesus.  Glenn Beck says he is a Believer.  He certainly is not.  Rick Perry prayed in front of 30,000 right-wing sheep, and I wouldn't trust him with a glass of water.  Live it!  Do not simply say it.

In the churches I have grown up in, I rarely felt safe enough to be honest about whatever may have been bugging me.  In some that I have been to, I knew better than to speak openly about questions, problems and struggles.

Not so with Living Waters.  Our Pastor has done a very good job modeling vulnerability.  It invites you to be open and honest.  I'm not sure how you would "bear one another's burdens" otherwise.  It probably helps that we only have about 200 people attending.  A small size has it's advantages.

____________________


Is the God of the bible a cosmic dimwit?  Is he a slightly senile grandpa?  Is he weak?  Does this God have the equivalent of "Blonde Moments" on a galactic scale?  Probably not.

And yet that is often how we treat him.


When I am having a truly bad day, I need to vent.  When I vent, it can get pretty ugly.  The worse of a time I am having, the worse the venting.  I really needed to vent yesterday...and I did.

Is this right or wrong?

Depends on who you ask, I suppose.


There have been times, many of them actually, where I have screamed, yelled and cussed at God.  Once was in a parking lot at night.  It was not very pretty.  I accused him of everything.  I was very, very angry.

Is this right or wrong?

Depends on who you ask, I suppose.


In Minnesota, we have a very large passive/aggressive streak that runs in us.  We evade answering directly.  We try to be polite and proper.  The church often does the same thing.

The church is full of shiny, happy people.  Now that we have asked Jesus into our hearts to be our own personal lord & savior, all is right with the world.  There are no more struggles.  We are all very happy, and to prove it we will put on our smiley, happy masks when we walk through the door.  If we are actually weak enough to have a tiny problem from time to time, we may enquire about it to others who are wiser and more mature by using language found in fortune cookies or the magic 8 ball.  They in turn will quickly spread this information to the rest of the body as gossip in the form of prayer requests.

"Thank you, Jesus!"


I have been chastised by "Christians," and even some in my own family for the choices of words I use when I am in pain.  They are more interested in the proper choice of vocabulary than they are in my pain.  When this happens, it tells me a great deal about them.  And then they wonder why I do not trust them with my confidences anymore.

Is their God a cosmic dimwit?  I guess he must be.


When I read the bible, I get a rather strong impression that this God actually knows what's going on.  It would appear that he knows my heart much better than I do.  He also seems to know the very words on my tongue before I even use them.


So should I compound my sin by lying to him about what is really on my mind
...my pain, my doubts, my fears?


I do not say this lightly.  I don't know how proper manners & etiquette work with this God.  I am sure that he doesn't exactly enjoy much of what I have to say when I am in a painful place. (I am probably using the wrong fork, too.) But it would seem to me that he is a big boy who can take it, and would most likely prefer my honesty.  At least we can get to the heart of the matter that way.  I might be guessing here, but it would appear that the heart of the matter is a big deal to this God.

____________________


If I ever do get married, it will certainly be one of Jesus' greater miracles.  Finding a woman who would put up with me and my mess would be very impressive, indeed.  I am a handful.  I freely admit to that.  I think that I am probably easy to like, but very difficult to love.

At Living Waters I have some very good friends.  One of them knows all of my dirty little secrets. (Yet he still puts up with me.) I was able to vent to a few of them yesterday.  Regardless of the frustration of this past weekend, I am very thankful indeed for those people.  They let me vent.  They actually listen when I am hurting...AND they put up with me.  I am grateful.

I love that church.  I am safe enough to be in pain there.

____________________

I do not believe in "Good" Christians.  There is no such thing.  You are either a struggling Christian, or you are not.  If you do not struggle, get away from me.  You are full of deceit, religion and you lie to yourself and to God.

If you seek to follow Jesus, then you will be full of doubt and questions.  Do not take the passages on doubt out of context to say that honest questioning is sin.  You are only fooling yourself.  You are full of the secret fears & anxieties, the guilts, questions and tensions.  You know you are!


More & more, I realize how much Jesus invites us to live into these very tensions.  
It is where he is waiting for us to find ourselves in him.


Do not lie to yourself or to this God.  Be honest or he cannot heal you, because you do not really wish to deal with these things.  You would rather burry them deep, and then cover them with your own religiousness to show what a "Good" Christian you are.


Even in my pain, struggle, anger and frustration, and especially when my depression kicks in to high gear, (Which is not the case this weekend...just life crapping on my forehead.) I have a body that I can go to who will listen.  God uses these people, his bride, to help me process and then to heal.


I love that church.  I am safe enough to be in pain there.




Peace

Joe