Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘God’

How To Amaze Jesus

How To Amaze Jesus

I don’t think that it comes as a surprise to us today that people coming in contact with the unique Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, were amazed by Him.  The miracle worker, healer, and teacher extraordinaire consistently amazed the crowds.  Here’s one example.  In Matthew 7:28-29 you’ll read, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

But this is a stunner:  on two occasions the Bible says that Jesus was amazed!  That’s right, Jesus was amazed … as in astonished, astounded, shocked, surprised, flabbergasted, dumbfounded, staggered, and the always brilliant Shakespearian King James version … taken aback!

Have you ever pictured Jesus with a stunned look on His face?  A look that says, “Wow!”

Look at Mark 6.  (Second book in the New Testament, sixth chapter)

1 Jesus left there and went to His hometown, accompanied by His disciples.  2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed.

There it is again.  People were amazed … even in His hometown of Nazareth.

“Where did this Man get these things?” they asked.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.   (Matthew 13:58 says, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”)  6 And He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus was amazed!  He was amazed at their lack of faith.

How you view Jesus will dramatically effect your confidence in Him, your beliefs about God and truth (Jesus claimed God was His Father, and that He – Jesus – was the Truth), and your opinions on miracles and healing (did they, and can they happen in real life?).  Your perspective of the Carpenter of Nazareth will, according to Jesus Himself, determine whether or not you have a soul-saving, life-changing relationship with His Father (John 14:1-14).

The people in Nazareth saw Jesus as ORDINARY!  No one special.  They were familiar with Jesus.  He was just one of the guys.  Just one of Mary’s children.  A carpenter … and the son of an ordinary carpenter.  So …

What do expect from ORDINARY?  What do you expect from a carpenter’s son?  (Furniture … or maybe farm equipment?)

Here’s a lesson in human nature:  The tendency is that if you grow up with someone, and you compare them to your ordinary self, you’ll tend to expect little of them … or yourself, or your peers.  That’s why all of us are surprised when one of the gang makes it big.  All of us are surprised when someone we perceive as “like us” does something beyond us.

And that’s when our ego responds.  Psychologically … we get offended … and the reason we do is because the peer that rises above us brings awareness to our lack of accomplishment.  Because we’re in the habit of comparing ourselves with ourselves and our peers and our relatives … when someone outdoes us, selfish-humankind that we are – we get offended.

And why do we do that?  Because we’re made to feel small in our own eyes.  The Greek word here for “offended” means “to be repelled because of unmet expectations.”  (The Nazarenes had low expectations of Jesus  – so they were repelled by Jesus’ wisdom, His teaching, and His power to perform miracles!)

Jesus was amazed one other time in His life.  Take a look at this (Luke 7 – third book in the New Testament, seventh chapter):

1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.  2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal His servant.  4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, “This man deserves to have You do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”  6 So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him:  “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.  7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9 When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Because the Centurion grasped WHO Jesus was … and that all the power of heaven was behind Him … and because the Centurion understood that Jesus had power in and of Himself (!!) … he knew that all Jesus had to do was COMMAND the sickness to leave his servant’s body – and it would be done!

The Centurion recognized that Jesus had power.  The Nazarenes thought Jesus was ordinary.

The Centurion recognized that Jesus had authority. The Nazarenes thought Jesus was “upity.”

The Centurion recognized that faith in Jesus was the key.  The Nazarenes thought their disbelief was the smart (or safe) position to take.

So … Who do you have more in common with, the Centurion or the Nazarenes?  Are you willing to stand alone, with confidence in Jesus?  Or must you stand with the crowd where it’s safe?  Taken to the extreme:  Is Jesus God in the flesh, the Savior of the World … or was He another insane false messiah?

Think about it.



A “Joseph” Generation

A “Joseph” Generation

August 9, 2009 – WEAG

INTRODUCTION:

There’s a broad spectrum of people that attend church, so I’m sure there are some here today who are checking out this church, wondering if God is real, taking in the atmosphere, wondering if there are business connections or networks to be joined, etc. You’re seeking something … You’re seeking Someone. That’s GOOD! You are welcome here!

If you aren’t a committed follower of Jesus, what you’re about to hear is typical of what we talk about … when you’re not around. The content of today’s message is not atypical, in other words. We, the church, know we’ve got some growing to do. We’ve got issues. We know we’re in process – moving from seekers of God to lovers of God. We come together every week, in a million locations around the world, 24/7 … not just on Sundays … and we LEARN. We study. And we grow.

We, the people who call WEAG our home base – our church – are no different.

I say “we” because Becky and I are members of West End. And while we’re not on the pastoral team, we’re on the ministry team!

I say, “we” … we are part of the WEAG Ministry Team because every person at WEAG is in ministry … of some kind or another. Ministry is just a church word that means – service. We are organized and energized to serve the interests of Jesus. What Jesus wants done, we want to do THAT!

We believe that God is real and that He forgives sin, don’t we, church? We love Him because – because He first loved us. Because He paid the penalty for our sin – which is spiritual death – eternal separation from a holy God. Because He willingly died in our place, for our sins. Because He’s alive – resurrected from the dead!

We want to learn more about Him, what’s important to Him, and how to please Him – which includes what He enjoys hearing when we worship and praise Him. We, the people of West End A/G, want to be the best Jesus-followers we can be … and we know that in order to be Christ-followers, we will change. WE MUST CHANGE! We haven’t arrived. We, the Church of Jesus Christ … we get it: we’re not perfect. We never will be … but that’s no excuse. We MUST grow.

Now, those of you who call WEAG “home,” if you agree with what I just said, would you say, “Yep … that’s us.” (Ha!)

Pastor John asked me to speak on Tuesday of this week. I was in Orlando, at General Council, and immediately I knew what the topic would be. I just didn’t know the biblical text. But I found it!

Nowadays, all I seem to see, all I want to read about, all I want to talk about is leadership, leadership, leadership. I live and breathe the subject. I consume all I can on the subject. I’m constantly studying it. I have been for years! And because leadership development has captured my heart, my passions, my imagination, my life … because leadership development is now my calling and vocation … I AM A HAPPY MAN!

And in the course of my studies I’ve taken note: Leadership is either on display … for all to see … or it’s missing!

You can feel it … sense it … when leadership is present. And you can feel the hollowness, the emptiness, the void when it is absent. Leadership is either present or absent. There is no middle ground – no grey area. And I think you instinctively know what I’m saying is true.

When John asked me to speak, the Holy Spirit took me to Psalm 105.

Throughout the Bible, you will find potential leaders in various stages of development. And then, once they become recognized leaders, you’ll read how they brought necessary change … because that is one thing ALL leaders do. When leaders lead, changes follow … either for the good or for the bad.

Throughout the Bible you will see examples of leaders and observe their leadership. The Bible gives us an honest report of the good, the bad, the inept, the humble, the hesitant … military leaders, governmental leaders, religious leaders, early church leaders. From the dominating leader to the servant-leader – you’ll find them all in the Bible.

Look at Psalm 105:16-22

16 [God] called for a famine on the land of Canaan, cutting off its food supply.
   17 Then He sent someone to Egypt ahead of them —
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
   18 They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.
   19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
   20 Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
   21 Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.
   22 He could instruct the king’s aides as he pleased
and teach the king’s advisers.


1. Coming Conditions Will Call For Josephs

In Joseph’s day, God created circumstances that required a Leader to emerge that would change the course of history. God cut off Canaan’s food supply.

Take note: God … who is always GOOD … did something that appeared to be BAD at the time He was doing it.

Could God be doing the same thing, right now, in the world? Not just in America, but the world? Could God be creating the environment that will require godly leaders to arise, and step into the spotlight? Are there people – men and women in the church – THIS CHURCH – that will hold in their hearts the answer to the wearied and worried cry of humanity?

There’s famine in the land. People are crying out for bread, but not just any bread. They want … they need … the Bread of Heaven. There’s a spiritual drought in the land, and the only thing that will satisfy the thirst of disillusioned humanity is the Living Water. Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread and the Water that would satisfy the souls of men.

If Jesus satisfies your hunger and thirst, will you say, “That’s me!”?

Before you go rushing out of this building with slogans and t-shirts, bumper stickers and spiritual clichés, let me tell you – YOU’RE NOT PREPARED.

You’re not prepared for what God wants to do … what He’s going to do in our generation.

I know that! ( … and statistical studies will back me up) We can’t lead our world anywhere before we look, sound and live differently than our unbelieving friends. The divorce rate in the church is 30% … the world is 37%. We cheat on our taxes, we surf internet porn sites, we lie when we do business … and we’re the Church??? Did Jesus say, “I will build My Church,” and intend for it to look so … so … worldly?

If you believe that God is the Sovereign King of Heaven, the Creator of the Universe, and the all-powerful, all wise and knowing, everywhere-present God … and you don’t think He’s got a hand in what is going on in our world right now, there’s a disconnect between what you say you believe and what you really believe.

I’m not trying to mess with your mind, or lay a guilt trip on you. That would never bring about needed change in your lifestyle anyway, right? And I’m not manipulating facts. I’m calling it the way I see it. I have a strong opinion about the current state of the Church … in America. If you don’t see it my way … okay.

But you can’t just disagree with me and not have another theory on why things are happening the way they are, and why they might be happening this way at this time. I’d love for you to send me an email. Give me your opinion. You’ve heard mine.

Back to my point I’m making from verse 16: Like the famine in Joseph’s day, God is doing something. He called for a famine then. He can do the same thing today … but I suspect He’s going to do something on a much bigger scale. He’s not just going to mess around with Canaan. He’s going to shake the world.

BEFORE He sent famine to Canaan, He sent Joseph to Egypt.

2. Coming Conditions Require the Character of Joseph.

God began a process of preparing a leader to provide His solutions for Joseph’s generation. I believe God is in the process of doing the same thing – right now. Today. And He’s doing it in the lives of people IN THIS ROOM.

God took Joseph to school! Joseph thought, as most teenagers do, that he was ready to lead … AT 17!!!

He lacked wisdom. He totally offended his brothers because he had no filter in his brain or on his mouth. From the original story, told in Genesis 37 to 50, we can gather than he was a spoiled kid. That wasn’t his fault. His dad showed favoritism to such an extreme that it was inevitable – a family feud would be ignited by Joseph’s big mouth. The family would be thrown the into chaos.

What I’m about to tell you is surreal. God was in it. God had given Joseph his personality and his parentage. From his mother’s womb, God had everything in mind that we read about in Joseph’s story.

God knew that Joseph would require a certain confidence to stand before Egypt’s king and make the declarations he did! God knew that Joseph would be willing to do and speak anything! But first God had to work on his raw gifts. He had to sharpen his mind, temper his ways, and develop his character.

Now … how would you go about raising up and training a Joseph?? If you knew there were days ahead – days that would require spiritual leaders using God’s wisdom, speaking God’s words and knowing God’s WORD, how would you begin? And when?

WEAG has been intentional when it comes to investing in kids and young people.

The Assemblies of God has over 330,000 churches, in 214 countries, with 60 million members. The A/G has grown from 300 people meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1912 to 60 million strong! We haven’t had our 100th birthday yet! And it is estimated by church demographers that by 2020 – if Jesus doesn’t come back first – the A/G will have over 500,000 churches and number 100 million strong.

Now … this is not an A/G pep rally, and I’m not selling the A/G, but I sure am glad I’m a part of it.

And … in the US … where it began, the A/G has 2.9 million members. And in that number … 2.9 million … there is a sub-group, numbering 1 million. That sub-group is made up a kids and young people under the age of 25!!

Do you get what I’m saying??

Why does West End pour so many resources into its kids and youth and college ministries??

Because God will, out of that population, raise up a generation of Josephs! Raw, edgy, hip, passionate, determined, mighty, fearless Josephs. They are in this building … and in this room.

You don’t have to be under 25 to be a Joseph. You can be 85, like Caleb. He was one of two spies that Moses sent into the Promised Land that reported, “We can take this land, in spite of the giants, the walled cities and the armies of idol worshippers!”

It’s a shame those two were in the minority … 10 spies said, “It can’t be done. We’re like grasshoppers in their sight. We’ll lose. We’ll die. We can’t win.”

Forty-five years later, after all the smart people, the financial experts, the nay-sayers and negative report people … a whole generation … had died off, Caleb, at age 85, said, “I’m as strong as I was when I was a 45 year old. God has given me strength to do battle.” And he looked over the land of Promise and he said, “Give me THAT MOUNTAIN!” And he went and got it!

Now … to have

3. The Character of Joseph Requires a Challenge

It won’t take me long to make this point.

When God taps a Joseph … and He may be tapping YOU this morning … and this is tough … you’ll go to God’s version of Leadership School.

There are seekers in this room … I know that. People who are considering making the leap, believing the Gospel, giving their lives to Christ … and when some will hear this, they’ll stop seeking the God we serve. They’ll stop dead in their tracks. And they might say something like this: “Are YOU CRAZY???”

And the answer to that question is, “No.”

We’re grateful, not crazy. We’re forgiven. We’ve not lost our minds. God threw our sinful record into the sea of His forgetfulness. He’s won our hearts. He’s loved us into His kingdom. We have gladly accepted His rule in our lives … because we’ve lived without Him … AND THERE’S NO FUTURE IN THAT! We were once far from God, but now we want to be as close to Him as we can possibly be!

And if it requires that we lay down our lives for Him, we’ve considered the cost. We’re not stupid. We’re not uninformed. AND we don’t have messianic or martyr complexes.

We know that being a Joseph in the future requires God’s version of Boot Camp now. But we don’t run from that reality. We embrace it. Because there are lost and dying people out there who will never hear that Jesus loved them so much He died for them. They will never hear that God raised Him from the dead! They will never know that there’s a heaven and a hell. They’ll never hear a clear presentation of His story, in their language, unless we willingly go.

Joseph was rejected and betrayed by his brothers, fettered and sold into slavery, bruised, falsely accused of rape by a desperate Egyptian housewife, put into prison for years – with no hope of release, and forgotten by his cellmates.

But the whole time … from 17 to 30+ years old … he maintained an A average in God’s school for Emerging Leaders. He aced his character-development classes. He passed the tests each time they came.

And when he was ready, and not a day before … when he was ready to lead …

4. God Literally “Set Him Free!!!” to Lead

He blew Pharaoh’s mind with his wisdom and spiritual depth. And not only did his dysfunctional family benefit from his rise to power in the throne-room of the king … not only did he literally save the lives of the people who trekked from famine-torn Canaan … but his strategy for battling the famine that eventually made its way to the breadbasket of the world – the fertile valley of the Nile – saved another nation, too. Egypt. God gave him the strategy.

“Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” – Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Joseph of ancient history had been prepared in God’s school of Leadership to make decisions … some decisions that would literally mean LIFE or DEATH.

CONCLUSION:

Are the days we’re living any less critical than the days of Joseph’s emergence?

Actually, they’re much more critical. What’s at stake? The eternal future of our generation. The eternal future of our family and friends. Is that reality on your radar?

At some point in time – in the not-too-distant future – God will keep a promise. He will usher in the literal Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And He – Jesus, the Son of God – will reign forever and ever. There is coming a day when time as we know it will be no more. Before then, you must decide!

Some people, on their spiritual journeys, aren’t looking to Jesus as Savior and Lord. They not convinced they have a sin problem, and that there’s a holy God out there somewhere that can not co-habitate with sinners. Instead, they’re looking for something else … fulfillment, satisfaction, meaningful purpose … something to plug the hole in their soul.

Our mortality cries out for immortality! We want more! We have eternity in our hearts. This is why people go on spiritual journeys in the first place. We all want something to believe in that is bigger, better and beyond our selves. We’re so desperate for something to believe in, we’ll eventually find something … to worship.

It might be Michael Jackson; it might be a crystal good luck charm; it might be a politician or a political cause. Some might worship Mother Earth, and live to save a sick environment. Some will join the church of Tiger Woods; their communion will take place at the 19th hole, and their small group might be a radically committed foursome. Some might choose to worship at the Altar of Intellect, worshipping at the great university libraries of the world. Others might choose to put their best time into “World of Warcraft,” or wear out an X-Box 360. Some here might be tempted to put their trust in Oprah; they might religiously attend her televised meetings – never missing a broadcast … less they be “left behind” and considered un-cool or uninformed.

Many here … many here … may choose to worship The Golden Dow – whose temple sits in the middle of Wall Street, and whose priests ring a golden bell at the beginning and end of five, 8-hour services a week.

I could go on and on with idol possibilities. But none of those gods satisfy completely.

We know they don’t love us. We know they’re powerless to change our hearts, lighten our load, or heal our emotional and psychological wounds. And they certainly can’t forgive our sins.

But friends … Jesus can. And does, 24/7, 365! He saves us! He heals us! He loves us unconditionally.

And He’s coming soon.

God is setting the stage for the single-most important spiritual awakening the world has ever seen. This spiritual awakening will not be geographically confined – like The Great Awakening that occurred from 1730 to 1751. The next GREAT AWAKENING won’t look anything like ANYTHING that has happened since the resurrection of Jesus!

What will you do with this information … this sermon … this challenge?

First, I’m praying for A Joseph Generation to arise here at West End! I’m praying for young and old, male and female Josephs to pick up the Cross of Jesus Christ, and take His story to neighbors and nations.

If you believe in the eternity described in the Bible … if you believe the sermons preached by the Son of God, Jesus … you know …

You do not want anyone to miss heaven!

Second, I’ve been praying for persons attending today who have been looking for God in all the wrong places. Even after hearing the description of Joseph’s life today, they are … right now … saying to themselves, “This is the something I’ve been looking for. This is worth investing my life in. Jesus is the SOMEONE I can put my trust in. I know, full well, I am a sinful person. I know I need a Savior if I ever hope to live in the presence of a God so holy, as much as He loves me, Who can’t allow me into His presence unless my sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, His only Son.”

The first invitation is for those who wish to take the Good News about Jesus to neighbors and nations, to the end of the block or the ends of the Earth; who are willing to trust God; lay down their lives, put aside their plans, for a greater and more important plan.

If you fully understand what it means to say, “God, I’m willing to be a Joseph to my generation,” come.

The second invitation is for those who aren’t ready to take the message to friends and neighbors, but for those who are ready to believe the message. You’ve been thinking about it. Today is your day of decision, and you have decided … I’m going to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

To those who are reading this message on my website, if you would like to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord, take this prayer as a guide and pray it. Put as much of it as you can in your own words. And if you can think of anything – if anything comes to mind while you’re praying – that you want to specifically acknowledge as sin in your life, take some time to articulate what you want from God. (It may sound something like this: “Lord, I can remember when I was immoral [describe it to Him in your own words] … and it has haunted me/made me feel unforgiveable/made me feel guilty for so long. Please forgive me for that sin. [And if you think, after you’ve finished praying, that you should forgive someone, or ask for forgiveness of someone, make plans to do so.].”)

PRAYER: Jesus, I believe that You died for my sins, in my place, and I believe that God raised You from the dead. I give You my life for Yours, and I intentionally choose You as my Lord and Master. I invite You into my life with thanksgiving and deep gratitude. Amen.

What I Believe About God

I attended a meeting not long ago and heard a speaker say, as the general premise of the talk, that she had figured out how to get God to heal anyone, anytime.  She wasn’t talking about coercing God or artfully manipulating Him to do whatever we would want Him to do, especially in the area of healing.  She wasn’t that dumb.  Rather, her main point was that everything we need to know about healing, and getting people healed, is in God’s Word – the Bible.  All we needed to do was pray a certain way, believe a certain way, and He’d come through.  He would have to, you see, because He “had promised us He would heal anyone who believed, and would respond favorably to anyone who prayed in faith.”

But she doesn’t know what to do, think or say when “God” doesn’t heal someone, other than to just keep praying.  (That is, until death ends the process, of course.)  Others who believe in healing today, and have the formulas that “work,” will explain that when a person isn’t healed someone is at fault – either the person praying or the person that is sick.  What they are unintentionally or intentionally saying, depending on the person, is that they’ve got God figured out.  They know how He operates.  He’s totally predictable … that He responds a certain way in a certain situation every time that situation occurs.

Well … that’s what people say who have either (a) never read the Bible, (b) have read only the “interesting” parts of the Bible, (c) [ the most likely option] have approached reading the Bible with a certain pre-judgment (or prejudice, if you will).  Oh, and there is an option (d) and it is:  people have heard and then bought into teaching from teachers who live option “c” – teachers who themselves bought into the teaching of someone … who bought into the teaching of someone … etc., etc.

Their God is only as big as their understanding of Him … and that tends to be SMALL.

Let me tell you about my God.

He’s smarter than me.  I’m limited in my understanding of Him.  I can’t figure Him out … BUT … it doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I like it.  (If I could figure Him out I might think He is weak, or lacking intelligence … way too small to be worshipped as the great “I AM.”)

God tells me a lot about Himself … but again, more than I can fully understand … and He keeps me curious.  I want to know more about Him.

Put another way, His BIGNESS makes Him God … and for me, I like that.  I want a BIG God.  I want a God that can do infinitely more than I can, so much so that I wouldn’t want His job because I couldn’t do His job.  (I certainly don’t think I’m up for it.  I believe the position of GOD is filled.)

God’s Word, while totally true, is complex because it’s from Him – the One who is infinite in wisdom and knowledge.  It’s written to me and for me – the one who is finite and not all-knowing.  That means that there are parts of the Bible I won’t “get” … and there are parts that no one will get.  (If I could get it all, or if anyone else could understand it all … well, we’d have to be God’s equal, right?)  That said, there are times when children will get Him better than we do.

I believe God is the consummate, perfect LOVER.  He never holds grudges, never lies, alway understands, and is totally accepting … but … He’s not stupid.  He loves with His eyes wide open.  We can’t fool Him.  There’s not a place dark enough that we can hide our true feelings toward Him from Him.

Because God loves me He wants me to know Him better and better, and because He loves me He will reveal more and more about Himself to me in language I can understand.  (But that still means I won’t ever FULLY understand Him, or His ways.)

I believe God is beyond generous.  Because He’s so giving He always wills and wants to give me what is good for me; He said so.  He will not withhold good things from me.  At the same time, He WILL withhold what is NOT good for me.  He said so – He said don’t even ask for those things because He’s not listening.  Therefore,I should never try to lay a guilt trip on Him.  As hard as we might try, we can’t make Him feel guilty for not answering our every prayer in the way we dictate it to Him.  I also believe you and I can’t come up with formulas that make Him do anything He doesn’t want to do … even if we beg … or fast … or cut ourselves … or make promises concerning what we will do for Him in the future.  I can never force Him to do anything.  He is the greater, I am the lesser.  So if I think or believe something … ANYTHING … that doesn’t mean He has to believe it, too.

I believe God is HOLY.  That means He can never sin, just as light and darkness can’t mix.  He can’t sin against me, or against anyone in the whole world.  So … if anything bad happens to me – my stocks tank, I’m shipwreck, I am stoned (and I’m not talking about “pot” here), all my goods confiscated, I get really sick, or even die … it’s not His “fault.”  He is perfect.  Pure.  Right every time.  Good every time.  Kind every time.  Because He knows everything and I don’t, He knows when it’s time to pull the plug – my days are numbered … BY HIM.  You can’t sing, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and believe otherwise.

I believe God is more concerned about me – the real, down-deep-inside-me me – than my comfort.  That means things I may not like could be good.  Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong, or bad.  God can’t be bad.  My circumstances could be, but He is never or could ever be bad.  That also means that something bad happening in my life might ultimately bring about something good … something unanticipated.

God is tough.  He is the same God – in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  He didn’t come to His senses in the New Testament.  Jesus doesn’t represent “His good side” while Jehovah represents “His bad side.”  He does not have a split personality.  He is not a child killer in the Old Testament and a child resurrector in the New.  He is Job’s God.  He’s is Peter and John’s, too.  He hasn’t changed.  Everything He did in the Old and New Testament, whether we understand it or agree with it, was good because He is good.  In other words, He had His reasons for whatever He did … and He was HOLY while He did what He did.  Got it?

I believe God healed people in the Old and New Testaments … and He DIDN’T heal people in the Old and New Testaments – for His own reasons.  Again, some of those reasons He has never explained.  Some He has.  That said … even if I’m not healed, not protected, not always safe, not wealthy, not comfortable, not IN on His plan or plans … I try not to care.   It’s hard, but I’m better at it today than yesterday.  Because I trust Him.  I trust His judgment.

I trust Him.  And I love Him.  I can’t wrap my arms or my mind around Him, but I love Him – passionately.  During some tender moments He and I share it’s all I can do not to cry – I’m so filled with emotion.  I go ahead and cry eventually.  And He likes it, and thinks it’s masculine.  

So … that’s my God – my best attempt today to put what I believe about him down on paper, or in a blog post.  I don’t want to live without Him just because I don’t understand all of His ways.  I want Him, even if He keeps me wondering.  He is wonder-filled and wonderful.

Oh, and I do pray!  I do ask.  I ask BIG.  I have great faith.  I’ve seen miracles.  Real, honest to goodness miracles.   And when He doesn’t answer in the way I pray I just keep praying – with an open mind and an open heart.

He is God.  I am not.  And that is a good thing.

Calling All Atheists and Theists #3

Dear friends engaged in the discussion of beliefs (both atheistic and theistic),

Abu Ali al-Basra (a Tenth Century Persian scientist, also known as Ibn Al-Haytham, 965-1039 CE) interests me because my wife is an optometrist, and his Book of Optics has greatly influenced the development of lenses, mirrors, refraction, and theories of vision and the dispersion of light.  This great Muslim scientist is “a pioneer of the scientific method,” that is, the search for truth.  He said, “Truth is sought for its own sake.  And those engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things.  Finding the truth is difficult, and the road to it is rough.”  (Physical Thought from the Pre-Socratics to the Quantum Physicists;© 1979, ISBN 0-87663-712-8)

I bring him into our discussion because I love his take on the search for truth, and the fact that he is seen as the “Father of the Scientific Method.”

The Scientific Method was described in laymen’s terms by “Ubiquitous Che” – a commenter in my previous blog articles on Atheism and Theism – this way:

“I was drawn to atheism for a very simple reason.  I find the naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is to be wholly satisfactory.  (my emphasis) From this, I find it highly irrational to propose a supernatural entity as an ‘add-on’ explanation when no add-on was needed in the first place.

“Also, because the naturalistic explanation is … well … naturalistic, it means that we can get stuck into it very deeply.  It removes the foggy, murky veil of mystery and brings the picture of the universe into sharp focus, allowing us to peer deeper and deeper into its workings and bring about change according to our will.

“There’s more to it than just that, but it’s the core of the matter.”  (Ubiquitous Che, 5/04/2008)

I will paraphrase/interpret the quotation above this way:  Natural Science (Che’s “… naturalistic explanation for how the universe came to be the way it is”) is the truth.  It explains the origin of the Universe in a way that satisfies man’s search for the truth. 

While there is much more to his rationale, Che says that Naturalism provides “the core” for his belief system.

The Scientific Method involves the collection of observable, empirical and measureable data (“evidence of and for cause and effect”), observation, experimentation, and the formulation of a theory (“hypotheses”) based on reasoning. 

This 20th Century “hypothetico-deductive model” of the Scientific Method has been the engine that has driven the study of physics and biology – the very foundation stones of Naturalism.

But because the Scientific Method has its limitations when talking about the origin of the Universe (you and I can’t collect observable, empirical DNA-rich data, experiment with it, and then observe measurable cause-and-effect outcomes).  Because of these limitations, the scientific community had to develop a whole “new class” of scientists:  scientific philosophers.  (These are the “atheologians” of the atheistic community.)

This new class of scientist is not limited in their search for truth by the Scientific Method’s primary requirement – “proof.”  Their only limitation has been the span and capacity of human imagination.  These new scientists (the “Darwinist Class”) began with (and still begin with) a belief – what they call their “theory” – and they search for evidence that will reinforce their belief.

In the scientific community, the guardian of the Scientific Method was “peer review.”  The object of these guardians of truth – peer scientists – was to find possible mistakes in observations, reasoning, and the interpretation of data.  [The way out now for peer review, when it comes to the origin of the Universe anyway, is simply that peer review only applies to the “experimental sciences” (physics, chemistry).] 

When it comes to proof, scientific philosophers are exempted!  They are not held to tough, evidentiary standards when it comes to defending their theories.  Scientific philosophers don’t have to “substantiate” their beliefs.  They just have to write about them, and see if the ideas postulated will find an accepting audience.  And they do, because now there are more scientific philosophers than true scientists.  Scientific philosophers have bastardized the proof systems inherent to the Scientific Method’s search for truth … and then these people have the audacity to say to people of faith (i.e., believers in God), “Show us your proof!”

Honest biologists and physicists are coming forward now, swimming against the tide of atheistic belief, saying, “There are unexplainable gaps in the evolutionary chains,” and “There are mysteries that defy logical human interpretations when it comes to what we are observing in the Universe.”  They are daring to suggest that Naturalism is built on “un-faith,” so to speak.  They are challenging the scientific philosophers to defend their un-beliefs.

Interesting, don’t you think?

I really like Ubiquitous Che’s style, and respect his intelligence.  (I even like the name he has chosen to describe himself because his peers are “everywhere, omnipresent!”)  U-C is a modern “every-man.”

Would his friends please care to comment on what I have written above.

Calling All Atheists and Theists … AGAIN (#2)

Dear friends … Please write and explain … in just a few paragraphs please … why you are an atheist, or a theist.

I am NOT asking why you are NOT an atheist, or a theist, but ONLY why you are what you are.  Here is your opportunity to explain your rationale for believing what you believe (and not why you DON’T believe something).  

Nothing personal, but I’m tired of being told why someone is opposed to a certain belief.  Aren’t you?

You can also add what attracted you to your belief (remember this when responding, that atheism is a belief, too), and who may have influenced you to positively pursue your belief system.

Thanks everyone, in advance.

(Oh, yes … please do not use my inquiry to body slam, subtly or not, someone else’s belief.  Don’t tell me you’re exercising your right of free speech when I’m not asking you to engage in a conversation, but to answer a question – one among many I hope to use as “research” in order to draw some conclusions.  Is that cool?)

Calling All Atheists and Theists

Where does love come from?

This is a real question, and not some gimmick.  I want to know where this particular part of the human experience comes from.  What generates it?  What is its origin?

Part 4 – Trust and Disappointment

Can we really trust God?

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were mighty He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”[1]

Lewis was an agnostic professor at Oxford University when he began to ponder the possibility that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic (on par with a man who imagined himself to be a poached egg), or He was the Lord He claimed to be – the Son of God Himself.  Those possibilities served to jump-start his quest for truth … truth that mattered, not just “in the long run,” but in the eternal run.  Maybe you’ve read some of Lewis’ findings.

I found the quote above, “If God were good, etc.,” in one of his books, The Problem of Pain.  In that book Lewis tackles one of the big “whys.”  (You know what the Big Whys are, don’t you?  Why am I here?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  In The Problem of Pain he’s trying to wrap his mind around this question: “Why is there pain?”  He asks it in the context of three  theories –  that God is good and all powerful, that God is bad, or that God may be good but not all powerful.

Eventually Lewis arrives at a place where he can say that God is both good and all powerful, and because He is, and because there is structure and stability in the Universe, and because He gave Mankind the gifts of choice and freedom … there is pain.

One of the observations Lewis makes along the way is that we live in a material world in which “nature is fixed.”  

I understand that to mean that fire is fire, a tree is a tree, etc.  That is, the nature of fixed material things doesn’t change from culture to culture, language group to language group.  If we were living a world which varied according to our every whim, we would be unable to act in it.  There would be no stability.  No structure.  No predictability.  Think of a world where one day, for no reason, the law of gravity takes a holiday and then returns the next – but with no warning, ever.

Lewis makes this point, and I add my comments in parentheses:  “The permanent nature of wood which enables us to use it as a beam (say, for construction of a house) also enables us to use it for hitting our neighbor on the head.  The permanent nature of matter in general means that when human beings fight, the victory ordinarily goes to those who have superior weapons, skill, and numbers, even if their cause is unjust.” (my emphasis) (page 24)

I’ve observed, as I’ve lived my life and watched others live theirs, that almost every high has its corresponding low, almost every yes its no.  There is black, and there is white, yin and yang, earth and heaven.  There is order in the Universe.  Tao.  There is a balance to and in almost all things that gives our world its stability.

I write and believe “almost” because if life was totally predictable, there would be no mystery, only the unknown.  There are some things that defy explanation.

C. S. Lewis goes on:  “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world (only in our imaginations) in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became as soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves (radio, or television broadcasts) that carry lies or insults.  But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter in which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted 

to frame them.  All matter in the neighborhood of a wicked man would be liable to undergo unpredictable alterations.  That God can, and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare … Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”  (pages 24-25)

For my friend’s, Ellie’s, sake, I wish there was never again the possibility of suffering.

Until the moment time, as we know it, ends, there will be suffering.

We live on a fallen planet, in a world where evil men can fly airliners into buildings in the name of Allah, where people who call themselves “Christians” can demonstrate at the funerals of murdered gay young men and disrupt the funerals of fallen soldiers, where politicians can lie, where policemen can choose to be corrupt, and where people who advocate abortion “choice” stifle free speech of conservatives on liberal college campuses.

I believe, one day, when time as we know it ends, Jesus will set up a Kingdom that will never end … and suffering will end.  He will “wipe away all tears.”

That’s a day worth living for.

Think about it.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Problem Of Pain; (New York:  HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, © 1940; copyright restored in 1996), page 16

 

Part 3 – Trust and Disappointment

Again, if you’re reading this article without reading parts one and two, you won’t understand the context of this exchange.  Please take time to read the previous postings.

After I wrote the long letter empathizing with Ellie, she sent me this sweet response.

hey Lowell…

     i wanted to thank you for your words of real empathy and encouragement… it helps to know that you have experienced the depth of despair that drives one to long for (and seriously consider or attempt) what seems like the only escape in death, and not only survived, but are stronger… and it seems, have gained a closer relationship with god as a result. that is honestly what my heart desires, what i trying to accomplish, and on a good day, what i seem to have a tiny taste of.

    “it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go”…  yes, this seems to one of my biggest sticking points as well. especially the trust issue. when i am completely honest, at my core, i do not trust god. i do not trust him to protect me, not to hurt me, to love me… and i know much of this distrust is a result of the abuse in my past. and in acknowledging, and seeking to overcome that lack of trust, you would think that eventually, it would be a barrier i would have conquered. no such luck as of yet… still working on that one. but i do know that this is the key to true freedom in my life.

    it seems, for me, such a difficult task to cry out to god with anything more than a desperate “please lord, just make it stop… quiet my head, my heart, my past” in those moments, and while i know this is simply what i am feeling on a heart level, and what i yearn for… i do so wish that he would answer. at least in some way that “didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.”

    i do not want to waste my life (as John Piper so eloquently warns against)… in suicide, or in simply existing, chained to my pain and my past, allowing my fetters to prevent me from having that promised abundant life, and bringing glory to god in living that life. i just want torment to end… and sadly, cashing in my chips so often seems to be the best and only option.

    Lowell… i believe in your sincerity and honesty, and i deeply appreciate your transparency and willingness to share some of your story with me. i am going to keep listening for his voice…

thanks for your prayers,

ellie

Then, just a few hours later, she sent this post script:

here is my P.S. note … how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?

Ellie

I felt like a fire was lit under me!  I did my best to explain how I’ve approached trust issues in my life, and some conclusions I have arrived at.

Dear Ellie,

I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the question you asked, “how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?”   I’ve been trying to do that for years now, and I’ve got some opinions.  Here are a few:

I believe to understand “trust” one must understand “disappointment.”  (I’m speaking of trusting people, God, etc., versus being disappointed in or by people, God, etc.)  That is, in your case and mine, because we’ve been so hurt, to understand the positive (trust) one must try to understand the negative first (disappointment).  In my search for answers I went to “disappointment” first because I believed, and still believe, that trust is destroyed/damaged/weakened when we are disappointed, so … how can I ever trust if I don’t know how trust was broken in the first place.

Let me explain disappointment this way, and I think you’ll get where I’m coming from.  To me, disappointment comes from unmet expectations.  If I have an expectation of God, or any other person for that matter, and He/they do not meet my expectation(s), I will be disappointed.  And to guard my heart from the pain of repeated disappointments I will not trust.  I won’t be vulnerable again to that person.

I’m trying to do these word gymnastics  (God, people), so for my sake and yours I’ll just go with the “trusting God” thing.

In our minds (young and old) we have a picture of how God should behave.  When we’re children we have a finite understanding of just how big God is, but we get the part that says, “He can do anything because He’s super-powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … etc.”  When we’re older, we tend to limit God.  We’re more successful putting Him in a much smaller box, i.e., “He might not be able to do everything, and He may not be the most loving Person in the Universe.”  That “adult” point of view comes from repeated disappointments in our life experiences:  that is, we were not protected when we thought He (God) would protect us; He did not “love” me by giving me what I wanted, when I wanted it.  You know what I mean.

So … when a young girl such as yourself experiences abuse, you would naturally think, “If God is all-powerful, and the most loving Person in the Universe, how could He have let this awful thing happen to me.”  Right?  We are disappointed.  Our disappointment comes from our understanding of how God works, or how we think He should work/behave.  And He did not meet our expectations.

The fascinating thing is – Yes, God is all powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … and because He is both of those things, He’s a gift giver.  If He can’t give His enormous love away, He can’t be a Lover!  Some people think – “UNFORTUNATELY, God gave the gift of choice to mankind … and because He stupidly gave that gift to us, selfish people use that gift to satisfy their lust(s) for money, aberrant sex, etc., and because God gave away CONTROL when He gave mankind choice, I have been hurt, injured, damaged.  Stupid God!  How could He have been so unloving, as to give people the power to inflict pain upon me????”

Hang with me.  I’m going somewhere with this … I’m just getting real wordy.

God’s dilemma?  How does the consummate Lover give and receive love?  God gives love when He gives us the “power” to make a choice to return love to Him.  The risk?  That the loved one (that’s you and me and the whole world) might choose to love our selves more than Him, and do our own thing, and in turn do our own thing to innocent little girls like you.  God could have created mankind as little playthings.  He could have created a perfect world (He did) and then controlled every aspect of life in that world (He did NOT).  Instead of creating a cosmic doll house, and spending His time moving furniture from one room to the next, and move little puppet people around, God breathed LIFE into man, and said, “I love you, and I want you to love Me.  I won’t make you love Me.  I want you to choose to do it of your own free will.  You are not puppets or robots.  You are like the angels.  You can worship me or not.  Your choice.”

NOTE:  You and I can relate to God’s desire for love returned from a person with a free will because that’s what we long for.  We don’t want anyone to love us because they have to, but because they want to.

As I delved deeper into why God made the world the way He did, and then gave us human beings the gift of choice, it dawned on me, “God risked not being loved.”  Wow!  The most powerful being in the Universe exercised His awesome power to choose by LIMITING His power over us.  He decided not to make us love Him, but to let us love Him if we wanted to.  He limited His control.

And I love Him for it most of the time.  But from time to time I have hated Him for giving mankind that gift.  We are so selfish, we choose to go to war rather than go to the peace conference.  We are so selfish, we choose to abuse little girls rather than value them by saying NO to our immoral desires.  Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a man because so many men use their power to choose to do what’s been done to you.  I hope you will forgive me for being “one of those!”  One of those monsters – those evil, selfish, sexually deviant types.  And sometimes I’m ashamed to be a human being – because we humans are so … so … inhumane.  Ellie, please forgive me.  Please forgive us.

When I look at the Cross where Jesus died, what I see there is the epitome of wicked, inhumane behavior, and I pray, “Oh, God … we chose to KILL You rather than embrace You.  And we didn’t just choose to put a gun to Your head and pull the trigger so You would instantly die.  We chose to torture You to death … to make Your dying last as long as possible so that our hatred for You could be more fully expressed.  At the Cross we chose ‘freedom’ from Your Lordship over our lives so that we could do whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it.  God, forgive us.  God … forgive me.”

Dear Ellie, in order for me to trust God, I had to go where I just took you.  It was a painful process … and it took a while.  I had to address my disappointment in God.  I had to identify my expectations, and decide if they were based on truth or fiction, God’s word or my best guess.  It was a humiliating process, but I finally came to the following conclusions, and if my pain-filled life experiences can help you, then I have a greater appreciation for all the shit I’ve been through.  Oh, and let me say, right now I’m living a wonderful life.  It’s based on truth, not fantasy.  I’ve come to grips with my childish thoughts, and rather than keep God in a small box, I’ve let Him out to be GOD!

Conclusions for Lowell:

1.  God so loved the world … you and me and the billions … that He wanted to give gifts (a lover wants to love and be loved, and a giver wants to give), and God’s gifts included the gift of life, the gift of this planet, the gift of others (so we wouldnt’ be alone), the gift of sex, the gift of choice, and the gift of His Son, Jesus.

2.  We selfish human beings have taken all of His gifts, and for the most part we have used them to satisfy our desires.  (There are notable exceptions – Mother Teresa comes to mind immediately!)

3.  FACT:  It was NEVER God’s intention for mankind to abuse His gifts, His love, or each other.  He said so many times and in many ways.  One way was to give us the Ten Commandments.  They were limitations God put on selfish behavior.  His desire was always that we would choose Him, and that we would choose to love others like He loves us … to not hurt other people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God, and the second would follow … we would love our neighbors.

4.  So … while it may be hard to trust people (and it has been) because “they” are self centered, I can trust God because He is actually “ME centered” – that is, He has decided that I’m worth ALL He’s ever given.  And He never wanted me hurt.  He always wanted me to enjoy all He has to offer.  (I put “they” in quotes because “I” am never selfish.  Ha!)

5.  And so … to trust Him requires that I changed my view of God.  That’s hard.  That’s the hardest part.  You may have a view of God so entrenched in your mind that you may have to have a transplant.  (Paul said in Romans 12 that we needed a transformation.)  We’ve got to deal with ideas like “God doesn’t care that I’ve been hurt”  and other real disappointments based on unrealistic expectations that we might have.  We need to understand that we live on a fallen planet.)

Just how do you view God?  And what is that view based upon?  Is your view The Truth?  Have you believed any lies about God?

Sorry!  I got a little preachy there.  I’ve shared a lot of my “journey,” and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you.  Personally, I think you probably “know” everything I’ve told you at an intellectual level … but for me anyway, until all this stuff went from my head to my heart (the core of my being), I didn’t experience any change that brought freedom from my past and my pain.

Just after I press the “send” button I’m going to get down on my knees and thank God again for His wonderful gifts.  I’m going to worship Him for who He really is, and for all that He has done for me.  And I’m going to lift your name up to Him, and ask Him to smother you with kisses, and warm your heart with His presence.  My wife and I will continue to pray for you.  Live, Ellie!  You have a story to tell and a life to live that will have meaning beyond your imagination.  And don’t take my word for it.  Take His.  In Jeremiah 29, I think it’s verses 11-14 … “I know the plans I have for you (Ellie) … plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Amen!

Blessings, and Aloha!

Lowell

Part 2 – Trust and Disappointment

I hope you didn’t skip part one of the Trust and Disappointment series.  If you did, go back and read it.  It’ll give you the context of this, my part two.

Ten days later Ellie wrote this article entitled “The Bailout”:

the bailout

     here we go again… trapped in endless early morning hours, unable to quiet that within me that cries out for acknowledgement… a measure of comfort… release. this nameless, faceless, sea of anxiety that refuses to cease… and all the benadryl, relaxation techniques, night strolls, and desperate pleading in the world will not silence this beast. 

     and the exceedingly painful reality is that i know what will. i possess knowledge of one the tried and true remedy… something that works each and every time. every cell in my body, with every breath, and every ounce of strength in my being begs for the blade… and the blood….

     and the bailout. 

     but i cannot allow this disquiet to consume me… devouring me, and swallowing alongside… my progress and positive steps forward. there still must exist the light at the end of the tunnel, even if fear chokes its glow for these few hours.

     and so i wait… in hungry expectation for the gift of sleep, or the brilliance of morning, satisfied with whichever comes first.

I wrote my friend the following comment:

Hey Ellie,

I felt your pain today … literally felt it. I related. I empathized. My gut tightened as I remembered the times I wrestled with acute depression – the kind that “begs for the blade.” My heart goes out to you this morning.

One day I was so desperate I imagined how I could make driving my car into a bridge abutment look like an accident – and it shook me up so much I pulled over to the side of the road and started crying. The tears made it impossible for me to drive. And I cried out, “I don’t want to die.” And I heard, inside my head, some words so filled with hope it startled me. It shocked me out of my crying binge, it was so abrupt and real. “Cast all your cares upon Me … I care for you!” I didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.

I said, out loud, “I’ve heard that somewhere, but where.” I broke my appointment, drove home, and started scrounging around until I found it.

It was in such an obscure place … but I found it. It was in the Bible, in the New Testament, and it actually didn’t say, “Cast your cares upon Me … ” but it was “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (King James language, like Shakespeare) I looked it up on an easier version to understand and I got this from 1 Peter 5:6-8: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

I realized I had a real enemy, and that there was nothing more the devil wanted than for me to die … but I was so prideful. I couldn’t admit that I was in such desperate need to anyone who knew me. I had to maintain this “front.” And the front was going to kill me.

So I cried out to God. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done. I had used people over and over again to “bail me out” of trouble, and I had used people to vent my frustrations … hoping they would have THE answer for my pain. Or I had turned to gifted counselors and doctors, and they helped me tremendously … but there was still this “hole” in me that no expert or professional could fill.

So … I just prayed, “Okay God, I am going to humble myself and ask YOU to bail me out this time. I’m going to give my worries and my pain to You. Please quiet the lies satan is telling me about quick fixes … or NO fixes … and untangle all the lies that I’ve been telling myself … calm the fears and ese the pain in my mind and in my being.”

That prayer was the beginning. I really sensed “someone” heard me. It wasn’t long before I felt better. And I thought, “This crying-out-to-God thing might lead to some real freedom and healing.”

I know that it sounds like I’m suggesting, “Here, take this ‘Bible pill,’ and it’ll all be better,” or “This is what I did. If you do what I did, you’ll have the same result (and then I can write a book about my ‘formula’ for dealing with depression).” I know how it sounds. I’m hearing it, too. But I can’t do much about that. I don’t think if you pray MY prayer, you’ll be healed … and over your pain. What I am suggesting (and hoping) is that you’ll go to God in your own way, in your own time, on your own terms, and use your own language.

And then … the hardest thing of all. At least for me, it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go. I had to continue to listen for that whispering “voice” that was different than my self-talk. It was “God-talk,” and I could tell the difference. I began to hear the calming and healing voice of God. He’d say, “That’s a lie” if I started telling myself a lie, and then He’d offer something like, “Go for a walk, and I’ll talk to you for a while,” or “Call this person and tell them …” or “Read this,” or “Go to sleep now, and I’ll hold you in My arms and on My lap.”

Ellie. I’m praying for you right now. I don’t have a formula or THE “answer” for your pain. But my heart is breaking for you. I’m hoping you’ll go to the ONE who has your answer, and the key that will unlock your chains and open your cell. And when that happens, I’m hoping you’ll courageously walk into the light of freedom.

Your friend, Lowell

PS. For anyone (including you, Ellie) who might see this, and think skeptically, “This guy has got an agenda … blah, blah, blah.” You don’t know me. And there’s probably no convincing you that I’m sincere and honest. So I won’t try. But if not God, then what? What’s your answer for Ellie. Ellie, what have you tried? I’m just asked you to give God a go.

Part 1 – Trust and Disappointment

This is the first article in a series.  I hope my regular readers will stick with me on this one.  I believe the content will touch your heart, and open your understanding to the complexities of Trust – trusting God and others – and Disappointment – in God and in others.

I have made a new friend after I wrote the article on “Rape and Abuse.”  After I received Ellie’s comments on that article I tracked back to her blogsite and soon we began a personal dialogue.

After several weeks of sharing our thoughts, one with the other, I asked her permission to put out a series of  articles on what we shared, using portions of the correspondence-via-email we had sent each other.  I’ve included her email giving me permission to share our emails below.  Ellie is very generous, and is very open about the challenges she has faced and continues to face.  Check out her site and you’ll see what I mean.  (http://ridmeofmyself.wordpress.com/)

Hey Lowell…

No worries.   Actually at the time I wrote those, I had been trying to figure out a way in which to write you not in the form of a comment. so I am glad that you emailed me the other day… so we could communicate that way.

That said … feel free to use what you wrote to me as an article, and my question as a lead in.   I am sure that there are lots of people out there who would greatly benefit from your experience and insight on the subject of trust … and I would hate for them to miss out.

I am not concerned with people having read my comments … or even having attached my first name, or blogsite with them, or the personal issues I deal with. Hey, it is out there in no uncertain terms on my blog … and I feel comfortable with the level of anonymity the web affords.

So … publish away if you want to, and know that I am all for allowing our struggles to be a bridge for others to know god better. helps to know they are not in vain.

Ellie

Part One:  Ellie’s first comment, and my response:

After I wrote the “Rape and Abuse” article,  I received this comment from Ellie on April 14:

Hey … I stumbled across your post in tag surfer, and felt strongly, as an individual who has struggled daily with the aftermath of sexual abuse/rape, and who’s life has been profoundly touched by both the grace of God and the kindness and compassion of a pastor who walked along side me in that struggle that I needed to say thank you.

Thank you for caring enough to see and acknowledge the depth of pain and brokenness of those around you.  My pastor introduced me to Christ and began with me the slow, painful journey of healing that I still am taking to this day.  He made a huge difference in my life, as I am sure you have done for those in your care.  So thanx … you make a difference.

And yes, I agree with you “that self-imposed ‘responsibility’ for the crime” is often one of the major stumbling blocks to release from the bondage of sexual abuse/rape.  That is true of my own experience.  It is only now, years (and much therapy) later, that I am beginning to allow the truth (about God and myself) to sink in, and I believe this is the path to freedom.

Ellie

I was so fascinated with Ellie’s comment that I went looking for her site.  I found it and read the following article that she entitled “The Promise of Redemption;” she had written it way back on January 18 of this year.  Read it below.  (By the way, when Ellie writes she usually does not capitalize words and pronouns … so you’re reading what I read.)

the promise of redemption

     i spend most of my day in the numbness… functioning when i must and allowing myself to isolate and withdraw when i am not required to, living and breathing and even sometimes laughing. but in the waning hours of the evening and in the loneliness of the newly dawning day i feel. and it hurts.     

     and i wonder how the past and present can exist together in the same moment, and why my head refuses to allow my heart to heal… and how it is possible for my chest to ache so deeply from within because of an eight year old girl who remembers more than twenty years ago, when her heart was broken.     

     and i am utterly alone, caught somewhere been the sorrowful shame of my shadows and the fuzzy reality before my eyes and beneath my feet. this is the precise instant that the blade beckons, promising relief in the red river… redeeming just for tonight, her past transgressions.    

     the blade beckons, and yet the cross calls out to my soul in a soft yet familiar voice … both promising redemption, but only one delivering true, lasting cleansing. only one quenches the depth of my need. but in the midst of my pain, in my raging storm i so often reach, not for abiding truth, but for immediacy… trading living water for a lie that turns to sand upon my tongue.   

       i pray for the strength to turn from that which will never satiate, and to cling to the enduring one who gives life.                                  

On April 14, I responded this way to her comment on my blog article on “Rape and Abuse,” and then I told her how I felt about her blog article:

Oh, Ellie!

After you commented on my article today I searched for your site. (I’m sure that one of the prime motivators was your gracious compliment … I must admit.)

I’m so glad I found your site. You’re honest, and transparent. I even love the language you used to put an exclamation point on your observations.

I’m with you. I don’t think God gives a rip about chocolate, but He certainly hopes we’ll get over the guilt from failures, real and perceived, that tend to separate us from Him. He gives a rip about US! He loves us so much, and longs to hold us to Himself. He went to every extreme to demonstrate that love by sending His Son into the broken world. His goal wasn’t just our “eternal salvation,” but our temporal healing and health. He’s THE Healer for every broken heart.

I feel like a found a new friend when I found your site. I’ll be checking in often. (No pressure! Ha! Relax, and just be your wonderful self. He gifted you, and I believe God hopes you’ll find not only purpose for your writing, but JOY when you write. It’s more than therapy for you, if you even consider it therapy. Your thoughts are therapeutic for your readers … and now your fans.)

Blessings and Aloha!

Lowell