Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Monday, March 31, 2014

Addicted to "E"

With the release of Noah this past week, there has been all kinds of hoopla about it. Christians urging other Christians to see it, Christians who went to see it and are giving honest, but negative reviews of it.

     A lot of Christians seem completely willing to overlook how un-Biblical and pro-evolution the movie is, and go to see it just because it is loosely based on a Bible story. I am not saying anyone is a bad Christian if they watch it, but I am amazed at the thinking of Christians who think we should see it. I have read several honest reviews of people who saw it, and not only does it sound dumb, but it is so far from the Biblical story, that it doesn't sound worth watching. Yet people are ignoring the bad and are all excited because godless, Christian hating, conservative hating Hollywood based a movie on Noah. As someone said, all it has in common with the Bible story is Noah, a flood, and an ark.

  By the way, one of the best reviews I have read is by Matt Walsh, one of the best bloggers out there.

  One of the best comments I saw about the rush of Christians to see it came from a Facebook friend of mine, Daniel Reed. He said "In my opinion these are sad days when so many who really want to serve Christ have allowed themselves to be trapped and neutralized by addiction to entertainment."

  And could that be the problem? We are so addicted to entertainment, that we will run out and see a movie that makes a mockery of the Bible version of a story?

  The blogger I linked to above had this to say about negative feedback he received for his review:

A final note: society often makes fun of and mocks Christians (and Jews and Muslims) who get mad at Hollywood for perverting Biblical texts. Meanwhile, if a superhero movie is unfaithful to the comic book, or a sequel strays from the first installment, or a remake twists the original film, all of America erupts in outrage and hysteria. Imagine if the next Star Wars film inaccurately portrays Yoda, or if the next Avengers movie takes too many liberties with Iron Man. Imagine the anger from fanboys and casual viewers alike.

What does it say about us that we demand more accuracy in a child's comic book movie than we do in a Biblical movie?

Think about that for a while. And then weep bitterly.

   This bothers me. A lot. A friend of mine who often has different viewpoints than I do on things, said she wanted to go see it for herself and not go by what other people have said. I disagree. I have read enough about the movie, read enough of what people said who saw it, to know I have no desire to see it, and am better off not seeing it. There are times when you can know enough about something that you don't need to see it yourself to make that judgment. My best friend said about that idea to me "Guess I should just go watch a porn movie then and not take people's word about what is in it, and make my own judgement about it." Exaggerated point, but it is true: I know enough about Noah to know I don't want to see it.

  I was raised for most of my life without a TV. Yeah, imagine that. From the time I was almost 12 on, no TV, no movies. Sounds radical, but I think I was better off without it. I don't think I would have turned into the reader that I am, had I been glued to a TV set all of those years.

  I don't think people realize how much TV/Hollywood has influenced and desensitized us to sin. I firmly believe TV, and soap operas in general, has caused marriage problems, and caused us to yawn at divorce, affairs, sex outside of marriage, and more recently: homosexuality. I read the statistics on how many TV shows have gay characters, and it is high. They even most recently had a lesbian couple on a Disney kid's TV show....... what other reason than to indoctrinate kids that it is normal.

 It should give us pause to wonder how desensitized and used to sin we would be if it were not for Hollywood, if it were not for our addiction to entertainment. 

  Ecstasy is a drug many people are addicted to, and has gotten the nickname "E" (hey, I read a lot!).... but it would seem that even Christians are addicted to their own "E": entertainment.

  Now I am not condemning people for watching movies and TV. I do believe Christians should be more careful in what they watch, and how much they watch, and what and how much their kids watch. I am far from perfect, and my list of sins and wrongs would stretch a long way, before God forgave me, and I have been praying for guidance in my life in all areas, and entertainment is one of many of those areas, but an important one.

  I like a good movie just as much as the next person, though most of what I watch is either Christian, or close to it. I do like a good superhero or action movie, but try to avoid ones with a lot of language in. I don't want to just watch something because it is the "in" thing to watch, and I don't want to be desensitized to bad language, sex, etc. because of something I have viewed.

  Now back to Noah: among many bad things about it, it promotes evolution. There is a flashback to Creation, and it shows sea animals coming out of the sea and turning into land animals. Why would I want to see a movie promoting evolution and perverting the Bible in that way, not to mention the rest of the movie?

 Don't get me wrong, I am not saying people are bad Christians who go to see it. I am just asking why would they? We do not have a responsibility to go see a movie that is supposedly based on a Bible story, just because Hollywood made it. They hate Christians, conservatives, and are godless...... as I stated before, our rushing out to see this mockery of a Bible story is not going to make them love us. It won't cause them to suddenly turn to God and start toning down the sex, godlessness, and violence in their movies and TV shows.

  So why go see it? I trust the reviews I have seen of people who saw it. I know it is nothing I want to see, and I have a responsibility to be more careful in what I view as a Christian. It is a radical and bold idea to say this in these times, but could we possibly be better off not going to see a movie like this? Could it please God more to avoid it, then to go see it?

  I know. It isn't popular in this day of "By God, I am going to do what I want to do, we are not under the law, but under grace!" People tend to think you extreme or radical to say things like we shouldn't go to see the movie Noah.

  Back to the point my friend Daniel made: are we so addicted to entertainment that we will basically sit down and view something that is mostly garbage, for the small good part that we may get out of it?

  Compare Noah and a lot of other things we watch, to going to the dump. There is good food there, buried under all kinds of trash. Unless you were homeless, had no money, and were starving to death, there is no way you'd dig through trash and eat whatever food you find.

  Yet we do it with entertainment. Are our souls less important than our stomachs? No. They are much more important. And one digging through the trash may not hurt, but a constant diet will get you desensitized and slowly poison your soul, until sex outside of marriage doesn't bother you. You don't think abortion and gay marriage are that big of a deal. Marijuana is OK and should be legalized. Cursing doesn't bother you at all.

  Now I am not saying watching the debacle of Noah is going to send you to hell. What I am saying, is in view of all the bad that is in it, if you still want to see it, and think we are nuts for finding it offensive, maybe it is time to do some soul searching as to why you don't have a problem with it.

  In closing, I'd like to quote another Facebook friend, also named Daniel, Daniel Mingo. I can't find his exact quote, but the idea was even as bad as Noah sounds, he has the hope that it might arouse enough interest in people who don't know the Bible, that it would cause some people to read the story for themselves from the Bible, and maybe read more of the Bible than just Noah.

  I think someone besides Daniel said something similar: good could come from all of the bad publicity, to stir up interest in the read story.

  And again, I am not putting myself on a pedestal by questioning people who want to see Noah. I am so far from being on a pedestal, but I will say I am 100% comfortable with the idea that I am better off not seeing Noah, and it is likely more pleasing to Him if I don't see the mockery Hollywood has made out of His Word.

  Also, I am not condemning anyone who watches TV and movies. I do believe it is just another area the devil can use to trip us up, and another thing to take up time we could be doing something more valuable, and something that can drown out God's voice in our lives. Something to think about. I know I am going to.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ray Boltz, and believing a lie

Since I have a 45 minute drive to and from work, I have been listening to more of my CDs than I usually do, so I have been digging out a lot that I haven't listened to for a while. Last night, I ran across the double disc Moments For The Heart Volumes 1 & 2 by Ray Boltz, a collection of some of his best songs.

  If you're not familiar with Ray Boltz, he was a Contemporary Christian singer popular in the 80's and 90's. His most popular song was probably "Thank You For Giving to the Lord", with some of his other popular songs being "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb", "Watch the Lamb", and more.

  A few years ago, Boltz, married man with children, came out of the closet as a gay man. He said he had struggled with being attracted to other men for most or all of his life, and after praying for deliverance for years, decided it was OK with God since God hadn't changed him. With his wife's blessing - how bizarre - he left his wife and began pursuing the gay lifestyle.

  It is a sad story, but made sadder by his still claiming to be a Christian. I was just on his website, and he is still performing, but it looks like he has branched out and is singing songs to defend his lifestyle - I am guessing by some of the song titles on his newest CD: Don't Tell Me Who to Love, American Queen, Free At Last, etc.

 As I was listening to his CD to and from the way to work, I really listened to the words, and felt a great sadness. How sad a man could write the words and sing the songs that he did, then go against what the Bible says, and still claim to be a Christian.

 Words like this:

They tell me Jesus died
For my transgressions
And that He paid that price
A long, long time ago
When He gave His life for me
On a hill called Calvary
But there's something else
I want to know

Does He still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does He hear the crowd cry
Crucify, again?
Am I causing Him pain?
Then I know I've got to change
I just can't bear the thought
Of hurting Him

It seems that I'm so good
At breaking promises
And I treat His precious grace
So carelessly
But each time He forgives
What if He relives
The agony He felt on that tree?

Does He still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Does He hear the crowd cry
Crucify, again?
Am I causing Him pain?
Then I know I've got to change
I just can't bear the thought
Of hurting Him

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord

Do you still feel the nails
Every time I fail?
Have I crucified you, Jesus
With my sin?
I'm tired of playing games
I really want to change
I never want to hurt You again
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

God's Not Dead, but Noah Is

Christians all over have been abuzz and excited for several months, since finding out Hollywood was going to produce a movie about Noah. I was skeptical. This is the same Hollywood that is anti-God, anti-Christian, immoral, pro-gay..... the idea of them producing a movie about Noah that stuck to the Bible, seemed ludicrous to me.

   I started reading reviews a couple of weeks ago of people who had seen it, and they were not complimentary. Conservative radio host Glen Beck just gave a scathing review of it on his website.

  Ken Ham, from Answers In Genesis had friends see it and give him the run down, and he lists some problems with the movie on his website.

   And yet, I have seen several Christians via Facebook groups and other mediums urge people to go see it.

   I am not going to knock anyone for seeing it. That is your prerogative, but just because Hollywood makes a movie that is supposedly based on a Bible story/character, does that mean we must get excited about it and watch it, in spite of its flaws? Will it make Hollywood pro-God and pro-Christian? I can't see that happening.

  But again, I am not condemning anyone for seeing it. I am just questioning why so many Christian leaders and groups are urging people to see it, in spite of the bad.

  The same thing happened with The Bible mini series. It was going to stick to the Bible account, and I heard people raving about how wonderful it was. So when it came out on DVD, I watched prices, and got it for $14.99, new, free shipping on eBay. And man, was I disappointed. I never finished it. I saw many things that didn't stick to the Bible account. One that really stuck out to me was when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba. In the Bible account, David is sorrowful and repentant. In the Bible mini series, he is arrogant and mocking....

  I just reviewed a book about the Easter story, that was based on the mini series, and again...... disappointment. Why change details and the way things happened?

  And here is my biggest problem with all of these people urging Christians to see the Hollywood produced, un-Biblically accurate Noah: There is another movie playing in theaters right now, independently produced by Christians, with a lot of, possibly all, Christian actors. But these same people urging us to see Noah, are silent. Why? Is it because Hollywood didn't produce it, so they feel there's no need to get excited about it?

  The movie? God's Not Dead. Unlike Noah, people who have seen it are giving it rave reviews, and are not finding it contradictory to the Bible at all. So why aren't the pro-Noah people urging us to see it? It sounds worth seeing, unlike Noah.

  I've seen the trailer for the movie, read the reviews, read comments from actors in the movie, and I plan on seeing it when it hits DVD. Granted, not all Christian movies are of good quality and acting, but this one seems to be, and there have been others.... so if we are going to get so gung-ho about a movie, how about getting excited about one produced by Christians that sounds like it is going to glorify God? Why support a movie that isn't Biblically accurate, just because wicked Hollywood used a Bible story to base the movie on? That is kind of like eating a pile of trash because there is a food you really like buried in the middle of it. Doesn't make sense.

  But again, I am not condemning anyone who is going to see it. That is your prerogative, but make sure you leave time to see a movie that might be more worth your time and money: God's Not Dead.

  We all need to be more careful in what we read, watch, spend our time and money on. If we are going to watch movies, we should be careful what we view. I shop a lot at Family Christian Stores, and am amazed at the selection of movies they carry that are either Christian, or at least inspirational and wholesome. And no, not all of them are good quality, but that is what Amazon reviews and other website reviews are for. Many times, I have stood in a store and looked up reviews for a book, DVD, or even a CD, before I bought it.

 I have said it before, if Christians don't buy Christian books, movies, and music, then who will?

 God's not dead, but Noah is. And Noah sounds Biblically inaccurate, but God's Not Dead sounds right on target. I know which one I want to see. And it doesn't involve a flood.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Keeping up appearances

  As is often the case, something I heard sparked my brain to think, and this time about keeping up appearances. It is something I have thought about before, and been bothered by in my own life, and it is something too many people are not exempt from.

   Far too many of us are all bound up in worrying what people think of us. And there is a good side to that. As Christians, we want people to see Jesus in us, and we want to live in such a way that people won't look at us and be turned off on Christianity, the church, and God by the way we live. That isn't what I am referring to.

   I am talking about being more worried about what people think of us, than God. There may be things we feel we should do as Christians, but are afraid what people think of us, so we hold back. Or there may be things we feel or know we shouldn't do as Christians, but we find ourselves caving in and doing them so people won't think we are weird or far out.

  I should probably care more than I do what people think of me, and I do to a certain extent, but I have come to realize that people are going to like me, or they won't. That it is God's approval I seek and tha is important, not man's.

  But I am still bound in many ways by worrying what people will think of me. I am almost to the point that I don't care who knows my deepest, darkest secret, but still worry about some people knowing.

  There are times in church I feel the urge to raise my hand, testify, etc, but worry about what people will think.

   There are things I disagree with my church on, yet worry what people will think if I verbalize it, or question it, or worse... do it.

   We want to be free, yet we wrap ourselves in chains, being bound by what others might think. And all the while, it is only God who we should be concerned about. And if we are living a life pleasing to Him, then we don't need to worry what people think of us.

   Keeping up appearances can be damaging. Not only do we worry about ourselves, but all too many families are more concerned with keeping up appearances, then about loving each other. What is the first thing in most Christian parents' minds when they find out their teenaged daughter is pregnant? What will people think......

   Their son gets a DUI. What will people think.....
   Their child comes out to them as gay. What will people think.....
   Their marriage is in trouble, but they fear admitting it. What will people think......

   And more often than not, the reactions come more out of concern for what people will think, than for the hurting family member that needs to know that they are loved, even now. Especially now.

   If you read the Gospels, you'll find Jesus didn't worry about appearances. He was here to do His Father's will, and didn't worry about what people thought of Him. He horrified the religious leaders of His day by who He hung out with, by healing people on the Sabbath, and usually doing the opposite of what the religious leaders expected.

  There are people who seem to live their lives not caring what people think of them, and do it in a bad way. They lead wild and sinful lives, and that is not what I am talking about when I say this: how different our lives would be if we stopped worrying about what people thought of us, and focused on only God. It wouldn't make us calloused and arrogant people not worried about people's feelings, or their spiritual welfare. It would be just the opposite. For if we all lived a life focusing on pleasing God over man, and did His will in everything, we would affect and influence people in the right way. For and to God.

  But instead, too many of us live stunted Christian lives, trying to please God and man both, and too often erring on the side of man.

   And is it possible this worrying what people think, this obsession to look like you have it all together, that your family and life are perfect..... stems from pride?

    I don't like to think that I am proud. It is something I honestly didn't think I deal with, yet the more I think about this issue of keeping up appearances, the more it seems to be the case: pride. Ugly, nasty pride.

  Not a "I think I am better than you" kind of pride. And maybe there isn't any kind that is better than another anyway, but a pride that wants people to think I am OK. That I have it all together.

  But you know what? I don't. I have questions. A lot of questions. Maybe God will answer them, and maybe not.

  I have fears. I worry about a future alone, as a single guy. I worry about supporting myself, and what would happen if I got something badly wrong with me.

 I worry about dying young, but also worry about getting old.

 I am what Brennan Manning was referring to in his popular book -  a ragamuffin. Bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt out.

  Yes, I am a Christian, but most days not a very good one. I doubt, I fear, I worry. I focus too much on the bad, and not enough on the good. I believe God loves me, and am striving to live for Him day by day, yet wonder if I love Him. How does one love God?

 I worry what people think of me, being my age and staying with my parents.
 I wonder what people suspect about me.

  I definitely don't have it all together. Far from it. So why do I want people to think I do? Why not just toss it all to the wind and not worry what people think. Pride? Maybe so.

  Some day, everyone who has ever lived and died, will stand before God. It isn't going to matter one bit what anyone else thinks of us at that moment. All will matter is what God thinks of us. Of our standing with Him.

  If the end result is going to be what God thinks, and will have nothing to do with what man thinks, then why don't more of us start living that way?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

That's My Child

Ran across this post I did four years ago, evidently during a rather high time in my life. I had forgotten about it, and am actually surprised I did this one, given my depression of the last 5 or so years. 

I decided to make a video of the song, so that wasn't part of the original post. And this post is surprisingly short for me. :-)

I have screwed up a lot in my life. I will be the first to admit it. And as I come crawling back to God to ask His forgiveness for the umpteenth time, I always feel so ashamed. I don't deserve His grace and forgiveness, but I guess that is exactly what grace is....not getting what we deserve.

This is bad to admit it in public, but during the sermon this morning, my mind started wandering - don't tell my pastor! The words of a song was playing through my mind (lyrics below) and I got to wondering about something. If we can - and do - displease God by our actions, then on the flip side, isn't it entirely possible - and likely - that when we stand firm in the face of temptation, and not fall or give in - that He is proud of us? Just like we are proud of a child, loved one, or friend, who makes progress or does something well?

As elementary as the truth may be, and for as many times as I have listened to the song, that truth never hit me before. That God might actually be proud of me when I do right. The idea feels pretty good. As the song referenced says, He might just look down and say with pride "that's my child!"

That's My Child

Have you ever watched a daddy
As he watched his little boy
When he would say Daddy's name for the very first time
How his eyes would feel with joy
Have you ever watched that daddy
Watch his little boy
Ride his bike for the very first time
He'd proudly say, "hey that's my boy."

Have you ever watched a mama
As her eyes would fill with tears
When her little girl would say "Mamma I love you,
You're the bestest mama in the world"
Have you ever watched a mamma
As she watched her little girl
Play the piano for the very first time
She'd proudly say, "hey that's my girl."

Now we have a Heavenly Father
Who loves us even more
He watched over all His children
As they face their earthly toils
And I believe He smiles with pride
Every time we overcome
I believe He stands and looks over Heaven's portals
And proudly says, "that's my child."

That's my child there
Tell me, did you see him
When the enemy came against his soul
He just looked our way
Angels come on over here
I want you to see him
That's my child there
And very soon the Father's going to send us
To take him away
That's my child


Monday, March 17, 2014

Born gay or not..... does it matter?

  There is a lot of argument about whether people are born gay or not. The pro-gay crowd wants it to be so, because then they can claim God made them that way, so of course it is OK. The conservative Christians want to say no, you are not born gay, for then they would have to agree it isn't fair of God to expect a gay person to fight his or her feelings.

 I read a comment recently that has made me wonder if it really matters. And if we should even argue against it. If there is a "gay gene" found some day, then Christians are going to have egg on their face, and will have their very foundation of homosexuality being wrong, shaken.

 I personally don't believe people are born gay, but also have learned not to be too dogmatic about that. I do believe people can be born with a predisposition to being gay, and their environment and circumstances can swing them one way or the other.

 But I am going to go with the idea that people can be born gay. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong, as the act and lusting, so therefore, it is unfair of God to let someone be born gay and forbid them to give into their desires. Right? Wrong.

 We are all born sinners, thanks to Adam and Eve. We are all born with the desire to sin, to do wrong, and the same Bible that forbids homosexual behavior, forbids any sinful behavior. A heterosexual man or woman has the desire to have sex, the temptation to lust, and granted, they can marry, but not all of them. I know, and have known, several women who never married. They wanted to, but it never happened. I am sure there have been heterosexual men who wanted to marry, and never did..... and it would have been a sin for them to lust, to have sex with someone they were not married to, as the person attracted to the same gender.

 And there are other sins we are prone to do, that feel natural to us to do, yet we must fight those urges and live for God, not ourselves. Just as the person who may be born gay has to fight his desires to give in and sin, we all have to fight the desire to sin and live for the flesh, instead of for God.

 Is it fair that someone who is attracted to the same gender can never marry, can never know what it is like to be in love and have a relationship that others have? No. It isn't. Some manage to marry a person of the opposite sex and make it work, and many do not. But life isn't fair.

  When I get frustrated about the cross I must bear, and get to thinking that it isn't fair, a couple of people come to my mind. Joni Eareckson Tada, and Nick Vujicic.

  In 1978, at the age of 17, Joni dove into some water and broke her neck, paralyzing her body from the neck down. Since 1978, she has been in a wheel chair, yet God has used her in ways she could never have been used if she were whole. Is it fair? Certainly not. She found a way to paint by holding a paintbrush in her mouth, and has written several books, recorded CDs, and started a program for people to get wheel chairs who cannot afford them. She served God no matter what, and He uses her for good.

 Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs, having only a foot. His parents decided when he was very young, that he would live as much as possible as kids with all of their limbs. He surfs, swims, goes all over the world speaking, and got married a little over a year ago and has fathered a child with his wife. Is it fair that he was born the way he was? No way. But what an amazing attitude he has, and God is using him all over the world. If anyone had a right to say it isn't fair, it would be him, but he decided to live life to the fullest and let God use him.

 People are born with all sorts of diseases and deformities. There are people going through their own private hells that we don't know anything about. Is it fair? No it isn't fair, but life isn't fair. When sin entered the world, fairness was tossed out the window.

  So is it fair that men and women have to suffer same-sex attractions, and according to God's Word, never be allowed to give in to those attractions/desires? No. And it isn't easy to ignore what seems to come to naturally.

 But you know what? It wasn't fair that God's Son was nailed to a cross for our sins. He did no wrong, and was totally innocent. Yet He died for our sins. He went through unimaginable pain and horror for us. For the gay person. For the murderer, the child molester, for Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vucicic, Adolf Hitler.

 We are all born sinners, with a bent and desire to give into that sin. Gay people are not the only ones who must fight what comes naturally.

 Some day it will be worth it all, when we hear Jesus say "Well done". In the mean time, we must all forsake our sins, take up our cross, die daily to ourselves and our desires, and serve God no matter what. Whether you're gay, or straight.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Covenant Eyes

I just became an affiliate for Covenant Eyes, and will receive a commission if I get enough sales through my blogs.

  What is Covenant Eyes? It is an accountability program for your computer, phone, or tablet.

  There are two different plans available:
  1) Accountability. With this, no website is blocked, but people of your choosing will receive a weekly report showing all sites you have been on, all searches, and all apps used on your cell phone or tablet. It can be set for different levels to flag, and more than one user can be added, i.e. if you want a different account for your kids.

 2) Filtering. Filtering blocks certain kinds of sites. The administrator can add sites to block, or OK sites that it might block.


First Username Additional Usernames
Accountability $8.99/mo. $2.00/mo.
Filtering $4.99/mo. $1.50/mo.
Both $10.49/mo. $3.50/mo.

To uninstall either method, you have to ask for an uninstall code - via the website. Anyone who is on as your accountability partner will receive notice that you uninstalled it.

I have been using the accountability version for a while now and have had no problems. Nothing seems to run any slower. I have it on my PC, laptop, Kindle Fire, and cell phone.

If you read this, and are interested, you can try it one month for free. Just click on the ad for it in the sidebar of my blog, not on the logo in this blog post.

For more information, visit the Covenant Eyes Website.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My journey to God's love

  I have mentioned many times on my blog about my doubts of God's love, and some of the things that may have played into that. At this point in my life, it doesn't really matter why, so I am not going into the reasons. Suffice it to say that for most of my life, I not only doubted God's love. I was convinced He didn't love me or even care about me. If you have never had severe doubts of God's love, that sounds bizarre and possibly like I am making it up or exaggerating, but I am not.

 The exact time that it began is not something I can pin down. I'd say all of my adult life, and most likely as far back as my teens. Maybe it began when I started getting bullied so bad at school. I don't know for sure. I felt that way for so long, it seems like all of my life, but I don't think I felt that way before my teens.

 It is really hard to serve a God who you don't believe loves you. I have wondered looking back if I even every truly was a Christian, yet I do believe I was, just not a very good one, and shallow at my best. There were times my doubts of God's love weren't as bad as other times. Sadly, it seems when I didn't doubt His love and almost believed, was when things were going really well in life, but the minute discouraging times would hit, it seemed like He wasn't answering my prayers, and times got tough, I'd immediately go back to believing He didn't care.

 I'd make an effort occasionally to believe. I'd even pray about it, but my prayers were for God to show me He loved me. Exactly what that would entail, I am not entirely sure, but it would have involved something miraculous, giving me something I needed or wanted, etc. Knowing my track record, no wonder God never answered those prayers........ He knew the second something bad happened, I'd be be back to doubting again. I wouldn't have answered those prayers either.

 There was a period when I made more progress than normal with this issue and even spoke about it in church, but then stuff happened, and again I doubted.

  This past year, I got sick of it. I decided I was going to do something about it, and hope that old adage about God meeting you halfway would hold true. Granted, I never heard it used specifically about believing God's love, but I figure it worked it applied in these circumstances too. 2013 became my search for God's love.

  Just how does one reverse a lifetime of believing you don't matter to God? Seems a pretty tall order. You can't just decide to change your thinking like you change clothes. It takes a lot more than that. So here is what I did:

1) Books. I read. It seemed an obvious place for me to start, since I am a reader. A friend had recommended He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson, and I had read part of it several months before and never finished it. I located it and started at the beginning, and read the whole thing. And I didn't stop there.

  I tend to read a lot of fiction, and though I even read some fiction books that were a help in this area, Kathy Herman's Not by Sight being an example, I tried to read more non-fiction than normal, focusing on books about God's love and grace. And the more I read, the more my doubt was slowly chipped away.

  Some would say reading the Bible should be enough. Maybe so, but this was my journey, and this is how I traveled a long, winding road, with a lot of hills and potholes, to believe God loves me. Which brings me to #2.

2) The Bible: I quit trying to follow any kind of reading plan. I didn't read through different books, and I steered clear of reading a certain amount of verses - something I still steer clear of. I believe its better to read one verse and get something out of it, than read 5 chapters and just walk away having read 5 chapters.

  I focused on a few certain verses. John 3:16 was one of the main ones. There were weeks, I'd only read it. Every night. Other nights I'd read other verses about God's love and grace, bouncing back and forth between just a handful of verses. Lamentations 3: 22-23 was another:

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

3) Music. During the summer, I walk a lot, and usually take my iPod. With the iPod, you can make playlists, as many as you want, and put whatever songs you want to put in the playlists. I made one titled "love" and put all of the songs about God's love and caring in that playlist. I didn't want to mix genre's, so it is all my favorite genre' of music: Southern Gospel. I came up with 93, and I think I have added CDs since then that have songs that could go in the playlist, and I most likely have overlooked some, but that is a good number of songs about God's love.

A lot of the days I walked this past summer and fall, I'd play that playlist. I'd walk a couple of miles most days of the week, listening to songs of God's love.

4) Prayer. I prayed about it. Daily. I quit asking God to show me He loved me, and asked Him to help me believe.

And then I reached a certain point that I started thanking Him for loving me. No, I didn't believe it yet, but I started thanking Him anyway.

5) Quotes. I started finding quotes about God's love and focusing on the truths of them. Such as this one: You can't do anything to cause God to love you more, or less.

I believe it was a combination of these five things, and maybe things I am not considering, but it finally happened. I can actually pinpoint when it happened. Oh, I had been making progress. It isn't like one day I was back at square one, and the next I believed, but I did have that point when the light broke completely through.

I was reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and when I read how he told the story of The Prodigal Son, that did it for me:

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). I am moved that the [prodigal son's] father didn’t cross-examine the boy, bully him, lecture him on ingratitude, or insist on any high motivation. He was so overjoyed at the sight of his son that he ignored all the canons of prudence and parental discretion and simply welcomed him home. The father took him back just as he was . . . We don’t have to sift our hearts and analyze our intentions before returning home. Abba just wants us to show up . . . we don’t have to be perfect or even very good before God will accept us . . . Even if we come back because we couldn’t make it on our own, God will welcome us. He will seek no explanations about our sudden appearance. He is glad we are there . . . [He will say, like the prodigal's father,] “Hush, child. I don’t need to know where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to.”

  Manning also pointed out that the father didn't wait for the son to say all of the right words. He ran to meet him and embraced him before he could say anything. It was a simple truth, but it sure hit home with me.

  Manning, and others have said, the story isn't really about the son. We make it about the son, and I have heard many sermons and lessons on the son. The story is about the father. His love, and how eager he was to forgive his son and welcome him back.

  I wouldn't say I am at the end of the road in believing God's love for me. I think I can honestly say I don't doubt His love at this point, but I still don't grasp His love and grace as much as I should and want to, but I have made remarkable progress, and God has used many things to help, and met me much more than halfway.

 Just today, I was reading a book about God's love and found myself weeping at different places in the book and felt that witness in my heart that yes, God loves me.

 When I was about to finish this blog post, I was looking back through previous posts and found a similar one I did at the end of November, but I have gone at it from a different angle here, so if you read the first one "Getting" God's Love, I apologize for any repetition.

One of the songs that has been the most encouraging and helpful to me on this issue, No Limit by Jeff and Sheri Easter:

If God had Facebook

I love Facebook. I probably spend more time on it than I should, but I like having that connection to people. I like to read the funny stuff people post, pictures of kids and grandkids,  the encouraging quotes, songs,  and stories, keep up with friends, relatives, and authors. There are groups I am a member of that encourage me, help put me in contact with others who share my love of books, attend my church, or share the same struggles I share.

 Likewise, I post things meant to be encouraging, pictures of my nieces and nephews, songs that I like or are encouraged by, things I'd post in a diary that I post in public since I don't have one....and things I think are funny. At least I find them funny. Sometimes no one "likes" my joke or funny story, not even my family. I am sure if there was a "roll your eyes" option, they'd use that on my jokes, as they do that in real life.

  I am reading a really good book that I am about halfway through, and as I was reading it, the odd thought came to my mind, "what if God had a Facebook page?"

  Admittedly, it is a weird thought. But what if He did? What would He post? Who would He add as a friend? What would He "like"? How much time would He spend on Facebook?

 I set my book down and thought about this. Really deep thinking for me, I know. And yeah, the idea of God having a Facebook page is ludicrous. But really, what if He did?

 I am just starting to plumb the depths of God's love and have come to some amazing realizations about God's love. One is there is nothing we can do to cause Him to love us any more, or any less. He loves all of us enough to die for us, and oh yeah - He did.

 Ever send someone a friend request on Facebook, and they refused? That has happened to me. Well, God would never do that. And I have had people delete me. Usually because they like Obama and I don't. It doesn't matter if you like Obama or not, God would accept your friend request and never delete you. You're a murderer on death row? God would accept your request. Your name is Adolf Hitler? He'd welcome you. You're the soldier who nailed Jesus to the cross? He'd send you a request before you dared think about sending Him one.

 What would He post? I had a "moment" when I thought about this. Just as we post pictures of our loved ones, so would He. His wall would be filled with pictures of His children: us. I actually cried thinking about God posting my picture on His Facebook wall. Sound dumb? Not at all. As Max Lucado once said, "if God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it." If a smart guy like Max Lucado can say that, then is it that strange to imagine God would put my picture on His Facebook wall? After all, He doesn't have a refrigerator either.

  People also tend to post things their kids did. I post things my nieces and nephews do. I imagine God would do the same. "Mark was tempted today, but ran the other way. I'm proud of Him." "Mark prayed today and didn't ask me for anything. He just praised and worshiped me."

  We also post prayer requests. God would most likely do the same thing. "pray for Mark, He is really discouraged," Pray for Mark, he is starting a new position at work and is worried and has some fears about it." (That one is true)

  What would He "like"? Things like "we had a really good service at church. God's presence was really there." Obama is a terrible president. (as much as I'd like to think He would, I doubt He'd "like" something like that), He'd like positive things. Things that lifted people up, things that lifted Him up and glorified Him.

 But more than anything, I think He'd go on everyone's Facebook pages daily, maybe multiple times, and put three little words, over and over:

  I don't believe He'd be into making us feel better by "liking" the random things we post. He wouldn't indulge in arguing or debating, but He'd be all about love. Telling His Facebook friends that He loves them, posting pictures of them, bragging on them........ and anyone in the world would be on His friend's list. Not only would He accept any friend request He got, He would send everyone He knew a friend request, and that is everyone who is breathing.

  Now as I said, the idea of God having a Facebook page is crazy, but it has been a moving experience for me to imagine for a few minutes of what His page would be like. I know these things about it:

I'd be accepted as His friend - in fact, He would send me a request first
He'd post pictures of me
He'd brag on me
He'd tell me He loved me, and often.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Friend me, and fear not

It is a sad statement to make, but I grew up convinced that no one liked me. It was bad. I thought people disliked me as soon as they saw me, and dreaded being in new places because I felt everyone was looking at me, and disliking me. Even places like department stores were places to be feared in my adolescent mind. It sounds crazy, but the bullying I received from other kids, coupled with what I now view as bullying from some preachers, really did a number on me.

  Going through Bible college helped some, but even there I felt inferior to everyone else, though I did come out of the thinking that everyone disliked me as soon as they saw me. I was well into my twenties before I realized there were people who really did like me.

  It is something that still is an issue for me. And as a guy who is more vulnerable and sensitive than I let on, I have taken things wrong, assumed things wrong, and thought there was no way some people would like me or want to be my friend, only to find out occasionally how wrong I was.

  One problem for me is Facebook. There were a few instances where I tried to add someone as a friend, and they never confirmed it, and sometimes someone from my own church, so I got to the place where I quit adding people. If someone sent me a friend request, I'd accept it, but never do I risk what I have viewed as rejection, by sending someone a friend request.

  There is a guy around my age who is really good friends with, and is dating a good friend of mine, and I have thought about adding him before, but that fear of rejection, and the ghosts of the fear of no one liking me would creep up, so I never did. Earlier this week, I got a friend request from him, which I accepted of course. He messaged me and thanked me for adding him, and I told him I had wanted to add him, but am shy about adding people. He replied that he is the same way, but decided to "bite the bullet" and add me.

  Ever since our becoming friends on Facebook and having that brief interchange, I have been thinking a lot about that. I doubt there are that many people as warped as I am with my fear of adding friends, but I am sure there are a lot who are a bit shy to add someone they may not know well. How many people am I missing out on adding to my circle of friends and acquaintances, because I fear rejection? Because I fear the person might not like me?

  And take it outside of on line social networking. How many friendships and meaningful conversations have I missed out on because of fear?

  There is a lady I am friends with on Facebook who has kids my age. Her husband's brother was my pastor for several years, so there is that connection, but I had never met her or her husband, other than through Facebook.

  A couple of months ago, she messaged me on Facebook and said they'd like for me to come for a visit... they live about 1 1/2 hours away. We eventually made plans, and I drove up this past Tuesday and visited with them and had a great meal, and great fellowship. It would never have happened if they had been like me and feared rejection. And if I hadn't changed as much as I have, I would have been fearful to accept. But they invited me, I went, and we had a great time... well, I know I did, and they seem to have had also.

  Again, how many friendships have I missed out on because of fear? I see new people at church, and feel I should talk to them, but my old feelings of inadequacy and inferiority rise up, and I back off. Occasionally, I'll tell someone it is nice to have them there, but a voice inside tells me how dumb I sounded, and there are better people in the church to welcome them than me.

  Fortunately, everyone is not like me. I have had some very nice people add me as friends on Facebook who I would have been afraid to add... authors, friends of friends, even relatives I don't know well.

  And it isn't just with people. I find myself wondering what fear has kept me from all of these years. I'm not much of a risk taker. There have been jobs I didn't apply for, because I feared I couldn't do them. Things I felt I should do, but feared what people would think. It is something I don't want to think about too much, for it depresses me to think about what I might have missed out on due to fear.

  And yet, I can't just ignore it and sweep it under the rug, for I feel convicted and feel the need to change. No one should be so ruled by fears that it cripples their very life and emotions, especially a Christian. What good am I to God if my fears are bigger to me than He is? And am I trusting God if I am so bound by fear that it interferes with what He may want me to do?

  It can be daunting to look at an area you need to change, especially one that has you bound as much as fear has me bound... and it can very difficult to change, but I can see the need to change, so I will do it in small steps.... taking the initiative to add someone as a friend on Facebook, speaking to someone I don't know at church, inviting someone out to lunch, drinking the milk when it is past the expiration date, jumping off a cliff into water....... OK, just kidding on that one. I can't swim.

 The Bible has "fear not" 170 times, so it is obviously something God doesn't want us to do. I won't be doing anything daring any time soon, but hopefully with his help, I can overcome being so bound by my fears.