Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Twitterverse and ignorance in Baltimore

You might say I am late to the game on the situation in Baltimore . . . 

I disagree.  I think it was best to wait.

Like you, I looked at what people were saying.  At times Twitter had me nodding in agreement and then at other times want to throw at cat through a window.  Clearly, it was too early to draw conclusions.  Everyone was looking for a Tweetable thought.  Which means the thoughts were not the most thought-through-thoughts.  Trying to capture a moment when it is happening loses the importance of the moment.  What you say is more of a flashpoint . . . saying more about your own bias than what is really happening.   

For example, one of my friends posted: "they are like animals . . . just proving their stereotype."

Excuse me?  What stereotype would that be?  Perhaps it is proving your stereotype?  Some people would de-friend or unfollow such bigotry but I like to hope the future gives me influence over narrow minded racism.  One can only hope.

Or how about this: "If there is so much misery, unemployment and lack of opportunity for young people in Baltimore, how about MOVING!!!"

Tell me that doesn't sound like Marie Antoinette . . . 

I can't begin to fathom the lack of understanding about human nature this demonstrates.  There are a series of social, economic and educational forces that bring people to a point where they want to burn the place that they live.  This is truth we can't deny.  Of course that doesn't absolve the person who is doing it from personal responsibility.

Listen - every person who trashed downtown Baltimore last week made a conscious choice to do something really stupid, and no amount of racial, economic, social or political force makes a person make a really stupid choice.  And sometimes people cloak their desire to want to be a thug with something attractive like 'social justice.'

However . . . 

Even the most callous of us wants to figure out why someone would burn their own room down.  You are right to say that the looters are to blame for Baltimore, period.  But we can't stop at culpability - we have the responsibility as humans to lift each other up.  If we know better, we need to help others know better.  So to say that they should just move is light years from any understanding on what is going on among those who feel oppressed in our country.  

I really loved the meme that said Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, she didn't burn the bus down.  That was a good one.  It is true - she was part of a strategy to address injustice and it won in the end.  King said it: Hate breeds hate.  Darkness never overcomes darkness.

So I guess the question is "what are we going to learn from this?"  Is John Stewart right?  Will we all, "breathe a collective sigh of relief" when the news coverage goes away and we can get back to our main areas of concern?  Will we feel better when the burned-out CVS is rebuilt?  Or will we really address what is going on with racism in our country?  Something tells me that bodycams on policemen will only add fuel to the fire.  Just peruse the YouTube channels of violent police and gang  interactions.  Body cams will just give us more high adrenaline snippets of policemen and gangs  (completely void of any context) and only serving to stir up passions and the accompanying racism.  

It makes me think of the Tweet I saw:

"Telling me I'm obsessed with racism is like telling me I'm obsessed with swimming when I'm drowning."   

This comes from someone who lives it.  For many of us it is an 'issue' or 'problem' (as in "what do we do with the 'problem' of racism?)  What would I do if it defined me and where I lived and whether I could get a job to move out of an undesirable area?  

So I think now is a good time, as the tensions begin to subside, to start talking about how we move forward.  No more knee-jerk reactions.  No torching streets and throwing garbage - stomping on windshields and brawling in the street.  

Similarly, no uninvested semi-racist musings as we watch from the 'burbs and treat the whole issue like it is so easy to fix "if they would just move out."  If you are a Jesus follower it is actually part of the job . . . we are invested in justice and righteousness.

"No, Oh people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God."  Micah 6:8

And that starts with what we say.  So chose wisely.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bruce Jenner's path to peace as a woman (with video link to 70's commercial)

The earliest memories I have of Bruce Jenner are of him crossing the finish line at the Olympic Decathlon - now the famous Wheaties Box cover.  If you can remember back that far, the jingle went something like, "pour it on, pour it on, you're a champion pour it on!"

It made me want to run very fast and throw long, pointed objects.  Of course at 6 or 7 that is your job.

So fast forward a few decades and you find Bruce Jenner on a reality TV program with several narcissistic women we know as the Kardashians.  He eventually eclipses their fame by revealing that he has all along wanted to become a woman. 

Wait.  What?

Yes, even during his first marriage he divulged to his wife that he wanted to become a woman.  

And why shouldn't he?  If that is what he really wants and what will help him to feel more alive, then why shouldn't he express everything that he feels within?  

And that is the million dollar question . . . but we don't realize it.  The question really isn't a question - it is a statement of our time.  We think expression of our desires brings happiness so Jenner should become a woman if he wants . . . but is expression helping or hurting?

Did we ever stop to think of what a frail sense of person hood and well-being is linked to unrestrained expression of our desires?  Is it possible that the road to happiness is paved with the difficulty of becoming something you are not, rather than nurturing something you already are?  Like an athlete you train to conform to the goal of something you are not yet.  We too readily accept that happiness is expression of who we are rather than its denial for something greater.   

When I was about 12 years old, I remember seeing Caddyshack on TV and there were a few risque moments that looked mysteriously interesting to my 12 year old eyes.  I remember running to check out a Bible to see if it was a sin to have sex before marriage.  I read a few things that indeed clarified sex should wait until marriage.  So I watched the rest of the movie and moved on with my life.

I figured God's rhythm should trump mine.

And it is still true.  Becoming more like Christ is the pathway to being at peace with yourself - even if it means not expressing your inner desires. 

Oh and by the way, this has nothing to do with sexual identity.  Bruce has not described himself as gay.  In fact what is so refreshing about this is how it confounds interviewers to have to separate Bruce's sense of identity from his sexual proclivities.  Hmmmm . . . your identity is not bound to your sexuality . . . *scratching chin* 

So Bruce should be able to do whatever he wants - it is a free country.  God has given us freedom to do what we please, just don't think that whatever we want to do gives us happiness with the unrestrained practice of it.  I want Bruce to be at peace with himself - but will changing into a woman really do it?  I don't think so.  The path to peace isn't external, it is internal.

Romans 12:1-2 sums it up nicely:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.   Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Check here for the Bruce Jenner commercial from the 70's.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

God delivers us from our fear

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fearhim,
  and he delivers them.
Psalm 34:4-7

Every single one of us has been to the land of worry, regret and anxiety.  Something we did or didn't do.  A diagnosis.  An argument.  A decision about your future that doesn't rest in your hands.  It reminds us how fragile our peace (and sometimes our life) really is.  

Funny though, without these moments we don't realize how much we need God and His strength to get through it all.  In fact life can be an interesting pendulum in which we swing from self-centered assurance to broken God-dependence.  The best times seem to be in between when we know enough to lean on God but not have the urgent need to.

God does deliver us from our fears, but only if we trade our fears of this life with the proper fear of Him.  Sometimes we miss the subtlety of  the fear of God.  We aren't scared of God, just scared of losing the only good thing in our lives.  I have a healthy fear of my wife.  I am not scared of her, I have a healthy fear and respect for keeping our relationship good  (because I don't want to lose it). 

The same is with our fear of God.  We shouldn't fear 'losing' God but it is healthy to have a fear of ruining the way He works in our lives.  Sometimes God works through difficulty, so don't underestimate His love.  Don't feel like you need to add to His work through deceit or manipulation.  Don't take Him for granted.  God is not a lucky rabbit's foot.  You don't put coins in and expect blessing to come out.  God is someone who loves us and fights for us . . . and sometimes He has to fight our desire to put Him in a box.

So take courage today.  The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him.  You have a God who fights for you.  Don't fear what your coworkers say.  Don't fear the prognosis.  Don't fear the upcoming performance review.  Don't fear that strained relationship.  Get your fears in order.  Pull yourself together and fear God.  Fear messing up the only good thing in your life and you will find that everything else falls into place.

In time God delivers us from all our fears.  He just needs to be God in your life in order for that to happen.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tim Tebow as an Eagle

This totally goes against every shred of reason, but here goes:

If Tim Tebow signs with the Eagles, and . . .

If the Eagles assign him the role of quarterback (and not run blocker, punt team or locker room leader)  and . . .

If Chip Kelly doesn't trade up for Mariota this season . . .

I think Tim Tebow is going to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and I think he is going to be a huge surprise to everyone.  

I know I could eat those words, but you gotta live a little.  Listen to some of the rationale:

  • Tom House - the quarterback whisperer - has worked out with Tebow for the last 18 months and says "he's fixed."
  • This guy works like a horse.  His video of working out in college included pushing a Cadillac Escalade up a hill.  He is still working like a horse - this guy is going to make an impact.
  • As ugly as it may seem sometimes, don't forget how many times he won in Denver when it seemed ridiculous.  This is a comeback kid.
I normally don't dabble too much in athlete prospecting.  Usually athletes that try to sincerely follow God in their lives wind up performing poorly post-conversion (Deion Sanders is a spectacular example of this).  But I don't know, this could be a very interesting year if all the factors come into place.

Look for it.

If Bradford is our quarterback just watch . . . He will get hurt.  Sanchez will step in and get hurt and we will all slap our foreheads and say, "oh no, Tebow."

And then it will happen.  Mourning will turn to dancing.  Gnashing of teeth will give way to trash talking.  Women will buy millions of pink Tebow jerseys.

And I will have united theology and sports as I watch God lift up the underdog once again.

 . . . but it is a very big set of ifs.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Inspired by friends who put gay on hold to follow Jesus

Over the last several weeks I have been involved in a project that sought to talk about a few 'hot-button' topics with high school students.  

Last night we led into the series and started with the discussion about homosexuality.  I felt like we needed to state the obvious:  The Church has been plenty guilty of judging those who struggle with homosexual temptation.  No one is headed for hell just because they struggle with sin - if that were true we are all in trouble.  In fact it is interesting that sometimes uber-judgmental Christians will quote from the New Testament book of Romans in pointing the finger at homosexuals.  They neglect to mention that in the same passage and the adjoining chapter about 20 other sins make the list.  Sins that we are all guilty of.

The verdict?  We are all messed up.  

The truth is that we will all spend the rest of our lives struggling to abstain from the sins that we want to wallow in.  If you think that it is your job as a Christian to judge anyone, you have missed the point of what Paul is saying in the very next sentence "whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

Paul cranks it up a few verses later by saying . . .
"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?"

So it seems like we should all help each other stay out of sin through kindness and patience.  We hold hands with each other and walk in repentance.  Whether our sin du jour is homosexual acts, using people to get what you want, cruising porn sites on your phone or not reporting your tips at the end of your shift - we help each other walk away from sin by being invested in each others' lives.  If you aren't invested, you have no voice.  

It went well and we had hundreds of teenagers (gay, straight and whatever labels are flying around out there)  engaged in serious discussion about what it means to follow God.  It was kind of nice to hear from all over Southeastern Pa that we could talk about something so divisive and people walked away feeling respected.

But that isn't the reason that I write this.  I am writing this because I am so deeply impressed by the Christians who struggle with homosexual desire that have helped us develop this material.  One is a student in High School, one is in his mid-twenties and the other has a family of his own.  They are all seeking God's best and that involves abstaining from their homosexual attractions.

Understatement alert:  This is no walk in the park.  None of them are cured.  Daily they struggle to resist temptation as well as labels that society gives them.  I am very deeply moved at the depth of their character and commitment to Christ.  Their faith is easily deeper and stronger than my own.  Truly, I look up to them and want to be like them in their commitment to their faith.

And this never gets talked about.  You need to hear this.  Others need to hear this.  There are people who love Jesus so much that they have put their sexual drives on hold to follow God.  That is hugely inspiring to me.  One of the guys shared with me that there is no switch, no counseling and no pill to take to make it all go away.  He never chose homosexual desire and he would love to wake up tomorrow with the entire struggle gone.

And this was the most interesting point:

He said that for years he thought that maybe his healing would come if he just did something right - right praying, right faith . . . right something.  But the healing isn't freedom from temptation.  The wholeness and healing is in how close you are drawn to God as the result of obedience.  Obedience in the midst of temptation means you have to trust entirely on God's strength.  The wholeness is in how dramatically it illustrates how weak we are and how much we really need God.  It is because of the weaknesses that we have that we have to reach out to God to make it through.  So in a way obedience makes us stronger through our weakness.

Paul also had a difficulty that he prayed for deliverance from . . . and God did not 'heal' him.  Some think it was a medical condition with his eyes, but look at what Paul says about his affliction:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.        2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Sometimes when the 'healing' doesn't come, it is a pathway to a depth of relationship with God that others will only wish they knew.  I am so grateful to be inspired by these men and their devotion to God.  I hope this helps you understand the depth of faith among our gay brothers and sisters in Christ.  This needs to be heard.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bigger than the Clintons - don't let the race cloud the Grace.

Just so you know, I am a fan of opinion - good, well-thought-out, sincere and invested opinion.  It may not be what I believe or think to be right, but I love to hear people's views on everything from religion to politics.  Part of the excitement about being alive is hearing what people think can improve the world.  I am neither red nor blue - kind of an omnivore when it comes to ideas.

That is why when I see that Hillary Clinton is running for President, it gets me eager to hear what people think.  There are going to be a ton of people who love her and want a woman as president and a ton of people who think the exact opposite.  There will be the usual dividing lines of left and right and the accompanying camp-mentality that divides people (which makes this subject so intolerable for many).  

So just ease up people - life is too short to think that someone hates you because they disagree.

Let's enjoy the drama being played out in front of us.  As I was thinking about the upcoming primary season, I immediately thought that people would be sick of Bush and Clinton again.  When else in politics have there been so many re-runs?

(. . . well, actually there are those stints of divine-right rulers from Europe.  Names like Charles, James and Henry that dominated the news for millennia.  But they got to power by intrigue, back-room dealing, murder and playing on people's understanding of God and spirituality.)

This is totally different, right?

We are talking about democratic elections here.  People have the right to choose who they want to have lead them.  And it looks like we are about to go down the road of potentially choosing another Clinton in the White House.

And then it hit me - 1992 is almost 25 years ago.

Weird.  I work with High School Students.  None of them remember Operation Desert Storm.  None of them remember Ross Perot, Dan Quayle, "I created the Internet," and Monica Lewinsky.  

The last time a Clinton was in the White House was 15 years ago.  Is it possible that some younger voters will look at the upcoming White House run with fresh eyes and see only a woman running for president?  They won't look at the name Clinton with the rosy glow of the Dot Com bubble (we had a tax surplus?!) or the of the negative baggage of the Clinton Whitewater scandal.   Crazy to think that they might look at her and think . . . "oh yeah, the Grandmom."

Admittedly that is a small chunk of the voting public - and a chunk that routinely doesn't show up to vote.  Those who remember 1992 may side with Barbara Bush who has had enough of a Bush or a Clinton in the White House.  It seems some may think it is time for a change.  (As proof, I dropped the link for SNL's latest Hillary sketch at the end of the article.)

Here is what every Christian should definitely be careful of:  Christian political doomsday conversations.

Remember God works what He works with or without the White House's consent.  We won't win or lose God's favor in an election cycle.  The greatest democratic experiment took place when God gave us the free will to choose the way of Grace instead of the grave.  Work hard to see as many people come to settle their accounts with God and have peace with their Father in Heaven.  How the budget gets spent is really fluff in comparison.  

And remember that some of those conversations about eternity will start in the political arena.  So be nice.  Pause before you post - you could be shutting someone down with what you say - don't let the race cloud the Grace.

Of course . . . we can have a little fun, as long as everyone is laughing.

Here is the link to the Hillary sketch on SNL last weekend.  

 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:3-4

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Could you forgive the person who shot your son 8 times?

One of the biggest stories to emerge from the Walter Scott shooting in South Carolina has to do with Walter's mother.  

In case you hadn't heard, last Saturday a routine traffic stop led to a scuffle and then shots as Walter Scott ran away from policeman Michael Slager.  Slager fired eight shots as Scott ran through an abandoned lot.  Walter Scott lost his life after being pulled over for a broken taillight.    

Now I understand that nothing is ever that simple.  Great question is why were they wrestling in the midst of all of this.  I am sure both of them contributed to the encounter, but it shouldn't have ended this way.  A man is dead.  A son is gone.  A father is missed.

But the real story is his mother.
When Anderson Cooper interviewed his mother after the incident, I was struck by her faith.

When they asked her about the incident, she obviously showed that she is really grieving.  Cooper asks her about her son and how she feels.  Judy Scott said,  "He was a loving son, a loving father, he cared about his family . . .  No matter what happens it will not replace my son."

When asked if justice will be done she answered,  "I believe in God . . . The God I serve is able . . . God will fix it."

She even alluded to the person who shot the video, calling him the "the ram in the bush."  This is a reference to Abraham who was about to lose his son to a sacrifice.  God provided a ram caught in a thicket.  It is a symbol of God's mercy.  I can't believe that she is even able to see God's mercy in all of this.  I doubt that I could at this point.

I especially love how she models forgiveness.

"I am supposed to be really angry and upset and raging and all that but I can't because of the love of God in me . . . I feel forgiveness in my heart even for the guy who shot and killed my son"


I would probably know mentally that I need to forgive, but there is no way that I could feel forgiveness in my heart.  Not at this stage.  I would want revenge.  I could not be as forgiving.  I am not saying I am right.  She most definitely is an inspiration in her faith.

I just wish since that such a dear, sweet woman didn't have to be the one to show us how it is done.  She doesn't deserve this.

Watch the video here

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Day 9: Easter . . .

Very early in the morning, what would have been the first day of their workweek, some ladies go to the tomb to complete the burial process for Jesus.  They could not do it on Saturday because it was the Sabbath - a day of rest.

We miss this little irony in the Easter story.  Women went to the tomb.

Who were the last ones to see Jesus alive?  Women.  Who sat and cried at His feet?  Women.  Who are the first ones to head to the tomb?


No, this isn't some women's-rights thing, keep reading.

We forget that Jesus had one of the most liberating approaches to the station of women in His day.  Often you will hear Jesus in the books of Matthew and Luke share parables that include things like women's work (kneading flour, finding a lost coin).  Hebrew scholar Kenneth Bailey says this is significant because talking about women's work among men was considered rude . . . unless there were women present.  Bailey's conclusion is that not only did Jesus directly address and challenge women in matters of discipleship but He also included them in His teaching.

This was at a time when women were supposed to walk behind their husbands in the marketplace and even greeting you daughter in the marketplace was looked down upon.  Men and women sat separately at public functions.  Women were often seen as property.  Jesus seems to not care as much about some of these social rules - especially in John Chapter 4 where He just strikes up a conversation with a woman in public.

So obviously women were pretty important to God,  but again, this is not about feminist theology - we're getting there, be patient.

The key is in the detail of the story.  In Jewish culture, women were seen as emotionally unstable and not qualified to observe or give report about anything.  They couldn't even give testimony in court.

So did  you get it yet?

Women - unreliable - not admitted as witnesses in court . . .
And they are the ones who see Jesus rise from the dead and report this to the rest of the disciples?

So clearly we have a very unreliable account of the resurrection - one filled with women's recollections that can't be trusted because they are women.  Who knows what really happened . . .

 - Or -

The fact that women were the first ones to see Jesus raise from the dead shows us this is not a fairy tale.  I mean, who would make up a story in which the first ones to seem Jesus rise from the dead were seen as unreliable?  If the resurrection is a snowball of a story told to get people to believe something that never happened,  someone early on made a big mistake.  Why would you start with women as witnesses to the resurrection?

In today's terms it would be something like: "And this guy rose from the dead and the first to see him and report it to others were heroin junkies . . ."

Right . . .

Okay , maybe my analogy is a bit strained to make a point but I hope you get how ridiculous it really is to start with an account of women as witness in a male-dominated society.  As far as historical accuracy goes, elements that are retained in a story that could hurt the story's legitimacy are seen as authentic.  In other words - when a story has parts to it that seem to question its own truth  you have to take that as authentic (because no one would make up a story that invalidates itself).  That story is authentic.  That story is true.

Not like this is the only thing that proves the resurrection story is true, but it is a cool way to see how God works.  God likes to bust out of the boxes that we like to place Him in.  He clearly disagrees with our ancient assessment about women - so much so that He gave them ringside seats to the single most important event in the history of man (and woman)-kind. 

Easter is a reminder that we don't have the last word on what is true - He does.  It also shows us a God that we might consider obstinate to the way that we think things should be done.  I would probably have had the resurrection occurring in a palace so a king could see the awesome work of God.  

He picks a small group of poor women.

It makes me grateful that He is God and that He consistently busts open the the boxes I try to put Him in. 

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Day 8: The 'in-between' day.

Today is Saturday.

For the disciples it was the in-between day.

Saturday is bookended with all the drama and misery of a death sentence on Friday and the confusing joy of Sunday.  So what do we do with Saturday?  Nothing happens on Saturday.  Jesus is gone.  The disciples are hiding.  Looks like evil won.  It is a strange Sabbath - eerie and quiet.

So where is Jesus?

Is He sleeping in the tomb?  Is He wrestling with the devil?  Did Jesus step out of His body and go up to heaven to take a break with God before the resurrection?  What happens in this 'in-between' time?

Jesus' followers may have thought that He went to Sheol - a kind of bleak, emotionless, grey place that people wandered.  This was more Hebrew folklore than reality.  Kind of like we say that people 'go to the grave' but we don't really think of them resting in the dirt.  For many Jews Sheol was kind of like a blurry holding place until "The Day of the Lord" in which God interrupts human history on the Day of Judgment.  Perhaps some day far in the future they will see Him again . . . they had no clue He was coming back to life in His body three days later.  

So is Jesus conscious, watching them?  From where?  And how?

Some early Christians take a couple verses in Peter and Jude to mean that maybe Jesus went to hell and preached to people there in order to repent.  It is a fascinating idea but the verses have so much symbolism in them we really aren't sure what those verses mean.  And anyhow, didn't Jesus say the thief would be with Him in Paradise . . . today?  How could he be in hell?  The whole thing seems like a giant mystery.

As a kid, I used to think of Jesus slipping out of the body and spending time in heaven between Friday and Sunday.  I don't like the idea of Him being really . . . dead.  The idea of Jesus being cold and lifeless in a dark tomb scares me.  It scares me to think of the extent to which God might go to overcome the darkness of death.  Could God really have made Himself so vulnerable as to be susceptible to death?  Our death?  My death?

Was Jesus really dead?

Remember, it was a resurrection - not a resuscitation.  For Jesus to have overcome death, He had to really die.  And I don't think that means that Jesus slipped His skin and went to heaven to meet up with people to prepare for Sunday morning.  That sounds more like Plato.  Plato taught that bodies and souls were separate.  The Old Testament seems to indicate that the body and soul are intertwined.  So resurrection means bringing life back to body and soul.

But I guess I won't know until I can ask God how He did it.

Anyway, this is beside the point.  I don't know where Jesus went, but the big question is already answered.  Death is not the end.  That in itself breaks the spell of Saturday as the bleak and dreary in-between day.  

Viewing Saturday from Sunday morning's perspective makes me grin.  If I was around on that Saturday and I knew that Jesus rose from the dead, I would have the biggest smile on my face.  My whole day would be consumed with telling people that Jesus will come back tomorrow.  Living Saturday with Sunday morning's reality is transforming.

And that is what our lives should look like.  When you think of it, our whole life is like one big Saturday.  We live at the in-between.  But we live there knowing that death is not the end.  So life doesn't have to be one be question mark.  We don't have to go around with the sadness of the cold tomb because we know that death has already been beat.

Today is Saturday - the 'in-between' day.  

Are you going to live it with doubt or with a grin on your face?  Will you go about today knowing that your job, your enemies, your unanswered questions, deepest hurts and greatest temptations do not win in the end?  

Go about today with with a smile on your face from the knowledge that - because you have placed your trust in Christ - Sunday holds good news.  Just like Jesus, you will walk away from a tomb into new life one day - a new life that never ends.

And there ain't nothing that can change that.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Easter Devotional Day 7: Never Forsaken

Matthew 27: 45-46:
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

I saw a story on video the other day about a woman who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11.  She recounted the horror of the day and trying to come to terms with it all.  What was most striking to me was how she interpreted her story spiritually.  Instead of considering what a great miracle it was to have survived, she came to the conclusion that her life was spared because God didn't want her in heaven.

This is what it means to feel forsaken.

I had a similar conversation with a friend of mine in college who was gay but really loved God.  He thought because of his struggles with temptation that God had given up on him.

As I talk with more and more people I find that most often it isn't an issue of whether people believe in God, but whether they think that God believes in them.  A lot of people feel forsaken by God because of life's circumstances . . . or the presence of cruel people in their lives . . . or unanswered prayers.  Life has become a living hell.  Literally.  Hell being the absence of God - living without Him or His presence.  Desperately wanting it but never feeling it.  It is important to remind people who feel forsaken that God has already gone through hell so we don't have to.

There is only one who was forsaken by God - His only Son.  

It all starts on the night Jesus is betrayed by Judas.  The Gospel writers use a word - paradidonai - which means 'betrayed' or 'handed over.'  On that night Jesus prays to God and there is no answer to His prayer, He is betrayed into sinful hands.  Jurgen Moltman, a respected theologian, says this is the point in which God turns His back on His only Son.  There is a separation between the Father and the Son . . . a rift that eventually leads to a 'death in God.'  

In fact, Paul uses the same word in his letter to the Galatians- paradidonai (betray, hand over) - when talking about how God turned away from Jesus.  When we think of Jesus going to the cross we think of the pain that He endured from the beatings, whipping and crucifixion.  We seldom think of the psychological torture of having your Daddy turn His back on you and punish you for the sin of the world.  The one who had no sin paid the debt of those who sinned.  We forget that Jesus not only endured the penalty for my sin but also endured separation from God in my place.  He was forsaken so I never have to be.

You can feel the pain of the distance of God in Jesus' words on the cross: "why have you forsaken me?"

He is quoting a song.  Like we sometimes do when we share something on Twitter or Facebook  - posting a lyric from a song that fits our mood . . . Jesus is quoting from one of His favorite songs.  You can read the lyrics - it is Psalm 22.  The whole of that Psalm is really spooky as it describes crucifixion precisely (even though it was written hundreds of years before crucifixion was 'invented').  Essentially Jesus is experiencing a complete cut-off from God.  It is not because He has to, it is because He wants to . . . so you never have to be in that place. 

The suffering on the cross is not just religious drama.  It has a point.  Jesus went to the depths of suffering so that you don't have to.  If this is you, you need to stop living the lie that God has forsaken you.  You may feel that way and even have good reason to, but it doesn't make it true.  The truth is that you are deeply loved by a God that created you to live in and freely pass on the truth that God is for us, not against us.  

Listen to these nuggets from Romans 8:

            If God is for us, who can be against us?  . . .  
                      Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? . . .
                    Who then is the one who condemns? 
                                          No one. 
                Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life
              is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 
             Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 

The answer is the same:

No One.

So why are you?

If you or a friend of yours feels like God has given up on them, that is a lie. 

Lies sometimes cloak themselves as feelings . . . live in the truth, not the lies.  Send this to someone that needs to hear it.  The powerful truth of Easter is that it is about our resurrection someday as well as our coming out of the tomb now - starting living again in the love of God.