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Posts Tagged ‘doubt’

I have never noticed it in myself before, but a couple of weeks ago I didn’t believe people really loved me.  I believed they were being kind to me, but out of obligation more than out of interest in me.  So I avoided people; I didn’t pursue spending time with them unless directly asked.  (The times I did spend with them I enjoyed immensely.)  And I made sure that I was very useful, hoping that even if I wasn’t fun to be around, I would be helping people out to reward them for spending time with me.  

 

At the end of that week, I realized I had been self-centered, not thinking nearly enough about how I could be God’s vessel towards my friends.  I was not being respectful of them, disbelieving them when they said they would “love to have me” or that I was “welcome to join them”.  And on top of it all, I was believing lies.  They do love me, and I’m quite grateful.  

 

Being loved when you don’t deserve to be is strange.  Even with God I am so often tempted to believe in His pity and mercy and goodness but not in His love.  He does kind things for me because He is obligated by His goodness.  He does them to astound my gratitude.  Believing those half-truths, I obediently subject myself to Him.  I reassure myself that what God does is good.  I discipline myself to thank Him (which I don’t think is entirely wrong, but I’ll tell you what I love better: feeling thankful!).  

 

Yet YHWH really loves me.  One of those friends I was doubting a few weeks ago was sharing how God is teaching her about prayer, and how much He wants intimacy with us.  Marriage as a picture of Christ and His Church (us!) should remind us over and over that our lives were created for love and union and a delight in Jesus.  Years back I did a women’s retreat where we spent large amounts of time by ourselves, praying or resting or listening to music.  I remember believing then that Jesus loved me.  A song came on about Jesus’ wedding feast, about Him dancing with His bride, and I was so happy for His joy – a joy I could only believe in if He was getting something out of loving us – if He desired us.  

 

Teshuva (use link to “play” at top of webpage), an awesome band from the Denver area, writes: 

This is how I

Say I love you and

This is how I 

Prove it to you

By my wounds you are

Healed, you’re healed my child

There’s only so much words can say (Only so much words can say)

This can’t be said another way (This is the only way)

 

He has proven love, not just kindness or pity.  For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.  

 

More than trust and gratitude, my response to really believing in God’s love is love.  Loving and being loved brings joy.  This week I’ve been so full of both, and for that I’m feeling grateful.  

 

I was talking to a friend about distrusting our emotions, not letting them be any part of leading our decisions.  He applied that to his walk with God, needing always a “legitimate” reason to do something, being completely skeptical of anything he felt or wanted.  I think that, at least now, with his friends he does some things because they are good things and he enjoys doing them.  My dear friend just got married in June.  I sure hope that when she kisses her husband it’s because she wants to, not because she thinks it is the wife thing to do!  When I read “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” this is something I think of.  He made our hearts, gave us emotions, and He wants them to be towards Him just as much as our minds, and our souls, and our actions and words.  The greatest commandment, the privilege of our lives as Christians, is to really love God.  

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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So young people are leaving the church: a disastrous omen for the future of Christianity.  We must do something.  Something different than what we have been doing.  Because the church is failing this generation. 

 

It is common to point to the pizza and games youth-group-without-accountability-or-education program as the culprit for the apostasy of college students.  Church should not be about entertainment, say the pious parents who with the next breath criticize the musicians on the praise team and complain that the worship style at their congregation doesn’t suit their tastes.  Perhaps we are not sheltering youth enough.  Maybe they need more authority figures, a connection with the whole church, including their parents. 

 

Some on the conservative side of the question point to the content of what we teach young people.  Survey after survey reveals that teens don’t know the basics of Christian theology, and certainly aren’t decision-making from a Christian worldview.  These kids have no foundation to abandon, Christian leaders rightly argue.  They’re hungry for answers.  And when we don’t equip them in the realm of apologetics, high school and college professors have little difficulty refuting the shallow traditional faith of their students. 

 

Maybe the church is too legalistic, parents and pastors suffocating kids with expectations of holiness, that ever-imposing scale of good deeds versus bad deeds on which to measure God’s favor and wrath.  When at last free of the oppressive constraints, these young adults bust out with a liberal longing for pleasure, enjoying an affirming group of friends that encourages them to stop stifling their own feelings.  So we the church ought to offer more grace, somehow imparting to the up-and-coming generations the relationship aspect of Christianity.  Like so many who have been in the church for decades, these teenagers just want to know that God is love, and He wants to be your friend, to give you your best life now. 

 

“These are the leaders of the future,” is quoted, by some with hope, by others with dark foreboding.  But our model of ministry leaves a wide gap between involvement in youth ministry and being incorporated with the rest of the congregation.  Smaller churches have no college ministry.  Even those with college ministries have merely moved the disconnect to a later date.  Those in the club of grown ups are unwilling to speak to or invest in the younger individuals – let alone take their advice – trying to move into life and faith that is overwhelming without examples.  There is truth to the protest that kids are irreverent and disrespectful and self-absorbed.  But listen to what we’re saying.  Those are the kids.  What toddler have you met who knows anything different than irreverence and selfishness?  Yet the older people attempt to train them, not fight them.  Church has failed to welcome the post-education demographic; can we be surprised they leave?

 

Yet maybe that is exactly what the young adults ought to do: leave.  An institution so divided and impotent as the evangelical church, so lacking in love or substance, is more likely to inspire bitter memories of religious hypocrisy and to shore up doubt in the power of a God mostly ignored in the actual workings of the organization.  I will say more: perhaps the adults should leave, and the young parents who feel they ought to raise their children in Sunday school should never come back.  Christians should take on the personal responsibility of living a communal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: embracing grace as a gift both received and distributed; trust in the power and authority of the Creator God of the Resurrection; loving, serving, and discipling their fellow children of God; humbling themselves before the voice of God coming through Scripture, teachers, and youths; pursuing fellowship with God and with each other; and living out a life so different from the world that those exposed have no doubt that only the miracle of God could give such abundant life! 

 

And just maybe when we see such a symptom of desperate unwell in our churches, we should repent, falling on our faces before the Lord of Wisdom, desiring His healing and direction rather than the empty programs and various solutions proffered by man. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A God you know about, but don’t trust, that’s useless.  A God whose love you affirm but reject experiencing, that’s miserable. 

 

But He really is my God, by His smashing grace.  Knowing who God is (theology) increases the value of His love for me.  Because He is perfect, yet suffered shame, I praise His love more.  Because He loved his own Son so much, but sent Jesus to suffer in my place, I am humbled by His grace.  Because He is able to create and maintain the whole universe, yet chooses to interact with me on a daily basis, I crumble with joy!  Because He is infinitely good, I have peace passing understanding. 

 

I live in a sphere of truth as I know it.  Truth is something I crave and cling to because it enables me to love my God.  When a part of that sphere is bombarded with doubt (from within or without), I get defensive.  I whirl around in my little world, reexamining associations, texts, and experiences.  Whether I had been wrong about the truth or the doubt had been unfounded, I go through that experience every time.  Some questions are smaller.  Others challenge me to re-read my whole Bible with the tension of interpretation presented by a different view.  Contradictions can even turn out to be paradoxes when I go deep enough into them. 

 

To entertain questions, engage discussions, and comprehend a sense of truth (even as presented in creeds or “institutes”) is not, I conclude, wrong.  Here let me clarify.  If the motive for acquiring truth is to better experience God’s love and return it – if the pursuit is in the context of your relationship with God – and if the odyssey is not harming other people, then it is not wrong. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Yesterday a friend was sharing how puzzling it is to him that God despises child-sacrifice (such as the kind recorded in the Bible, to the idol Molech) but God still asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him, and even that God Himself practiced human sacrifice in the form of His Son, Jesus. 

 

Sacrifices to idols and to Molech are an effort for man to please god by giving him a thing most valuable.  Our most valuable offerings cannot appease God.  Only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy the requirement that remission must come by the shedding of blood.  Only God Himself was good enough. 

 

God, even more than life, is the highest priority.  Faith in Him is more important than anyone’s life, and disobedience is not justified even in a situation where a life is at stake. 

 

The child sacrifices to Molech had more to do with bartering with god than with repentance for sins or faith.  Abraham, in contrast, was the patriarch of faith, and the Bible implicitly says that the command to sacrifice Isaac was about Abraham’s faith (interesting since Isaac was old enough to have resisted Abraham, but he didn’t). 

 

Abraham’s faith was tested when God asked Him to sacrifice Isaac.  But what does child sacrifice really have to do with faith? 

 

Hebrews 11 explains why he got so much credit for his faith in the story of sacrificing Isaac:

 

Hebrews 11:17-19, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,  Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

 

Abraham believed God would make his son live, no matter what.  God also knew when Jesus gave His life that there would be a resurrection.  Jesus knew about it, and told His disciples to expect Him to come back on the third day. 

 

Even if Abraham just believed Isaac would not stay dead, we might think that he was self-deluded and irrationally hopeful rather than a man of great faith, unless God gave Abraham a strong reason to believe this.  Did He? 

 

Abraham had some difficulties believing God’s plan for him.  Years into the covenant and promises, Abraham and Sarah still hadn’t born any children.  So Abraham tried things his own way, siring Ishmael through Hagar, his wife’s slavewoman.  God made it quite clear that He had promised a son through Sarah, and that Ishmael was not the heir. 

 

Then Abraham believed God, but Sarah doubted until she conceived Isaac.  God reiterated that the promise to make Abraham many nations, to bless the world through his Seed, (the Covenant) was through Isaac:

 

Genesis 17:15-16, 19, “And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

 

They gave birth to a son.  So Abraham had learned his lesson about doubts.  He knew that either God would intervene, or God would raise Isaac back to life. 

 

Abraham knew that God’s command (to sacrifice Isaac) could not supercede God’s promise (to make Isaac into many nations).  This point is made in Galatians:

 

Galatians 3:17, “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” 

 

The just always lived by faith. 

 

In Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, I see a vivid example of God’s plan for salvation depicted in the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac. 

  • The promise was from God, and He would keep it. 
  • The son was miraculously given by God. 
  • The command was God’s. 
  • The faith was in God. 
  • And the substitute sacrifice was God’s. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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