So much of life is waiting. . .

As a Christian, I am waiting for a lot--for God to do His refining work in me, for Jesus to return, for me to GET how much God loves me and for me to see what He is doing . . .

What to do in the meantime? I have learned much about what the Lord is trying to teach me, tell me and show me through the discipline of daily time spent reading the Bible. So often we make this time harder than it has to be.

This blog was born out of wanting to share what God is showing me and wanting to be an example that daily time with God is not a deep or mysterious thing (well, every once in a while it can be), but simply a time to read scripture and note what jumps out at you that day. We don't have to be scholars or super-holy or ministry leaders to do this. Some days I hit the jackpot and others I come up empty--but only by persevering do I give God the space in which to speak and myself the stillness in which to hear and obey.

As of June of 2017, I've now decided to include parts of our adoption journey, which is, so far, yet another chapter of waiting.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jesus vs. the Zombies

I've been reading another book lately,  "Sifted", by Rick Lawrence. I've also been reading Leviticus. And I've been watching (late to the party, as usual), the first two seasons of AMC's "The Walking Dead." In ways only the Lord can do, these three circumstances came together to show me something new about Jesus.

Leviticus is not my favorite book of the Bible. I doubt that Leviticus is anyone's favorite book of the Bible. Rules about food. Rules about worship. Rules about skin diseases and fabrics and dishes. It also lists the consequences of breaking the rules. Consequences like isolation and physical punishment and death. I don't much like thinking of God as the author of seemingly arbitrary rules with the punishment for breaking the rules being death. Like the stories in Numbers where many, many people die for complaining and refusing to believe God, these disconcerting parts of the Bible bother me.

The same week I'm reading Leviticus, I am reading in chapter four of "Sifted". The author, Rick Lawrence, reports that the adjective most commonly used to describe Jesus is "nice". He compares this to Mr. Rogers.  Mr. Rogers is nice--picture the opening scene, shoes in hand, cardigan being buttoned, soothing voice speaking. Nice. Lawrence then asks us to imagine walking through a bad neighborhood at night, alone, down a dark alley. Who do you want with you? Mr. Rogers? Equally, do you want Jesus? Do you imagine that He is strong enough, skilled enough, tough enough to help you?

Thanks to two snow days and a free Netflix trial, I began watching "The Walking Dead" last weekend. The world has been overrun by zombies, called "walkers" on the show. They are the undead, looking only for a meal, and we are it. There are many, many scenes of walkers chasing humans. When you are a human being chased by a walker, you want the strongest, most skilled, toughest zombie-hunter in the group (Daryl, okay, yes, in the woods alone with walkers, I want Daryl and his crossbow).

Crazy Levitical rules. Jesus as "Mr. Nice Guy." Darryl in the woods with walkers.

God is not nice. Jesus is not nice. Rick Lawrence goes so far as to use the word "brutal" about God. Satan and sin and evil are real in this world and real in my life, and more harmful and dangerous than any undead walkers. Jesus has authority and command. After Adam and Eve sin in the garden, the Lord says this to the serpent:
 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15, NIV)
In the movie  "The Passion of the Christ" we see Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, prostrate on the ground, praying (Luke 22), appearing to be weak and helpless. However, even as the snake tries to prevail, Jesus rises and, with one decisive move, kills the snake (artistic interpretation of the Genesis passage).

Jesus came to crush the head of the serpent. He came to destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8, NIV).
He came to free us from sin. He will dig deeper into our lives and hearts and souls than we ever would in order to make us fully His. He is not "nice". Yes, He loves us tenderly and deeply and mercifully, and His lovingkindnesses never cease. He will also stop at nothing to make us His.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Poetry, not Procedure

I have claimed Christianity for quite some time now--over twenty years. As anyone who knows me or has read this blog realizes, it has not been an easy journey for me. The "how" of it all has always frustrated me. Goal-driven by personality, reconciling the grace of God with the rules of behavior has been a continual struggle. In the parable of the prodigal son, I am the elder brother, hurt and angry at the grace shown to the other brother, the one who screwed up and now gets a party.  Even as I have tried to understand grace and love, so much of my own performance-driven nature paired with so much of my religious experience has caused me to miss the miracle.

I'm reading a book right now: "He Loves Me", by Wayne Jacobsen. Skeptical by nature, especially skeptical of anything that sounds too "lovey-dovey" about God, I approached it with some trepidation, despite a glowing recommendation from a dear friend. I'm a few chapters away from the end and. . . I feel like I might finally be getting it. I feel like the mystery and the poetry and the story of the love of God through Jesus have been given back to me.

I love to read. I love a good story. Words are like music to me. Before I became a believer, I had read a lot of books which pointed to God's love for me. Books about lost people being found. Stories about sacrificial love. The tales I love best are those where good wins and evil loses and the lovers unite and the endings are happy. There are people(many of whom I cannot give credit to by name) who believe that every good and worthwhile story is the story of God redeeming His bride, the Shepherd finding His sheep, the sacrifice of perfect love to save sinful people. Think of the stories you treasure. Why are they dear to you? For me, it's the idea that love will win. That someone would search until the lost are found. That there is love strong enough to defeat death.

I, too, believe that all redemptive tales are God whispering and calling to us. There is a mystery in faith, a poetry, something that we long for but can't understand. I owe much to the churches that I have belonged to since I became a Christian. I have learned much of love and acceptance and community that I could have discovered nowhere else. However, most of the teaching and theology that I have heard has, paired with my performance-oriented bias, tried very hard to remove the mystery and the poetry and even the love from the salvation story.

In many cases, salvation is explained like a legal transaction:  Man is sinful (true). Man can never enter heaven or a relationship with God because of sin (also true). God wants us to be in heaven and in relationship with Him (true again), so He sent Jesus to pay our consequence and rescue us from His punishment (kinda true but not the whole story). Jesus died, we believe, we go to heaven and can know God (again. . . kinda yes but falling so short of profound mystery of it all).

That rendering of my salvation leaves me cold. It always has, and I always felt guilty about that. I should be grateful for Jesus paying the price for my sin (and I am, though this analogy doesn't lead me there). But this reduction of my salvation to a legal procedure fails to stir my heart.

In this book, Jacobsen explains the cross in a way that restores to me the poetry, mystery, and love of it all. Jesus' sacrifice for me, for you, for all of us was not a mere legal transaction or fulfillment of the letter of the law. It was an act imagined by a loving and creative Father determined to restore the relationship that was forfeited by Adam and Eve. Jesus didn't just pay for our sin. He became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."). He didn't do it just to balance some cosmic scale, but because He loved us and wanted us to be free from the power of sin so that we could live a life glorifying to God and a life united with God.

There is no performing that I can do to make God love me more. The Lord doesn't want my obedience done to earn His favor. I have His favor, wholly unearned:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7)
 God doesn't want slaves or soldiers. He wants children and friends (John 15:15). As I learn to "live loved" by trusting and following the Lord's lead even as I don't understand, I will live the life that I am meant to live. Do I understand this completely? Nope. Am I excited to relate to God in the way that He meant for me to, the way, that, indeed, He sacrificed everything to make possible? Yes!