Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dark Places

Lately I've been focusing heavily on getting into a more positive less negative frame of mind. For the most part, it has had only a mild effect. When you travel roads as dark and valleys as deep as I, it takes more than a ray of sunshine to brighten up your day. 

I've come a very long way into those dark lands. On few occassions I thought I'd nearly found my way out only to realize that it was just an small opening in the tangled mass of the forest through which I could see light or it was will-o-the-wisps in the swamps that surrounded me. 

I've been praying for direction and for some other issues that I can't deal with or face. I'm traveling in the dark. It is easy to get lost when you travel in such places. Often there are terrible monsters around every bend who creep along and follow you. You may not see them but you can hear them. Sometimes, they reach out and maul you, leaving you battered and bleeding.

Normally, I'd never talk about this but for a few weeks now I'm been getting mysterious messages, all containing similar directives. They all talk about this place I'm in and finding my way out. I've been praying for understanding too, because it's all just so confusing. 

Just two nights ago I listened to a sermon by T.D. Jakes about dark places and how sometimes you have to go into dark places to become who you are meant to be. It was a very revealing hour for me. So much of it made sense but don't think I had this great revelation of direction or that a star appeared in the sky pointing in the direction I am supposed to go. It did not. But at least there seemed to be a reason for being where I am... and one I could accept. 

This morning I read my devotional and I can't tell you what it was about. I prayed and I always pray on the way to work, nearly every morning. Usually it is just a prayer of thankfulness. 

As I traveled today I blurted out, "I feel as if I've wandered into this great dark cave and I've lost my way and can't find my way out. Once in awhile I think I can hear you calling me but it is so far away that I can't locate which direction it is coming from."

I am sure there was more I said but that one statment is all you need to remember. It is important. 

The day was probably one of the most hectic and totally unproductive I've ever had on my job. Most of it was doing someone else's job and leaving mine undone. At some point I realized I no longer cared. That was actually a surprising relief. 

Sometime before lunch, I sat down at my desk to read my email. I get a daily scripture via email and I always look forward to it. There are a lot of times when it is the only bright spot in the dark places. It glows briefly like a small flame of fire, not enough to really get warm by but enough to see how to travel a few more steps. So, I opened my email today and as I read the scripture something shifted in the darkness.

"Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD." Jeremiah 23:24.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Folding The Towel

I spent the morning folding and putting away over a month's worth of laundry and arguing with God. I got the laundry done. That wasn't what I was arguing about.

Sigh. Am I the only person who feels like God just doesn't like me much? Surely not. Surely other people sometimes feel that God is just really not concerned about what they're concerned about. That we've just not lived up to our potential, screwed-up so many times, and simply made a hash out of our lives He surely must have despaired of us long ago and that we really disgust Him.

I don't like arguing and maybe it wasn't arguing. But I was definitely ranting and very upset. I have been for some time now. I felt like I was arguing. When you feel that you're having a one sided argument it is totally frustrating. I know women can understand this. You've had similar arguments with your husbands. You're trying to make a valid point and he's messing with the phone, watching the game, playing with the X-Box or on some other more pressing mission. He says he hears you but obviously, he isn't listening to you. Now, I don't think God is doing that stuff but it is the same feeling, that He's just not listening. Or He is but it simply doesn't change anything.

Eventually, I gave up. I wish I could say I feel better. I don't. My problem is not resolved. It is after all "my problem." God doesn't appease people. I don't actually believe God says maybe. I think things are "yes" or "no". I believe in a God who knows everything and every possible outcome. Choice is the only thing left to chance. He knows the choices we have but we get to pick. So, to say God would say "Maybe" is just silly to me. 

Also, I kind of think the only "Wait" you get is the self imposed kind. You sit around and wait until you figure out that you got a "No." A yes is usually easy to identify. Generally, I'm also not one to keep praying for the same thing over and over again. I don't think God is deaf and if He hears us, He heard us the first time. I have kept nagging over something, today is a good example, but I figure it is pointless. He heard me the first time. Continuing to go on and on about it is probably over kill on my part. Nagging. Nothing I can say will change His mind about the answer. As I am always quick to point out, it is what it is.

Anyway, I'm very depressed over the whole thing. I don't want to detail my experience or my problem. I'm not happy with several situations. In fact, I think it is safe to say I'm a bit consumed with anger about the whole business. Apparently, God's just fine with it. It would appear that we don't agree on it. I can't say I've changed my mind and there's nothing to tell me He's changed his.

I  suppose some people would ask me why bother asking. Because, at the end of all things, He's the only thing I've ever been able to completely rely on. Everyone will abandon you. Everyone will fail you. Everyone will disappoint you. 

I've lost much of what I cherished about my life. My world turned upside down and everything was shaken out of it. Within five years the life I loved was completely gone. I've become more and more unable to cope with the aftermath. I've become more physically exhausted and experiencing greater and greater pain. I don't have anything else that remains stable and fixed. I reside alone in a fairly dark world most of the time. The very ground beneath my feet is shaky ground and I stand on the brink of a great chasm that threatens to consume what is left of my life. Who else would I call?

After I conquered with the mountain of laundry and my wrestling match with the Almighty, I was too tired to do anything else.  I made lunch and while I was eating it occurred to me that even if God hated me, I'd still love Him. I don't know any of the why's that swirl around me but they don't change how much I love Him. It may not be enough to fix anything but it is all I'm certain of these days.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Banning of Sin

I was reading my G+ thread and one of my contacts shared this article, When did Christians Get So Mean. One of our mutual contacts made an observation about the comments that aroused my curiosity. So, I went and read the first dozen comments. I did not read the article at that point because the comments so annoyed me. I just started writing this post. I stopped and went back to read because I didn't want to misinterpret the comments. I was trying to be fair. But you know what, people are mean. Christians and sinners alike are mean and nasty.

The article basically addresses how Christians respond to others. I had no real beef with the article. He told the truth. I agreed with much of it. We should show kindness, courtesy, compassion, and love at much as possible to all people. Christians are exhorted in Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  And in Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: But, the truth of the article was borne out in the comments. People are just mean, and although directed at Christians, it doesn't matter if they're a Christian or not. 

I had another problem with the article and comments. I completely disagree with the "acceptance with love" theology. This isn't a Biblical teaching in my view. It is a creation by people who want to water down or discredit the Biblical position on sin. The unbeliever would have us muzzled unless we paint a pretty picture of religion and stop talking about sin. We can't call sin, "sin". We can't state something is "wrong." We can't look like a Christian. We can't speak like a Christian. If we dare, there is a price. Ridicule, prejudice, even violence. We are now required to sit in the back of the bus and shut up. 

Christians are required by the current political climate to restrain their Christianity because the non-Christian, which includes the faithless and those of other faiths, are offended by Christianity. Replace Christian with Jew and tell me what image comes to mind.

I don't think it is as simple as that, but it doesn't really matter. When someone says "sin" I've noticed that hell gets uncomfortable. Hell wants a warm, fuzzy Christianity that opens its arms to everything without using the "S-word". We must not teach anything the Bible teaches about ... sin.  If Hell and the world had its way, nothing could be labeled as sin. If it felt good, looked good, tasted good, it would be acceptable. 

Have you noticed the trend in the world to ban the use of certain words? I have and it is frightening. As a writer, I believe that banning words is equal banning speech and both are equal to banning books. All three occur in societies that are on the brink establishing repressive regimes. There is power in words. It is true that some words are not good words. I find a lot of distasteful words in television, movies, and songs. Profanity should be banned, right? Derogatory appellations should be banned. Right? The word Sin should be banned. Right? No.  Removing select words may seem like a good idea but the list continues to grow. Track the word/book banning practice throughout history. It never ends well. The trend in this country is growing. 

The comments on the article reminded me of something that is seldom mentioned across pulpits or in commentaries. There is a point at which even Jesus lost it over the wickedness of his generation. He got totally out of control. He made a whip of cords. This took some time. He sat, twisting and weaving and plaiting that cord, thinking about what he was going to do when he finished with it. Anger was woven into its fabric. This was premeditated action. He carried it to the temple and proceeded to drive everyone out of the temple because they'd brought wickedness into God's house. He wasn't nice. He wasn't loving. And he wasn't forgiving. He beat the daylights out of them, destroyed their equipment, and called them ugly names. He was extremely violent. The gentle, loving carpenter exploded in fury over .... sin. If we did anything approaching that, we'd be in jail. Or maybe crucified.

Let's just be honest. Christians are required by God to tell the truth. Either something is sin or it isn't. To smile and say "Well, I believe that's a sin but you know, I accept you just like you are. God loves everyone and we're all sinners" is hypocritical. It is also a lie and a sin. Either we're lying or we're lost. Either it is sin and we as Christians must not accept it, or it is not sin. 

The Bible said shun the very appearance of evil. You can't "accept" sin in any form. You can love the sinner and pray for them. You can be kind, considerate, and compassionate, but you can't ever accept their sin. My mama said, "You're known by the company you keep." Accept sin enough and you'll be right in the middle of it.

 If you are a born again believer in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and believe he died to atone for the sins of the whole world, you are forbidden to continue to walk in sin. You were once sinners.  "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Romans 5:19. You can't be a sinner and be saved and you can't be saved and be a sinner. That is a paradox and impossible.

There is a practice of quoting one line of scripture to "prove" we're all sinners. It is Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;  This is true. We are all sinners who "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

I was once a secretary. When I left that job I was no longer a secretary. I had been one, but I changed and became a housing specialist. If we repent and turn from our sin, we are no longer sinners because Jesus buried those sins beneath his blood. They were obliterated and no longer exist. To say "we're all sinners" to excuse and accept sin is to make a mockery of the crucifixion. You just made the sacrifice of Jesus Christ void. 

Banning sin would be a good thing. Unfortunately, banning the word will not fix the problem of sin. Sin still exist and nothing we can do will change that. It doesn't mean that I hate anyone. I don't. I can't think of a single person I hate. There's a few I dislike because of their character, or habits, or behavior. 

There are a lot of people I love who simply will never agree with my beliefs. I still love them very much. I don't beat them up over it and actually, they don't beat me up either. We've learned to live peaceably without agreeing or accepting the other's system of beliefs. Because we love each other and I think because we respect the right of each to follow their own path. I could be wrong and they hate everything about me. That's their poison.

Christians are not perfect. We're trying to get there. We fall down, we crawl to the foot of the cross and we pull ourselves up with its help. Others choose not to follow that path. But neither should be casting stones at the other. Neither position is a reason to treat anyone with disrespect or cruelty. 

I think that is what that author was trying to say. And I agree with that. My guide is always the Word. In Romans 12:18 it says, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." Unfortunately, it isn't always possible. People are mean.