Thursday, June 25, 2009

Your faith has healed you...

Last night I watched the Steve Martin movie, Leap of Faith. It is a movie about a con man who goes town to town hosting tent revivals in the name of "Jesus" to heal and save the lost. Long story short his bus breaks down in a very poor town, but he decides to swindle these people anyway and put on "a show," as he refers to it. His system is very elaborate and requires lots of people working with him. However, after several evenings of his show, complete with gospel choir, band, starry "sky" and light show, and giant crucifix, something happens for which neither he, nor his crew, were prepared: a real miracle.

I won't go into any further detail because I don't want to ruin the movie, but that basic plot line and even the details in the movie got me thinking. I don't think it's any secret how I feel about the "Name It, Claim It" movement happening today. While I am thankful I am not The Judge, I can't help but feel sick to my stomach and so angry whenever I see people selling "grace" and when I hear words like, "If you have faith, the cancer will be healed. Pray harder brother!" Often times, I imagine a very special place in Hell for those who would willingly take the name of Jesus Christ and so blatantly use His name to deceive and make a profit. (Matthew 21:12-13 way to make Jesus mad: take advantage of the poor and then do it in His name).

And while that may be true, I guess I didn't want to have a log in my eye, speck in my brother's eye thing going on here. When I see people doing things like that, I just want to be careful and ask myself a very hard question: What do I do to take advantage of the poor? When do I cheapen my Father's name for my own gain? And I'm sad to say it, but I can't answer "I never have" to those questions. In fact, when I think of my friends and everyone I know... I don't think ANY of us can answer "I never have" to those questions. Last night I said out loud, "Things like this must break God's heart. This is so awful." However, I very quickly realized... all sin breaks God's heart. Whether it is lies, war, blasphemy, or whatever... we are all equally guilty. And yet, God still wants us and still longs to be with us, so I have to assume he feels the same way about con men like this. So, there is one thing to think about.

The other thing that struck me in this movie was this, it wasn't Steve Martin's show that provided the miracle... it was the boy's faith that healed him. His faith in Christ. Now, I want to say first of all, I am not trying to bash any of my brother or sisters who are charismatic. I do not know in who's hands each person's soul rests and I do not know the hearts of people like God does, and I am not now, nor am I ever prepared to even begin to judge. I'm sure there are sincere and saved Charismatic Pentecostal Episcopalians, Southern Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterians and people in the same churches who are a)have no relation with Christ, b)faking their religious experience/sincerity, c)just showing up. But one thing that has always made me leery of pastors like Benny Hen and Joel Osteen is the mass hysteria of their shows and I just feel that maybe, just maybe, at least a part of the experiences to be had at their "services" is more of the overwhelming feeling you get at a show of your favorite band, than one of God. And then, what's more, I have to wonder, in these shows, if some of the behind the scene work doesn't go on in real life like it did in the movie to make it more "effecitve" feeling.

Now all that being said, didn't Jesus say, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer" (Matthew 21:21-22). So, are we to believe that there is no such thing as a miracle? No! No. But what I AM saying is that if we are healed, it isn't because of some magic words a pastor spoke, or we had an experience of mass hysteria. Miracles happen all the time, but not because we willed them or because we prayed hard enough. God is more than capable of granting the miraculous, so maybe for those of us who do struggle with doubt, we do need to remember these words of Jesus.

But we can't stop there. What about those of us who don't get healed. What about those of us who die from cancer. What about those of us who have a beautiful baby boy and he only lives to the age of six because some drunk driver decided to be careless and killed him. What about those who are murdered. The list goes on an on. Did God forget those of us who are not healed? Does He have some cruel lesson for us to learn because we were not faithful enough?

In answer to this, I once heard a man say, "I didn't understand it at first, but after a while I think I figured out that God killed my son to make me trust Him and He wanted him to come home." Well, to be honest, I have to wonder if any parent would say, "God raped my daughter to teach me a lesson." I felt his statement was so absurd because God doesn't kill people, He doesn't rape people, He doesn't give anyone cancer! God doesn't do evil thing to teach us lessons, not because He doesn't want to, but He is entirely incapable of doing/being evil.

God LOVES us more than we will EVER understand, but in my experience the miracles I've witnessed in my personal life have not been being saved FROM something, it's been being saved THROUGH something. The times God has rescued me has not been when I paid $20 to church and sang a hymn (although, both are practical and useful in their places), no, it's been when I was broken down on my knees saying, "God, I don't have anything right now, and I just need You." Things I've wanted have come to an end. Things I had are now lost forever. Things I loved have left and hurt me. But THROUGH that I witnessed the almighty power of a God whose LOVE for me is so far beyond what I can comprehend, I know that in the presence of evil God dwells and is waiting to be there for us. Sometimes it is a healing, sometimes it is an understanding; which to me is the greatest healing of all.

So, maybe next time I see someone who I believe to be a snake and oil preacher, maybe I need to remember that God has His hand in Everything, right down to that preacher's life and the lives of everyone he speaks to, and remember that God will make things right and just in that situation as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who I am will take the second chance You gave me.


I watched the proverbial sunrise
Coming up over the Pacific and
You might think I'm losing my mind,
But I will shy away from the specifics...

'Cause I don't want you to know where I am
'Cause then You'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.

This is no place to try to live my life...

Stop right there. That's exactly exactly where I lost it.
See that line? Well, I never should have crossed it.
Stop right there. Well I never should have said that,
That it's the very moment that 
I wish that I could take back.

I'm sorry for the person I became.
I'm sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'Cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

I talked to absolutely no one,
Couldn't keep to myself enough.
And the things bottled up inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I'll soon blow up.

I heard the reverberating footsteps,
Synching up to the beating of my heart,
And I was positive that unless I got myself together, 
I would watch me fall apart.

And I can't let that happen again
'Cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life...

Who I am hates who I've been.
And who I am will take the second chance you gave me.
Who I am hates who I've been
'Cause who I've been never only made me...
So sorry for the person I became.
So sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'Cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been. 


I have spent some time lately thinking over the past two years, and I'm realizing I really do hate who I have been. I was weak and so quickly threw away my focus on my master's heart for a temporary and deceitful story that sounded good to me. Now, however, I feel like I'm finding myself and who God wants me to be more and more each day and I just can't let that happen again. I've learned that a wolf really can hide in sheep's clothing and tempt us with beautiful things, nice stories, and so many distractions that our distractions get exactly what they want: all of our attention. And we begin to follow after their call for control of our thoughts and hearts only to wake up one day shaken, alone, deserted, and lost. Realizing that we wish we could do ANYTHING just to take it all back and to not have believed lies that brought us to this realization that we surrendered the control of our hearts, whether forcibly taken or carelessly given, to something that will not, doesn't want to be, and never can be what is best for us. 

BUT that being said, I'm almost glad I we can't take things in the past "back". The Prodigal Son had to leave home to learn a lesson and gain an understanding he never would have had he never rebelled and left. So, despite our tries, failures, and misgivings, God always wants us back and will always love us, but I'm glad He isn't unwilling to let us learn. As fragile as our hearts are, they do recover from trauma, and while scarred, I can't help but feel like God uses those experiences to shape us in a way we never would have been had we never turned from Him. 

La Vie En Rose

I have no complaints in life right now. I can't help but feel really happy. I mean, sometimes I can find things--usually money--but I can't help but realize how incredibly blessed I am realizing I am. And it's weird, but times like this almost make me feel guilty sometimes, but honestly sometimes it is just nice to experience the uncomplicated Joy of God's love. 

More than anything, I'm finally starting to feel and know that God has a place and a purpose for me and now I'm free to find it. I find it interesting how comforting and powerful it is to be still and know that He is God in times of pain and turmoil, but in times of happiness that stillness carries over and it feels good to just be able to appreciate the JOY He has put in us. 
"We love because He first loved us"