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: 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?

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Trinkets vs. Treasure

Here’s a thought. It might fly in the face of a great deal of theology and conventional wisdom, but I think it tracks. So here goes.

Don’t seek the kingdom. Don’t seek the blessings. Don’t seek the gifts.

Seek the person.

Strive to know only Christ until everything else falls away. Your desire should be for Him, not for what He can give you, not for what he can do for you. But for who He is to you.

The strange truth is that even if God never answered a single prayer, never performed a single miracle in your life, you should still be striving to know Him more fully and completely in every moment.

Not to ask, “where is God?!” when things go sideways on you, but instead, “who is God in this moment? And who am I in Him?”

It is not about rewards, or circumstances, or plans for the future. It is about merely abiding in His presence and that being more than enough.

That said, there are abundant gifts and blessings in store for those who give their life to Him, for those who abide in Him; but they are trinkets compared to the treasure of the simple, consuming love we can and will share. The pearl of great price.

Our hope is not in the promise of blessings in this life, but being more fully in His presence in the next. And so our abiding is manifest in our prayer, and in our seeking to know the person of God…not just clamoring for His stuff!

Challenge: Today, am I going to hunger for more of God’s love, for more knowledge of him? Or will I let myself become too focused on what I do or don’t have, what did or didn’t happen to me? Lord, help me seek you and find you in every situation today!

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit”

November, 2011.  That’s the last time I posted to this “blog.”  Six months of quiet inactivity.  Six months of silence.  Six months of sitting on my spiritual gifts, and finding reasons to do just about anything else but be with God in His word.

Six months of letting the Enemy win.  Of getting beat up, and beating myself up, and just generally slipping further and further away from were I should be. 

It stops today.  Today, I take up my cross, anew.  I will stumble, I will succeed and I will fail. I will do it imperfectly.  But, by the grace of God, I WILL DO IT. 

Looking at the book of John, Chapter 15, we see a pretty clear and unequivocal declaration that it is not enough to just “get saved.”  Claiming to be a Christian is not enough. Professing the name of Christ is not enough.  Sitting in a church once a week is not enough.

It’s about your HEART.  It’s about following after God, hungering after His word, and wanting what HE wants more than what WE want.  About transforming what He wants INTO what we want.  It’s about fighting that fight every day.  Not waiting for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week.

Or six months.

Jesus warns us that those “vines” which do not abide in Him, those which bear no fruit, will be cast away, destroyed in the fire, while those that DO bear fruit will be pruned and shaped to produce even more.  And this fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, is how we will be known as followers of Christ.

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  John 15:8

And so, I find myself asking, how much fruit am I bearing? Am I a lush, growing tree, bearing fruit, bringing shade and comfort and sustenance, or am I a dry, withered scrub bush with brittle branches and thorny brambles?

Am I trying to do things in my own strength and failing, or, abiding in Him, seeking after His will, and then shaping my efforts accordingly?  Honestly? Lately, it’s been a lot more of the former, rather than the latter.  So today, that changes.

There’s an old, favorite Sunday School song, which declares, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”  Well, with God’s help, guidance, and equipping, I hope to let my light shine a whole lot brighter than it has been of late. 

Sometimes the hardest thing about doing God’s work is just showing up at the job site.

Well, I’m done taking sick days.

~ Steve

A Fierce and Dangerous Faith

Some think Faith foolish,
To boldly tread where there is no bridge or path.
They consider it the height of prudence,
To require each step laid out in advance.

Others find Faith too awful,
A fearful and trembling place of danger.
Without first knowing the script, the plot, the final scene,
They step not upon the stage.

Some find Faith as a soothing balm,
A warm cup of tea that comforts a dark night.
It abides in the quiet moments of trust,
Strength for the simple task of facing each day.

Then there is the Faith with wild, unkempt hair,
Locusts and honey, facing giants with a stone.
It calls us to step across a river, into a land unknown,
And instead of fear, we know only fierce anticipation!

This is the Faith which moves mountains,
Which calls to the fiery tempest in our souls,
It is the burning bush, the pillar of fire,
The restless call upon our hearts to follow God’s call.

Today I want to trade my timid Faith,
For one more unsettled and unbound,
I want to feel the rush of God’s wind through my hair,
Feel the heat of His furnace upon my face.

For in those wild, incautious moments,
When I abandon rational hope and empirical surety,
To step instead along the path God has set before me,
That is where Life truly begins!

Lord, today give me the strength,
To step out of the boat, and meet you amongst the waves.
Let the wild winds blow, and tempest waters broil,
And I will cry out, not in fear, but in exultation.

Lord, in Faith, take me to the unsafe places,
The rugged, ragged edges of life where others fear to tread.
Renew in me a heart eager for adventure,
With the dusty sandals and calloused hands that say…

TODAY, I SERVED THE LORD!

You’re NOT The Boss Of ME!

As God is taking his wire brush to my innards, breaking loose a lot of the accumulated crud and gunk clogging up the works, I’m actually starting to realize a few things.  One, he’s got a lot of work to do in there.  It’s like the barbecue grill you forgot to clean after the last big cookout of the season last Fall, and so it’s just been sitting there all winter.  Now when you crack open the lid for the first big cookout of this Spring…ewwwwww.  Lot’s of mouldering gyeck and rust and spiderwebs and who knows what else that dripped down onto those little fake briquets on the bottom, congealing into something resembling a twisted science experiment that escaped from an evil scientist’s lab.

Yep, that pretty much sums up my soul right now.

Secondly, perhaps the single most illuminating (and disturbing) thing that I’ve realized is that I am resenting God.  Wha..?   Yup.  I am deep in the throes of a full-blown, resentful, pouty-lipped, widdle foot-stomping spiritual temper tantrum.  Probably have been for quite some time.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Jesus meant when He said we should become like little children in order to enter His Kingdom.

I find that I am resentful of Him forcing me to give up all my worldly pleasures and distractions.  I resent being told "No."  I resent not getting to do things my way, when I want, how I want.  I resent being forced to stay and work on my marriage rather than being allowed to follow the path of so many today and harry off on some mid-life crisis to "find myself" and pretend I’m some carefree 20-something with nothing to worry about but ME, ME, MEEE! 

I’m like some petulant teenager who just can’t understaaaaaand why she can’t go to the Nine Inch Nails concert with her 23 year old "friend."  But I WANT to!

And figure that should be enough, right? 

Sometimes, to be honest, I feel like stomping up the stairs, screaming "I HATE YOU!!!" at the top of my lungs, and slam my bedroom door with all the fury contained in my martyred and misunderstood little arms.

Forgetting, of course, that I stomped up the stairs of the home my parents have provided for me, to slam the door of the room they filled with furniture, and throw myself on my bed and listen to the Ipod they bought me, as I bemoan how they just never let me do anything, and they don’t really love me, or they’d let me do what I WANT."

Sound familiar, at all?  How like children we must be in God’s eyes!

We are like those oh-so-worldly teenagers that we all know, and many have raised, those wizened old philosophers and sages who have the world figured out at 17, and with much rolling of eyes and dramatic sighs we wish our geeky, clueless parents would just get out of our way and let us do what we KNOW is right.  Or at least what feels good.  Or what our friends tell us is "cool."  Or any combination of the three.

Only to discover, some ten years later, as we watch our own little crumb snatchers get all demanding and pissy when they can’t have what they want, when they want, and that would be RIGHT N-O-W!! just how much smarter our parents have suddenly become.

God is revealing to me one of the fundamental flaws of my character, and I am struggling to face all of the potential ramifications of it.  Despite a lifetime of faith, despite years of devout worship, study, and what I felt to be "devotion," I’m still really just as much of a drama queen in many ways as anyone else in the world.

Despite "knowing" what God wants, I "kick against the goads," fighting against God’s sovereignty, rationalizing, justifying, cajoling and bargaining in order to keep on doing this or that "one little thing."  Problem is, God wants it all.  Heart, mind and soul.

It’s time to grow up, man up, and stop demanding that God see it MY way.

Because, despite of all I may want to convince myself, or however much I may try to hide from it, the simple reality is…yeah, He really IS the boss of me. 

He formed me in the womb, knew me before I was born, and created me for a purpose.  He is infinite in His wisdom, and like that wise and worldy parent, knows the dangers of rock concerts with over-age boyfriends and the many other dangers facing us out there in the world, dangers of which we are undoubtedly blissfully unaware.  We need, I need to trust Him, to know that He has a perfect plan for my life, and that the more I fight it, the only person I’m really making it hard on is myself.

I think this poster sums it up nicely: