• Posted on March 27, 2011

about being judas

Jesus specifically chose Judas to be one of his twelve closest disciples, knowing he would eventually betray him. I know Judas was fulfilling God’s plan and it was crucial to our salvation that he betray Jesus, but I can never seem to distance myself from the things Judas did.

The Gospel of John gives the most attention to Judas at the Last Supper. While Jesus was washing the disciples feet, he makes a little comment about one of them being unclean. They sit down to dinner, and Jesus makes several statements that one of them is going to betray him and all the disciples start panicking in their minds and asking him aloud, “Who is it?” So Jesus says, “It’s the person I’m about to give some bread to,” and he dips the bread into the bowl and hands it to Judas.

Firstly, I just want to say I’ve always thought this whole scene was one of the most awkward in Scripture. What would the rest of the disciples say after that exchange? “I’ll have another glass of wine, please”? “No thanks, I don’t need any more bread”? How uncomfortable.

The Gospel of Luke implies a subsequent conversation about which of the disciples was the greatest. At first glance, I thought it was a weird time and place for that conversation. But the more I meditated on it, the more it made sense. Perhaps the disciples saw Judas’ acknowledgement of betrayal and grew proud and self-righteous. Maybe Peter patted himself on the back and said, “I would never have done that to Jesus. I’m the greatest disciple he has.” Maybe John said, “Well, look at all the miracles I was able to perform.” Or Andrew said, “Wasn’t I the first chosen?” Maybe this was the reason Jesus said, “Don’t kid yourself Peter, you’ll be the first to deny me tonight, and you’ll do it over and over again.”

So there I am, all over that. I see someone else stumble, fail, or falter, and my first reaction? Pat myself on the back and say, “Good thing I have a daily quiet time with God.” Or “Thank God he already called me to walk in the light so I’m not wandering out there in the darkness like those people.” And Jesus looks right at me and says, “Don’t kid yourself Rebecca, you’ll deny me today and tomorrow and over and over.”

Crap.

Secondly, after Jesus hands Judas the bread and Judas eats it, the Bible says it’s at that point Satan entered into Judas. So Jesus tells Judas, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” What if, every time we’re about to disobey Christ, he came right to us and said, “I know what you’re about to do. Just hurry up and get it over with”?

Crap, again. Would I still sin? Would my conviction be greater? If a brother or sister in Christ brings something to my attention, some way I’ve been disobedient to Christ, it cuts me deeply with conviction. How much more incredible would that pain be if Jesus himself was standing before me, staring into my eyes, and telling me he knew what I was about to do, he didn’t like it, and just to hurry up and do it? I go back and forth on it, thinking if he was there, right there, there’s no way I could outright disobey him, and then realizing I do that very thing every single day. I’m like the worst parts of Judas and the other disciples rolled into one.

The irony of all of this, of course, is if it weren’t for Judas’ betrayal, I wouldn’t be cleansed of these redundant sins. I wouldn’t be righteous enough to enter God’s presence. The Biblical character I see so much of myself in is the same Biblical character whose terrible actions have opened the door for salvation for every one of us. Praise God that he will always use us to bring about his glory, whether it’s a result of our obedience or our disobedience. And praise God that he loved us enough to orchestrate all of this so we get to spend forever with him in heaven.

  • Posted on March 17, 2011

about God’s inhale

I was reading in Job this morning, and you probably know how the story goes. Job was righteous and God allowed Satan to persecute Job to test the motives of his faith. So Job was alone, sick and miserable and mourning, and wanted to know why God had allowed this to happen to him. He had several well-meaning but horribly misguided friends who came to him and offered religious “advice.” Job’s final friend, Elihu, attacked Job for his arrogance. He said, “If God were to take back his spirit and withdraw his breath, all life would cease, and humanity would turn again to dust” (Job 34:14-15).

Okay, maybe I’ve watched too many Hollywood movies, but I got an incredible image in my mind of a crowded street. In an instant, everyone’s breath was suddenly released and they crumbled into piles of dust and ash on the ground before being blown away by the wind in the aftermath of God’s inhale. (I think there was a similar scene in the movie Surrogates, so maybe that’s where I’m getting the mental image, but) it was such a powerful thought it took my breath away.

What a powerful God we serve, one who not only spoke the world into existence but sustains it with his breath. One who, at any moment, could withdraw his breath from us and bring everything to an end but because of his great mercy, allows us to continue serving him on earth, bringing others to him. We’re so worried sometimes about the little things that seem big or the big things that seem enormous, we forget the smallest thing of all–our breath is not our own. Every inhale and exhale is a gift God has given us to use for his glory.

Thank you, Lord, for sustaining us with your breath, for guiding us with your light, and for your unfailing mercy. Forgive me for times I lack humility and make myself the center this world instead of you.

  • Posted on March 16, 2011

about this blog

I had a different blog almost finished, but in lieu of recent issues, I’ve thrown it out for a little meta-blogging.

I thought, all this time, I had been very (very!) forthcoming in my representation of myself–that I am not an authority by any means, that I am not perfect, that I am a sinner, that I struggle with obedience and understanding and discernment but will not, as long as I live, cease pursuing these things. I asked a friend this morning why people seem to think I’m calling myself an authority and the response was perhaps it’s because I speak/write with such conviction. Here’s the thing on that: God calls us to be bold. He calls us to be Jesus fanatics. God’s perspective and obedience to Jesus must always be our number one priority in our lives, or we have to ask ourselves if we really believe what we claim to believe. Otherwise, what’s the point? What other master is worth serving?

This blog’s purpose is to share the insights I receive through my quiet times in prayer and Scripture, and reinforced through daily life. I don’t ask that everyone who reads them agrees with them. But I post them in the hopes that others will either find encouragement from what I write or learn from my mistakes. And judging by the majority of the feedback via Facebook, blog comments, emails, and text messages, that hope is fulfilled.

If you want to disagree, feel free. It’s happened often in the past several years of walking with Christ that I’ve learned a lesson and run with it without being certain it’s what God actually intended. I fully expect that to continue happening, again, as long as I’m on this earth. And if it’s something I’ve blogged about, I can guarantee I’ll address my mistakes in a subsequent blog. I don’t like being wrong, but I don’t like seeing the Gospel misrepresented, either. The only thing I ask in terms of disagreeing is that the other side is backed solidly by Scripture. And if we disagree, then we disagree, but I will keep doing what I’ve been doing simply because God called me to do it. I see fruit in that and God continues to encourage me in the same direction.

If you’re interested in the progress of my book, feel free to sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar. I send it out every other Monday to let my supporters know what’s going on with the book as well as prayer requests and praise for how God’s moving in our lives.

That’s it, I’m done.

  • Posted on March 10, 2011

about apologies

This is a story about blame.

When I was a student at Texas Tech, I had an inappropriate relationship with my professor. We’ll call him Jeff. It never got physical, no more than a handshake here and there. But we carried on an emotional relationship via email, Facebook, instant messaging, etc. that went on for many months. It was inappropriate on many levels: the level of conversation would only be appropriate with one’s spouse; he was my professor and, although he was clearly impartial when it came to grades, my guess is that sort of thing is forbidden; he was involved in a serious relationship with a live-in girlfriend; I was involved in a not-serious relationship with another guy at the time. I knew all these things, but I wasn’t walking with Jesus, I was attracted to Jeff in many ways, and I made the same bad decisions probably every other early twenty-something makes.

Zach Braff’s The Last Kiss came out about that time, a jarring movie about cheating. I hated it, maybe just because I related too much to the feeling of being the other woman. I was overwhelmed with guilt, and when the new semester rolled around and Jeff wanted to get together, I refused. I became interested in a coworker and the conversations with Jeff dwindled down to occasional ugly, passive-aggressive emails to one another. Over, but I felt guilty for years afterward like I had some horrible secret I couldn’t tell anyone but my closest friends. I found out later Jeff’s live-in girlfriend was also a professor in the same department with an office a few doors down from his, where I’d gone to visit him. The guilt compiled along with disgust for him. And the human part of me reasoned I didn’t really do anything wrong, so that was it. Done and forgotten.

Early last year, through a serious of bizarre coincidences, I found out that while Jeff was talking to me, he was wrapping up a nearly identical, although slightly more scandalous, relationship with another former student. I won’t share all the details because they’re moot and I don’t want to get all Gossip Girl here. (I really don’t know what that means, but someone referenced the show the other night and I thought if I referenced it, I’d look hip.) But needless to say, my mind hit paranoia-level and I began wondering how many other students he’d had similar relationships with. I was completely and totally disgusted in him. And then, as abruptly as the coincidences had shown up, I quickly let them go. I didn’t want to have anything to do with Jeff, even in my memory.

Fast forward about six months. In my quiet time one morning, God suddenly brought Jeff to mind and gently—but forcefully—reminded me, “You haven’t dealt with this.” So my first response was, “You’re right, I need to be praying for him. And I need to let the Dean know what kind of professor they have there.” I knew God was reminding me in that time for several reasons—one of which being that as non-physical as the relationship was, it still carried a certain level of scandal that could discredit me intellectually as well as spiritually. I prayed about it at length, talked with my husband, and then sought godly counsel with my former pastor. His first question to me was simple: Was I asking how to apologize?

Wait, okay, apologizing was not something I was planning, nor was it something I felt I had to do. But as my pastor pointed out, I did have an ungodly role in the situation and, for that, I owed Jeff an apology. Crap.

It’s easy to make excuses. There are several of them listed above, if you caught them. But what it all boiled down to was I expected Jeff to take responsibility for his actions all along and I never, throughout it all, wanted to accept the responsibility for mine.

I contacted him to apologize and also contacted the Dean, both to let him know about the professor and as a way of saying, “If this calls my degree into question, so be it.” Jeff wrote back right away and apologized for his part as well. I never heard back from the Dean’s office. But at this point, I did what God asked of me, even though it really sucked.

Now another story. This one’s a little more vague, for personal reasons.

Last year a girl at the church where I worked began sharing with me about a decision she was making that she felt was “the right thing” in God’s eyes. Unfortunately, it was a decision strongly forbidden in Scripture. When I shared Scripture, she felt judged and left the church. That’s the short story version.

Through my conversations with her, God gently pointed out yet another not-fun lesson. I was bold in sharing Scripture with mere acquaintances, but was I bold enough to share with people who meant the world to me, even if it brought a risk of alienation? Several years ago, someone dear to me made the same decision as this other girl. This too was before I was walking with Christ and I strongly encouraged my friend that the decision was “the right thing” in God’s eyes. God’s point to me now was I had to tell my friend the truth with the same boldness I had for this other girl. But every time we were around each other, we had no time for that discussion. When I approached the topic, we were interrupted. I felt God was telling me to wait for the right time, so I stayed silent and didn’t force it.

Many months went by and, perhaps as a result of the Jeff incident, I understood I must apologize to my friend as well. I owed her an apology for supporting her and encouraging her to make an unscriptural decision. I can only assume God wanted me to wait to talk to her before I went charging ahead full of accusations without taking responsibility for what I’d done as well.

So that’s it, those are the stories. I don’t believe I have to try to think of every sin I’ve ever committed in my life and track people down and apologize, but I know if God brings to mind something in my past and convicts me of it, I have to address it. It’s part of being obedient—not just moving forward with Christ, but acknowledging with repentance times when I wasn’t moving forward with him. Times when I encouraged others by my words and behaviors to move backward from him.

I’d like to think I’m done, and I’ve apologized and repented for everything else, but I seriously doubt that’s the case. Sometimes I think God’s just being sadistic or sarcastic and wants to put me in awkward situations because it’s funny. But in truth, I know he’s teaching me, refining me. So next time I’m quick to look at someone and see everything sinful they’re doing, I might just stop and evaluate my own role. And before I go on advising someone how to get out of a bad situation, I may just have to ask for forgiveness for helping them get into it in the first place.

  • Posted on March 03, 2011

about the authority of learning about God

The more I study Scripture, the more horrified I am at all the things I’ve been taught through the years about God that simply aren’t true.

Little details, like with Noah. He didn’t just get on that ark with two of every animal. He got on the ark with seven pairs of every clean animal, one pair of every unclean animal, and seven pairs of every bird. Maybe that’s been simplified over the years for little kids to understand it, but it’s not a story just for little kids.

I was taught Noah tried warning other people about impending judgment and was mocked. That part? Not in the Bible. 2 Peter 2:5 has a brief reference to Noah as a preacher of righteousness, but even that doesn’t specifically say he ever directly warned the others. God clearly chose only Noah’s family to be saved. Otherwise he would have sent Noah to the world as he sent Jonah to Ninevah.

I often hear what an amazing thing it was for the first disciples to drop their nets and follow Jesus instantly upon his calling. And yes, that’s a big deal. But when Jesus told them to follow him and he’d make them fishers of men, they already knew him. They’d already met him. As John 1 tells us, at least Andrew and probably John were disciples of John the Baptist. They would have constantly heard JtB talk about Jesus as the Messiah. When JtB sees Jesus, he points him out as the Messiah. This is when Andrew goes to get Peter and shows him Jesus.

Why does that matter? Because it diminishes the importance of our responsibility as sharers of the Gospel. We know people may have radical conversions and suddenly drop everything to start following Jesus, but these disciples heard about him, met him personally, and then, when he called, they dropped everything to follow him. Isn’t that how most people come to Jesus? That’s why we’re instructed to share about him, lead others to him, and let him call them. We have a responsibility to point out the Messiah to others, not just sit back and keep quiet and pray for a radical conversion. As Romans 10:14 says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (NLT)

It seems several times a week I go to Ronnie and say, “Did you know this-and-this thing isn’t actually Biblically accurate? I was always taught that it was true.” And most of these things are relatively minor, like whether or not Noah actually warned people of the flood and was mocked for it. I’m not saying that’s not important, because a right understanding of the Bible is always important. But it’s likely not as damaging spiritually as some of the things I’ve been taught over the years. I could list tons of them, like the fact that I have to be good enough to get to heaven, I have to have enough good deeds, I have to recommit my life to Christ on a regular basis, I have to weep and respond to every altar call, I have to be completely sinless, I have to be baptized or take communion or do something or nothing or anything or everything to in one way or another earn my spot in heaven. All of that is a blasphemous, offensive lie. It’s not only not Biblical but it’s actually in direct contradiction to the Gospel. And it was all extremely damaging to me as I struggled to understand the Gospel not in terms of what God had to say but in terms of what I’d previously been taught. Sometimes I wish I’d had a clean slate going into the Gospel.

I love the pastor at our church. He’s incredibly knowledgable and a great speaker. I learn when I go to church. In our weekly Gospel Community, I learn as well. But my greatest learning always comes through reading Scripture and prayer. Sometimes I’ll learn something (or think I learn something) about God from another person and in my next quiet time, God will deliberately bring me to Scripture that shows me what I thought I knew wasn’t Biblically sound. It’s happened countless times.

Quiet time should be our ultimate priority through the week, above church or school or small group or discussion or any other form of Biblical teaching. These other things are just hearsay–sometimes they’re 100% correct and sometimes they’re not. If you want to know me, you can ask friends or family and they’ll tell you all sorts of things about me. Some might be true, some might be false, some might be exaggerations. But if you really want to know who I am and what I think about things, you’ll desire to spend time alone with me. If we’re learning more about God from anyone other than God, that’s religion, and that’s dangerous. If we’re learning more about God from God, through Scripture and prayer, that’s a relationship, and that’s where God wants us.