Straining toward the cross and hoping for Heaven. I forget who said it, but I recall a pastor speaking on straining towards the cross and hoping for heaven. It’s such a beautiful image, and an image that we sometimes forget. We’re always straining towards the cross, because we can never actually reach it. We see the cross as lowly. We see Heaven as glorious. We think we’re straining towards heaven, but we as Christians are straining towards the cross, because without the cross you cannot reach heaven. You can’t skip the cross and get to the gates. We think because the cross is lowly it’s not something to be sought after, but the cross is the true Stairway to Heaven. Without those pieces of wood and those nails we have no hope. We must strain for the cross. And hope for heaven.
In C.S Lewis’s book ‘mere Christianity’ (which is a must read if you have questions about the Christian walk and life- but do remember that nothing you read can replace the Bible itself) he talks about love and asks us not to turn off the radio because we don’t want to go there. If you’re wondering, the book is made up of four of his radio talks, that’s why he doesn’t want the radio turned off. But it is so true. The second someone gets onto a platform and starts in on loving one another we often tend to tune them out, hang on before you tune me out as I go into this. I have the same problem. I turn off the radio too when it’s talks about loving thy neighbor. Not because I hate my neighbor, I’m actually very close with many of my physical neighbors, but let’s not get into all that- I tune them out because I find what we are preached is a little too… floating orbs and fluffy lamas if you get what I mean. As Christians we are not trying to get to a higher plane, we are not opening our chakras, we are not engaging our inner eye, and walking softly and only saying nice things is not the way to love one another. But I have heard pastors speak such things before. Love hurts, love is hard and love is an action. Remeber the old song ‘love is a battlefield’? It’s true. All love is. That’s why what CS Lewis said not only felt like something all people could connect to, but it was very solid and truly Christian, not something we’ve adopted for some reason from a cult group. He says, ‘if it’s hard to love someone don’t feel it, do it. It’s not a feeling of particular liking for that person, in fact you may dislike them very much and for a very good reason, but if your actions are love then any hate you have toward them will start to deminish.’ I’m paraphrasing because the chapter on love was long and the whole thing won’t fit here. Why does he speak so boldly about people you could easily hate being shown love through your actions? Because when he first did his talk on loving even your enemies he was verbally attacked by people for saying such things, why? Because the war had just ended and people felt great hate that was very justified, hate toward Hitler. They wanted to know how they could be asked to feel love for this man. So after Biblical study and discussion with many of the great Christian minds Lewis answered. You can’t. There is no way to feel love for someone so evil. But. If there was a chance for him to change and try and make up for the wrongs he caused (though he never could. My grandparents suffered through the war, my nana had minor PTSD because of being a child in the bomb shelters, and in those horrible moments she didn’t make it to the shelters and was simlpy saved by the grace of God from the falling explosions around her. Trust me. I have no pity for this man so don’t think that I’m saying he should have been given another chance or that we misjudged him or anything rediculous like that.) would you want him to change and become a better person? Or do you hate them so bad that you hope they are the evil of evil no matter what and burn for it? That’s a hard question. You see, the soft, love everyone in a cuddly do no harm sort of way could never face this. That kind of love that says we should all hold hands and say we’re sorry and then it’s all better couldn’t fix this. Pain is deep. And evil cannot be loved. And ‘sorry’ doesn’t erase all wrong. You cannot love a man like that. Not in the feeling sense. But can you pray that a man like Hitler would change? Can you ask God to fix his mind and make him a new person? Do you see him doing something good for a change and go ‘thank God he isn’t completely evil’? Yes? That’s love. If instead you hope he never changes, never realizes the horrors he’s caused and when he does something else horrible you go ‘good. He’s still evil. I can still hate him.’ That’s obviously not love.
And you know what? That’s hard too. Because there are some people who are so evil that you hope they stay evil so that they receive God’s judgement. I know there are because I have heard people say as much, I have felt this way at times too. Love is a battlefield, and most of the time you are battling yourself. Love also means calling people out when they are wrong. Reminding them of what sin is and that what they are doing is wrong. Not because it makes you feel good about yourself, and it should never be said in a condescending way, but if you love someone then you want them to do right because you want them to please God and you want them to go to heaven. If you don’t care about them, if you don’t love them, then when they sin it won’t bother you because you don’t care if they go to heaven or not. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, or you don’t actually know them personally, then pray for them. And hope that they pray for you too. Because we all sin and mess up. And we all need someone who loves us enough to tell us when we have messed up. Love isn’t a fluffy, easy, cuddly thing, love is suiting up and doing what is hard.
I hope people love me enough to pray for me when they notice a sin in my life that maybe I haven’t spotted. Or just in general. None of us are Christs. We are all people striving toward the cross and hoping for Heaven.
There is nothing wrong with loving the Bible from the place of a broken person trying to find the heart of God. You don’t have to perfect and then come to Jesus. Come to Him first and He will perfect you. You will never get to place where you are holy as Christ, you can’t, it isn’t possible. But that’s why we chase after God, because He is the only one who is perfect and Jesus is the only way into Heaven, our greatest works, even to give until we have nothing and to die for the sake of another is nothing without Jesus, it won’t get us anywhere without Him. We are all broken people, unable to measure up to the glory and ritchousness of God, but that doesn’t mean we should run away from Him, but instead run to Him. All He wants is a repentive heart that wants to change. A heart that knows it needs Him. A broken heart knows who the Healer is and is ready to be loved and fixed and made whole. Love Jesus in your brokenness and let Him love you into a whole new person.
Today my dog and I became lost while hiking. I was sure I knew where we were…until I didn’t. Down a trail overgrown with trees and weeds we ended up in a field. I thought I knew which field…but I didn’t. We walked and walked and all I could see was rolling crops and a shed and a tractor. I reasoned that a tractor meant life, but how far away was that life. We had two hours till dark and I knew I would rather be caught in the dark in that field then back down the trails where we get bears and cougars, and ghosts and monsters if my old camp leader is to believed. We had seen tracks that could easily have been a cougar earlier that day and though I figured it probably wouldn’t bother us I also knew that my JRT would make it his mission to catch said cougar if he saw it and that could be bad.
What’s my point in this story?
There were moments when I felt nervous. Moments when I was sure we might spend the night in that guys crops. However I never felt alone. I find hiking is where I talk to Jesus outloud. No one around. The beauty of creation filling my senses. I spent the time talking with Him and knew I was safe even if we spent the night out there. He knew that beyond the second grove of trees was a road that would take me to the main road and lead me back to camp, but I didn’t know that. I simply had an uncanny sense of peace as I walked with Him.
When you are lost and don’t know where the road is, trust Jesus, talk with Him, He knows the way home.
It’s so hard to tell people when you are not okay, and then have them giving their opinions or not fully understanding you hurts so much. But when you give it to Jesus- sit down for a moment and talk with Him, telling Him that it hurts, why it hurts and how much you need Him and His help- it doesn’t hurt more, it might hurt less, and now you have someone you can talk to about it who won’t judge or condem, and He actually can help where people cannot. Isn’t it funny how when you talk to people about your pain they give you a speel about how your Faith should be bigger, or you need to read your Bible more, or you should be praying like this- but when you come to God He just listens. He knows where you are at in the journey and how tired you are and how long you’ve been stuck in this same place. He knows how hard you are trying and how much it hurts. He doesn’t say ‘read more of your Bible, pray harder, grow your Faith until it hurts no more!’ He simply says, ‘come here. Let me hold you. I’ll take care of it all.’
Talk to Jesus. He’s waiting for your call.
Um…no thanks Jesus, I’m good.
Recently I was in church with my cousin. The preacher mentioned the healing of the blind man. You recall that healing? Jesus spat in the dirt and then rubbed it on the man’s eyes. It makes me cringe a little thinking of it, seeing as I’m a bit of a germaphobe. My cousin laughed at me when I rubbed my arms in horror at the thought of having spit rubbed on me. “Ya.” She said, “It’s like. Thanks but no thanks Jesus, I’ll just stay blind.”
She was joking, but it made me think, how often do we turn away Miracles that Jesus wants us to have because we don’t like the way that Christ is going to make the miracle happen? How many times does Jesus spit in the dirt and we draw back because we don’t like it? The miracle that’s coming doesn’t outweigh what we have to go through to recieve it, in our minds it doesn’t at least, if we waited and had the miracle happen despite the spit and mud, we would realize the value and gift of that blessing. How many times has Jesus said, “let me take you through this and I will give you this blessing.”
Or, “if you give up this, I will give you this instead.”?
And so on and so on. But we don’t want to go through the pain, the illness, the fear, the move, the new job, the outreach, [fill in the blank]. What came to mind when you were given the chance to put down your own draw away reason? I know what came to my mind. But as John Wayne once said, “courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyways.” The cause before the effect of the miracle may not cause suffering or pain, but there is always a little fear. It would be strange if there wasn’t, because we are dealing with the ultimate power. God. And His love, grace and blessings. And when dealing with God there is a lot of unknowing. We run headlong on Faith and that can be really scary. But perfect peace comes from knowing that you are trusting what you don’t know to the all knowing, one true, God.
Miracles aren’t always easy. Sometimes they are hard. Sometimes they take sacrifice. Sometimes you have to have spit rubbed in your eye before you can see. But know this. God always, always, always, has your best in mind as He works His plan for your life.
Even when things are complicated, God is not. Jesus loves you. He always has and always will. He hates sin. To accept sin and to delight in it is a slap in Jesus face, like Petra once said, “just like another thorn stuck in your brow”. However. Though sin separates us from God it does not separate us from His love. He is always ready for us to repent and to share in fellowship with Him. Even if you claim the label ‘Christian’ you might have accepted sin into your life that is seperating you from Jesus, but He loves you and is waiting for you to seek forgiveness and change. The thing that we forget is that Jesus loves every person who is going to hell just as much as He loves every person who is going to Heaven, and when a sinner who hasn’t given themselves to Jesus, even a sinner who claims to be a ‘Christian’ but refuses to believe and follow God’s word- all of it, not just the fun parts- dies, Jesus has to condem them, and it breaks His hearts. He isn’t happy to watch the sinner, or the false Christian go to hell, it makes His heart break, He wanted those people with Him, but God can have no part in sin.
God’s law isn’t complicated. He always loves you. He wants you with Him. He cannot accept your sin. But because of Jesus we can repent of our sins and try, truly try to change, and then we can be saved.
I know I have sins that I struggle with, but I know that I hate my sins and am working to correct them and pray against them and asking Jesus for help, I will not embrace these sins and make the enemy happy, he wants that and I won’t stand for it, he wants you to embrace your sins and to claim that Jesus will accept you the way you are, but that isn’t true. Jesus will love you the way you are, but He cannot accept you into Heaven unless you are a new person. Does that mean that because I hate my enemy or that I complain a lot or that I am a mean person sometimes, that I won’t go to Heaven even though I have accepted Jesus?
Let me ask a question that comes up often when discussing such things. Are you trying to do better? Are you sorry for the way you are being and you want to change? Yes? Then from what I know about Jesus’ teachings you will still go to Heaven. But if you claim that you were born that way, or that that is just who are, or that Jesus is just going to have to take what He gets and love you anyways, Then from what I know of Jesus’ teachings you are at risk of losing your soul, because God can have no part in sin.
This post is not going to popular and many may argue and disagree, but I have said what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart. Everyone can be saved, but they have to be willing to change.
This is not me being lofty and judging. Trust me, I have many sins that Jesus and I are working against, but I know they are sins and I want to change. Some days my greatest hope and comfort is that Jesus sees my effort and to Him that is Christian. Because we will all be sinners until we die, but do we love Jesus enough to work against our sin and to try to change? even though we may fail He will always give us another chance to do better.
When things get hard it’s easy to forget, or worse, let go, of who Jesus is and what He can, will and has done for you. When the sickness comes, the depression sets in, the pain overwhelms and fear is a constant companion it is so easy for the human mind to say ‘that’s enough! If there is a God then why is this happening?’
This is going to make you sick and cause you to roll your eyes -I know it is because not only have I seen this response before but I have felt it- God has a purpose.
Don’t groan. I know that’s the easy response. But the truth is that God does have a purpose, trusting that He has a purpose is so hard some times that when people tell you that it is all within His plan it can make you angry, or sad, or simply can feel like it’s adding to your brokeness, but He does have a plan. Then you wonder how your pain could fit in His plan? Good question. I wonder that about my own pain, and I’m sure that theology egg heads could give you a great response that is filled with scripture refrences and quotes from great scholars and pastors, but for me, all I can say is that it’s not about understanding the how or why, it’s about understanding that not knowing those things is where faith comes in. He is the same Jesus who loved me on the cross and before time itself, He hasn’t changed, He isn’t suddenly trying to hurt me, He loves me, His plan has always been best and it has always been ready for this, whatever the ‘this’ is at the moment, in the end He works it all together for good, I don’t know how, I can’t know how, all I can know is that He promised to take care of me and that He is doing that right now.
I can’t promise a sudden or easy answer, all I can promise is that there is one.
We needed Thomas to doubt.
Some say that Jesus was just a good man and a prophet- if that is true then we have no hope or reason to hope, because Jesus as just a man couldn’t pay for our sins and His death would be meaningless.
These same people say Jesus coming back from the dead and appearing to the deciples was just a vision given to the deciples by God of the man coming and talking with them, but that Jesus Himself was not actually, Physically there.
But when Jesus was with the deciples He met a friend who was so broken by His death that he couldn’t believe that the Jesus he saw was more than a vision or a trick of his mind. Jesus had to encourage Thomas to touch Him. To touch His scarred hands and the wound in His side and to know through that physical touch that this was no illusion, vision, or trick of the mind, He was actaully there; smiling, laughing and chatting with His friends. If Thomas hadn’t doubted his own eyes and needed the physical connection to Jesus, then those people who claim He was just a vision or illusion of grief wouldn’t have an eye witness account that could hold water, but Thomas actually touched Him, you can’t touch a vision, and if he hadn’t doubted that Jesus coming back was true -like so many still doubt today- then maybe we wouldn’t have the record of that human to human, flesh to flesh, touch that shows once and for all that it was a physical and real risen savior standing there. Thank you Thomas for your doubt, because it was needed for those who need proof beyond Faith.
So rightly, amiably, spiritually, sensitively- anything but usefully
Let us not permit our belief in Jesus and the doctorine we stand on turn into something that is pleasing to the whole world and useless to it at the same time. The cross is offensive because it holds our sins and condems them as sins as Billy Graham said. When it becomes pretty and easy to be around because we no longer have to change to be present with God then we have lost the purpose. A sinner who continues to sin freely cannot claim Christ – so says 2 Peter.
Let us not make the Cross and Jesus something coated in neon lights and fully accepting of us in a way that makes it so we never have to take on the new person and leave the old behind. Let us not preach and believe a doctorine that is useless to those seeking God.