Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lifted Up in Love

I'm reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller right now.  The subtitle is "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality".  It's really good. A lot of Christian bloggers have been writing about Donald Miller, so I finally jumped on the bandwagon and checked out one of his books at the library.  The bonus is that this copy is a large-print edition which is SO helpful when you're reading on a treadmill!!!
Anyway, Donald writes with such honesty about his former doubts of God's existence, the hypocrisy we sometimes see in the Christian church (and especially among Christians), stuff like that.  He talks about growing up in the church but feeling that God was like this giant slot machine where you pulled the lever and hoped that you got lucky enough to be awarded good things every and now then.  To a younger Donald (and I suspect, to a lot of people out there), God is "up there" looking down and mostly disapproving of us (because we make lots of mistakes), letting bad things happen.
It takes a while for most people to look outside of themselves ("I'm not good enough" or "woe is me" or "look at these problems") and look up. 
Wynne, Aunt Marla, and cousin Sammie celebrating Easter
God is there.  God is always with us.  And He love us SO much!
 How do I know that?  How can I say that?
 People are dying all of the time.  Disease.  Natural disasters.  Drive-by shootings.  World terrorism.  Wars.  Hatred.  Bullying.  Swearing.  Cheating.  Lying.  Drinking too much.  Underage drinking.  Smoking pot.  Sin.  Sin.  SIN. 
God hates sin.  We sin all of the time.  How can He still love us?  Is He even here?  Does He even care? If He does, why does He just sit back and let all this bad stuff happen all of the time?

A few years ago in our after-school Bible club, a fourth grade boy said, "I don't know if I believe in God.  I don't see Him.  Why should I live for Him if I don't even know if He's there?"
Good questions.  Honesty, like Donald Miller's writing.  Wrestling with God and His existence.  How would you answer that? 

I went to my pastor and asked for his help with that one.  This kid wanted some concrete answers.  Pastor Mark asked me, "Can you see the wind?"  I replied, "No."  "But you know it's there, right?"  "Yeah."  "Well, that might be something you can share with Brad.  Tell him that even though he can't see the wind, that it is there because we can feel it and see evidence of it."  Ah, the wind! 
I went back to Brad the next week, sharing the wind analogy.  I'm not sure if it made any difference, as Brad soon stopped coming to kids club.  It wasn't fun enough and wasn't relevant to him.  Relevance is key to us humans.  We want God to be relevant, to meet us where we are at right now.  In fact, Pastor Mark just talked about this last Sunday, how we tend to have the faith of a "doubting Thomas".  Thomas wanted Jesus to meet him at his level, to let him touch the wounds from crucifixion.  That's our problem.  We want God to fit into our box, our picture of Him.  We want Him to come down to our level, not considering that He wants us to rise UP to HIS level.
But how do we do that?  We aren't good enough for God.  How can we rise up to His level?   How can we feel His infinite love for us?
There's really no specific actions we CAN do.   
Donald Miller says that the first step is acceptance.  He says, "Accepting God's kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do.  If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her.  This is not the voice of God.  God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with the passion of His love....Our "behavior" will not be changed long with self-discipline (i.e. trying to do all the right things all of the time), but fall in love and a human will accomplish what he never thought possible.  The laziest of men will swim the English channel to win his accepting God's love for us, we fall in love with Him, and only then do we have the fuel we need to obey."
Bottom line I get from this:  Love.  I failed at showing Brad God's love.  I should have taken the time to pray with him, to build a relationship with him.  Brad didn't love God because He didn't feel God's love.  And it's hard to feel His love when nobody around you seems to care.  I'm being a bit hard on myself because I had 20 other kids to care about, too--but really & essentially--Brad didn't feel any love.  You don't follow God unless you love Him, and you can't love Him until He first loves you.  Well, I am convinced that Jesus died for each of us and definitely loves Brad first, but that love got lost in translation, somewhere along the line.  The Newsboys call believers the "conduits" for channeling that love.

 I'm not sure how Brad's doing right now because he moved out of our school.  It's God's work; I pray that a few of the activities and discussions we had will one day sink in and and make a positive different for Brad.  I'm just a conduit trying to build more conduits.

Just imagine - how many people need to be lifted up to God right now.  Is anyone out there showing them God's love? 

We love Him because He first loved us.--1 John 4:19

The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you.--Jeremiah 31:3

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.--James 4:8
 (all New King James Version)


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