Tag archive: Bible
WARNING – this post may trigger some of you to put on your God-police badge, don your God-judge robe, and be ready to swing your God-executioner ax across my scrawny neck – all in the name of love I’m sure – but I urge you to stop right now, take a deep breath (or several) and prepare to simply read with an objective, peaceful, frame of mind. My thoughts may or may not align with yours, but that doesn’t make me less of a compassionate human for thinking them.
God is real. I really believe that! But finding Him and figuring out which sources to trust while seeking Him is a daunting task. Throughout my life I’ve attended many churches, researched written texts, reviewed archaeological findings, and listened to personal testimony all in an attempt to put down a concrete foundation which proves His existence in a way I can settle the matter once and for all. Along the way, through all my “discoveries”, I’ve found myself waffling between being firmly convinced of His accessibility to being utterly disappointed in His apparent lack of engagement. Yet, I still haven’t given up my intrinsic belief in the Almighty God’s existence and I continue to seek Him.
Everyone has their own world view which is in part based upon their past experiences, education, hand-me-down opinions, fantasies, and pure blind faith. What shapes one person’s view in such a way that helps them make sense of the world around them may be so completely foreign to another person that the two find themselves at irreconcilable odds. On the surface and viewed objectively – knowing that people are willing to kill (and die) to defend their personal belief in a particular way of life (and way of after-life) – the very idea of a God-seeking humanity seems utterly absurd. Yet people vehemently stand by their belief systems and still no one I’ve come across seems to be able to provide proof positive that their way is THE way. Because I was raised in a Christian home and Christian community, my world view and belief system has always been, and probably always will be, skewed towards filtering things through my Christian lens.
But I’ve often wondered how I can be SURE that I am on the right path to the one true God and His calling in my life. And who hasn’t pondered the reason for man’s existence and the wondered about what the afterlife looks like? Are there really eternal implications of how we conduct our lives in the here and now? If only I could ask someone – someone with the authority to answer – you know – like God himself.
As a small child, my pea brain churned over these thoughts and sometimes I would ask the trusted adults around me if they knew the answers. They gave me kind, loving responses indicating that God had it all worked out and I don’t need to worry, which placated me at the time but left a gnawing feeling that something was missing. How could I know– and not just believe on faith? Where exactly is God anyway so I can ask him directly?
Lots of silence was the answer to that.
Once I could read, libraries were my favorite place to hang out and dig a little deeper on my own– but the going was slow; the materials were limited and often outdated.
As I grew older I spent time in counsel with church members and leaders trying to get their take on the matter, but they didn’t seem any more convinced than I was as to His exact whereabouts when I pressed them with challenging questions.
Insert droning, audible silence.
I’ve read countless versions and translations of the Bible and studied with fervor both in groups and in solitary.
What was that sound? Oh, it’s silence.
The advent of the internet with its growing instant availability to articles, documents, opinions, and other materials along with its access to actual people in other countries and their cultures, has expanded my knowledge base considerably regarding how other people view life, God, and the hereafter. Of course, we have to be extra discerning in this digital age considering any wacko can self-publish anything on the internet (you’re reading MY blog, aren’t you?) but, I think that with enough cross examination and objectivity one can scrounge up “reputable enough” internet sources to be content with their veracity. All I got for my efforts was…
Mind numbing silence.
I’ve prayed to, sung to, talked with, yelled at, argued with, and wept with the God I believe is in power. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been heard, but not answered – not really.
Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence.
I’ve come up short on answers thus far but I’m not giving up. I still really just want to go to the top (God) with my questions but I’m at a loss as to how to get there. One thing I have learned through all my research and reasoning, is that surely God – THE God – must be known to other cultures and peoples which coexist across this globe who are outside of the sphere of Christian influence. To place limits on God’s presence, activity, and preferred ways of communication is to limit God Himself. And lets face it, a limited God is nothing more than a god (small g – man’s delusion) and is not the one true God who created the heavens and earth and all things in them. So, let’s talk about God (big G). Not WHO He is – I don’t question His existence – but rather WHERE He is.
If you have to ask then you don’t know.
God is with me – just a prayer away I’m pretty sure. But sometimes His presence feels elusive, like He’s just out of reach, hiding around the corner. There are times though, when His whereabouts are utterly unknown to me and I feel like I’m all alone living in a void. Yet at other times, it feels like he’s right next to me chatting like an old friend and hugging me close. And on some rare nights He visits me briefly in vivid dreams which leaves a long-lasting impression of a thought I need to embrace or an action I ought to take. So how do I reconcile this alternating sense of His divine, loving presence with apparent icy, cold aloofness? Does He actually leave me like it sometimes feels? Or, could He really be there all the time and I’m simply blindly unaware of His presence? Is it my own sin that separates me from recognizing Him, as I have read in the Bible and been taught by many a pastor? If that were the case, then I would most likely never feel His blessed companionship, for nary a day goes by that I don’t commit one sin or another – either unintentionally or (gasp) in full awareness. And I suspect that the rest of humanity (including all the dedicated pew fillers) is not too unlike me in that regard – most of the time we try to avoid sinning but we just can’t seem to keep from stepping in the steaming piles of poo we have blatantly squirted in our own paths. And if Jesus died to save me from my sin (all of my sin – not just the sin I committed before accepting his gift of saving grace), then He surely knew my sinful nature is pervasive and not something I can easily or completely control. No, my sin alone cannot be the thing that separates me from an awareness of God’s presence at times. Honestly, I do feel like He’s with me most of the time, but if he does take a Colleen break… where does He go?
He’s probably at church, right?
Let’s focus on Christianity here for a moment and say that I want to seek God out in a place of worship when I feel the need to put Him back into my personal space. Which church is the one true church – the one actually condoned and endorsed by God Himself? They all claim to have a corner on that market, yet there are so many differences between them – pretty darn big differences I might add. As I examine various paths of Christendom: Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, or even Mormonism, each branch would say they are following His one true calling and His one true religion. They can’t all be right. Or can they? Could it be that God wants to show us that He can be reached through a variety of methods and that He’s less concerned about the nuts and bolts of daily life than He is with the big picture? The big picture being, that as Christians, we are to recognize Jesus as our savior, forsaking all other gods, and share His Gospel with others. But what if you’re not a Christian? If God is capable of endorsing all of the Christian sects as legitimate (I’m not saying He does), then couldn’t He also allow many other forms of worship and religious expression to be valid as well? Or, perhaps He doesn’t hang out in any place of worship at all since everybody insists with all of their “divinely inspired” piety that He’s exclusively at their place alone and people who claim otherwise are going straight to hell. However, there is no authority, past or present, which can validate with one hundred percent assurance the legitimacy of anyone’s claims of ownership of the one true God. Perhaps God is bigger than a place and form of worship…
Doesn’t the Bible have the answer?
OK, focusing again on Christianity here, this brings me to another sticking point. There is NO WAY the “Bible” has all the answers, because which Bible are we talking about anyway? Why are certain books included in the Bibles of some Christian denominations and yet considered Gnostic by others and therefore excluded, (and to be honest, downright vilified)? Still other texts exist (supposedly written at the same time as the original scriptures) which are written off as fantasy and heresy and are not included in any Bible anywhere. Such weighty decisions – the inclusion of texts deemed to be holy scripture inspired by God himself and the exclusion of texts determined to be of purely man-made origin – I’m told, were made by men long ago as a result of divine inspiration and we have no business questioning them. But why wouldn’t the Spirit (God himself) allow the men in charge to be consistent in their knowledge of which scriptures are the legitimate ones? Why are His people worshiping over here in one building allowed to affirm only certain books as Holy and other people in a different building right next door allowed to peruse bonus books? Each denomination’s Bible of choice, and the various accepted translations of it, is paraded within their communities as the only true Bible. Yet that cannot be the case. If we allow that Catholics and Methodists are children of the same God, why isn’t there more unity in what we consider to be the holy word of the Lord? Perhaps we should examine all scripture (sanctioned or not) and ask God to enlighten us as to what He wants us to believe or toss to the curb. Regardless of your opinion of the man, Martin Luther may have been right about giving the people access to the scriptures instead of relying on clergy to disseminate it. I’m a firm believer in doing one’s own research and one cannot possibly be satisfied with information passed down from a singular source (or collection of sources from the same segment of society). And then of course we haven’t even broached the topic of what is written about (and by?) God and passed on in other cultures and religions around the world. So far, I’m not convinced God lives between the covers of a book…
Ah, God is in your heart then…
Logically it seems to follow, that if God cannot reliably be found in a particular place of worship, or by reading a particular “approved” scripture, then he must reside in the hearts (figuratively speaking) of mankind alone. But is the heart of mankind to be trusted? From social media alone, it is evident that people all have different notions as to what constitutes the truth and they have different comfort levels in, and aptitudes for, telling lies. Ask every person you know about God and you’ll get wildly varying testimonies of His existence or non-existence. So, if I’m unsure that God keeps an apartment in your heart, how can I trust that my own little blood pumper isn’t uninhabited as well? I’ll tell you this – I KNOW my heart cannot be trusted! Some things I dearly believed in my heart to be true at one time turned out later to be a compete falsehood and fabrication in my own mind (Santa Clause anyone?). And who of you hasn’t been severely disappointed by something or someone which, upon reflection, have come to realize that YOU are to blame for your own reaction. YOU expected more out of a job, a relationship, a vehicle, (or whatever) than it was ever capable of providing. You gave that other person, thing, or situation qualities they never possessed and when they didn’t live up to your expectations, you were devastated. But it was your own heart that misled you into believing all those false expectations which you, yourself, created. And it’s the realization of knowing that we cannot trust our own hearts – which, by the way, is among the most sobering moments in life – that makes me doubt how God could ever want to dwell such a deceitful, fickle, organ as the human heart – figuratively or otherwise.
If you’re still reading, you may think I have come to the conclusion that God cannot possibly exist because I’ve shot down any confidence in establishing His whereabouts. Au contraire – I still believe in the existence of the Almighty Lord with all of my poor, pitiful heart, deceitful as it may be. I see His handiwork all around me. I cannot find it within my logical brain to embrace the idea that every living thing and its supporting ecosystems is simply a random assembly of atoms and cells which combined without any divine direction whatsoever to form the world as we know it. I’m pretty sure God’s divinity is bigger than what any book, building, or body part can hold. Certainly, I have more questions than answers and like all of mankind before me, I will die with these questions unanswered. Not unlike most of you, I hope to find a glorious future in the afterlife, but I’m not sure how to ascertain it in advance with complete assurance. But, despite my unending quest for answers, there are some things I DO know already:
- I know that forgiveness is a powerful tool. I employ it often and enjoy the peace it brings.
- I know that living in the moment is a gift. I try to stay out of the past, and hope today’s actions help bring a better future.
- I know that my thoughts and actions are my own. I don’t hold other people responsible for my choices.
- I know that love is comes in many forms. Even when you think it’s gone, there’s always more love to give.
- I know that as long as I can draw breath, I will get up off the ground and get my ass back in the saddle.
And I know that God, and the truth, is out there.
If you have answers, or even more questions, please share them with me here. I’d love to entertain your thoughts!Details
When I first read a post on Facebook commemorating the 24th anniversary of the tragic and untimely death of Mckay Gell and her unborn daughter Megan, my heart gave pause. The date, 12/29, will forever be burned into my heart. The original date fell on a Thursday. I rarely talk about it and I live with a sense of shame that not many of you can fathom. Yet at the same time, I credit Mary’s (I never called her McKay) amazing family for giving me something more precious than gold – the knowledge of what Christ’s forgiveness looks like. I’ve never put this in writing before and I’ve rarely ever spoken of it outside the confines of my immediate family. Bear with me, after 24 years I need to tell the story. It deserves telling.
To make some extra money, my Aunt and Uncle took the job of cleaning the law offices where my Aunt and Mary worked. They would go on Tuesday and Thursday nights after regular working hours. On this particular Thursday night it was quite cold and neither of them wanted to leave the warmth of their cozy fire at home. So they flipped a coin to see who would go. My aunt lost, so she headed to the office. I had just finished feeding my kids and was settling in to watch a Cheers rerun when I received a frantic phone call from my aunt. She was begging me to come to her. At her office. Mary, who was 8 months pregnant, had been raped and murdered. My aunt found her and the police hadn’t yet arrived.
You must know that my aunt and Mary were very close. Mary was like a sister to my aunt and she often referred to her as her best friend. Mary’s parents and my family had a long history of being good friends. I spent quite a bit of time in that law office where Mary and my aunt worked. I’d come down to go to lunch and hang out with the two of them. We’d talk about our kids and pregnancies since Mary and I had our first children pretty close together and she was currently pregnant with her second child and I had just given birth to my second child. I called the office almost every day and was greeted by Mary’s cheerful voice. She was such a joy-filled person and I greatly enjoyed spending time in her presence.
So on that night, one of my cousins came to babysit and I got down to that office as fast as I could. By the time I got there, the police had just arrived and it was a crime scene. They let me see my aunt and be there to hold her while she was in complete shock. She recounted the details of the scene and it burned into my heart forever…. I don’t care to recount that for anyone. I’ll NEVER forget that night.
It was so incredibly hard to fathom my aunt’s pain at not only losing her best friend to such a heinous crime but to be the first one on the scene to discover the crime was just – unimaginable. I spent the next two weeks living at my aunt’s house trying to comfort her, counsel her, and pray with her. It was HELL.
Then it got worse. My aunt figured out that her own son had committed the crime and had to be the one to turn him in. This son had grown up like a brother to me. We were together ALL the time as children. He slept over at our house so much it was like he lived with us. The events surrounding this crime was so mind reeling and heartbreaking that to this day I don’t think anyone in my family can fully express how we felt then or feel now.
Then came the funeral. It was like a wedding in a macabre way. It seemed like all of Mary’s family was on one side of the aisle and all of my family was seated on the other side of the aisle. My entire family experienced so many emotions collectively – – outrage, shame, guilt, grief – – we felt dirty and unworthy to be in the presence of this precious family. There were no apologies heartfelt enough to be of any comfort to anyone. I heard several of my uncles and cousins outside the church exclaim that they would kill my cousin if they could get their hands on him. With their jaws set and damnation in their eyes – I knew they meant it. Who wouldn’t feel that way??!
Then a miracle happened. A miracle for me anyway. I was already a saved believer in Christ and I knew that I was saved because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. God had forgiven me of my sins. Forgiven! I thought I knew what that word meant. But I didn’t know how little I understood until one by one Mary’s family got up and spoke at that funeral. Their words were full of pain and grief but through it, they ALL spoke of forgiveness and the mercy of God. They continued to be unwavering in their faith in our Lord and trusted Him to have all of this in His control even though we couldn’t understand it. If just one person spoke those words it might not have impacted me so much, but every single one of them spoke about forgiving my cousin and asked that the rest of us do the same. The ones that weren’t ready to forgive spoke of praying to the Lord asking Him to allow them to be able to forgive at some point. I felt like the roof opened and the Lord and I were the only ones in that room. He was telling me – THIS is what I’ve done for YOU! I have forgiven you EVERYTHING, therefore you have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone including yourself. I cried knowing that I had received divine intervention and wished I didn’t have to learn this lesson in such a real way.
I saw side by side that day hate contrasted with grace. My family was full of hate and her family was full of grace. Mary’s family were the messengers of God himself and I am eternally grateful they allowed themselves to be used by Him to glorify His holy name. My prayer is that I wasn’t the only one who heard the message so clearly. I spent years unpacking the revelations of what forgiveness truly means. I have learned how to have empathy and grace in situations where most people would not. I learned that part of forgiveness is being able to forgive myself for my own sins and shortcomings. If the Lord could forgive a sinner on the magnitude of my cousin (if he chooses to ask for it – and to my knowledge he has not), then I must be able to forgive myself and others. Not to forgive, places me higher than the Lord. Am I greater than He who made me? Certainly not.
I haven’t been faced with having to say “I forgive you” to my cousin, and my prayer, like one of McKay’s brothers said the day of the funeral, is that I would be ABLE to forgive if the opportunity arose. In the meantime, I have lived my life looking through the lens of grace. I still experience extreme guilt and shame just for being related to the murderer. It pains me and torments me when I think of it. Every single time I see Mary’s family and friends I want to crawl in a hole and die. My life was forever changed that December 29th. God redeemed those events to make me a more humble and grace-filled person than I surely would have been otherwise. Whenever I’m tempted to think ill of anyone I have a very real voice in my heart that says “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Acts 13:38-39 Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Buried in the waters of Baptism, raised again to new life in Christ!
Those were the words I heard going under and coming out of the cool water on the first weekend in June. But more than the words in my ears and the water rushing over my body, I felt something that I rarely ever do. I felt the Holy Spirit moving and speaking to me. The words “Well done good and faithful servant” played out in my head as I was briefly transported away from this earth and back again in the few seconds it took to go under the water and come up out. I honestly and truly believe I died and came back in some sort of literal sense..not symbolically. A few inches under the cool water I felt a peace, calmness and beauty that cannot be described and most of all I felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy One right there with me the whole time. “Supernatural” comes to mind. And I was COMPLETELY caught off guard by the whole experience.
Romans 6:3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?
In the moments leading up to the actual “dunking” (as I’ve affectionately called it) I was thinking about how I should be feeling about it. In fact, for days prior to the big moment I was struggling with how I should feel. I was saved as a child and I’ve always known Christ was my Lord; my salvation has never been in question for me. But being raised in the Methodist church where people are “baptized” as babies, it never crossed my mind that I should do it again as an adult even though I’ve been attending evangelical Baptist churches for the past 10 years or so. In these churches we are taught that being baptized after salvation is an act of obedience and a testimony to the world that we are believers in Christ. While baptism itself is not a prerequisite to salvation, this simple act is one that Christ himself asked us to do as a demonstration of our faith. Even Jesus himself was baptized – and there was certainly no question about his eternal home.
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Mark 1:4 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
Matthew 3:15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
Soooo….what to feel? I knew in my head that I should do it, my church was requiring it as a part of my membership, and I had no good reason why I hadn’t done it before. So there I stood, waist deep in the water along side hundreds of fellow believers and over 30 people who were in the process of being baptized themselves and suddenly something sparked. I watched intently as the children’s pastor baptized the very children that he had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with. Kids that he taught for years and prayed over daily. Those precious little ones who heard the Word and were convicted by it were joyfully doing the thing I had avoided doing for decades. While watching each child go under and come up I was overcome by emotion. How wonderful must this pastor feel to actually baptize the people (in this case many children) with whom he shared the love of Christ? My heart broke once again for all the people who I had failed to share the Good News with, and that in one day this pastor welcomed more people into the kingdom than I had done in my entire lifetime. I renewed my conviction that my sole purpose in life is to share the love of Christ – all other things are insignificant if they don’t ultimately aid me in that intention.
If nothing else happened that day I would have gone home feeling that being baptized was worth it for that conviction alone. But something else did happen. I was not prepared for and I did not ever suppose that the Holy Spirit would invade my personal space during any moment of the day. After I came up out of the water I gleefully waded around to others for jubilant hugs of congratulations. I tried to put into words what I heard and felt. I couldn’t come up with the right words or descriptions, but one of our pastors did for me – He said I was Obedient.
Obedience – – YES, that’s it!! That’s what I had done that I had failed to do for such a long time. And even though my salvation was never in question, I had not been obedient to the calling of Christ in this one area. I had no idea how much it pleased the Lord and how much His pleasure would spill over to my very soul for such a simple act as proclaiming Jesus as my savior with my lips and then being dunked under the water for a few seconds in public. Being baptized isn’t about me or doing some ritual to join a church, it’s about being obedient. And for that alone my Father is well pleased with me. My husband put it best when he said, “If it’s good enough for Jesus to do, then it’s good enough for me.” I walked away a changed person that day and I will never be the same again!
Romans 6:4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Galatians 3:27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.