Continuation

In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a short continuation of my previous post.

So I talked about how Jesus hung out with the people who weren’t good enough – the people who would have today’s Christians shaking their heads. Today, I want to apply that to our relationships.

I have a friend. Originally, he is a friend of a friend. And while I’m not super close to him, I would still call him a friend. However, he is gay. And today, I had my roommate (who is not religious) ask about whether or not it was okay for my friend (who is a strong Christian who I admire) to be friends with him. After all, isn’t being gay something the bible tells us not to do (I’d like to point out briefly that the Bible NEVER associates being gay with…well…being. It never refers to it as an identity, only an action)? And yes, it does. And this friend is also “religious” (I only use that term because I’m not entirely sure where he stands in the “religious field”, if you will). I don’t know how he resolves the two, but that’s a discussion for another time. But if Jesus hung out with people like the apostles, what excuse could I possibly give for not hanging out with people we would refer to as “better”? None. The answer is none.

I recently read “The Lipstick Gospel”. And I encourage you to read it as well. But one of the things she talks about is how she thought Christianity was about “old grannies and ugly shoes”…-and how she found out that is isn’t. That it isn’t sterile and clean, but rather messy and dirty. At one point, she used smell references – that she thought Christianity was “boring, plain vanilla” and she was more interested in something “eukelyptic-y” (excuse my spelling). I think that maybe I have been thinking too in line with “boring, plain vanilla”. I was raised in a Christian home, I’ve been a Christian since I was four, and I’m finding out that we are rather conservative. Not that that’s bad – for example, I believe in one-piece bathing suits rather than two pieces, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, being raised in a Christian environment, you come to expect the sterile. So meeting the messy – someone who struggles with cursing, or crude jokes, or anger, or anything else – can be a bit of a shock. If you’ve never encountered it before, you might not know how to respond. Or maybe you automatically respond with a judgement about their faith. And by you I mean me. And so we forget that a foundation of Christianity is love and grace. We forget that judgement is not ours to give (James 4:11,12). We forget that God’s love is not sterile and boxed up, but unconditional and without bounds. Something that the writer of “The Lipstick Gospel” wrote struck me: she wrote that “I didn’t even have to give up having sex for God to love me”. She did – because she saw a hint of God’s plan for her life and “wanted in on it”, which is what I believe happens when you’re trying to seek God – but God would love her anyway. Rahab in Joshua 2 comes to mind.

Maybe this thought will be radical for you, but God loves the prostitutes. God loves the drunkards. God loves the unfaithful. God loves the thieves. God loves the criminals. God loves the murderers. God loves the abusers. God loves the rapists. God loves the perverts. God loves everyone. Unconditionally. He loves everyone unconditionally.

Those same people who all too often we hate? The people we look down on? The people we despise? God loves them. Even when what they do makes us sick to our stomachs, He loves them. And we are called to Love them too. Love, with a capital L. Because it isn’t dependent on our feelings, or on them. The love we are supposed to have is supposed to transcend any circumstances, and go straight to the deep, neverending, unconditional love that God has. We are supposed to love like Him.

So to wrap up, just remember. Our faith, as Christians, is not supposed to be sterile. It isn’t supposed to be squeaky clean. It’s supposed to be messy, because we are messy. We are not perfect, so neither should our faith be.

You should read “The Lipstick Gospel”. It’s interesting and has some good thoughts. You can find it at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/lipstickgospeldownload

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I’m Not Good Enough

Let me jump right in here. If you’ve read any of my previous posts from months ago, you know that I struggle with masturbation. So this post is largely about some wisdom that was spoken into my life regarding that lately.

I’ve been struggling with masturbation for over a year now. I go through cycles – long period of time with no masturbation, then a short period of time with lots of it. Semi-recently, I’ve come to a spot where many of you may or may not have been – I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough for God’s love. I’m not good enough for His forgiveness, for His grace. I keep sinning! And (if you remember my post about rebellion a ways back, or if you want to go read it) not only do I just keep sinning, I rebel against him. Most of the time when I masturbate any more, I send up a prayer ahead of time apologizing for what I’m about to do. So I keep sinning, and keep rebelling, and then I don’t want to pray. I mean, why would God want to hear from me? I can’t expect him to magically fix it if I’m not willing to put in work as well, and obviously I’m failing in that area. I’m tired of saying sorry and then going back to do it again. At this point, I felt dirty. I felt absolutely disgusting. And eventually, I put it at the edge of my mind because I was tired of considering it and not getting answers. But this past weekend, someone spoke some immense wisdom into my life.

David. David was wonderful, wasn’t he? We, as Christians, look up to him. Sure, the man had some flaws, but he was a man after God’s own heart!

Exactly.

God called David a man after his heart, knowing full well that David would commit adultery in the future. And not only would he commit adultery, he would then commit murder to cover it up. And still God said something that praised David so highly. This wisdom that was spoken into my life meant something to me. It wasn’t a life-changing, earth-shattering thing – you rarely know when those are going on, they usually seem super little at the time – but it meant something. What matters, Wisdom (I’m going to start referring to this person as Wisdom) told me, was where my heart was leaning towards. Was my heart following God?

Soloman was wise. He was blessed by God, he followed God, right? Well…until he fell into idolatry (1 Kings 11). God knew that Soloman would do that far before it ever happened.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a thing on Facebook (amazing, right? I saw a thing. Excuse me, I’ll continue now). This passage that someone wrote spoke about the disciples. It’s message was about judging people who may cuss or do other things that don’t seem Christian after they were saved, and their points apply here as well. (By the way, to give credits, this was by Preston Sprinkle on faithit.com)

We all admire the disciples, right? Especially Peter. Well, he had that one bad stint where he denied Jesus (I’m sensing a pattern here…) but other than that, he was pretty close to Jesus! In Luke 9, he was the one who recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Peter denied Jesus and even cursed himself to prove it (Matthew 26:74). Also in Luke 9, James and John wanted to destroy a whole village because they did not welcome Jesus. Simon “the Zealot” (according to Preston Sprinkle, I have not checked this information) and all the other zealots were basically “Jewish jihadists” who killed people. And Matthew was a tax-collector. I like how Preston Sprinkle described this; he said it would be like “you found out that your childhood friend was making a living…funneling money to ISIS” (side note, if you can look up this article, you should. Preston Sprinkle does a good job putting this information into modern, easy-to-understand terms and the whole article was really good thoughts). That’s five of the disciples right there who would be the LAST people you’d imagine being great Christians, and Jesus chose them as his disciples. In Luke 9 (again) it says that the disciple argued about who was the greatest at one point. Can you imagine that conversation? “Murderer!” “Backstabber!” “Hotheads!”. I can’t help but remember when Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the ill”. There are times I almost wish I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, that I knew the dirt of the world, because then I’d be able to understand God’s grace so much better. But I wonder how much harder my life would have been.

So, yeah, I’m not good enough. But Jesus didn’t associate with those who were “good enough” (we see the pharisees as prideful, bad people, but in that day they were the people who were “good enough”). Jesus associated with the people that would make many Christians today recoil. He associated with the people whose faith would be questioned in today’s world. He associated with those people. So the biggest thing I should worry about is whether or not my heart is chasing God.

You’re not good enough either. That’s okay. Neither were the disciples. Neither was David. Neither was Soloman.

Am I Rebellious?

Rebel. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear this word? Maybe it’s disgust (in which case, I advise you think about what God says about love). Maybe it’s that idea of a cool kid. You could imagine fear, terror, suppression, excitement, energy, life. But can we really think about this, just for a moment? In our world, the word rebel can have all of those meanings, or none of them. Being a rebel can be good – the apostles and Jesus himself were essentially rebels. But it can also be bad, like when a school kid flaunts the rules simply because they’re rules. But here is the difference – when you are rebelling against something, in order for it to be good it has to line up with God’s heart and will. If it doesn’t line up with his heart and will, it becomes rebelling in a bad way. While I could apply this to all sorts of situations in today’s world, I really wanted to talk about something else.

I just got back to my dorm room. I’ve been watching anime pretty much all day, and my Bible has been sitting beside me – open – all day. I got back from picking up supper, and this verse I skimmed yesterday popped out at me. Hosea 14:9, “The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” This kinda hit me. A few posts ago, I posted about a certain sin I struggle with. My first thought went to that, especially because I have failed in that recently (transparency, people). Then I started thinking more…in the post before that one, I had mentioned how I hadn’t really sat down with God recently.And you know what? To my shame, I still haven’t. So while I think about these things, I realize…am I being rebellious? I know all the blabber about how we’re human and of course we rebel, it’s natural. I covered this is an offhand way my second and third posts. If it’s mainstream, it doesn’t often affect me. Heard that, been there, moving on. And, as I mentioned in my third post, if I said that stuff I would be making excuses. So let me pound this into my brain for a few seconds: I am rebelling against my Lord, my God, and the one who saved my life every single time I don’t live in Him. Every single time! I’m not just failing, I am rebelling! And I can understand it. Before I failed last time, I could think stuff through. I knew I should direct my thoughts elsewhere. I felt like God was with me, almost a holy feeling, and I knew that if I did it anyway that feeling would go away. I purposely chose to disobey my Lord. How often do we do that? How often do we lie to ourselves about it? The old pastor of my church had a message once, probably when I was in sixth or seventh grade. He was asking people how many thought they were a good person, or okay. A lot of people raised their hands. Then he asked how many of us thought we were “bad” people – I don’t have a way to explain what he meant right now. There were much fewer hands raised, and mine was among them. It’s something I struggle with that causes me to pull away from God – the knowledge that I am an ugly sinner and I can’t seem to do anything about it. I know all the stuffing about how of course that’s true, we can’t wait until we’re good, that’s why God sent his Son – but it still kills me often. Then my pastor said something else – he said that those of us in the second group were…closer to God or something, I don’t actually remember. My hand shot down. I’ve always had this impression about people in the church that they’re better Christians than I am. I see someone obviously failing and I struggle with pride – in case that phrase alone didn’t tip you off – and I look around at others and feel like they’re on a level that I can never reach and that they’ll all be better Christians than me forever. Saying it now I think How stupid is that? but it’s still not something I’ve conquered. Maybe I never will. But how often do we lie to ourselves? How often do we say “I don’t struggle with that“? I can tell you, ’cause this applies to me to…if you’re saying that, you probably either do or will soon. I think of it like an invitation for satan to come mess that up, because if nothing else there’s pride at work there. It’s hard. Where do you say “I need to understand that I’m human and make mistakes” versus “I am rebelling against God”? How often do we look at people who do drugs and feel pity for them and thank God we’re Christian? Especially lately, I’ve been wondering…isn’t my sin like a drug? Maybe it’s better, maybe it’s worse but…one of the reasons it’s hard is because it feels like it helps me. It feels like it relieves stress. And, perhaps more importantly, is the other stuff. It satisfies cravings and desires and alleviates doubts and insecurities that I don’t know would be satisfied/alleviated otherwise. I have plenty of self-esteem. I know my own worth. But sometimes… We lie to ourselves. We rebel against God and lie to ourselves about it. We aren’t just failing no matter how it seems like it. We are rebelling. Actively rebelling. But now…think about how God must feel. Oh. My. Word. I know how frustrated I get and how much pain I feel when a younger child or a friend does something I told them not to because I was trying to protect them. How must God feel? We fail him every single day, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. And it’s not just one or two of us…it’s millions of us! I recently had my mom tell me that she didn’t think I had enough self-confidence for something, I forget what. I was confused. But her response…she wasn’t sure what else it could be. She felt that I put her and my best friend – the one I call a sister – down. Often. I don’t want to think about that. I don’t want to have to wonder if I do it. I thought I tried to go out of my way to avoid hurting the people I cared about. I’ve been working on holding my tongue. But now…how many times have I felt the tiniest, tiniest wiggle of unease as I mocked my mom in front of my grandparents? Telling myself I was teasing her? Which to an extent is fine, but…have I pushed it too far? I recently had a conversation with my friend where I admitted that – during a conversation she thought I was insulting her intelligence in – I had just realized I’d felt threatened by her desire to get in advanced classes because I had always been the smart one and she had always been the social one. She attracts people like moths to flame. But to think that I might have been putting them down

I don’t know. Have I been lying to myself? Just how rebellious have I been? I don’t even know. But I think, tonight, that I will be doing a lot more praying and thinking than I had originally planned.