Sunday, February 25, 2007

Unchanging


“I am the Lord, and I do not change.”

Malachi 3:6, NLT



On 9/11 I was at work. A friend of mine and I decided to walk to the church we went to at lunch to pray. It was the only thing I could think of to do. I remember coming out of that experience and realizing that what had changed was me. I didn’t pray for myself or my anxiety. I prayed for those affected. I prayed for God to stop the attacks. Still I left the church with a renewed faith that God was in control. He had not changed.

When I think of the phrase Unchanging One I think on a macro level. God has the world under control. His power has not diminished. His plan has not changed. He knows what he is doing. Those beliefs are correct but incomplete. God is unchanging on a micro level as well.

I think that unintentionally I have believed that although God doesn’t change the way he sees me could. He would always love me but his opinion of me could change. I had never really thought about it so much as lived that lie out. This morning I had that belief challenged. We can’t change God one bit! Our sin does not change Him - not even His thoughts. He never looks at us any differently. We are always as welcome to run into His arms as we were the first time.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

About Denial

A few days ago I had an amazing night. I have been doing this Bible study and it took me to Romans 4. That was exactly what I needed that night. The author of the Bible study had suggested I read it out loud. By the time I got through it tears were streaming down my face. That night I wanted to share my new realization with so many people. I was excited. I had peace.

The next morning I got up and went about my day. At the end of the day on the way home from work I thought about the night before. I couldn’t believe that the experience I had didn’t define my entire day. How could I forget about that? How could I become distracted so quickly?

I thought about the story of Peter who denied Christ. In case you don’t know the story I will give you my version of it. Jesus is talking about how all of the disciples will desert him that night. Peter proclaims that he would never do that. Jesus says that before the rooster crows Peter will have denied Him three times. Here’s the rest of the story from the Bible:

Meanwhile, as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some other bystanders came over to him and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter said, “I swear by God, I don’t know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went away, crying bitterly. (Matthew 26: 69-75, NLT)

No I didn’t actually deny Christ but somehow my heart seems to be in a similar place. I think that I can never forget who God is and what he has done for me and then I just go about my day. But the story of Peter brings me hope. So I decided to study it and reflect on it some more. My reflections are my own as they apply to this situation. I am sure there is much more to say.

1. The story of Peter’s denial of Christ appears in each of the Gospels (accounts of Jesus’ life.) There are not very many stories that are in all four Gospels. Most of the stories that are common to each of the gospels are directly about what happened to Jesus during his trial, crucifixion, and rising from the dead. All four of the Gospels are quite different. This is really a side bar to what was happening to Jesus. It comforts me to know that it was important to God that I know about this story.

2. Peter was by no means lukewarm for Jesus. In John 21 Peter jumps out of a boat and swims to Jesus rather than waiting to row in. The interesting thing is this is after Peter had denied Jesus. He had no hesitation to run to his Lord.

3. Peter was not the only apostle to leave Jesus during the night of his trial and day of his death. With the exception of John there is no indication that any of the others remained either. Peter’s example is important he outright denied Christ. It is important not to forget that the others were missing entirely.

4. Peter seemed to be the first one to ‘get’ things. In Matthew 16 Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah. He understood what was going on. Later in the book of Acts Peter preaches to a crowd with incredible passion. Again Peter seemed to be the first to be able to explain this to others.

So what am I taking away from this? I can have my days where I forget Who I belong to. I can come back without hesitation. I can keep fighting for understanding. I just need to remember to come back.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Secret?

I don’t usually post rants but this is something I feel really strongly about.

I saw a commercial for Oprah the other day that proclaimed on Thursday I could hear ‘the secret.’ I wasn’t sure what that meant but it at least struck my curiosity. So I tuned in to see what was up on Thursday night (I can watch Oprah at 6pm because I get some Spokane channels.) I have to admit that the only things I know about The Secret I gleaned from the 20 minutes I could stand to watch on Oprah and through doing a little bit of research on the web to confirm my suspicions were right and I wasn’t just grumpy. I have not read the book or watched the DVD. I try not to say I will never to something because then I seem to feel stupid when I end up doing it. But suffice it to say I have no intention of watching the DVD never mind reading the book.

First of all the only thing new about this concept is that someone decided to package it as The Secret. Most people will have heard one variation of it or another. Basically the premise of The Secret is that we attract the things we want into our lives by what we think and feel. If you don’t believe me check Oprah’s website. Hmmm, I don’t know about you but this reminds me of just about every motivational speaker out there. It’s not new and certainly not a secret.

On some level there is some truth to the idea that we attract good or bad stuff into our lives. I know I am often the author of my own misery. I also know that sometimes my circumstances have nothing to do with choice and I can’t just ‘pull up my boots straps’ and change things. There is a balance to that. Life is not about attracting good stuff into our lives.

I guess one of the reasons this bugs me so much is that there is a Christian equivalent. Some people profess that becoming a Christian means that our lives will be filled with riches and nothing bad will ever happen. That is simply not true. The Bible doesn’t promise an easy life. In fact there are many places it says the opposite. My favorite illustration of this is in Hebrews 11 (which is often referred to as the faith chapter.)

But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. 36 Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. 37 Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.

The first thing I heard from one of the guests was that in order to know you truly forgive someone you have to be able to thank them for that experience. That’s just dumb. Yes forgiveness is important. Thankfulness is important too. I am thankful to God that he had carried me through some storms. I forgive people for some of the stuff that has been done to me. But I believe that there is evil in the world. If there is an evil one than sorry but I am not going to be thankful for the things he has caused. I am also not necessarily going to reconcile with someone who has hurt me. I mean really, “thank you ex-husband for beating the crap out of me. It made me a better person.” “Thank you for abusing me as a kid. It made me a better person.” SERIOUSLY!

I could go on but I guess I should tell you why I care so much. I have three (maybe four) reasons. The first is that people who try to subscribe to this type of philosophy tend to gloss over the pain in their lives. They don’t deal with stuff. They don’t allow God to care for them. They think they can live life on their own. So they push stuff down and never deal with it.

Second, people who engage a culture where the assumption is that they attract good things in their lives often don’t get real when shit happens. They live in bondage and hide things. They try to figure stuff out themselves. They go through things alone because they don’t believe the others around them will understand.

The third reason is related to the first. We need to have compassion for each other. If our assumption is that we need to attract good things into our lives we may have trouble with compassion. We will hesitate to walk with someone who is going through a hard time. Actually people who are going through a hard time won’t talk to us.

Singing cheerful songs to a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing someone’s jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in a wound. Proverbs 25:20, NLT

The forth (and maybe) reason is that I tried to live this way many different times. It didn’t work for more than a month or so. It distracted me from being the type of woman God wanted me to be.

That’s my rant.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Adoption


So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family—calling him “Father, dear Father.” For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children. (Romans 8: 15-16, NLT)

The book of Romans in the Bible is a letter to believers in Rome. I am finding it more and more helpful to understand the context in which the letters in the Bible were written. A while ago I came across the text above. The concept of being God’s child would probably not be new to most believers. I have always had trouble connecting with that. I am an adult. I became a believer as an adult. How can I be adopted?

I have recently found out that in Roman culture it was actually not all that common to adopt children. That kind of adoption did happen but it was more common to adopt an adult. A man with no heirs would adopt someone to become their heir. This person would have all the rights and privileges of a blood family member. So when the author of the letter (Paul) talks about adoption the readers likely understood this in the context of being adopted as an adult and gaining all of the rights and privileges of a family member.

I know I am not off the hook for needing to be more child-like. Jesus speaks of the need to be more like a child to get into heaven. That is definitely something I want to explore more in my study of Scripture. For now though, I am intrigued at how the beginning of Romans chapter 8 changes for me when I understand this in the cultural context in which it is written.

What changes for me is that Paul is not saying that I can be free from sin because I am like a child. Paul is saying that I am free to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me because I have been adopted into God’s family and I have all of the rights and privileges that are associated with that. I am led by the Spirit and I am a child of God.