Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Honesty

I want to be real, not phony, plastic or fake. I want to be honest not foolish. I want to be deep, kind, caring, understanding, merciful and compassionate, not short, judgmental, impatient and apathetic. I want to believe the best in people, rather than assume the worst, until proven otherwise. I want to take people at their word, unless they are proven deceptive.
"Some people will not tolerate such emotional honesty in communication. They would rather defend their dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others. Therefore, having rationalized their phoniness into nobility, they settle for superficial relationships." ~Author Unknown
It takes less thought, energy, and sincerity to make a meaningless long list of do's and don't's. It is the lazy and fearful way out, stunts the growth of true understanding and wisdom, and over time grows into a cold, calloused, uncaring monster with no logical boundaries to end the pursuit of more rules. This legalism is mostly only found to serve two purposes (though there are exceptions):
  1. To relieve self from a guilty conscience or a consequence (real or perceived)- rather than truly caring about the heart the matter, God, or caring about others.
  2. To use as a hammer to pound others with when they are found to be struggling through something in life.

This is much like staying in the shallow end of the pool all your life, you never really get wet, build strength, learn to swim, overcome fear, or learn courage. Oh, it is "safe"... at least it seems so.

Dive into the deep end, learn, grow, and build strength and skill. Find a little risk in life. Spend time with the others who also do. There you will also find others who need plenty of help, and still others who can help you.

There are rules to life, commands from God, absolute truths, and lies of the enemy that deceive. I don't deny that, but legalism only protects the letter of law, and doesn't change the heart. My thought is to learn wisdom, get understanding, dig into the heart of the matter, learn more of God's heart. My major in life is to learn love and truth, to love true justice and mercy and stay humble, not stand in judgment. Walk with God, walk alongside others--- on equal ground, always checking myself and my own heart because of the love and fear of the Lord. All of this in honesty and sincerity, desiring the good things of the Lord, not merely a list of rules. Allowing God to change my heart, not just hand me a paper and pen so I can start making lists.

It's a lofty goal and life long exercise, and of course I have not arrived at the finish line, who has? Sometimes it's tempting to take the easy way out and make a list of rules, so I can check things off and feel accomplished, even if I don't understand why I just did all that. But this causes regression instead of progression. It tends to inflict pain and confusion into my life and often the lives of others. Lord, show me Your will, teach me your Word, and commands, that I could learn your heart, and possess the greatest gift of all... love.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Do you ever want to quit?

I found this article interesting, not because I know who the author of it is, I don't know who this guy is (never heard of him) not because I agree with his theology, I don't even know what his theology is.
All I know is, I have felt this exact way myself many many times, and I can relate to what this article says.
I like how it ends too- put your hope in Christ and in Christ alone, and God will take care of the rest....including the fellowship/friendship with others in your life. By "others" I mean those who hurt, judge and disappoint, as well as those who lift you, love you, help you, and walk by your side while you walk with Christ.
Christ is the one who gives us all we need, and we cannot boast in anything of ourselves.


I Wanted to Quit Too...
David Burchett
Author and Speaker

Author Anne Rice has kicked the cyber hornet's nest with her comments about "quitting" Christianity. Anne and I don't have a lot in common. She has millions of readers. I have tens of readers. Her books are best sellers. My second book apparently is harder to find than a popular Congressperson. But we share one big thing in common. I also thought about "quitting" the organized version of Christianity that we call church. I SERIOUSLY considered doing a home study on Sundays instead of dragging myself to the local assembly. I was convinced that Starbucks was a much more spiritual environment than a church. My spiritual crisis would not have made any headlines. Having had that personal journey through the desert I am now inclined to pray that Anne Rice will find a community of believers who will walk with her in grace and truth and not condemn her.

My friend Ed Underwood has a problem with stating his mind. He recently wrote about the Anne Rice comments in his wonderful Jesus Movement blog. First he quoted Rice's statement.

"My faith in Christ is central to my life. But following Christ is infinitely more important than following his followers."

And then he timidly responded.

If you take the time to read what she actually said and you're a devoted follower of Christ, you'll see that she's not giving up on Jesus. She's tired of the opinionated, I'm against everything, shame-messaged, cloistered in the white suburbs, take me back to the fifties Leave it To Beaver-but let me keep my money and comfort version of so-called evangelical Christianity that wore me out a long time ago.

I'm too old, too tired, and too sick to keep doing stuff that doesn't matter. I'm through with the silliness, the meanness, the fear, and the pettiness of the religious wardens.

Come on Ed. Have an opinion for heaven's sake!

My crisis of faith was my inability to separate Christ from Christians. Of course there are those in the church who are angry, wounded, mean, hypocritical, dishonest and fake. You may not have noticed but there is not a screening process to keep those people out. And they are pretty good at looking presentable when they come in the door. My family reunion would look a whole lot better if it was by invitation only. But when you get all of my relatives together you get some rough characters and a couple of great squirrel recipes. The body of Christ can not be anything but dysfunctional because it is a group of sinners in various stages of maturity in Christ or perhaps in no process of maturity at all.

But all I could see in my faith crisis were the hypocrites. The wounders. The gossipers. If I could have met Jesus at Starbucks I would have asked Him how he could love these jerks. I imagined it might go something like this. I am pretty sure that Jesus would order an extra shot Americano but I can't prove that from the text.

Jesus: So I have noticed that you are struggling a bit. We don't talk much anymore.
Me: Yeah. Your followers are making me crazy.
Jesus: Sometimes they make my heart ache too. For example, right now one of my children is missing all of the grace I want him to experience. He is missing the joy and freedom that I purchased for him. He is angry and proud and blind to his own sin. But I suffered the Cross for him. And I love him very much.
Me: (smirking) I bet he goes to my church.
Jesus: As a matter of fact he does. It's you.

That was my epiphany. I couldn't do it anymore. I needed Jesus. Following Christ is better than following His followers. But the truth is that I need that community as well. Trust me, I don't need all of them. But there is a sweet spot in the chaos that is called the room of grace. In that room are people who are tired of the self-efforting path to righteousness. There are people who look at your mess and are not repulsed. In fact they grab a towel and clean up the worst of it and promise to walk with you through the rest. They love you more instead of less as you share your junk. And you find yourself being drawn more to Christ and being effused with energy by their loving acceptance. That place does exist. I pray that Anne Rice finds it. I pray that you will find it too. Finding that room of grace saved me from quitting. I am so grateful that I found it. I give Paul the last word today…

Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. (Romans 5, NLT)

Dave Burchett

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Let's Order Take-Out




There is a Thai place down the street from my house that is to die for good. It's called Arharn Thai. I can't wait to eat there again. Coconut soup, Pad Thai rice noodles, a curry dish, or chicken satay, followed with sticky rice desert, it's heaven. Maria, when you come visit someday I will take you to that place.

But, while I could go on about this, there really is another purpose in this post, though I wanted to drool a little over thoughts of Asian foods. but what this post is really all about? I decided to hide the genuinely honest within the mundane, so only those who read this will see what's going on inside my heart. I have a need to be honest, real and sincere, and it isn't always pretty. It's not always a shiny-white sunshine Christian life. I want to express my struggles, but only to true friends. Yes, and some others may read this also, and it may even cause some embarrassment for me in those cases, but something people should know about me now.... I can't be fake. I can't put a fake smile on and act like things are not the way they are. Whenever I feel like I'm only surrounded by people that expect that from me, what I tend to do instead is withdraw. I sort of find a hiding place inside my life, inside my God, and no one will hear from me much at all, except the truly close friends who already know the real me. I have done this plenty of times and seasons over the years. People who don't know me well say I'm way too quiet and keep to myself too much. When times are going fine, people who don't know me well say I'm super out-going and have a lot of share. What? Why does that seem like a contradiction? Because it is; I'm neither of those, but I'm both.

I don't want to withdraw inside my life this time, but I also don't want to shout it out. I want to find a middle ground to express the genuine struggles of my heart. I found that middle ground, right here in the middle of this ordinary post. For those who see it, so be it, for those who don't, so be it.

So, I'm sort of lonely. I love the Lord, and I want nothing more than to serve Him, but I struggle with feeling like there isn't anything I can do for Him. Not just like the Bible says, we aren't capable alone in our own flesh, I understand this, but it feels like it goes further than that. I feel sort of... rejected. My passions and my efforts turned away. Doesn't everyone who is in Christ have a calling, isn't everyone used by God? I'm sure this is the case, but why doesn't it seem like it? I have struggled with this a lot in this life, but it was recently drawn back to the surface in a deeply heart breaking way.

Worship: I didn't seek to serve the Lord in this manner. I was content to sit in the back row of my church and worship the Lord, Him and I alone. I looooooove to worship God, and those that know me well know this about me. I never think the worship part of church is long enough, and when given the opportunity I will stay to the bitter end of any open worship time. When I got a guitar, and learned a few chords, I was often be found behind a closed door in my house, for hours, playing (not well) and singing my heart out to God. I miss doing that too, and I'm going to start again. I love the fact that God's presence is there, and He delights in that communion with us, even if we play the guitar badly. He isn't there to listen to a performance, nor be impressed with our supposed talents (the talents he even gave us to begin with) but He is there to work within our hearts.

When I get low and start to worship Him in song and prayer, He falls down to meet me there, and His touch on my life alters my heart. There isn't anything more healing, more lifting, and more edifying. His name is glorified. I love it, love it.

So why would I care to help with worship at church in front of others? I didn't really care to do that. I didn't think I had the ability, and I thought it would hinder my own worship anyway (a little selfish I know). I never even considered helping with the corporate worship time at church. But somehow this opportunity fell right in my lap. I picked it up, reluctantly, oh, veeeery reluctantly! But once I started, I learned how wrong I was. From the very first time, I could hear the people singing to the Lord, and my heart melted, and I was brought to tears. I was humbled before God beyond what words can describe. I realized I was privileged to be an instrument that God was using to bring others to lift up His name. Me, an unworthy vessel, and people were before God's throne. All of us on equal ground before the Lord, all of us glorifying Him together. I was surprised at how I loved it. I was surprised at how God was there and He was moving. I felt I had finally found something I was called to do in this life for the Lord, and was so content and blessed.

Maybe, as it turns out, I was the only one who was blessed. I hope not, but maybe that was the case. I know I have a lot to learn, and I'm not exactly this uber talented singer. So, I can understand that it is needful to have someone who is more ready for this. I don't have to be the one "up front", I'm happy to sink back into the far corner of the sanctuary and feel God filling my life. But, why was I allowed to be there at all? It only feels like I had finally found something I loved to do for the Lord, a way to serve Him, and also a way that He was actually going to use me. Something I had been searching for for years. I was serving the Lord. It was heaven. Now I barely know what happened and that door was closed in my face. It's OK, I will live, and I will get over it, but I gotta be honest, my heart is pretty broken in this time. It's really not about being "up front" but about serving Him and being able to do it with something I love doing already.

I have been praying a lot about this, and please don't think I am bitter or angry, I'm not. I have been confused a ton, but now that that is over, I'm just sad, extremely sad. God knows my heart, and I have not hidden my feelings, thoughts and honesty from Him. In fact I have even poured out my heart to Him. I'm very happy for the people who are doing the worship in my church, they are anointed and I love what God is doing through them. So there isn't any jealousy either.

It confuses me why I am so heart broken. I just felt I was a part of something, and valued and used by God. I cherished it. Now it's done. It disappeared so fast I didn't even know what hit me. I know it's all justified. There is no resentment in my heart. I want to be in God's will far more than I want to be doing something I love, that I shouldn't be doing at all. So I'm happy, if this is God's will, and I'm surrendered to it.

But God knows my heart still needs to be healed. If not from jealously, and if not bitter anger, than what does it need to be healed from? I don't know, sadness.... loneliness... embarrassment...feeling like I don't fit in- with any one, and am not being used by God. I feel I have nothing valuable to contribute, once again. Back to my un-useful, unnoticed, lonely life. I still love God with all my heart.

I think I will start playing my guitar (not well) to the Lord again; alone, behind closed doors just Him and I, to worship Him, and have my heart altered by His very presence.

Someday soon I will be healed from this, so nobody worry too much. That's what I have to say, and now I have said it.

I still want to order take out and watch a movie. Wish you were here Maria.