Doubtful Faith

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is, for me, struggling with doubt. 

Other Christians tell you the cliches that seem to be bred into our Sunday School faith. “God has a plan,” “God never gives us more than we can handle,” “Everything happens for a reason.” In other words: how dare you be in doubt! If you believe in God, you can’t doubt! It’s un-Christian!

Non-believers who know you are a believer, jump on you. They make the doubt stronger and more uncomfortable because they are looking for a reason not to follow this “Jesus thing.” You are an example/ experiment that is being played out in real time in front of them. You are the reality star in their Survivor: Faith edition.  

I want to hazard a thought. 

I think doubt is good for a strong faith. 

It’s taken me a long time to come to this conclusion and feel comfortable enough to share it. 

Doubt can make my faith stronger.

Doubt comes in many flavors. 

Strangely though, when one believer hears that another believer is doubting, they seem to always think it means doubting in God. Like I doubt He truly exists. That soon I’m going to be one of those missing-link-believers-big-bang freaks they are afraid of who is killing God.

At least that’s what I feel like they think the few times I have voiced the burden of doubt on my shoulders.

I know people who have gone through this doubt. I understand it. You watch the horrible things happening in the world and possibly the own pain you are going through and wonder: Why? If you believed and loved well…why would a good God allow so much pain? 

So the doubt you struggle with, the doubt other believers don’t help you carry, wears you down. Some of you might tentatively cling to your beliefs, but maybe not necessarily your faith. You keep the good things of the ‘religion,’ by helping others and attempting to live well, but you don’t give credence to the heart changing soul saving aspects of the faith anymore. It hasn’t changed the world for the better, so if there is a God out there, He is no longer involved with His creation. 

Others throw the baby out with the bathwater. God is not real. He can’t be. A loving God would never allow this, so He doesn’t exist. You were brainwashed. 

I have never questioned if God was real since I placed my trust in Him. I also have never questioned His grace or love. That is not a burden I have been forced to struggle with yet, thankfully. I truly feel for those who have to. It is an extremely difficult burden to unload. 

God has always been very real to me. Things have happened to the good, that there was absolutely no way it would have happened by human hands. I have been greatly comforted in heartwrenching sorrow, by an unexplainable peace.

Instead, what my doubt is, is my worthiness. Its not necessarily my worthiness of God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice, though on rare dark nights of the soul I find myself wrestling with that question. 

Rather, I doubt my worthiness to be a part of God’s plan. 

I see myself as too insignificant to be a gear in His plan. I’ve always have had this weird vision of the Book of Life open in front of the throne at Judgment Day, turned to my name. There isn’t anything written under it. There is no accounting for what I’ve done or haven’t done. Simply my name, written in Christ’s blood. Proof that I loved Him, but no proof that I lived for Him. 

Some days that snapshot of a daydream haunts me. It fuels a discontentment in my present day environment that I struggle with. 

And I ask myself: What am I doing for God? 

>>I want to take a moment here and make myself abundantly clear: I believe that according to what the Bible has taught me, salvation is not based on my good works. There is absolutely nothing I can do to earn my salvation. It is a gift freely given by Christ when He took my punishment for my sins and died on the cross. The only thing required of me to receive that unearned blessing is to ask for it. Even if it is on my death bed, I still can ask for it. And I will receive it. Because its a gift waiting for me to unwrap it.<<

I am surrounded by some on-fire people with the vision of what God demands of them. They see a chunk of His plan so clearly that it seems that their mission field is so ripe that the fish are jumping in the boat and the fruit is falling from the trees. They have that brilliant passion that just drives them forward. 

I know that what I perceive isn’t always what is happening. I know that they all have their own fears and struggles. But my very human doubting mind wonders. 

Have I missed God’s call? 

But, then again, why would He want me when He has her? She gathers people without trying, she’s so energetic that people line up to help. 

I can’t do that. 

Did you know that Mother Teresa, a woman well known for her faithful service, had doubts? In 2007 a book came out with letters to her confessor that poured out the pain of doubt. 

It rocked the world in many ways. The media of course used it to show how fruitless faith in God was. If a woman as sacrificial as Mother Teresa wondered about a loving God, how can He be real? Some people even labeled her a Christian Atheist.

Supposedly, when she first reached out for comfort and guidance in her “dark night of the soul,” one priest urged her to keep quiet and confess her sins. He did nothing to help her understand her doubts or to strengthen her faith so those dark nights didn’t become dark years. He was fearful the impact it would have on other people’s faith.

Where is my Faith–even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness–My God–how painful is this unknown pain–I have no Faith–I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart–& make me suffer untold agony….Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?— Mother Teresa, Saint of Calcutta. Undated Letter, quoted in “Mother Teresa: Come be my light” (2007) 

How heartwrenching. If only this woman had someone to walk with her in her dark nights. To hold her faith until such a time as she was ready to carry it again. Not to condemn her for wrestling with her questions, but to love her until she could feel God’s love again.

Isn’t that what the Body of Christ is for? We are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep for those who weep (Romans 12:15).” Those who are doubting are weeping. Do not be Job’s friends who tell the man he must have sinned for everything that happened to him. It isn’t a sin to doubt. 

We live in a very broken sin-filled world. Bad things happen. Any believer who says they don’t question it has to be lying or hasn’t read their Bible.

We do such a great disservice to other believers when we don’t ask for prayer and guidance when we struggle.

Church has too often become a building where you come to show off your perfect mask of peace and contentment, rather than the raw honesty of broken tears and uncomfortable anger. There is an unspoken law that we must not make other people uncomfortable because then we can’t win their souls. So we peddle the Prosperity Gospel lie. “When you become a Christian everything become perfect. You no longer struggle, you no longer cry, and you always win.” If mature Christians can’t handle hard times of doubt and bad things happening, how can we expect brand new believers to?

And the first time a new believer stumbles, they beat themselves up. They are a failure. They either run from God, thinking they are unworthy, or they no longer advance of in a deeper relationship with other Christians and God. 

We will stumble. 

We all have our trip ups, our temptations, our trials. We will make mistakes. You are human. God knows that. 

If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself wondered if God could let the heavy burden pass from him, or voiced His concern of His Father forsaking him– HE UNDERSTANDS. (Matthew 26:39, 27:46)

God never created us to be mindless followers of Him. He wants a relationship between us. He knows that questions will come, arguments will happen, tears and laughter will be shared. He knows that we will have doubt. This world breeds it like cockroaches. 

He just asks us keep the communication channels open. 

We could totally be Jonah. And God will still use us. I think He’d prefer us to be willing though. 

Jonah questioned God’s justice. He questioned it so hard–because he knew God was just and forgiving– that Jonah ran! He tried to get away from God’s sight even though he knew it was impossible. He got swallowed by a large fish as a disciplinary action. The prophet finally went to Nineveh, dragging his feet. When he told the town about the judgment God was getting ready to mete out, it wasn’t with a passionate cry to listen. It was “God is going to kill you, so repent. Or not. I don’t care.” Then when God actually did forgive the people- like He said He would- Jonah basically said “Kill me now.” Then got another lesson from God.  

Jonah spoke to God and heard His voice. And still he doubted.

Abraham and Sarah, the very beginning of the faith of Israelites questioned God’s plan. They tried to make God’s promise work because they could simply not see how they were to have a child in their advanced years (Genesis). And Abraham is still considered a Hero of the Faith  (Hebrews 11). 

Peter denied knowing Christ three times– even when Jesus told His disciple that he was going to do so. And he lived with that regret even as he worked his mission. (Luke 22:54-62)

All the twelve men with Christ’s inner circle struggled with great doubt when they saw Jesus die. How can this man die? He says he’s the Son of God. How can he die? 

Thomas doubted so strongly the story of the Resurrection, that he said he wouldn’t believe until his fingers were within the wounds on Christ’s body. (John 20:24-25)

Doubt is real.

It isn’t a sin.

Jesus didn’t reprimand His disciples beyond telling them that He said this was going to happen.

Don’t let anyone shame you for your doubt. And don’t shame anyone for their’s. 

I urge you, as someone who doubts, to speak about it. Do what you need to do to move through your dark night of the soul. 

Pray. Get into nature and feel God’s power. Read the Scripture. Listen to music, read devotions. Find the stories of missionaries that speak to you. Find the prayer warriors in your church and ask them to pray. 

God gives us ways to work through those moments/ years of doubt. We just need to learn how to use them.

I doubt. My heart and mind go to battle and I doubt. I wonder how God can use me. But I still move forward.

Find a way to keep walking until your doubt doesn’t cling to you anymore. And help someone else when they start to doubt.

Advertisements

The Burden of a Blessing

image

Have you ever stopped to think what a burden a blessing might be?

We ask God to bless us without really knowing what we are asking for.
We wish each other God’s blessings on days of birth and holidays. We ask for blessings of health and wealth as if those are the only forms of blessings possible.

Do you know what a double edged sword God’s blessings can be?

When you ask God for his blessings, do you ever stop to think what you might be agreeing to?

Studying the major blessings that we see in the Bible, I think they all come with a heavy burden. I wonder if I were to ask Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, Peter, or Paul (to name just a bare few) if they would say that while worth it, God’s blessings were particularly heavy at times?

If you knew that you were going to be plunged into the fire to be molded and sharpened, would you be eager to be a recipient of God’s blessings? 

If you knew that to get the blessing you would have to do something that was going to be difficult and trying, would you still ask God?

I think we really need to think carefully about asking God for his “favor and protection.” God is no wish fulfilling genie. There is a purpose behind everything he does. While he protects us from the talons of the evil one, perhaps his favor has a heavier load that accompanies it.

For example:
Abraham was called out of his culture to be blessed mightily by a God forgotten by most of the population. By answering God’s call, Abraham is accepting the first part of a contract between himself and the Divine. By seeking God’s blessing – the promised offspring that will be multipled greatly- Abraham is in essence sealing the contract (a binding agreement) with God.

Both God and Abraham must fulfill their part of the agreement for the blessing to be fully realized. This is where the burden can be seen.

Now, we must remember that in all subsequent contracts we look out, God has always laid out exactly what he expects and what he promises. God has never breached his contracts, nor does he hide in loopholes. He did no less with Abraham.

Abraham is a product of his own sin though. Where God has promised -blessed- him and Sarah with a multitude of descendants in their barren union, Abraham’s duty was to have faith and trust in God’s timing. Thankfully, God still brings into completion his side of all contracts despite human failings. Abraham, with prompting from his wife (also a contractee) manufactures a loophole in the blessing.

Instead of waiting for the promise to come to birth, Abraham attempts to do it in his own terms, by producing a child with Hagar. Effectively starting the war between two sons’ descendants–Israel (Isaac) and Islam (Ishmael). Two children whose blessing is a big burden. Both equally blessed by their Father’s God with a multitude of descendants who, because of that same father’s sin, will be at war against each other until the end of days.

The burden with the blessing. The burden ultimately comes from the inability humans seem to have on completely trusting God’s promises and causing problems with our bumbling. The blessing was pure: Isaac was promised in God’s timing. Abraham’s line was set up to be gloriously long. But, he couldn’t wait, because his faith just wasn’t strong enough. So, the contract had a human sized hole punched through it, causing God to do what he promised twice. Ishmael equally received the inheritance of being Abraham’s son.

God does not lie. He promised Abraham that his children would outnumber the sand on the shore. That means to completely fulfill his part of the contract, God had to bless each child from Abraham’s loins equally.

This burden of blessings, can be seen in the interactions of Isreal the nation with God as well. You first start to see the inkling of the difficulties that Isaac’s children will face before he is even born. Genesis 15:13 says, Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.”

To be called out as different from the surrounding tribes would have been a heavy burden to carry. The very customs God wanted them to use were to declare them set apart. Isreal was to be an example of righteousness, and in that to be a shining light for the pagans to see.

When Moses came on the scene, he was part of Abraham’s blessing and a bearer of a renewing of the blessing on Abraham’s descendants. With the renewing additional blessings were handed down, along with a more refined covenant. The covenant though was still very closely related to the original blessing, but because it was dealing with a much larger contractee/ person group the language was much more defined. The 10 Commandments along with cultural laws were shared between God and the Hebrew people.

These laws were set literally in stone to show the Hebrew people exactly how different God was calling them to be. But, once again, God asked if the people were really willing to follow the very strict rules he was giving. Exodus 19:5  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples ….And they promised they were willing. Not once! But twice! Exodus 19:8  All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Even in the midst of worshipping a man made cow, they said they were willing to follow the rules.

So the blessing was given. The burden was felt. In an effort to be considered truly different from the surrounding tribes, the Israelites were in essence, declaring a cultural war. The God they worshipped became a feared unknown entity to the enemy.

The burden is truly felt when other nations attacked them on the battlefront. Or, when God disciplined the Hebrew people because they were choosing not to fulfill their part of the agreement. The burden is felt when God has them dispersed over the centuries on a number of occasions to remind them of his blessings. Through slavery and homelessness, God reminds his people that he alone is their resting place and their salvation. The blessing can indeed be heavy.

Then we jump to the New Covenant because God’s Son completely fulfills all aspects of the old contract, not just the promises that God puts forth but the human side as well.

Jesus Christ brings into complete fruition all parts of the original agreement between the Divine and Abraham. Along with all the renewing contracts with Abraham’s descendants. God does not null and void one little bit of the blessing.

God knew that we humans could not fulfill our side of the blessing contract even when we tried our hardest. So, instead of ripping up the agreement –or suing us– as is his right as the Contractor, God instead keeps not only his side of the promise, but ours as well! He provides the ultimate form of our agreed upon service – faith and trust- in his Son, who trusts his father so much that he died to complete the blessing.

Because God does not lie or cheat, he made sure his contract -blessing- was 100% fulfilled. He provided the means to make sure it happened. No loopholes.

The blessing of a baby was a heavy burden for Jesus’ mother Mary. Because of her righteousness, she was deemed worthy.

Mary’s burden was difficult. Even if you ignored the fact that she was an unwed mother at conception, she was literally giving birth to a child that she was going to have to see die. Her burden was of the heart, she was going to have sacrifice her little boy as a man on a cross. As a devout Jew, she would have known that her child was going to face something horrible. She and Joseph would not have been naive in the raising of their son. The blessing would probably have been a very heavy burden, but not nearly as heavy as when she kneeled in front of her bleeding, gasping for air, tortured, precious little baby boy who was taking on the sins of the world as he was nailed to the Cross.

The heaviness of the blessing must have driven her to the ground.

I think, to truly appreciate God’s blessings, we must feel the burden of them. God’s blessings should not feel light and airy, because I don’t think we recognize the significance of what he is giving us.

There are sayings about trials being blessings in disguise. Or that the struggle to get where you are now was actually a blessing because, now, you know you appreciate what you have.

Perhaps, to receive God’s blessing, we need to sacrifice our comfort to be a part of the contract. We live in a sin riddled world and our own sins affect the way we interact with God. We will continually fail in keeping our side of the agreement, but we are called to keep trying. Our faith and trust in God are the services we must render to fully appreciate God’s blessing.

Thankfully, God does not search for loopholes like we do. He does not void our contract every time we slip up. Instead, unlike human contractors, God fulfills both sides of the agreement.

But. We will be held accountable for our services. God is no push over. He made a promise to Abraham’s descendants. He made a promise to the world at the death of his Son, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) But remember, God, especially in his love, will hold us accountable for that which we have not done.

You cannot partake of God’s blessing if you do not enter into the contract with him. He cannot force you to sign on the dotted line, accepting the burden of his blessing.

I honestly believe that if asked, Abraham, Moses, and Mary would all say the burden is heavy, but the blessing is glorious. And very worth it.

So, the next time you wish for God’s blessings on an endeavor, think. Are you willing to shoulder the burden that comes with it? Are you willing to truly sacrifice your comfort to sign on the dotted line of working with God?

I might have to remind myself throughout the trials and probable suffering that the world will use to make me attempt to find a loophole in my contract, but I want to be part of God’s blessing. I want to feel the weight of the burden of proof of God’s consuming love.

I want to fulfill my side of the contract.

So I have to remember, as the world knocks me to my knees, the blessing might be a heavy burden some times, but oh, it is so worth it.

image

Why the Manger matters

So, now we know why I, at least, think the Wise Men and the Shepherds matter in the Nativity narrative. So, what is the big deal about the Messiah being born in a manger?

The Manger is so important to the narrative. It is the marked difference between earthly kings and a Heavenly One.

What the manger shows is the sheer contempt that God has for the riches of this world. Where all other kings gather riches and comfort to themselves, almost always to the detriment of their people, the King of Kings decides to be born with no comfort beyond hay and a rough trough made out of stone. The Son of Man became the poorest of the poor, and the manger reminds us of this, for Jesus was to live through human suffering and wretchedness.

What the manger shows is that even at his birth, the Savior was not wanted by the world. Where the average baby was born in a home, surrounded by loving parents and family members eager to welcome the new child in, Jesus Christ was born with just his parents in attendance.

What the manger shows is that even in the Savior’s birth, the world despised him. Being turned away from the innkeeper, a pregnant Mary had no recourse but to give birth in this shelter for animals. Not only at his birth did the world turn their back on Jesus, but he was placed upon a rough wooden cross to die and then was buried in a borrowed tomb. The world has showed it’s contempt for the Messiah since the very beginning of his earthly life.

What the manger shows is the world does not know how to handle a Heavenly King. Everything a earthly king would have gotten when born was denied to the Son of God, and He came of His own free will to save us.

There is unimaginable beauty in the fact that a Godly King chose to be born as a baby to a virgin mother and a father who worked with his hands, creating. There is beauty that even when denied the adoration demanded of a kingly birth, nature and heaven still praised him. The lowly shepherds and the pagan wise men were the only ones who knew true deity when they saw it. They were the only ones to pay the earthly adoration demanded and were the only ones to bow before the newborn King.

Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of all mankind, was born in a stable. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a rough stone manger, making his bed among the animals. He came to save the world of it’s sins, and not one person opened their home to his mother, who was in need.

Would you have opened the door that night?

Take a moment and thank God for the manger your Savior was laid in. For even though God held in contempt the riches of the world, he did not hold us in that same distaste.

This is what a manger would have looked like when Jesus was born. It wouldn't be these wooden ones that are so prevalent in today's pictures of the birth. Rather it would be stone, so strong hungry animals couldn't push it over.  Not very comfy looking even filled with hay, huh?

This is what a manger would have looked like when Jesus was born. It wouldn’t be these wooden ones that are so prevalent in today’s pictures of the birth. Rather it would be stone, so strong hungry animals couldn’t push it over.
Not very comfy looking even filled with hay, huh?

Luke 2 

The Birth of Jesus

 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough (a manger)—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

Preaching Judah’s and Tamar’s story

I was tossed back into my memory when a friend mentioned he was translating the story of Judah and Tamar from Hebrew to English for his class.
Genesis 38 is a hard narrative. Preaching it in a homiletic class as the only female among at least 10 males in undergrad? Yeah, even harder.
I had chosen this passage because it was something the men were shying way from, possibly because of how difficult it was to turn the story into something positive. How would you even make this story of this …caliber… into something that can glorify God?
I worked hard to try to figure out how to use that passage as a way to point to God.
I finally had gotten to a point where I felt comfortable with my message, then it was my time to preach to the class.
I choked. My professor could attest to the deer-in-the-headlights panic I had going on. It was so bad that my mouth was flapping but no noise was coming out. To add to the fear, he was taping the disaster. It was so bad he was about to get up and shut off the camera, when I finally started to talk.
I got through it, eventually.
I just had this fear that every thing I had studied, every thing I prayed about, and every thing I had written and practiced was wrong. Not only wrong, but horribly wrong. Because of the topic and the importance of what the story means to the greater narrative, I was terrified of getting it wrong. Sure, some of that terror was that I would be laughed at by these guys but I ultimately I was concerned about twisting the Scriptures.
How do you talk about the twisted story of a man having sex with a woman whom he believes to be a prostitute, but who is actually his daughter-in-law? How do you find the grace of God in such a passage?
His fingerprints are all over it. It took me awhile to get pass the ick factor, then anger at Judah, to eventually see how God worked in such pair of unrighteous people.

First of all, we must realize that Tamar actually went through a correct lawful plan. Culturally (and Biblically) to keep the inheritance in the family, when a brother’s wife is widowed without a son, another brother must marry and lie with her till she gets a son. A son was the only way Tamar (whose husband Er, was killed by God because he found him wicked), would be able to be cared for in her old age, as well as be able to stay on the family land, not to mention to keep Er’s name alive. She did not have money of her own nor did she have land. She would have been sent back to the care of her father because she had no son.
This is why God provided the widows the provision of a brother-in-law providing a son that would take the husband’s name, so that the land would still be in the family and the widow would be cared for (This became law in Moses’ time which is a few hundred years later after this story).
So, Judah at first, followed the rule of the land. He ordered his second son Onan to do his duty by the family and provide his sister-in-law with a son. But, wickedness seemed to have ran in Judah’s family. Onan’s deceit is detailed in rather non-conservative wording. Once more God struck down one of the brothers. Judah’s remaining son was still too young to do his duty, so Tamar was sent back to live with her father until such a time as Shelah was old enough to hopefully provide Tamar with security.
But, Judah was concerned that Shelah would be killed as well. So even though his son was old enough, Tamar was never called back to her rightful place. Judah who had recovered from his wife’s death, went traveling to check on his flock.
While he was away from home, Tamar decided to take matters into her own hands. Judah had failed her and his duty. She went up to where he was sheering his sheep and disguised herself as a prostitute. Tamar did not do it to be ‘loose’ or even to gain money.
Tamar did it to make sure Judah fulfilled his promise. Judah did it because of lust.
Judah did not question her about her identity nor attempt to look beyond her veil. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law unwittingly, but he still did it.
While he promised to pay her with a young goat, she asked for proof that he would bring the goat back. He gave her his seal, cord, and his staff. These are very distinguishable in what they look like, basically he was giving her his driver’s license, social security card, and his birth certificate as proof that he would come back and pay her. She got pregnant. Judah attempted to get his pledge back by sending a young goat with a friend, but she had disappeared.
Three months after Tamar got pregnant, Judah was told that his daughter-in-law as accused of prostitution. He ordered that she be brought before him and burned to death for her sins. As she was coming to Judah’s land again, she sent his seal, cord, and staff ahead of her, saying that she was pregnant by the man who they belonged to.
He was shamed and said that she was more righteous than he.
Judah never slept with Tamar again.
Tamar ended up giving birth to twin boys, Perez and Zerah.
Later in the genealogy of Christ we see that Perez became a grandfather of Jesus Christ.

What is so important about this story? Why is it important to know that not only is Tamar, Jesus’ grandmother, but to know about Perez’s and Zerah’s conception? Why must we muddle through this sordid tale? What is the purpose?
What I came up with is that ultimately, despite our human failing and brokenness, God’s plan will still come into fruition. He works inside us and through us despite ourselves. God needed a son from the Judah tribe for the genealogy of Christ. Out of the 12 tribes, only Judah’s is considered worthy of the title of king (King David comes from this tribe). Jesus Christ, while heavenly royalty needed to have the human realm’s lineage of royalty as well. He gained this aspect through Judah’s tribe.
So God used a woman accused of prostitution and a deceitful father-in-law to gain the necessary blood for his son to be born with. What was the purpose behind it all?
While I do not know God’s mind, to me it was a story of redemption and hope. As are most of the stories in the Bible.
We see Judah and Tamar at the worst moments in their life, and still God uses them.
We see children born out of an unsavory moment between two people, who ended up carrying on the Judah line to the birth of Christ.
God works in the broken human to get his will done.
Judah and Tamar- their story is hard to swallow. It makes us uncomfortable, but still it was important enough to have in the Scriptures. It is not the worst story by far, but it is still hard to deal with.
There is a purpose to it’s existence and we must enter into the story and wrestle with it to see the glory and grace God provided.
God’s mercy is everlasting and overflows even the seemingly horrifying moments in life. We just need to train our eyes to see it.
That is what walking with Judah and Tamar taught me.

If your Church isn’t family…you’re doing it wrong!

My church is my family.
I love my little country church, because I know they are there for me.
This summer for me has been a perfect example of the cohesiveness that should be found in a family and most assuredly should be found in a church, due to the way that my church- my family-has watched over me, prayed over me, helped and encouraged me. I was given summer jobs when I most needed it by my small church. A church of less than 50 people have kept me working for the first half of my 3 month summer break. This is the way a family works. This is the way the Church should work. Caring for one another in everything.
God created this wonderful entity that is the Church when Christ told Peter, “on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)”
Throughout the writing of Paul in particular, but all of the New Testament, we find examples of what the Church should be.
* It should be a united body- 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
*That does not show favoritism- Galatians 3:28
* We are to love one other because God first loved us (this means the unbeliever and the most annoying person that you can think about)- Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 7:9,  1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 5:11, Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:36-40, Luke 6:31-36, John 3:1, 16,14:21-25,15: 9-13, Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 13, 16:14, Galatians 5:13-14, 5:22-23
* We should show gratitude to Christ and love to each other- Colossians 3:14-16
* We are raised together to be a Holy Temple to God- Ephesians 2:19-22
* We are to bear one another’s burdens- Galatians 6:2
* We are not to be ashamed of God’s Word- 2 Timothy 2:15
* We are to be devoted to fellowship, prayer, and the teachings of the Bible- Acts 2:42
* We should be known as followers of Christ by our love for one another- John 13:35
* We are to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in our present age- Titus 2:11-12 
*  We are to become more like Christ as we mature spiritually with the help of our Church body– Ephesians 4:11-16
* We are to guard the proper teachings of the Church by allowing only faithful and trustworthy teachers- 2 Timothy 2:1-2
*
 We are to beware of many false teachers –Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 24:11
        *  They will introduce false teachings and deny the Sovereign Lord- 2 Peter 2:1
*
 We are to be careful of the obstacles such false teachers place before us to cause      disunity- Romans 16:17
*
People will find their own teachers because they can’t endure sound teachings from the Scripture- 2 Timothy 4:3
* We-  every believer- are to test the teachings and the spirits to make sure they are from God, because there are so many false teachers in this world- 1 John 4:1
* Our Church should be presented as pure, holy, and sinless to the husband and head- Jesus Christ.- Corinthians 11:1-15
*This means not allowing politics, fads, controversy, or conspiracy theories to cause us to change the Gospel by adding or removing any part of the Scripture- Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelations 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2
This is just a little bit of what the Church is suppose to look like.
God’s plans are for His Church is to change the world. We are to change it by loving it. Not bashing it over the head by saying how wrong they are about everything, but by gently, reverently, lovingly, showing them the truth.
We aren’t to take stands against people like the Westboro Baptist Church does- where we show intolerance and hatred, because Christ DID NOT do that! He died for those the WBC says God hates! No. Jesus Christ died to save the sinner. He died a horrible death for the WBC just as much as He died for the homosexual, the adulterer, the abortionist,  the thief, the liar, the murderer, the gossip, the child molester, the rapist, the soldier, the teacher, the president, the priest, and so many more.
Jesus Christ died for each of us. Because He LOVED us. You, me, we are the same. No matter your background, no matter your future, you were considered worthy enough to save. Because our God loved us! John 3:16, Hebrews 9:26-28
God doesn’t hate a person. He hates the thing that keeps us away from us- our sin! He hates anything that would keep us away from Him, anything that makes us unrighteous and ungodly. If He hated us, as in the person, there would have been no reason to die for us! But, He wanted to rebuild our relationships with Him, so God did the ultimate thing. He sent His one and only Son to die a horrible death on a human-made torture device so that we might be saved. Saved so we can enter into our fixed relationship with the One and Only God. 1 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 3:12, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 9:14, 
As a Christian who follows a loving God, I wish to extend my deepest apologies and sorrow to those who have been hurt in any way by those who proclaim to be Christian. I am so sorry that the Church which should be a loving family, who should love all who are considered God’s children – which is EVERY HUMAN ON THIS PLANET!- has caused harm in the name of that God.
We are broken humans. We wish to take the throne from the Sovereign Lord because we believe we can rule better than He. Wake up everyone! We’re in this mess in the first place because we listened to the Serpent in the Garden when he said, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4).” We believed the guy who is known as the Prince of Lies! Satan was thrown out of Heaven because he thought he was better than GOD! (Isaiah 14:12-17)  We are once again allowing the Prince of Lies to turn our heads from the teachings of the Gospel. We are allowing him to twist what we learn, so that we won’t even open the Bible anymore to learn for ourselves what is truth.
This is where you need a firm foundation. To find a church that will guide you on the right path. A church that allows and encourages you to open your Bible and read it for yourself. Every person who seeks the True God, needs to know the Scripture for themselves. So that we are not swayed by good sounding rhetoric. So that things that sound like Scripture are proven either false or truth. Because the Devil is in the details. He likes to use just enough truth to make it sound right, when in actuality you are signing the dotted line with your soul– and all those who follow you.
When your church is family, you will fight hard to keep each member’s eyes on God. You will put your blood, your sweat, your tears into making sure that person is growing and loving God. You will work to protect them from false teachings. You will stop their meandering covetous eyes and ears from following a false teachers.
If your church is family- you will listen to their guiding. You will trust their love. You will seek their prayers. You will encourage them as much as they encourage you.
The church is not meant to harm another in the name of God, but to love them with a deep an abiding love as God loves us. We are meant to love God so much that our very natures change and that love overflows to others. We are meant to love God so much that others will wish to meet the God that changed us.
Is your church family?

2 Timothy 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
 

Do I believe what I profess?

This question came to mind last night as I attempted to drift off to sleep: Do I believe what I profess?  As I live in a nation that is considered to be Christian by many, but with less than 51% aligning themselves with a Christian affiliation (this includes Protestant, Catholic,  Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and many other ‘Christian’ denominations), (and only 9% of Americans have stated that religion is the most important thing in their life). Along with the knowledge that many people who call themselves Christian have never stepped foot in a church nor opened their Bibles, what do I mean when I call myself Christian?  Do I truly believe what it means to be Christian? Do I truly believe in the power of God and His written Word?

Yes. This is what I believe:

    1. God- (in Hebrew it is YHWH or Yahweh) is the Creator of the world and the universe as well as everything in between (Genesis 1 and 2; Job 38:1-8; Psalm 8:3-9; Psalm 24:1-2; Psalm 104:14-30; Isaiah 42:5)
    2. Man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26 & 27)
    3. Man is inherently evil, because of the Fall of Man (where Adam and Eve disobeyed God when they were told not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). We are not born good, but rather in the need of salvation. (Genesis 3, also can be seen in Abel’s murder by his brother Cain in Genesis 4; Romans 3:10& 23)
    4. Because of man’s sin, we are separated from God, who is holy and cannot tolerate sin (Isaiah 59:2; Habakkuk 1:13)
    5. Eternal death is the penalty of that separation from God. Because God is a just and holy God, He must punish every sin. (Romans 6:23)
    6. Humans cannot work for their salvation nor fix that relationship with God by ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7; Romans 4:1-5)
    7. God loved us so much that He sent His Son (Jesus Christ) to die for us (John 3:16)
    8. The Messiah- Jesus Christ- was born of a virgin to fulfill certain prophecies (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20)
    9. While man was still sinful, Christ, who was sinless, died for us so that our separation from God will be repaired, and we could have eternal life rather than eternal death. (Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:18)
    10.  Christ is the ONLY way to repair our broken relationship with God. By accepting Christ’s sacrificial death upon the cross as well as His resurrection three days later, I call Christ Lord. (Romans 10:9-13)
    11. Because of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our relationship is restored with God the Father. We accept Jesus’ death as payment for our sins and our slate is wiped clean. (Romans 5:1; 8:1)
    12. I am a sinner, I accept that Christ alone can save me from eternal death.
    13. Through Christ’s death, my relationship is fixed with God the Father, and Christ the Son left the Holy Spirit to guide His people.
    14. There are two commands that Christ left His people to follow, and I attempt with all my heart, soul, and mind to complete these tasks: ‘Love the Lord you God with all heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).” and “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19 & 20)”.

This is what I believe, wholeheartedly and without shame, I announce this to the world. This is what I believe being Christian means. It is not a label, it is not a ‘religion’ rather it is a life change. I want people to look at me and see God’s reflection. I want to run full force after God’s heart and shower upon people the blessings and grace that can be found being covered in Christ’s blood.

Romans 1:16- I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Mark 8:38– If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.

So- you might wonder. Do I believe what I profess? Yes. I am a Christian.

Do you believe what you profess to the world?

Side Note: I believe that there is one God, existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit– I don’t know how to truly explain it without muddying the waters though, some things you have to take on faith. (also I believe that if anyone tells you they  understand the Trinity completely, run the other way!)