This week in the Not A Fan study the topic is about our sinfullness and how we deal with it. Sure, we know Jesus washes it away, but how much of our sin have we revealed to Jesus?
As I look at my past sins and think through them, I am finding places where I have not dealt with my sin in very productive ways. I am not advocating that we have to fix it on our own before we can be good enough to be loved by Jesus; not in the least manor. There are some sins I have committed and I no longer commit. Yay!! There are other areas though I seem to continue sinning, like a bad habit or something. Often I turn to Romans 7, the things I want to do, I don’t seem to be able to do, the things I don’t want, these are the things I am doing (paraphrased here a bit) I tend to rationalize them, cover them up, make excuses, ignore them, rank them and compare with others so I come out on top comparing my very best to someone else’s lowest deeds.
I wonder how many feel like this is their story too. Did Jesus really forgive you for… ? What I am realizing is this, those areas in my life I wouldn’t want to really have the hard conversation with Jesus about (my sin) are the areas I for some reason think I have to get it right before I can go to Jesus and say, “Here, now I got the stain out of my life, I think I can let you love me now.”
Maybe you have given up on getting it right and so maybe you found it easier to not try. Maybe you find reading the Bible to much, as it reveals so much you are ashamed of. I can’t go to church because it doesn’t seem to be helping, instead it just makes me feel worse, is that your response?
The 4 acounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels show Jesus as very approachable, no matter how bad we think we have been. The challenge is the battles I face, are only battles when I take my focus off of Jesus. I can try to hide my sinfullness and in so doing deny the grace God offers. It is when I am willing to share my struggles with Jesus I find freedom. It is when I fail to do so that guilt and shame become a burden.
When I first read the question for this morning I thought it asked, “What are you most tempted to put ahead of Jesus, to love more than Jesus.” Once I read this I fired off my answer quickly, “My accomplishments!” The next question asked why and so I answered again in a rapid ‘I got this one’ sort of fashion, “Because there is still something inside of me that hopes it will please God and get me more points with Jesus.” Then it asked, “what did you gain from this exercise.” which I at first left blank. As I contemplated my answer, that I was going to write down in a bit, my only thought was recognition that I want to follow Jesus. When the lunch portion of the journal asked me to think of the person you named this morning, I did not understand. I didn’t name a person this morning. That is when I looked the mornings question over again to see that it asked, “Who…”
There was a sinking feeling in my heart as I considered that answer. The obvious first answer was me, at least in my mind. The real answer as I consider it more is, “It depends on the day.” I reflected back on the last couple weeks and tried to figure out all of the people I had put before Jesus. There was the service writer that had to get a car done quickly. (For those who do not know I am pastoring part time now at Parker UMC, I have a job at a local car dealership as a mechanic.) Then there are all those other things people ask me to do, even though I don’t have time to get my other stuff done. How annoying is that? Have you had days like that?
My mind begins to think about how do I make Jesus number one in my life? It is easy to see that I get too busy helping others out. But wait a minute, if I have died and it is Christ living in me, then when I am helping someone out, isn’t it Christ serving through me? The lunch questions bottom line was for me to make a comparison. Compare the person that I am tempted to put ahead of Jesus with Jesus, there is no comparison. Even when I am answering the wrong question, the things that I put ahead of Jesus, had no comparison to Jesus. While my accomplishments have the potential of overshadowing Jesus or being put ahead of Jesus, it is because of Jesus I am motivated to do those accomplishments. My number one accomplishment is making it through another day seeking to move in the direction of Christ-likeness.
I pray my actions show that Jesus is what I am committed to.
At Parker UMC we have started a series called, “Not A Fan.” by Kyle Idleman. Yesterday we watched the first of six video lessons and had some really great discussion about the content. This morning the first question asked in the follower’s journal is, “What stood out to you from lesson 1?” Many who will read this will not have had the chance to see the video presentation, which was done very well in my opinion. The story line so far is a father, likely in his mid forties, has a heart attack and dies. Kyle is working through and with the family and friends as they take the very difficult steps through the next stage of life. As he walks among them the conversations show various viewpoints of God and how things ‘work’ in God’s realm.
It is easy to sit and criticize all of the different points of view. It is very easy to say something like, “Well, it is obvious they don’t understand Jesus at all!” My thoughts are definitely not their thoughts. In my arrogance I wonder how they could ever think these things about God, as if I had the exact correct answer and fully understood all that is going on in the world. Even the understanding of the role of the pastor in that moment caused me to ask what would George do in that situation. My thought is I would likely over-react. I know that I have never argued anyone into loving Jesus more. Where I get stuck is my desire to fix them, to give them the right answers and solution to their questions. Deep down I want to say, “Where did you come up with that idea?”
We all have questions and struggles in this life. Even the question from week one, “Are You a Fan or Follower?” is very daunting to ask and answer. What does it mean to give everything to follow Jesus? We cannot change the time in which we are living. We cannot decide to try living in a different period of time. We are alive now in this world at this time. We are all on our very own path from birth to death. We are fortunate to be alive wherever we are living. So, is our relationship with Jesus just one more thing we fit into our lives? Luke 9:23, “Jesus said to everyone, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” That is a loaded sentence.
I have continued to read what others are saying, some going down the path my thoughts seem to be running and others, not so much. It has and will continue to make me consider my stance. I appreciate the thoughts and ideas that differ from mine. I am doing my best not to be critical of others or replying without respectfully considering their thoughts.
This is not an easy issue, especially when you are going against the grain and what we have believed and taught for so long. When I began my Course of Study at Perkins School of Theology I thought I had a pretty good grasp of my thoughts. I had completed the Disciple Bible Study and had a good grasp on the flow of the Bible. The course, Disciple, is like 34 weeks long if I am not mistaking. I took what I was told pretty much at face value, with the background that God is sovereign so when it seems like God is promoting genocide or when we see the short comings of so many that have gone before and they are still in leadership it is OK, because God is in control and has the power of life and death. I spent a lot of time studying apologetics, the defense of the Christian Faith. After a while though it seemed to be a way to create arguments, instead of leading people to clearer understandings. So when the topics of God sanctioned genocide would come up, the answers never seemed to satisfy my understanding of God. I tried to memorizing many answers as if when I get to heaven I will have to just pass a theology exam to get into heaven. This seemed to be actually quite shallow. I have known many people who call themselves Christian, yet they live bitter lives. It didn’t make sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anywhere near perfect. I fall short every day. Sometimes I actually can see it. It really wasn’t until I began reading people like Dallas Willard, Richard J. Foster, John Ortberg, Phillip Yancey, James Bryan Smith, Shane Claiborne, N.T. Wright, Brian McLaren, Mike Breen, Richard Rohr and Joseph Girzone, that I began to truly see beyond the rigid Christianity that makes the laws above love. Who were the ones who felt they were righteous when Jesus walked the earth? Wasn’t it the Pharisees? Who did Jesus have the hottest words for?
May God continue in the movement of Christ like love.
OK, So yesterday I made a decision to update my Facebook profile picture with a rainbow in support of the ruling from SCOTUS. It was no easy decision to make such a statement. So far the response has been interesting. So far I have received 17 likes, one “glad you took a stand”, one “really?”, one huh, and one attempt at being funny. So what have we learned? What have I learned?
What in the heck then do I believe? I knew when I posted there would be some that would at minimum shake their head. I am thankful that, to my knowledge, no one has unfriended me. In my last blog, written yesterday, I spoke about the four lenses in which I make sense of life; Scripture, Experience, Reason, and Tradition. I spoke of a little of my experience with those from the LGBTQ community and the conversations I have had with them. There are a couple with whom I have had extensive conversations and I have seen the fruit of the Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-3) pouring out of them way beyond some who are considered “good Christians”. I consider when Peter gets to Cornelius’ home and how he watched them being filled with the Holy Spirit to the point where he could come back to Jerusalem and report that he baptized them because God had shown him a reality that God’s love goes far beyond the people of Israel. (See Acts 10) So my experience of God’s love flowing through others, and reasoning that I see the work of God through people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity allow me to see this as a social justice issue.
So let me talk about the scripture side for a moment. I spoke of John 13:34 in my previous post. I have read the Leviticus scripture a number of times, and to be honest have even used it myself. What is Scripture? Did God dictate it? Is it to be read as a constitution or book of law? Is it a love letter to humanity? Many will start heading to 2 Timothy 3:16. What does it mean to be inspired by God? I believe it is useful for teaching, showing our faults, to correct our thinking, and training us in character. I read it and see how far I often times not only miss the mark, but I even miss the target. When I see my failings that Scripture points out in my life I can break that down to my self-centeredness. I fail at loving God with all I am and my neighbor as myself. I stand condemned time and time again. I can only get back up by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19 Jesus points out that some are born eunuchs. Science has shown that during gestation there are times when gender identity is confused. It happens. Are we to love them less? We do not know when someone becomes ‘gay’, but we do know that it happens and it is not something someone would choose, like I chose to change my profile picture. Is it written in our DNA? Is it Nature or Nurture? I cannot tell you. What I can say is that I believe in a God bigger than any of the issues we are talking about. I believe in the sovereignty of God to the point that God will do what is right. I believe that Jesus taught that the economy of God is based on the currency of love. I have seen more love in gay couples than I have heterosexual couples. I believe love wins, God’s love. I believe the Bible is a library written over a couple thousand years of oral tradition and people trying to figure out the world and how this spiritual force we call God created and continues to create even to this day. I believe it was written by men who, under the inspiration of God, told the stories and shared their experiences. It was composed by prophets, priests, and poets. I believe in a final judgment where we will all stand before God and give an account for our lives.