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Are We Afraid to Be Honest With God? How Honest?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

7  LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived! You are stronger than I am, and you have overpowered me. Everyone makes fun of me; they laugh at me all day long. Jeremiah 20:7 (TEV)

It’s been one of those years when things that aren’t supposed to happen do happen. When I’ve had to help more people pick up the broken pieces of their life, and plead with God to put them back together.

When I’ve seen other friends, turn their back on God, and choose their way to go, encouraged by those around them. When those entrusted with responsibility become Machiavellian in the work, and then justify it.  I am not just talking about the secular world, I see it in the church as well.

It is almost enough for me to change from being cynical to being a pessimist. It is enough for me to despair, and even go through something akin to depression.

But it is there, almost consumed by darkness, that I remember the brutal honesty of Jeremiah.  His ability to speak honestly with God, even to admit he was ticked at God and felt betrayed by Him, even deceived by Him.

To many people I hear today, acting as if life is perfect as if there is no brokenness as if everyone can achieve everything they want to, simply by only speaking positively. If life was such, why would they need to be encouraged to adjust their attitude, to only speak positively as if the challenges of life were not there?

Jeremiah is speaking positively when he rails against God when the prophet admits he is tired when he admits that he doesn’t like the suffering, the pain, the life he has to live.  He doesn’t hide this stuff, bury it deeply, ignore it and cover it with nice notes of encouragement.

He wrestles with God, like a true son of Jacob; the man renamed Israel

I was blessed to work with a pastor named Robert Schuller a few times.  Let me rephrase, I didn’t work alongside him, but in a series of courses, he taught me a few things about preaching, along with his trusted associates.  He’s known for a positive message, perhaps along with Norman Vincent Peale to be one of the father’s of positive thinking, at least in the Christian realm. One of the bits of confusion is the allegation that he was a name-it, claim-it type guy.  Not so much.  The stories he would tell of people’s encounters with God’s grace always included the challenge God would get them through, the scars that God would use to bless them and others, the pains that resulted in gains.

An attitude that didn’t dismiss the brokenness, but freely admitted it, but also entrusted one’s self to God.  Something that can only be done when we are as honest as Jeremiah was, as we admit out frailty, our pain, our honest feelings, and let our Heavenly Father comfort us.  It is when we are honest, we see how overwhelming His mercy is, how compassionate His love is, as it reaches out and begins to heal us.

I have to admit, I don’t like what God somehow allows.  I tell Him that, sometimes as bluntly as Jeremiah.

but then, eventually, my tantrum subsiding, I realize what Jeremiah does, just a couple of verses later…

9  But when I say, “I will forget the LORD and no longer speak in his name,” then your message is like a fire burning deep within me. I try my best to hold it in, but can no longer keep it back. Jeremiah 20:9 (TEV)

His message of mercy, His message of love, is that deep.

I can’t shut it even… even when I feel bruised and broken, or when I am tired of trying to help those who are.

for I know His presence, I know His mercy, and I trust in the compassion of our Father, who sent Jesus to die, to make life just and right…. and a blessing.

Cry our, Lord, have mercy!  You will see that He does… in more ways than we can count.

Godspeed!

The Art of Theology: Not Putting God in Your Box

devotional thought of the day:IMG_0882

1  Then Job answered the LORD. 2  Job I know, LORD, that you are all-powerful; that you can do everything you want. 3  You ask how I dare question your wisdom when I am so very ignorant. I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know. 4  You told me to listen while you spoke and to try to answer your questions. 5  In the past I knew only what others had told me, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6  So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6 (TEV)

272 If you are sensible and humble, you will have realised that one never stops learning… This happens in every field; even the wisest will always have something to learn, until the end of their lives; if they don’t, they cease to be wise. (1)

I am a pastor, that means to a certain point, I have been trained as a theologian.  If you look at my libraries, you will see a few thousand volumes of books.  The hardbacks I have read through, the digital ones, well – there are too many, but I source many of them each week in sermon preparation. Usually I skim maybe 20% of the 100-1500 hits I research, looking for various things to help prepare a message.  I probably choose 10-20 to copy and paste and dwell through each week.

Been doing this for a while now, actually changed denominations once, have my favorite authors ( Luther, Escriva, Oden, Ratzinger, Willimon, Melancthon, Walther, Pieper, Augustine, Fracnis De Sales, Robert Webber )  It is somewhat an eclectic list, with guys from different times, different backgrounds. Which leads me to my point. I

We can’t put God in our Box.

We have to take Him as He reveals Himself, even if we don’t necessarily like His methods, His rules, His ways.  We can’t say they are wrong simply because we don’t like them.  Nor can we say with integrity that He didn’t really mean “that”.  Yet to often we do, unaware that pride is causing us to shatter the first commandment.

Over the years, others have done fine jobs summarizing the faith.  The three creeds that are held by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches ( The Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian) are good.  I am particularly fond of others, the Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Catechisms for example.  Pieper has done a masterpiece of theology, so has Thomas Oden never mind Luther and Augustine.  But I can’t remember ever page, every question and answer of these theological giants.  My expectation is neither can they!  They couldn’t in a couple thousand pages describe everything about God, they couldn’t out-Bible the Bible. They wrote great things… yet, it is still the observation of men, not equal to scripture.

That is what Job realized at the end of the book that bears his name. (as did his friends…) It is what Josemaria Escriva talks about, in a section on humility (not, incidentally, on wisdom!)

A wise man once said that, “A man’s got to know his limitations…”  Another, Socrates was considered to be the wisest man of his time.  His response to being told this was something like this, “it is only because I realize how much I don’t know.”  A good theologian talks where there is definite scriptural support – and struggles with that which contradicts his logix, because It is God’s word, God’s reasoning that trumps ours.  Even when it doesn’t seem logical, or fair.

Yesterday’s blog was about walking humbly with God, about keeping our eyes on Him, about sometimes that humility is only found in the midst of great sorrow.  Today’s is similar, our wisdom comes, not from what we know about God, but that we realize we are not omniscient, that His word trumps our logic. That there is a reason why He is God, that He is our Lord, our Savior, our Benefactor, and we are simply…. His kids.

So give up, for a day or two, putting God in your box…. let Him instead bring you into His glory….

Lord Have Mercy!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1337-1340). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s not Fair! (or right, or legal or just or moral ) Uhm, who made us judge?

English: Jesus Christ, polychromed and gilded ...

English: Jesus Christ, polychromed and gilded woodcarved relief by Martin Vinazer (* 1674 in St. Ulrich in Gröden; † 1744) signed MVF (MV Fecit) Deutsch: Gefasstes Holzrelief des Martin Vinatzer gezeichnet MVF (MV Fecit) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional thought of the day:

7  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9  Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.   Philippians 4:7-9 (TEV) 

“When a layman sets himself up as an arbiter of morals, he frequently errs; laymen can be only disciples.”  (1)

A disclaimer to start with: I have been having to deal with, preparing to deal with, and contemplating taking on a few things that are injust, unfair, and is in one situation – evil.   Why I do this, I don’t know – and it frustrates the heck out of me.

When I read the words of St Josemaria Escriva, quoted above this morning, my reaction was twofold.

The first was that I thought the word pastor/priest should be added to the word laymen.   As I think through that one, I realize that we as individuals do not, but in our role as ordained, as we stand in Christ’s place – by his command and forgive and retain sins, we do have that role.   We even have the role to confront people who have sinned against us.  (see Luther’s Large Catechism – the section on the Ten Commandments – The 8th Commandment for a great discussion of this)

But we cannot set ourselves up as the arbiter, as the judge, jury and executioner.  Not our role.

The other reaction I had, is – this statement flies in the face of 60% plus of what I see on FB.  From people commenting on selected photos of presidents and their umbrellas, to comments about how evil that person is, or this one, or how unjust this situation and that is, we vent our frustrations on the internet.  We like having that illusion of power, and an illusion is all that it is.   We feel like we can strike back, that we aren’t powerless, that we have a voice, that we somehow fulfilled a religious obligation.  And we are just spinning our wheels, and our souls.  There is a time to effectively work to overcome evil – in a way that is personal and caring and effective.

We haven’t been doing what’s good and beneficial.  In fact, when we set ourselves up as judge and jury, as we spend our time digging up the mud on this person or that, as we fight for our “rights”, we effectively say “no” to the peace of God.  We take the matter into our hands –  and with the illusion of power, allow things to take our minds off of what St. Paul suggests we should be doing,

Focusing on Christ, and His work.  Looking at the things which will bring Christ into the picture, His mercy, His love, His gospel.

Whether it makes things fair or not.  After all – Christ didn’t combat evil – talking about what was fair and moral.  He overcame it – by loving us enough to suffer the evil – to show us that love.

As we deal with Mondays, and a complicated week – and we want to strike out because its not fair, let us instead remember we are nailed to the cross of Christ – that we’ve died and risen with Him.

Therefore – we are home – and at peace.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 310-311). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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