As I write this the month of January is winding down. It’s hard to believe that 09 is already 1/12 done. I don’t write tonight because I have some special insight of inspiration that I simply have to share, although I have a few thoughts I will share. Really, for me it’s more of trying to develop a discipline of blogging. I’ve started a couple others in the past, then let them fall away. I’m really hoping to keep from doing that with this one. Bear with me as I continue to try to work toward getting the design to where I want it.
As far as things go with the family, we’re beginning to get adjusted. We’re getting into some rhythms, which is great (especially for the kids). Since the positions we were hoping on for Katie have fallen through we’ve been a little bummed about that, but she did some substitute teaching this week, and she’s been given a long term sub position for a maternity leave beginning mid February, so we’re excited about that. She’ll be working with older gifted kids, so she’s really excited about this opportunity. And, believe it or not, we got to go out on a date last night. We divided the kids among family and went to see Paul Blart Mall Cop. So, that was a lot of fun. Also, this weekend is a youth weekend at the church, so it’s been fun being a part of that this evening.
Now, my spiritual thoughts for the day. I’ve been re-reading Velvet Elvis (something I like to do every year/ ever other year or so) and Mark Kurlansky’s book on Nonviolence. As a “secular” author he sees Jesus as the introducer/creator of the concept of nonviolent resistance, which is an aspect of Jesus’ life and teachings that I think most churches tend to ignore or spiritualize to make it not about nonviolent resistance. But, as I’ve been re-reading this book and just turning it over in my head while reading the gospels I’m beginning to see all kinds of dimensions to the crucifixion event that make it even more meaningful and powerful. I think there’s some significant things going on there from that perspective that are really helping me get a deeper handle on it. I’m also reading N.T. Wright’s Following Jesus, and through it rediscovering books of the New Testament. His insights on Colossians and “forces” are brilliant. I’m also enjoying rediscovering Matthew through this book.
Now, in devotional life I’m now working through Acts. One of the big things that stand out to me is the boldness we see. They know what the Jewish leaders are capable of, and yet they still speak boldly and unafraid. I guess when you follow a guy you saw rise from the dead you figure they don’t really have anything on you. I really admire their boldness, and personally struggle to find ways to be bold while at the same time being humble. There’s also this theme of caring about what God thinks rather than men, you see Jesus talk about it some in the book of John, then Peter and John really get in on it when they’re told not to teach in Jesus’ name anymore. Then it carries over to the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
You have this great Pentecost moment, 3000 people join the movement that day (a reference to the Golden Calf debacle?), they hold everything in common and we’re told people are added to their number daily and there was no one needy left among them. So, this couple sells some land and they give some of the money to the Way/Jesus Follower Community/Church/whatever you want to call it at this point, and they keep some of it for themselves. Peter confronts them, and they die on the spot. Hopefully, you can understand why I’ve struggled with this passage. I mean, is the message here not to give some of your money to the church and keep some for yourself or else you’ll die? I mean, I don’t give everything I have to the church, and I don’t know anyone who has. Even Rick Warren only gives 90% (and yes I meant only sarcastically, although I think it’s fantastic that he reverse tithes). I mean they die on the spot, what do you do with that? Is the moral don’t mess with Peter, the church, what? See, the tendency is to think it’s because of what they did to the church, but Peter gives a different reason. He says it’s because they lied to God. And this is something that I think is more common than maybe we’d like to admit.
I remember going to this funeral and there was this person there who was very close to the deceased. So, I went and asked them how they were doing and they said that they were doing great, that they know their loved one was in a better place. And it was as if they felt like they weren’t allowed to mourn. Like if they did they would show a lack of faith or something.
And there was this other time when I was flipping through the channels one day and I happened across a TV preacher who informed me that when I’m having a bad day I need to smile and act like everything was going great because as a Christian I’m representing Christianity and I’d be doing it a disservice if I was honest about how I was feeling. I mean who would want to sign up for a religion where someone who followed it had a bad day?
It’s like there is this lie out there that we have to be super spiritual. It says that we can’t doubt or question, we can’t mourn, we can’t be honest about our faults, and whatever we do, whatever the circumstances we have to do it with a smile acting like we’ve got this super faith through which we’re trusting God with whatever is going on, lying not only to everyone else, but also to ourselves and ultimately God. I mean I couldn’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “you can’t question God.” To which I say if you can’t question God then your God is too small. See, God is bigger than our questions. Actually it’s through honestly exploring our doubts and questions that we draw closer to Him, gain insight and understanding. If we don’t grieve, we don’t find healing. If we’re not willing to admit our faults we wind up isolating ourselves, cutting ourselves off from community. And guess what, when we have a bad day, people see through the fake smiles and cry impostor (although hopefully not to your face, despite how funny of a skit that might make). In my experience, whenever you can admit your pain and struggle and at the same time not give up on your faith or on God because you’re still working on it, or He’s still working on you, in you, even in the midst of this, people take notice. They appreciate the honesty.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Ananias and Sapphira were the fake super spiritual couple. They wanted everyone to think they were something they weren’t. They wanted everyone to think they were super generous, even though they weren’t there yet. But instead of saying we’re just not there yet, we don’t feel comfortable giving all of it they kept some and told everyone that they did give all of it. Peter explanation for their deaths are that they lied to God. And I think maybe the point for us is that when we pretend to be super Christian what we’re really doing is lying to God, which in many ways kills us. When we refuse to mourn we miss the opportunity to connect with God in a special way, we miss the growth that comes through the process, and all the stuff that we won’t admit to hides and festers inside of us. It’s the same with doubts, questions, and the lying with the smile that we’re just trusting God, when we know that we’re really struggling. See, being super spiritual isolates us. It cuts us off from others and the world around us. It places us in denial with ourselves, separating us from both ourselves and ultimately God. Which, if you notice parallels the consequences or “curses” in the Adam and Eve Genesis story.
So, I guess the point of this story might be that we’re all on a journey, and none of us have arrived as followers of Jesus. We lose loved ones and we grieve, we have bad days, we struggle with doubts, questions, the future, and with becoming who God created us to be. But rather than pretending to be something we’re not we need to be honest about it and have real faith, the faith to continue on the journey. Because this is how we continue to become who God created us to be. This is the direction toward life, the other kills us from the inside out.
On a personal note, maybe that’s part of the key to the boldness with humility thing. Caring more about what God thinks than others we should simply speak honestly and be willing to listen in case we’re wrong. I mean isn’t most of the super spiritual stuff because we want others to think certain things? And whenever we’re bold and arrogant isn’t it usually because we want to convince someone we’re right and they’re wrong? And if we’re being super spiritual, if we’re faking, if we’re lying, doesn’t God know it, even when we’ve convinced ourselves? So maybe, just maybe if we could learn to care more and more what God thinks rather than what everyone else thinks we could grown more and more in this direction.
But, I’m not there yet.
Nonetheless, I’m working on it.