Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Identity: Relationship


It is what everybody on this planet wants. To know who they are, what they are and what they are meant for. Some have figured it out, but most of us will spend our whole lives looking for it. This is a place where I think church drops the ball. Anyone and everyone who has stepped into a church for any amount of time has heard 'You are a child of God' or 'You are heirs in Christ'. Which don't get me wrong, sounds awesome but what exactly does that mean? There are waves rippling through the church where people are turning away from 'religion' and moving towards 'spirituality' and 'relationship'. People are getting dropped in the big cracks that are being created by separation of these words. You can have all of these and be one of those people who have figured it out, or you could have parts of one or all and be a robot that goes in and out of church building doors. Let's look at what relationship is and why it is the most necessary part of Christianity.

When looking at when the church began, it is actually easy to see where things get bungled up. But let's go even further back than that. Let's talk Creation. Christians believe that God created the universe. They don't go into specifics on how he did it because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter but discovering how is cool. They believe in a Triune God, meaning three in one. Three separate beings forming one being. This would be the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Don't get so hung up on trying to figure it out, that isn't what is important. This is: the Father thought of the universe, the Son (or the Word) spoke it into existence.

So here's the deal. You are here because God had this awesome idea (that would be you) and the Son (the Word, who is now Jesus) spoke you into existence. Mind-blowing, huh? 'Um no,' you say, 'see my mom and dad got freaky and nine months later there I was'. To this I could go into how getting pregnant isn't as easy as people would like to believe but it would take ages, kind of like explaining just how complex our world is and how it takes something more than coincidence to have all the parts working together in harmony. Another time, another place, maybe.

So the Son came down from outside of time and space to be in our crowded little world, filled with crowded little small-minded people so that the separation that occurred in the Garden could be fixed. And while he was here he felt what all little people feel. Love, anger, laughter, sadness. What, did you think those were just coincidences too? When he sacrificed himself on the cross, he laid the groundwork for us to become like him. Now, go read a couple of paragraphs up and remember just who and what he is. Now wrap your mind around this. When you ask for Jesus to come into your life and have a relationship with him, you get to be a part of all of that. When Jesus rose from the grave, it was like graduation day when your Daddy hands you the keys to your dream car, buys you your dream house, you marry your dream guy...... you get the idea, I hope. This is what you get when you have a relationship with Jesus. What He is, you become. And this is where the separation between 'religion' and relationship comes into play.

See, religion is a set of practices you DO in order to gain favor or acceptance. In a relationship with Jesus, you don't have to do ANYTHING. You are and always will be accepted and have favor. Even when you mess up. And you will mess up because, alas, you are only human. Like the rest of us.

'But what about the Ten Commandments and all the other do's and don'ts in the Bible' you point out. Most of them don't apply anymore. 'How can that be?' you say. Because it is a relationship, not a job. I do not cheat on my husband. I don't do this because it says not to, I do it because I love him and know that if I did that it would hurt him deeply. And that in turn would hurt me because I love him greatly. One flows into the other. Same goes with Jesus. If you truly love him then your actions will reflect that. You will do things to please him, not because you have to but because you want to, because it makes you happy when he is happy. And when you mess up you will feel bad and want to hide but He wants you to come to him so he can heal the hurt and get you going again. I don't know about you but that beats a thousand hail Mary’s and any other hokie pokie religious work stuff any day. I'm just saying.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Darkness to Light

Dark have been my dreams of late. ~ King Theoden, Lord of the Rings – Two Towers

Darkness. True darkness. Absence of physical light can be frightening and many times is, but it can and has been overcome. Absence of spiritual light, however, is the true nightmares of every human alive. The feeling of despair, lost hope, has brought many a person to their knees and even to their deaths. It is the horrifying edge that many walk every day. Your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, might be walking the tightrope across a yawning black pit surrounding them and you may or may not even know it. And if you do, you don't know how to help them. And they don't know how to tell you how.

I write this because I, myself, have had dark dreams of late. To be more precise, I have had dark days. Days where my husband has had to watch, helplessly, as darkness consumed my mind. Watch as his free-spirited wife who loves life and sunshine get swallowed up into a shadow of nothingness. Encouraging words were lost in the smog of depression. Then just as soon as it comes, the clouds blow away. The darkness lifts and I am able to think and see again. Each time an episode happens it feels like my mind is static and all I can see or hear is darkness. The most painful thing is, I can feel it coming. The most shameful thing is when I lose the fight and get sucked into the madness. Because when the clouds lift, I can't remember exactly why they were there in the first place but do know that I was not myself.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path ~ Psalms 119:105 (AMP)

Recently I have started listening to podcasts from my church pastors and got a bible app on my phone and Nook. And while words of light are spoken in my ears and read by my eyes, the voices in my mind scream and sneer. But faith comes by hearing (and seeing) and hearing by the word of God which is Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:17) Faith is strengthened when truth is spoken. Jesus is Truth. Truth can come from a friend, song, message, program, a devotional, any where Jesus sees fit. And where one avenue may get cut off, He will open another path. Jesus doesn't give up on you, even if you give up on yourself. Plain. Simple. Period. So take hold of that promise and store it in your heart. When the whispers of dread and doom start to tickle your ears, pull it out and shine it. They will still come at you, but their time will be shortened, because the darkness will always lose to the light. And Jesus is the Light.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Religion vs Faith

To those who believe, no answer is needed. For those who do not, no answer is good enough.

I am not sure who said those words but it sums up the rift between believers and non-believers very well. And not just Christianity, but any belief system out there really. But more so for Christianity because it will have people doing things that “rational” people would not. Not saying that Christians are crazy (though there are a few loose nuts out there), they are just living a radical life following a God that says to do things differently than “normal”.

Non-believers roll their eyes when Christians say they don't have religion, they have faith. This means they do not live under rules and regulations on how to “act” right, they have a relationship with a living being that directs, nudges and pushes them to right paths. Christians are not sheeple, just mindlessly following. People of faith don't mindlessly follow – trust me, there are many out there that question the situations they are in just as much as non-believers. They just have faith, that is trust, that God has the game plan.

Now I am not saying that there isn't religion in churches or religion type activities in churches, there are. But that is really no different than any other place where people gather and follow some sort of routine or schedule. Your job, for instance, has routines and schedules to them so, in essence, they have religious activities to it. Wrap your head around that one. And church, God's church, isn't a building its people. Living, breathing people. If the church building burned to the ground, the church would still be there. Does that mean you don't need to go to the building to worship God?

Yes and No.

No because it is just a building and you can worship God anywhere. Yes because while you don't need the building, you do need the people. It is the people who will encourage you and build you up. Don't get me wrong, it is also the people who will sometimes disappoint and hurt you but they are human and that happens sometimes. Remember God does show his love to us through other people but humans do the disappointment and hurting on their own without any added help.

So what is the difference between religion and faith?

There is a simple way to see it in action.

When a person says they are a Christian but are really following religion, when bad times happen they will be looking at themselves and wondering what they did wrong. They scramble trying to “fix” themselves and their behaviors to “win” favor.

When a person says they are a Christian and following in relationship, when bad times happen they will be looking up and asking God to help them through it and believing that everything is going according to the game plan. It's not that they have more information, they just trust the Coach.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The God Drug

In the book, The Forces that Form Your Future, the author asks how you view God and how you view the Bible. I pondered this over as I read it, as I was falling to sleep, my dreams pondered it and so did my waking self, after some much needed caffeine. A little voice inside was sneering at me, telling me I must not really know if I am taking so long to think it over. It was wrong. I was bypassing my brain to think on this and going straight to my heart. It has many rooms and is a really big place. As I was searching for the answer, one came to me.

God is like a drug – a pure drug, a life-giving drug. And even that doesn't truly encompass it all.

Let me explain my answer, if you will. The drugs that we associate with euphoric highs are, in truth, harmful to you and I believe Satan's effort to capture some of the glory that God gives to those who love and follow Him. If you are addicted to worldly drugs or know someone who is, you know that the highs don't last long and the lows are horrific. And so those who are addicted will chase after, doing whatever necessary, to get their next fix. All to chase that first high.

God's love is a Christian's drug. It produces a high that no earthly thing can compare. And it is free! He gives it even when we disobey. But oh how much more sweeter it is when we do! And to get more, you chase after him and he chases right back. The Bible is full of him reaching out, chasing, those who He loves and them chasing him. That first high of God just keeps getting better and better! The Bible is our daily dose of God's faithfulness and love. Each day we read and learn a little more, each day we draw a little closer. And the health effects of God's love on our physical bodies is amazing! And people notice. They notice that our spouses are content, our children are well balanced, our lifestyle is not chaotic. They look at what true Christians have and they want it for themselves! Oh, to be addicted to God!

Not to say there aren't lows. There are. And sometimes they are quite painful. But these are usually the time when God is either correcting your action and/or thoughts, or you have decided you didn't need His daily dose to get you through this thing called life. The good thing is, with God's love you don't need detox, just repentance. He freely forgives and loves on you that much more. Your wrong is put in the trash where it belongs.

Now I know people will ruffle their feathers over what I just said and call me all kinds of a sinner. And you know what? They would be right. I am a sinner. I was a sinner. I am a forgiven sinner. I am a self-proclaimed God junkie. And proud of it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Lemmings of Election Year

Most election years are looked forward to with much groaning and moaning.  This is because the onslaught of trash-talking, mud-slinging ads are about the ensue.  You will be regaled as to why one candidate is better than the other and why you should pick him or her for your dodge ball team in the world wide arena of politics.  You will have your Rights, your Lefts, your Middles and your I-Don't-Care-They-Are-All-Crooks.  But this year there is another cry that is starting to escalate that has me feeling uneasy.  It is the cry of "Anybody but....."  Anybody but Obama, anybody but Romney, anybody but Paul.  These are not cries of watchful mindful voters, these are cries of people who are looking to anything and everybody for passage into a imaginary promised land.  And the media, campaign managers look on with calculated delight.  For they know that one candidate, one president, isn't going to carry us out of this mess. But if they can just appease the majority of the masses, they can get their candidate to the front square and into the big office.  So they point fingers and spotlight minimal things so that you are shocked and confused.  Their goal is not to unite the country to former glory, but to divide and conquer.

Me, not We, Mentality
Mass media and special groups want you to think about you.  What is in it for you?  Why aren't you getting what you deserve? Why are the rich getting richer, while the poor suffer? This person is a bigot. That one is a hypocrite. This is what you should think about. That is old-school and outdated, no longer applying to our society. They shape and mold people's opinions by highlighting negative stories or articles, giving only a glimpse at the positive to give you some semblance of hope. Yet there are stories that leak through that show that the world they want you to believe in isn't all that they say it is. Stories of communities pulling together and helping each other, even thriving during a struggling economy. People showing charity and goodwill towards each other, without the benefit of a holiday. Unknown and unsung heroes stepping up and out to better the lives around them. This is the world they don't want you to believe in, this is the world they don't want you to see.
Divisive Mentality
Us against them, black against white, big against small, rich against poor, me against you. They will pick and pull, pointing out differences as opposed to unity. Big corporations are greedy and feed off their employees so you must bash them and see them for the evil carnations that they are. There are more corporations that care about their employees, community and environment then there are that take everything they can without regard to their surroundings. But those who let greed dominate their priorities get the stories because that is what will get the masses buzzing. There are a few elite rich in our country that are all party and play and no work. The majority of those who are considered rich and wealthy in this nation worked their collective butts off to get where they are today. Most of them still work as hard as most of their employees. But again, those kinds of stories do not get sensationalized. That would defeat their purpose of keeping the one group bickering at another, thus clouding the eyes of the people to what is being done behind the curtain in the Land of Oz.
Niceness vs Kindness
Political correctness is the bane of our society. It requires one to isolate itself from the community and take offense over little, petty things. It has you being packed into a box, bleating about imagined injustice instead of taking an honest look at what something truly is and either correcting a wrong or shrugging it off. Ignorance is scorned, instead of being an opportunity to educate and inform. Organizations are stigmatized or limited in their ability to reach out the the community and do more because of their belief systems or corporate mission statements. When concern over an individual's feelings override what is good for the group or community, a corrosive attitude eats at the heart and does more harm than good.

These are but a few of the only tools they use. I am not some conspiracy theory type. Just a simple American who loves her country, even when it appears to be unlovable at the moment. In this election year, what are the issues that are close to your heart?