Vulnerable, Sensitive and Emotional- The Challenge of Authenticity

15 04 2014

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I have spent most of my life in denial- denying (or at least failing miserably at coping with) my emotions, never sharing any sort of sensitivity, and hiding my vulnerabilities at almost any cost.

Part of this was a survival tactic. If I pretended as though nothing could penetrate my thick skin, then maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe I could learn to ignore the teasing and the beatings, and eventually the other kids- my sisters and later their friends, and the kids at school, would leave me alone.
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I didn’t have the strength to fight back, and my calls for help were largely ignored. I didn’t get any peace until high school when I had a car and access to large friends.

Empathy and caring were liabilities I could not afford. In order to live in this world I had to create a convincing façade. I had to “out-normal” the normals.  I had to be tougher than them.  I had to be able simply stand and take it and never surrender.
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For most of my early adulthood I was NOT a nice person at all. I was cut throat, ruthless and not terribly concerned for anyone but me. But I was living a fake life. In reality, I was still the scared shitless little kid with the thick glasses and ill fitting clothes who got tossed in the bushes every morning before school.  I had made up my mind that if any pounding was going to be done (now more in a figurative sense) I was going to be the one doing it.  The pound-ee became the pound-er, in what I think was sort of a preemptive attempt at self defense.

I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me- physically or emotionally- again. I can be a good actress.  As long as I understand the role I’m playing, I am pretty good at showing other people exactly what they want to see. For someone on the spectrum, being “socially acceptable” and learning the rules of both etiquette and power is a pretty big deal.  I admit I’ve done well with both, and for a long time, too well for my own good.

Living the soulless, emotionless façade is positively draining, and for me, dishonest. Keeping up that façade has also cost me greatly in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual health.

I am not “Iron Guts.”  Far from it.  I just don’t process emotions very well.  I can’t really feel until I have a chance to put those feelings into words, to mull them over, and actively think about them.  Sometimes that act of processing can take hours, or days, years, or even decades.

 

 passage of time

Two things are inevitable in this world- death and taxes.  Everything else…is negotiable.

I can make a good argument for the theory that time isn’t necessarily linear as we process it, but that it might just be a more cyclical thing.  Most of the time I don’t process emotional stuff in “real” (or linear) time.  I can break into inconsolable tears and that deep and breathless despair and mourning 20 years after a loss, (with or without an appropriate trigger) even when at the time of the event I couldn’t process anything other than facts.

Maybe that phenomenon of the super-delayed reaction is simply my faulty wiring taking its time making the heart-head connections that normal people just sort of do on auto-pilot.  I’m sure that the primal, emotional part of my brain has to take the long way to get the message to the analytical, logical part of the brain that can dissect, categorize, and to a degree translate those vexing and foreign raw feelings into a format I can understand.

I can guarantee that quite a few of those emotional maelstroms get lost in the translation, and that’s probably a good thing.

I know that I’m weak.  I know that sometimes my intellect makes assertions that the rest of me, for whatever reason, can’t (or won’t) understand, or back up.

I  know that I would be tempted to make the same statement as the apostle Peter – “Lord, I would never deny You,” while at the same time being willing to sell the Lord up the river for the equivalent a few silver coins.

The self-preservation instinct runs deep within humanity, but the irony is that loving the finer things in life and/or trying to save one’s hide are sure fire paths to spiritual death.  We supposedly know better, but we do it anyway.

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I don’t want to think about betrayal, but I know I do it too.

I’m beginning to believe that many of my misanthropic tendencies (dislike of people) come from the fact that I never know who is going to stab me in the back next.  I don’t trust people.  Not at all.  I didn’t trust people when I was a little kid who was beaten up every time the adults turned their backs, and I don’t trust people any more today because I never know who is going to (figuratively) throw me under the bus to save their own hide, or set me up to fail to make themselves look good at my expense.  Betrayal is part of the human condition, and it is bitter to forgive it.  I know I want retaliation. I want revenge.  “Give me my pound of flesh!,”  is usually my knee jerk response when I am wronged.

It’s sort of hard to imagine Jesus being betrayed to his death by one of His intimate friends, and then denied by one who was closest to Him.  It’s even harder to imagine forgiving those guys for doing that.  I have a hard enough time forgiving those every day slights.

Yes, I am broken.  Yes, I am a betrayer, not to be trusted.

And yes, Jesus forgives even me.

 

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2 Timothy 4:1-8 Itching Ears and the Crown of Righteousness

8 05 2013

 

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In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NRSV) 

I’d have to say that the time is already here where people won’t listen to sound doctrine, and that there are plenty of teachers and preachers out there catering to the itching ear crowd.  I’m not the one to go out there with Chick Tracts or to scare the bejezus out of people with fear of hellfire.  I do believe in a real, literal hell, but I also understand that fear of hell doesn’t save- only the grace of God in Christ does.

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This being said, a Christian pastor who is doing his job isn’t always going to be popular, and the sermon should make you squirm from time to time.  I can’t say that I agree with everything that comes down from the pulpit, especially when it challenges my understanding of orthodoxy, but I do understand that the pastor’s job is to preach, teach and challenge me.  If what he (they) is (are) saying doesn’t inspire serious prayer, study and reflection- even if I still don’t agree- then either I’m not listening to the pastor, or the pastor is afraid to get me where I live.   I am thankful that for the most part the pastors at my church aren’t afraid to tell it like it is and they aren’t afraid of “offending” anyone.  “Christian” is not a synonym for “nice.”

Sometimes being nice is un-Christian, especially when it is necessary to tell that truth or give that wake-up call.

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I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the discernment to accept right doctrine even when it seems contrary to my notions of orthodoxy, even when it’s not comfortable because it calls me out on my own sin, and to remind me that I’m not a dog.  I don’t need my ears scratched.  I need the truth, even when it hits me where I live.  Even when it offends.

“As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:4-8 (NRSV)

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At first I had to wonder what Paul was getting at, but looking a little bit deeper we can see throughout Paul’s letters that he insists that righteousness is something that:
a.) Does not come from observing the law or by our own good works.
Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law.But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:21-22 (NRSV)
b.) Is found only in the mercy and the grace of God in Christ.
“Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 (NRSV)
 
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (NRSV)
So the good works that we do are merely the good works that God created us to do and that God gave us the resources to do.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)
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Now if you really want to get into something weird in Revelation (and now that I found it, I’ll probably have to keep digging…) check this out:
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.'” Revelation 4:9-11 (NRSV)
 
I understand that Revelation is apocalyptic literature, and therefore there is a great deal of symbolism and allegory to be had in that particular book.  There are many groups who have theories (here’s one of the more theologically sound ones) as to who the twenty-four elders refer to.  You can pretty much disregard the ones that involve monsters and space aliens, unless of course, you’re into that.  I’m not much into literal interpretations of Revelation or way-out versions of end-time prophesy, but what I take from this passage is that everything that the “great” people of God ever had came from God and all the glory goes back to God- and that worship is infectious. (in a good way of course.)




Hebrews 7:25 Jesus Christ of All Dominion

26 04 2013

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“Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 (NRSV)

Currently I’m working on a further foray into Molinism and the Lutheran Confessions.  The Molinist approach to soteriology addresses the subjects of God’s sovereignty, omnipresence and omnipotence in a bit more depth than the Confessions, but doesn’t contradict the Confessions in any way that I can discern, at least not so far.  I’m not a theologian, so I have to trust and pray as I dig, as well as engage in critical thought.  Faith does not require one to check one’s brain at the door, but to be open to being informed and enlightened by the Holy Spirit in study and prayer.

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I am consistently put in awe of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God.  I know that it’s hard to wrap one’s consciousness around God being everywhere, in and through everything, at all places and times, at the same time.  Yet Scripture upholds the completely pervasive totality of God.  I don’t claim to understand the mechanics of the cosmos- I’m baffled at any sort of higher math beyond basic accounting, percentages and ratios.  I  understand the mechanics of the Creator even less than I understand the mechanics behind His creation.  Yet I have faith that He is Who He says He is, and that He continually makes intercession for fallible and fallen sinners like me.

Then Job answered the Lord: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6 (NRSV)

In literature and drama there is a device called deus ex machina: literally, “the god in the machine,” which writers use to save their characters from impossible situations.  The Indiana Jones movies make use of this device quite frequently- someone makes an impossible save at the very last moment, and saves the hero from certain death.

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Old machinery is fascinating to look at, but as far as there being any sort of sentient entities living in them (though the concept of malevolent, sentient machines makes for a good horror novel, i.e. Stephen King’s Christine) I’m not buying it.

Yet God is thoroughly present in and through His creation (and by proxy one would even have to include man-made machinery) which makes the reality of evil even more difficult to understand.  God is God, but He doesn’t always move in with that last minute save like in the Indiana Jones movies- at least not in the physical world that we can see in these temporary bodies. He left the apostle Paul with a thorn in his side, and Paul didn’t understand that either.

Yet God is the One in control.  Especially when we don’t understand.

We get a little bit of insight into the incredible scope of God’s involvement with creation on the most intimate levels in His discourse with Job. (Job 38-42)

God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4)  Of course, Job wasn’t anywhere around, because he hadn’t been created yet.  I know I question God (and I do it often) but there are many times He answers me in the same way He answered Job:  “Where were you?  Who are you to criticize Me?”

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I don’t think God has a problem with us asking questions, but just as He expected of Job, we have to be prepared for answers we may not like or that we may not understand.  We are compelled to seek understanding, but also to embrace the mystery at the same time.

The Gospel of John explains the Who behind creation and the infinite dominion of Christ most eloquently:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:1-5 (NRSV)

 





Romans 15:13 Abound in Hope

17 04 2013

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NRSV)

Hope is a word that has been bandied about far too often by the purveyors of false hope.  The confusion of real hope with false hope has dulled the meaning of the word, in much the same way as the word “love” has been over and/or misused.  I might love chocolate pie, but that’s not the same kind of love that I have for my spouse or even for my dogs.  The hope that is spoken of in political and social circles is better equated with flimsy wishes and broken promises when compared to the real hope that is backed by the faithfulness of God.

The apostle Paul is not talking about “hope” in the context of political, economic or social change.  Those things are fleeting, cyclical, and largely outside of any individual’s control.

Paul is talking about real hope- the reality that in Christ there is abundant life, and in Him is the death of death.

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There is a temptation for Christians to go off of either end of the scale- to be so preoccupied with the ills and evils of this physical world that they neglect the fact that our true citizenship is of the Kingdom of God and not this world, or to be so preoccupied with looking forward to the world we inherit when we leave this one that we don’t care about what’s going on in this world at all.  The reality is that for now we are bound to both worlds- we are called to bring about the Kingdom of God in this world, right now, while we realize that there is a far better reality to come beyond this world.  It’s more of that “now, but not yet” paradox that we live with that the apostle Paul describes in Philippians 1:22-24-

“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (NRSV)

While we are here we have a mission and a purpose (to further the Kingdom of God on earth) even though we realize and have a valid and real hope that the life beyond this one is far better.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is a bit of an enigma to most Christians.  He is pictured as a dove, or as tongues of fire, or as breath or wind.  He is the Breath of God as He breathes life into creation, and more.

Jesus described the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, and Counselor, Who God the Father sends to give us the knowledge and power that we need to live as we are called:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:25-27 (NRSV)





Matthew 9:9-13 Mercy, Not Sacrifice (-or False Doctrine)

16 04 2013

 

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“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.  And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’” Matthew 9:9-13 (NRSV)

Many people (me included, for about seven years,) are creeped out by the church and completely avoid Christian fellowship because of faulty theology or misinterpretation of Scripture.  Some people have been led to believe that some events in the past permanently exclude them from Christian fellowship.  Even being aware, as a Lutheran, that no one is saved by the Law- and that the Law is there to point out how impossible it is for us to follow God’s will, and to point us to knowing how we are entirely dependent upon Jesus, as the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 5:19-21 –

“For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NRSV)

I still thought that as a person who had been divorced and remarried, that I had no place in the church, and no right to be there.  The “morality rules” were drilled into my head that deep.

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My background is extremely conservative.  Both traditions that I grew up around- old-school Catholicism and Regular Baptists- frown upon divorce, and frown upon remarriage after divorce even more.  It is true, God hates divorce:

For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. Malachi 2:16 (NRSV). 

God only permitted divorce in the Mosaic Law because of the hard-heartedness of His people, as Jesus teaches: He (Jesus) said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8 (NRSV)  There were a number of issues involved in the end of my first marriage, and I can attest that my own hard-heartedness was most certainly a contributing factor.

God hates all sin, including the laundry list of sins that are cautioned against throughout Scripture- gossiping, lying, coveting, failing to love others, maliciousness, immorality, revenge and the list goes on.  The apostle James goes so far to say that if a person obeys the Law but messes up one tiny little part of it, that person is still guilty of violating the entire law. (James 2:10)  Even so, we humans tend to categorize sin, and in my upbringing, I was taught remarriage after a divorce was one of those “unpardonable” sins that stigmatized a person forever and excluded him/her from Christian fellowship.

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Most Christian churches have been more accepting of people who have the more “socially unacceptable” scrapes and blemishes in their past, which is a positive development.  After all, we are all sinners, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God.  The people who need healing and comfort the most need to feel as if they are welcomed and invited into the church.

The only issue with “eating with tax collectors and sinners” is that being accepting of people should not imply that sin is anything other than sin.  There is a slippery slope that the apostle Paul discussed, where Christian freedom was mistaken for lawlessness and anarchy.

“(Paul writes:)It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NRSV)

The difference here is between acknowledging that people are going to sin, and condoning sin.  Instead of looking the other way at our sins, Christians should examine our own hearts and ask the Holy Spirit for what we need to stand and to live a life worthy of how we are called.

Mercy

Every human being that draws breath is a sinner, and even those of us who believe, and have been baptized, and are saved by the grace of God, are saints and sinners at the same time.

“Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”  Romans 14:4 (NRSV) 

So we are living the saint-as-sinner paradox on the more controversial issues, but it’s easy to forget that the garden variety saint-and-sinner who is very moral and prim and proper (think: Dana Carvey as the Church Lady) is just as much a law-breaker as the people that are excluded from some churches.

People will categorize one sin as being more heinous than another- and some sins are greater in magnitude as far as the damage they inflict upon the self and the greater community- but in God’s economy the kid who takes a pack of gum from the gas station is just as much a law-breaker as the spree killer.

I’m not suggesting that Christians should embrace sinful behavior, or fail to address those things that fall short of the glory of God, but that it’s good to remember, that God’s the judge and I’m not.

“You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.   For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’  Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:8-13 (NRSV)

 

 





Matthew 22:17-22 Obey God, but Give Caesar His Due

15 04 2013

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(DISCLAIMER: Contains some political/social perspective that may be controversial to some)

“(The Pharisees asked:) Tell us then what You think about this: Is it lawful to pay tribute [levied on individuals and to be paid yearly] to Caesar or not? But Jesus, aware of their malicious plot, asked, Why do you put Me to the test and try to entrap Me, you pretenders (hypocrites)?  Show me the money used for the tribute.  And they brought Him a denarius.  And Jesus said to them, Whose likeness and title are these?  They said, Caesar’s. Then He said to them, Pay therefore to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar, and pay to God the things that are due to God.  When they heard it they were amazed and marveled; and they left Him and departed.”- Matthew 22:17-22 (AMP)

I sort of wish Jesus would have told the Pharisees that it was perfectly OK not to bother with taxes, and while they were at it, that it was also perfectly OK to “go off the grid” and have nothing to do with the rest of society either.  That’s not what Jesus said, though.

Jesus didn’t tell us to agree with the government (important point) but He did teach that we should obey the government, even when the government is illegitimate and corrupt.

“Then Jesus said to the multitudes and to His disciples, ‘The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat [of authority]. So observe and practice all they tell you; but do not do what they do, for they preach, but do not practice’.” Matthew 23:1-3 (AMP)

Most people of Jesus’ time were expecting to see the Messiah as someone to set them free from the Roman oppressors, not as someone who would suggest that it’s a good idea to keep on sending money to Caesar.  It seems almost contradictory that Jesus would talk about abundant life in Him, but then recommend the people to keep right on sending tribute to Rome.

The issue Jesus has is that His Kingdom isn’t about money or material things.  Let Caesar have it, because his picture’s on it anyway.

lady justice

Civil government is also put in place by God to do God’s will here on earth- to do justice and keep order.  The function of doing justice and keeping order in society includes imposing punishments (up to and including the death penalty) for crimes when offenders break the law.  When government does not faithfully serve the functions of doing justice and keeping order, society falls apart, and anarchy prevails.

The dilemma that Christians have- and that the Jews of Jesus’ day faced as well- is what should believers do when government is thoroughly corrupt and unjust?  Obviously Jesus told His contemporaries to pay tax and to obey the law.  He did not advocate anarchy or civil war.

But what is a Christian’s response when:

Government places undue tax burdens upon those least able to bear them, but rewards those who refuse to work?

Government spends tax money irresponsibly and to the detriment of its citizens?- i.e. money spent in “foreign aid” that is being used to build up countries hostile to our own, and money squandered on trivial and unnecessary things.

Government overlooks and denies its citizens’ God-given natural rights?

Government makes and upholds appalling and unjust decisions (i.e Roe v. Wade)?

I don’t have solid answers for these questions.  Some believers would disagree with me on what would constitute frivolous government spending, or on what is the definition of a natural right.  Christians are called to live peaceably. Even so there are times when circumstances call for those who believe to take action.  It was right when people opposed the Nazi regime.  It was right for people to fight communism.  But what are we supposed to do when our government turns on us?  Does our silence toward injustice and corruption imply consent?  Are we just supposed to pay Caesar and shut up?

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We are NOT called to check our brains at the door.

The argument that some would give is that since God works in and through even the most corrupt and vile leaders, that even these consequences of bad leadership are God’s will.  I have serious objections to this argument, because it would imply that it would have been wrong to fight Hitler or Stalin, because “God put them in charge.”  I find that line of thought hard to just comply with.  Even though God must have had a purpose for even these most evil of leaders, I don’t think that He expected or planned for His people to simply let these despots go unchecked.

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If anything, could it be that evil leaders and corrupt governments are put in place precisely to put believers to the test and put us in a position where we have to (whether we like it or not) make a stand and choose to live as people of God?

Could it be that we get the government we deserve based upon how attentive we are to it?  I can say much about the current government (and not much of it good) but here in the US (at least in theory) we have the mechanics available to fix the system when it breaks.  It is a believer’s obligation to be involved in government, and it is a believer’s obligation to shout it out from the rooftops when government is broken and officials are corrupt.

My answer must agree with Jesus- pay Caesar, because his picture is on the money.  But I will not be silent about the erosion of our civil (natural) rights, the egregious overtaxation and exploitation of the low-to-middle working class, and the behavior of dishonest scoundrels who have usurped their ways into the very highest offices in this country.

Obama's Work

I am not going to accept that despotic and corrupt leaders have the last say.  Christian people are called to hope for and to envision a renewed world and a healthy society, not to blindly accept the efforts of those who strive to tear down society and destroy our world.   We know how the story ends- Jesus wins!

Yes, I gave Caesar some of his portraits back, so to speak, not necessarily because I wanted to, but I continue to pray that the American people will wake up and see what we have done to ourselves- through our own greed, apathy, and abysmal choices in leadership on both sides of the fence.  I also continue to pray that God can work the impossible and turn the hearts of wicked people around (me included!!!) to seek Him and desire His way.

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (AMP)





Luke 12:4-7 The Sovereignty of God, and Hearing the Master’s Voice

10 04 2013

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(Jesus said:) “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”- Luke 12:4-7 (NRSV)

Today I was reminded in a deep and touching way, that God is in control.

Lately I’ve been been challenged by a number of things, the combination of which caused me to go back into panic/anxiety mode for several days.  Most of my life, especially in childhood, I have lived with deep and pervasive fear and anxiety.  I am prone to panic attacks, as well as I’ve had three episodes of major depression.  When I’m entrenched in anxiety, or despondent about my circumstances, it’s really hard to stay encouraged.   It’s especially difficult for me to know that God has a purpose for me and cares about my life when external circumstances act as a spark to light up my vulnerabilities to anxiety and depression.

There are people who will say, “How can you be a Christian and be depressed, or have panic attacks?” I want to answer back, “How can someone be a Christian and get heart disease, or get a broken leg or a case of pneumonia?”  We know that Christians suffer illness just as others in the world do.  Illness, be it a visible, physical illness or mental illness, which is harder to quantify, is part of the human condition.  Even the Apostle Paul had a “thorn in his side”- some sort of ailment or suffering, that he prayed would be taken away, and God’s answer was no.   God heals some believers’ illnesses in this physical body, but not others.  I don’t claim to understand why some people are healed and other people have to deal with the thorn.

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Is it prudent or consistent with a Christian witness to tell someone with an illness that they wouldn’t be ill if they just had more faith?

What I think Jesus is emphasizing here is that physical or mental anguish are not the worst possible things that can happen to a person.  There is an end to physical suffering and mental anguish in this life, if only because this life is temporary, though I’ll be quick to point out that temporary does not imply meaningless.  This temporary existence is important.  It is in this temporary existence that we start to get to serve and get to know and trust God.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. Psalm 139:16 (NRSV)

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;  for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 (NRSV)

pool

I’m very thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to go to the indoor pool at the “Y” for the past few months.  I usually go a few times a week, early in the morning, to swim laps and to do exercise that increases my mobility and strength without tearing up my joints.  I’ve never been a sports fan or a particularly athletic type.   When I was a child I had rheumatic fever, and I was forbidden from playing any sort of sports, even had I been coordinated enough to play them.  I have slight damage to two heart valves as well as severe degenerative joint disease from it.  I still need exercise, but with the joint damage, working out is a bit of a challenge for me.  I don’t mind the pool though.  I can get a very thorough workout and I get some blessed quiet mental time with that workout as well.

When I was leaving and heading back to the car, I looked up to the sky and was treated to a majestic sunrise, complete with a few lingering stars, and living, dancing cloud formations.  I remembered Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”

I don’t have the answers for illness and tragedy and suffering any more than Job or Paul did.  Though other believers may disagree with me on this, I do believe that God has a purpose in suffering, although I admit I don’t understand the why of suffering, and I don’t know what the purpose of suffering is.  Theologians and higher minds than mine have discoursed for centuries on whether or not God causes suffering, allows it to happen, or if it’s completely a result of human rebellion and sin.  My take on it is that if God is omnipotent and omnipresent- and if He is not omnipresent and omnipotent, then how can He be God?- then He has to be in suffering, and have a purpose in suffering as well as in everything else, which is hard for some people to accept, and an idea that many reject entirely.

All that I can know right now is that God is not only with us in the suffering of this life, but He is also with us beyond that suffering, and for now that understanding has to be enough.