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Archive for the ‘God’s love’ Category

A Slow Growth

God is Brilliant!

I had a thought the other day while eating.  I eat because I like flavors and tend to eat too much.  And then food just sits in my stomach trying to digest, so I suffer for about an hour with the idea that I’ve apparently enjoyed a meal.  Basically I’ve caught myself in gluttony.

No this isn’t a post on the seven deadly sins.  I could count on six hundred fingers and toes the list of imperfect things about me.  And as I was sitting in Starbucks, I had a thought.  When we choose to follow Jesus we don’t become perfect in the sense that we stop screwing up.  And I was wondering out loud, why?  Why wouldn’t God create a situation where being empowered by the Holy Spirit immediately changes you to perfection?  It would seem to make sense, wouldn’t it.

But it doesn’t work like that.  The path to restoration is often painfully slow.

The Scriptures tells me that God still loves me.  I am being redeemed.  And to be honest some days I feel like God is not keeping up his ends of the bargain.  “Bring on the wholeness already.  I really am ready for it God.”  But I’m not done. I am then reminded of the days that I have felt done, that I have it all figured out.  What an ass I am.

And then I begin to realize that the problem isn’t God.  The real problem is me. I’m broken.   To follow Jesus puts me at odds with my brokenness.  When I stare myself in the face, I see the flaws and problems that I have inherited but refuse to let go of.  And it is at this moment that I am astounded that God can actually love me.  It would be easy to love Jesus.  He was perfect.  But how can God actually love me?  I sometimes don’t get it.

What if the problem is not simply our brokenness, which God tends to remove slowly and over time, but our ability to receive His love in spite of it.  My brokenness demands a verdict.  It shouts from the rooftops and begs to be heard.  And I can run, ignoring the bullhorn of my stupidity and feeble attempts at humanity, or I can face it and deal with its truth.  One requires courage and one a good pair of running shoes.

So I ponder the reality that my brokenness reflects the brilliance of His love.  It reveals God’s glorious nature, which is that He actually loves me…even in my brokenness.    Could I actually be of value to God, my Father?  Could love actually transcend my brokenness.  I want to know this God who could actually love me.  His love asks me to love my self at the deepest levels of my soul, to care for it and surrender it to back into the hands of my Father.

And this love doesn’t stop at my brokenness.  It calls me forward, to address my wounds, to confront the divides that have destroyed relationship.  It calls me to remove the obstacles between us.  I no longer want to walk away from but run to this God. And then it hit me.  Part of my restoration is my own participation in growing up.  If everything is done for me, if I never have to surrender, then I’m simply a passive observer. But if part of my growth requires me to get involved, to let go of my own bullshit, then I’m always being called into something.

When I look back on the journey, I realize that it was in the fumbling and falling that I was given the choice to continue.  Would I get back up?  And when I got back up, I was choosing to accept that love, to believe what my Father had told me.  And then I stand there realizing that it was the slow growth that made the story.  It was real.  It was true.  And it was mine.

Listening to: Mercy Street by Peter Gabriel

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The Older Brother

I love grace but I wrestle with her nature.  Her arms are wide and inviting, embracing and perfecting. She comes with a sweet aroma and a welcoming smile to all who would see her.  And I often wonder if grace will be a thousand times better than we could ever imagine, infinitely more than we every thought.

I often wonder if the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son is what some people will feel like in the Kingdom of God.  They will say,

“How in the hell did YOU get in here.  This isn’t supposed to happen.  What about what I did?”

I think we’re all going to be surprised.

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I’m never gonna get tired of saying it.  God loves us more than we can possible imagine.

Recently I had the pleasure of going to dinner and a movie with some friends.  One of my friends brought his 10 year old son.  Most of the dinner was the guys having the conversation we have: work, sports, wives, stuff.  But during dinner I notice my friends son was fixated on his dad.  He was looking up at his dad as he was talking.  And the look was that of a young boy saying, “This is my daddy.”  It was worship.

And I sat there staring at his son, enjoying the awareness that this little boy knew he was loved.  He drew his strength and power from his daddy.  Things were right in the world because his daddy was there.  He didn’t have to impress us.  He shared in our conversation with ease and confidence.  In fact, I later learned that he is not normally that outgoing.  But in the wing of his daddy, he could discover his courage.

I know so many of us had father’s who were broken.  I did.  And life turned when I learned that God was my Daddy, who loved me more than I could imagine.  He was right there, waiting for me, embracing me, and validating me with the resounding sound of my dignity.  And I knew I was loved. I knew that God could see beyond my brokenness to what He had created.  I was His son, and He was my Daddy. It was worship.

So today, right now, revel in His love for you.

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Def Poetry God Style

Hosea 11

1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.

3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize it was I who healed them.

4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love;
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them
because they refuse to repent?

6 Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates
and put an end to their plans.

7 My people are determined to turn from me.
Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them.

8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.

9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

10 They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion.
When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west.

11 They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria.
I will settle them in their homes,” declares the LORD.

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This is the story of my ongoing resurrection.  And sometimes I don’t like it.

“I do not believe Christians are called to believe in the resurrection of Christ.  I believe we are called to be the resurrection of Christ.  To be the site where resurrection takes place.”

This quote, from an interview with Peter Rollins, has been sitting in the back of my mind since I read it.

The truth is, I want to be done.  I don’t want to be in process.  I don’t want to be reminded tomorrow by a still, small voice of how I am participating in my own destruction.  I want to be complete and whole.

Sometimes I “feel His pleasure” and I sit back reveling in his grace.  I bask in the glory of love and the fruit of when I participate.  I sit back and enjoy His hand in my life, shaping me, molding me, producing wonderful fruit that is so enjoyable and tasty.  This is the life I was designed for.  This is the life I want to lead.

And then I go and screw it all up.  I bite right into the temptation to strike back at my neighbor or brother.  I lose site of who I am.  And these moments invite me to judge myself, to take His place on the judgment seat and crucify myself.  Each moment that my brokenness rears its ugly head, I am invited to wonder if He still loves me.  The voices inside my head shout very loudly, “How can you still love me?”  Because grace is such an unnatural thing.  Its stupid good.

And at that moment, the second temptation is to fake it.  It’s just easier to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is fine, to hold onto the condemnation that destroys my heart.  On the outside everything is fine.  On the inside my heart feels like it is being crushed.  And what is really funny, or sad depending on your point of view, is that everyone around me can see it.  They can see the stale aftertaste of a life fermenting in its own crap.  It’s just so obvious.

This is the moment of resurrection.  This is the moment when my Father calls me to the road less traveled, to participate with him in my restoration.  This is the moment of trust when I need, no want, to believe that grace really is the rule of life.  And as I take the risk, He then he gently takes my hand and leads me to the mercy seat, reminding me that the cross is still reigning supreme.  He reminds me that to harm others is to harm myself.  To love others is to love myself.  Which one do I choose to participate in?

And this is the thing.  Resurrection is an ongoing process.  It’s didn’t just happen but is happening in my life.    I’m still a work in progress.  It requires me to admit that I’m broken, that I don’t have it all together, that I still have work to do.  I can’t hide.  I can’t fake it.  I have to trust that He establishes me, not my neighbor.

So resurrect me Father, so that I may reveal your glory.

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You have to watch the video to get what this post is about but I can almost guarantee it is worth every second of the 18 minutes of your life you will invest.

About seven years ago Benjamin Zander spoke at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit.  For everyone there he was only second to Bill Clinton, and a close second at that.  He spoke of the posture of possibility and how to awaken that in our lives.

Much of Zander’s concepts come from one button playing, which is the moment when the musician stops thinking about the individual notes and focuses on the beauty of the music, enjoying the story the is found within it.  This type of musician has crossed over to a deeper level of playing.

And his concept of one buttock playing struck me then as it did now when I watched this video.  It made me ask, “What does one buttock Christianity look like?”  What does it look like when we have reached a place when we can stop thinking about, “Am I doing this right,” which begs the question of performance, and start enjoying His music that is played in our lives?  How do we ultimately participate in a way allows God to bring out His masterpiece in our lives, the one that looks like Jesus.

Zander says, “Because for me to join the B to the E I have to stop thinking about every single note along the way and start thinking about the long, long line from B to E.”

I believe this comes through surrender.  It comes when we take the risk to let go of control and trust that God really does love us, and is not determined by what we do, but instead by who we are, His children.  It is at this moment that we can sit back and enjoy the long line of notes that He is playing in our lives.

How are you enjoying the notes?

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Okay my post The Wrath of God Is Love spurred an interesting conversation. My point seemed to get lost a bit that God’s love is sometimes bigger than we want to admit. But it also “seemed” to bring out the old grace vs holiness, love vs. sovereignty question, reminiscent of this post and this post.

And my question is, “Are sovereignty and love in opposition?” I would suggest they are in unity. God’s sovereignty is fully expressed in His desire and willingness to love in spite of our brokenness. And I would also suggest that love has always been God’s judgment. This is the cross.

I know that I talk a lot about love. To me, Missio Dei is an expression of God’s love for His creation. It is also an expression of His desire for wholeness for His creation. And there are those who comment here that have come to the conclusion that I am unbalanced in my approach, that love takes too much of my view of God. I’m okay with that, nor would I attempt to change that. And here’s why.

If God is sovereign, which I hold He is, I really have no part in that. He just is. God created me and I am here. His sovereignty is much like the question, “Does God exist?” This to me is not that important of a question.  I take great risk in saying He doesn’t but I take a greater risk in exploring the possibility that He does.  And if He does, but He doesn’t love me, what difference does it make? Not much from my perspective. Who am I to question God and if I do, I look like a fool. Job revealed the folly of even trying to do so.

Much of God’s responses in Scripture is in spite of humanity’s brokenness and their unwillingness to see their own brokenness. Yet God still responds with love. Why? This leads me to what I see as the real question.

Does God loves me? That to me is the question for humanity. It was always love that transformed humanity. This is the message of the cross.  God chose to love us and proved it in such a profound way that it looks silly to the world.

I would offer that wholeness (holiness) comes out of being loved, and receiving grace, not obedience to a tenet or belief system that somehow earns something. That’s religion.  I don’t love God because He is simply sovereign, or because I have to. God doesn’t force me to love him. I love God because He first chose to love me. I get to. Jesus understood that following His Father’s voice was the best possible option, not just the “right” thing to do.

This is the brilliance of the story to me. That God is not like the other gods we create. He’s relational and interested in my restoration. He wants to interact with me and love me. He longs to spend time with me and hear my thoughts, even though he already knows them. He longs to seem me restored to wholeness, which is best expressed in the restored relaitonship He seeks.

And I think the real issue here is that sovereignty of God is that He gets to love us, even when we don’t like it. This was the story of the prodigal son, and the cross, Jesus’ message to restore Peter, to Paul on the road to Damascus, God’s bringing Israel out of Egypt, His covenant with Abraham, and essentially the entirety of Scriptures. God is love even when we don’t expect him to be. And we ask how can a God do this? Yet it is love that seems to get lost in our message to the world. I also write about love because so much of church theology completely misses love. I’m not really interested in knowing about God. I want to know my Father, the one who calls me to relate to him as Daddy. There are enough theologians writing about what to memorize or how sovereign God is. I just want to remind them that God gets to love us too.

So does love come out of sovereignty?  Maybe.  I don’t really know.  It’s definitely possible.  And if it does, then I’m perfectly fine with that.  But I don’t think there is any other choice for God but to love.  It’s the fullest expression of His character.  And to say that God would choose anything other than love presents a profound paradox that to me is not possible to solve, and one that the story doesn’t paint.

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As an aside, I recognize my role in this blog and to those who read it. I take it very seriously and seek to find what is true. I welcome the conversation, even when it is different than my own. I know that there will be tense moments. Each of us is coming from a different perspective. Written language is sometimes tough to fully comprehend. I only ask that you be gracious in your comments.

Will we get some stuff wrong? Sure. Each of us is broken and no one holds a patent on truth. But we are under grace to explore our Father the living God, so lets enjoy it.

Listening to: The silence of the Palms Springs desert wind

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