when God was absent, part I

I often don’t feel God“, is a saying that ruled me for a few months.

I’ll be blunt and to the point … I took a hiatus from writing because I didn’t feel worthy to write for a blog committed to truth & the transformation of lives through the love of Christ. I began to doubt if I were ever in it for the right reasons & I began to fall back from accountability, authority, & admonition from others. You too may feel this way in some facet of your life.

I do apologize. My mentality was that sin was so rampant in my life that I am unworthy & I would have to fix myself up before I was worthy to write again. But God, being so rich in mercy showed me that I think far too highly of myself.

Absence made me feel as though God was so far from me & it would take time to rebuild our relationship & just when it felt like we were getting better … I would sin again. Sin being anything from illegitimately fulfilling sexual desires, pridefully asserting authority over others, cowardly avoiding situations to share the love of Christ, arrogantly being self-absorbed, guiltily blaming myself for the guilt of others, & not feeling as if God loved me as much as He used too.

I once felt like me & God were so tight & I thought He had my best interests in mind. I thought that if I followed Him I would be like pastor such & such & always feel joy overflowing. But God, being rich in mercy put my faith to the test. Left & right everything in my life began going wrong. I went from best worker to worst, good painter to worst, and a decent preacher to worst. I felt so condemned.

Every night I stayed up contemplating how to get closer to God … every night I prayed & prayed, but seemingly to no avail. My greatest fear became the idea that my sin became greater than the Holy Spirit living in me. I was scared to even pray because I didn’t want to be let down by God again. This was when things took a turn for the worst & I completely lost who I was.

When I hit rock bottom was when healing came.

I learned that,

  • like Cain all I can do is offer my best offering but be careful because sin is crouching at my door like a predator waiting to pounce (Gen 4:6-7)
  • I was saved by the Spirit so I should stop trying to be sanctified by the flesh & the law (Gal 3:1-3)
  • it doesn’t matter if I look stupid for Jesus (Phil 1:27-28)
  • there is a God who loves me too much to give me over to my idols (thanks Tullian)
  • people actually care about me & I don’t have to pull stunts to earn affection (ain’t got no proof but I feel it, lol)
  • in the midst of sin God can use you to reveal His righteousness (Jonah 1:7-16)
  • an alien righteousness resides in me apart from anything that I do (Phil 3:2-11)
  • I should risk the ocean, because there is only grace (Sometimes – DCB)

weighing guilt.

guilt and conviction are two totally different things.

there was a young man who walked backward and forward everyday, head slumped heavily as if his thoughts were weighing it down. all the way down. he dressed himself in his regret, washed his face with his emotions. day after day, he suited himself up in the guilt of his past. always walking forward, then walking backward.

his mind, body and soul weighed too much for him and he sat down on a sidewalk bench. his palms became a suction cup to his face and he began to weep. mumbling to himself, “i can’t believe i smoked that weed when i promised to stop last week. why did i invite her over when i knew it was over between us? i can feel her turmoil and brokenness permeating through my bones, wearing them out. i feel so heavy carrying this guilt with me each and everyday! i can’t continue to be reminded of what i’ve done! i need to move forward! i can’t do this anymore!”

silence arose in the atmosphere and these words settled into his spirit:

guilt leaves you, by yourself, to feel bad, with no resolve. it leaves you dwelling on and thinking about things you shouldn’t be dwelling on or thinking about. it leaves you stagnate, not knowing what your next move should be. it leaves you pondering and that guilt festers within, leaving you to feel bad. it leaves an imaginary weight on you that you think is apart of you, weighing you down. guilt builds a barricade before you, forcing you to never continue on.

however, conviction punctures and moves you. it literally moves you to repentance. and that repentance moves you a step further to change. not looking back. but moving forward. not pondering or dwelling, but rejoicing. not feeling weighed down but lifted up. and conviction doesn’t leave you. instead it comforts you because conviction is inspired, motivated and powered by the Holy Spirit. and the Holy Spirit was sent to comfort us. the Holy Spirit moves with us and not without us because the Holy Spirit is IN us (those who believe in Jesus). therefore, we will never be left alone feeling bad, blaming others. instead, we will be moved to turn away from what we once did. never turning back, feeling bad. because guilt died when the cross went up. when Jesus ascended. it was finished. then came a new beginning.

guilt brings blame.

conviction brings change.

heal me.

I write this as something that has been weighing heavy on my heart. I write this because I have only told no more than a few people. I write this because I once couldn’t talk about it without a hand full of tears.

A few years ago, my sophomore year in college, I was living a reckless and meaningless life. I went to school during the day and worked the clubs at night.  However, as time passed and as the money started to get good, I placed more importance on work, rather than school. Pretty soon my work was all I really had. The money was good so I really had no complaints, but with that mentality, I made no room for other things such as school, family, friends, and dating. This was not until I ran into an old classmate at the local grocer, and there we exchanged numbers with hopes of catching dinner to reminisce and play catch-up.  After I walked away from the conversation, I had no real intention of following through with anything we planned. Like I said, I was busy with making money. I had no time for anything else. After exchanging numbers, he persistently called me and text me, trying to arrange a time where we could meet up. After a couple of missed calls and unresponsive texts, it went from “let’s hang out” to “I want to take you out to dinner.” It was only when he expressed a small crush on me that I started to respond and warm up to the idea of a date. Weeks went by until we finally arranged a time and place to meet.

So I cleared my work schedule for this particular night for us to go out on a date. In my head, I did not trust many people due to my work environment, but I went to high school with this guy, so I let my guard down. He picked me up from the house and took me to, what then, I thought was a fancy restaurant. That night he was the perfect gentleman.  Because of his kind actions I started to think there could be a second date in our cards. It was not until the night was coming to an end when things took a turn for the worst. What first started out as just hanging out after dinner, he then popped in the “movie.” But we never made it mid-way into the movie until, of course, he made his move on me. What was then welcome turned into uncomfort. My moving away and “NO” was not enough to stop this guy from whatever he had on his agenda.  I could only lay there as an unwilling participant, waiting for the moment to be over. What may have been 10 minutes felt like an eternity.

I had just been raped.

After that I went straight home to wash off the night, the experience, and the shame off my body. But days of scrubbing and washing did not rid the shame. Shame then turned to anger toward everyone around. My anger was even aimed at God.  I thought I was His child? Why would He allow someone I knew from highschool make me another victim? I thought He would never leave me! I was so angry at the world that I started acting out my anger consciously and subconsciously.

This is when the heavy drinking kicked in. I drank so much it became daily. This is when I started offering up my body to anyone who was interested. This is when I no longer cared. My mindset at the time was, “its just sex, no big deal anymore.” I was so selfish in thinking, that all I could do was look at myself as a victim. It never dawned on me that I was not alone. I never once thought to look to Jesus as my healer. Instead, I looked to alcohol, money, altering my exterior, and another man to heal me. But none of those things lasted. It was not until I had enough of the rebellion that I came crawling back to God to forgive me and heal my open wounds. I told him to take my life, because if He didn’t, my rebellion (sin) would just lead to me killing myself. I am so glad He answered my cry, because I was tired of playing the victim with the baggages of hurt, shame, and guilt.

Its not that God had left me, it’s that I never wanted to hear his voice. I never thought He was sufficient to heal my pain. I selfishly belittled God’s power with doubt.  However, I can now say that I have forgiven the situation, because my Father has forgiven me countless of times.  I know that although this has happened to me, and many of my sisters, it doesn’t take away from God’s love. And I know that because Jesus died on that cross, God accepts me.

I write this to you, not to evoke sympathy from you, and not to create an awakardness. But I write this so that you’ll know that you are free from your past. When you got saved, the old you died with Christ on that cross. When Christ rose on the third day, so did the new you. You are a new creature, who no longer has to carry the baggage of what has happened in the past. The past is your testimony to bring Glory to God. So go out and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Tell em what God has done for you.

the gods of trust & guilt.

I have sincerely let some people down that I will have to answer to the Almighty God for.

It breaks my heart to think of the faces that in some way or another placed trust in me & were let down by my lack to follow through. Perhaps I was busy or maybe I just didn’t have the power to persevere, but I failed them.

We have all failed someone who has placed trust in us.

trust & forgive them as far as the east is from the west.

In the god of trust

We make trust into a god by getting relaxed with someone or something. We convince our hearts that this person or thing will not & cannot let us down. The sad reality is that more than likely they or it will.

For instance your stranded on the side of the rode & your boo-thang doesn’t pick up the phone … what now?

Thoughts start to compile as you think of trust worthy characters, but for some reason your ex-boo-thang seems convenient to call … what now?

Do you betray the trust of your boo-thang by hitting up your ex or do you wait & trust them to call you back? In this instance both parties trust is being placed on hold & a single decision can potentially alter the relationship forever. (Given that most people do not, whether they express it or not or pretend like they have ‘unshakable’ trust, like the idea of an ex being placed in a intimate position with their current boo-thang because they failed somehow.)

You decided to call … boo-thang will say, “Why you call them? Couldn’t you hit up someone else?” This will cause guilt to arise & one party will see themselves as inadequate for not being available or for calling the ex.

Now there are many more examples but relationships are easy to poke at. The fact of the matter is that trust as a god fails often & the closer you get to it the harder your heart crumbles as it crumbles.

How do we deal with the guilt?

The god of guilt has been offered praises from me often. I have to constantly remind myself that by Jesus’ shed blood I am forgiven & given a new identity. This is an everyday battle for me because that god creeps up when I least expect it; Perhaps a song is played, a picture is seen, or I’m just lost in thought & it is on its way.

Guilt is attributed to someone who is guilty of a crime. As a Christian I should not feel guilt.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
– (Isaiah 53:10 ESV)

On the cross Jesus carried our guilt & grief … & was brutally punished for it. Relish on the thought of Jesus carrying our guilt from sin. Jesus became guilt so that we would not have to be guilty.

You are set free from the guilt because Jesus’ blood washed it all away. When we do fall into guilt it is a lack of trust in Christ & his sufficient sacrifice. We don’t, & I mean we, don’t believe that he truly paid it all for us. But whether we believe it or not, he did.

Trust in Christ’s faithfulness & not our own. Trust in Christ as the only remedy for our sin issues.

Livin For the Law….Or the God Who Is Above the Law?

Are you living for the law or for the God who is above the law?

The answer seems obvious, but in reality some of us choose the law over a relationship with the One who is above the law. The law is attractive because it offers structure; we can see it and act accordingly.

For example—> some of us create laws for ourselves like, “In order to be a good Christian I must pray three times a day.” Knowing that I only have to pray three times a day seems to make life easier. I simply have to wake up, get my three prayers in, cross praying off my to-do list, and go about my way. And I can feel pretty good about myself because I technically followed the law …right?

We make laws about how many times we should go to church, how often we should read our Bibles, and even what kind of foods we should eat. But how impersonal is the law? In following the law, we miss the opportunity to truly know our Savior.

Looking back on your life you will say, “Yes, I dutifully prayed three times a day as was required by the law.”  But what if Jesus looks back on your life and says, “Yes, you followed the law, but you also missed millions of opportunities to call on my name, you missed having a relationship with me where we could talk at anytime and I could comfort you and guide you. You sent more tweets, facebook messages, and text messages then you sent prayers.”

We get so caught up in religious achievements, our Christian checklists, and our ‘good works’ that we completely miss the opportunity to engage in a love relationship with the God of this universe.

“The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship”               Hebrews 10:1

Hebrews says that the law was a preview of better things to come. On the cross Jesus fulfilled the law; He broke the bondages of the law. And those better things to come are everything offered in a relationship with Christ. Don’t walk in the shadow of the law, following the law is tough and you are bound to slip up. God isn’t a rule book, a religious policeman, or a dictator. He loves you more than you will ever know; He offers freedom, love, forgiveness, and salvation…….the law cant offer any of this. Period. Who will you follow?

Religion vs. Gospel (Part 2) A Shift in Perspective

According to Matt Chandler from the Village Church, Christians look at the world through a number of lenses:

• People who look through a Religious lens think that God gets obedience from you from bearing on your guilt and shame and crushing you into submission.

• People who look at the world through the Gospel lens see that God frees you up to love and walk in the joy of obedience by bearing your guilt and shame Himself.

Even though I knew it was a free gift God gave me, I realized that I was feeling guilty and that the guilt was not of God. I was living my life like any Muslim, Hindu, or other religious person who thought that the way to God was through checking off things on a spiritual to-do list.

When I committed a “big” sin [insert the big sin for a young man, lol] I found myself running away from God like Adam in the garden and I knew that something was wrong. Christ was my Savior and Lord, but I wasn’t enjoying my freedom. I had too many rules, too many things that I could or could not do. Most of them were not in the Bible. I could not go to clubs. I could not party. I could not drink. I could not listen to this music or that music. I had not really examined why I wasn’t doing these things. I didn’t do those things because I observed that most church folk didn’t do them.   There was a joy missing from my life that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

When Jesus says that he who the Son sets free is free indeed, I didn’t feel that way (John 8:36). In my heart, I knew that I had the wrong perspective.

My problem was that I was too focused on getting myself together and doing things out of duty. It was soulless, joyless work. I knew that God wanted my heart to be in what I did. He wants a cheerful giver. He wants people to love Him and do things out of love. (I Cor. 13I John 4). I was doing some of the things out of a sense of obligation.

How is this love possible? I began to see that I needed to spend quality time with the Lord. Not just a quiet time where I fell asleep with my head buried in the bible, but real quality time, where I really try to communicate with God. The more we spend quality time with God, He is able to transform our mind. Rather than focus on my to-do list, I focus now on Jesus Christ and getting to know Him. As He transforms me, I feel His love more and more and I am able to love others as He does. As I commune with Him, I am able to follow and walk by the Spirit of God.

Now, I understand that I don’t have to carry a spiritual to-do list. Because when you truly love God and his people, you won’t steal from them, you won’t sleep with somebody who is not your wife, and you won’t lie against another person. What was hard for you because it was an obligation is now easy for you because you are now doing it out of love. And when I do sin (which is quite often) I can quickly and confidently go to him and confess what I have done, knowing that it is only by the grace given to me by God that I have access to him anyway. God desires to change my heart and through changing my heart, my behavior follows. Kinfolk, do you feel free?

(To be continued)

Religion vs. Relationship, (Part 1)

I used to think that if I prayed, read the bible a certain number of times a week, and went to church on Sunday that I was okay with God.  Heck, I believed if I went to church on Wednesday, God would give me bonus points!!!  Every week I got into a routine that just seemed to be like clockwork.  When I kept that schedule I felt great and righteous, but the weeks I didn’t keep the schedule, I did not feel so good about myself.  In some ways I felt like I was letting God down.  Man, don’t let the occasional “big” sin happen, I was crushed for a few weeks.

However, I had an epiphany of sorts.  I figured out that what I was doing wasn’t working.  I was working under a tremendous amount of guilt because I couldn’t always keep to the things that I set out.  Though I am a Christian, I subconsciously thought that if I did all these things that God would be pleased and that I was on my way to becoming a better person.  I had become religious and thought my being right consisted of the things I did for God.  In the process, I became a slave of my guilt and I became frustrated in my walk.

What I just described to you is a picture of Religion.  We keep a spiritual to-do list, and when we can’t check off everything, we feel frustrated and guilty.  The free gift that God gave us in Jesus doesn’t feel so free anymore.  In fact, the walk as a Christian feels enslaving, draining, and depressing.  Is this what God intended?  What do you think?