Archive for the Theological Category

Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?

I didn’t quote Charlie Brown exactly. But it’s close enough. This post will also be a little all over the place. Possibly.

I got a case of the ass last night. Ok, it’s not really exclusive to last night as I usually have a case of the ass over something, but a lot of the time I can keep it in check so that once I calm down I realize it really isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Last night I didn’t keep my tongue in check, or rather I let my fingers fly since I was commenting on a comment on a blog post I’ve been following. I thought I had been mercifully spared from my rash verbal vomit since my comment didn’t show up. I had already commented without using my DragonLady pseudonym, but comment #2 was with “DragonLady” making me think the comment went into the spam hole where it should have stayed. :sigh: But it didn’t, and so if you care, here is the article: It’s Not Us Against Them

I have tried to stay out of the Duck Dynasty drama just like I stayed out of the Chick-Fil-A one. For the same reason, and because it all boils down to a bunch of posturing by both supporters and opposers of Dan Cathy and now Phil Robertson. So I will go ahead and lay my cards out on the table. I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A because of being gluten free and all I ever ate there was the breaded, deep-fried chicken on a bun that I can’t eat any more. I could also mention that their “chicken” is likely of the same low quality as McDonald’s. Oh, wait. I just did. I also have never watched Duck Dynasty nor do I plan to. Generally speaking, I don’t watch TV period, but especially not “reality” TV. Which, by the way, is not real. I will occasionally watch Ice Road Truckers and the similar one with the truckers on the “most dangerous roads” whatever that show is. But I only watch those if my husband has them on and I have nothing better to do. I will also go ahead and state that yes, I believe homosexual activity (same-sex sex) is a sin, just as fornication, adultery, bestiality, and pornography are. Sexual sin is sexual sin before God who gave humans the good gift of sex to be used within the context of marriage between one man and one woman for life as he created it to be. Full disclosure, I am a former fornicator who for many years before and after marriage was addicted to various forms of pornography for the sole purpose of self-gratification. The self-gratification amounted to adultery of the heart. So I am no stranger to the bondage or consequences (which were thankfully pretty light) of sexual sin, and absolutely will not act towards others with judgement and/or condemnation who have or are committing sexual sin because I understand the desire. I have never had to deal with same sex attraction, nor with any sexual attraction to any animal. I do, however, have many gay friends, and several gay family members. I also have had at least one family member who was guilty of bestiality. Therefore, I can’t sit back in my self-righteous ivory tower looking down on homosexuals as an abstract group. They are real people with real struggles who need a real Savior just like I do for the same reason, and not because of the specific way they sin, but because we all sin. This is what I was trying to explain to Chad the other night. The end of the discussion came when he asked if you could “pray away the gay.” I told him if it were just that simple then his dad and I could just pray away the alcoholism and drug addiction.

All that said, this isn’t a post about homosexuality. Nor is it a post where I pledge my support for Mr. Cathy and Mr. Robinson. There is much more at stake in the Kingdom of God than the American right to free speech. I will give my opinion that the reason American Christians are so fired up about losing their voice and influence in the American/Western culture has less to do with standing firm for Christ and much more to do with fear of having to actually suffer for Christ. You know, the way Jesus promised us as Christians that we would suffer with Him if we really follow Him. Because our feel-good materialistic American culture that is the product of 20th century consumerism wants the good life now, and doesn’t really want to give up anything in order to have everything in Christ. We want to have our cake and eat it too.

I think it is all about comfort, and oh, how well do I know the futility of searching for comfort. Comfort is an idol for me almost as high up as my idol of pride. I’ve sought it in books, TV, food, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, sex, church, family, my parents (Mom specifically), friendships, my husband, my kids, running, biking, gaming, pets, blogs, social media. The list goes on and on and on. But none of those things or the myriad of other things bring lasting comfort. Lasting comfort is only found in Jesus. Now that is real easy for me to say, but way hard for me to believe. I know all the trite phrases. I know all the cliches. The Landmark Missionary Baptist deacon’s daughter Reagan conservative has had all the head knowledge for as long as I can remember. It all seems to fall apart when the trials hit because I have trust issues because I have Daddy issues. So knowing and believing were not one and the same for me. Out of sync, if you will. There were a few times over the past year where I spent time in prayer confessing and repenting for not trusting the only One who can be trusted. Why didn’t I trust? Because all of my little gods have always ultimately disappointed me by not becoming the lasting peace and comfort I crave.

Pastor Nate preached about comfort in the light of the Christmas narrative. In the midst of the sermon when he went from Matthew 1 to 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 and explained how Jesus is our comfort because he has already experienced the suffering we do. He and He alone really does know how we feel. Ridicule, betrayal, rejection, death of loved ones, loneliness. But he never really was alone. Not even on the cross. And a light bulb came on for me.

For he has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:24, ESV)

Sunday night, before I could forget, I wrote down some notes on what I managed to piece together (so far) about how Jesus is my comforter.

When Jesus was on the cross quoting Psalm 22, he hadn’t been forsaken by God the Father. The Father was still there, it just didn’t feel like it. Just like when we are so overcome in our trials and cannot feel God’s presence and wonder if he really is there. But He was there for Jesus and he is there for us because of Jesus. And Jesus really does know how we feel.

There was a brief moment of peace, and the comfort remains. My life circumstances are still as they were, there are still issues unresolved, but I can rest knowing and believing they will one day be resolved, and the broken will be fixed. Even me. Unearned favor. Amazing grace.

So what is Christmas all about? Christmas was the beginning of the end. Immanuel, God with us, the Creator came and lived among the created as one of us. Fully human and fully divine. Laying aside the riches and the power and the glory and honor that He rightfully owns and deserves to become the spotless sacrificial lamb of atonement. Born into poverty in a stable. His family having to flee to Egypt to protect him from being murdered by Herod as Herod slaughtered an untold number of innocent boys aged 2 and younger to protect his throne. Ultimately willingly submitting to a sham trial and torturous beating before a horrendous death by crucifixion under Roman authority to appease the religious Jews. Rising to life on the 3rd day showing that His sacrifice for our sins was accepted by the Father so that we who believe in Jesus by faith are granted grace and reconciled to God the Father though Jesus.

It’s not about our American rights or Western culture. It’s not about sex or chicken or reality TV. It’s not about whether people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It’s not about our temporal comfort. It’s about a Savior come to redeem unworthy and rebellious children.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17, ESV)

Just let it go?

Here’s a little something I’m dragging out of the drafts hole. It was written over a span of about 5 months from Sep 2011 – Jan 2012.

I had this little running “joke” with our former pastor on Sunday mornings:

Pastor: “How are you?”
Me: “Self-righteous and bitter.”
Pastor: “Alrighty then.” (or something to that effect)

I always answered it in a joking kind of way, but really, I was/am dead serious. I think he knew it. The result of being self-righteous and bitter is being angry…often. Combine that with out of control (or out of sync) hormones (that’s a story in itself, which my doc thinks is more likely linked to my diet and somewhat addressed here), and you have a volatile mix. I’m going off at the least little thing, nit-picking over insignificant things, and emotionally collapsing into tears either from sheer anger or guilt from getting so angry over something stupid. Did I mention I was never much of a cryer? But I digress.

The self-righteousness and the bitterness have been there for years, but I never really noticed them for what they were. Generally speaking, I filed them away under a blanket of righteous indignation. After all, I was right to be angry because I was being wronged, or someone I loved was being wronged.

The anger wouldn’t be such an issue if it was just anger, albeit justified anger and not getting mad over something stupid. But, even if it is “justifiable” anger, it becomes an issue when it is something I’m not letting go of.

I keep dwelling on issues when they pop up in my head. The longer I stew on them, the angrier I get, and the angrier I get the more I want to go off on a self-righteous rant letting the “offender” know just how ate up they are. I have finally realized that the things that piss me off the most are things I do myself, and more often than not involve pride.

But at the heart of the matter, it boils down to a lack of forgiveness on my part. This lack of forgiveness is most blatantly on display towards my husband. Of all the people/situations I’ve stewed over and held grudges over, I have mostly held grudges against him, and not well held under control. But it is no more or no less venomous and vile. Sheer poison. It isn’t as if he is blameless. Even he will tell people there is only one thing that I have ever adamantly put my foot down about. It’s that one hot button trigger that holds the potential to split us up. I’ve threatened divorce (with every intention of backing it up), and I’ve wished all kinds of calamity on him from arrest to death. Yes, you read that right. I have wished he would die.

That’s cold-hearted right there. Completely unloving.

I know that my response is every bit as wrong as what he does that prompts it. I can see it coming, and I pray for grace to “shut up and pray”, and I quote scripture to myself and swear I will be quiet and let it go. But more often than not, I succumb to the voice that tells me I don’t deserve be treated like that, lied to, messed with, etc, and it all goes downhill from there. But then a day or two later, it’s over, we pick up and try again or just avoid any mention of what went down…pretending nothing ever happened and all is well. But it’s not. The hurt is still there. The broken promises still there. The “I want what I want and I want it on my terms” is still there, even when we confess and apologize to each other afterward. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m left with questions. Why can’t I let go of the bitterness and resentment, and just forgive? Why do I insist on hanging on to it when I really don’t want it and know that it just eats me up?

Just to bring this up to date, my diet wasn’t the issue with my out of control emotions. In many ways it was a result, and that still remains an issue. Also divorce has been taken off the table as an option. I will add that once that no longer became an option, things got worse. WAY worse. I also have answered those 2 questions, and well, I pretty much had answered it within the original post. Self-righteousness for one, but victimhood also.

The solution is constant prayer. Constant preaching the gospel to myself. Constant reminder that the old me died with Jesus, and I’ve been set free from the bondage of self-gratification. Constant reminder that I am not God, that He sees what I can’t, and that He is in control. Constant reminder that He never promised ease and comfort in this life. Constant reminder of 1 Corinthians love. Constant reminder that I live in a broken and fallen world, and I am still a work in progress. Constant reminder to be thankful always.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, ESV)

Get a hold of yourself

I heard that a lot growing up. I’m pretty sure my dad was the one who would say it to me, but it could have been my mom or both of them. It was a warning when I would get either too excited and was starting to get too “rambunctious” or was working up to a meltdown over something. It was a long way of saying “calm down” or “chill out.” Without that outside discipline, I would have been wide-open, full-throttle all the time. I just never really developed that as a self-discipline whether happy, sad, angry, or whatever so that out on my own, there was little restraint in acting out.

Slowly, I have come to understand that acting out rather than taking a moment or so to “get a hold of myself” results in destructive behavior one way or another. No matter the circumstances I tend to speak or act without thinking about the effect on others. Or I sit and stew on it internalizing until I end up metaphorically vomiting on someone who probably didn’t have anything to do with what I was stewing on. Or I just act out without knowing all the facts and/or giving the benefit of the doubt and then find out I was completely wrong about the whole situation.

The past few weeks, there has been a recurrent theme popping up in sermons I’m listening to (both at my church, and podcasts), some of the blogs I read, and a book I’m currently reading. When the same thing keeps popping up, it’s a good indication that I need to be paying close attention. And so I’ve been mulling all this over. Chewing on it, if you will. It makes perfect sense, but there was just still a little bit gnawing at me with it with regards to application. Sometimes I’m slow. For instance, years ago, I heard a sermon (I think it was more of a series of sermons) about a particular topic. I “got it,” but I wholeheartedly disagreed, and therefore didn’t believe it applied to me at all. Years later, I heard another sermon, and “got it” to the point of believing it applied to me. I even heard another teacher teach on it, fully agreeing, and later found myself chewing it all over when the light bulb went off. It was the same thing I had heard as a kid and completely rejected, and this time I really “got it.” The whole concept. Better late than never right? ;)

Anyway, I’m now seeing a twist to this latest thing that I hadn’t expected. Since I have already put it out there once, I’ll put it out there again. Because that’s how I roll. My husband is an alcoholic/drug addict, and it is a sickness that spreads throughout the entire family. I struggle with it probably as much as he does because I think (wrongly) that it should be easier for him to give up the drugs and alcohol than it is. I fall into that thinking because I was relatively easily delivered from my porn addiction (which was just a portion of the problem). When my drinking gets to be “problem drinking,” it’s relatively easy for me to just not drink. I can carry around percocet with me 24×7 and not take it. But then I “conveniently” forget how hard it was to quit smoking and stay quit. And how many years I would still crave a cigarette. I still got an occasional craving.

But since I forget what is difficult for me, I fall into that trap of thinking I know the solution. “Just go to AA! You know it works!” Here’s the problem. He said once that at AA all they talk about is drinking, and that just makes him want to drink. That did not make a lick of sense to me despite the fact that I can spot a lit cigarette smouldering in the street as I am driving and crave so bad it takes every bit of willpower I have not to stop and buy a pack. I think it was Pastor Benji who was talking about what we concentrate on saying that for an alcoholic that’s trying to quit drinking by saying “Don’t drink! Don’t drink!” over and over to themselves is always thinking about drinking. And so, eventually, they will drink again. And now I get it.

Therefore, all the sermons, blogs, and the book are all saying the same thing. If you are always (or mostly) thinking about not committing a particular sin (or sins), your focus is on the wrong thing. It’s not merely a battle of wills. It’s like when Jesus was walking on the water toward the boat the disciples were in, and had Peter to walk out to him. Peter was walking on the water just fine as long as he was looking at Jesus. When he looked at the wind and the waves, he began to sink. He lost his focus on who was keeping him on top of the water in the storm. If any of us could overcome our sin by sheer willpower, we wouldn’t need Jesus at any point in our lives. Bottom line, we never stop needing Jesus. So instead of looking at our temptations and trying to overcome it by white-knuckling through the weakness, we need to look to Jesus and reach out to him. We will be overcome with exhaustion eventually trying to do it ourselves, but He will never let us go.

Rather than “getting a hold of myself,” I need to let go of myself. Rather than spending my energy on trying not to do what I don’t want to do, focus on doing what I know to be good, looking to Jesus to lead me where He wants me.

“Love never ends.”

Last week I was in quite the mood. This week, I would really like to take a different tone. Not that I am not still angry over what happened, but because the last time I held onto and dwelled on some incident that happened there, I ended up with a physical demonic attack.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV)

So, since there isn’t anything I can really do (besides either blog about it, or go get in someone’s face), I “let go and let God.” Sometimes I have to do that multiple times a day. ;)

I wrote about demons a couple of weeks ago because I don’t think (at least among the more conservative/fundamental churches), spiritual warfare is being taught in a way that prepares believers to fight. Spiritual warfare is not simply a battle of wills within your mind. The battle of wills is putting sin to death within you. But I digress, and I’ve already written that post.

I think something else that has been neglected in being fully taught is love. And therefore, we have a culture that largely has no idea what love is both inside and outside the church. We largely equate love with affection for another person or sexual attraction to another person or even pity or sympathy. Each of those can and do operate outside of actual love. Because love isn’t about what you get out of it.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV)

Love honors “for better or for worse.” It’s what can recognize the repentance of an adulterous spouse, forgiving and remaining. It is what stays with the alcoholic drug addict when almost everyone tells them to boot them to the curb. Even when they deserve to be booted to the curb. Love doesn’t care what your social class is. Love doesn’t care what color skin you have. Love doesn’t care what political party you belong to or even whether or not you belong to one. Love doesn’t provide a list of rules to earn the love because love knows everyone is created in the image of God and no one can ever be good enough to earn the grace that Jesus provides through his death, burial, and resurrection.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11, ESV)

Love doesn’t wish ill on others. Love doesn’t dance on graves. Love reaches out to the broken.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21, ESV)

When I started this post, I didn’t know how in the world I would write it. It just seemed so hard, probably because I am still learning how to truly love. Turns out, though, that the scriptures speak more than I ever could. And I fail so often on most of these. But I will wrap this up with one final appeal to the church. First, always remember that even we who are believers were once enemies of God, and were reconciled only because the Holy Spirit drew us and enlightened to us the once for all sacrifice that Jesus did for us enabling us with the faith to believe in him as Savior and make him the Lord of our lives. We have done nothing to make ourselves better than unbelievers nor one another. Jesus did it all, and He did it because he loves us.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11, ESV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35, ESV)