Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Day I Quit Christianity

I can still remember the day. It was right after another failure, a sin that won me over instead of me winning over it. As I walked the dog afterwards, I looked up to the heavens and said, maybe even out loud, "I'm out. I can't do this. I can't live looking like the good Christian, leading stuff, praying and reading my Bible, but I've got this monster that I can't kill and won't run away. I can't live like this. I'm done. If you want to fix this, you have to, because I can't."

And I'm pretty sure two things happened. One, huge rocks began to screech as they shifted against each other, like great tectonic plates being freed, causing earthquakes everywhere.

And God laughed out loud, probably scaring some angels nearby. He'd been waiting for just this moment.

Somewhere along the way, I'd believed that my spiritual journey depended on me, that God only blesses the obedient, and that if I was truly His, I'd be obedient. Some of that is actually taught in church, and on the radio, and in devotionals and other books. Jesus never taught that. Obedience matters for other reasons, but even that is not dependent on us. It just isn't in us. We really do believe that all of it is dependent on us, and we know, if we're honest, and that we aren't nearly as good as we'd like to be or should be. We know our failure. And we know that God knows. But we don't know how to get better, how to become more obedient. And eventually, we begin to doubt. We look around and see others who seem to be doing much better, who don't swear anymore, or drink as much, whose kids are perfect, and who wear the joy of the Lord all over their faces all the time. And we wonder, "What's wrong with me?" And we conclude that we're not even saved.

So we either try harder, if we're not exhausted yet. Or once exhausted, we give up.

There's some good news: God doesn't want us to live like this, frustrated and full of doubts. Riddle me this: do you want your kids to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved, accepted, encouraged, protected, cared for, and believed in, no matter what? To the ends of the earth? Yes, that's what we want for our kids. We don't want them laying in bed wondering if one day they'll be cast out of our homes.

How could God possibly want any less for His kids?

He doesn't. And I know that sounds like heresy to many, but before you throw rocks, let's look at Jesus for a moment. What did He do, exactly? He gave up His life, for what? To pay for our sins. His very last words from the cross are: "Tetelestai!" (Literally, It is finished, which is how most Bibles translate it. Or Paid in Full.) It's so important, I put it on my arm!

So what is finished? What is paid for? If you say, our sins...then what are you trying to do every day? Pay a God who has already paid off your account? Are you trying to pay a bill that's already been paid? Doesn't that seem silly? Yet it's how we live our lives, believing somehow that God cannot love the disobedient. Well, in Romans 5, Paul addresses that, too. When did He first love us? When we were enemies. Now that we've become His kids, are we to imagine that He suddenly gets a bit conditional over His love? In other words, is He saying, "If you do this, then I'll do that?" He grabbed us out of our desperation, out of the swamp and darkness and hopelessness, when we had no interest in Him...and chose to love us even then. Now that we're trying to love Him and let Him love us, will he suddenly be aloof or expect payment in return?

When we keep trying to earn something that Jesus already accomplished for us, we completely disregard His work. It's already done. He did what we can't—make us righteous, right before God.

What's happened that past 12 years since that day that I quit, is that God took the job. The very God of Gods, the omniscient, omnipotent, infinite God, who lives IN me, was freed to do in me what I could never do. And suddenly, sin patterns that I could never break, were defeated forever. He did it, not me.

I've talked to many believers who say that the day their lives changed was the day they got tired of trying to be good and just gave up. They couldn't obey God. (Caution to any of you who believe that you do obey God rather well...the sin of self righteousness is even worse, as we walk away from God and count on ourselves to do the dance each day, never knowing just how far from His Righteousness we've fallen.)

So I encourage you: Quit. Just stop trying to earn what's already been given to you. Believe that and receive it until you become convinced of it. And then you'll find freedom and rest as the pressure is off to perform, you're actually free to fail, knowing that He'll receive you back. And victory will be sure because God's the one fighting for you. He already has, and He'll finish the fight He started.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year's??

Another new year. So many folks shouting happy happy happy. As I look out the windshield to another new year, I am not filled with anticipation. I hear strange noises and the fuel is nearly gone and my wallet is at home. I freely admit I am anxious and a little afraid, and feeling pretty weak...unable to handle all that will come at me.
You see, I know what life can bring. Or better said, what life can take away from us—the sudden losses out of nowhere that change the course of our lives
forever. I used to feel like Legolas, who could look with steely eyes at whatever faced him, determined that he would prevail. I feel more like Frodo now, with big eyes wondering, "Huh? Me?"
So this morning as I took all this to God, not hiding my weakness or my fears, I heard Him remind me: "In your weakness, I am strong." And "I am in you, and I'm greater than he that is in the world." Finally, "What I've begun in you, I will finish."
So I stand at this fork in the road. As my dear friend and teacher John Lynch says, "but I don't want to choose! I just want to walk this path where I've been walking!" Will I give in to doubt and fear? Or will I walk the walk of faith, trembling each step? That's the choice. And it must be made.
And somewhere off in the distance I hear the cries of the imprisoned, those in the camps surrounded by watchtowers and barbed wire, while the enemy parades around in mocking arrogance, laughing. They are real people inside. Each one desires life and laughter and hope. And I hate that the enemy holds them. I hate that he thinks he's winning.
And so I reach down and put on my belt of truth (the enemy does not win), my breastplate of righteousness (His, not mine!, that says I am enough), my gospel shoes (the real good news, that He's done it, we can rest!), my helmet of salvation (nothing can take this away from me, and nothing fashioned against me can prevail against me), I pick up the shield of faith with trembling hands (believing all that I'm not sure I believe...that He is enough), and the sword of the Spirit...and shout "Freedom! Aye, I will fight!"
All of this said trying to convince myself. As I reread and reread wondering when it will all be true again. I cannot face this new year with Legolas' steely-eyed determination. But I can walk in faith as Frodo, taking another step, believing...and trusting in all those around me who will fight alongside me, who will not give up. And who will not let me give up.
This video sums it up well, and if you've not seen it, take the time to do so: .
Filmed at Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas at…