Posts Tagged ‘faith’

I determined long ago to name this blog Confessions of a Confused Christian. However, as I recently went back over many of the posts, I realized there was not a lot of confessing or confusion. Every post seemed to always resolve itself into total assurance. It seemed as though there was no real faith struggle that every i was always dotted and every t was always crossed. I admit that some of the reasoning is because I switched my primary means of communication from this blog over to Facebook. However, even there, I could see that most posts talk about how great my faith is and an outsider may think my faith does not waver.

So, here I am pondering this moment of how deep to go; how much to share. It is difficult to use written words as a form of communication because it is impossible to sense the tone and emotion behind the words. However, since the blog has the words confused and confess in it, I feel it is only appropriate to confess my confusion. Sometimes I really struggle in my faith. I struggle in my relationship with God. I often do not see relevance in the church. When I read the Bible, I am often confused. I read of a church in the first century that seemed so honest, so real yet I see much of the church today being so superficial. I see people in the New Testament fighting for what they stand for, and I see so many Christians today fighting about what they are against. We rally and protest and get loud and rarely love, I mean truly love. We are well known for what we are against, but rarely show what we are for. That confuses me. Am I supposed to stand in a line and picket the abortion clinic, or am I to present a cup of water to a hurt woman who just made the decision to abort the baby? Which would Jesus do? If I show love to her am I now saying I support abortion? Must I yell and spit so I can prove I am a Christian or was Jesus actually telling the truth when he said they will know we are Christians by our love?

The truth is I am often confused. I have been hurt. I have felt abandoned and betrayed. I have been hurt by the church. I have bought the lie that I had to be against all the things I am supposed to be against and somewhere along the way I have forgotten what I am supposed to be for. I have often tried to please church people and in the process have found myself drifting further and further away from who God has truly called me to be. I have been hurt by the church. I have been hurt to the point that it is often difficult to differentiate if it is people or God who is hurting me. Why must it be so difficult?

One of my favorite verses has been Psalm 30:5 which declares, “For his anger lasts only a moment,but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” What a comforting thought to know that joy comes in the morning. However, sometimes it seems that morning will never come. I often identify with the poet Emily Dickinson who penned these words: 

Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!

Will morning joy ever come? Or will we just remain in tears of mourning? Will joy find it’s way into our lives, or are we destined to lie in constant wait? I confess that God confuses me and His word sometimes troubles more than it comforts. There are times in our lives when it hurts so much we just can’t see the joy coming. We feel the pain and experience the darkness which seeks to consume us. So we wait. We sit in the dark of night waiting for the morning joy to come. We long to feel anything other than the current hell we are experiencing. We look to God, even in the midst of what seems like His silence and we wait. We hope. We look toward that morning light which will bring the joy. However, in the meantime, we wait and search for the place where morning lies.

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A week and a half has passed since the 2012 Tulsa Workshop. The theme was Good News For a Broken World. The weekend was amazing.  Lots of encouraging and thought provoking lessons. I posted a lot of tweets from the weekend on twitter and facebook. As I was going through those quotes, I was reminded of the overall experience. I loved seeing the joy on my kids faces as they would sing the songs they learned and recall the Bible stories. I recall the singing that encouraged. I recall the words that lifted my spirits. The following is a series of quotes from the workshop. they really encouraged me. these were spoken by ,many different people. i will not include who said what in this post for the purpose of flow. These are in the order I heard them. I think it is beautiful how God speaks. There seems to be a certain flow to these quotes. Thank you to all who worked on this event. thank you, Lord, for this annual event that I always look forward to. I hope those of you who read these words find encouragement from them just as I did. now for the highlight (at least in my opinion) quotes:

God is greater than our past.

 
Freedom is applied forgivenss
 
The greatest miracle Jesus performed was the granting of forgiveness.
 
Do not let your past wounds define you.
 
In the economy of the Kingdom, it never pays to play it safe.
 
The greatest risk is to never take a risk.
 
We have lost touch with our touchstones.
 
Everyone dies, but not everyone lives for something.
 
Being authentic is the antidote to anxiety.
 
We cannot fix this cracked world with anything in this world.
 
We are called to live among the broken body of Christ until Jesus perfects it.
 
I am a new creation, not an upgraded version of my old self.
 
I want to discipline myself so I can be fully free to God.
 
Thank you, Lord, for all I am comes from you.
 
Jesus calls me to be all in for Him.
 
Good news is not to be studied, it is to be celebrated. 
 
Christian life is not a pattern, it is a person.
 
Where there is fear there is no love. If there is no love, people will not know we follow Him.
 
God loves when His children talk to Him.
 
Teach us to count our days so we can make our days count.
 
Live passionately. Love completely. Learn humbly. Live boldly.
 
God knows me fully and loves me fully.
 
Do not all your view of yourself get in the way of god’s work through you.
 
I surrender my right to say anything about myself that my God would not say about me.
 
It’s great to preach to the multitude, but we must not neglect the one in need.
 
Compassion minus action is not truly compassion.
 
If the community only knows us by our location, we are failing.
 
The church should be colorFUL, not color blind.
 
My brokenness is never beyond the healing / restoring power of God.
 
Be assured that your history is HIStory.
 
Lord, may I live worthy of your calling.

Today is the big day. My fantasy football team has its first matchup. I do not yet know the outcome. I have to wait until all the games have been played. Fantasy football is about drafting players from each skill position and your points are based their actual performances. We had a live draft on a Monday night. We went into a classroom at our church and began the draft process. I recall the conversations regarding the various players.  We each made statements like “he has a lot of potential.”  “He is such a great player if he can stay healthy.”  “He would be awesome if he would stop complaining and start doing his job on the team.”  I suppose it is a little silly for grown men to sit in a room and pretend to be owners and managers of a football team, but it was a great time of fellowship.

Later, I began thinking about the church and about men and women of faith throughout history. What if we could have a fantasy draft for our church? Who would we choose? Why would we choose them? I began to think of people we read about in the Bible and how they had great faith. Perhaps someone may pick Noah. After all, he was faithful in a time when no one else was. God chose to save Noah and his family and start all over. What a great man of faith. We should definitely choose him for our fantasy faith team. The only problem is that when he is finally able to stand on dry ground again , he passes out drunk and naked. Perhaps we can rethink this pick.

What about Abraham? He would be great. God told him to pack his belongings and set off for a place. Abraham did not know where he was going, but he trusted that God would direct his path and protect him. At least, he trusted that God would protect him sometimes. He had his wife Sarai lie a couple of time and say she was his sister in order to save himself because although he knew God, he still thought he had to take precautions (being deceitful) in order to stay safe. Maybe you want to wait until a later round now before you decide to draft Abraham.

What about David? Now there is a first round pick if ever there was one. A shepherd boy who fearlessly faced a giant named Goliath. The giant was a trained warrior, yet David faced him when all of Israel’s fighting men were too afraid. From shepherd to king – that is the man I want on my team. I choose David first. He is perfect for my team. Wait, there was that thing with Bathsheba. He was outside and she was in the tub. He glanced in her direction, then he glanced again. Then he stared. Then he lusted. Then he slept with her and she became pregnant and he plotted to have her husband murdered. Maybe I should rethink picking David for my team.

I choose Peter. He was one of Jesus’ closest friends. Surely he would be close to the heart of God. I mean he walked with Jesus for three years. He saw Jesus perform miracle after miracle. Peter heard God’s voice in the form of Jesus. He touched God’s shoulder in the form of Jesus. He sat at the table and dined with the Son of God. I am definitely picking Peter as my first choice. He delivered the great message at Pentecost where thousands came to Christ. He followed Jesus ready to fight and die for him. I choose Peter. He even walked on the water. I definitely choose Peter. Okay, so while walking on the water, he got scared and began to sink. At least he still had the courage to do it in the first place. Oh, and there was the whole thing where Jesus told Peter he would deny him. Of course, Peter said “I would never do that, Lord.” Way to go Peter! But then they came to arrest Jesus. Peter followed at a distance and while warming himself by a fire, people began questioning him and asking if he was a Jesus follower. What did he do? He denied it. He denied it again. Then he denied a third time. Maybe I should rethink choosing Peter to be on my team as well.

The point is that we all have flaws. Some of the greatest men and women in the Bible have major issues. They sin. They make mistakes. They struggle with their faith. For me, that gives me hope. I can see the people as real. They are real people with real flaws. They have struggles. they doubt. They fall flat on their face. They make mistakes. They are human. Just like our group of men sitting in a room talking about the strengths and weaknesses of various players, we all have strengths and weaknesses. We often do the same when it comes to church. “That person is such a gifted teacher” while at the same time saying “if he could just be more organized.” We say “what a great singer” but also “she keeps finding the wrong men.” We have men of great talent, but they struggle with pornography. We have women with so much to offer, yet they suffer from deep depression. We are a church of flawed people. We have major character flaws. We sin. We doubt. We struggle. Yet at the same time – we love, we serve, we have faith.

I am thankful that the Bible shows us the strengths and the weaknesses of people. It gives me hope. I am thankful that men were not allowed to edit their lives and share only the strong points, but that we are also exposed to their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. We can have hope. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the “hall of faith.” It is filled with names of great men and women who showed amazing faith. For the purpose of this post, I will refer to it as God’s starting lineup. The men and women listed there had amazing faith and courage, yet they also had flaws. they were murderers, adulterers, and even prostitutes. Yet God chose them to be on his team. It gives me hope. If they can be drafted onto God’s team, maybe I have a chance at being drafted too. thank you, God, for letting me be on your team.

The last couple of nights Joshua has been extra clingy (is that a word?).  He wants me by him constantly. While he is playing, he wants me by him. When he is laying down, he wants me by him. I love it, yet it is draining. Sometimes I just need to have a break. I feel drained. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy the fact that he loves me so much. All he wants is for his daddy to be around. He wants to know he is safe. He wants to know he is not alone. He wants to know I am near by.

I want to enjoy these moments. I know that one day he will be older and we will not get this moment back. He will be wanting to do his own thing and I will long to be near him. I pray I learn to embrace these moments.

As I think about Joshua’s desire to be near to his daddy, I am forced to think of my own relationship with God. We are encouraged to draw near to God (James 4:8).  I have to ask myself the hard question: Am I seeking to draw near to God? DO I desire to get closer to Him each day?Do I so long to be with Him that I cannot stand the idea of not being near him? Do I, like Joshua, just want to be near my daddy? I believe God wants me to be that in love with Him. He wants me to seek Him. He wants me to love being with him. He longs for me to long after him. God is my daddy and he loves his child.

I am thankful for the lessons we learn through children. My prayer is that we can all learn to love God so much we cannot stand the thought of not being near Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

John records a scene in chapter thirteen of his gospel about Jesus that is so heartbreaking. Jesus knows that his time to bear the cross is drawing near. In verses 37-38, we are told of an incident that brings tears to eyes of many. “Peter asked him, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Can you see the tears in Jesus’ eyes as he speaks those words? Can you hear the pain in his voice? He knows that Peter loves him. He knows that Peter is sincere, but he also knows that Peter will indeed deny him three times.

How many times do we deny Christ? How many times do we say with all sincerity, “I will lay down my life for you,” but when the hardship comes we deny him? With a compassion that can only be felt by our Lord, he weeps and cries over us. With tears in his eyes and with nails in his hands and feet, he says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave Peter for denying him, just as he continually forgives us.

Today, make up your mind to celebrate that forgiveness. Rejoice with Peter in experiencing the grace and mercy of a God who loves us beyond all comprehension. Even now as you have so many thoughts on your mind and heart about all those times you denied your Jesus, you can take comfort in those words spoken on the cross and for eternity, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”