Who Are Christians Kidding?

I think they might be fooling themselves, actually. Perhaps they’ve been deceived. So many Christians these days, especially the vocal ones, look nothing at all like the Jesus they say they serve. It breaks my heart.

While Jesus ate with sinners and turned water into wine, they’re pointing fingers in accusation, treating “sinners” like enemies (forgetting that they’re sinners themselves), and telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. In fact, they’re trying to force people into rigid conformity with their ideas, many of which have nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible.

For instance, why is rabid American patriotism consistent with what Jesus taught? It has nothing to do with Him in fact. Yet many Christians see their political ideas as somehow sanctioned and blessed by God, and they will foam at the mouth in “righteous” indignation at the mere hint that you disagree on any point.

Then take the issue of gun control. I scratch my head over this one constantly. After 20 precious babies were cruelly slaughtered by a mentally ill young man with access to an arsenal, many Christians automatically, and bafflingly shouted “Nobody better try to take away my guns!!! Protect the 2nd Amendment!!! Guns don’t kill people, people do!!!” and similar nonsense, instead of doing what they should have been doing and saying, “Protect our children! Pray for the families! Forget my ‘rights,’ how about some common sense?”

Jesus told his followers to pray for their enemies, to turn the other cheek, and told Peter to put away his sword when confronted with opposition. Today, many Christians are ignoring that teaching entirely, clinging to guns like they were life jackets, as if they do not trust in God to protect them, and making Muslims into our hated enemies at every turn. American Christians have so distanced themselves from the grace of Christ that they no longer offer to pour it out on anyone, no longer wash the feet of their brothers and sisters, no longer strive to introduce people to the Christ of Calvary who laid down his rights and his life to save us all. They surround themselves with like-minded people, whip themselves up into frenzies over infringement of rights, the greedy poor people who want to steal all our hard-earned iPods, and Hispanics who want to come here to a country that stole their country from them in the first place, and let all sorts of other immigrants come into the country with virtually no outcry or hatred, and sing songs about how Jesus loves them.

Have we become Pharisees? Do all we care about is who marries who, what rules people follow and how the liberals are out to get us?

Have we forgotten who Jesus is and why He came? Are we really the blind ones? Do we ever examine ourselves to try to make sure we conform to the actual will of God and not some patriotic worldview political shadow of imagined godliness?

Jesus laid down his life because we can’t save ourselves by being good. We can’t be good without his grace. Why are Christians so caught up in thinking they’ve earned their salvation themselves and that they have a right to look down on everyone else who are just wicked, hated enemies and not people God loves? When Jesus told us to make disciples of people, he didn’t tell us to be ungodly in the way we do it.

God gave us all free will. He doesn’t force himself on anyone. People have a right to believe or not, to do what he wants, or not. We all do. Why do we think we need to try to force behavior on people that we think is godly when we are being ungodly ourselves? Do we tell people not to be gay but then we ignore the cries of the oppressed right in our own cities? Do we point at peoples’ faults and not see our own?

I have been on a long journey of self discovery and learning about who God is and what he wants. It has not been easy, but, I am so glad he took me out of my cozy little Christian world and sent me out into the real world, where people don’t think like I do, but they do need love too. I have learned more from my relationships with non-Christians (people I may not have even wanted to befriend, but God made me connect with), than I have from most Christians I know.

I know I am sounding insulting to some folks. That isn’t my intent. I just want us to think. I used to be closed minded but God didn’t want that for me. So, he led me into relationships with Wiccans, atheists, homosexuals and geeks. Yeah, the ones whose lives are apparently ruined by playing D&D. Sorry, but that is just about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

These “sinners” are some of the warmest people I know, kind, considerate, honest and open. They respect my beliefs and therefore I am able to talk to them honestly. They see the path I’ve traveled and respect it, while many of my Christian friends are probably imagining that I’ve gone down some wicked road of compromise with the world and have become soft.

Why do Christians not want to be soft? Why do they want to constantly tell people they’re going to Hell if they don’t conform? That isn’t good news in my book. I thought we were supposed to introduce people to Jesus, who loves them enough to die for them. I thought we were supposed to lay down our pride and self righteousness and be honest with God and with others about the fact that we are sinners too, that we don’t always know all of the answers, and that sometimes, we have allowed ourselves to become so frightened of the world and people who are different than we are that we have made them into imaginary enemies. We don’t have to be afraid of loving people who don’t fit our definition of godliness. We didn’t fit Jesus’ ideals of godliness either, but he still loved us. He loved us while we were his enemies, and he died for us then.

How are we doing likewise?

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Heard a podcast the other day. Richard Foster, a well-known Quaker author, who wrote Celebration of Discipline was being interviewed by a great guy, Shane Blackshear. Foster spoke about the need for Christians to seek some of the traditional disciplines of the faith, especially the disciplines of silence and solitude, because it is in those disciplines that one hears God speak. He talked about how in our modern world, people are always filling their space with noise, music, television, etc. and even when they pray, they mostly just tell God all of the things they want and need and maybe pray for other people they know.

But, they don’t take time to listen to God. I’ve been convicted about that even before hearing this. I spend a lot of time in solitude, but I often waste that time by popping online to Facebook and spending hours online trying to fill up the empty, aching places in my soul. He also mentioned that perhaps just meditating on Psalm 23 for a year would be a helpful exercise. So, I decided to memorize it and go over it in my mind every day.

The first sentence of the Psalm says (in my NIV Bible) “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” But, in the KJV it says “I shall not want.” I started to think about that. Does it mean that we shouldn’t want because God is enough and all we need, or does it mean that God is our Shepherd and provides for all of our wants so that we have none? I sort of think it’s a combination of the two. I’ve often been taught that God is enough, that I should want nothing else but Him.

I wish I were spiritual enough for that to be true. I’m being honest here, something I feel I have to be. I feel as if I want a lot of things that aren’t God. Now I know, and believe, that God is the giver of all good gifts and so, in some respect, what I want is God, but I don’t just want God. I mean, as much as I love Him, as much as He has filled my heart, taught me, led me, saved me and sheltered me, I don’t just want to sit in his presence and have nothing else. For one thing, I want my daughter Amber back, or I want to go to her. When I get to Heaven, I do want to see Jesus, yes. But, the longing in my heart is really to first see Amber. I know that is sacrilegious. I realize that, but I really think Jesus understands.

Do I believe God is meeting every need and want I have? Yes and no. I believe He will, but He hasn’t quite done it yet. I still feel want, big time. I feel this aching, terrible longing pain, this anguish of spirit that is so raw that I cannot lie and try to sound more spiritual than I am. I want this pain to go away, but maybe I don’t. And, that is the thing. God knows what is best for me. On that, I do agree. I’ve seen it over the course of my life year after year. The hardest things, God has turned into wonderful joys and also greater character in myself. Through my trials I have become more compassionate, more deliberate in my expressions of love to others, less angry (though I still have work to do here), and stronger. But, I really long for a time of peace in my life, a time of joy, a time where I will have no more pain. I’m tired of pain. I’m tired of trouble. I’m just tired. So, I pray that God will help me find a way to have a rest from the troubles of life.

Now, I called this blog the Valley of the Shadow of Death. That is, for many, and for me, one of the key verses in the psalm, saying, “Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” This is the portion of the psalm that speaks most keenly to the pain I am dealing with because I really feel like I am in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and if it were not for the comfort of God, I would not make it through. I am barely making it now, it feels. So, I trudge on through that Valley, looking to God for comfort and praying that my wants and needs are fulfilled. I want those green pastures and that quiet water. I really need a lie down.

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Silence Calls

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Silence Calls
But, I don’t hear it
Its voice is too quiet
And mine is too loud.
Yet, my weakened spirit cries
For the solace it affords.
It shrivels in the blare of my noisy life
And groans beneath the pressure
Of all this stuff piled high.
My soul has become a garbage dump.
I can barely find it under all the mess.
Strangled and bloated, even my flesh feels the pain.
All I need is what I run from.
All I want is death in the form of numbness.
All I get is information that tells me nothing.
Silence Calls,
But it has to leave a message.