Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

The Cross Has the Final Say

“Jesus died so that I could live.
He rose so that we could be wed.”

This thought popped in my head in the midst of worship Tuesday night. In the middle of a song, whose lyrics include the phrase “the cross has the final say”, I found myself staring at my beloved covenant ring (pictured below). I wear this ring as a reminder to myself that I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. The only reason why I wear this ring on my middle finger is because it’s too big to fit on my ring finger. If it could, I’d imagine it would look more like an engagement ring.

Engagement. Proposal. That’s what the Cross was. And if the song lyrics are true and the Cross does, indeed, have the final say, then there are several important implications to take note of:

  1. There is no amount of shame, guilt, brokenness, or feelings of unworthiness that could superceed the power and beauty of the Cross. (If you don’t believe me, check out Romans 5:8.)
  2. There is, likewise, no amount of intellectual doubts or questions, intelligence, or perceived wisdom that could undermine the grace and need of the Cross.
  3. When Jesus died, you died with Him. Likewise, when He rose from the dead, you also rose in Him. You are a new creation who, because of Christ, is now made worthy and righteous. Ergo, self-flagellation and self-hatred due to a feeling of unworthiness (or someone telling you that you are such) have no place here anymore.
  4. The Cross does more than save you from Hell and/or the bondage of sin; it gives you a new direction. As the writer of Psalm 40 writes in verses 2 and 3, he says this of God: “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Because of the Cross, we who have said “yes” to Christ are given a new song and hope.
  5. The Cross is not a place for you to declare “I killed Jesus!” and then hide your face from Him. Rather, it is a place to cry out “I am in need of grace. Please save me,” and receive grace, mercy, compassion, kindness, and love unconditionally.

 

 

 

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

How to Conquer a Writer in 4 Easy Steps

  1. Take a lover of words, a passionate wordsmith, and silence her voice. Do not let her speak her mind or share her heart’s treasures, be it aloud or on the page.

 

  1. Dismantle her hope. Fill her head with dreams of grandeur and when she firmly believes she has a shot at being something, dash it all to the ground like a butterfly crashing into a window.

 

  1. Discourage her efforts like madmen torturing prisoners of war. Sound the alarm for professions that appeal to her, then watch gleefully as she succumbs to the mournful kisses of rejection and depression when you only let her go but so far with the experience she’s gathered over the years.

 

  1. Watch her scramble to reinvent herself like a coiled spring shooting forward only to fall in on itself again. And again, she rises, blissfully unaware of the stings of rejection, overqualification, anxiety, and depression for they have become her stepping stones. Observe in awe and silence as she bites herself, draining all the self-doubt from her body to find her voice—and herself—once again.
Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

For Intellectual Christians who Struggle with Accepting the Grace and Love of God

I see you. I understand your plight and I know that the struggle is, like, so real. It’s a challenge sometimes to accept that a holy, righteous God could love you in spite of all of your wrongdoings and mishaps. I, too, have wrestled with countless questions and doubts concerning the certainty of my salvation and faith, whether or not God really is who He reveals Himself to be in the ancient Script, and most recently, how to love God with my heart. That last one has kept me up for most nights than I care to admit.

The ancient Script instructs us in Luke chapter 10 and verse 27 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Perhaps it is the result of being naturally inquisitive or having the privilege of attending a Christian university for a short time after high school, where I was introduced to Christian apologetics, church history, and Biblical hermeneutics. Maybe it’s a combination of those and other factors that make the “love… with all your heart” part of that commandment difficult at times. Or it could be something else entirely. I think being inquisitive is both a blessing and a curse. I had a tendency to approach God like, “I need to know everything about you before I give you my heart.” I always imagine Him chuckling in response and saying something like “You can’t know everything about Me, but I know everything about you, so give Me your heart. I’ll keep it safe.” It wasn’t always like this though. Loving God with my heart was easier, once upon a time.

My upbringing was like that of a typical fundamental Christian environment, only with a single parent who also happened to be a workaholic and dedicated to church ministry. I say that not to condemn, but to state the facts. My childhood faith was molded from all the great essentials: church attendance every time the doors opened, Veggie Tales (Barbara Manatee was my jam!), Gospel music, and Bible studies in my mother’s bedroom that usually, if memory serves me correctly, started and ended with prayer.

I miss those days. They hinged on blind faith with the assurance that anything I wanted to know about God could be found in the Bible. It was never explicitly stated, but I inherently knew that I wasn’t allowed to ask questions regarding the nature of God or the Bible’s inerrancy, lest I wanted to be accused by the church elders for my lack of faith.

These days, my childhood faith isn’t sufficient for the arguments, circumstances, and plethora of ideologies I face in adulthood. People who mean well misquote Scripture to blend in with their own agendas, God remains a mystery, and I struggle to let go of my sin and vices. I self-flagellate to the point of self-hatred, with my theological fear in the forefront of my mind, and rely on my intellect more often than I should to save me because it’s easier for me to deal with facts than emotions.

As it currently stands, my biggest theological fear is John 5:39-40 which states, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Looking back on things now, I realize that that particular fear did not enter my heart and mind until after I returned home from my Christian university. When you have homework assignments like “Read all of Galatians 3 and find 40 instances of the word “faith” as it pertains to the original Greek according to Strong’s Concordance,” the temptation to view the Bible not as the word of God, but as a mere textbook that you hope has the right answers within its pages is suddenly real and strong. You may even start viewing God not as “Lord” or even “friend” but as something to be figured out, some puzzle that needs to be solved. When you’ve been accustomed to doing things a certain way (like using Scripture as a legitimate source for academic papers!) it is hard to reposition yourself to change.

Prime example: the first Sunday morning I attended my now-former home church, it was like culture shock. I was torn between what I had learned and what I had been taught to do prior to college. I started to shun all emotionalism as the intellectual side increased. Back then, I was an intellectual snob (my parents can attest to this). I wasn’t trying to be—I just wanted to share what I had learned and maybe find some like-minded people to converse and grow with—but I came across as a conceited know-it-all. Over the years, I would hope that by connecting with various brothers and sisters in the faith, I’ve become less prideful and pretentious, and instead, grown in humility and grace.

If any of this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone in your struggle with merging both your heart and mind to God. There seems to be a great divide between the heart and mind, at least in our Western culture. My advice is to you and myself is this: Give yourself grace and be patient. This process is a marathon, not a sprint. I find that being still, in both mind and body, helps me focus on God as God and helps me connect with him as a daughter, not just an intellectual being. Be still and know that He is God. He awaits you.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

If Chester Bennington Could Have Listened to Dear Evan Hansen, Would it Have Changed His Life?

That’s a dangerous and important question. I don’t know the answer to that, only God does, but it plagues me just the same. The anniversary of his death is approaching us soon and I know a lot of people just like myself are going to be affected by it. It just hit me the other day while I was listening to my YouTube playlist on shuffle that Chester is really gone and he’s not coming back. The beginning of the mixed playlist went as follows:

1. Mike Shinoda: Over Again

2. Linkin Park: Heavy

3. Dear Evan Hansen: You Will Be Found

As a self-proclaimed Broadway junkie and Linkin Park fan, albeit a little late, I was curious and found myself speculating the following: if these two could have interacted, what would have happened? The chorus of “You Will Be Found” echoed through my headphones while, simultaneously, Chester’s plea of “I’m holding on, why is everything so heavy?” and “If I just let go, I’d be set free” was in the background of my mind; it almost felt like this fictional character was trying to send a message  to a broken, hurting man that just couldn’t get through the barrier in time.

As previously noted, I came into the Linkin Park fandom a little later than most, sometime around late high school, early college years. The first song I’ve ever heard by the rock band that would get me through tough times was “What I’ve Done.” I remember thinking that I’d never heard that kind of sound, that kind of blunt honesty in a rock song before. I was hooked. I commend Chester for being outrageously open in his musical memoir, his collection of albums that made all of us who loved him feel a little less alone in our suffering because he put himself out there first. I always wondered if it was a little more than ironic that the music video for “Numb” was filmed in a church? Nonetheless, I digress.

“Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.”

Such powerful words and so desperately needed for those who, like Chester, are struggling silently with demons that want to destroy them in the worst possible ways. It’s hard for me to write this when I think about the fact he’s dead. He, who gave the world so much, is dead and the planet keeps spinning on its axis, Dear Evan Hansen keeps influencing people and starting conversations, and Chester Bennington’s legacy continues in only his music. We won’t hear him laugh anymore or get hyped in the middle of concerts. All we have are the memories associated with his life in melodies and chords. If he could have heard the message of an unusual Broadway play telling him “You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone.” we might still have him. Or, things could have played out exactly as they did. Who’s to say? Just know this: even if you have to fall to lose it all, in the end, it matters. You matter.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Lessons from A.W. Tozer: The Doctrine of Accepting and Seeking Jesus

I’m currently going through A. W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God for the second time and in chapter one, I find that simplicity is a common theme as it relates to man’s relationship with God. Tozer has an interesting view on what accepting and seeking Jesus means and I believe his view is one that is severely overlooked and not implemented enough in our modern-day Christianity.

Accepting Jesus in Our Hearts is Not Really Our Responsibility

When we often think of “accepting Jesus” the picture that comes to mind most often is of someone, or several people, standing in the front of a church altar with hands raised in submission, repeating the words of a pastor in what is commonly known as “The Sinner’s Prayer.” Within this prayer is usually the admission of one’s sins against God and the very real need for a Savior to come save the praying person from the wrath of God and promise of Hell, almost always ending with the person deciding and vowing to trust in Jesus for all her needs, both spiritual and otherwise, for all her days to come. There is much rejoicing afterward, for Heaven has gained another soul from the snares of the enemy—a praise-worthy event, indeed! The newly saved Christian is now sent on her merry way, with many people so happy for and proud of her for finally making the decision to follow Christ.

We get no credit for coming to God and “giving our heart to Jesus” because He drew us to Him first.

We too often believe that we are the focal point in our relationships. And who can blame us when many of us grow up believing that if we don’t follow God’s voice to the T, we’ll lose our blessings, our right standing with Him and, worse-case scenario, our salvation? We work hard to prove to God and others that we are worthy of love and acceptance. We set our eyes on our sin more than we do the goodness of God and self-flagellate to the point of self-hatred sometimes. This is not at all what the Father intended or desired. Let me help take some of that pressure off you.

A.W. Tozer says that when it comes to “accepting” Jesus (a term not found anywhere in the Bible), the responsibility is on Him, not us. He writes, “We get no credit for coming to God and “giving our heart to Jesus” because He drew us to Him first… No one can come to me, said our Lord, unless the Father who has sent me draws him, and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming.” I can attest to this. In a previous post, I wrote that my deconversion was thwarted only because God brought me back to Himself; it was nothing of my own doing. If it was up to me, I probably would not—could not—have returned.

Now, just because God draws us, this does not mean that we are free to not actively participate in our relationship with Him; rather, it means that we are not as responsible as we think we are for the initial pull of heartstrings. We know this because the Scriptures tell us in James 1 that if we are to come to Christ and ask anything of Him, we must believe that He exists and is good to those who seek Him. Nonetheless, after the initial acceptance of the risen King as Lord over one’s life, this is not the end of things, but the beginning of everything. The responsibility we have concerning Him now is to seek Him with all fervor and intentionality.

Seek Him While He May be Found

One of the great things I love about Tozer is his language. It is both simple and complex at the same time. Of seeking God, he writes that after the initial butterflies are over of responding to God’s call, that many have been “snared in the coils of a false logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.” His heart, I think, is saddened by the fact that most of the seeking of God has already been done for us by teachers and scholars of past generations. When I first read this, it had been just four months since I had finally answered God’s pull on my heartstrings and Tozer’s assessment made me stop cold. I wrote the following note on my Kindle: “It has been almost four months since I came back—or rather since God drew me back to Him—and I have wondered why I saw no clear, visible changes in my life mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise. I think this is why. I stopped pursuing God. In search of fellowship and community, because that’s how you grow, I just forgot the Greatest One of All.”

The seeking that comes from a genuine thirst and hunger, as a result of being in a relationship with God, has to be personal. No one can seek God for another.

Additionally, when I read Tozer’s words on seeking God, it reminded me of Timothy. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes to Timothy, urging him to “show [himself] approved” to God by teaching His word correctly so that others are not misled. I took that sentiment to heart, not in teaching God’s word but in seeking His face. The seeking that comes from a genuine thirst and hunger, as a result of being in a relationship with God, has to be personal. No one can seek God for another. She who seeks God must come boldly to the throne of grace and she must come alone.

A Final Thought and Tozer’s Prayer

In Philippians 3:8, Paul describes the knowledge of God as “excellency.” There is so much value to knowing the One who created all. It is easy for me to imagine that Tozer wrote the following with tears in his eyes: “Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.” Too many of us are complacent. To reciprocate the longing the Father feels for us may seem like an impossible feat, but all is that is required is a heart that desires Him above all else. In the midst of distractions, whether godly or worldly, be it a promising career or the thirst of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the one who acknowledges the strength of the argument of complacency, and then turns away with tears to some quiet place and cries “O, God, reveal to me Your glory” is the one who is blessed, the one for whom God waits. In that, the Father’s love is reciprocated back to Him. Simplicity is key here. There need not be a desire to impress or wise words spoken to achieve holiness. Rather, an open heart in childlike faith and dependence on the One who can do the impossible.

O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has
both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need of further
grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God,
the triune God, I want to want thee; I long to be
filled with longing; I thirst to be made more
thirsty still. Show me thy glory, I pray thee, that
so I may know thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new
work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up,
my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give
me grace to rise and follow thee up from this
misty lowland where I have wandered so long.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.