Why do I need God?

So, You’ve been teaching me I need You
for several years now, Lord.
But I’ve always thought the reason,
what made that true,
was being caught in a life
that was so difficult it demanded You.

But the truth is actually something wholly separate from
anything my life will ever be:
it is a truth about me that has nothing to do with
what I am living with or
what I am living without,
but has everything to do with
Who I am living because of.

Deeper than any truth I can communicate about myself
is the One breathed over me
every moment of my life:
You
need
Me.

So what, if I’m wrong? (The skin off my nose probably needed to come off anyway.)

I am not afraid of disagreement–what I want is for the truth to triumph. And if this is what I want, I should be ready for the truth to disagree with me.

I am not the ultimate arbiter of truth (though I like to think so). I am someone who must be regularly arrested by truth because I get in conflict and bring offense to it often. But, it is not so bad to be arrested by the truth–that is the only way I can become its captive.

And boy, do I need to be a captive of the truth! There is no other way I can escape the hold that lies have on me. There is no other way I can live to the honor of Christ and to the benefit of others in my relationships.

I need truth. It is a desperate need. There is no replacement for it. There is no way I can substitute in its place the things I already know–too much of what I’ve grown up believing, so much of what I’ve reasoned out my experiences is suspicious.

You see, the truth does not  follow the paths that I do on my own natural bent. So, I must regularly be checking on myself, making sure that I am leaving behind what comes naturally to me in favor of what can only be found on the path of truth. I follow the path of truth because it was here before I was. It is the only path on which I can find Christ. It is the only path on which we experience unparalleled communion. And that is the only thing I want to be about.

“So truth fascinates you…why?” Duh! It’s real!

I love writing posts–that is, when everything flows properly and in a timely fashion. If not, forget it!!

(Yeah, I gotta work on that.)

But, anyway, I also love writing because I like to see, hear, read what I think.

(Yeah, I know, that’s an incriminating confession too.)

I also love to discover truth–what will help me and others–and that happens most effectively when I write. It’s not that I do a lot of truth-producing–no it’s out there all on its own. But, when I go looking for it, I find it.

How about you, do you like seeking out truth? Do you like finding out what is real and what’s not? Does it intrigue you to know the reasons behind things?

If you do, maybe we’re a lot alike. Really, that’s not all that important, but in any event, I hope you do love discovering truth. And, not just discovering truth, but letting God incorporate it into who you are.

(Yeah, that’s definitely the harder part!)

Letting truth be incorporated into who we are–letting it change who we are–is really a gift. It is sweet, though it does not come without a pinch, or in some cases, a punch.

But, that’s okay when you consider the alternative: Living without truth is a death all its own. While accepting truth involves death to some part of us, accepting lies (or half-truths, as we may call them) are a death to every part of us. There’s no getting out of it. We are claimed by what we believe; defined by what we choose to live by.

There’s no other way that this could be. It’s a fair system and we’re given a fair choice. The question is which one will we claim as our own?

Truth or Dare–which will win in the end? …Or which will keep us from really losing?

Why can’t I just let you off the hook?

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you
have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
–James 2:13, NLT

I don’t know about you, but I don’t understand mercy and forgiveness. Last night was actually the first time I realized this, though. I confess that one reason I don’t understand them is because they have never really been anything more to me than flimsy terms repeated over and over again in Scripture. Sure, they are everywhere, but I thought that meant they were just naturally in me too–not!

Maybe it’s because I’ve never faced in a straightforward manner the wrongs of others committed against me; never faced them with the intention of forgiving and extending mercy to cover them. I’ve ranted and raved my fair share (ask my mother and she would say it has been to the point of excess), but sorting through the pain like this has done nothing to redeem the situation–only to discover where I stand, how I feel, in what ways I am justified.

I have wanted to make of each painful situation something else. Something that I might find more easy to swallow–to live with if need be (in the event that the person hurting me would choose not to notice what they were doing to me and apologize).

I have strained for understanding, grasped for empathy and held out for change. But, until now I have had no answer for dealing with things as they are at this very moment, for the coldness of the truth. Vacillating between what I know to be true of the situation the two of us are contributing to and searching for the key to what the other person believes about it has not served us as much as I had hoped it might.

I do not have to make this all right–making sure that I bridge the chasm of misunderstanding. I do not need to make a project out of acquitting she who has caused me grief, I can let God settle our differences, the pain that lingers between us: I will forgive.

I will make no excuses for her, and thus an indirect excuse for myself. I do not need to uncover secrets and air perspectives. I need only adopt the diagnosis Christ offers me: I have been hurt by the sin of another. And before I run ahead and try to learn my lesson and seek God to reveal my sin in this situation, stopping, I will forgive.

Rather than trying to amend the situation–to somehow lift us both beyond our propensities to sin–I will recognize that this is not the first offense, neither will it be the last. I do not have the option of eliminating sin or the grief it causes me. I will accept my need for a Savior, and I will forgive.

Because paradise will not be sneaking up on me tomorrow; because I will not be able to escape both the need for pardon and the need to give it; because God chose to redeem each of us sinners by a way that offers us none of the control I think is essential for peace-of-mind and deliverance-from-everything-I-don’t-want-to-face, I will not wait another minute, I will forgive.

The diagnosis of God’s ADD

God’s Agency of Determined Disaster (ADD) makes it simple and possible to live your life well through whatever comes your way.

Picture this: God has ADD and He wants to make you aware of the facts it’s got on your future. So, He has arranged for a document to be drawn up for you and distributed in various areas so that you may not fail to believe its advertizing about itself and pick one up for yourself.

But the one behind these disasters doesn’t want you to get this vital information — he wants these things to kill you, so he lets you be too busy (even if you get your copy) to read it. If you discover the trigger points and Richter scale readings you’re looking for, you will rely on it and know the Truth.

He wants you to think these disasters are all classic fear tactics that God is using to belittle and devastate you, when in reality God is the One who has chosen to use all these works of your enemy to work for your good — if you follow His instructions.

Don’t be surprised when you learn from these instructions that the Director of this council is the only help you are going to get; His name is Jesus and He just happens to be God’s resurrected Son. He’s already met your prime disaster and seen it through — now all you have to do is trust the precepts He hands down to you because they issue from this Love.

Now don’t expect this manual to deliver you immediately from every trying ordeal — though they will be on your record in necessary portion for the extent of time you live on the earth (out of reach of the absolutely inconceivable everlastingly complete presence of God in heaven.

You will have the presence of God to go with you through these remaining storms before paradise because Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf has already accomplished a work that will never allow you to be alone in your trials again — He will walk through these places that have become His own territory with you.

And you will discover that all Satan’s evil plans for you cannot hold a candle to the good plans God already has planned into your life’s gps (God’s Planned Situations) device.

A Classic Character with A Climactic Claims

There is something about classic things — they just don’t die. No matter how old they are in our time, they never cease to be alive and authoritative to us. Their value is in their ability to portrey a moving portrait of the longings and behaviors of mankind. They affect how we see ourselves and what we believe to be true of the world around us — whether it is a novel, poetry, history, law or a futurist outline.

Perhaps a little surprising is that the Word of God is all these things. And yet it has a greater claim on our lives than any other classic held up against it. It has been written for one purpose and that is to reveal the Word (Christ) that came into the world to save men from the deceit of their character.

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with what the Bible says. I can sit there with you and profess that it is a beautiful book that certainly has a perfect right to its particular status, but beneath what I say there is more that I don’t say.

I like the Bible, but I don’t want it to be right so long as it is discussing me. (I will admit that is highly convenient when I find a place where it slams an individual that I deem is worthy of it, but when I am its subject that is not the kind of treatment I want to get.)

I crave honor and exaltation and I believe that the Bible, of all things, ought to give it to me. You can tell me that I am a sinner and that I need saving — yes, even forgiveness — but don’t force me to accept all the features of this reality that I was once too dishonest to see.

I don’t care for the fact that every discussion of sin and wrong-doing that I find in Scripture is in some way a disortation on me and why I need Christ’s righteousness to stand in for my lack thereof. And the more I grow in god-like-ness — the more I reflect the beauty of God’s original design for me — the less I have a legitimate case for boasting in what I have done to make myself good.

Yet, all these problems show one glaring misconception of the text’s overall theme: Those beautiful words that begin Genesis and carry through the entire story of mankind and beyond, “In the beginning God…” In reading this I must ask myself, Where was I? Clearly this story contains me — missing nothing of who I am or what I was meant to be — but does not rely on me or revolve around me.

This is a problem if I live as though those things are the case: I risk never knowing who I truly am because I have missed the point of the tale into which I was so lately born. I must ask another question of myself at this point: “Do I truly love the Word (book) or its object the Word (the Person of Christ) if I live vigorously opposed to everything He speaks, everything He stands for, all that He is?”

The meaningless mystery of unexplored life

Just how balanced are the two?

This weekend I spent some time exploring the philosophical tenants of Yin Yang. Now, I won’t pretend here, I did find it more than a little disconcerting. If you are unfamiliar with this worldview, let me share with you some of what I read (I have chosen to include a lengthier portion of the Wikipedia article so that you may be as informed as is immediately possible):

the concept of yin yang…normally referred to in the West as (yin and yang) is used to describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other

Yin yang are complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, but either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in particular objects, and may ebb or flow over time…

There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to evil and good. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions and other dichotomous moral judgments, in preference to the idea of balance. Confucianism (most notably the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu, c. the 2nd century BCE) did attach a moral dimension to the idea of yin and yang, but the modern sense of the term largely stems from Buddhist adaptations of Taoist philosophy.[2]

In Taoist philosophy, ying and yang (☯) arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continue moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin and yang thus are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.

It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (i.e. you cannot have the back of a hand without the front). A way to illustrate this idea is to postulate the notion of a race with only men or only women; this race would disappear in a single generation. Yet, men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive. The interaction of the two gives birth to things. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky – an intrinsically yang movement. Then, when it reaches its full potential height, it will fall. (emphasis mine; material cited: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang)

As interesting and plausible as any of this may seem, it does not agree with the witness our Creator has given us of this world we dissect. This theory is surely a comfort for those of us who have no frame of reference for why evil exists and how we are subject to it. So long as we are in confusion we will seek for ways to simplify. What gore threatens us we will subjectively redefine. Without the keys to engaging these mysteries we will consistently manifest fictitious realities that we can approach with confidence.

The problem with each of these approaches is that they never free us to fully investigate life. Ignoring the Cause of things forces us to covering up mystery does not make it less of a reality, it just reinforces our fear of the truth. There is no question the truth is unnerving and sometimes exactly what we don’t want to hear, but it can never be said to bind us. Truth leads to more truth, freedom to more freedom, while lies and half truths keep us bound in a specific pattern that we might not disturb the whole.

We were meant to be free and unfettered. Although some will say that God is the Only One who can keep us from such an existence, quite the opposite is true. In fact, without God the idea of someone having any freedom at all is a myth.

Then what is the truth and how does it free us…

and how does it contain God all at the same time?

The truth tells us that we are broken,

that this world is to hard and evil for us,

but even though we are part

of the problem,

we discover

freedom

for

the first time

in knowing

we don’t have to

stay here.

Forever God —

who is good and

Oh, so full,

full of mercy —

is reaching out to us;

He wants to calm our fears

to bring to us healing help

known to us

only when

the residence of His presence

claims our hearts today.

He will hold nothing of

peace and grace

back from us,

so long as we

open our souls

up to Him —

our Generous Father…

God.

Won’t you just give ME Center Stage

There is a God of this universe who sits on a throne in heaven, who boasts of sovereignty over all, who brings all men into existence — even you. And there’s a standard that He holds; a law that declares His holiness to all. His expectation of us is that we keep it, and in so doing bring honor and glorify to Him and enjoy the benefits of living in unbroken fellowship with Him and His majesty.

For a lot of us, this sounds like an impossible requirement or a far-flung desire to bring all men under His uncompromising will.

We sit back and declare our independence from His demands. We have freedom, we say, we do not need to stand for a God who is given to such treatment of us. We will not be called servants; we are rebelutionaries. We live for adventure and unpredictability. We declare our own destiny and live out our own creeds. We are self-made and self-maintained individual’s whose personal tenacity is to be praised for getting us to where we are, not a egotistical, distant Deity who knows not its place in this world we rule.

But, we must be courageous enough, even for a moment, to ask ourselves: Who told us we could boast so much? And, aside from that, Have we had this claim challenged in such a way that we can claim to have stumped any worthy opponents?

I would like to offer that we haven’t. Think about it, when you were a little kid, could you boast what you can now? Probably not. Well, at least let’s hope not. Therefore, if you and I think that we can now boast that we occupy center stage, we must ask ourselves, who boasted it before we were this fit to claim the honor?

We fight for our rights today, but who was insuring that our rights should be kept viable until we could exercise and protect them ourselves?

I don’t think that we could really claim that it was anyone but this God that we are in opposition against. For, isn’t it a legitimate assumption for us to say that our parents, guardians or fore-bearers (whatever you want to call them) were so busy fighting for their rights, and keeping their center-stage status alive and well that they wouldn’t have had the leisure to watch out for ours?

If this is the case, who then was nesting and nurturing our person and potential while the rest were busy fighting their own battles?

Who but God?

God, if He is on the scene at all, must be more central to our existence than merely putting the universe in place to be responsible for conceiving and weaning us.

And that’s where His laws come in — they show us, as in everything His Word contains, where was God and what was God and who was God and why was God at all points in human history, right up to this present moment.

Don’t believe me, well you know, there is no way that you can disprove my argument unless you read it and can show it’s inconceivability. And, of course, to do that, you will have to read all of it, just like you would any excellent piece of literature with any bearing on human life and intelligence.

And truth be told, I would love for you to get to that right now. I would be willing to discuss any arguments you have; if you have found a reason that the Bible ought to not be trusted, I would insist that you share such pertinent knowledge with me immediately.

Yet, in lui of that, I place it upon your conscience and all that you believe is right, to pay this next point special attention — it could change your life:

We turn away from God, His Word and His commands not because we disagree with them, but because we do not wish to have the consequences of agreeing.

To agree with God is to admit that we are wrong. Wrong regardless of what we believe to be true or attempt to produce of right actions and effects.

We walk away from God not because He would not work for us, but because He would work too damn well for us. He would out-class and our-shine us on every front, and we would recognize that He is great and He deserves all the praise that we want for ourselves.

And so we walk away from a God whose ways would do us no great harm, but only some great good — which would trip us up by how it would put us in our place; the only place we could belong in relation to Him.

Thus, by our own choice we live in opposition to God, at the greatest possible distance from the inheritance of every good thing He has for us, because we want only our own way to get these things, only our own stage on which to display and enjoy these things.

We fight, and wrestle with God for the stage of life — our lives, we espouse — but how instantly would our claims cease if we would only allow ourselves to know, for even an instant, how infinite God’s desire is to bring us into relationship with Him?

What if His intensity impressed us?

What if His desires when revealed could astonish us, stopping us in our tracks to no-where?

What if this God who calls out for us were to become so real to us that we would recognize that we didn’t have to hold onto anything, but were free to bound after Him and all He holds so secure for us?

Wouldn’t our very hearts change? Wouldn’t our lives look different? Wouldn’t we want, and insist on more than what we’ve determined to have so far? Wouldn’t we agree with Him, accepting from His hand all the treasures of eternal life and reconciliation with God that could never be feigned by any one else?

What do you think?

Is this fair enough for you?

I don’t know a lot about what makes life fair, but that subject has been on my mind a lot this past month. I have sat comparing the condition of one friend against another, one’s range of blessings versus others’ depth of pain. I ask indignantly, Why do some lives seem bombarded by suffering so intensely, while others appear to steadfastly experience abundance in ways that the other could never imagine?

These are questions I don’t have the answers to; this is the sum of a matter too deep for negligible experience to dispel. Yet, my discomfort with these mysteries is a chance to be humbled by a God that need not explain to me His every nuance.

Not that God is at fault for things like world hunger, and extreme personal suffering, but He does absolutely rule over these things, and often not in ways that I can understand.

I want simple responses to big questions. I come to God with the hope that He will make the problems that I see small enough for me to stand above, rather than stretching my faith to recognize that He is standing above everything that I do not.

I utter complaints about the world around me, believing He’ll get behind my judgments on the obvious disorder around me, and set the world straight. Yet, rather than blighting the fruits of error that I can’t stand, He points out the great, big root of it so mercilessly growing up and out of my own heart — so long it wraps around the vital organ, so strong it cripples a beat that I trust as the standard of every other rhythm.

Clearly I’m a wreck, and not as proficient at judging the world around me as I thought. Instead of sticking to what I think I know, I have to stand on faith — relying upon Him who sets me right, and not on me, who only gets in His way.

For, it is when I commit myself to trusting Him who makes both my faith and vision sure, I find that my heart is set to the beat of His own heart. And the tempo of Him I love more than life rising from the deepest places of my soul, I recognize that if He resolved this fairness issue according to my heart, I would face a more bitter reality: I would be completely deprived of knowing Him in this rare way because I am not perfect.

When I Let the Rodents In, He Leaves

Jesus called me to a walk today. I rose up and moved with Him, until we came to a place I know so well. He showed me the playground of my heart, and asked me what were these idols He found there.

Welcomed in to fill the gaps His presence seemed to leave, my hope to make sure all was right — that I did not suffer from the holes of emptiness that He seemed intent on leaving bare.

Fearing that if I were not careful, I might fall into one, I went ahead and pledged them to worthy tenants. I asked only that they stay and keep my grounds level, never leaving, never forsaking the duty I had given to them.

These rodents were my support, their presence made me feel at ease — with them there I could relax. Yet, with them always near, I became always busy. They did more to hold my attention than serve the purpose so important to me.

But, so engaged had I become with their winsome personalities that I forgot; I did not hold their ways against them, but rejoiced that I had found friends to fill my hours here, allies who sought me out, and were never far off.

I counted each one as an individual that enriched my life, a mini-savior of my cause. That cause was loneliness, and how they gladly took it up! They hoisted my banner, and encouraged me to hold mine even higher. They did not fill my holes, but they promised with their help they would disappear. I would not be a cast-out, I would not live with less, I deserved more out of life — I would have it all.

That’s what my pride and self-pitying said. It accepted the voice I lent it, and gladly drowned out the whispers from behind that spoke the truth I could not accept. I would not be contradicted, every challenge I would win, even if it meant an unconcerned good-bye to my first and only real Playmate.

If He did not like the atmosphere, then He could leave. There was plenty of fun to be had without Him — the rest of us would make sure of that.

The funny thing, which actually took me a while to notice, was that when my First-Mate left, He took part of me with Him. At first I thought this would still be all right; after all, I had my rodo-pals in tow.

But, then even that began to change. They didn’t seem so happy or concerned with me as they once were. In fact, one particularly quiet morning I discovered them in the most treasonous act imaginable: Not only were they disregarding the holes that bothered me so much, they were making new ones.

I had never noticed their teeth were so violent, not their imaginations so devious. What would I do with them?

I thought to protest and gain their apologies, but they worked on. Again, I tried to command their attention, and give them a firm talking-to, but their ears were too consumed with the sound of their own chewing, to mind anything that I might say. As a last resort, I ran up and kicked one of them, which turned out to be too big to mind the irritation. Moving to the next, I gave him two assaults for good measure, and the sharp-toothed sneer he sent back frightened me so, I screamed and scampered off as quickly as I could through the growing maze of bodies which I now recognized as sickeningly repulsive.

Alone, and now afraid, the truth seemed so ostentation when it sneaked up on me. Interrupting my reverie as I sat hugging my knees and wishing I could somehow return to what I once imagined too dull and unsatisfying, he cowed me:

“What were you thinking? How could you be so blind: missing the teeth, the indifference to your wishes, the sheer number of these little monsters — all these evidences of imminent danger and vicious conquest you would so insolently ignore? Was it worth it? Huh?”

I hated the voice, but I could not run from it — everything he asked begged answers of my shameful actions, and silenced my now remorseful voice.

What was I to do, where could I go?

And as if in answer, I heard His footsteps — the ones that pounded after me in a game of chase, and marched beside me in a walk about the park — I recognized the weight and tempo of a stride that now made me uneasy rather than unafraid. Once having Him at my side had given me confidence, now it put me on edge.

What would He have to say to me — the truth I expected to hear, but then what? What would He demand, what could I expect?

Then His sudden stillness made me voluntarily lift my head — though it seemed later, as if He had been the One to raise my chin. I saw Him before me with outstretched arms that silently called a name I thought He had long ago abandoned. Home was closer than I thought.

With my permission He spanked the rat pack, and reclaimed His territory — the place where I am safe enough to play, with holes that didn’t go so deep as they once had. And He tells me that with time, He will fill them more, as I content myself with the knowledge that He is tending them. In the meantime He teaches me to play amidst them, since He holds onto me in everything we do — whether I should fly in the air above Him, or fall in the ground beneath Him.

So, peace reigns in my playground again — my Mate and I are close once more, yes, closer than we were.