Saturday, May 29, 2010

back in the dark

Scratch what I said on trust. I really don't understand it, or how love is partially defined by trust, and God calling us to love everyone.

So many things I don't understand.

Friday, May 28, 2010

…more on faith

Trust is rather illusive. There are people I trust, and there are people I do not. This, I would argue, is a consequence of their actions. If they are deserving of trust, than I will grant it to them, and vice versa. I feel completely justified in not trusting someone who hasn't proven to be 'trustworthy'. God has given me a brain, and He expects me to use it. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

God has also called me to love, and has shown me by example how to do so. In case I didn't get what was supposed to happen by his example, He lays out what love is and is not in 1 Corinthians 13. In this description, He says that 'love always trusts'. What are we supposed to do with that? Is He asking us to do something that doesn't quite make sense… again?

It seems that trust is quite similar to faith. It doesn't always make sense, and we often can't explain it. For example: God loves the world, therefore by definition there is some sort of trust in there that we certainly haven't earned. This doesn't make sense. To prove this, Jesus entrusted His entire life's work to a handful of friends that had proved themselves to be anything but trustworthy. Why? Because Jesus had faith in them. Faith is essential to trust, you cannot have the latter without the former. The Bible tells us to fight for faith (1 Tim. 6:12) and to trust in the Lord (Psalm 37:3, Proverbs 3:5). Both instances are calls to action, not necessarily based on empirical evidence or how we feel. 

Through faith and a trust in God (neither of which make sense on our terms), we are given grace (which also doesn't make sense). Grace means that because of our faith, we are set free from our past to enter into a relationship with God. Since sin is the antithesis of God, anything containing sin would not be able to stand before God without being destroyed, thus the necessity of forgiveness and Christ's sacrifice. Faith also means accepting Jesus' sacrifice as sufficient and trusting God to change us into the person He designed us to be in the first place.

For the past fifteen years or so, sexual temptations have been my Achilles heel. They have been a constant fight, most of the time with me on the losing side. My whole adult life has been consisted of me trying in vain to do the right thing, and with me failing sooner or later every time. I always wanted to be rid of this sin, to actually believe that I could move on from my past and become the man God wanted me to be, but never had anything to hang my hat on. Why should I believe in myself when I know how I have always acted in the past. I hadn't proven myself trustworthy.

The last month has not been without temptation, but for the first time in I don't know how many years God has protected me from and seen me through every struggle. He has blessed my efforts to seek Him and trust Him with actual results. He has grown my faith, and has cleared my record through His son. Faith is more than just believing that there is a God who has a son who died to save everyone from sin. Faith is knowing that Christ conquered sin, that He has conquered my sin and will pull me out if its chokehold of guilt and doubt if we just ask and seek Him. 

Faith is the beginning of hope. Through suffering, perseverance, and character building, we are blessed with a hope for a better future both here on Earth (by freedom from our past and credited perfection allowing a relationship with God) and in Heaven. Faith in Christ has released us from who we were and has shown us what we have to look forward to, but what about the present?

God's ultimate gift to me, thus far, has been peace. This again, is a product of faith. Once I was released from my past and shown that I needn't worry about my future, I can finally relax and start to enjoy the freedom that Jesus has given to me, all because of an unexplainable faith in Him. This is the "peace that transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) and the way that we can be delivered from all of our fears (Psalm 34:4). If we find ourselves apprehensive or unsettled about anything, it is time we go back to the basics and examine our faith.

I have not arrived at some 'ah-hah' spot, nor am I completely rid of anxiety. I'm not 'there'. I really don't even know where 'there' is. I do know that God's anxiously waiting to take our hand and lighten our load. It's possible. If God can save me and take away my guilt, He can do the same anyone. Give Him and honest chance, really try to learn about Him and He will make your life a lot better. 

This wasn't meant to be a sermon, and I'm not even sure it will make sense to anyone else, but I guess it is what it is. I've just been really interested in how faith, trust, righteousness, and hope work together, and this is what came out. Please let me know if I've missed anything along the way.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

…on faith

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." 1 Cor. 1:25

Trying to make sense of faith seems to be a waste of time. The whole process seems like a circular argument. God is the author and finisher of our faith. God has to place the initial desire to seek Him in our hearts, yet we have to seek God to find Him. The process is not very logical.

A couple weeks ago I had dinner with my boss, who was a theology major at Oxford a few years back. I had been wanting to chat with him about what he had studied and specifically what he believed. He's a really bright guy, and whose opinion I respect, so I didn't think there was any chance of a bad discussion. As the conversation progressed, he decided to respectfully play the devils advocate, and was joined by the maitre d' who didn't have any faith or education about God. They asked me questions like "How could God's laws be fair if no one has been able to keep them except for Jesus Christ, His son?", and "How could God, who claims to love humanity with every fiber of His being, allow the suffering in the world today?", and "If God knew that Lucifer was going to rebel, and that humans would fall, isn't it cruel and selfish to have created us in the first place?"

Perhaps a better man than me would have been able to answer these questions, but I had no logical explanation to rationalize God or the Bible. The way the questions were framed, and from the viewpoint of the maitre d', believing in God is both foolish and irrational. I would agree with the latter, but the former I could disagree with more.

The conversation ended at three in the morning, after many different theological beliefs had been opened and explored. Kevin, my boss, being a theology major, also knew which areas were the most ripe for discussion and interpretation. Anyway, it did end, and we all parted with a new respect for one another due to a heated discussion without the usual personal attacks or name calling associated with such a sensitive topic.

The next day I awoke a little groggy, and trying to make sense of a rather battered and bruised belief system. This whole month, I have been wrestling with some fairly large issues like selflessness, love, faith, and have not been able to make sense of any of them. My hope was to have them all figured out in a months time, or at least a fresh understanding and foundation to begin the summer with, but I feel as if there is more unclear than when I began.

The coast of Northern Oregon is quite spectacular. Mountains would be a generous term, but there are some very sizable hills that dive, quite abruptly in places, right into the Pacific. They form just enough of a barrier to catch the ocean mist and create the kind of ambiance where werewolves are possible and one could imagine Bella and Edward racing through the forest. 

I woke up early last Saturday morning, and went for an isolated walk on the beach. The sky was steel gray, the tide was coming in with a stiff easterly breeze, and the clouds were moving swiftly through the green evergreens blanketing the hills. I found a little sandbar to explore and was soon surrounded on three sides by the approaching tide, with a swim or retreat as my only two options. Right there, I felt close to God. I believe that He was in the mystery and vastness surrounding me, and I was ok with not being able to prove it.

Having to explain things empirically is a very seductive way of thinking, but is in essence flawed. God cannot be explained, he cannot be contained by our 'rational', self-serving thought processes. He's God. Come on! If I can't explain my faith, it's ok. If I can't understand my own faith, that's ok too. Faith in itself is unexplainable. It's definition hinges on things hoped for and things unseen.

Next time someone (or myself) questions my faith, I hope to be content in believing without having to defend myself on their terms of logical and reason. Some questions are too big to answer, you've just got to believe.