The good, the bad and the dead

There is something I want to explain out of my previous post.  I talked about the love of God versus right and wrong and when we started to experience the love of God, right and wrong was not that important any more. 

I want to add to that a little bit.  All of us have sin in our lives.  Stuff that we do that do not please God.  We try our best to fight against our sins.  Christians are supposed to look like christians, right?  So we fight our “bad self” and present to God our “good self”. 

I believe however, that we do not know that our “good self” is just as offensive or even more offensive to God than our “bad self”.  You might ask, “What”?  Because we are under the curse of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, both is offensive.  We come to God, put our best foot forward and believe that we can somehow impress him with our goodness.  Our “good self” is the one that believes he/she can somehow impress God.  He/she is the one that believes that he/she can make it.  Our “bad self” knows he/she have no chance with God.  Not so with our “good self”  When it comes to the cross, our “bad self” knows it has to die.  The “good self” will NOT die.  It will go kicking and screaming to the cross.  We will plead.  We will bargain.  We will be angry as hell, because our “good side” has done nothing wrong.  Look at all the stuff I am doing for God, we will shout.  The “good side” is however still looking out for number one.  He/she does not live out of God’s love but out of self love.  He/she believes in achievement.  The one with the most self-discipline wins, right?  Or perhaps the one with the best prayer life.  Or the one that knows hard work.  Or perhaps the one who knows the Bible the best?  Our “good self” knows how to be seen, what to say and how to say it.  He/she is the best we can give God. 

When it comes to a relationship with God, WE MUST DIE.  A grain of wheat must die for a new life to be born.  (We can only live out of ourselves or live out of God.)  A new Life begins to flow through us and because of it we will grow and later on, have fruit for all.   Fruit are the product of too much Life.  Our “good self” will always try to produce something that LOOKS like the fruit of the Holy Spirit. 

The place where we die differs from person to person.  For some of us it is a trainwreck moment.  For some it is a life long trainwreck spread over 30 years.  Usually the moment includes a hopelessness and a loss of function.  Disillusionment, disappointment and frustration may be part of what we feel.  It’s a place where we are not so sure God exists or that He cares.(I know I sound a bit bleak with all the tragedy stuff, but pain has a tendency to block out externals.  This way it’s just between me and God)  It is however a place where we begin to move from believe to faith.  An uncertain trust is born.  It is the place where we begin to understand what grace really is.  We put our hands in the hand of a God that will lead us to God knows where.  We begin to love ourselves because God loves us.  We begin to live authentic broken lives.  We begin to give those around us “what we have” and “what we have” comes from God.  This is not a place for the good capable person.  All of us comes to the cross, but not all of us die there.  Again our choice is not right versus wrong, but Jesus and the love that flows out of Him.

They say that Job is the oldest book in the Bible.  It precedes Genesis.  Perhaps it should also be the first book in the Bible.  It’s a story about a man who has none of his questions answered and still meets God.  It’s about a God who puts His trust in a man that does not really know Him very well.  It’s a good place to begin the Bible with, don’t you think 🙂

“Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things works.” –Robert Farrar Capon

Love explained

About two weeks ago Molly had a post called “Standing in His Grace”.  My wife responded to the post and this is part of what she wrote.

 

“I must admit, that our friends who does attend “church” do not really understand what we are doing, or how we can live from a perspective where right and wrong are both irrelevant as it is both borne from the tree of knowledge. Our explanation that we are living from the Tree of Life, in the Love and Grace of Jesus, doesn’t satisfy their need for rules. They seem to think that we are now going to live immorally and who knows what else!!!”

 

Some of the sentences may bother you.  It did bother some of the of the people that commented.

One lady wrote “However, I did see a couple of things in the comments that worry me, and start me thinking thoughts about Satan making sins in pairs…..

“must admit, that our friends who does attend “church” do not really understand what we are doing, or how we can live from a perspective where right and wrong are both irrelevant” 

I have to add myself to the people who don’t understand how a Christian can do that. Teenage Nietscheans and middle-aged NeoPagans, yes. (Well, sort of – they’re kidding themselves, but I understand how their position flows from their general principles.) I don’t understand a Christian taking this position.  Particularly when this is followed a few sentences later with,

“They seem to think that we are now going to live immorally and who knows what else!!!”  If a person is consciously rejecting right and wrong, it’s a logical inference. Morality all about the distinction between right and wrong.

 

Another lady wrote  “I agree. I have seen many times where people are awakened from the fogs of authoritarianism and/or legalism, and have a backlash response by latching onto anything that appears the be the opposite of what they are trying to escape. Unfortunately, then you are just trading one set of problems for another one. There have to be some absolutes in life, and just because the absolutes you held (or some of them, at least, ) turn out to be very, very wrong, doesn’t necessarily mean everything pertaining to them was wrong. There’s a saying about babies and bathwater!”

 

Yet another lady wrote…”I saw that comment about not living by right and wrong, and it did worry me a little bit, but I wasn’t sure if I would have anything good to say if there really was a problem there. Surely the desire to always “have it right” or be all together is wrong and useless. But if by wrong and right one means wrong and right in the absolute terms, there is a problem.  Can I just say that I think both bondage to rules and the Law, abuse from authorities, legalism, ect, AND living amorally are both horrible because they are not living by Love?.

 

These ladies responded with love and concern.  They were careful not to offend and they acknowledged that they do not know the whole story behind my wife’s comments.  I wish we had more people like them in the blogosphere.  (Sometimes I shoot first and try to listen later.)  You can of course make your own decision on what Anette said.

 

I am going to explain love as we understand it, perhaps it will relieve some of the fears people have with what Anette said. 

 

First thing.  God is love.  If you want to know what He is like, go and read 1 Cor 13. 

1Co 13:4  Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.

1Co 13:5  It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

1Co 13:6  It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

1Co 13:7  Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

 

Read it again and again and again and again … and…again.    If we choose God we choose Love.  This Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness.  There in no pride and arrogance in this Love.  This Love is NOT self-seeking.  Jesus is the example of how far this love will go.  He gave Himself for people that ignore Him.  For people that spits in His face.  For people who think they can make it without Him.  For humankind.  It is not a passive love.  It is a love that moves. 

 

We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God.

God’s unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say or think evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love. – Henri Nouwen

 

Humankind basically has 2 curses.  The first is the curse of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It is the source in all of us, out of which we live.  It means we are a mixture of good and evil.  We perceive ourselves and other people through this lens.  We identify ourselves mostly as good or we are not too bad.  I can compare myself to Hitler and decide that I am not too bad.  Actually I am OK compared to him.  This source out of which we live, can give us a lot of security.  I may have good morals.  I can say stuff like “Well, at least I am not as bad as those people.”  or I can believe because I am a good person, God has a special place in His heart for me.  I know what is right and what is wrong.  God even gave us the law to help us live in this good/evil world.  He gave it to protect us.  If everybody followed the rules, we would be a very civilized society.  We might even start to believe that if we follow the rules to the letter, we can save ourselves.  Or we could save ourselves through our ability to reason like any good humanist will explain to us.  We can do this because all of humankind, atheists and christians alike, have a pretty good idea on rightness and wrongness. 

 

That brings me to the second curse.  The devil looked at himself and his self-consciousness started all sin.  The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to look at themselves.  Each person is at the center of his/her own universe.  We live only for ourselves and we are the source out of which we live.  When I am nice to people, it is to feel the warmth of niceness.  When I give, it is to be seen.  It is how the smile I receive back, makes me feel.  I join a group to belong.  Life is about me.  We integrate our first and second curse and use our first curse to cope with our second curse.  Most christians live by these curses.  Because we are all mini-legalists and God gave us rules, we assume in the christian religion, that if I keep to the rules, I will be saved.  We do the stuff that pleases God.  The bible becomes a manual that tells us how to live in order for God to be pleased with me. ME.  We may believe that what we do is for God, but we do it for ourselves.  Witnessing, the soup kitchen, preaching, visiting the sick in hospital, laying my life down, children’s ministry and all the other good stuff is mostly what we do for ourselves.  Test yourself.  What happens when you do a good thing and people do not notice it or even criticize you when you are doing it?  Is the ego wounded?  The good in us, is for ourselves.  Not for God. 

 

Furthermore, we can manipulate right and wrong and make it relative to suit us.  Most of us call this freedom.  I think this is where the friends that wrote in are worried.  I can manipulate right and wrong to justify my actions.  The truth is relative, right?  It has to be.  How will we explain all the denominations if truth is not relative?  This manipulation of right and wrong brings a lot of confusion.  Christians seldom agree on anything.  People cannot do as they like, right?  Stealing is still wrong, right?  A christian has a certain standard for following the rules, right?  A christian cannot do as we please, right?  The bible gives us a code to live by, right?  (Tell me this.  Why did the law… that God gave… which is good….condemn Jesus?)

 

When men are pure, laws are useless. – Benjamin Disraeli 

 

What will happen with us when we are no longer living under those two curses?  I believe two things.  We will no longer live for ourselves and we will no longer use right and wrong to guide us.  NOW I want to introduce you to Jesus.  He said “I am The Way, I am the Life, I am the Truth.”  Jesus, Himself, is the different Source out of which to live.  (The other main Tree in the garden was the Tree of Life.  Adam and Eve did not eat from that tree.) Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”  Jesus had the same kind of experience.  John 5:19-20 “Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does.”  Jesus, the Bread of Life, is the source.  I can say that again if you want me to.  (I bet you are still looking back to the right and wrong sentence 🙂  When we are in the True Vine, His “juice” will begin to flow through us.  The first thing we will notice is the love of God.  We will slowly start to live, not for ourselves (Joh 15:13  No one has greater love than to lay down his own life for his friends.), and will be guided by every word coming out of the mouth of God because He…is…actually…alive.  (Not many christians know this.)

 

Jesus says in Joh 13:34.  I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.  The love of God is a constant.  If we hate Him, He loves us.  If we love Him, He loves us.  If we are miserable, He loves us.  If we spit in His face and nail Him to a cross, He loves us.  If we help people, He loves us.  He keeps on loving even when we fail Him or reject Him.  It is His nature to love.    The love we know, is the love of return. 

 

In conversion you are not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor a movement, nor a set of beliefs, nor a code of action — you are attached primarily to a Person, and secondarily to these other things… You are not called to get to heaven, to do good, or to be good — you are called to belong to Jesus Christ. The doing good, the being good, and the getting to heaven, are the by-products of that belonging. The center of conversion is the belonging of a person to a Person. E. Stanley Jones

 

Our question is not right and wrong anymore.  It’s, where are you taking us Father?  In our case God’s love is the kind of love that moves you to take people into your home when you do not have enough money to take care of your family.  It’s the kind of love that when you take a certain person in your home, people stop visiting you.  It’s the kind of love that allows people in your home even when they steal your stuff.  (Or is my stuff God’s stuff?)  It’s the kind of love that give money to send a selfish person on a holiday when you do not have enough money to buy your children christmas presents.  It’s the kind of love that when you begin to feel it, really feel it, you break.  Yes, we made the mistake to ask God that we want to see people through His eyes.  It’s not fun.  You cry a lot.  We asked Him to stop it, but the effects linger on.  You see people’s value.  Broken people become living sermons.  It’s the love that gives people rest.  They come and lie on your couch for a weekend.  You don’t have to talk to them, but when they leave they feel better.  It’s the kind of love that do not speak a lot.  Not a lot of advise-giving.  More the listening kind. 

 

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. – St. Augustine

 

Our question is not right and wrong anymore.  It’s more a choice between what’s easy and what is difficult.  It’s the kind of love that moves the jock at school to make friends with the nerds and lays his life down for them.  It’s the kind of love where the beautiful cheerleader makes friends with the discarded and gives them hope.  It’s the kind of love that moves the gentle to take a stand.  It’s the kind of love that give the lonely a voice and friends.  It’s a love where the weak is honored.  It’s the kind of love where you lay your life down for the person who do not like you.  This love overshadows money.  This love is sticky, insistent and unrelenting.  This love can be frustrating.  This love is unfair because it’s for everybody.  This love is to be found in the ruins of a person’s life and it can even ruin a person’s life.  This love is open to all.  This love contradicts our sense of fairness.  This love gives a place for those who have no place.  This love keeps us off balance.  This love flows through the incompetent, incomplete and the broken.  This love can leave us frustratingly stuck, slow us down and take us to a place where we have to acknowledge that we are not needed.  This love has a wildness and fury that cannot be contained.

 

Love is not finding someone to live with, It’s finding someone you can’t live without. – Rafael Ortiz

 

Do we really want right and wrong to guide us or do we want the adventure of God’s love?  God is the absolute in this love and He impossible to cope with.  Is there a higher than Him?  Morality is about right and wrong and fairness.  God’s love has no fairness.  Think about it and be glad. 

 

I want to dare you.  Follow the rules.  Do the right thing.  Don’t do the wrong things.  Be a good person.  Help where you can.  Or…ask God to experience His love and see where it will take you.  If you chose the second option I have one sentence for you.  Be afraid, be very afraid” 🙂

 

To love is to be vulnerable. – Philip Yancey

No place to hide

“Where are you?”  Don’t you mean, “How are you?”  “Nope, where are you?”  Actually it does not matter “where” we are in this journey with Jesus.  He is “there” also 🙂

Those who believe in God can never, in a way, be sure of Him again. Once they have seen Him in a stable, they can never be sure where He will appear or to what lengths He will go, to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation He will descend in His wild pursuit of man. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly or earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place that we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from His power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where He seems most helpless that He is most strong, and just where we least expect Him that comes most fully.  –  Philip Yancey              

Sinking

Regarding your spiritual life, be open, simple and like a child. In the depths of your spirit be like a drop of water lost in an ocean, and be no longer conscious of yourself. In this enlarged condition see and enjoy everything from within God. Within yourself there is only darkness, but in God there is only light. Let God be everything to you. . . . God’s love is like a weight within us, causing us to sink deeper and deeper into God. – Jeanne Guyon

The limited God

The other day Former leader asked in a post “But what does it matter?” about the fact that she knows God is busy in the congregation she left and had seen God using her daughter to heal a person during one of the meetings.  Questions can be asked like…“If I left because of abuse, why did God not also leave?”  Why is God continuing in an environment that can be so toxic?

The first thing I must say is that I believe God loves every person on earth.  Therefore, even when a congregation fails in giving each other Jesus, God is still in their midst.  God loves people, even if they sin differently than I do.  Furthermore, I believe God limits Himself by what we choose.  Let me give you an example. 

During the time of Samuel, Israel does not have a specific leader or king that leads them.  They are being led by God in the form of Samuel but he is not the sort of person that gives surety.  They come together and tell Samuel that they want a king.  Samuel is upset.  He goes to God and God tells him to inform Israel what the consequences will be, if they choose to have a king.  He paints the picture for Israel, but they still want a king. 

It is important to note that a systemic change is about to take place.  They want a king.  Although God is against the idea, (1Sa 8:7  And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken to the voice of the people in all they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be King over them.)He goes along with what they want and He chooses the first king.  (1Sa 9:17  When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, There is the man of whom I told you. He shall have authority over My people.)  Not only that, God anoints Saul.( 1Sa 10:6  Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you will show yourself to be a prophet with them; and you will be turned into another man.  1Sa 10:7  When these signs meet you, do whatever you find to be done, for God is with you.)  This happens. (1Sa 10:10  When they came to the hill [Gibeah], behold, a band of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he spoke under divine inspiration among them.)

Eventually Saul is recognized as the king over Israel.
(1Sa 10:24  And Samuel said to all the people, Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that none like him is among all the people? And all the people shouted and said, Long live the king!)

God then chooses the second king.  (1Sa 16:13  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.)

For the choice of the third king there is conflict.  Should the son of the king be the next king?  (1Ki 1:17  And she said to him, My lord, you swore by the Lord your God to your handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon your son shall reign after me and sit upon my throne. 1Ki 1:18  And now, behold, Adonijah is reigning, and, my lord the king, you do not know it.)
Solomon ends up as king.

After Solomon, there is a split between the northern and southern kingdoms.  Rehoboam and Jeroboam are now the kings.  God is very much involved in the process.  Gradually and surely God is taken out of the process of choosing the king.  King after king follows.  To become king you either had to kill the king, or you were his son.  God was not necessary any more.  The “We-want-a-leader-system” came to a place where “it” became alive and now had a life of it’s own, without God.  (2 Kings 15 is a good example)  Does God leave?  No, He stays and lives in the confined system that Israel chose for them.  Sometimes He shows Himself through the prophets and at other times He stays hidden. 

God may give us what we want.  He may anoint it.  Signs and wonders may follow.  “What we want” will however limit God and eventually replace Him.  We will not need Him anymore.  This is much more visible in the organized part of church, but it is in all of us.  Do I want freedom?  Then freedom will replace God.  Do I want good things to happen?  Then good things will replace Him in my life.  Do I want to win the world for Jesus?  Then winning the world will cost me Jesus. 

For us there is only one option.  Jesus.  With Him comes a lot of stuff.  One being freedom.  If I however, shift towards the freedom that Jesus gives, I begin to limit Him.  We see what He does and then believes it is “the entire” He can do.  (I make Him so small sometimes).  A limitless God interacting with a limit-making being.  Why does God limit Himself?  I believe it is because He loves us very much.  He gives us free will and He will not overpower our will with wonders.  To do so, will not be love.  Yes He will do miracles, but in the end, it was only His friends that loved Him that stayed.  Miracles makes us grateful, fills us with a sense of wonder and is sometimes a little scary, but it seldom leads us to a place where we love Him because He is enough. 

Is “the Jesus we get” sufficient for us, or will we only be pleased by the “Jesus we want”?  Funny thing is:  The one we want will eventually turn out to be smaller than the One Who loves us.

Double tagged

I’ve been double tagged by Jeff and 7catz
Here is what I must do.
Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words
Post it on my blog.
Link to the person that tagged you.
Tag five more blogs.

Of course the first six words that came into my head were. 

YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? 🙂

Then I thought of the road that brought me to this place which can be described by.

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, HU?

Perhaps the last six years can be described as

JESUS MUST BE HERE SOMEWHERE, RIGHT?

But after a lot of soul searching, I came up with

JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW.

I’m tagging Che

I’m tagging Tracy

I’m tagging Kelly

I’m tagging Sue

I’m tagging Saroné

 

God City

Heather at “A Deconstructed Christian”  wrote a post called “Going to the next level”.  This is what she wrote. 

I’ve decided. I’m going to the next level in God. I’m going to be empowered by an incredible, enthusiastic, visionary leader and take this city for Christ. I’m going to be a vibrant, passionate, charismatic believer who takes excellence seriously. I’m joining a vibrant, contemporary, growing church with a powerful message that impacts the world and has a vision statement that involves loving life, loving people and loving God. I’m getting connected to a small group that will move me into that next level and take me into the unknown, teaching me to drink that living water and walk by faith. I have a vision for this nation, I’m going to see revival sweep across this land.

Before you say anything, please read the whole post here

The part that stayed with me was this sentence.  “We’ll take this city for Christ.”  It’s a sentence that I’ve heard a lot during the past 6 months and it’s definitely been around since I said it 20 years ago 🙂

Then a thought hit me over the head.  How would a town/city look like when it’s been won for Jesus?  What kind of a town would it be?  This could be fun.  What do you think a town/city would look like, if it’s been won for Jesus? 

I’ve never tagged people before but I am going to on this one.  The rule, write about it and tag at least two other people.  I’m going to tag a few more fellow journers. 

Before I give it a shot, let me begin to say that this is very difficult for me.  It seems I can only think in cynical and sarcastic ways about the question.  For instance, what will the city decide to do if relatives come to visit who are not Christians?  What will the rules be?  Will there be rules for the visitors?  What about gay people.  Will they all be celibate?  Will they have to be?  Or will they be “cured”?  What about the leaders.  Will they please everybody?  Or will the whole population submit to the decisions of the leaders?  Will there be any leaders?  Will there be rich people?  Will everybody work hard?  What will the working hours be if we are content with what we have?  What about cars and pollution?  Will there be car accidents in such a town?  What about illness?  Will everyone be healed?  Will there be professional sport?  Hip-hop music?  Will everybody be nice?  Will children listen to their parents and will teenagers have high morals?  What denomination will everybody be?  These are some of the questions that keep on bugging me.  So, what do you think a town/city would look like, if it’s been won for Jesus?  (For me it’s an impossible question, but I am going to take up the challenge.)

In my town…everyone will know that we are fallen and broken.  The environment will be sopping wet with grace, grace saturated, grace drenched and flooded with grace.  In short, it will be so grace-logged that people will struggle to move past each other.  Neighbors will know each other.  Really KNOW them.  People will be encouraged to be real.  Real laughter.  Real friendship.  Real crying.  The people will think of the consequences of their actions.  The wellbeing of the environment will be significant.  Recycling is a given.  The strong will live for the weak.  There will be time.  Words like hurry, rush, urgency, speed, dash and fast will only be found in a forgiveness context and not in everyday busy-ness.  Having said that, the X-games will be a monthly feature 🙂  People will be given freedom to do what they want. (This is not a problem because we will want what the Father wants.)  There will be enough freedom to walk away from it all and enough love to welcome the wayward back.  The city will be known for the love between the people.  Lots of people will leave because they want to share what they know to be a reality.  Problems will be met with humility and seen as a way to get closer to the Father.  Money will not be an issue.  People will not be grouped.  No longer will there be a thing such as a singles group or a group for divorced mothers.  Men will love their wives and serve them.  Orphans will have fathers and widows will have someone that fixes the radio or the plumbing.  No old age homes.  We will not be afraid of dying.  Worship will be a way of living not just something you do with your mouth.  People will be known for who they really are.  No longer will we need the mask.  People’s worth will be the Fathers love for them.  I can go on and on.

I did however not give practical answers.  I did not really answer any of my bugging questions.  Perhaps you can.  What do you think?

I’m tagging Heather because she is the inspiration for this post. 

I’m tagging Barb because she reads my stuff.

I’m tagging Grace because her name says it all.

I’m tagging Erin because she loves conversation.

I’m tagging Jeff because he has written half of the posts I’ve wanted to write.

I’m tagging you 🙂