Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Opposite

I don't know if any one (of the 1 person who reads this) are fans of Seinfeld, but there is an episode where George starts doing the opposite of his every instinct and his life gets better. At one point his girlfriend says "Who are you George Constanza?" and George replies "The opposite of every guy you have ever known."

Contrary to popular belief, I think a lot and lately I have been thinking a lot about my faith. It is good because as I consider what I believe my faith gets stronger. I can't say I have really been doubting or questioning in a "is this true" sense as much as pondering the bedrock of my beliefs. And I end up asking "Who are You God of the Universe?" I doubt He answers like George did, but I do think we as humans struggle to truly understand Him. How do the complexities of an infinite God fit into our finite brain? So what or who is God?
God is love
God is just
God is holy
God is righteous
God is giving
God is servant?
Whoa...I don't usually think of God the Father as a servant, but Jesus was fully God and fully man. In Jesus I think we get our best picture of who God is, but I still want to guess what Jesus was thinking, I want to guess what God is thinking and I think that can be adding to the Scriptures and I don't want to be in that boat.
So I think there is some mystery in who God is, I think I need to continue to tune in to the Holy Spirit in my life and read the many faceted diamond - the bible. I need to be comfortable with what I know of God and what I may never know until I see him face to face. Until then I know that I love this God who loves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The End of Religion

I am re-reading a book by the pastor of a church in Canada - Bruxy Cavey. The premise of the book is that Jesus came to end religion (not church he started THE Church). Anyway he starts by defining religion:

""any reliance on systems or institutions, rules or rituals as our conduit to God." The "religion" I'm talking about in this book is any system of rules or regulations, rituals, and routines that people use to achieve their spiritual end-goal...I don't believe that any one system or institution is the way to connect with God, although these things may be able to play a supportive role in our journey."

"The Jesus described in the Bible sees the things people normally associate with religion, like prayer and pilgrimage, baptism and Bible study, church attendance and charitable giving, as possible expressions of the spiritual life God gives, but not the means to obtain it. Do I kiss my wife to earn her love? Or do I kiss her to express the love that we already share? One represents the insecurity of religion. The other shows the intimacy of faith."

He goes on to talk about where Paul writes about our salvation being a free gift so that no one would boast. When I was in high school and college I remember people telling me or asking me if I was religious and I was always quick to deny it and say no but I have a relationship with Jesus. At time looking back I'm not sure if I was relying on Jesus or if I was proud of how "disciplined" I was with the rituals I thought were important for Christians to do. You know church attendance, morning QT everyday, etc. Now I feel like I am transitioning from religion to relationship. I feel as though I am motivated to be in God's Word or prayer or giving etc out of my love relationship with him rather than because I "should". I also think that religion is either human nature or it is Satan's way of taking a good thing daily bible time, prayer etc and turning them into meaningless rituals or it is both. I know that we like to get into routines but I didn't see Jesus doing a lot of routine things. He did what the Father asked him to do when it was time. Feed 5000, share a meal with one, heal this person, teach children there was no formula. I am not sure when I began to slide down the slippery slope of religion, but this book has been good to open my eyes to me. This journey is amazing, it is an opportunity and I have enjoyed getting back to relationship.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lighten Up

My last two posts have been pretty heavy, I thought maybe I would make an entry that would lighten things up a bit. My son Gunner was outside playing with one of his friends and he cut loose with a little gas. The little girl laughed and said "you tooted." Gunner says "yeah but I'm not stinky, Mom and Dad are stinky." Those of you who know me, I am sure you will agree.

Thanks for Thoughts

I will quote here a couple of comments from Facebook that were made on my last blog entry "Freedom in the Fellowship" as these guys have brought up some interesting perspectives. I would also like to make it clear that Bonhoeffer refers to Christians living in community which I think is true in the broadest sense of the word community. I think it can be true with Christians and how they treat those who are not followers of Christ, how different church denominations look at each other and how two Christians who know each other only on Facebook might treat one another.

"Sometimes it is of our own insecurities, we find that one needs to find fault in others appearance, actions, misdeeds etc to lift our self up above because we want to measure up. this can be done knowingly or unknowingly. What is bad is when it is knowingly and even maliciously brought into the house of God or used as a tool to feel "holier than thou" and Christians that should know better act evil spirited.... It is hurtful to my spirit if I dwell much on often negative, selfish or careless actions of those in leadership on many levels from parents, educators, church leaders, political leaders and self professed Christians who knowingly attribute to this often dog eat dog, me first, materialistic world."

"I think in most fellowships you do have those who you describe who know they are the best Christians. However, there are many of us who walk into that same fellowship well aware we are not the best. We know full well our weaknesses, our doubts, our lack of faith and see the so-called (or self proclaimed) "best" Christians and see that we fall woefully short. As a result, we do not engage, & we do not feel safe in sharing our weakness for fear that we will be found out and judged by those we see as the "best". We wonder if the "best" are struggling with the same things we are, but feel that if we were to ask them, they would deny those struggles and would then look down even more on those whose faith is weaker than theirs. One of the most important things God has taught me over the past few years is he loves me just as I am."

What I hadn't thought of and got a good perspective from both of these two guys I quoted is that there are two sides to this. Self-justification and judgement (measuring ourselves against others) is bad either way. Some of us selfishly (as the first quote points out) really hurt others and abuse the power we think we have and really put ourselves up there. While others (as the second quote points out) self-justify and judge (measure ourselves) and find we fall way short. Both are a problem if we are trying to walk this walk closer to Jesus. Neither allow God to be the God who saves instead we are either puffed up and better than everyone else or we are so defeated by the reality of who we are that even God can't help us. When I think of and read what Paul writes he is a good example of someone who came from self-justification and judgement (before he met Christ on the road) to a good understanding of God's grace. I am going to do some reading of Paul's writings to continue to allow God to work this into my heart. I want to live by God's grace and remember the One whom I serve...every day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Freedom in the Fellowship

"A Christian Community should know that somewhere in it there will certainly be 'a reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest.' It is the struggle of the natural man for self-justification. He finds it only in comparing himself with others, in condemning and judging others. Self-justification and judging others go together, as justification by grace and serving others go together." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This writing of Bonhoeffer has really hit me lately. He mentions that it happens in Christian Community and I think that means more than a church on Sunday, but it means any Christian living in any community. It seems to be human nature for us to want to "do" things that justify us when in fact it is by grace. I also think that is why Jesus came as a servant to give us the example of serving. In John he says he didn't come to condemn the world but to save it by serving.

Bonhoeffer has an interesting solution:
"It must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him. Where this discipline of the tongue is practiced right from the beginning, each individual will make a matchless discovery. He will be able to cease from constantly scrutinizing the other person, judging him, condemning him, putting him in his particular place where he can gain ascendacy over him and thus doing violence to him as a person. Now he can allow the brother to exist as a completely free person, as God made him to be. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion of joy, whereas before he was only a nuisance and an affliction."

Where I work we talk about "Think the best, speak the best" in regards to others sometimes I think we are so busy speaking we accidently travel down the slippery slope of self-justification and judging just because we say too much. I am not sure what else I think about all this as I am still processing it, I do know that it is human nature to measure ourselves against others. We may not say it out loud but we are like James and John wanting the best seats in heaven because we are the best of the 12 disciples, we are the best Christians. I know this because I have lived there most of my Christian life and am more and more coming to realize that I am a messy Christian. I am just trying my best to follow what the bible tells me, trying my best to be a follow of Jesus in spite of my many weaknesses and downfalls. And I find myself more and more giving more grace to other messy Christians like me.
There but for the grace of God go I.

Prayer For a Friend

My friend Ky and his wife Theresa are expecting and they called me today to ask me to pray for them and the baby. I guess there are developmental problems with the heart and the stomach. Ky was pretty broken up and understandably so. I would appreciate any prayer for my good friends and their baby.

The Start of a Blog

I have been thinking of starting a blog but thought I might just "blog" on facebook, in that way those who are my friends can keep up. I am not sure if I will be consistent, but there are times when I enjoy writing to express how I feel or what is going on in my life.
Currently I have been thinking about my faith, where I am in my journey with Jesus. There have been some crazy things that have brought me to this place, but I am in a good place. I really feel as though I am closer to Jesus than I have been in a while. Over Christmas I read quite a bit from the book of John and it has been good. I love reading what Jesus did on earth and learning more about him. I am far from perfect as a matter of fact I have picked up a few bad habits of late, but I think that is because rather than let Jesus deal with who I really am I have just hid them because of what other Christians might think of me. Really I want Jesus to change me, change my heart, change me from the inside out rather than me just trying to look good on the outside. I have found Jesus changing me, but not starting where I would start, he seems to be more concerned with how I view others than with making me look good to others. He has been working more on my attitude toward others than with how I look to others. I know I will continue to grow and change, but life is good and I am content with where he has me right now.
In other news, Will has been wrestiling and he went 2 - 2 yesterday at a Middle School tournament, that is pretty good for a 5th grader. He loves it and truth be told I enjoy it too. Karis is doing great at learning the piano. She loves it and works hard at it, she also loves to help with little kids and if we could just get her to clean. Gunner celebrated 4 years old today, we had a house full of 3 and 4 year olds and it was busy. We took the Socker Boppers (you know basically inflatable boxing gloves) out of their box after the boys left because we thought it would escalate quickly with boys hitting boys, and Gunner and his friend Gracie went at it, it was hilarious and they had so much fun.
Well those are my thought for the day, hope you enjoy your family as much as I do mine.