Tag Archives: gospel

More Than A Party Line: A Love That’s Real

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“Do you love soccer?” she asked leaning towards me. “The only way you will be good at soccer is if you love it!” She looked at me waiting for an answer.

I mumbled, “Yeah. I love it.” Obviously disappointed with my lackluster response, she got up and repeated her spiel to more enthusiastic members of our soccer team. To be fair to myself, I had only been on the girls college soccer team for a few days, and I had only played intramural soccer before this. I really hadn’t played soccer long enough, or well enough, to say I loved it.

However, this isn’t the whole story with me. If I’m honest with myself, I struggle to “love” things like others do. I don’t care much for sports, or stores, or celebrities, or specific groups of thought. Whenever I’m interested in something, I will always try to learn what I can. But a few steps before I enter the inner circle of devotees, something inside of me asks, “Does this really even matter?”

That is the question that ends it all for me. Do sports have very valuable and helpful attributes for individuals and society? Yes, I completely agree. Does it really matter though in the overall picture of the world and time and meaning? Well, no.

This same line of reasoning applies to just about everything I’ve ever been interested in from English literature to essential oils.  I can only go in so far before I have to admit to myself that what I’m doing is only valuable in a superficial way. This is a real buzz killer. 

The closest I’ve ever been to accepting the party line is with my faith in Christ. To me, the question of “does this even matter” is answered with a resounding yes!  However, when I became a believer in college, I had no idea that in the Christian world, there are many party lines. There is the Calvinist party line, the retreat from the world party line, the inclusive party line, the theologically accurate at all costs party line, the charismatic party line, the environmentally friendly party line and the list goes on. I’ve tried various hats on along the way–wildly enthusiastic for a while until a door is cracked open into another Christian paradigm and then I question everything.

This plethora of viewpoints, within the greater vision of faith, is overwhelming and oftentimes discouraging because each group believes unequivocally that they are correct. There is no room for error. Much like the polarizing debates of politics unfolding in our country, the arguments over needle-fine points of theology are weaponized.

My own experience within the various Christian groups is that sometimes underneath the veneer of righteous indignation one can find a cesspit of pride and self-worship.  A perusal of a Twitter feed should prove that point. Since pride and self-worship are anathemas to the true worship of God, we must ask ourselves what we love more–our opinion or our God?

This has led me to crazy conclusion that it’s ok if I am wrong about lots of stuff. My political leanings could be wrong. My understanding of the trinity is most likely weak. My belief about the best kinds of worship music is tainted by my own desires. It isn’t until I admit that I could be wrong or, at least, acting on my thinking in a wrong way, that I can be teachable.

We Christians are afraid of being teachable. We are so scared of falling off the theological train to heaven that we forget that theology doesn’t save us. In fact, theology’s only purpose is to introduce us to the Savior, whose job it is to do the work of salvation. Great doctrine will not save us–only Jesus can. I take comfort in this.

In addition, learning from people who are different from us doesn’t put us in danger of compromising our faith. It may cause us to question some things and even reject points, but we shouldn’t fear different viewpoints. I am friends with believers who hold wildly varying beliefs: those who oppose female leadership, those who are female pastors, those sympathetic to the plight of immigrants, those in opposition to immigrants, those who are angry at the LGBTQ agenda, and those who embrace them. 

I do know though that the Jesus I see in the Gospels is often surprising. He values things that are different. Rather than preferring theological astuteness, he encourages persistent, unabashed, humble faith. He turned conventional teachings on their heads–focusing on the inward gauge of spirituality rather than the outward discipline. He tells stories of surprising heroes, a God zealous for reconnection, and a cost of discipleship that goes deeper than religious acts.

In my Christian faith, I do not need to follow a party line. I need to follow Jesus. This is exciting because he is exciting. He shows up in random places, reveals things I never would have seen if I stayed safe in my theological bubble. He challenges me, never letting me get away with the Sunday school answer.  He digs, however painfully, until we get to the marrow and then He does his amazing, transforming work of changing my heart and not just my mind.

Now this is something, someone, I can follow.  I can throw my whole lot in and answer without reservation–I love Jesus. He truly is worthy of our love and worship. Let’s rediscover him, not in books written about Him but from his own words. Open up the gospels, observe this strange man who seemed to move to a different cadence than the rest. Listen to his words, sit as His feet, and see what He has to say to you too. You may find then that the clamorings of opinions that before seemed so convincing and right, no longer mean as much as they used to. Instead, maybe we can be so trained to the shepherd’s voice that His will be the one that matters most.

The Lover of Prodigals

Not too long ago, President Donald Trump referred to the MS-13 gangs plaguing the United States and most of central America as animals. At least in my feed, I heard a great deal of righteous indignation with his use of the term, especially because he is referring to those who, while marred, are still created in the image of God. At the time, I had no clue who MS-13 was. That was until The Gospel Coalition shared a basic article titled “9 Things You Should Know about MS-13.”  I’ll admit the bare bones of MS-13’s actions were horrifying and repulsive to me. I felt almost sympathetic to Trump’s derogatory term.

Ironically, as God would have it, I then came across the book The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. This is the true story of how David Wilkerson started the Teen Challenge ministry back in the 1960s. This ministry focuses on teens similar to these MS-13 gang members. The opening paragraphs of this book hooked me right away.

Read the rest here on the Redbud Post.

Learning to Walk through the Storms of Our Emotions

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Emotions scare me. Perhaps one reason is that I grew up in a home riddled with bipolar disorder and unforgiveness and regret. There was always so much emotion and no safe way to process it. As a kid, I withdrew. I read books and escaped to places where complicated situations unraveled nicely by the end of the story. The tumultuous years of teenage-hood tested me, and I found I was less equipped to deal with the emotions within me than I had been equipped as a child to deal with the emotions around me.  It’s harder to hide from yourself, so I learned to reason my way through things. If I found them unreasonable, I shut down the emotion.

There have been benefits to this.  I was rarely carried away by emotions to do things I might regret. As a young person in college, this protected me from a lot of stupid decisions that I saw my peers making around me.  There was one emotion that I could not control though. My life was permeated through and through with fear.

Fear that I would mess up. You see, the downfall to being in control is fearing your ability to lose control, to fail.  This was who I was in college: young (I went at 16 years old), controlled, but afraid. And then Jesus happened.

The Power of the Gospel on My Emotions

While I controlled my emotions for the most part, they still whispered to me.  They told me that happiness was around the corner. If I was independent, out of the crazy home, then I could finally stop being afraid.  Away from home, though, I found I was more fearful. Everything depended on me doing things right. I was doing well in school, but I realized I didn’t even know who I was.

One night, a friend gave me a Christian book about a man’s experience with God.  It was powerful, it was personal, and it was emotional. His story spoke to my deepest fear of being alone, of having to depend completely on myself and how dreadfully afraid of failing I was.  That night, all by myself, I got on my knees and prayed that He would speak to me.

“Everything depended on me doing things right.  I was doing well in school, but I realized I didn’t even know who I was.”

My life was totally different the next day.  I’d love to say the difference was God–I’m sure some of it was, but a large part was me still being in control.  Instead of trying to please people though, I was on a mission to please God.

Click here to read the rest.

Literature as a Gospel Forerunner

In middle school, my family was broken and worn out. And so was I. My mother, who was diagnosed as bipolar, had been unable to give us a peaceful home, despite her love for us. The death of her father triggered a lostness in her that put her in an institution and my sister and me in foster care. We ended up living with my grandparents, which brought stability but not peace. My sixth-grade science teacher knew I needed something to dream about. So she introduced me to the world of Madeleine L’Engle, and I’ve never been the same.

L’Engle’s best-known work, A Wrinkle in Time, comes out as a movie this week. It promises to be a star-studded cinematic marvel. Yet, regardless of whatever wonders they bring to the screen, I cannot hope that it will compare to the wonder the book created in my heart. At a time when I most needed it, A Wrinkle in Time gave me hope.

Read the rest in Fathom Magazine here.