Monday, December 31, 2012

Entitlement & Seventy times Seven

Dec. 31st, 2012 Happy New Year...
Well, I finish out my last church worship contract in January. This one lasted into a 4th year.
Re-inventing one's self when self-employed becomes a larger and more complicated task; as you get older and are aware of so much more of what life dishes, all it takes to succeed, and, how much energy is needed to do it every time.

So my blog heading today is Seventy Times Seven.

The photo above was taken on a day i cathartically walked the Mississippi River banks alone for hours. Twas a day of taking stock of all the people who've hurt me and the people that I've hurt along this journey down stream.  Might be the first time i've ever really taken the time to take a walk like that. Won't say I enjoyed it either. But the end result?  Sadness, yes great sadness for the word 'sin' and all it brings. That is all I can remember of that day. 

If you're like me, you like to realize your errors or wounds and try to move on and forget them.. forever.  Well I took that day and re-wound and reminisced,  and as the river ran by me slowly, regardless of why we do what we do or our intent or motive, the fact remains that the condition of sin in mans heart is universal and we can only minimize it's effects by every thought, word and deed moving forward.  And in that process we win and or lose every minute and every breath. 
And in that as well I'd say Gods Agape either covers all or it covers nothing. 
It is either unconditional post the cross or God is not Agape.
Today I've come to believe in a new way that  God's love is unconditional.
And without that promise and chance for duplication of it, there is no hope.

For all those who teach and preach conditional love with black and white, hell  fire and brimstone, i don't have happy thoughts for today. I understand the gift of Evangelism as we've seen it Europeanized and then Westernized over the centuries. All those walking in John the Dunker's footsteps.

I just don't know  why God needs us to  preach fear of or to hell, when  He used unconditional love as his "All In". .  

The price paid for our salvation is so beyond our comprehension.  For God to do what He did is such an un-natural act for us to grasp on to.
I loved  Melissa Scott's  message one day on  "Justification  by Faith". She very exhaustively explained that there is no plural english word for Righteous and that Righteous was the original word not Justify, and in the lack of the word Righteousification  in english, sadly the word  Justification was used instead. Makes SO much more sense. Mercy triumphs over Judgement.  We are sanctified by what he did in his Righteousness  not by judgement. He chose the higher and it was Unconditional.

Unconditional love for his children. 

I love you this much and I won't take it back. 
As a redeemed child, So long as you are sorry, I am forgiving. 
We however are raised so conditional that it's almost impossible to grasp  and  hold on to that.  You probably rattled off 3 scriptures about  the wages of sin and   consequences of sin and all the things that will get you to hell. You most likely read that and thought. "wishy washy compromising  pablum."  Yes, there are  a lot of memorized road signs flashing . Not all bad but to often misplaced.   The story is Love and redemption to children who don't deserve it  from a Father who loved regardless, all the way to the cross. 

So many books written and sermons preached on "conditions" that I swear it birthed the song "i just dropped in to see what condition my condition is in."

Gods road to redemption from Gen. to Rev. is so beautiful at it's core. I've come to be so sad that in a spiritual sense, every road filled with speed limit signs or highway markings and billboards  to be used to assist us and guide us on our journey,  are really much to often used against us,  to entrap us and fine us and imprison us or sell us something.  

I think it is only now that new generations are beginning to see through this and search for truth and a better way, and we who love our road signs or erected them by committee don't like it all.

For those who know me, I'm a pretty positive person by nature. I don't take complements well at all, and I believe in saying I'm sorry and letting it go. So I'll start right there with those two thoughts.
I guess in a way by those two comments,  I feel some sense of entitlement to be upset when "that" doesn't return to me. Maybe those are two of my road signs I feel entitled too. hmmmm. Is that possible Lord?
(Sidebar..  the beauty of a journal or blogging is that you think out loud and capture raw thoughts not rewritten and crafted chapters..).
Interesting that it's not in our weaknesses but in our gifts and strengths that we begin to think we are more than, better than, above, higher, more enlightened, more blessed.... special... precious...
If we just live right, read enough, pray enough, worship enough and sacrifice enough then we will not have to endure sin and all it's consequences. In a nutshell, sheet should not happen to us, or at least some of it. 
And if we are raised with or in, or taught to live with a righteous entitlement mentality, then what happens to our faiths when sheet really happens?  ... and it will, given enough time, and you won't see it coming. And you will say "where was the love"....

Well, I ask, what is my definition of love then. What is yours.
What's Jesus definition of love,  unconditionallove.

His life - unconditional. He didn't say no the cross because of your choice. He did it for you regardless of your choice"s". Regardless of what you've said or felt about Him. His choice was " I love you unconditionally."   ya, chew on that one a bit. I did along the river, and it hurt, and it was good.   Then there is the parable of the rich man and the debtor that Matthew recounted in ch18 where 70x7 is quoted. moral of that parable? When I have been forgiven everything, who am I to hold anyone else to less, in forgiving? Parable was about money and debt, but it could be ANYTHING... Hmmm. yup that goes beyond 70x7.  It goes all the way to unconditionallove. The kind the Father showed through Jesus.Q? Well, where does unconditional begin and end... what do you think?
Should we use fear and conditions to "win" people to love?
Should we love unconditionally and trust Gods love via His Holy Spirit to do the rest.
One choice allows us to feel like we have the control. The other... broken submission, trust and hope.
So then, how have we set ourselves up to the point where we carry these entitlement mentalities that leads to self justified  un-forgiveness in conditional love with the world around us?

I don't have that answer, just opinions. (And as my friend Greg Boyd would say in his famous 3 word phrase "I would Submit") Well I would submit that it's a bit different for everyone, but at the core we somehow think that by our actions we can be "more" righteous. We can then put other mortals (who are higher on the righteous food chain) above us. Yes, put them on pedestals as models of what we should be or aspire to.
And then "those" people have to lie to live up to what's impossible in the first place. Everyone's flesh loves to be secretly put on the pedestal so very few will climb down off it but embrace the sickness of it.   And all that looks good till someone on that pedestal  falls and gets hurt or hurts you. Then in one swift emotional OMG, you see they are not all "you" created them to be and the theology thread doesn't make sense any longer. Felt good going down, but not  coming  out and you're left broken, and you let it happen. Can you say "tiger woods"or any list of living mega preachers who have been exposed for what they really are.. sinners. OMG again.. Could that be possible...

Your friend of spouse or lover, or child dies - tragically - wrongfully - un naturally. Your friend or spouse or lover or child or co-worker or neighbor or boss betrays you somehow in the most selfish way you can imagine.

You've been brought up to believe this all can happen to and from your enemies... but your friends?... loved ones.... those you respect the most who you've been taught to put up there on the shelf? 
Nope,  we are usually not ready nor prepared for that.  And so, we crash, and burn, and unconditional love  can take another blow from our misplaced expectations and conditions... 
And what do we do then? We then project and hurt others in our hurt and justify it all under our own self proclaimed righteous entitlement.

Jesus IS our only expectation, salvation and role model. All others are sinking sand.

And so how do we change and prepare for what "will" happen,  and what does that mean.
If you're a bad sinner it's easier. If you're a good sinner it's harder.. Yup, you have to think about that one if you're a good sinner, cause it will just raise up that great self righteous anger in you to think or be told that rotten sinners just  might be closer to the Father than you. To imagine that anyone worse off than you might be better than you in Gods eyes, is like banging your head against the wall.  Not saying it's true but if the thought irks you to self righteous thoughts, then the shoe fits..
God is a Father....
If you've been blessed to be a parent or take on a parent role, you'll get this.
I think the closest we come to forever and unconditional love is our children. That relationship mirrors God and us, and it is the model.  Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. When we are His unconditional. (I'm not going to get into blasphemy of the Holy Spirit here, and not looking for an argument on letter of the law. You can go there but I'll remain in that place of Gods unconditional love and Grace post Cross for this post)
Is there anything your child would do that could make you stop loving them or give up on them?
There are those that would say yes, but a very small percentage. I discussed this with my wife last night and decided that yes there are horrific things we can do and become that would make our parents not love us but  most will go through anything with their children (and do) to hell and back many times, through inconceivable pain, even when and if totally rejected ,  but never really give up on them, no matter the hurt or cost. You cant! they are your children.  This action captures the love of God.
Doesn't mean you don't want to discipline, if that's still possible, or get them into treatment or therapy or whatever it takes, but, to abandon or say I don't love you any more, I don't want you anymore?  No parent (unless addicted and or mentally broken) could say that to a child. And I'm so sorry if you have been one of those. It's NOT God, He would NEVER do that.

And yet why is it that to just about anyone else in our lives, we make lists, and lists of conditions on our love.  As if somehow conditions will "keep and sustain" love and and abundant life with those we love.
God gave us free will for reasons beyond the obvious, and really, I don't know if we will ever fully grasp how deep that rabbit hole goes and why God did this.
This I do know. Letting go, giving all and expecting nothing in return is a great start to unconditional love. But even at that, it doesn't mean you will get anything in return but more pain,  betrayal and  heartbreaking surprise endings.
 And to think that if I do all of these "things", it somehow gives me the self righteous entitlement to be angry or bitter or resentful only lessens my life, not theirs. (big time).
Like children.  They love parents unconditionally. There are humans who have children who abuse them and those children come back over and over with "I love you" "why do you do this"... It's SO God speaking.

Joyce Meyers comes to mind here. What an amazing story. I love it. I'm partially sorry she's become this wealthy in all of it because regardless of how good we are, wealth does corrupt and breed entitlement, and her story is ashes to beauty when it very easily could have been ashes to ashes.
There are those that are told they are worthless by parents who felt worthless.
There are those that are told they must be perfect by parents who felt imperfect and believed somehow that would solve their imperfections.
I'm not sure which was more damaging. They both create unfulfilled conditional and broken love in different ways.
Then there are those that were just left alone for the most part. (I think that's more of humanity than we imagine). Funny how when parents don't know what to do they just go silent or do damage.

Yup, we've all experienced that from parents and as parents. 
How many times have you heard "I did the best I could with what I had". 
How many times have you heard back "wasn't good enough".
So, where am i after all of this today?

Well as the new year starts I desire to purpose to not take back any of my forgiveness, to pray that those who've wronged me will call and make it right. For those I've wronged, may I receive the humility to ask for forgiveness and hope they can give it, that those I hurt this next year (and I will) will accept my apologies.  I guess above all that we will be able to strive towards Jesus model of  love which can only come when we kill our own self righteous entitlement feelings rooted so deeply in our traditions and upbringings and trade in our road signs and trust God unconditionally.
I think we are entering some difficult years ahead in our country and all that was simple and prosperous will be more difficult and with less, and in your victories there is gonna be a hell of a lot more of pain and suffering.   Heck Jesus could have said those very words to the disciples before he left (and in many ways he did) ....  Those words are not negative if you put Christ under it all as a foundation for  mutual renovation, reconciliation and  restoration.  Thankfully He finished that with (big smile here now as I type) AND I WILL BE WITH YOU, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE...

Be ready for the unexpected, unexplored and unexplained with a heart full of grace, soul full of mercy and the knowledge that His love is big enough to cover all of our brokenness.

I hope we are lucky and blessed enough to meet here next New Years.  To be able to speak of the glory of all He's walked us through, all we've forgiven and been forgiven of,  and how our entitlement has been replaced with  His unconditional.
Shalom, Salam,Peace,Word!