It was bloody and brutal and… (The AND is so important)

The next 48 hours are my least favorite in the whole year because, as a Church, we begin to remember the last supper; the hours of agony in the garden of Gethsemane; and the capture, trial, whipping, and crucifixion of Jesus. These 48 hours are my least favorite because I don’t think I’ll ever LOVE the cross. The cross was, and always will be, the mechanism by which my God was murdered. I’ll never love that my God was tortured and killed on a cross. And I’ll, for sure, never love that my sin put Him there.

But on Good Friday, there’s such pressure to affirm the cross. There’s even many pastors who believe that we need to reenact/experience the cross every year to come to understand the great price that was paid — just how bad our sin is. I don’t question that some need to be stared in the face with the reality of what happened. And I can’t argue that we shouldn’t speak of the violence. The text from scripture is quite clear. (I can barely hold back tears every time I see the phrase “He was barely recognizable as a man.”)

But I do have huge problems with the solution that we’ve come up with in the modern church: pornographically, gratuitously violent “conviction” videos.  Those videos will be violent for that sake of being violent, assuming that people (maybe even more specifically, men) will connect with the story and grasp the reality of the cross more. They figure that because we have seen horrendous violence in movies, they need to show that Jesus was tough and suffering was REAL. They think that the horrors of the cross will make the gospel come to life all the more.

The dangers of these videos is that people do connect to the pain of the cross, but they rarely, if ever, understand the Gospel from it. That’s because even if the videos have the congregation seeing the events as one of the jeering crowd members, seeing those images makes us feel like we were suffering with Jesus. Our compassion makes us believe that we would have been the ones weeping alongside the three Mary’s and John. That we would have been on Jesus’ side. But if scripture teaches us anything, it’s that we would have either been in the crowd, killing and mocking Jesus, or hiding like cowards like the disciples. We would not come out on top in that situation. We would not come out “holy” or “faithful” that’s for sure.

In addition, the videos don’t lead us to the gospel. They lead us away from it. They don’t really teach us about a part of the Gospel. They inflict us with the horror that we can’t escape from.

The cross was so bad, that when the disciples saw it, they had to also see the Resurrected Christ to get over it. Do we really “get” that from even the most horrendous video?

And so, this good Friday, I’ll once again, like so many other days of the year, be steeped in all the parts of the Gospel. Because if I don’ have all the parts, I can’t make a whole. And the whole is what broke me so long ago, and what continues to break me every morning. Oh, how I long for the churches that know how to respect the cross as a piece of the Gospel and not tear it from the other parts.

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Time Out! (A letter to church members everywhere)

I’m weary. I know some of you are, too. I’m weary from having conversations about the inadequacies of church. I’m tired from going into churches that say they have it all together, while I look at the congregation that so very clearly doesn’t. I’m exhausted from watching the backbiting and slandering. It’s frustrating, and agitating. It’s wrong.

This may just be the mom in me, but I want to call a time out. I know we all have differences of opinion. And those differences matter. (They really do matter!) But I think as culture moved so quickly around us, we all tried to keep up with the demands of reaching out to “the lost,” and we, ourselves, got lost.

We all went and did our own thing. The old kept their old ways. The new developed their new ways. The cool made their cool church. And the super spiritual sometimes made a not-so-cool church.

In each instance, we made it hard for the church to be the church: A place where people of all different backgrounds could come together to love and care, pray and encourage each other. A place where we could put aside our differences and worship God. A place where we could come and let Him speak, heal, restore, rejuvenate our weary souls as a body of believers. And then, because of that, then engage with one another — listen to each other — hear each other’s voices. When we hear each other, we become better equipped to be patient and understanding, reasonable and merciful with others outside of church. It makes us better at being who we’re meant to be.

I don’t care if you’re a house church or a mega church. If you don’t have this going on, you’re not doing church.

If I never hear the adjective “biblical” again…

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times… “I just love (enter preacher name here). They’re ideas are just so … so… biblical!”Or, how about the other version of this…the adjective, “Godly.” As in, “Oh, my! He’s such a godly man. You’ll love him!”

Whenever people use these two adjectives with me, I always stop and pause. I want to ask, “What do you THINK you mean by that?”

Because what biblical is supposed to mean and what it’s come to mean in our modern, evangelical, consumer culture is two very different concepts. Usually, what non-church going people mean when they use this term is that someone is religious — that they talk about God a lot. But believers tend to use these words to describe someone who is zealous about keeping God’s commandments and living “by the book.”

Neither of these are what the word biblical is supposed to mean.

Biblical is supposed to mean something far more organic. It’s supposed to denote someone who is messy and broken, and who is consistently saved by God. And, as a response, they’re grateful. They’re not only willing, they have no choice but to repent or worship their God! It’s supposed to take the form of the gospel playing out in their lives.

Months ago, I was tremendously hurt by someone very dear to me. The specific way they hurt me was a repeated offense in the story of our relationship. But unlike other times when they’ve confessed sin to me, this time, I responded differently. I looked at them and gently said, with great concern:

“I think you need to go to God and get healing or forgiveness. Because your sin is really against Him first and, in the end, against Him only. I think He needs to talk to you about this and heal you from this.”

I yielded my “right” to be hurt. There was something bigger going on. There was a story of redemption playing out. And if I was faithful, I could help steward that well. THAT was biblical.

In my own life, God has broken my misconceptions about this word time and time again. I’ll try to live out all the commands, and He’ll gently just reveal those words of Matthew 22:47:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

He reminds me over and over that if I don’t get these two points, then I’ve missed the point of him giving commandments at all.

If we want to live “biblical” lives, it should look like love. It should look like friendship: with each other, and with our God.

All the rest is just modern day tassels and phylacteries, meant to try to show that we are “holy” without actually being set apart.

Why You Should Care About The Next Pope (a post for non-Catholic Christians)

We were sitting at our dinner table with friends, sharing our stories of conversion. When it was my turn, I told how I came to Christ early on in life while growing up in a dynamic Roman Catholic church. I continued about how my mom later introduced me to Charismatic Catholics, while simultaneously feeding me Moody Radio. I told how three preachers, a Baptist, a Reformed, and a non-denom had shaped my ideas about faith. And then, how evangelical Catholics (they do exist) discipled me through my teen years. And how, as a young adult, I transferred into Protestantism in a Vineyard church (which is, to most, the opposite of Baptist or Reformed). And then shared how friends from Pentecostal, Methodist, and Presbyterian backgrounds had helped me grow in Christ.

One of the friends exclaimed: “That’s an identity crisis right there!”

We all laughed. To a certain extent she is right. I have studied the spectrum of Christian theology. I’ve been involved with many “types’ of Christian faith. Which is why I can say, with boldness, that if you are a Christian of ANY background, you should care about who gets elected to be the next Pope.

I know that some members of the Christian family think that the Antichrist will arise in the form of the Pope. I know some of you are ex-Catholics and want to prove that the church that parented you has no hold on you, and so you stand in apathy as a form of defiance. I know some of you were hurt by the Catholic church – despised, rejected, possibly even abused (to which I mourn with you). I know some of you wish you could wrangle friends and family out of the Catholic church.

BUT

There are about 1.19 BILLION Catholics in the world. Some of them are Catholics in name only. Some don’t have the faintest clue who the God they serve really is. But when you’re talking about A BILLION, you’re talking about a lot of sisters and brothers. Don’t fall to the temptation of shoving them aside. And don’t you dare call them crazy cousins. They believe in the same God as you and profess the same core, essential beliefs you do.

They are going to be led, ultimately, by one man. They will put themselves under his leadership, assuming that he will place himself under the headship of Christ. If he doesn’t, they can be led astray, for sure. But more importantly, the rest of the world is watching. And some are watching to see if, as brothers and sisters, we can be divided all the more.

Sometimes I think we’re so worried about doctrine that we’ve forgotten that we can’t stand when we’re divided. We fear being labeled someone who believes in ecumenism.

Let me be clear on this — the problem with ecumenism isn’t us coming together. It’s in us coming together and saying doctrine isn’t important. It’s dismissing that we should have conversation. Ecumenism is dangerous because it keeps us from learning and growing with one another and being able to take a stand together. It keeps us from exhorting one another to make sure “that no one takes you captive, through philosophy or empty deception.” And that we should also take a stand against our leaders when they lead us “in human tradition, and according to the spirit (waves, beliefs, practices) of the world” and NOT according to Christ (col2:8).

But putting our differences aside and standing for one, holy, perfect God who we believe loved us so much that He sent His only son to die on a cross so that we can have forgiveness of our sins and life eternal with Him? Removing our judgement for a second to agree that He does rule and reign as one who has conquered death and risen from the grave? There’s something holy in that.

In that spirit of worshiping the God who saves, and the God who was raised from the dead, and the God who is ALIVE, let us come together, firmly believing that God hears and cares about what we ask Him for. Let us pray that He chooses someone to lead His people, even if that person won’t lead us. Let us pray for someone who hears His voice and responds. Let us pray, even if our prayer is just a deep plea of “Heaven help them pick someone who is OF You, and who will follow You, no matter the cost.”

Because if we don’t, and they pick someone who isn’t true to Christ, we will divide more. We should care when family splits apart. We should just care.

So, as our Catholic brothers and sisters say,

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you (hopefully as you pray),

Pam

Hope for the Self-Righteous

(This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post.)

In case you missed it, let me just reiterate…my name is Pam, and I’m a self-righteous jerk.

So, you’re a self-righteous jerk, too, hugh? Ok.

Let’s work with that…..

….

You’re waiting for me to write on how to “fix” you, aren’t you? Yeah…I’m not going to do that.

I can’t do that. I can’t just write a five-step model for you because I believe that the root of self righteousness is a deep seated fear about being rejected. And five-step models are poor replacements for the healing that’s needed to overcome rejection.

I believe we become self-righteous because we figure out that if we play by the rules, then people can’t reject us, or their rejection is now unjustified, and so we find a way to dismiss their criticism. We’re often also guilty of calculated risks, controlling tendencies, suspicion, mistrust, and cynicism.

In our relationship with God, we are prone to behaviors that manifest in two specific ways:

1) Works Righteousness – I know I can’t earn my way to salvation, but I do want to please Him by doing…. Those of us in this camp struggle with fear of man issues all the time. We have difficulty saying no, especially to authority figures. We can idolize beauty, talent, knowledge, and giftings.

2) The “super” grace camp – We preach grace, and give it easily to others, but truth be told, we don’t give it to ourselves. As people press in to bear our burdens and consequences of sin, we often draw back, stubbornly, and insist on carrying it ourselves.

Have I hit the mark yet?

Don’t worry. There’s hope. It comes in the form of  carefree timelessness. That’s right. Carefree timelessness. You have to be able to spend time with others and with God with no plan and no motivation, other than enjoying each other’s company. You have to experience people not rejecting you as you let loose. You have to experience not working/counseling/teaching/mentoring/serving others, and still having relationship. It has to be built into your schedule the way you dedicate your time to prayer and scripture study.

You have to experience God loving you for reasons other than your service, your faithfulness, or your dedication to Him or His church.

If you’re not morally opposed, and it won’t make you fall into sin, go have “A” beer with some friends. Women: Don’t go to the coffee shop with your girlfriend! You will end up counseling! Go to a crappy all night dinner and order ice cream and fries. Laugh. Laugh until your side hurts. Laugh till you cry. Be a little silly. Be a little vulnerable.

With God, just go for a walk and be honest with God. Don’t censor yourself. I promise, He’ll bless your honesty.

This WILL be hard …painfully hard. But I pray that God will tie your hands behind your back so that you can experience love and relationship. Because if you struggle with self-righteousness, my guess is that you deeply crave loving, open, honest relationships. You just don’t know how to get there, and you don’t really believe people will accept you for you.

They will. Give them a chance.

Love,

Pam

 

 

 

P.S. Your just as self-righteous girlfriend might not be the best person to take out to dinner. Share these posts or others like it with them first and see if you’re on the same page. Or, take somebody out that you naturally really enjoy being around.

 

You Know You’re a Self-Righteous Jerk When…

There’s a lot of reasons to write this blog today. But, I’d rather just get to the meat of the post. You know you’re a self-righteous jerk when…

12) Your “friends” are happy when you and your spouse/significant other have a public disagreement/fight. They turn away and smile. They’re not jealous, they’re happy to see that you don’t have it all together.

11) When people get to know you and say something like, “I’m so happy I got to know you and see that….” (…that you’re not perfect. That you struggle with this too. etc. ALTERNATIVE I used to think (blank) about you, but now I know that you aren’t like that at all….)

10) When you have a problem with everyone in your church or with every church. Sure, sure, I know you can doctrinally, theologically back-up why YOU can call THEM out on their stuff, but if you’re alone, it’s not because you’re so special and figured it all out.

9) Like #10…when your church is the ONLY church that has it straight. This can be characterized in many ways, but when you don’t want to visit other churches, can’t recommend a good church other than yours, or think “thank God this isn’t my church home” when you’re at another church….then you know.

8) When people don’t hold conversations with you. When there are lots of empty pauses. This is because people know they have to filter around you.

7) When people confess sin to you, but then stipulate it with “I need prayer for this, but don’t worry, I’m not sinning (this egregious way) or having trouble with (this awful behavior). It’s just this (minor sin).” OR vice versa. This is how YOU confess sin.

6) When others are telling you a story about how God has had victory over sin in their life and all you can think is “well, you’re only a little bit down the path. God’s going to do this, and this, and this next.”

5) When you’re happy that somebody tells you about difficulty in their life because you think it will “break them down.”

4) When you put others, including your children, in uncomfortable circumstances ON PURPOSE because you want to see how they will react.

3) When you use only certain language to explain salvation, the bible, doctrine, or more practically, on how forgiveness and apologies “should be” done.

2) When someone has a child go wayward, or their marriage falls apart, or some other tragedy and you can say EXACTLY why that tragedy happened.

1) Quite possibly, when you think this blog post is for someone else other than you.

Of course, it takes one to know one. You know you struggle with self-righteousness when…you can write a blog that’s almost a how-to on becoming a self-righteous jerk.

Have a blessed day. 😉

(Preview for tomorrow…hope for the jerks out there. No how-to’s. I promise. Just some freedom from the burden of being an ass.)