Already Included #16 – Emmanuel

For God so loved rules that He needed to see blood and have someone die before He could let His creation off the hook? That’s not what is recorded. God so loved US. Not rules and laws.

Today I listened again to Dan Schiopu’s message entitled “Emmanuel, God Is With Us“. Dan has a unique gift for delivery. I recommend you listen to the entire message.

However, here are some quotes mixed with my own thoughts after listening:

Our initial error is doubting God’s uncompromising goodness. And that continues to be our struggle.

We have a perception problem. Not a legal problem.

Man changed with the fall. Not God.

“You are not valuable because of the price Jesus paid for you. Jesus paid the price for you because of your value.”

“The Bible doesn’t say that your goodness leads God to repentance.”

“Repentance is not something that you do to change God’s mind about you. It’s something that happens to you, to your mind when you discover who The Father really is.”

“You can reject your own sonship, but you cannot change it.”

The parable of the prodigal son is not about a Father waiting for a son to come home and humble himself. The parable of the prodigal son is not that we need to change our behavior. The point of the story is that God has never loved us less even when we are at our worst. The story is about changing OUR minds to see that God is always the Father that never walks away from us and never stops being our Father. Who loves us forever. A love without end. AMEN?

The gospel is not about mercy being given to undeserving sinners. The gospel is about God coming to get His kids back from being alienated from Him only in their minds.

The blood of Jesus was not shed to appease God. The blood of Jesus was shed to appease OUR conscience. Now we have no excuse. The worst has already been done to God. And we did it. Not The Father. We threw our best punch at Jesus and God didn’t stop loving us and He didn’t leave us.

So we can run to Him even at our worst. The same Jesus who ate with prostitutes and touched lepers. To prove to us that we have nothing to be afraid of.

The blood of Jesus was not shed so God can accept us. The blood of Jesus was shed so WE can accept God!!

The blood of Jesus is not the barrier that protects you from God. He is always Emmanuel.

Already Included #15: A Spiritual Evolution – Justice

Whew! I’ve been meaning to write on John MacMurray’s new book “A Spiritual Evolution” as I am reading it. However, life has been so busy that I haven’t been able to do more than read it. However, I had to take time out tonight to comment on Chapter 7. The theme of the chapter is justice. Without spoiling how John masterfully articulates the old view with the new-to-us view, I’ll share a few thoughts.

There is so much to take away from Chapter 7, however the biggest practical application for me was considering whether I truly want restoration or vengeance towards those who have harmed me? I think back and I realize more often than not I want others to hurt as badly as they’ve hurt me.

Understandable some might say. But I have dressed up my desire for them to hurt by cloaking it in the illusion of religious piety. I’ve made God out to be their punisher instead of me.

That’s helped me move on in the face of such great pain and suffering. That has helped me put one foot in front of the other. And should we tell the victim fresh out of tragedy that they should desire the offender’s restoration? I wouldn’t dare! Even God says be angry. And do not sin.

This is the messy, messy business of real life and relationship versus religion.

Maybe this is the reason the theme of forgiveness keeps coming up in my life. I’ve run the gamut from repeatedly exposing myself to people who have hurt me because I incorrectly thought God wanted me to do that. All the way through to allowing myself to be angry, then learning how to protect myself, and now this. Now this. Like a ton of bricks.

Maybe forgiveness doesn’t just mean we only choose not to punish them. Maybe forgiveness also means at some point, organically through the Love of the Trinity being poured into us and the power of Holy Spirit, eventually we can actually want the offender to be restored in the sense of regaining their health. Not in the sense of necessarily letting them back into our lives.

I hope John continues to explore this in his book. This is not a book to rush through if you can relate to John’s journey. The implications of what he is saying are many and warrant time spent in contemplation. And action.

How many relationships has this desire for vengeance impacted in my life?! Moving on requires substantial efforts in letting go of ego. But then also dealing with past hurts. These modern day frustrations do not often warrant the responses I give them. There is still that sting of being wronged years ago that is so easily hit upon as I am still waiting for my version of justice to be served all this time later. I am still waiting for the news that they feel some level of pain that makes them understand what they have done and feel sorry enough to humble themselves and make amends.

And probably the latter part of that is necessary to restore relationship. But do I actually want to see them recover from their fall and be happy and successful? How “fair” do I feel it is for me to be imprisoned by this pain for so many years and then see them successful and doing well without going through at least the same amount of pain? I do not want this on my own. And yet I do not want to face my own version of justice for my own failures. Aye, the quandary!

Thank God that He is faithful to complete the work He starts in us. Easier said on paper than put into practice. But He doesn’t leave us for one second. We are not abandoned. We are not punching bags. We are not doormats. Somehow all this works out on a supernatural level.

For now we ask Holy Spirit for comfort, direction, understanding, and strength. One step at a time. Trinity has always been and always will be for us more than we are for ourselves. And to that we can rest and say “amen”.

Already Included #14 – Written Testaments

I feel blasphemous saying this. But I think God is big enough to handle me. To handle my questions and my searching for understanding.

And so I’ll say: I wonder if maybe the point isn’t to go back and try to fit Jesus into the testimonies written in our Bible. Maybe the point is to have our own encounters, our own experiences, and our own relationship with God. Maybe He is still that real for us. Maybe Jesus in the flesh, Jesus accepting the little children, is proof that His heart is for us to come out of hiding and walk with Him again. All over. Maybe even for the first time.

Maybe instead of looking to the Bible for direction, maybe we should look to God for direction? Did Jesus in the flesh not show us that God is that personal? Did He not say Holy Spirit would be with us?

How do we then know that we have experienced God? Versus our own thoughts and feelings? People can get a little crazy with this stuff. That’s probably what many of us are afraid of. Especially the more intellectual types.

Lean not on my own understanding, sure. Easier said than done. How does that play out practically?

It all boils down to trust. I need a God who is that big. A God who is bigger than me.

As a person who writes every day, this is not such a far stretch for me. I write most often for myself. I am not writing theological legal briefs with every stroke of the pen. I have no intention that people six thousand years from now will read my writing. But if they do, I hope it will encourage them to seek their own relationship with the God I know that I know. When so much else is unknown.

Just food for thought. I’m not saying throw out the Bible. I’m just saying, as a writer, maybe the highest goal isn’t making sense of every little line of the Bible and using it as the mirror to make sense of our experiences. Maybe the highest goal is taking the main points and living our own stories out.

Already Included #13 – Black & White

I laugh to myself now when people say that the “already included” news that I like to share means I am saying God doesn’t “punish” people. I am coming to the conclusion that punishment is an easier somewhat-lazy way of addressing interpersonal conflict. It is a much taller order to hold a person in such high value as to come alongside them and restore them without losing yourself in the process. To sacrificially, generously, sincerely give what you have to give in the healthiest sense.

No longer can I barge into every relationship resting on the supposed safety of whatever illusion of control I think I have in the situation. “Off with their heads” if I am feeling like I have enough or paralyzed by fear if I feel outnumbered.

Now the world is no longer cut and dry, black or white, in or out, etc. The letter of the law is significant, but I now see more the importance of the spirit and the heart of instruction. Didn’t Jesus say basically the same when He summed up all in loving God, ourselves, and each other?

Law only asks, “What is legal?” Love asks other questions such as, “What is best for all involved?”

Law says, “What can I get away with?” Love says, “How have I been uniquely empowered and emboldened by The Trinity to express God’s heart in this situation?” This can look as simple as making room for someone to safely merge in front of me in traffic. Or it can look like choosing not to allow my ego to be offended by another’s ignorance. Or it can reach so far as to open our hearts to orphans, fight for those who are unable, use our energy and individual talents to solve worldwide problems that initially appear as economic opportunities, and endless other shades of love.

Law cuts off the nose to spite the face. Love says not one little lamb, even the injured smelly rebellious lamb, is an acceptable casualty.

Law keeps score. Love says I don’t win if it’s at your expense. Yet, love sometimes means telling you no and not giving you what you want.

This “already included” news has changed everything for me. My political views, my financial goals, my relationship approaches, etc. In fact, I am reeling. So many decades in and I feel like I am starting completely over again. Ashamed because those I preached AT in the past, those that wouldn’t go near a church, are light years ahead of me in living out what I was so sure I had been studying all this time.

My world is shaken. I do not have a formula anymore. This new life, this real life, resists every attempt at being cordoned off to an intellectual exercise. And didn’t our beloved Jesus show us this from the beginning? By His example, He prepared us for the beautifully messy experience of risking to dive deep and embrace this existence from our hearts. As it was always intended.

Whew! God help me.

Already Included #12 – Value

For the first time, I get it. My value doesn’t come from anything or anyone other than whose I AM. They say the value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it. Jesus proved that God, the complete Trinity, loves us through hell and back. No reservations. No expectations. Only the constant reminders of how safe we are. Rest. As little children that know only love, protection, and being comforted.

I don’t have to do anything. In the sense of performance or what passes for success. Now I know Life. Now I enjoy what is good. Now I play and am free to relish. Free to fully love. And live out loud. Perfect love casts out fear. And the compulsion to prove myself.

I don’t have to study, but I want to. I don’t have to be in business, but I want to. I don’t have to travel, or own a home, or get a degree, or etc etc etc. But I might want to.

The grades I make don’t tell me anything about my value. The weight I carry doesn’t define my worth. The age I am or all my colors and scars. Where I live or who knows me. All that stuff is extra.

At the core, all the way to the bedrock of my soul, I am completely loved by my Creator. And so are you.

Already Included #11 – Punishment

I was talking to a friend about this “already included” business. He said God punished Adam and Eve. He said God threatens to punish those who reject Christ. I used to believe the same way, however my thinking has changed over the past almost two years.

Now I see the story of Adam and Eve differently. People say God can’t look on anyone who has ever done anything wrong. But if we look at God’s actions, is that really His heart? As He is hanging there and letting us torture and murder Him? God IN Christ, reconciling our hearts back to Him. Showing us we have nothing to be afraid of. Perfect love.

No other religion that I know of has their great deity humbling Himself like that, submitting Himself to us. This is Hosea going out and looking for the wife who has run away. This is the very Good Shepherd who is not satisfied with any sheep being lost.

Adam and Eve were ashamed. I think they projected their feelings about themselves onto God. Hiding. Covering themselves. Yet it’s God who goes looking for them in their delusion. Why not just zap them on the spot if He can’t be in the presence of people who have done anything wrong? Why go out looking for them and talk with them? This now sounds like relationship more than religion to me.

I used to interpret Jesus through the lens of the Bible. Now I am working on interpreting the recorded testimonies in our Bible through the lens of Jesus. I now believe Jesus is not just a facet of God’s heart toward us, but the total Word of God to us. The final exclamation point, if you will.

I don’t think only part of The Trinity was hanging there letting us murder His body while Father God and Holy Spirit stood by feeling like they could only now accept us because their lust for blood had been filled. That sounds more like a horror movie. If we did to our children what we accuse God of doing to us, we’d be in jail. How then can we, made in His image, think we feel more compassion for our children than the God whose mercy is recorded hundreds of times in the testimonies that have been recorded for us? I challenge us to even look at our own lives. How many times have we experienced mercy way beyond what we should have expected in a purely legalistic paradigm?

I do not think love is an attribute of God. I think God is love. I now see His wrath in that context. Jesus passionately, furiously submitting to our will as we brutally and mercilessly ripped our Creator’s human body to shreds. Determined to change our minds about Him. Whatever the cost. Is this a God who can’t bear to be in the presence of anyone who has every done anything wrong? Is that what Jesus showed us when He interacted with us? Or could He have been showing us that we have nothing to be afraid of? That He will go to the farthest limits to show us that His love does not fail and His love does not change.

Did God punish Adam and Eve? Did He say He would kill them? Or did He say that in their dying they would die? I heard a great analogy recently: Say a Father tells His beloved child that they will get burned if they touch the stove. The child touches the stove anyway and gets burned. Then the child says, “My Father burned me.” Of course not! Just because the Father said the child would get burned does not mean the Father burned the child. How different are we in our view of God? There are consequences of using our God-given free will to do things contrary to how they were designed to go. But that doesn’t mean God is punishing us.

I think this eating of the tree of good and evil is more about independence than right/wrong. It is turning away from God to depending on ourselves.

How many times do we have the symbolism of coverings and unveilings in our Scriptures? I believe these are pictures for us. How many times did Jesus talk about having eyes to see and ears to hear? What, see and hear more law? As if the previous thousands of years hadn’t effectively shown us that we are incapable of being perfect? We really needed Jesus to come in the flesh to remind us yet again that we needed to get ourselves together or else He’s really this time going to send us to our room for the final spanking? I’m not buying that anymore. What does Romans say the purpose of law is? We keep telling Him we can do it on our own. He says, “Ok, I’ll climb inside your logic and help you see the end of it.”

We need a bigger God than our modern Christianity has offered.

I used to have a relationship with the Bible. Now, I have a relationship with God. And I want this for my loved ones. That is why I write about these things. Because there have been others who shared for me. I got it and I want others to get it also.
It is starting over.

I finally have peace. I don’t need to argue with anyone. Or prove myself right. I am living now. This explaining business is side work. Not the main thing. The main thing is living, loving, and being in relationship with God. We say that in the church, but then how can experience be disregarded? Were the people of old not receiving revelation through encounters with God? Is this same God no longer personally interested in each of us? Or is He just sitting in some distant cosmos with His Excel spreadsheet? Very busy keeping track of everyone’s failures?

Although I aim for perfect understanding, I no longer am dependent on it. I have casted all my cares onto a God who continually shows me how much He loves us. I trust His heart, not myself or anything I can do.

That’s all I have time for right now. Here are some other writings I’ve written in regards to God’s wrath:
Redeeming Wrath
Triage
Community
I Want