If you follow my blog, there has been a lapse of time between posts. I’ve taken time in 2020 to do a LOT of reading. I am authentically listening more. I’ve written as a cathartic exercise rather than writing to publish. In recent months I have shared many evangelistic messages on my personal Facebook profile. This is where I’ve chosen to invest my energy– in my circle of immediate friends. The following post is a transparent composition to enlighten those who follow to understand why I feel it is crucial at this point in time. It may benefit those who follow my blog as well so I’m putting it out in the universe with a hope to reach those seeking something they haven’t been able to grasp. Perhaps today…
Estimated reading time is 15-20 minutes but you may net eternity as a return for your investment of time.
“Hey, Lis— why are you hitting us with these religious messages so hard? Maybe you should let up– the world is suffering enough already.”
That’s not an authentic quote, but it could be. Truth is, it may seem like I’m on a soapbox or perched on a pedestal but the opposite is true. I’ve been face down on my yoga mat praying for those I love (like you) more than ever. I’m not saying that to elevate myself but to align perception with reality.
I’m not opportunistically hitting the message of Christianity hard to insist on my own way and play off world fears. True, what many call religion could be perceived as forcing beliefs on others. Let me recalibrate and clarify my intentions. Right here, right now. Grab a cup of something. This will take less than 30 minutes– the average time we fritter away on social media daily, watching a sitcom or the news, waiting for take out, running errands… you get the comparison. You can bookmark to read later, but will you? I hope so. This is an invitation, not a mandate or ultimatum.
The world is suffering like never before in our lifetime. Humans are alike all over the world. Yet, in this corner, in America, how we are coping is proving to be a spiral rotating downward rather than out of the mire. I am truly concerned for the increased statistics of alcoholism, obesity, depression, and suicide. At the risk of many tuning me out because “they’re fine” I know that statistically there are quite a few in my immediate circle of acquaintances who are far from okay. Posting random messages on social media is like trolling a net on the ocean in a rowboat. A lot of energy will be spent with few tangible results.
However, I’ve recently heard side comments that indicate these messages have been a beacon of light in the darkness. I’m thankful for the timing because my introverted heart would prefer to retreat to the comfort of my shell to hibernate for winter. But God…
There is this beautiful mysterious element of faith and relationship that doesn’t allow you to settle into your comfort zone. It is the darkness (evil) that wants to swallow us, not the Light. Isolation is a humongous problem. Let’s look to our own hearts for a moment. In quiet moments on my own, I can spin an intricate web of dramatic circumstances that holds me down. It is so easy to use food, Facebook, and other empty calories to stimulate energy in my brain. Like sugary treats, the high is quick and the fall is hard. Honestly, we’ve been doing this a long time—a very long time. No matter our socioeconomic place in this world, we have found coping mechanisms that are failing us for the long haul.
We are in the midst of one heck of a long haul. The circumstances keep coming from the left and right like a theme park ride, spinning us around on a monotonous track. Our cycle of coping is not how this was supposed to be. Hope was intended by our engineer (our Creator) to carry us through forever; good and bad. The good stuff of this world was supposed to merely be foreshadowing of a time to come when our bodies aren’t frail human figures. We are fixated on and addicted to temporal things. Loss of hope is oppressive and reaches everyone from top dogs to the impoverished alike. We have built ourselves up to counteract the insufficiencies we were born with. To serve oneself is inherent– babies are born needy. These needs are physical— food and affection. What have we been willing to do for either love or hunger? That is an honest question.
The bad things in life are to be redeemed.
Healed people help others.
Hurt people hurt others.
Hurt people soften the blows of life with temporal bandages— often using blessings to cover hurt without healing. Honestly, how do we react to and self-soothe challenges today versus responding in healthy ways?
Standards today are like grading on a curve– you know, to keep things fair for the overall population. Our small inadequacies and minor infractions are nothing compared to the really destitute people of the world, right? As a result, we don’t feel comfortable calling our transgressions “sin” because the word sin doesn’t translate to our new definition. How many words have evolved to a new meaning far from their origin? A lot! Grading on a curve has lowered the bar for our standards. The resulting polarization is evident. Those in the middle are baffled and feel daunted to mediate the two for peace and harmony. It’s easier to live and let live. Or is it live and let die?
So, how do we relate to one another considering the extreme nature of our population? Relationships are necessary. We were made to be in relationship with one another. Yet, kindness extended out of obligation and how it esteems oneself has totally rewired us. Seriously, let’s honestly boil this down to reality. How much in our daily lives do we do things purely out of unconditional love for one another? Being honest with myself, the world has me cycling for more that serves my own needs (yes, my family too) but truly for the benefit of those living under my roof and ultimately what suits me in the here and near future. Is it possible to rewire our minds without blowing the circuits to overcompensate into people pleasers? Yes, it is because if we are truly being honest, much of what we do for others esteems ourselves. You know–
The good feels.
The warm fuzzies.
The viral posts. Ouch.
What is the secret? It’s not tricky but it’s an ideology that’s hard to grasp. Missourians (the “Show Me State”) aren’t the only people group who need proof. We seem to have evolved to be too smart for our own good. If we can’t wrap our heads around something we dismiss it. We have personal truth rather than absolute truth.
While it is true our lives will inherently shift and settle into place, there is still hope. Yet the message of hope is lost on many because of preconceived notions and experiences to debunk this Way of thinking. Recalibration is challenging— try to learn a new skill or language when you’re older. Try to cut out knowingly bad habits. It’s not easy so we give up. Goals don’t come naturally so we tend to self-talk ourselves out of pressing on.
Many are familiar with the parable of prodigal son. Can we look at our world, our generation and relate? How many of us are living overextended? Fact is, we are living well beyond the here and now. Our world as a whole is in a precarious place. In the reality of eternity versus living our best life now, many of us have cashed in life with a high-interest “get it now” lifestyle. Check our diets— not just the food we consume but what we allow our minds to consume. Thirty minutes on social media or in front of the TV? Poof! It’s gone. Thirty minutes on the treadmill, engaging with other humans, serving others, reading a book? Grueling. Exasperating. Boring.
Oh dear! It sounds like I’m on a soapbox again. I’m sorry for that perception. Let’s recalibrate again. What I’m writing is my testimony. This is where I’ve been. It is not me shining judgmental light from a pedestal into dark caverns looking for the lost. Track with me a bit longer. You may catch the hope rather than feel guilty or hopeless in our world.
Ready? Let’s continue.
In the same vein as participant medals, there’s a universalistic belief that we all deserve a trophy simply for enduring this life. Life, as designed, doesn’t work that way. Like the older son in the parable, many of us are fuming with indignation because we’ve worked hard and deserve all we have or have been promised. Some are indignant with the injustices of life, either shifting blame on circumstances or carrying too much guilt than one can bear. But here’s the truth—
Our manufacturer, our Creator, knows our inner workings. He knows how our bodies and our minds function by default. God knows how we’d fail to work together in light of our humanity. Even so, before we were conceived… before we were originated as a species, there was a plan to reconcile and recalibrate His people, the ones who accept the gift. It’s a gift— not an opt-in decision. Unlike choosing a good college or vocation, our maker inherently designed us with the need to connect with Him in a relationship. That’s mind boggling for most because faith believes in the unseen. However, when we relent our own logic and will to experience life as intended, a thread that weaves us together joins us. The need to gravitate toward a community is part of our DNA. Universally, we can grasp humanitarianism. Yet, without recognizing the unique thread of origin that should bind us together and give a “true north”, we fail to acknowledge God. Our inherent pattern resets to our direct community with a limited perspective, rather than a global, omniscient perspective.
Read that again. Clear your mind and meditate on this. It might be profound to some. It may be the key to understand the mystery of faith in One True God versus universalism.
When we grasp this truth, we can now realize the immense love that orchestrated a way out of oppression. We now love because we become aware of the pure love that existed before any human being walked the earth. Happen-chance is the offspring of logic, which negates everything I’ve just written. There is no way to grasp this without relenting the human limits of reason beyond our ability. We’ve become self-sufficient to our demise.
This is why faith is precious.
This is why we fail to relent.
We have gotten too smart for our own good— our OWN good. Self. But if we rise above our own sphere to see the big picture, we should realize the only solution to this madness is to seek the unconditional love that brought us into existence. How unique is the human mind and body to any other living being on the planet! Yet we vacillate from extremes of caring and loathing for both ourselves and those around us. Life itself has depreciated and—frankly, it’s become disposable. Especially in these places of isolation we have fallen into like ruts on a well-worn path. It’s easier to be alone than commingling with others.
We lack grace and love for one another and we are literally dying a slow death. We lack grace and love for ourselves and are silently suffering.
Is it true?
Maybe you’re okay but look around you. Look beyond the grand illusions we’ve created for ourselves. Cut the crap of the over dramatizations we’ve allowed in our made for TV reality. It wasn’t supposed to be this way!
Believers are ready to cash in their chips. Come Lord Jesus! Return to end this world soon! Nonbelievers are folding because they’re trying to play with the cards in their hand rather than drawing another card. Could it be a wild card or perhaps, the ace in the hole? Until it’s all we are banking on, we will never know.
The radical plan of God is unique. We were uniquely created to love and be loved. We were made in God’s image. God is not a vapor or a blob of light. We have freewill to love. Without it, we are puppets controlled by a master marionette. The choice to love because God first loved us can be mind blowing. In the big picture of this world and all the people who have ever been, you are unique. That’s because you have been known before this world began. Seriously. You’re not anyone else. You’re not loved because you’re just another person in this massive world. Look into your heart— your thoughts and passions are unique to who you are and what defines you. Rather than trying to find a place to fit into this world, realize you have a unique purpose unlike anyone else. The little things and the big things have been orchestrated for you and you alone. The good things you do and the selfish things too— it is all part of a symphony, orchestrated to beat in unison by the fraction of a second. For real!
Nothing is a waste of time. No one is a wasted life. No one.
Got that? It’s truth. Believe it.
Let’s go on.
We are hard-wired to love and be loved. Even so, we are human. We have weaknesses and frailties. Rather than pridefully justifying our rights and actions, this life is better lived humbly. We need to feel empathy and compassion for one another. Every minute of our lives has shaped us into our unique human beings. We’re going to hurt others and we’re going to feel hurt. We need to recognize, with humility, the need to reconcile with one another. This reconciliation is a necessary part of how we were created. Without it, we become inflated with pride and self-justification for our actions. Sound familiar?
In the same relational sense, God (the creator of all), feels the hurt we feel. His love is immeasurable and unconditional like the best parent— one that doesn’t exist in reality because we’re all humans. So reset your perspective beyond our human limitations. Radically let your mind absorb this possibility. The creator of all desires harmony for all. No favorites. He truly has our best interests in mind.
I’m spending a lot of time describing this in relatable terms because I feel this is the part that trips most people up—
Religion = Obligation based in fear
Relationship = Obedience based in love
If we do the right things based on selfless love, the best relationships are fostered. Many perceive the reverential obedience to God (as our father) as a fearful obligation. Many can relate to familial obligations. Oh, how our family lives are suffering because love is losing its potency. Many can relate to religious obligations— a checklist, if you will. What if I were to tell you the basis of Christian faith is solely based on love? To absorb this reality, you have to dump preconceptions from your mind to latch on to this concept.
Herein is the catch phase of our modern day. Love one another. It’s got a nice ring to it. Radically, Jesus left us with these two commands— not strong suggestions, commandments. Love God more than anything and love each other. If we muddy these commands with conditions and justifications we will end up in the same murky mess of religion that we have today.
If I could zip us all back 2000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth for three years of ministry, many of you would be sold out for his radical teaching like fanatics for any number of celebrities and popular figures. Even so, many of us would be like the skeptics of that time who didn’t believe his authenticity. He was just another prophet… a decent guy like many teachers of that day. Scriptures reveal the reality documented through many authors. Even his own disciples and brothers did not catch his significance until his resurrection.
This is what separates authentic faith in Christ from other faiths. His birth was humble and against historical odds that Jesus should have been born. His life was lived as an example for us to follow. He was crucified in a humiliating way. He died an excruciating death as a sacrifice (reconciliation) for all of our sins. Unlike anyone else in history, He returned from the dead and walked the earth again, appearing to those who believed.
A hoax? Historically many chose disbelief. Logically discrediting his life for their own notions of what should be. A myth or fable? Manmade stories to help common people understand a religious order for peace of mind, perhaps motivated by profit.
What absolutely blows my mind is that Jesus was God’s plan all along. Why would He allow people to be born who wouldn’t subscribe to the plan? Because He uses every circumstance to His advantage; without challenges to authenticate our belief, our faith would atrophy.
Read that last sentence again. Atrophy— become emaciated, shrivel up, waste away, wither. Without resistance, muscles are not strengthened. The same is true of our faith. Without bad days, good days lack luster. We would take them for granted.
In as much as I want all my friends and loved ones to know the peace that comes with faith in Jesus, I have to accept many will opt-out. What this world offers in logical terms is good enough. Live and let live. When we expire, that’s it. After we’re gone, we simply fail to exist. That is the easy way out. It may seem logical but it’s a cop-out based on what most people believe happens after death. And this is why so many are freaking out in the days to come. There is a fear of the unknown and we’ve come face to face with many shaky circumstances this year.
Let me return to the analogy that life is lived on a curve. We do our best and it is what it is. Only those that fail to live a life worthy of a reward will reap it. Now think about the analogy of life lived with hopes of a participant trophy. We do our best and hope the scale tips in our favor when we meet our demise. It is common to believe that, if God loves how could there be a place like hell. You know— like a good parent, there will still be an inheritance if we stay on the straight and narrow. What is the incentive then? Most people think they are doing a pretty good job yet don’t grasp the foundational truths of Christian faith. In order receive the gift of salvation (forgiveness and eternal life) you have to accept it, understand what you’re subscribing to, and appreciate the price paid for the gift.
The concern I have for our world is that many of us have missed the key truth to unlock the blessing of our faith. I did for many years and this is my testimony. Forgiveness of sins is carried in our wallets like a get of jail free card. Grace to live lives with freewill is squandered like the prodigal son.
The bridge that connects us to relationship with God is the belief in Christ Jesus as the only way to reconcile our sin— the really bad transgressions and the minor infractions against one another. The wrongs we do to one another separate us from God. Let me say it again, this time, a little louder for those in the back—
THE WRONGS WE DO TO ONE ANOTHER SEPARATE US FROM GOD.
We are in this together. That isn’t just a catchy marketing phrase— it’s the design of the community that God meant from the beginning of time. Why am I concerned? Look around. Everywhere there is anger for injustice; a lack of empathy and compassion. The fruit dangling from our trees is not the fruit of a life in Christ. Yet we profess to be a Christian nation. This burdens my heart like you wouldn’t believe. Live and let live? That’s not the life of a Christian. Judge not lest ye be judged? That’s true yet we are also to be accountable to one another. This year has caused me to radically look at my faith, my life, and the fruit I’m producing. I had to relent my personal justifications and self-will to completely surrender preconceived beliefs and get to the heart of what I know to be truth. The season of life that has passed in recent months has been a continuation of a challenging season in recent years. God needed a head start with me because I’m so darned stubborn. There was a lot of weeding needed to fertilize the soil. I’m thankful He removed circumstances and beloved relationships to clear my schedule for one-on-one time. Just me and Him deciding what needed to be forgotten and what He could redeem.
So here we are a few thousand words later getting to the point. I had to temporarily lose my only child through a strange season of estrangement to finally appreciate how much God loved me uniquely to give His only son so I could let go of crap that I didn’t need to hold on to. I come from a big family. I believed the concept of being loved was lost in the relational sense of the large family I experienced— just one of many. The same was true for my understanding of the forgiveness of sins. Washed by the blood? These Christian phrases sound like crazy talk. However, to get to the heart of a loving relationship is to finally understand why things went down with Jesus the way they did. To understand what the heck is going on in our world now, you have to read the Book—it’s all there in words that are as applicable today as it has ever.
If you’ve been tracking with me in recent months you may perceive I have been irritated by the church. Honestly, I admit disappointment and many will agree we have a lot of healing, especially in recent months of division. As disciples we are to come along side each other in love. We want our friends who aren’t subscribing to faith in Christ to know the way to peace in our dark world. We all need hope but the world seems hopeless. Things are so out of whack, we can’t tell the good guys from the bad. The definition of love is so polluted, even though we are made to love, we have absolutely no idea what it looks like and many of us, even in our family lives haven’t gotten a glimpse of what it feels like.
What’s the point of life if we perpetually cycle through each day to merely survive? We were made for much more and the best is yet to come. It truly is and I want you to believe there is hope. Can you set aside preconceptions to find the radical Jesus that walked the earth 2000 years ago? I’d like to believe there are a few among you who read this post all the way to the end to understand this moment in time was orchestrated to the finite second you would get to this point of time to chose.
Will you believe? I’m praying for you and won’t leave you hanging. Reach back to me so we can walk in community together. Your walk with Christ won’t look exactly like mine but the destination is the same.
One true God.
Membership has its privileges. The peace of Christ is beyond words. Therefore, I’ll stop writing now.