Archives For July 2013

Where Is God???

July 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

“as we returned from work, we saw three gallows… The SS [guards] seemed more preoccupied, more worried, than usual. To hang a child in front of thousands of onlookers was not a small matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was pale, almost calm, but he was biting his lips as he stood in the shadow of the gallows… ‘Where is merciful God, where is He?’ someone behind me was asking. At the signal, the three chairs were tipped over… Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive… The child, too light, was still breathing… And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death… Behind me, I heard the same man asking: ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’ And from within me, I heard a voice answer; ‘Where is He? This is where – hanging here from this gallows…’” — From a book entitled “Night” by Elie Wiesel

Where is God when a child is shot in Newtown or hung in Auschwitz or killed in an American drone air strike or for that matter dies of cancer? I don’t know. There is no answer.

Talk of God giving humans free will and thus allowing us to face the consequences of our choices solves nothing. If the creator could intervene personally when it came to the magic tricks in the Bible like making the sun stand still for a day in a battle, he could have done something about that child gasping out his young life. He didn’t. Theology that tries to paper this horrible fact over with explanations about why there is evil is nothing but nervous blather

Source:  Frank Schaeffer: Where Is God When We’re in Pain? – Red Letter Christians.

I must admit that I don’t put much credence in the Old Testament being anything close to totally true and inerrant. To do so would mean that I would have to degrade my feelings about God. The above quote is the perfect example of this fact especially the words “If the creator could intervene personally when it came to the magic tricks in the Bible like making the sun stand still for a day in a battle, he could have done something about that child gasping out his young life.” As the author says any explanation of this difference is blather.

In the Old Testament stories God seemed to intervene in the most trivial of events. Making massive walls crumble with a trumpeter’s breath is a good example. Why would God do that and then allow so much tragedy to happen later? I don’t know the answer to that question. I can only rationalize it that all the evil the world has known makes God just as sad as any of us.

As mentioned above I know that the idea that God gave man free will and then turned the world over to him is not very comforting but to me that is the reality. God being omnipotent he could intervene in these tragic situations but what would we learn from that? We would learn that God is  there to bail us out if we get in too deep. We would learn that we don’t need to take responsibility for anything as God would always fix our screw-ups.  I know some of my Christian brothers believe that is what he does for some.  But why some and not others? These sort of thoughts are still very unsettling for me as a follower of Jesus. At this point in my life I just can’t fathom the answers….

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One of the biggest stumbling blocks in following the teachings of Jesus is our tendency to do whatever we want, and to then convince ourselves that Jesus supports our agenda. This is especially true when it comes to His peace teachings. I’ve talked to church leaders who really want to speak the truth about peace but are afraid of repercussions from people in their congregations who are either in the military or related to someone in the military. There are a couple of things I’ve learned from thinking through this issue. The first is that we can love and respect people without agreeing with all of the choices they make. Many Christians do join the military, or support going to war, but I believe that there are much more Jesus-focused paths that we can take. The second is that none of us is perfect at following Jesus but we do need to be honest with ourselves about what He taught. He is the Prince of Peace and His teachings on this topic are incredibly clear, so if  for some reason we don’t want to follow Him in all situations, let’s just admit that and not pretend that He didn’t actually say what He said.

My prayer for all Christians is that we’d be brave enough to take Jesus seriously and to do what He asks us to do – live peacefully by loving our enemies, turning the other cheek and doing good to those who hate us, but that will only be possible if we put our trust in God and know that Jesus’ way of peace isn’t intended to be a success strategy, it’s a love strategy. Or perhaps instead of allowing our culture to define “success” for us, we Christians need to redefine it as following Jesus well by loving all people.

via Stephen Jarnick: The Lion, the Witch and the War | Red Letter Christians.

My Version….

July 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

Faith in ActionIf you have read this blog much you will know that I have pretty much given up on denominational Christianity and even the word “Christian”.  Instead I have been calling myself a “follower of Jesus Christ”. Over the last few months I have been seriously contemplating my spiritual life and where I go from here. In the recent months this blog has pretty much been about how all the current forms of Christianity have been thoroughly polluted by the political and cultural atmospheres of our times.  It became too disheartening to continue in that mode. Following Jesus should be a joyous thing to be celebrated instead of lamented.

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I have decided to concentrate this blog and my life, what remains of it, on what I mean when I say I am a follower of Jesus. I will try my best to focus on Jesus and not so much on the current form of his church. I will try to celebrate others in their journeys and criticize a little less. I will continue to study the Emergent Church movement to see what it has to offer and undoubtedly I will keep and eye on my Quaker friends.

One of the magazines I have been getting for some years now is Sojourners. I frequently use Jim Wallis’ emails as material for posts here. I will certainly continue to do that also.  But the reason that part of a recent cover of that magazine is included in this post is the small words below the Sojourner logo. For those who might be reading this post on a phone or tablet those words are “Faith in Action for Social Justice”. I couldn’t think of four other words that would describe my version of Christianity than these.  In the political sphere I am undoubtedly a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Some find this combination conflicting. Social Justice is a primary driver for me in my life.  In my mind if there is faith then there must also be action. As the brother of Jesus said faith without action is a dead faith and worthless.

So, here I am at another crossroads in my walk with Christ. I pray that I have taken the right fork….

The Bible nowhere qualifies the command to help the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, and the poor. The Bible never says “help the Christian poor” or “help the poor only if they listen to a 30-minute sermon.” God told the Israelites that they are God’s people if they help the poor and bring justice to the oppressed. No qualifiers. No agenda. No strings attached. Just love. Scandalous love. Jesus love. The kind we teach and preach about – the free gift of God, that we do not deserve and cannot earn.

Source: Joy Bennett: Time Share Charity and God’s Scandalous Grace | Red Letter Christians.

These words come from one of my favorite blogs “Red Letter Christians” and really got me to thinking lately. In the past, that is in my previous Catholic and Lutheran lives I was told that God only loves people like us; that is other Catholic or Lutherans.  Therefore our job was to talk to our neighbors and anyone else who might listen to try to convince them to join us. If they didn’t hell we were told was a surety.  Of course this message has morphed somewhat over the years but its underlying theme remains the same. God only  loves certain kinds of people who call themselves  Christians.

Of course now that I am following Jesus and his words with no particular denominational affiliation I no longer march to this previous drummer. I take the words of Joy Bennett above to heart. God did not qualify his commands to help others. I find it kind of strange that when Martin Luther finally discovered the words of St. Paul in the epistle of Ephesians he did not take it all the way to its final conclusion. He deemed that God’s grace is a gift and not by works. But then he went on to put conditions on that gift. You have to be a Christian, you have to say the right words and belong to the right groups. You have to have the correct faith.

I no longer believe that God puts conditions on his love or grace.  It is indeed free for all and unconditional. In that regard I am leaning strongly toward the concept of universal salvation. God will save us all in his own time and manner. I won’t invent anything like purgatory to show how God will do that; I will leave that up to Him. 🙂  In the Bible, He indeed told us he loves us all and wants everyone to come to him. In the coming weeks I will be presenting some of the things that have finally pushed me in this direction. When we accept God’s grace as universal it changes a lot about what we should be doing while we occupy this world. I will also be getting into those areas.

Of course, I realize that my beliefs are simply that; they are mine. I don’t claim any special connection to the Divine One. I won’t try to push what I believe on anyone else. I  write them here in order to maybe help you with your path to God to see that you are not alone with these kind of thoughts.

Crosses

My translation of the Bible is better than your translation.

Hymns are better than choruses.

The Contemporary service is better than the Traditional one.

My version of baptism is better than yours……

Source: Stephen Mattson: Stop Comparing my Christianity to Your Christianity! – Red Letter Christians.

Another brilliant post by Stephen Mattson over at Red Letter Christians and it came just at the right time for me. I encourage you to read the full post by clicking on the source link just above. Better yet join the Red Letter Christian’s family on Facebook to see all their posts.

The words that struck me the deepest from the post are:

The temptation is to judge others and self-righteously pat ourselves on the back for being “good Christians.” Or we can become hopelessly depressed. Guilt, shame, pride, and legalism can quickly creep into our spiritual lives when we start comparing, and we often start constructing false ideals that are impossible to achieve. We need to recognize that everyone—including ourselves—is God’s creation, holy and sacred, made in His image.

I have not been posting here much lately due to these very thoughts. It seems I am constantly comparing my version of Christianity with others. It has become very frustrating to be in this mode. I simply can’t understand why other Christians don’t understand the simple messages of Christ as I do.  My recent posts seem to be screaming “HERETIC” without actually using those words! I am becoming self-righteous and depressed at the same time. It is time to just step back and celebrate that we are all God’s creation and made in his image.

Recently, and maybe not so recently, I have spent most of my efforts here trying to get others to see Christ as I do. When I encounter other Christians who run counter to my version of Christianity I have become very frustrated and often even depressed and I think that has been showing up on my posts. This eye-opening post from Mr. Mattson ends with the words below. I will try going forward to live by the last paragraph in both my life and this blog.  I will just accept the fact that God loves us all.

 

The world watches as churches split, pastors indict, and Christians accuse each other of being heretics, false prophets, and liars. We positively reinforce the communities we align ourselves with while simultaneously tear down those who disagree with us. Christians have a tendency to self-destruct because we love attacking ourselves. Instead of the fruits of the Spirit, we can easily exhibit the fruits of our secular society: revenge, bigotry, manipulation, disdain, disgust, power, control, profit, and alienation.

It’s easy to lose sight of Christ’s message, one that was simply about service, sacrifice, and love. Let’s not let our hidden agendas—ones that are often based on comparative measures—separate us from the love of God.

I currently don’t know the form or substance but this message will be the focus of future posts here. I will try to find and celebrate those instances of service, sacrifice, and love; I will focus on the love of God and not so much on the differences.