“It’s Not About Being One Of The Best”

This post is a followup to yesterday’s post and tries to fill in a few gaps that may explain why some people become who they are.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.”

I don’t know when we stop becoming little ones. There are times that I want to go back to being a little one, particularly on days when I feel I have absolutely no strength in myself.

I have a feeling that there are some things that we have to resolve when we are a little one, and if we don’t resolve them then, they will confound us until we do. One of those things is the love of Jesus.

Perhaps one of the strongest senses a child has is whether or not they are loved. It may be stronger than their sense of whether or not they are warm and nourished. Children gravitate to love. They want to figure out how to receive more of it. Sometimes it’s very difficult to figure out, particularly when using just outward appearances. Sometimes outward appearances appear to be what love is all about. Who always seems to have new stylish clothes? The popular new toy? Who always seems to get picked for special privileges at school and at church? Who is “The Best Boy” in my class? Who is “The Best Girl”?

God made you just the way you are.

God loves you just the way you are.

God picked out your family just for you.

But what if you don’t look like all of the other children? You have brown skin, but they don’t. You have a twisted limb, but they don’t. You wear the same thing to church every Sunday, but they always have something new. Your mom gives you cereal for dinner, but they have a hot meal. Your dad is in jail, but theirs is playing ball with them in the backyard. Maybe that’s part of what “They are weak, but He is strong” is really all about.

It’s not always easy when you’re not one of “The Favorites,” but then there is a different kind of difficulty for those who are one of “The Favorites.” Maybe that’s a different kind of weak too.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that sometimes we may have to help people figure out God’s love is not like the things we see that may accompany human love. It’s too easy to be lured away by those things as nice and as wholesome as they are. Then maybe they will realize they have been receiving God’s love all along.

“Voices From The Last Pew” Update

This is a “trigger warning” concerning tomorrow’s post for “Voices From The Last Pew.”

It will be titled “Finding Your Voice” and will touch on domestic violence, verbal abuse, bullying behaviors, and manipulation (including the bending of God’s Word to suit one’s own desires to control). The character and situation sketched out is a composite of several different real life situations. One thing is the same with any type of abuse where someone has been shamed into remaining silent: “Finding Your Voice” is extremely important.

I know that some of you are dealing with or recovering from some form of abuse or violence like this, and so I just wanted to provide a “heads up” or “trigger warning” in case some readers may be concerned that this topic will bring up painful memories from the past.

Hopefully it will be a good post, one that the Holy Spirit can use to bring awareness, help, and healing. 

“We Don’t Love God By Killing People”

So what do you think? How would you answer this question: “If God is Love, how could He have all of those people in the Old Testament killed?” 

We associate “Love God, Kill Your Neighbor” with religious wars, fundamentalist thinking, and fanaticism. These are people who build bombs in their basement, shoot people in public, carry “God Hates You” signs…or maybe they just call you names, shut you out, bully you. This is difficult for me to understand. Most of us would agree we don’t love God by killing our neighbor, but what about God’s commandment here?

You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 20:17-18 (NRSV)

Honestly this perplexes me at times, but I have been trying to view things differently. It’s sort of what artists (or want-to-be artists) do. I’m unable to just simply say, “We can’t understand God’s thoughts and ways.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) I have to have some idea to consider, something to try to sketch out, whether I find it valid or not in the end.

So what if we try to view everything in the Old Testament as being about God’s plan to become flesh and dwelling among us? What if all of God’s actions, covenants, and laws are viewed through the lens of “I must send My Son into the world to be born as Son of God and Son of Man”?

For the Incarnation to happen, God needed a holy nation and a holy family to bring a holy child into the world. This was likely the most important thing to God. In fact it was so important that when the Israelites had disappointed God so much, He told Moses that He would wipe them all off of the earth and start His plan again with just Moses to build a holy nation. (Deuteronomy 9:13-14) Without the Incarnation, all would be lost. God could not give up His plan.

God was very concerned, I believe, about what kind of people would be surrounding His Holy Child, His Son. This is why He needed a holy nation. He couldn’t tolerate any pagan beliefs because of what could possibly happen. Some pagan worship involved child sacrifice, burning children alive, so God commanded against this. (Leviticus 18:21) Even with all of God’s warnings, this still happened. (Honestly, if people are going to do that to little children, what else might they do?)

They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons,and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Psalm 106:34-38 (NRSV)

So what if this was part of the reason, maybe not all of the reason, for what seems to be a contradiction? God had to protect His Son who was to be born a baby into a frightening and violent Roman-occupied country in a very violent world.

Yet I do wonder, “Well, God could just protect Jesus as a child. He could send an angel if someone was going to do any harm to Jesus.” But even though He could have, I have a hard time imagining that He would have. This, I believe, has something to do with how Jesus never took any miraculous actions to save Himself, even when people wanted to stone Him. (John 8:59 and 10:31)

So then I wonder, “Well, surely God could have outsmarted people and prevented any harm from occurring.” But really, haven’t we seen the evil that people can do? Even Jesus as an adult did not trust people. (John 2:24-25) And could we really worship God from our hearts if His plan of redemption rested on being able to outsmart us?

What if God wanted Jesus to be just like you and me? What if God wanted Jesus to walk by faith? That meant with no “safety net” of angels or superior outsmarting, just faith in His Father built upon knowing the holy scriptures, prayer, and meditation. These are the same tools that you and I have.

The people of the Old Testament didn’t understand everything perfectly because they were right in the middle of God working out His plan for the Incarnation. Maybe we as people of the New Testament don’t understand everything because we are right in the middle,of God working out His plan for the the Parousia, Christ’s Second Coming.

And so finally…

What if we can’t understand everything now because God’s love is bigger than our minds can comprehend? What if the “New And Improved For Everybody” must come to pass first?

Is there anything profound here? Doubtful. Does this explain everything? No. It may not explain anything at all or only scratch the surface, but it does help me to imagine and ask questions.

I’m learning, very slowly, that knowing the answers is not the same as knowing God. Perhaps that is the best response to the question that started all of this.

“The Gifts: My Praise, My Thanksgiving”

This series is still being shaped in many ways “right before your eyes” based on what you are sharing with me! That’s really exciting!

You’ll notice that the main title has changed to “The Gifts,” and it looks like the graphics will be built on two frameworks.

One is “The Gifts Of God For The People Of God.” Those are words from the Eucharist or Communion celebration, and that’s what the first graphic in this series was about. This framework seeks to ask and answer the questions “What if the only thing Jesus has to give us is Himself? Would we be satisfied?” This is about relationship and seeking Jesus for who He is rather than “getting stuff” from Him.

The other is new today and is “The Gifts To God From The People Of God.” It seeks to ask and answer the questions “What if the only thing we have to give Jesus is ourselves? Would He be satisfied?” This is also about relationship and “being enough in ourselves” to please God.

I think that both of these are things that many of us may struggle with from time to time when we focus on “getting stuff” and “being enough.” I think it’s right to say that is usually the way that the world operates, but it’s not the way that God operates.

For me, so often I’ve felt like I have nothing to give God that will please Him, that in one way or another, I just wasn’t good enough. Maybe you’ve felt like that too? It really wasn’t until recently that my feelings about this have changed as I’ve rethought “Things That Are Pleasing To God.”

Here’s the turning point realization for me: My Faith may please God, but He gave it to me in the first place and Jesus is My Coach to improve My Faith.

What if we looked at Our Heavenly Father like a loving earthly parent? (Even one from an old TV show like “Family Affair” or “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” if imagining a loving earthly parent is tough for you. Seriously, I get that. I really do.) He gives his children money to go and buy a Father’s Day gift to give to him. Even lets them use his wrapping paper, his scissors, and his tape to dress it up like a great Father’s Day gift. He even gives them the materials and some ideas for the Father’s Day card to go with it all!

What if that’s really what Our Heavenly Father does with us? Only He gives us the faith, the courage, the generosity, the love and all of the other things we have to then give back to Him? And He lets us believe they were all from us! (Because we haven’t held on to those things.) And it’s exactly what He wanted! (Because they really are.) And we are the best children ever! (Because we really are.)

Yet all the time we know He gave us the gifts to give back to Him, and Jesus served as our guide for the tough parts, and the Holy Spirit helped from start to finish! That’s like a family relationship, wouldn’t you say?!? Yes, it is! And yes, you are enough!

But I am lowly and in pain; let your salvation, O God, protect me. I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. Psalm 69:29-31 (NRSV)

So what about the gifts of “My Praise, My Thanksgiving”? What about “Even In Afflictions And Pain”? Just think about this. Jesus never stopped offering praise and thanksgiving, even during His most anguishing and painful moments. He is our Example. He is our Guide. We can embrace Him and say, “Jesus, please show me and help me to have praise and thanksgiving, even though right now it feels like life is crushing me.” He gets it. He’s been there.

If I could give you “Ten Easy Steps,” I would, but I can’t. I really can only give you “One Often Difficult But Not Impossible Step,” and that is “Grab Onto Jesus.” He is enough. You in Him are enough.

“It’s Not About Because God Sort Of Has To”



The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting and lonely child, “God might, just might, love you because He sort of has to, but you don’t deserve to be loved or to have any friends.”

But God doesn’t “sort of have to” do anything. He is God after all, but there’s more to it than that. Whatever He does it’s because of who He is, He just can’t do anything differently, even if He tried. There is no “sort of” to His love.

I’m not sure if we can totally understand this kind of love, a love that has no other option but to love with unlimited expanding intensity. Words explain in part, but it must be experienced for a fuller understanding.

Hurting children ask some tough questions about God as Heavenly Father. Hurting grown ups do too. Often these questions can come from a comparison that is made to an earthly father.

But earthly fathers can do things differently. They do have choices. They can choose to NOT “sort of have to love” AT ALL.

They can make you feel like you need to earn their love. They can refuse to have any time for you to do things with you like what a friend would do. They can even make you wish that you had never been born.

Whatever The Gospel is…it must not be based on something God feels obligated to do or about something that you must make God want to do. It must be about adding more onto something that you already always had.