We don’t really want a God.

So, first a little background. I came to know Christ when I was six years old. Yes, I remember, and yes, it was very real to me. I grew up a Baptist, and I once sat in a chair next to my mom in a good ol’ fashioned Midwest revival tent until I watched the sun come up. I think I was maybe nine. Went to a Presbyterian church in Junior High. Back to Baptist in High School. Assembly of God in college and later on. When I wasn’t walking waaaayyy far away from the Lord in between. I’ve been to revivals and evangelical shindigs of all varieties. I even dabbled in a Vineyard church for a while. That was….interesting.

As an adult I’ve settled into a theology which isn’t neatly categorized, but falls somewhere between evangelical, fundamentalist and…libertarian.

I’ve read the Internet. Okay, not all of it. But, well, a LOT of it. I’ve been on chat boards and newsgroups since they were white text on a black screen. I built websites when you had to write the code by hand. I blogged before there were blogs. I’ve worked for a Christian web ministry and been a lay pastor in a Foursquare church. I’ve waded through a good deal of the emergent church movement and “progressive” Christianity. I’ve looked at Satanist sites, been steeped in apologetics, and run the gamut of cults, one-offs and also-rans in the religious world.

And through it all, I’ve come to the fairly decisive conclusion that as a group, humanity…well…we don’t really want a God.  Not really.

Sure, we talk a good game, but the fact of the matter is that our human pride is just too much in the way.

When I read the Bible, I read about a God that expects to be taken seriously.  I think it’s hard for us in the modern western world to really put God into the proper context because we’ve never lived under a true king. We’ve never lived in a time when one man, sitting on a throne, literally has the power of life and death in his hands. His word is law, and with a mere wave of his hand, he could pass a sentence of death or commute a sentence of torture or banishment. We simply have no concept of that kind of personal power.

And so we have built up this image of a squishy, malleable, approachable, gentle Sunday-school Jesus god who loves puppies and small children and pats us on the head and sends us on our way as his merry giggling children.

We don’t want a God.  We want a camp counselor, a bartender, a friend, who will listen to our problems and our woes. A confidant and confessor; a beer drinking, cigar smoking buddy who slap us on the back and tell us everything is going to be okay. And sure, God in the person of Jesus Christ can be all that and more. And yet. And yet…

In our pursuit of these Kumbaya moments, we quietly and conveniently set aside the aspects of God we find uncomfortable, challenging, even perhaps daunting and scary. We can’t square that with the ideal of the enabling cheerleader we’ve come to expect, and so we decide that that CAN’T be God! Not the god WE want!

Because what we really want is a god….not a God. A god who is just too much like us, who thinks and acts and reacts just a little too much like the way we think he or she or it should.

Instead of a God who called the very universe into being. Who spun together the elements to form galaxies and planets and stars; who brought life to this planet out of nothingness. A God who commands the very atoms of existence to obey His will. A God with the power of life and death in His hands, who can, with a mere wave of his hand, pass a sentence of eternal death or commute a sentence of torture and banishment. We simply have no concept of that kind of personal power.

We think to bargain, and negotiate, and to craft a theology that conforms to our will, crafting a god (or gods) with whom we are comfortable. A god who obeys us, who acts and behaves as WE want it to….and not the other way around.

That’s not a God. That’s an idol, formed by man in his own image.

The Bible shows us a God, not a god. Absolute power and authority, tempered by eternal love and amazing compassion. But…we cannot deny the one and hope to secure the other.

Jesus Christ is God, in every aspect. We have experienced his love, his mercy, his grace and compassion. Let us not forget, however, the very important question asked of Job – “Where were YOU when I laid the foundations of the earth?!”

The problem we have with a real God is that thorny and troublesome word, “obedience.” We balk and chafe at the idea that we must suborn our will, our desires, our plans, to an all-powerful King. In our American ideal of independence and individual autonomy, we have progressively (!) lost our ability…or at least or desire…to “bow” before a “king.” I just seems so antithetical to everything we’ve been taught to value and believe. And so we reimagine and reinvent a god more compatible with this concept of, well, basically….“You’re not the boss of ME!

Problem is…He is. He holds my life in His hands. He brought me into being, and shaped my life around me. I am his child, a son of God. Sadly…that doesn’t mean what it used to either. A child, a son, should obey his father. Trusting in him, believing that he knows and understands things that my childlike mind simply can’t comprehend. Trust. Obedience. Submission. Reverence. Even…unto…death. THAT is what our God calls us to do. And to be. And far too many of us in this modern world have decided that, if that’s what it takes, well then….

…we don’t want a God. Not really.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Reclaiming Lost Ground

In my last post, I talked about surrendering to God. Surrendering can mean many things; sometimes it means letting go of something, but sometimes it can mean NOT letting go!

In surrendering ourselves to God, we agree, we resolve, we commit to opposing everything in our life that is un-Godly. Or at least to try. To work at it. To make it a priority. BUT! If I stop resisting something, if I allow myself to become complacent, to just give up and accept it as part of my daily definition of “normal,” then I will have surrendered to it and not to God.

It can be as something as simple as a hardness of the heart that I’ve learned to accept, an area of unforgiveness, resentment, or anger – however justified in my mind – that I have ceased to oppose or worked to resolve. I just accept it as “the way things are.”

In doing so, I accept defeat. In effect, saying, in THIS area, God is not sovereign. In this, I “cannot win”…or don’t want to. In holding on to that anger, in nursing that grudge, in accepting that addictive behavior, I show where have I given ground over to the Enemy.

But the more you give him, the more he will try to take. Each step backward is a foothold for the enemy to advance further into your life.

Victory in Christ means not accepting defeat in your life. Find every piece of ground where the enemy has gained a foothold, and renew the offensive to reclaim it! Turn to God, acknowledge it to Him, then seek and accept his equipping to oppose and defeat it.

Challenge: Lord, show me daily, minute by minute, which battles I’m not fighting that I should be.  What footholds has the Enemy gained, what areas of my life do I need to reclaim? Teach me to live daily in the victory you have secured for me on the Cross.

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Embrace The Foolishness!

If you spend enough time on the Internet — not to say that I do of course — but if you do, you’ll find that there are a lot of really polarizing issues out there. Me, I tend to gravitate towards political and religious discussions, and those can get pretty heated pretty quick.

I’ve seen comments about Christians (and about people of faith in general) that run the gamut from enlightened commentators who state with utter certainty that Christians are mislead, ignorant, close-minded and/or foolish, to those who will insist with all sincerity and concern that teaching your children about God is “child abuse,” or that people with a strong faith in God are mentally ill and need to be rescued from their delusions. I could send you links. Really.

It’s sad, but…it’s also understandable. What Christians think and believe can seem kind of out-there sometimes…even to Christians! A God so mighty that He created the universe, and yet somehow notices something as small as me? Not only notices, but cares? Miracles and healing and a Savior who rose from the dead?! Folly! Foolishness! Bah!

It’s not easy to hold onto your faith sometimes in the face of such doubt and derision. And yet, it is essential that we do it.  Our struggle daily is, and should always be, to be more fully conformed to the image of Christ. To worry less about how we are perceived according to worldly standards, and more about how we measure up on the scale of being Christ-like.

Understanding that as Christians we will have a perspective on the world that will seem strange, confusing, even foolish to those who do not know Him, who do not see with His eyes. But maybe, just maybe, that perspective, that lifestyle that I emulate and communicate will somehow become so compelling, so troublesome, so curious that people who don’t understand it…will want to. My faith and compassion and forgiveness in the face of everything the world has to throw at me will frustrate and confuse and bewilder.

But maybe, just maybe, it will also become something so different from what they know that it will begin to take on the form of a mystery that they must solve.

The mystery of Christ.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…for since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong..  1 Cor. 18-27 (NASB)

Challenge:  Am I communicating a compelling vision of who and what Christ is, by how I live my life, by the choices I make, and by the way I love those around me?

Back In Action – A New Beginning

Sounds kind of like a cheesy Chuck Norris action film title, but it’s the best I could do on short notice.

My last web hosting gig crashed and burned…literally.  They had a catastrophic server meltdown, China Syndrome-like, and since I hadn’t backed up my site, it all went away in a steamy puff of charred ones and zeros.  So, this is now The New Gig at The New Digs.  Now with even less archives!

Take a sec and read my “About Page.”  Reader’s Digest Version:  I will be writing about a lot of social, political, spiritual issues, whereas my last site was mostly devotional. That will certainly be here as well, but my plan and goal is to deal with whatever rolls through my brain, looking at a whole spectrum of different things through a Biblical lense, and analyzing them in the context of a Christian worldview.

I don’t and never will claim to be a Prophet or an Apostle. I am at best a Disciple, and not much of one at that.  But, after 41 or so years as a Christian, coupled with a pretty decent exposure to the Scriptures over the years and way too many hours poking around conservative blogs and commentary, it’s my hope that my own “Ah HAH!” moments might help others gain some insights into both their spiritual walk and the social challenges increasingly facing those of the Christian faith in today’s mixed up world.  It’s good to have goals.

And please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.  I hope for what I post here to be more of a discussion than just me porch-preaching!  And now, on with the show!

~ Steve

Nobody is getting hurt…again.

You are alone again.  You like it that way.  Less muss, less fuss.  Fewer distractions, less demands on your time.  You value your free time, time to do the things YOU want to do, right?  Problem is, you want to surf the Internet for pornography.  It started simple enough.  Just swimsuits, alluring models in skimpy clothes.  No biggy.  Then it was those celebrity “fan sites” with half-dressed celebs being drunk and provocative.  Man, ain’t those paparazzi the greatest!  Then you moved on to lingerie. Maybe a Victoria’s Secret catalog that came in the mail by accident.  No harm there, just a little skin, right?  Pretty soon, though, things go from bad to worse.  At first it was just “art appreciation.”  Fine photography revealing the human form.  No harm in that, right?  Besides, if those girls didn’t want to be looked at, they wouldn’t have posed for the pictures, right?

Then, just like with alcohol and drugs, you start needing harder stuff to get a buzz.  It’s a daisy-chain of addiction, one site leading to another to another, each link taking you deeper and deeper into darkness.  Over time you find yourself going places no man should ever go, looking at things no man should ever see.

You have it all worked out in your head, have all your excuses and justifications lined up like bullets in an ammunition clip, ready to be fired off on full auto if your conscience ever tries to rise up and suggest that your lifestyle might not be the healthiest, your moral choices not the most sound.  I mean, after all, they’re just pictures, right? What’s the big deal? Nobody is getting hurt, right?

How many of us out there have used these excuses ourselves at some point?  Whether it’s our online poker habit, the slots at the Indian Reservation, our drinking, shoplifting, or pornography, the excuses all end up sounding pretty much the same.  It’s just a few beers, right?  It’s not like I’m drinking the hard stuff.

I’m not spending THAT much at the mall every week, right?  And besides, it was on SALE!

No, really. This will be the LAST time I hit the Blackjack tables, just until I can earn back the money I lost last week…

No matter how wrapped up in it we get, no matter how many chains we bind ourselves with, no matter how many other areas of our life we sacrifice to our addictions, we always somehow manage to clear the air by insisting that, hey, what’s the big deal? Nobody is getting hurt.

But it’s both a truth, AND a lie.

Because, you see, someone IS getting hurt. YOU.  YOU are getting hurt.  You are harming yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  You’re relationships are suffering, what few you might actually have left.  You’ve withdrawn from the world, slowly cutting off family, shutting out friends.  When you let yourself become a slave to these compulsions, these addictions, you are bringing the promise of ruin and pain into your life.

So when you say that “nobody” is getting hurt, what you’re really doing is calling yourself a nobody.  You are saying that you don’t matter, that it’s okay for you to get hurt.  Oh sure, you’d never intentionally hurt anyone else.  THEM you care about.  You?  Eh, it’s okay if YOU get hurt.  No big deal.  You’re just a nobody.  Nobody cares about me, really, so why should I care about myself?

And the really tragic thing?  Somewhere, somewhere deep down inside, you might actually believe it, too. 

Because, truth is? You don’t really believe all those excuses you’re so good at making.  You don’t really think it’s no big deal.  You know it’s wrong, but because you’re an addict, you won’t…or can’t….stop.  The guilt is tearing you apart inside, but instead of dealing with the guilt, you medicate the pain.  With your addiction.  You “use” to feel good, even for a little bit, to escape the pain you feel.  But you still know, somewhere down inside, that it’s wrong.  And so you feel guilty, ashamed.  Swear you’ll quit.  But you can’t.  So you drink to escape the guilt that’s driving you to drink.  It’s a vicious cycle that is tearing you apart and robbing you of health, life, and love.

So, let’s be honest here.  Someone IS getting hurt. You.  But it’s not “only” you, either.  Maybe you’ve never punched anyone, never screamed or yelled, never “abused” or hurt someone.  Maybe you’ve never hit anyone with your car while driving drunk, or never forced a young runaway girl to pose nude for a website to pay for the drugs you got her hooked on; but not all hurts leave scars you can see.  You’re hurting your wife, your girlfriend, your parents, your kids.  Your co-workers, your friends.  People who want to know you, who want you to chose THEM over the porn, or the poker, or the alcohol.  They are hurting, feeling the pain of rejection, of abandonment, of self-doubt.  Even if you never lift a finger farther than it takes to click a mouse button, you are still hurting people.  You are passing on a legacy of hurts that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their life. 

So don’t believe the lies.  Stop telling yourself that nobody is getting hurt.  You’re not a nobody.  You are somebody, somebody who God wants to know Him, to find in HIM the healing, the love, the acceptance that maybe you don’t think you deserve, or will ever find.  God wants to give you His love, whether you deserve it or not.  As a matter of fact, the less you “deserve” it, the MORE He wants to give it to you!

Jesus *said to them, “{It is} not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 2:17 NASB)

And understand that you can’t fight this alone. Trust in God, and He will bring people into your life that can help you find healing, help bring restoration and connection and wholeness where you’ve allowed your addiction to cause brokenness, destruction and pain.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.  (1 Cr 10:13 NASB)

Stop hurting yourself.  Stop hurting those around you.  Stop telling the lies that no one…not even you…believe anymore.  It won’t be easy; but with the help of God, it doesn’t have to be impossible either. 

 

Here’s are some recommended resources for those struggling with addiction, especially sexually-based addictions:

http://www.13waystoruinyourlife.com/

http://www.pornaddicthubby.com/

Trapped in Temptation
http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/CBNTeachingSheets/Pornography.aspx