Archives For forgiveness

My ecclesial history began with Protestantism; to wit, as a lad I having Jewish friends, Catholic friends, having Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on the door, asked my mom what religion are we?

Her reply? “We’re Protestants.” That apparently was to be the end of the matter, as no further explanation was forthcoming. I had no idea at all (at that age) what a Protestant was, or what were in fact protesting.

I guess we were protesting the whole thing, because the only church we ever darkened the doors of as a family was my grandma’s. And that only when we annually traveled to visit her. That, aside from maybe a VBS (“Vacation Bible School”) or two was the sum total of my church experience growing up.

Quite frankly what piqued my interest in church was the cute girl at the drugstore who invited me. We spent countless hours together talking about life, the universe, and everything. We visited:

Assemblies of God

Charismatic

Vineyard

& Nazarene

Churches

As I had no prior experience, or theological instruction, upon which to draw I had no preconceived notions about what church was. And darn if some of it didn’t stick! I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and promptly went to a party to get drunk.

I didn’t have a fat clue of what a Christian was, or how they comported themselves. I don’t know how much praying I did, but I did carry around a Bible given to me by my grandma; it was a large, white KJV (King James Version) affair. At the time, I didn’t know it was a family Bible, and was meant more for a coffee table than for constant, conspicuous carrying around.

As I awakened to the the message of the Gospel, it seemed the next step was to get baptized. I mean that’s what believers do, right? Get dunked/sprinkled/submersed/wet…

So I did on a warm September evening some four months after “accepting Christ.” I really didn’t grok at the time that it was some kind of big deal to be baptized, as my then-girlfriend’s family indicated that they wished they’d been there.

I didn’t know it was some kind of symbolic affair significant of anything other than basic obedience to one of Jesus’s commands. Afterwards, I didn’t feel anything other than wet.

Somehow, after being baptized at an Assemblies of God church, we ended up attending a Charismatic fellowship. It wasn’t until much later that I knew it was weird. And by weird I mean I had a fun experience being prayed over by a group white shirt wearing, yellow pit stained elders who wanted me to “recieve the initial evidence of the indwelling.”

Translation: they we’re praying for me to receive the gift of tongues, or in more formal parlance, glossolalia. They, being Charismatic, made it a doctrinal certainty that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; in other words, the practice tongues were to make me a living proof text of God’s work in my life…

The result? I mean I was willing, wanting whatever God has for me. So, sure. I was young, naive, and having no religious background thought why not?

When it didn’t happen, as these four grown men, sweaty-faced, their voices rising in ecstatic fervor, lapsing in and out of their Heavenly Languages, as they circled my seated form, finally (and flatly) stated: “Don’t worry, brother; it’ll happen. Just start muttering.”

Just. Start. Muttering.

I’m not sure that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote of the gift of tongues. Although I suppose I have been muttering to God ever since…

Through

Highs and lows

Successes and failures

Jobs lost and found

Health issues

Death, and new life.

And I’m thankful He’s never yet despised the bleating of this wayward sheep.

Just Come

randomlychad  —  October 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

My wife and I participate in a small group study. Lately, we’ve been looking at how to share the Gospel. As a part of that process, I’ve been tasked with answering a couple of common objections:

The exclusivity of the message of Jesus, and the plethora of world religions. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, but intend to give it the old college try.

The world as we see and experience certainly establishes a prima facie case against the existence of God. There is much suffering, atrocities, and evil. Why would a good God allow such things to transpire? On the other hand, there is much about this world which is beautiful, lovely, and sublime in way which surpasses our poor power to express it. There is an order to the universe, and a precision in the way in which it operates that certainly at the least implies design. Atheists will say that’s all it is, implied design. But according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is often the correct one, e.g., the universe appears designed because it is designed. In other words, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “if the universe were without meaning we should never have discovered that it was without meaning.”

Is it possible that both are true? That all we see around is designed, yet all is not as it should be? Pain, suffering, disease, and death certainly provide a strong argument for this. If this is so, is God to blame? Is He a cosmic sadist delighting in our struggles? Why would He go to such great lengths to create all of this only to seemingly remain hidden from His creation? Why does He allow us to flounder in the mire? Surely a loving Father would [fill in the blank]?

And there’s the rub: we’ve just gone over the line into idolatry, making a god in our image, instead of falling at the feet of the One Who is. Because the One Who is, while promising an ultimate end to evil, in the meantime chooses the much harder path of walking with His suffering creation in love. Rather than delivering us from every trial, He suffers along with us. Instead of answering our questions, our every objection, He gives Himself. This is not an answer that many are willing to hear.

So yes, the world is broken. We are broken, and our brokenness try to fill that void with whatever we think will sooth our savage breast: science, atheism, sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, education, what have you. We move from one thing to the next, never really assuaging the emptiness. And into this mess comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems an offer too good to be true; for how can it be free? This answer to our broken selves, this broken world? Because our experience is here, in the material plane, we know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, that we get what we pay for… Thus it is that the word squeezes us into its mold. Because there’s always strings, right? And we don’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That is ultimately what it boils down to, really; every objection to the existence of God, while purporting to be philosophical, scientific, logical, is really about this: we don’t want to give up control. All else–the prima facie case the world presents–is but a smokescreen to an underlying condition of the heart the Bible terms “sin.”

Because God made us free, we are free to either accept, or reject, this fact. In essence, in shaking our fists at the sky we are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, God, my mind is already made up.” And then we will come up with our reasons, our justifications, of why this is so. Why we are right, and Christians are wrong. Why we’re okay. This is nothing but confirmation bias. We’re right because we’re right. I’m okay, you’re okay. Now go away.

Meanwhile Jesus is saying, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

And that is what the Gospel is all about: rest from our striving, our brokenness, our sin.

Come to Me, He says.

Come and lay your objections down, and take up the life you were made for. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Just come.

<strike>Bruce</strike> I’m sorry, Caitlyn Jenner has been all over the news of late regarding his/her gender transition. We’re supposed to believe that a man of 65 years of age has felt like a woman all of his life, and is now letting <strike>his</strike> her true self out.

Well and good. None of us can see inside Caitlyn’s soul to judge this for ourselves. But what I find hard to fathom is that the same folks who are so loudly trumpeting the fact that we must support Caitlyn, can’t get behind Rachel Dolezal. I mean if gender dysphoria is indeed a thing, why not racial dysphoria. The woman seem to have so strongly identified with the black experience that she believes she’s black.

In this relativistic, pluralistic culture in which we live, who are we to say otherwise? Personal truth (“my truth,” “my experience”) trumps objective reality everyday of the week. We can be whomever, and whatever, we wish…

Except if we’re Rachel Dolezal claiming to be black. Then, no, that’s not okay. But if one is a woman, for instance, who objects to <strike>Bruce</strike> Caitlyn Jenner’s conscription of femininity without living the feminine experience, the one is termed “transphobic.”

My conclusion is that, along with Chesterton, “Our Father is young, and we have grown old.” We have grown old in this sin-soaked world. Sin has tainted everything–everything–we see, hear, taste, touch, smell. Our reason is fallen. In my worldview, gender dysphoria is a consequence of sin. As is claiming to be something we aren’t (this would be termed “lying”). 

But.

AND THIS IS AN AWFULLY BIG “BUT.” Nothing puts us outside the love and grace of God. There is nothing truer than what He says about us; namely, that we–whether we are Caitlyn Jenner, or Rachel Dolezal–are never beyond His love. That He sent His Son. That whether we are gay, straight, bi, transgender, or claim to be transracial, all He asks is that we come to Him to let Him make of us something new. We can debate all the live long day  about what is, or is not, sin.

But in the end, we all need Him.

That, my friends, is not relative.

This isn’t a story I want to tell; rather, it’s one I have to tell. It may seem to meander some as I set it stage, but every word represents the truth as I understand it. 

First, the distant past. It would seem that seventy some years ago, my paternal grandparents split up because my grandfather was abusive (they had two daughters at this point). Later on, they tried to reconcile, and my dad was the result. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, and my dad was forbidden from knowing his dad (or his dad’s side of the family). I’m told he saw him for the last time at the age of twelve. Fast forward to the early fifties, and as they were playing my dad and his sisters found out their mother was remarrying that very morning. I’m given to understand that neither my aunts, nor my dad, had any idea about the nuptials.

Not too long thereafter, at the age of fifteen, my aunt came down with a case of the pregnants. My understanding is that, at some time after their wedding, my step grandfather began touching his step kids. For instance, kids being kids they would have the radio on at night; because it was ostensibly loud, dad would come into the room to turn it down. Apparently, the radio’s knob isn’t what he fiddled with. It was, again, at this time that my aunt got pregnant and moved out. 

As is so often the case, no one talked about it at the time; it was much, much later that folks began to compare stories. There were other things, too: this same man would stay up late watching “snow” on the television. He also apparently jabbed babies in the back of the hand with his fork should they dare reach across his plate at the dinner table… By the time I was born, he was older, nearing retirement age. Perhaps he had beaten whatever demons afflicted him? Who knows? What I heard is that despite what my parents knew about the man, I was left there as a toddler (my grandmother was home). When my mom picked me up, she smelled a funny smell. In fact, she called my cousin, stating that “his sweet baby face smells like semen.” Whether this is true, or not, I’ve no idea; it is however entirely consistent with the man’s character.
Blessedly, I have entirely no memories of this incident. What I can tell you is that, as I briefly sketched out above, it’s not the only such story to swirl around this man. In fact, upon her deathbed, my grandmother threw her hospital tray at him, inviting him to “Go to Hell!” Apparently, she could no longer ignore the the reports she heard, and wanted to clear her conscience in light of her impending demise.

Ladies and gentlemen, abuse is cyclical. Growing up, my dad was distant. Sarcastic and cutting when he was present, but all the awhile emotionally unavailable. He was long gone before he ever left our family. I can’t say with any certainty what he went through as a child; he’s never spoken to me of it. In fact, we don’t speak at all.

That is the legacy of abuse. It destroys families and shatters lives.

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Have you ever been there? You know, just chilling? Kicking back, watching a show–and God just kind of gobsmacks you?

No?

Is it just me then?

I was watching this week’s mid-season finale of The Flash, and this bit of dialogue hit me like a bolt out of the blue:

The man in the yellow suit “has taken enough from us.” Beyond it’s literal meaning within the context of the show (a man in a yellow suit–the Reverse-Flash), I was struck by what an apt metaphor it was for anything we let rob us of our joy.

It could be fear. It could be getting passed over for a promotion. It could be a slight, real or imagined. It could be we feel like we aren’t getting , or didn’t get, the love we felt we deserved.

It could be any decision we make from that place of trying, at all costs, to avoid getting hurt again. Or letting hatred take us down a road that Jesus can’t follow.

The man in the yellow suit is anything which keeps us shackled to the hurts, slights, fears, pains… which in turn keep us from being all that Jesus says we are in Him.

For myself, I’ve spent an inordinate number of years trying to make up for something that I can never get back. Like Barry’s father says to him in the show:

It’s time to let go.

It’s time to live.

Is there anything keeping you from really living into all that you should be? Is it time, and are you ready, to let it go?