Tag Archive | sin

Love is not God

Closeup of candle flame.Okay, I admit the title of this post is sort of click bait. I expect a few people to read it angrily, all ready to defend the Bible and let me know that, indeed, Love is God.

Except the Bible never says that. It says, quite plainly in 1 John 4:8, that God is love.

I understand I’m being difficult. And we’re talking semantics. However, in simplest terms, the problem with us saying Love is God has to do with how we define love. If I am dealing with God, then I’m dealing with Love. That’s what God is Love means. However, if I’m dealing with love, I’m not always dealing with God, because love, in our culture, is defined any number of ways, and not every one of those tracks with the real nature of God. And I think this issue with definitions causes us trouble. We decide what constitutes love and then say that’s what God is. Love is not necessarily God. Continue reading

Mostly Harmless

If you’re a fan of Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, the phrase Mostly Harmless has meaning to you.  It’s a phrase put on the front of the Hitchhiker’s Guide meant to put travelers at ease.

If you’ve never heard of that book, that’s okay, because this post has nothing to do with Adams’ series.  But it does have to do with putting people at ease.  I read a verse in Philippians 2 the other day, a very common verse, but as it was in a different translation than I usually read, it caught my attention.

In the ASV translation, Paul tells the Philippians in 2:15 to be ‘blameless and harmless.’  NIV says ‘blameless and pure,’ and ESV says ‘blameless and innocent.’  The meanings seem very different to me, so I don’t know if there’s a problem with the translations, but I like the ASV wording.  I don’t think Christians often come across as harmless.  I don’t think we often put others at ease, neither outsiders nor other Christians.  No, sometimes we can be anything but harmless.

From time to time I make extra money cleaning houses.  Although I suspect I’m not an awesome housecleaner, I do work hard to be harmless.  I move prescription bottles without looking at labels.  I stack mail without looking at addresses.  What I see in a home stays there and never becomes fodder for gossip.  I want a person who hires me to feel safe and be able to trust that I’m working with them, not ever a danger to them.

My pastor wrote an article recently about being a blessing to others, that the best way to spread Christianity to the world is by blessing those around us.  I think that’s exactly what’s meant by the NLT command to be harmless.  We are here to bless and not be a danger to people.  We bring healing to the hurting and comfort to the grieving and companionship to the lonely.  A non-believer won’t open his heart to someone who seems judgmental and dangerous, someone looking for trouble.  Likewise, those attitudes will also keep believers from allowing us to unite with them or bear their burdens or help them on their journeys.

The two phrases need to stay together, though.  It’s easy to be harmless to the sinful world by simply accepting it and even joining in, but then I’m not blameless.  I don’t have to be a prostitute to reach a prostitute.  I can show her love and kindness and honor her as one made in the likeness of God–I can be harmless and bless her.  But, I also must be blameless.  As someone who still struggles against a sin nature, I have to keep a certain distance from her sin lest I fall in myself, because if I fall, I’m no help to her at all.

The balance there is key.  To be blameless but harmful is useless, and to be harmless but guilty is also useless.

Those steeped in sin whose eyes are still shut to the Spirit, though, will see me as harmful regardless.  That’s where being blameless is most important.  By not engaging in the sins of the world, I am a threat to Satan, and his people will hate me.  I can’t change that.  Regardless of how harmless or blameless I may be, I’m a threat to the prince of this world.  I need to let that go, not work so hard for acceptance that I slide into Satan’s camp hoping to drag out a few souls.  Complete tolerance of the world may win me friends, but that’s not going to help anyone, especially the Kingdom I represent.

In other words, I must keep that balance of blameless and harmless, and then I must wait.  The Spirit may use my actions to call a few away from sin.  He may use my actions to unite and comfort believers around me.  And he will use my actions to infuriate the darkness in this world.  All I need to do is obey and be prepared.  The outcomes are up to him.

The aim is more than being mostly harmless.  It’s to be harmless and blameless in thoughts, words, and deeds, and through those actions to bring the Kingdom to the world, regardless of whether the world accepts it with open arms or comes armed for battle.  But when the final battle is finished, I want my actions to lead to reward for a job well done.  I think the first step is to approach the world–and my Christian family–as both harmless and blameless.

Lollipops, sunshine, and job search psychoses

Facebook has started to tell me what some of my posts were a year or two ago today.  Today it showed me this quote, from exactly one year ago:

When I ask God to show me his path for me, and it is filled with sand pits, thorn bushes, and monster mosquitoes, I realize what I MEANT to say was “Lead me on the path that’s all roses and lollipops,” as though somehow I deserve a better life than countless prophets, martyred saints, and Jesus himself. Shame. On. Me.

That could be my post today, too.  I haven’t learned a lot in the past year.  I am STILL looking for the lollipops and roses.  And people don’t help.  Countless people have said to me during the past couple years,  “I hope God shows you his plan for you soon.”  For a long time I agreed.  Yes, we need a plan.  Clearly this isn’t right; something needs to change and God needs to put us back where we belong.

But, I suspect when my husband lost his job, we didn’t fall off the track of God’s plan.  Suddenly we’re alone, in freefall through some virtual realm, waiting for reality to catch up with us and for us once again to find the plan. I don’t think so.  I think, as much as I don’t want it to be true, today, unemployment and all, we are solidly standing on the track.  THIS is the plan.

I don’t want this to be the plan.  I want the roses and sunshine and lollipops.  I think everyone does.   And in this culture, where the TV and internet and magazines promise that the good life is possible with the right purchases or the right choices, sometimes I think I deserve it, that anything less than the lollipops is very unfair.

My husband is back in the game.  He’s got a couple resumes out there heading for hiring managers.  A couple interviews.  It’s time to dust off patience and start waiting again, and it’s miserable.  I have discovered I am the impatience queen.  It’s almost easier for him to be in classes only and not looking for awhile.

Yesterday I was angry.  It was the most senseless anger I can imagine.  My husband’s resume is on the way to a hiring manager for a good job.  A real job that would end our search, possibly for a very, very long time.  But I know we won’t hear anything for days.  And I was angry.  I was already angry with God for not giving us this job, for getting our hopes up and then letting us down, for making the path so filled with disappointments.  I was angry with my husband for not getting the interview or the job.  But nothing bad has even happened yet!!  Technically, there is hope for this particular job.  A good deal of it.  But certainly not much faith for it.

Nothing like a little preemptive anger to show just how faulty my thinking can be.  I must have told God a hundred times since yesterday how sorry I am and how stupid I feel and how I want to be faithful but can’t seem to get there.  I’ve enlisted help of others to pray over this job because I don’t feel capable of praying with confidence, with faith.  Not simply faith for this particular job, but faith that God is guiding us, faith in his care in general.  (And I know our care has been scrupulous and utterly miraculous, which just makes my attitude more sinful and ridiculous.)  It’s so embarrassing I’ve debated deleting this section for ten minutes, but it’s so true it needs to be said.

Clearly God is working on us.  I very much hope sanctification is occurring, because I feel a new awareness of the depth of my selfishness and silliness and sinfulness.  This is the plan.  The plan is from God, and the plan is good.  Painful, sometimes, and scary.  Not without tears and hard moments.  But also filled with joyful moments.  It’s big and complex and goes way beyond me and my little universe.  There are lollipop moments, but not many, not yet.  Once again, shame on me for my way of thinking.  And I can only hope that by rehashing these things over and over, repenting and admitting and turning toward better ways of thinking, maybe by next year I’ll laugh at last year’s post and think “Oh, yeah, I remember being like that.  I’m so glad God and I have dealt with that.  Now onto other areas to sanctify.”

Peace, hope, and why I shouldn’t read the news

Sometimes faith and peace can be rather fragile.  I realized that this week when I saw an article on Yahoo news about how many employers now tell the long-term unemployed not to bother applying for jobs.  In truth, I read the article and felt physically ill for the rest of the afternoon.

I’ve read enough comments on the internet to know the country no longer has much patience with the unemployed.  They’re tired of hearing about them and tired of caring about them.  Worse, they think the unemployed are living off the employed–they see us all as welfare cases, people who’ve figured out the system and are content to do nothing and let America pay their bills.  In reality, a person who has spent his or her life working doesn’t change character that easily.  The unemployed move in with family, get educated, volunteer, open businesses–they keep trying.  Yes, there are bouts of deep despair and depression when they struggle, but most of them shake it off and keep on going, looking to make a better life.  What else can they realistically do?

The idea that an employer would shun an educated, trained, hard-working employee because he or she has struggled to find work makes me angry.  It makes me frightened.  And I call to God for peace, realizing peace right now is a fragile thing.  I teeter on the edge, walking between peace and terror in equal amounts depending on how much hope I feel.  Articles like the one that upset me suck out a lot of hope.  I know God loves my family, but  sometimes he lets things get very bad for his beloved children.  Sometimes a rescue isn’t part of the plan in this world.

I don’t often read the news, and now I am renewing my vow not to read the news.  Just because an article scared me doesn’t mean anything has changed, and our plans for school and then possibly a job in another field are still our plans.  God is still paving our way for us.  If reading the news tempts me to question God or live in fear, then it’s time to flee that temptation, ignoring the wisdom of the world and clinging to the promises of God.  The article wasn’t the problem.  The problem was me not guarding against things that cause me to sin.  Just like a person who struggles with alcohol needs to stay out of the pub, in my struggle against fear I need to avoid things I know will frighten me.

It’s all very easy to say.  Most things are.  But, in light of some of my recent posts, I plan to spend more time looking forward to heaven and less focusing on making this world a paradise.  I plan to continue to look for ways my family can serve God.  I plan to build relationships within my fairly new church family.  There are many, many things I need to do with my life, and being frightened and losing my trust in the God who has miraculously sustained us thus far isn’t what God wants from me.

No more news, especially if it’s bad.   It spurs me to sin, so it’s not where I belong.  I need to focus on what I need to do, and let God deal with the impossibles in the world, knowing from Scripture that he’s done it before, and he’s good at it, and he’s more than happy to take care of his children in amazing and unique ways.  I’m reading Isaiah right now, where God moved entire empires to intervene for Israel; somehow I don’t think moving one employer to hire my one husband is really all that impossible.

Yes, it will take divine intervention to get us working again.  Good thing I know a Divine who’s delighted to intervene for me.