Archives for posts with tag: enemies

god-in-a-boxI like to keep my house tidy and well organized. If I can’t have clean, I can usually find peace with hiding the clutter. If I don’t have to look at the messy, irrational parts, I can pretend that they are not there. I can find comfort in considering only what I allow myself to see. I can define my surroundings with the appearance that I am in control.

Sometimes we try to do the same thing with God. We want enough of His presence to give blessing to our plans. We are so comfortable with our expectations and opinions and comfort zone that we assume He agrees us. We don’t actually want His input, unless it reinforces what we want to believe. We make decisions and assumptions on what is good and right, and then we require that God bless them.

Surely God agrees with me! Surely God likes the things I like and dislikes the things I don’t! Surely God recognizes the wisdom of my perspective! But what if He doesn’t? What if God is less interested in my opinion than in my testimony? What if my self-righteous indignation is more “self” than “righteous”? What if God is more concerned about the people I alienate, than in the validity of my perspective or personal choices? What if God wants me to represent His love, rather than put me in charge of straightening out those who think differently than I do? What if God wants to do a new thing or an old thing in a new way? What if God wants me to obey Him, and I want Him to obey me…and just stay inside the tidy box I build for Him?

The most cursory reading of the Bible reveals a God who is unpredictable. He doesn’t have a set response that applies in all situations to all people. He may deliver his people from their fears, or He may walk them through their fear to a deeper trust. He may destroy their enemies, or He may use the testimony of His people to change the hearts of their enemies. He may reveal His power, or He may give power to those who choose to obey.

The Bible also reveals a God who is always in control, even when he allows things His children don’t like. His goal is not to make us comfortable or content; His goal is to reveal His glory and increase our holiness. His goal is that all peoples know Him. What happens when we claim to represent God, but our words and behavior come from our own need to be right, rather than the love and righteousness and power of God?

Putting God in a box may mean that we separate ourselves from Him. Insisting that God confine Himself to our expectations may mean that our testimony to those watching us includes nothing more than our own preferences. Worshipping the God who will not stay in the box requires that we see Him as He is, not as who we’d like Him to be. Loving those around you may not include browbeating those around you into agreeing with you. There is no trust required for the things you can control. Faith kicks in when we remember that He is God and we are not, especially when He destroys the box and works in our world in ways we don’t like or don’t understand. Our job is not to draw boundaries for Him; our job is to honor the boundaries He draws for us.

How do you respond when God doesn’t confine Himself to what you think is right? Do you assume He isn’t in charge? Do you appoint yourself as judge and jury over those who see things differently than you do? Does your testimony give evidence of love or of condemnation? Do you give God the space to work His will in ways you didn’t expect? Are you mindful of how you represent Him to those around you, or are you more interested in proving that you are right and those who disagree with you are wrong?

May we seek His will, not our own. And may our faith in His power be manifested in our testimony.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.  

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I’m pretty flexible on most things, but there are certain topics…not so much. I’m passionate about learning what God went to so much trouble to reveal about himself in the Bible and his history with those who choose to love him back. I’m passionate about sharing what God has taught me. I’m passionate about those that God has given me to love, both family and close friends. I expect the best from them and for them. I’m passionate about life and hope, and I vehemently oppose those who restrict either. I’m passionate about music and travel and education.

But deeply held passions typically lead to pet peeves. My passion for God’s Word can make me disdainful of those who use God as a tool for their personal agenda. My passion for language makes me utterly irritated with professional speakers or journalists who appear unaware of some basic grammar rules. My passion for those I love often makes me intolerant of their choices that cause them regret. I usually am incapable of maintaining a cheerful disposition with those who zoom past a line of traffic and then insist that those who have waited and merged safely let them cut in line, or those who expect kindness and generosity, but show none. Dishonesty, discourtesy, incompetence, and selfishness are far more likely to cause me anger than move me to mercy.

In recent days I’ve watched as too many in this country have used their passion as an excuse for prejudice, rejection, rioting and hatred. Indulging our pet peeves leads us to arrogance and intolerance. Both passions and peeves handled selfishly can engender increased problems, rather than progress. Both sides live in such a way as to prove their enemies right.

Human nature hasn’t changed much. Jesus had to battle the passions and peeves of his generation. The Pharisees were passionate about defending the rules they had created to enforce God’s law. Any who didn’t honor their authority and obey them were punished. The Pharisees focused on their rules for the Sabbath and ensuring that God stay in the box they created for him, insisting that all around them agree with them. Jesus tried to teach them a better understanding of Sabbath and to see God as he really was. Rather than testing what Jesus said for truth, they tried several times to stone him, and eventually orchestrated his crucifixion.They came face to face with God incarnate and missed him because he didn’t support their passionate perspective.

I fear that our generation has gotten so arrogant in our passions and peeves that we too will miss God. We believe only the facts that prove us right and arrogantly dismiss all who disagree with us. Whether it is a Confederate flag or gay marriage or our chosen political party, those who disagree with us become our pet peeves. God’s call on each of us is individual….we don’t get to impose what we like on people who disagree with us. We do have to consistently seek God’s will and guidance for ourselves. Sometimes that may look like mercy; sometimes it may look like justice. But either way our response must be obedience to God, not self-centered arrogance. Those who disagree with you may be wrong….your response to them may be wrong as well and you may miss the opportunity to help them see your point of view. Those who disagree with you may be right….your response may prevent you from ever understanding that. I encourage you to sacrifice your passions and peeves and let God show you what your response should look like. Live in such a way as to prove your enemies wrong about you.

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We can embellish it, spin it, or stretch it. We may run from it or hide from it, but our response to the truth doesn’t change the truth. Courts ask us to “Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” because too often we try to make the truth into something it is not.

 Most of us have a problem with the truth. We want to embrace the “truth” that supports what we want to think and dismiss any evidence that might prove us wrong. We disdain those who disagree with our version of the truth, and have turned every issue into an “us” and “them” predicament. We are far less interested in actually knowing the whole truth than we are in proving our enemies wrong. When we sublimate the truth to winning the argument, we become the ones who embellish it, spin it and stretch it. Ignorance is no excuse; neither is arrogance.

Never has our nation been so sharply divided as now. In politics, race relations, morality, and religion, there is an increasing polarization of opinions. We argue about everything from financial strategies to educational reform to foreign policy. Both sides of every issue assume that they have the truth, and those who disagree with them are uninformed or malicious. Both sides of every issue seem far more likely to attack each other than to seek the whole truth and work for common good.

When did different ideas become mutually exclusive? Where is the line between what is non-negotiable and a different perspective? Can Democrats be just a right about helping the poor as Republicans are about enabling people to rise out of poverty? Is there a need to protect the right to free speech of all people, including the ones who disagree with what is politically correct? Can we recognize the flaws of institutions and people we like? Can we honor the goals of those who don’t share our priorities?

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) What do we have to learn before we will actually “know the truth”? What will knowing the truth set us free from? What does it look like to fight for the truth?

I suspect the whole truth is far more about understanding ALL the facts than it is about destroying those with whom we disagree. The truth just is. We can’t change it. But if we truly want to find it, I suspect we will find ourselves in the company of people we respect, even when we don’t agree.

Complete Trust

Complete trust is rare. Somehow, between childhood and adulthood, we equate less trust with more wisdom. The toddler who jumped from the edge of the pool into his parents’ arms with full conviction that he would be caught becomes skeptical of his parents’ advice by the time he’s a teenager. The young adult who believes she has the power to become anything she wants begins to doubt her capabilities when they are tested by a world that doesn’t have her best interest at heart.

We’ve been betrayed by people who don’t love us, and hurt by those who want to use us for their own gain. We’ve trusted bad advice and shallow perspective and ended up wounded by betrayal and consequences that leave literal and invisible scars. We decide that we can’t trust others, so we begin to trust only ourselves.

This is where the gap between heaven and earth is most stark. The Bible is full of stories where God said “Trust me”. The hero of great battles was asked to conquer a fortified city armed only with trumpets and a cheering squad. A prostitute put her life in the hands of spies who came to destroy her city. (Joshua 2) The farmer who hid from his enemies was asked to lead a few untrained soldiers into battle against a huge, well equipped army. (Judges 6) Nehemiah, a wine taster in the palace of Persia, was asked to construct a wall around the ruined city of Jerusalem under the eyes of men who did not want him to succeed. Elijah set up a competition between Yahweh and Baal, knowing that those who served the loser would die. Each of them chose to trust God, and each of them saw the power of God in their own lives and over their enemies.

God wants us to learn to trust him, and he is patient with us in that process. The best view we have of God is when we chose to believe and obey his power, even when we can’t see a happy ending. The Hebrews who were pinned down between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army saw that God could be trusted to save them. Daniel defied the orders of the Babylonian king learned that God has complete power over our enemies. On Easter morning Christ appeared to heartbroken, confused disciples and showed them that not even death was a threat to them anymore.

How many parents beg their children to trust their love and advice, knowing that the choices their children are making are not going to end well? How many of my “scars” came from trusting the wrong source? How much pain and disappointment could we avoid if we trusted God, rather than the narrow, shallow, self serving advice of those who want power or another book sold?

I want to see God as he is in my world, but that requires that I trust him. Sin is nearly always the easy choice, and trust always looks risky. God does not change. He is the same today as he was in the Old Testament. There are situations in my life right now that I don’t like, that are painful for me to endure. I can try to manipulate them using my limited perspective and feeble efforts, or I can trust the one who says, “Follow Me”, the one who has proved himself faithful over and over, in history and in my life. Only then will I have a front row seat to see heaven invade earth, to bring my good and his glory.

It’s Not About You

There is so much complaining in our society: our government, our media, our schools, the crime rate, the environment. We have no lack of topics to use as a means of attacking each other. We attach ourselves to a particular cause and let that define our expectations and behavior. There is a reality show about Green Peace advocates who give their life and fortune to punishing those who illegally kill whales. A church from Arkansas dedicates itself to attacking homosexuality and America’s war in the Middle East. (Wonder what they think about judgmentalism and self-righteousness?) Opponents of abortion have murdered doctors to make their point. Whenever we focus on a piece of the truth, we lose perspective on the whole truth. We seek personal or political victory, but what we need is God.

Throughout history as cultures have begun to thrive, they begin to turn inward. They believe that what they want is what they deserve. There is no empire that has ever been created that did not fall, no great civilization that did not self-destruct because it lost sight of its dreams and began to compromise to protect its power. America is no different. As we’ve eased God out of our media, schools and culture, we’ve seen the breakdown of the family, increase in violence and crime, deterioration of morality, and loss of basic integrity as a standard for our leaders. We’ve become convinced that we can fix ourselves. We’re told that we don’t need God; we just need more government programs, more self-awareness, and more income redistribution. And when our goal is to force others to adopt our perspective, we come up with all sorts of plans that turn out to be lies. More education has failed to provide society with all it needs to prosper. We can’t prevent our youth from becoming criminals if we just give them enough affirmation, the right education and the best opportunities. Modern psychology and the legal system try to explain man’s sin by blaming circumstances, parents, education, race, poverty, etc., without ever holding the individual accountable for himself. We try to convince ourselves that we are smart enough and powerful enough to make ourselves what we should be….and history has proven over and over again that we can’t. We ignore God’s character and law and don’t understand why we no longer have his blessing. When our focus is on ourselves – our agenda, our preferences, our comfort zone – we lose focus on God. We get it backward, and it will never work that way. It’s not about us; it’s about God.

The world curses those who oppose and disagree with them. The world seeks to impose its will on all and punish those who don’t cooperate. Jesus commanded us not to play by the world’s rules.

Mat 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

Sometimes love involves giving others the space to fail or discover for themselves. Sometimes it involves taking an unpopular stand or refusing to compromise. But the love God requires from us will never look like hate. It will never seek the destruction of those who irritate us. It will always look more like love than selfishness.

What would happen if you committed to praying for all who disagree with you, rather than complaining about them? How different would our culture be if the Christians actually blessed their enemies and prayed for those who curse them? How different would your heart and your week be if you chose obedience to this one command?