Sunday, April 21, 2019

God is Love... and?

James and Ellie Carr
Today I was listening to a debate on the basis of spiritual salvation through Christ from two distinct viewpoints.  Both parties offered logical and informed arguments regarding their positions, and throughout the debate I was brought to consider issues that I often avoid and some that I had never considered before.  As the conversation progressed towards the theme of hell and ultimately why people would go to hell, a new focus emerged veering the conversation into a land of doubt and unknowns.  The new basis surrounding the theological debate about hell was that of God's loving nature, one that is highly emphasized in our current culture.  I've noticed that as people consider Christianity as a whole, we tend to hone in on the aspects of it that are most agreeable and relatable for us.  When we go through a rough season, Christians often focus on God as a rock or refuge where we can rest.  When we are grieving, we look to God as our comforter.  When weak and unsure, we recognize Him as our Abba, Father or leader.  But then there's the day-to-day, when we aren't feeling weak, lonely, or frightened.  How do we view God then?

I think it is easy to sum God up in one word, "Love," but what are the dangers, if any of doing so?  Referring back to the debate today, the focus of God as "Love" (assumably referring to agape love), left both sides at a loss when considering which people are separated from God for eternity in hell.  Does considering that all humans have the capacity to love boldly, deeply, and sacrificially affect their eternal outcome?  How can someone who has lived a life full of such love even exist in hell, where both parties agreed that love is unable to exist?  While the focus of this post is not to answer each of those specific questions, although I have my firm beliefs regarding them, I would like to point out the danger in focusing on only one aspect of God's character.

Throughout the debate, God was only referred to as love.  I would completely agree that God is love at its perfection, but only focusing on that aspect of his character is not only limiting, but dangerous.  Imagine if a friend or acquaintance referred to you only as creative.  You might be flattered by the complement at first.  They might marvel at your creativity, always introduce you as their creative friend, and even start imitating your creative side in their own life.  For a while that might work for your friendship, but eventually, you would hope that that person would get to know you enough to realize that you are so much more than just creative.  You would hope that they might notice your honesty, generosity, and kindness, but the friend seems so focused in on your creativity, that they end up missing so many other really important qualities that you embody.  In the end their perspective limits the depth of the relationship by placing you in a box that they refuse to let you out of.

As a culture, how many times have we done that with God?  In today's culture,

we have focused in on God as love and completely placed Him in a box, and in the end, we are the ones who are missing out.  God is love, but He is also so much more.  Since I am no theology expert, just a Christian longing to know God more, let's look at what He has revealed to us about Himself in His own Word, the Bible

Proverbs 2:6 and James 1:5 say that God is both WISE and GENEROUS-
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
 1 Samuel 2:2 and Revelation 15:4 refer to God as HOLY or set apart-
There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. 
Psalm 9:7-8 and Revelation 20:12-13 show us that God is both RIGHTEOUS and JUST-
But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  
Deuteronomy 4:31 and Luke 6:36 leave no doubt that God is MERCIFUL-
For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Psalm 34:8 and Mark 10:18 clearly state that God is GOOD-
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Psalmy 89:8 and 2 Timothy 2:13 tell us that God is always FAITHFUL-
Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you?
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 
This is definitely not a comprehensive list.  The Bible tells much more about who God is and merits being studied thoroughly.  I am not one who can reconcile each of the qualities simply into a single character (how both justice and mercy can abide perfectly in one being, for example), but I rest assured that I can continue studying and knowing God more throughout both this life, and the next as He reveals Himself and opens my eyes.  My plea for you this Easter, is lets rejoice and celebrate the lavish love that God has bestowed upon us, but let's not limit our perception, faith, and relationship with Him to just that, for He is much much more, and He is so good.

Monday, April 15, 2019

On Hold

James and Ellie Carr
This week I had someone who is close to me tell me twice that my life is "on hold" until I return to the States, and honestly it really hurt.  Both times.  The first time, I got angry at the words and later cried, unable to get them out of my head.  By the second time I heard them, I blew it off, not giving credit to the idea, but the hurt was still there.

I don't view my life as being on hold at all.  My kids are quickly growing up, and I've spent the last weeks figuring out what decisions need to be made about Riley's schooling as her fifth birthday quickly approaches.  Juggling ministry in orphan care here in Guatemala keeps both James and I busy as we schedule weekly and floating events, activities, and tasks trying to keep it all straight.  And then there's the adoption.  Yeah, I haven't actually "announced" it, but we've been in the process for almost a year now.  There are other aspects to my life as it stands now, but let's take those three.  All three are moving forward, as time only moves that direction, but not all seem to move at the pace I would hope.  I often desperately want to slow down the rate that Riley and Ethan are growing up, yet the adoption is something I long to happen faster.  And then there's ministry.  Some days drag by, yielding little fruit while others provide the sweetest rewards.

Apart from my own life, I see how life in the States is whizzing by, often at a pace that seems faster than that of Guatemala.  Relationships that were once dear to us have faded since we moved out of the country.  Skill sets that we practiced in our occupations have gotten rusty with less use.  Family that was once close is no less dear, but yet much more distant.  Clearly, life there isn't on hold either.

But it all lies in the perception, I suppose.  Our lives look nothing like what we pictured ten years ago when James and I were dating.  I'm sure that the paths our lives took are nothing like where friends and family expected.  And while some relationships have grown distant, others have seemed to be put "on hold."  Awaiting the day God calls us back to the States.  Awaiting the day when face-to-face conversations are regular.  Awaiting for the day when our paths return to where they were expected to go.  And in all that waiting, maybe it seems that my life has been put on hold somehow.

Not that justification is needed either.  I know that my life has been shaped by following God's call.  Not in perfection, for sure, but I'm trying.  I also rest in knowing that His timing is perfect.  It is definitely not the timeline I had planned or hoped for my life.  It is definitely not always comfortable.  It is definitely not easy.  But I trust that it's perfect.  I trust that He has a plan even when I doubt and can't understand how things could possibly end up well.  I'll trust when I'm hurt.  I'll trust when I'm frustrated.  I'll try.

Because I know that my worth is not in the life I had mapped out for myself.  I know I'll never find it in the wealth I dreamed of acquiring, in the success I hoped for my children, or in the "golden days" when I retire.  Not that any of those are bad, but they neither define me or my worth.  That can only be found in Christ and the blood that He shed for me.  Apart from that I am nothing.  Only by Him and in Him can I say that I am living the most profound and meaningful life that I can.  And that life is not on hold.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."  Colossians 3:1-4

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