The R&R of Christianity 

I have often heard people talk about Christianity being more of a relationship than a religion, but I’m afraid this description misses the mark. You see, I seldom see people as committed in their relationships as this description would require. What if you believe God has wronged you in some way? What if you get to a place where you feel that you’ve grown apart? How should God treat your repeated relational indiscretions? 

It seems then that if we really consider the way many people easily discard relationships, we might want to rethink this kind of understanding. That is not to say that there is no relational quality to our faith, but rather that we cannot sum it up as a relationship, and we certainly shouldn’t make it part of a false dichotomy with religion.

Religion is the essence of devotion. Our religious activities are to be an outpouring our our absolute devotion to God. Religion and relationship are necessary parts in the daily walk with God. And in speaking of religion in this way we can get a better glimpse at Christianity in a global sense. There are many traditions throughout Christendom that seem quite strikingly different than what any one of us may be used to, but they are simply unique ways to express the relational devotion we have to God. 

There is another thing that tends to happen when someone views Christianity as a relationship rather than a religion. The terms of the relationship begin to get a bit blurry. God and King, Master and Lord, get discarded for the much easier to handle Friend. When God becomes solely our friend, we lose the fear of the LORD, and our relationship with Him becomes unbiblical. Again, this is where religious devotion comes in. We are His servants, His children even. We must remember that God has been and will always be great, higher and holier than we are. 

Finally, let us remember how Paul described how we are to be even in our relationship to one another. 

Phil. 2:5 ¶ In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Phil. 2:6 ¶ Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

Phil. 2:7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.Phil. 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Paul’s description tells us two main things of great importance to how we are to view relationships. The first is that we are to see ourselves as the servants of others, and this even to our own peril. Second, and of great importance to the point, as Christ Jesus, we are not to consider ourselves as equals with God. He is not merely our friend, but our great heavenly King, and we owe Him all of our devotion and allegiance.

The Gospel Cry- YOU Matter

    Just as each rose matters to the gardener, so to each person matters to God.Just as each rose matters to the gardener, so too each person matters to God.

The message of the Gospel is that YOU matter, your life matters. Regardless of your race, sex, political affiliation, or occupation, you matter, and you should be treated as such. This is not a weak nod to all lives matter, but rather an attempt and challenge to look every single person you and I meet square in the face, look deep in their lives, and live out the message of the cross that echoes through time, “you matter to God”, and if you matter to God, then you matter to me. Until we live out the Gospel in every quarter of our lives, seeking to love as Christ has told us to, we cannot yield.

Jesus taught no less than four commands on love.  Jesus taught that we are to love God with our entire being. This is absolutely important when we consider how we are to love. We love others because God has given value to them by making them in His holy Image. By loving others, and respecting the innate value given to them by God creating them in His Image, we honor God and show our love for Him. There are many other ways to show our love and devotion to God, but this is surely one of them. It is in this that we see the holiness of the command to love our neighbors, and Jesus expands our understanding of what neighbor is as well to include far more than just those with whom we are acquainted.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus also taught that we are to love one another, that is that we who are members of the Body of Christ are meant the love one another, and this is to be in a sacrificial way “Just as [He has] loved [us].” He explained that the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another. I believe this also goes to the point of us reflecting the true love of God to all people. Think of that for a moment. Jesus said “everyone” will know that we are His by the love we show one another, which is to be modeled after the love He has shown us. If we sincerely think about that, if we truly considered the love He has poured out on and for us, I have no doubt that we would be ashamed by the “love” we have shown to one another.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus even taught that we are to love our enemies. In teaching this along with His other teachings Jesus gives us zero wiggle room when it comes to treating others with respect and dignity. In fact, this command comes with the greatest challenge of all. We are to be “perfect” or “complete”, as our heavenly Father is perfect. The idea here is that God does not have a bias when it comes to doing what is holy. He does not withhold sun or rain because someone is at odds with Him. He does not withhold Himself, even when the ones who need Him most would only seek to insult, beat, disrespect, and crucify Him. God is perfect in His love for all of creation, you and I included.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

It is by this that I see the overwhelming message from the cross as being one that says in the loudest way possible, “YOU MATTER, You and Your life mean the world to me, and I will give up my life for you.” And if we are to be a people transformed, informed, and inspired by the Gospel, then we MUST live by the message of Christ ultimately lived out in His death on the cross, You matter. You matter, You, the one reading this. Now I issue you two challenges. First, live like you matter in the eyes of God and to His Kingdom. Second, and related to the first, live like everyone you meet matters, live like they are of the utmost importance to God, because they are, just as you and I are. Let this be the call from God’s people-“God sees you. I see you, and you absolutely, without question, matter.”

American Exceptionalism and The Kingdom of God

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I have traveled from coast to coast in this great country, and I have seen its people do many great things. I have seen bravery and courage, love and compassion, ingenuity and brilliance. Many would say that we are the greatest nation in the world, and some might even say that we are the greatest nation in history. These claims of American superiority have given many Americans much pride over the years. “We are an exceptional nation of people,” it is said. It is certain that many in the world long to be here, to enjoy for themselves the greatness and opportunity that is said can be had by her citizens.

Still, I have to pause as we get ready to celebrate the 240th anniversary of our declaration of independence as a country. I can’t help feeling that in saying America is the greatest I am somehow forgetting, or perhaps neglecting, the reality that no country no matter how great can ever rival the glory and greatness of the Kingdom of God. I am reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” While many would seek to twist this verse into something Paul clearly never meant for it to be, this is Paul calling for unity in Christ, a unity that flies in the face of the world’s thirst for power by class and division. It challenges the notion of Jews being better than Gentile, Freemen being better than Slaves, and Men being better than Women. It gives everyone equal significance in the Kingdom, in Christ.

Now let us consider how this principle matches up with the notion of American Exceptionalism. If I see myself better in some way than a Christian from China, or Austria, or Uganda, or Chile, or New Zealand, or anywhere on Earth simply because I’m American, what does that do to our fellowship, our brotherhood of believers? This sets me up against them. They may find my arrogance offensive, naive, brutish, haughty, or simply off-putting. And why shouldn’t they. By acting as though America is the greatest, I am also acting as though their country is lacking is some way. This comes across when we interact with those from other countries. I have seen it myself as I am conversing someone from another country. They seem to expect Americans to think of their country as small, insignificant, and primitive. “No, we have that too” is often the answer given to questions asked about their country. Or else one might hear, “not all of our country is like that.” It is as though they are defending the greatness of their homeland.

It isn’t only in development either. Many Christians in America seem to think we have this “Christian thing” all figured out, and other countries just need to follow our lead. But the fact is that there are numerous areas where we can learn from our Brothers and Sisters from other countries. I have enjoyed talking to some of my friends from Kenya and Uganda about hospitality and greater openness in our lives together. I have been encouraged by my friend in India, and his great faith and deep spiritual walk. I have learned about community from my Japanese friend. The truth is that when we see our nation as the greatest we tend to see our way as the right one, above and beyond all others, and we tend to discount what we might learn from them.

So, as my American friends celebrate this fourth of July, be joyful for what you have, but don’t let it become a source of pride for you, for our true source of pride, that in which we boast ought to be Christ Jesus and Him Crucified and Resurrected. Ultimately the independence that means the most is the freedom we have in Christ, which was fought and paid for on the Cross. It is in this that Christ signed the declaration of a new nation, not of geographical, or ethnic distinction, but one marked by the blood of the Lamb given on the Cross. It is in Him that we have unity, and His nation reaches across all borders. As for me, if one were to inquire of me what nation is the greatest of all time, I would not hesitate to say it is the Kingdom of God. It is my hope that we can someday see that the earthly nation  of which we are a citizen is not what makes a man great, but rather a humble nature before both God and men.

The Next Greatest Generation

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Hello,
I want to tell you about my generation. I was born in ’82, which puts me at the front edge of the generation known as the Millennials. We are known for a great number of things, from ingenuity to a very different view of the world. The truth is, we really aren’t so different from other generations that have come before us with big dreams, and a drive to accomplish them. Our parents and grandparents dared us to dream of a world that we would want to live in, a world where hate diminished, and people flourished. This is not some crazy utopia, but a world that can exist. Then we were told, “If you don’t like the world the way it is, then be the change you want to see.”  So, here we are. We aren’t quite as put together as we might like, but we are moving forward with the dream inspired by those who have gone before us. Let me tell you a bit more about this generation of dreamers.

We are a generation that is as needed as we are in need. We have been inspired by the last “Greatest Generation” to believe that we can pull through anything, and called to dream of the heights of what might be possible. We have been told that we could be and do anything, and we have taken that very seriously. Some look at our generation and see only slouches, others see a generation that is reaching for the stars. As much as we have been inspired by those who have come before us, we have also been hurt by them. We have been left with the scars of the “sexual revolution”. We have grown up in single parent homes, and have been introduced to many scandalous things by preceding generations.

Our young men have struggled to know what it is to be a man, leaving us reeling for a sense of proper masculine definition. Many of us had no father in the household to teach us, and for many who did, the drive for success tore them away. As a result, many of our young men have found themselves stuck in the juvenile state of mind. This has put our young women at risk in many ways. Our young women have had a cacophony of  voices shouting at them from various directions. Some say that they must be independent strong women. Others shout that they must stay at home as older generations have. Still others call them in the direction of material things, or sex, or looks. Our young women, as is also true with our young men, are seen more and more as objects, than people. We have become numbers to those selling goods and services. We are told what to be, whether a successful professional or a entitled consumer. We are seldom asked who we are, at least not in earnest. I am convinced that this is because those who came before us found themselves being called to be a something. In fact, I remember as a kid being asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

This idea of being something, not someone, does not work well with many Millennials.  If you ask us what what are, we are likely to answer with some form of “I am a who, not a what”, or “I am a person”. We have seen the damage done by thinking in terms of people as object, a means to an end, and we reject that notion. We have seen greed and selfish desire do terrible things to ourselves and others. We have watched as people have glutted themselves on the many excesses that a first world country can provide, and we are trying to tear away from it.

I won’t say that we are without direction, because that is false.  Instead, I will say that we are trying to figure out how to get to where we believe we ought to be. That is a place without personal excess, a place of mutual respect, and a place of caring for one another. We don’t hate the preceding generations, in fact we are grateful for the passion and direction that we have been given by them, through the good and bad. I can’t tell you where we will end up, but I can tell you this much: we are moving forward to a future that we see to be brighter than the past we know. We are already starting to become leaders in many ways, but we need the encouragement and trust of those who have come before. So I ask you to trust in us, dream with us, help us to make the world better tomorrow than it is today.

 

 

Who is King of Christmas? Jesus or Santa

The King of ChristmasIn the ministry of John the Baptist there is this amazing scene where John steps aside and announces that he must decrease, and that Jesus the Messiah must now increase. This scene has proven to be a great reminder to Christians throughout the history of the Church that Jesus is the Centerpiece of our lives and faith, and that anything or anyone that begins to detract from this singular focus on God is clearly in the wrong. We find this lesson again with Jesus’ teaching that we can only serve one master. Yet, despite these moments and others, we find many things that take “centerstage” and try to “upstage” Jesus. Note that I said “try to”. Now to the point.

Lately I have read much about “defending Christmas” and the like. However, it always seems that the point is missed. While Jesus is lauded as the Expected Prince of Peace by a few, Santa is heralded as “Father Christmas”! Let me make one quick point before I go any further. I don’t hate Santa, I don’t hate make believe, and I’m not really a grinch/Scrooge. The thing that I find odd is that St. Nicholas would never have put himself in the spotlight to the degree of his fictitious self. Jesus was his focus and center, yet now, through much misguided tradition, Santa is the star of the show.

This is without a doubt the biggest reason I have to say goodbye to Santa. His memory is marred by the ridiculous, and his faith in  Christ is not to be seen or heard. The reality is that the continued heralding of Kris Kringle by Christians will prevent the “reason for the Season”, the birth of our Lord and Savior, from shining through. People will only ever hear about Santa and his reindeer if we don’t put Christ first. You may not believe me, but I ask you this: Who dominates your yard and house in this time of year? Is it Santa or Jesus? Perhaps some will be able to keep Santa in his place and spread the tidings of the celebration of Christ the new born King, but evidence tells me that just as John had to decrease so must Santa. If we want to keep Christ in Christmas, then we must lift up His name, not that of a fictitious man in a red sleigh that uses magic to sneak into people’s houses. Let us let people know of the One who really does know when you are sleeping, and when you are awake, the One that not only watches us, but beckons us to see what a full and joyous life really is supposed to look like.

Not my Soulmate, Not my Better Half

Not my Soulmate, Not my Better Half

 

Let me start out by saying that I love my wife very much, and I know life without her would mean a dramatic change for the worse. That being said, she is not my soulmate or my better half. I do not look to her for completion. The truth is that I was complete before I ever met her. I found my completion in Christ, the One who created me and gave me purpose. My wife is many things to and for me, but I cannot expect her to complete me. It is not fair to either of us. If fact, she would have me point out that we, as people, look for completion in far too many things that cannot bring it. We look to our jobs, our things, our children. We look everywhere but to Christ. I truly believe that makes these things and people into idols, a thing we have become all to comfortable with. I could, and may someday, write a whole book about how okay we have become with idols, whether American or otherwise. But for the time being let me get back to marriage relationships.

Many couples get into relationships thinking that the person they are getting together with will be something for them that God never intended for two people to be for each other. Almost 11 years of marriage have taught me that my wife is meant to be one thing, and only one thing to me: my wife. It is true that she does many things to make our relationship work, but she is not those things. Should she quit doing those things, or be rendered incapable of them, she is still my wife. Whatever comes, I am to love her as Christ loves the Church. Just as the Church does not complete Christ, though it is referred to as His body, so too, my wife does not complete me, though Scripture says “the two shall become one”.

In many ways my wife and I are indeed in sync. We even act in unison often, and consult each on major decisions. But even though we live as one, we are separate complete human beings, completed in Christ. In our marriage we are a team of three: Christ, myself, and my wife. We have learned that it is unhealthy to labor under the illusion that each of us will be something other than we are meant to be. Scripture refers to Eve as Adams “help mate”. God made two distinctly separate people from one, and those two people worked together to build humanity. There is certainly a measure of unity in a marriage, but the very idea of unity entails more than one thing working in harmony as if they were only one thing. We are indeed wed in unity, but that in no way means that I should expect her to complete me, nor should I be surprised if we don’t fit together like a hand and glove.

The notion of soulmates is first of all not Christian, but it is also unhealthy and unhelpful. Too many people find themselves disillusioned by marriage when they discover that the person they married isn’t a perfect match for them. When differences that don’t seem to compliment each other arise, it can be difficult and disastrous if a person believes that a true match is a soulmate. My wife is not my soulmate, nor do we always mesh. The difference for us is that we work through differences. Neither of us is perfect, and neither expects to be right all the time. We are focused on our marriage, our promise to God and to each other. Looking for a soulmate means that you are first and foremost looking at yourself and judging each potential mate against your own quirks and flaws. Where we have gaps, and rough edges we rely on the Lord to fill in with grace. We can never find a perfect match, but I wouldn’t give mine up for the world.

There is much to learn, and to think about in regards to marriage, unrealistic standards should not be one of them. We should also be quite careful when we begin to edge people and things over to spaces that are to be reserved for God alone. Perhaps we can begin to love our spouse solely because Christ loves us, and has blessed the union of matrimony. One final note for those who may be curious, yes my wife has read and at least generally agrees with me on this matter.

God bless you all, and May He guide and bless all of your relationships with health and happiness.

Fighting Fire with Fire?

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Time and again I find myself confused by the strategy of many to relieve injustice and oppression. Let me say at this point that I am for Justice and a robust understanding of the sanctity and dignity of humanity. But let me also say that one must ground these beliefs in something. I ground my beliefs in the Christian Faith, and in the Word and Character of God. The are numerous verses in the Old Testament that show God’s contempt on the mistreatment of His creation. The following are just a handful of the verses that speak on the issues of oppression and injustice.

Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
Zechariah 7:10
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
    and do not crush the needy in court,
23 for the Lord will take up their case
    and will exact life for life.

Proverbs 22:22-23
If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever.

Jeremiah 7:5-7
Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
    whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 17:5
May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor.

Psalms 72:4
Again, I ground my desire to see justice and respect of peoples in the Word and Character of God. My confusion comes in when people use unjust means to try to serve justice and/or try to fight disrespect with disrespect. The idea is to fight back, but in fighting back prejudices are strengthened and walls are built up that prevent any real justice or accord. Some examples that I have seen or heard about include things like the struggle with racism. In order to fight racism White people are demonized as a group. Beyond the logical fallacy in this kind of reasoning is the fact that this does nothing to advance the championing of those who are being oppressed. This same kind of thing has occurred in sexism, as well as other modern issues. The fact is that we will never be able to find peace through war. War will always beget war until the end of time, and peace will always be the only way to peace. War can only produce two outcomes: repeated cycles of war with periods of armistice or annihilation of one’s “enemy”.
Let us take Jesus’ Incarnation and Crucifixion for example. God loved His creation so much that He sent His Son to end the war between Mankind and God. For this to be a possibility Jesus gave up His life peaceably, not in a “blaze of glory”. Let us look at it in a more common way. If my wife and I get into an argument, one of us must apologize, and hope that the other one will accept, and possibly even apologize as well. If we both refuse to cease hostility then we will either have a very hostile marriage or we will get divorced. And this bring me to one of my core beliefs. The actions of another do not determine my actions. My actions should remain grounded in and inspired by God as always. If I follow this path, then I will find myself more inclined to “lay down my life” (figuratively and literally, if need be) to cease hostilities between myself and others.
Please note that I am not saying that I lose or give up my convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ, but I am saying that I see no need for hostility toward flesh and blood, but rather I should focus my hostile energy on spiritual enemies. Let us not forget that all of Mankind is made in the Image and likeness of God, and as He hinted to Jonah, He cares about all of them.

Until next time, May God lead us in His divine will as we seek to serve Him rightly.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

The Ugly Earth-King

Throughout Jewish history there were prophecies made about a coming Messiah. The Jews in the First Century new these prophecies well, for they foretold of a king that would come into the world and make all things well. The Jews of the First Century would have dreamed of such a king to come and throw out the Romans, and to set every thing back to right. They pictured a king much like David, a warrior king. They looked to the days of old, and yearned. They wanted someone to take away the oppression they were under.

What they didn’t expect was a king born in a barn, and swaddled in a feeding trough. They didn’t expect a king who was raised as a carpenter’s son. Nor did they expect a peace-loving, Sabbath breaking, nomadic Rabbi to be the Messiah. Much like The Ugly Duckling, Jesus didn’t fit the mold they were trying to cast Him in. He was unexpected. He was The Ugly Earth-King.

(Please understand I mean no disrespect to Christ by this name, but instead I mean to point out as vividly as possible the difference that the First Century Jews, as well as, many Christ-followers today had/have in their conception of Christ versus who He has said He is.)

John wrote in His account of the Gospel that Jesus gave Signs of who He really was, but they were mostly ignored, or misunderstood. This is much like The Ugly Duckling. All the signs were there to let anyone who knew what they were looking for know that he was actually a swan. Here again we see what Jesus meant as He said that He is not from this world. He testified over and over again that He was from above, but just as only those who know what a baby swan looks like could have known that The Ugly Duckling was actually a swan, so too it was only The Good Shepard’s “sheep” that knew Him.

Just as the animals in The Ugly Duckling were looking for and at the wrong signs, so too the  Jews in the First Century were looking for and at the wrong “Signs”. And just as the animals mistreated The Ugly Duckling, so too the Jewish people mistreated The Ugly Earth-King.  Both groups missed out on something that was far more beautiful than they had ever imagined, but both groups were very right about something, Neither Jesus nor the Swan were beautiful in the mold and against the criteria of which they were placed.

I recently watched the movie “God’s Not Dead”, and one scene haunts me from that movie. The scene is when the atheist professor talks about his story as a 12 year old boy praying for his mother to live. He explains that no matter how hard he prayed his mother stilled died. It is to this event that he points to show that God is not real. This part haunts me because people make this mistake over and over, and have done so since before Jesus’ time, and did so when Jesus came.

We build a framework for God to fit into, instead of trying to get to know God and fitting our framework in Him. We try to create God in our image, instead of being transformed into His. We want God to work a certain way, at a certain time, and when He doesn’t we blame Him for the mess. God, much like the swan, is far better than we could imagine, but for some reason we want Him to be as we imagine Him.

So…What’s the point of this story? The point is to encourage to look pass the hollow “Hosanna’s” on Sunday, and make them real. My point is to call to the body of Christ and encourage us all to look deeper, look farther, look closer, Just  LOOK! We are coming into a season in which we celebrate the victory of The Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death. We can take this time to see The Ugly Earth-King as He is, The Messiah and Savior of the world, or we can pronounce a hollow “Hosanna”, and find ourselves not really knowing what we’ve missed. So again I say, get to know your King, not for what or who you want Him to be, but for the Magnificently Glorious King He really is.

The Enablers Gospel

I have observed an alarming trend in many people’s thinking of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as of late. The trend is to lean hard on the message of love and downplay any idea of judgement of wrongs to the point of non-existence. Let me start by saying that Love and Justice are not seen as being in any sort of competition in the Bible. They are out pourings of God’s righteousness. They are two sides of the same coin. They are complementary. That is to say, you cannot have Justice without Love, nor can you have Love without Justice. Now that we have seen the relationship between these two attributes of God, let us move to the alarming nature of the way some have begun to look at the Gospel. The idea, as I have heard it, is some variation of the sentiment, “God has called us to love, and not to judge.” Let us unpack this for a moment. The first assertion is that we are called to love. Yes, this is absolutely true. Jesus tells us to love God, our neighbors, and even our enemies. He also gives us a command love one another, as He has loved us. With all of these commands of love it is not surprising that the Gospel has begun to be seen namely as a message of love. In fact, John 3:16 tells us that it was because of His love, and a means of showing His love that He sent His Son. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that we have morphed love into something that it is not. Love carries the notion of justice. Love without justice is more akin to infatuation. If we love, then we encourage, celebrate, cheer-or, and congratulate, but we also challenge, teach, reprove, correct, and show the right way. This is why Paul says of Scripture: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 We can also notice this in one of the most loving pictures in Scripture, Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.  He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.  Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.                                                                                                                               You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

This is a Psalm of rejoicing in God’s provision and love, but notice that there is an element of that love that in corrective. The Gospel is a great story of God’s love for His creation, but it comes with His correction. His correction is not meant to be oppressive, instead it is freeing. He leads us on right paths for His name sake. He is our creator and knows what is best for us. It is not until we begin to define love in different terms that we come up with a meaning of love that cheers a person on regardless of their actions. Our sensibilities tell us that we can’t correct or reprove someone because that would cause them pain. This is far from the approach God takes with us. Consider Hebrews 12:3-11

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.

Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. God corrects those He calls to Him; to say that He does not is to contradict Scripture. Further, Jesus told His followers to love one another as He loved them. This includes that correction He regularly gave them. The Gospel proclaims the Lordship of Christ, and calls us to submit to His will and not our own. In other words, we are to set aside our own worldly sensibilities, and learn to operate and think with the sensibilities of God. Part of this means that Love is not merely cheering someone on, but correcting them. I will make one clarification, God has called us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ the King. This means the Love of God will take the front seat. In other words, the Gospel is the proclamation that the King has ascended His throne, The Kingdom of God is advancing, and that the King has called for His enemies (that’s us) to join Him. (Of course, this is a very simplified understanding of the Gospel.) The point is that the Love of God must first change a person’s heart and add him/her into His people before that person can truly be expected the respond to rebuke. In other words, we are not called to go into the world calling everyone sinners and condemning their sin. As with Jesus’ example, we must first tend to the spiritual and physical needs, before we can expect that we can begin to correct them as a brother or sister. With all of this in mind, perhaps we can begin to set aside the notion that correcting is unloving judgement. Our lives are to be wholly surrendered to Christ, and we should rejoice when our brother or sister shows us our error.

Until next time, May God lead us in His divine will as we seek to serve Him rightly.

In Christ,

Perry Tripp

Is it okay to be mad at God?

This is a question that so many of us seem to struggle with. The answer seems to be no from the sense of pressure around us. But what does the Bible teach. Let me start here with a reflection of the book of Job.

Job is likely the oddest book in the Bible. This is because Job seems to rail against God in much of the book, charging God with a massive amount of unfairness. Job’s boldness is rather astounding, but the real shocker is that his friends who repeat loads of traditional wisdom to him are considered to be wrong. The question that comes to mind, “why is this?”

I believe Job is seen as justified in his reaction to God because it was real. When I say real, I mean that Job let God know how he felt with all he was. Job didn’t hold back. Job was mad and he let God know it. I am convinced that this is the model that we are to follow with God. I became more convinced of this during my study of the book of Psalms last year.

No matter who the Psalmist was, he was real with God. Sometimes the joy was uncontainable, other times the anguish was unbearable. Whatever the case, it was raw emotion expressed to God. As I studied the book of Psalms, and reflected back to the book of Job, I began to think, “why aren’t we this raw and real with God?” Perhaps the answer is that we are scared to be. Maybe we feel weird having this kind of relationship with an invisible guy. It could be any of these, but I tend to believe that it comes down to an over sensitivity to acting right. No doubt that the Bible teaches how we are to act, but the fact is that God calls us into a relationship with Him. God said in Isaiah 1:18,

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.

These are the words of a God that cares and desires a relationship with us. Jesus calls the Disciples friends in John 15:15,

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Jesus shared with them everything He learned from the Father. These are just a few examples of the type of relationship that God wants with us. So back to the question. Is it okay to be mad at God? Let me state this clearly–YES!!! We can let God know exactly how we feel about Him. We can be free to question if He is listening or even cares at all. We can unload on God. We are not going to hurt His feelings. But perhaps a couple cautions. God is not a big fan of mere belly aching, check Numbers 21:4-9. Also, relationships require reconciliation to remain relationships. Don’t stay mad. Learn to work things out with God.

God is listening. He does care. If we are a people that praise Him and rail against Him with the same vigor, then I believe we will see that God doesn’t want emotionless automatons. Believe me, God can take it. In fact, I am certain He wants to take it. Our relationship with God is not a whole lot different from our relationships with others. If we refuse to “clear the air”, then the relationship cannot move on. We need to let God know that we are mad at Him. Of course, there is an oddity in the whole thing. God knows that you are angry. You know you are angry. You know God knows you are angry, but you still don’t let it out. I have been there. I have been convinced that God was going to work in a certain way, but He didn’t. I was hurt, angry, and felt betrayed. I honestly resented God for a while. “How could He let me down?!” The fact is that I don’t own God. I don’t get to tell Him what to do. I don’t contract Him to do things for me in return for “being good”. I set up an unrealistic expectation, and God never agreed to my terms”. This left me angry. I eventually figured out that I was being foolish to expect to be able to setup expectations like hoops for God to jump through. Now make no mistake, God answers prayer, but even Jesus closed His prayer, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Perhaps we could save a lot of heart ache if we began to petition God with this in mind.

We are made to be in full relationship with God. Some time that gets messy. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we just need to let God know just how we feel, whether good or ill. We are relational creatures created in the image of a relational God. Let us learn to be relational. Let us be real with God. And maybe, just maybe, we can learn what it means to love and be loved by the Creator of all things.