Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

Spiritual slavery to false idols

Reflecting on Luke 8:26-39. In this passage, Jesus cures a man of many demons. Upon leaving his body, these demons (Legion) rush into some nearby pigs and drive them off the side of a cliff. Upon seeing a man previous naked and insane clothed and in his right mind, the people of this village beg Jesus to depart from them, in fear. Jesus tells that man to return home, and declare all that God has done for him.

For my mature Christians in the room, how often have y’all shared the gospel with someone, and because of past or present addictions, someone is afraid to receive the truth? How often do we let the demons in our lives that we have been worshiping continue to enslave us, after encountering the one true God? Maybe our hearts aren’t ready to receive it. I’ll say it again.

The spirit of the Enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy. The spirit of confusion, disorder, death, and chaos will try whatever it can to take your peace, your joy, your faith, and in faith, your grounds for boasting in the power of God. If even demons (like Legion) beg not to be cast out, can anyone doubt the power of our God? So what keeps us from believing in his power? What present or past slavery still enslaves us?

With any kind of idolatry, there is a transaction being made. Unlike the free gift of grace, worshiping false idols costs you something. Whether it is worshiping self-image, substance abuse or other addictions, lies about the man or woman you were called to be, or other forms of false worship, you sacrifice God’s gifts in your life in order to believe more in the sin than in those things you surrender. For example, those of us who venerate our own image sacrifice the promise that there is a God that loves us just as we are, that we don’t need to perform to please him, that there is nothing more (or less) we could do to receive love from him, that his love is the most important. As debt racks up and we add sin to further sin, the Devil delights in casting us far away from God. His goal is to mislead as many people as possible, and his wages lead to death. We may enjoy attention we get from other people, but it’s a shallow joy. It’s being seen versus being RISEN. There is a power in Christ that can resurrect people from the grave, and resurrects all of us who believe in him in every weak place we surrender to him. So what stops us from surrendering our hearts?

Part of the issue is that a slave runs around thinking how she/he can do more to pay debt back, instead of slowing down long enough to comprehend the forgiveness of God. If Christ really loves you, then his love is absolutely free. Busyness is not godliness, but incites chaos that serves as an effective distraction. If the Lord’s peace is our strength, if his promises are certain, if his justice is sovereign, then who will slow down long enough to learn about the goodness of God? Who is willing to be a Mary and not just a Martha?

If there is a light in us, then it comes from Christ. Goodness is a spiritual goodness, not a man-made goodness. We have the image of God, but we need the light of Christ to illuminate that image of God in us, and give life to the places that are far from him. God can transform every area of your life if you are willing to submit to him. How many people are willing to accept that the good things in their lives are not their own? In order to become wise, are you willing to accept the limitations of your own understanding? Are you willing to be made a fool so that you might live?

The world doesn’t believe in spiritual activity unless we define it to be neutral. You talk about the Devil or the divinity of God, and immediately you piss off people who want to remain comfortable, because they are so afraid of the ways that oppressive spirit will move against them. On our own, there is no freedom. Only in Jesus is there resurrection. If you really want to break free, you have to submit to Christ and exchange the freedom you have on this earth for a spiritual freedom that transcends just what you can see, know, and hear. If you are willing to believe, freedom comes at no cost.

Though bucket 6/23/16

  • Without repentance, we are not fit to grow in our capacity to hold God’s love. As sacred vessels, if there is no intentional acknowledgement of the way we still fall short, our usefulness to God’s plan is limited. We cannot bear the good things he has for us if we allow ourselves to just coast.
  • Believe in who God is and his promises regardless of whether you feel happy with what he’s chosen to give you. There will be times when trusting God can’t be dependent on feeling happy with him or your present circumstance. Being confident in the Lord can’t just be about our feelings.
  • Do most people have good social skills? These days, I don’t think so. I’m not convinced that it’s bad to have some room to grow in how we relate to other people. It’s like beauty, or perfect physical appearance. We all want to be well liked, to be good looking, to be able to make other people like us, to fit in. It’s probably more important to be respectful and thoughtful than free of social mishaps. So long as you are trying to model Christ’s love for the people around you and do the little you can well, I think it’s okay to leave perfection up to God. God already loves us all more than we can imagine, even if only some of us decide to allow him to care for us. It’s okay to be imperfect and trust God to help compensate for your weakness.
  • Judgmental people are afraid to lose God’s love because they’re living their faith like it depends on their performance. Trust God. Pray for those people. Show them that the grace of God doesn’t depend on their performance, and set somebody free of bondage. Deep down, nobody really wants to wound others. We make decisions trying to compensate for what we are convinced that we need. Pray that people who make others feel condemned for minor flaws would realize that God’s love extends past their own character and past other human’s collective weaknesses. Pray that they encounter the abundance of God. People only judge like that when they are spiritually hungry and don’t know where to eat. Repay judgment with grace and kindness.
  • It’s good to have blessings large enough that they feel like burdens sometimes. Depending on whether you are grateful and trust God’s Holy Spirit, a gift will be good, neutral, or bad. It’s okay to have to take time to grow into the gifts God has for you, and to learn to steward the ones he’s already given. If you are actively trying to pursue Christ, becoming a better steward of what you already have is natural.
  •  A society where Teachers don’t parent and Parents don’t teach is doomed. A good Father teaches his children, and a good teacher cares for her students with a mother’s love.
  • I’m going to do the best I can with the little I have for as long as I can until it pleases the Lord to increase it. He who is faithful with little is faithful in much. Like the parable of the widow’s giving, we should aim to be faithful with what we have instead of feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t have. It’s more useful while you are waiting for certain life seasons to embrace God through the things you already have, than to be disappointed that it’s not here yet. Faith is based on what is unseen, not what is easy.

Biblical sacrifice and why do bad things happen

I’m going over some material to prepare to teach Sunday school kiddos tomorrow, and I have a question. You know how people used to have to sacrifice animals to God to cover their sins? And when Jesus came, his body and his blood became the last sacrifice necessary?

I know that most of the time, Christian leaders interpret the blood as a symbol of what we as humans deserve, having fallen short of God’s commandments and abandoning the truth in following him. I know that understanding the nature of sacrifices as they were offered before Jesus’s death is deeply important to having the right perspective of human “goodness” and stature in reference to God.

But could it be possible that the God of Isaac and Abraham, who cares deeply about justice, cares deeply about his creation, and is completely justified in both anger and sadness may also use sacrifice to depict his grief?

Why couldn’t we just follow him? Why did we have to pursue death? Why couldn’t we just listen to instruction? God more than anyone else understands the grief and the suffering that was birthed through our sin. Above everyone else, God intimately knows and is witness to that cost. People dying with environmental pollution. People neglecting older relatives. Children killing children in gun violence, with parents who have likewise been murdered. I know for certain God didn’t want us to end up that way.

Maybe the sacrifice is also a reflection of God’s pain in watching us run far from him. Who can give him anything? Yet I wonder if he too isn’t grieved by our rejection. I wonder if the separation between Heaven and Hell and ultimately justice doesn’t just come as a result of him doing everything he possibly could to bring us back to him, and creating a place where the people and demons who legitimately don’t want to be around him are free not to be. If it comes down to God trying to save every scrap of faith and every good thing that was left from our disaster, and having to destroy the rest so it doesn’t destroy the people left standing. Does God have to save us from ourselves? Why else would Jesus become a sacrifice?

I’m sure that the Righteous Judge has the potential for wrath, but it seems to me that he saves any and all people who are willing to come to him. Through grace, I think he just wants to bring his family back together. In every place, high, low, and otherwise, there is God. His seeking spirit runs to us long before we run to him. He does his very best to protect us, but so often, we don’t listen. We don’t even notice his hand in our lives. And we wonder in utter ignorance “where is God” and “why do bad things happen”, never bearing the burden of truth that it is absolutely a result of our decisions that bad things happen. But even then, we are made in the image of God. And he still wants us.

How much grief must the Father have for those who will never truly love him. How much love he has for them still, and for all of us when we reject him.

I know that the Lord isn’t human. I don’t know for certain if any of this is really what God was trying to say all that time. I just feel like if he wanted to catch our attention and prepare us for the Savior through rituals in a way that didn’t involve blood and participatory atonement, he could do that. If the Lord wanted us to throw giant bonfires and burn a bunch of incense that ate people’s homes as a symbol of his forgiveness, he could do that. If he wanted us to go around and smash all the anthills around our cities as symbols of his power, he could do that too. But the Lord commands us in ways that are meant to get our attention, to tell us something about himself. The story of Isaac and Abraham is a great example, because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. Jesus was the son that never got rescued, in order that he would be the Rescuer. All of the bible runs together into a clamor of voices that confess Jesus as the son of God. And if the Lord wanted to weave the story in a different way, he could.

I think it’s definitely possible that God used sacrifices as a way of atonement serves many purposes. On the one hand, I think God might be trying to force us to recognize the intimate covenants we’ve made with death through sin and despising his commandments. At the same time, I believe that blood spilled might have effected our spiritual conditions in a supernatural way, because the sacrifice acknowledges the eventual death of Christ. Sacrifice shows God’s righteousness, because his justice remains the same, and the blood that was once required from us was eventually required from Jesus. Sacrifice demonstrates mercy (because we aren’t the ones who die). Sacrifice demonstrates grace, because we don’t deserve the mercy.

Combined with the promises of God about restoring his people and not leaving us to forever experience what we deserve, he is more than justified in requiring sacrifice (first through animals, now through Jesus, for all those willing to accept him). Without such a vivid reminder of death, how could we stay sober-minded long enough to acknowledge our sin and weakness? When it’s easy to hide from our sins, we reject God (which is one of many many reasons the Lord hates false idols). If any remnant of Israel was going to be saved, having a regular call to repentance for the people of God surely has achieved that purpose.

I really don’t believe that God wanted any of us to sin or experience all of the things that lead to death. Unfortunately, after the Fall, it was no longer his choice. After he gave us instructions to obey, it was no longer his choice. He gave us free will so we could actually enjoy being around him. But when we don’t want to be around him? WE deny him. WE made the decisions that it took to fall short. Sin was our mistake.

Calling God unrighteous because of the consequences of our actions contradicts his perfect love. He has done, is doing, and will do everything within his (unlimited) power to save us. But who will believe what we have heard from him? Who will be small enough to experience his great love? May the world call it insanity. But he was never the one to choose that.

 

Trying to do my best

Even if nobody appreciates it, is it worth it to be kind?

I feel like there are so many middle aged women who are self-made martyrs. On the playground, it’s always, “I wont give him a turn because he didn’t say please!” We refuse to pick up our toys until the playmate who helped make the mess starts helping. Kinda reminds me of Martha getting mad at Mary.

I have this friend. Well, ex-friend. One of those people in your heart, you can’t help but hold onto. Swallowing my foolish pride, I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I want the best for her. I’m going to do what I can to just be nice.

Sometimes, my sister tries to provoke me to wrath. I swear, she’ll bring up memories from high school that I cant even remember. The depression stole those memories from me, and for whatever reason, she tries to make me feel bad by citing instances where I made a fool of myself. The jokes on her, because I legitimately can’t remember. But for the most part, I put up with it, because I know that she makes fun of me to feel better about herself. Taking the bait would be to lash out at someone who’s already wounded. Not classy.

There was this one time in the last week of kindergarten where this little girl I work with strongly reprimanded me. We were all headed to the magic carpet to do the next activity (aka where they sit) and I can’t remember what it was even about. She had been sassy for a while, but because she’s a lot like me, I think she was just testing limits. Our main teacher made her apologize, and told her that it really wasn’t nice to speak that way to a teacher. She apologized. I said it was okay, and that I wasn’t mad. The next time I was there, when we were cleaning up between centers, her little arms tightly wrapped around my waist in a hug that lingered. I understand where she was coming from. And that’s a hug I will definitely remember.

I recently asked another friend from a good while ago if she would forgive me. I’m kind of a hard-ass, so being willing not just to apologize but to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS was a whole nother…well. But I did it, and you wanna know why? If I didn’t have the balls to do it then, I wasn’t gonna do it at all. So I did. And I’m glad. This friend really doesn’t have a good impression of Christians. I was just trying to show her better than she’s used to.

We all have choices to make. One of the most common lies that bothers me to no end is that people only deserve the kindness they show you. Like a Frankenstein’s monster of the Golden rule. Some how generally social niceties become excuses not to be kind to one another. If she said then I said then she said, then she’s the one who wasn’t nice to me!

But friends, is that really the best we can do? Is that your best?

We all make choices.

I don’t want perfect justice. I want grace. I want forgiveness. I want it to not be about me. Shouldn’t good things be free? Don’t we have the power to control that?

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be willing. You don’t have to be perfect, but it’s good to try. Better doesn’t have to come today, but maybe it’s possible? Isn’t it just good to want better, even if you can’t yet achieve it? Isn’t it better to work at humbling ourselves than to be okay with complacency?

I think we can do better. There is a people alienated from the Church that want to believe in God, but we give them no evidence. Jesus is naturally appealing. The way he cared for people. The way he loved. If we woke up and allowed the Lord to change us, maybe a few more skeptics would buy into God. I for one thought believing with your whole heart was batshit crazy at one point, but I guess somethings have changed. I think that there are people out there that need us to be flexible. If church was a lot more about getting out of God’s way and a lot less about us, then we’d all be better off.

Nobody gets a free pass to ignore the poor

My friends and fellow church people, are y’all living in the same world I’m living in? Do we even care about poor people?

Lately, I’ve been questioning how church leaders prioritize what parts of the Bible they believe in. If our faith is shown by our works and what whether we’re doers of the word, then how can we religiously shudder at curse words but curse the poor by rejecting them? If God cares about the words we say, how much more must he care about our actions!

In this time of questioning and being consistently pissed, I’m just trying to do the things I know that God has asked me to do. I’m not sure about the verbal gymnastics involved in respectable churchy society, but I do know that God loves the poor. Jesus told us that the poor would always be with us. Our job as Christians is to give to those who need, as God has supplied our need. And you know what? It’s not about money! It’s about being willing to affirm human dignity in the face of disaster.

I may not have anything good to say, but I have ears that can listen, a little extra food, time, or money. How can we take the burdens of the poor so lightly? If church people resisted making this about self-righteousness and what we can do in our own strength, how many more people would just be willing to show up?

It’s not like the apostles didn’t have off days. You think Abraham had a great time wandering in the desert? You think Jesus enjoyed the cross? What about Moses? Was he actually any good at leading?

God may give some people talent, but I swear, it’s better to be clueless, under prepared, and be willing to show up. Better to be completely ignorant of how to fix it and have the desire to obey.

Because let me tell you what happens when we think we’ve got the solutions: we do nothing. We judge how we’d act in so and so’s shoes without bothering to humble ourselves. We act like we know better, and exact like we’re exempt from caring. We act like we have to be qualified. We act like we have to have a plan.

I’m sorry, but for a people who claims to be relying on God’s grace, gifts, and planning, that sounds pretty ridiculous. You don’t need a plan/gifts/spare time/money to do something. You need a plan/gifts/spare time/money to do NOTHING.

If you gave in faith, would it not be multiplied back to you? Do you not receive many times back what you sacrifice out of faith, and reverence to God?

God help my screwed up priorities if I’m unwilling to move. We adjust the little habits we already do instead of becoming radical so we have the comfort of pushing our peas around our plates. What if the answer was going hungry? It’s not like you’re eating the damn peas anyway.

So many church leaders act as though the culture they’ve snuggled up in hasn’t also been fabricated, and doesn’t also fall short. Instead of reaching out to those who presently need our help, we make silken cocoons that slowly choke us. Wrapped in a blanket of our own devising, we never become bothered. When the silk gets spun over your eyes and seals you off to the world everyone else is living in, who can break you free?

Better to be poor and hated than comfortably ignoring your need. What’s it going to be, America? Are we actually happy?

Show up. The Lord will find a way to use you. Sing in worship, even if you don’t have a good voice. Who exactly are you singing to? Is it God, or the people around you? If you care and can suffer a little less ego, it’s better to praise even if you sound like hell. This is not our kingdom, but the kingdom of God. We can bear to be small. It’s better for us.

It’s better to have no plan than avoid responsibility. For all of our holy rules and requirements, it’s hard to find a people who really loves God.

Falling

Some time in the middle of last night, I woke up from a dream where I was encouraging people to follow God. Trying to explain that the Lord is always faithful, I gradually woke and continued to say similar stuff being half-awake. It was kind of strange because most of the things I realized in that semi-conscious state are entirely valuable to the stuff I’ve been struggling with lately. I had fallen asleep thinking, “Some people die without ever knowing that the greatest needs they’ve ever had could have always been met” and woke up knowing that the power of God really is the most high, he really is the greatest authority, and if I trust him, things are going to turn out fine.

I’ve been quietly worrying and wondering about moving to Washington, DC this July. I haven’t consciously been disobeying God, but as doubts have come up, I’ve dealt with them. In that moment of delirious trust last night, I recognized that I had been feeling this sense of falling, and wondering if God really would catch me. I of all people should know that he follows through, given where I’ve been in life before. But still, with this big move (that symbolizes so many things I cant control), I needed to remember that all that is required of me is faith and obedience. If I believe, the Lord will show up. I just need to trust God, and he will do the work through his spirit. Everything is going to be fine. Still, it helps to acknowledge that I had been feeling afraid. Moving for the first time from college is definitely stressful. Still, I know the Lord will provide.