Posts Tagged ‘culture war’

Psalm 143:6
I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah.

Certainly, when it comes to scripture and to God, there is no greater thirst than the desire for God, to taste and see, to know and to be known. That is, if we recognize the source of our yearning. In discussion on this topic today, I was reminded of the fragility of our understanding. My friend said, in essence, that she believes longing for God is planted within all of us and that we are all, in one way or another, searching to return to who we are meant to be, in communion with God. How this resonated with me.

But what happens when we don’t know the source or true nature of what we are desiring or yearning to know? What if that longing is corrupted along the way? What if the idols of our world or the temporary “feel good” moments clamor to become the objects of our desire?

How many men and women have allowed sex to fill that void, or power, or success?

Longing is usually accompanied by vulnerability. In the language of faith, that is a good thing. Our hearts and spirits open to the Presence of God, we hear God’s “voice,” holy words are revealed in scripture, and we are willing to surrender–“Thy will be done.” But if our longing is misdirected and we are vulnerable as well, then we may find ourselves abused, physically or emotionally. We mistake sex for love, power for influence, and success for self-discovery.

In human psychology, longing is considered a “secondary” emotion, usually associated with the primary emotions of love and sadness. Often, longing is looking for a change. I love you, but I long for you to love me. I am sad, but I long for you to change so I won’t be sad anymore.

In my mind, the only truly safe place to put our longings is in God. When focus on other human beings, we move out of alignment. Like a car, we can still move forward, but with each mile, we become more and more damaged.

I long for a world where peace and justice and kindness reign. I long for understanding and trust and renewal. I long for unity. But my current ideas or thoughts about how our cultural losses can be undone, are misplaced. I have missed the point. No state of being can be mandated. No human law will change the course that is being set today through abused longings. Too many of us are looking for results before we look for the source of our fractures. We ignore our interdependence and play the “blame game.” We have become like two fans on separate sports teams “praying” to win. Whose prayers will God hear? Both and neither, because we are longing for the wrong result.

Let them give thanks to the Lord’s unfailing love
    and wonderful deeds for humankind,
for God satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.
(Ps 109-8-9, NIV, pronoun edits my own)

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Culture, culture, culture. Is there any doubt that Paul is writing out of his time and place? In these verses, Paul lays out some very specific parameters and rules in order to be on the “widow list.” What did they get for being in this list?

I Timothy 5:9-10
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband [dead or alive], and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

According to the Amplified translation, the list or roll was for those women who would, from that day forward (assuming they could stay on the list), would receive church support. They would be cared for and loved. God forbid if a woman was 59 or 58. Would they bend the rules? What is her husband was an abusive clod? What if her children, despite her efforts, ended up in jail? Who decides what is hospitable?

If there are women out there who met all of Paul’s rules, I doubt very seriously that they would need to be on the widow list because individuals would be reaching out to them for all their good deeds, help, and foot washing [personal service]. Outside of money, the women on Paul’s list seem to be strong, healthy, and full of spiritual insight. They would be loved and appreciated already.

Sorry, but I think the women on the widow list might need to be different in today’s world: homeless, abused, neglected, lonely, shamed, lost, addicted, sick, or hungry. They need strategies for survival and recovery. They need patience and forbearance. They need unconditional love and wisdom.

The widow list is not like Santa’s list, where only the “good kids” get the stuff. Like the movie, Cider House Rules, where the list was made by people who had never walked or understood the shoes of those who lived in the Cider House, so are Paul’s Widow List Rules. I find him insensitive and downright clueless.

But perhaps the really sad thing is that we all make “Widow lists.” We judge the ones around us and compare their circumstances to the list in our heads. Is this person deserving? Should I give this homeless person a dollar or will he/she squander it away?

I wish I could remember her name, but there is an amazing British woman who has served in China for many years as a missionary. I will never forget one of her teachings that chided us well-meaning helpers saying that Jesus only asked that we give and serve the poor, not second-guess what will be done with with the gift. Such an idea goes against everything we assume: shouldn’t I be a steward for what I give? I don’t know the answer to that.

But today, I’d like to throw out my lists and see what happens.

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I know I can be a bull in a china shop with my voice. Sometimes I don’t think things through before I say them. In fact, I’m known for speaking just to hear what I’m thinking! It’s not always well-formed. It’s one of the reasons I blog. . .

II Corinthians 4:13
Yet we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, I have believed, and therefore have I spoken [Psalm 116:10]. We too believe, and therefore we speak, . . .

Writing slows me down (a little) and it gives me a chance to contemplate more thoroughly the verses for the day. It gives me a chance to look for truths in the Word for me. Writing helps me articulate my faith more clearly and ask deeper questions of myself and others.

My faith has grown in many directions, not just wider and longer but deeper. And with that growth has come challenges and changes.

I find myself embracing the simplicity of the message: Love God, Love others. There is much more wiggle room than there used to be. There are gray areas after all. There is acceptance of the mystery and the paradox. There is a willingness to say, “I don’t know.” There is more tolerance for other lifestyles and mistakes. There is greater hope in the ultimate power of God.

Our world is very complex. It’s not the same world of the disciples. It’s much more expansive. We are aware of the tiniest changes across continents and space. We can know and communicate with thousands and millions of people in an instant. We hear of good and evil proliferating around the earth and beyond. Sin and disease abound. Fear builds exponentially. Death is proud.

And yet, it’s still the same message that will stand the test of time: Love God, Love others.

This is what I believe. This is what I am doing here.

My writing comes out of my faith. God is sovereign. Christ is real. And what I am living and learning along the way may help someone else discover the kingdom within.

After all these years, my personal mission still resonates for me: To inspire meaningful change, to build faith in God and to connect people with resources that make a difference in their lives.

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Paul is a little testy with the Corinthians in Chapter 4. He compares his lifestyle with theirs. It would be like comparing Mother Teresa’s lifestyle with mine. Indeed, what is wrong with this picture?

I Corinthians 4:8a, 9a
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! . . . For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena.

I was uncomfortable reading Paul today. After all, he’s writing to me just as much as he’s writing to the Corinthians. Compared to the poor of the world, I am living a king’s life. Compared to the relative wealth in any third world country, I am still living like royalty. In Africa, the villager measures wealth by land and cattle and food to eat. In America, we measure wealth by extraneous “toys” like electronics, paper money, investments, cars, and multiple bathrooms in a house.

This is still my stumbling block. It always has been and until my life changes, it will continue to be a plank in my eye [Luke 6:42].

I am afraid to be poor again.

How many times have a I sat in a Bible study or small group and talked about our wealth? We nod our heads and agree it’s problematic, but then we all return to our three and four bedroom houses with two and a half baths and two cars sitting in the driveway. Minimum.

Or, to make ourselves feel better, we drag out the Biblical examples of the wealthy who were close to Jesus: Joseph of Arimathea (who gave up his tomb for Jesus) or Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who climbed a tree to see Jesus and entertained him that night (oh, wait, he gave a way huge portions of his accumulated wealth that day).

Honestly, there’s no getting around it. Our wealth is a type of sin. We can tithe 10%, 15%, or even 20% and still we are carefully holding and caring and multiplying the remainder.

Oh, we say it’s only the “love of money” that is sin [I Timothy 6:10]. So, I don’t “love” money? I just love what money can buy. I love it’s power so much I spend more than I earn and put myself in debt.

Paul says to imitate him. I can’t do it. There’s a reality check. No. I have to find my own balance between culture, commitment, and Christ. This is not the first century.

I have no real solution. But I do know that it’s here where the voice of God must enter my soul and bring revelation. It is here where grace must make her appearance. It is here where mercy must do battle with condemnation. It is here where potential change must be embraced within the loving arms of a Redeemer.

Just as Jesus accepted the prostitutes and beggars, he accepts me. And just as he transformed them, he can transform me. I don’t know what that will look like. I cannot know the true outcome of this picture. I can only trust the Artist.

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Acts 15:11
“No! We [Peter speaking of Jewish disciples] believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they [the gentiles] are.”

Grace, grace and more grace. It is grace that does all the work. Grace = Jesus.

No human being can operate faithfully and fully within the laws of God alone. It is simply impossible. We are fallible, imperfect, careless, and prone to err. Perhaps we intend the best, but we bring far less to the table of life. We are handicapped in one way or the other. We hurt each other. We fail each other.

My daughter has told me how I am the only one she can trust, that I have been steadfast, that I am her hero. And I tell her… get ready, because I will fail you eventually, whether perceived error or truly just blowing it. I keep trying to bend her trust toward the only One who is totally reliable. It’s not me, I know.

God has poured so much grace upon me already. I am thankful for family, shelter, work, food on the table, transportation, freedom, and health.

Who are the gentiles of today? Isn’t it possible that God will pour out his grace on those unlike us… whose lives are different than our own? Who are we to decide what someone else’s faith walk will be like?

There was much damage done by many well-intentioned missionaries who entered cultures unlike their own and did everything they could to recreate those cultures. Look what the well meaning “whites” did to the Native Americans here in the United States… not just condemning their faith, but stripping Native Americans of their dress, their music, their land, and their history. Or, what of the Africans who were brought to this country? They too were forced into a new life, often under the trappings of “saving their souls” because they were categorized as barbarian or primitive.

Grace is more powerful than anyone’s culture. Grace knows how to integrate into any culture and reach the heart. It is the power of grace that transforms the human spirit. Lives are not changed at my insistence that they worship the way I do or read the text the way I do or pray the way I do.

The Jews who had accepted Christ had to a make a huge shift in thinking in order to embrace the gentiles. Can we do any less to those of other cultures, sexual orientation, or race? Let us trust Grace.

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