Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Might Need Some Steel Toed Boots...

So I realize that I'm probably about to step on some toes, thus the warning in my title.  But there is something on my heart and my husband, after I talked to him about it, said, "Now there's a blog you need to write."

So here goes...  I was raised in church.  There were some wonderful people at our church (and especially in my family) who exemplified the love and acceptance of Jesus through and through.  If I could find Lloyd Parrish, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude because he was one of those people.  But for some reason, even with some amazing people in my life, I came away from those early church years, terrified of God.

In my mind, He was a BIG, ANGRY God who carried a really big stick and beat you up for every little wrong doing.  So when I committed what I defined as a really BIG sin, I walked away from the church because I was convinced that if He was that angry over the small stuff, He would NEVER forgive the BIG stuff.

I will never forget, years later, how shocked I was to read Romans 2:4, that it is God's kindness that is meant to lead us to repentance.  Seriously, not judgment and condemnation?  I was utterly stunned to learn that faith, specifically the Christian faith, is about a relationship, not a set a rules!  The God of the Universe wants to have a relationship with me!!  And He paid the highest price imaginable by anyone to have that relationship, His very own Son.

Somehow, in all those years of church I missed it.  Again, I'm not blaming anyone, but it makes me stop and take a serious look at some of what I see coming out of the Church in today's society.  Now let me say, not every one is this way...  For all I know, it may only be a very small percentage of the church that ruins the fragrance of Christ, but the fact is, it only takes one bad apple to spoil a bunch and sadly, the clanging symbols are getting far more notice than the ones who are like Mr. Parrish. 

And I've been thinking about this alot in the context of my children...  What are my children learning from me and the people we surround them with, about God?

Sadly, I know what it's like to wallow in sin...  I was the prodigal daughter...  the details don't matter, but I made some terribly wrong choices for a period of time.  And I had a lot...  A LOT...  of shame and guilt to unravel after I became a Christian.

I can remember sitting on our porch in the early days of my blossoming relationship with my Heavenly Father, reading my Bible and weeping.  I would read verse after verse about His love and forgiveness...  His unfathomable grace...  I would be utterly overwhelmed that in spite of it all, He loved me.

During those early days, He immersed me in the truth of His love and I experienced the reality of Isaiah 61:1-3...  How He could turn mourning into joy, bring beauty from the ashes, give a crown of beauty instead of despair.  He surrounded me with the often 'unnoticed' side of the church, the ones who welcome you in and love you, just because.  It wasn't easy to unravel the effects of some of the paths I chose, but in His great mercy, God worked restoration in my soul.  Yes, some times there is sadness...  moments of regret...  memories that I wish I could wipe off the screen of my mind...  But I know where to run in those moments...

But do you know what has been harder to unravel than the effects of those wretched choices I made?

Lace up your boots...

It was the wrong view of God that I had...  Again, I'm not blaming anyone...  For whatever reason, more of the yuck stuck than the overwhelming amounts of good that was poured into my life...  But wow, has it been a journey of unraveling the tendrils of wrong thinking.

What you believe about God impacts how you live...  It affects your joy, your freedom, your love, your generosity, your compassion, your grace for others...  Even if you say you don't believe in God, that impacts how you live...  With a wrong view of who God is, you will never live the abundant life that Jesus gave His very own life for!  Eternal life...  joy...  peace...  satisfaction...  love...  compassion...  grace...  those aren't characteristics of a life we're waiting for someday...  It's what is promised to us right now...  But I'll say it again...  What we believe about God directly impacts what we experience of that life!

If you think that God is all about performance, then you'll spend your life worried and anxious if you're doing enough...  And you'll measure everyone else's performance...  If you think He's all about the rules, you'll never know relationship with Him...  You'll build almost impenetrable walls around your heart...  If you think His justice is greater than His grace, when you make wrong choices, forgiveness will be hard to grasp...  And what you can't receive for yourself...  You'll find impossible to offer to others...  I speak with the authority of experience...

I'll say it simply...  healing from the pit of sin I wallowed in was easier than unraveling my wrong thinking about God.  I think I would rather risk the bad influence of a friend on my children, than the bad influence of a legalist who wrongly represents the truth of who God is...  Shocking?  Don't get me wrong, neither are remotely good...  And I don't think God is soft on sin and I don't think Jesus was soft on sin during His time on earth...  But His harshest words were reserved for the religious people who had the greatest potential to misrepresent the image of God...

Parents...  teachers...  Sunday School teachers...  pastors...  youth leaders...  grandparents...  family members...  friends...  if you call yourself a Christian, what we say and do matters in all of those roles...  Maybe it's time to stop and ask ourselves, what wrong view of God is someone going to have to unravel, because of their experience with me?

God's KINDNESS leads to repentance...  Jesus did not come into this world to condemn the world, but to save the world...  Jesus invites us to bring Him our mess...  He's not afraid to put His hands in the muck of people's lives and just love them and serve them...  And not surprisingly, repentance always seemed to follow His acts of kindness in the gospels  (except of course, from the religious people)  I wonder...  is that what the world knows of Jesus from how we live our lives today?  Do we welcome people and their messes or send them running for cover?

Please, please let's consider if we are rightly representing THE ONE who loves us so well during this glorious Christmas season!