Do you feel the two aspects of yourself? The image of God is in you, even if you don’t sense Him.
During the chaotic days surrounding the last US presidential election, I just couldn’t understand why so many Christians supported a candidate who seems to be so un-Christian. It didn’t make sense to me. Yes, I’m referring to the candidate who considers truth as whatever comes out of his mouth—if he can imagine it, it must be true. And many Christians believed, and continue to believe, his self-defined versions of “truth.”
Oh sure, I’ve heard that some Christians voted for Trump because he’s supposedly anti-abortion and promises to protect Christianity from left-wing anti-Christians and the cancel culture. First, I don’t think God and Jesus need help protecting Christianity—They’ve done just fine on their own the past 2000 years. And, as I’ve written before, I don’t think legislation is the right way to address abortion and morality.
I’m sure there are other reasons Christians voted for Trump. But for me, a candidate’s character is more important than whatever those reasons could be. I wish I’d heard God’s voice telling me who to vote for in that last election—I didn’t, I think. But since the character of that particular candidate is the antithesis of everything the Bible tells me about how we should live, well, you know how I voted.
Here’s another thought: Some Christians will believe someone like Trump when he spouts made-up stuff about election results, but they won’t believe God when He gives them the promise that His Spirit wants to live within them and guide them through this turbulent world. They’ll believe every word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, but won’t believe the Words of God in the Bible. Well, that’s how it looks from my perspective. I hope I’m wrong.
Also, I believe Christians should look only to God for the truth, look only to God for protection, look only to God for guidance in how to best deal with issues like abortion and the decay of morality in our society. And, to roughly paraphrase something Peter and John said in reply to challenges from the leaders of their day: Judge whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to a very un-Christian, un-truthful, dishonorable, self-centered politician, rather than God.
I know what I’ve said will upset some people. I’m sorry, sincerely. But, I’m more concerned with how God feels about what I’m saying. And, I’m concerned about the image of Christianity others see in Christians.
Finally, I’m curious. Am I alone in my sense of confusion regarding all the Christians who supported, and continue to support, that particular politician? Am I alone on my side of the chasm that separates Christian Trump supporters from confused Christians like me?
“Hey, how ya doin? Haven’t seen you for a while?”
“Me? I’m good. All’s good. How about you?”
“Oh, fine. You know how it is. So, haven’t seen you at church for a long time. Heard you checked out for good.”
“Ah, yep. Just felt like the right thing for me to do. I’d rather not get into it … please.”
“Oh sure. So, where do you go to church now? Where do you worship?”
“Me?” Where do I worship? Well, will he understand? Lord, if this conversation starts to get sticky, I rely on You to give me the words that’ll help him. “To be truthful, I worship everywhere.”
“Everywhere? Really? How do you do that? And when do you do this everywhere worship?”
“For me, worship is when I turn my mind away from the world and focus on God and Jesus in heaven and their Spirit within me. Whenever I can wrestle my mind away from this noisy world and look to Jesus within me, that’s when I worship, no matter where I am.”
“So, for you worship isn’t singing praise songs and the others things we do in church?”
“Well, maybe that is what I’m doing? But I’m singing praises to God and Jesus within my mind, and heart, rather than in a building.”
“Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.”
They’re devoted to Christianity and their church, and for those who’ve decided to not get vaccinated against COVID 19, some may have a familiar response when asked if they’re concerned about the risks of getting sick and possibly dying. “If it’s God’s will,” they reply. I’ve heard that response before, with respect to an impending threat or otherwise avoidable problem.
Could it really be God’s will for good people to suffer a lonely and painful suffocating death? Is God really that mean; if mean is even the right word? Is it God’s will for all the COVID collateral damage surrounding the sick and dying, like the other people who may get infected, the grieving loved ones left behind, and the overworked and exhausted hospital staff dealing with suffering and death almost every day until they burn out from it? Is all that really God’s will?
Just so I don’t unfairly focus on one topic, look at all the other suffering consuming our world, the other diseases, and the evil, murder, death, hate, anger, abuse, anxiety, and depression. Is all that God’s will too?
Now back to COVID. I’ve also heard some Christians say that putting all their trust in God, rather than a vaccine, will glorify God. As Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And yes, history’s full of people glorifying God by their death, most notably Jesus. But, I wonder if the only other people who truly glorified God this way did so when, by their death, others were saved, just as Jesus did. Well, death by COVID doesn’t save anyone.
Also, if someone contracts COVID 19, ends up in the hospital and dies, all along saying, “If it’s God’s will,” how does that glorify God? As I see it, dying that way and saying its God’s will just feeds the misconception that God is mean. No glory for God there, that’s for sure. Plus, how does causing severe grief for the loved ones left behind, and the additional strain on already overworked hospital staff who’ve battled this war for over a year and a half—how does any of that glorify God? I don’t see it. I think we can glorify God more in how we live, than in how we die.
Okay, so here’s what I believe God’s will is, as shown throughout the Bible, beginning in the first pages. God’s original intention was that humanity live with Him in paradise, no toil, no pain, no suffering. Just love, peace, and companionship with God. That was, is, and will always be God’s will. Yet we live under the will of people, because by their own willful decision to listen to Satan rather than God, humanity got kicked out of paradise.
I believe that if an unvaccinated person catches COVID 19 and dies, that is not God’s will. If anything, it’s Satan’s will. We live under the influence of the will of our selves, Satan, other prideful people, and the world—that too is not God’s will.
God’s will is for us to live as originally intended, with Him in paradise, in peace, love, and companionship as His dearly loved children. Just like it was in the beginning. That’s why Jesus died for us and then sent His Spirit to live in us, taking our hand, and guiding us back to paradise.
Like in the story Jesus told of the prodigal son, God just wants us to return home to Him. Oh sure, we can return home by dying. But I believe God would rather have us first live for Him, than die for Him, by letting His Spirit live in us and through us, just as Jesus promised:
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. … Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-21, 25-26)
That’s how to live in accordance with God’s will and glorify Him.
In addition to being the dominion of God, heaven is the dominion of love, forgiveness, grace, and humility. The world, on the other hand, though there is still love and the rest, is mainly the dominion of pride, selfishness, and other such aspects of our fallen human nature.
So this morning, while holding that image in my mind of the world as the dominion of pride, I read these words of Jesus:
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16)
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19)
“In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
“—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him no knows him.” (John 14:17)
We can be in the world, but not off the world—a common phrase I’ve often heard. We physically live in the dominion of pride, but our heart and soul can reside in the dominion of love, forgiveness, and especially humility. For it’s humility that opens the door for love and forgiveness.
And that brings me to the last verse I quoted above. The world cannot accept the Holy Spirit because Pride will not allow it, pride cannot see the Spirit of Jesus, nor know Him. So, if we want to come to know the Spirit of Jesus, I think we first need to let humility be dominant over pride in our lives. I wish we could be free of pride and the harm it brings. But we can at least nurture our humility so that it becomes stronger than pride. And then, we will be able to see, and know, the Spirit of Jesus within us.
What do people see when they look at Christians? For most of those on the outside of the Christian establishment in the US, they see such things as:
Of course, not all Christians display these characteristics. But the most visible ones do. Like the insurrections storming the US capital waving Jesus flags, shouting His name, or even kneeling in prayer before they attacked (though I’m not sure who they were praying to).
As another example, yesterday I shared an article about the reaction of many white evangelicals to Barack Obama as compared to their reaction to Donald Trump (you can read it here). You may not agree with Obama’s policies and political position on things, but he really did appear to be a decent person. Oh sure, he has character flaws, like all of us. But nothing like Trump. You may agree with Trump’s policies, but his character is toxic, his morals are despicable—all very visible for all to see.
In trying to understand why so many white evangelicals and other Christians seem to ignore character and support Trump, here are a few things I’ve discovered:
Regarding the fear of attacks from the left, Jesus might say, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
Or, He might say, “I tell you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-29, 31)
And regarding money, most people know what the Bible says about having too much interest in money, like obsessing about our 401k. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) And as Paul warned Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10). Wow, isn’t that the truth!
All of these reasons for Christians supporting Trump, and likely others I haven’t mentioned, boil down to an exhibition of profound hypocrisy, all because these people are more concerned about their wants than what Jesus wants. To this, Jesus might say: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)
So, what does Jesus want to see when He looks at followers of His Christianity? He gave us the answer quite clearly:
“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)
Imagine how outsiders might react if, when they looked at Christians, all they saw was love—no hypocrisy, judgment or other ugly stuff. Imagine the influence that visible love would have on those outsiders. Might some of them even be motivated to turn to Jesus for help? Might they want to experience the same love themselves? Imagine the Island of Love Christianity could become, being a paradise and refuge in these days of turmoil, anger, violence, and of course, COVID-19. Please, try to imagine it.
And if you can conjure up an image in your mind, now consider that that is what Jesus wants to see too.
True gifts aren’t earned. They’re freely given. God has so much to give, and like all gifts, all we have to do is reach out and accept His gifts.
Merry Christmas from God and His Son, who we celebrate.
“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? … It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:5-6, 14)
The feeling clung to me for many months, maybe more than a year … after I stopped going to church. Guilt, confusion, lots of questions, and a hollowness that rose from my stomach and oozed into my chest. Was I doing the right thing? Staying home on Sunday—no more church? Eventually the feeling faded and I eased into a new Sunday routine.
Over time, I lost that feeling of guilt. I grew closer to God and Jesus than ever before, I think because I was now on my own in my relationship with them—no longer relying on a seminary-trained pastor to help me. And every day is now Sunday, for I worship God on all days. I feel God working in my life, and though life can really suck (especially this year), God’s presence makes all the difference.
But still, something’s missing. I’ve always known what it is. Churches call it fellowship—hanging out with fellow Christians and worshipping God and Jesus in some fashion. At first, I tried to resist, but that feeling lingering in my gut kept nagging me, telling me that fellowship is something Jesus wants me to do.
Yet, the dilemma. I can’t bring myself to go back to a church, and I’ve never felt God enticing me to go back either. I often hang out with friends who still go to church, but they don’t really understand me and my aversion to church.
Finally, yesterday, an idea seeped in. What I was missing, what I really want, is fellowship with other dechurched Christians.
Many years ago I started a Facebook Group called “Dechurched—A Place For Wounded Christians,” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ForWoundedChristians ). Maybe that group could be a resource for your little network. Or you could form your own Facebook group.
Well, in any case, I hope to use the “Dechurched” Facebook group to promote this idea of forming small groups of dechurched Christians so they can “fellowship” and worship God together.
Again, what do you think of this idea? And thanks.
I recall seeing mention of it only once in the entire Bible. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) And, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (verse 9) *
Maybe when Paul wrote this, he didn’t mean what I hope he meant. Maybe he just means the mind “influenced” by the Spirit. Well, I feel the presence of the Spirit of God in my life, and I feel His influence. But often I desire so much more. And since David once wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4), I still hope that God will give me what I desire.
Oh how I wish the Spirit of Jesus would take control over my scattered, out of control mind. So often—too often—my mind goes places I really don’t want it to go. And that’s when the feeling of His presence leaves me, though I believe His Spirit never leaves—just my awareness of Him fades away.
Well, anyway, I’ll keep hoping and desiring and trusting and doing all I can to glorify God and Jesus. For without them, life would be hell.
I hope you have a great, Spirit-filled day.
* If you know of other places in the Bible that speak of this kind of control, please point me to them.
Why was I feeling dull, almost empty, spiritually numb? It wasn’t because of this pandemic—that affects me in different ways. I’d started writing a new book, a book I believe can do great things to spread the truth of God and Jesus. But I still felt I wasn’t being useful for God. I had the sense He wanted me doing more.
Then it started to feel like God was sending me clear messages, in the varied way He sometimes does. In three different books I was reading, including the Bible, I was being told to not be afraid. One book that a friend had given me, “Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back,” by Ray Johnston, hit me in the gut with the directness of the challenge to just ignore my fears, step out and do new things for Jesus.
I didn’t have to look far to see the new things I felt God calling me to. The book I’m writing is on the right track, but I now felt God calling me to do more, to start spreading the word now and not wait to see if I actually finish writing the book. I have my blog, I’m on Facebook—I can use those to spread the word.
But I needed to be assertive. People don’t need more baby food. Many Christians have gotten nothing but baby food from the churches they attend. What they need, what some openly want, is spiritual meat, the deeper truths of Christianity that lay below the surface.
What we see from a lot of Christians and Christian churches is surface Christianity, that is, the Christianity many people put on and wear each Sunday. But real Christianity, true Christianity, goes much deeper. True Christianity is not just believing that Jesus is the Son of God, going to church regularly, trying to be “good,” and calling yourself Christian. True Christianity is even deeper than a relationship with God and Jesus. And get this: true Christianity is not some hidden, mysterious thing, for it’s clearly defined in the Bible.
True Christianity is a life-changing commitment. True Christianity is surrender to God—surrender of our self, our self-centered human nature. It’s the emptying of our selves so God can then fill us with His Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God and Jesus, and us, living in the same body, the two will become one flesh. THAT’s true Christianity. The more I re-read the Bible, and not just the New Testament, the more vivid that truth becomes.
But for many of us, it’s a hard truth to embrace—the commitment feels too great. Yet I’d come to a point on my journey where I was worn out by life. Sometimes I sense I understand the feelings of those who commit suicide—life had become such a burden. But instead of giving myself to death, I want to give myself to God. I crave surrender. I no longer want to be in control—too stressful.
I feel the desire (and I hope a true calling from God, not just imagination) to preach to fellow Christians the deeper truths of surrender to the Holy Spirit. But in doing so, I’m not crazy about some direction I’ve received from the Bible, especially from Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus, as well as Jesus. He calls us to rebuke our fellow Christians who drift away from the truth. I’m not confrontational by nature, I don’t like the idea of rebuking anyone. Conflict makes my stomach churn. But that’s the fear that I now believe God is calling me to ignore. Jesus said we’d be persecuted for standing up for His truth. I hoped I was ready.
As some of you reading this may have noticed, I have become more vocal with respect to the truths of Christianity and how they apply to the upcoming presidential election. The things I’ve posted are things that came into my mind while praying—I sure hope that means they’re God’s ideas, not mine. I’m always afraid my “self” will step in and pollute the words I write, corrupting the message of God I’m trying to convey. Oh, and yes, I am being persecuted for what I’ve posted so far.
I posted something on a Facebook Christian group I’m a member of, and now I’m being personally attacked. But I’m grateful for the caustic comments. They’re giving me insight into the minds of fellow humans, though I’m not sure if I’d call them fellow Christians, as they call themselves. Whether they are true Christians or not is between them and God. But I feel sorry for them, for many of them seem filled with anger.
So why am I writing about this today? Well, I’m not sure. But I hope it’s because the idea for today’s post also came to me while praying, and I hope that means it’s God’s idea, not mine. And I’d like to say I don’t need to know His purpose to do His will.
Hey, maybe here’s why I’m writing this: do you have a sense that God is calling you to do something, but the idea scares you? Or, do you feel you have only a surface knowledge of Christianity? I hope God wanted me to write today’s post for you, to help you in whatever way He desires.
Eric Trump claims his father Donald saved Christianity. So says an article I just read at Huffpost. And there was the answer to a question I posted yesterday. So THAT’s why so many Christians support Donald Trump, because he single handedly saved their religion. Really?
Look, ignoring Trump for a minute (which is really hard to do), I have a few thoughts on this idea of someone “saving” Christianity. For decades, it’s been a very political issue with many Christians. They vote for whoever better supports their Christian values … sometimes. It’s as if they believe a President can help, and maybe even save, their religion and promote their values throughout the country.
Hey, do you really think God and Jesus need help?
The leaders of Jesus’ day, while he walked the roads of ancient Israel, well, they tried to kill Christianity. No go. They killed the man, but couldn’t kill the faith.
After Jesus died on the cross and rose to heaven, the leaders still conspired to kill the spreading faith. At least one of them was wise enough to see the futility in such an effort. In referring to Christians, the wise one said, “If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
And we know the Romans tried, and failed, to kill early Christianity.
Worrying about a person doing harm to Christianity is just showing how weak our faith in God is. Some Christians put too much faith in other people, and not enough faith in God.
Look, Christians don’t need to worry about the safety of our faith or our values, unless we put more trust in men than in God. But if we just ignore politics and focus only on God and Jesus, then anti-Christian politicians will only find themselves fighting against God. Who do you think will win?
If Christians would spend less time worrying about the positions of politicians and more quiet time with God and Jesus, I think we all would be better off. What was it Jesus said? Ask and you shall receive. Time to put more faith in what Jesus said rather than what politicians say.
Yesterday I posted something about how I believe that we can be the “one true Christian church.” (see it here). I shared it on Facebook and received a comment that showed me I wasn’t all that clear in spelling out my beliefs. Now I think that a lot of you who follow my blog already have a good handle on my beliefs, so you were able to see past the red flags that got in the way of letting others see my true meaning.
Anyway, here’s the comment that the person left, which I’m grateful for:
Per the article – “As He was God-as-human, you can be Jesus-as-human. You too can be fully human and fully God.” – “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) So, are we fully God or His temple … fully God means to possess and utilizes at will His total abilities and characteristics; do you /have you, ever been fully omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent? You may be a written epistle, even erroneously considered “a god” , BUT FULLY GOD???? If that is not what was meant, it was poorly communicated. YOU WILL NEVER BE FULLY GOD …even thinking about approaching that kind of bogus mentality had satan driven/cast OUT of heaven… rethink the “Ye are gods” teaching and movements…
And here’s my reply:
I think I wasn’t clear in what I believe. For example, to be “fully God” to me means that I don’t possess anything. It means that God possesses me, completely. I have none of God’s abilities. Without God, I’m just a wretched mess.
I believe we can be fully God, as I believe Jesus has promised. But it requires that we deny “self” and absolutely surrender to God so that His Holy Spirit can enter into us and live through us, as God lived through the Son of Man. But as is the case with our inherently prideful human nature, denying “self” is really hard, and it often feels impossible. Yet as with all things, what’s impossible for me is possible for God. And I trust in God and Jesus to make my desire for complete denial of self to become a reality.
Again, I have none of God’s abilities, and I never will. But that’s doesn’t mean that God can’t exercise His abilities through me. In the words of John the Baptist, He must become greater and I must become less. I think true holiness and joy comes when the Spirit of Jesus becomes ALL within me, and I (i.e., my prideful “self”) become nothing. And that’s what I believe.
I just hope I was more clear in my response than in the original post. But my problem is, it’s all really clear in my head, and my heart. It’s just sometimes hard to type that up into accurate words. Oh well.
Available on Amazon. Yet you can likely find it other places as well.
This book is a daily devotional, where some of the most insightful of Andrew Murray’s writings have been collected into 365 days of inspiration. In the words of the publisher, “For several generations, the writings of Andrew Murray have stirred the hearts, minds, and souls toward deeper devotion to God, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and to the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit.”
As of the writing of this review, I actually haven’t finished reading this book. Also, I cheat and usually read more than one devotion per day. So as I write this around the end of May, I’m now on the devotion for August 29th. But I’ve read more than enough to highly recommend this book. Look, Andrew Murray’s writings have been a staple part of my reading diet for many years. Everything I read of his I put back in my stack of books to read again. This book is no different.
Like all of the books I recommended, this one will help you see and feel what true Christianity is all about. Also, it will lead you into a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that you never could have imagined. And like a lot of daily devotionals, there is no better way to start or end your day than reading from this book.
Do you want to know Jesus and His Spirit more intimately? This book might be a great way to start. But beware, for like most of the books I recommend, it will challenge your prideful human nature.
By the way, Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917) was a pastor and author, living in South Africa. Many of his books were written specifically for those he ministered to, to help nurture and guide them in their Christian life.
Note that the book I got from Amazon has a cover that looks different from what’s shown on the Amazon book page, and from what I show here.
I just saw the headline, “April Unemployment Rate Rose to a Record 14.7%.” Unprecedented 20.5 million jobs lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The headline is huge, but what follows feels so little. Anyway, I don’t know if it will help anyone, but because of that headline, I’m dropping the price of “We Called Him Yeshua” down to as low as Amazon will allow. It feels like nothing. But if it helps one person get the book, who may not otherwise, and if it helps them find comfort and escape within the pages of the book, then to me it’s well worth it.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/We-Called-Him-Yeshua-Penn-ebook/dp/B0867BYTF7/
On some days, the parasite seems to slumber, not stirring up trouble. But other days, it squirms in his stomach, making him nervous and tense. When awake, the damn thing is always hungry, eating at him from the inside. Oh, it’s not killing him, but it’s not good for his health, that’s for sure. And people often see the impact of the parasite’s presence, though they don’t realize where the negative behavior is coming from. They just think it’s part of his personality. Besides, he doesn’t appear much different than other folk. Actually, he’s not.
But lately, he’s very aware of the parasite. Though he now knows it’s always been there, for much of his life, he didn’t recognize it. But the past several years, he’s spent a lot of time dwelling on his constant companion, studying it, learning about it, even reading books about it. After all, it’s good to know your enemies.
He’s learned how the parasite affects his life too, always in negative ways. Mostly, it affects his mood and feelings and how he reacts to other people. Today, he’s pondering how the presence of the parasite affects his ability to love. Maybe a strange thing to think about, but it was just an idea that popped into his head. And he hadn’t thought before of how the ever-hungry parasite might also have a taste for devouring love.
Speaking of love, this latest round of musings began when he started thinking about his ability to generate and express love for others. He sees and feels something of a love speed limit, like there’s only so much love he can give. If he’s able to stir up more love, the parasite is there to consume it and keep any extra from wrestling free and escaping out to others in his life.
He’s able to give love to his wife and children, and most of his family (except for the strange cousin and the wacko nephew), and a few select friends. Yet he realizes that the amount of love he gives each person varies, depending upon his relationship to them. And after all, he has only so much love to give—the parasite sees to that.
Yet even his more powerful love, which he reserves for his wife and two children, feels weakened upon reflection. Oh, there are times he feels if he loved them any more, his heart would burst. But that’s always triggered by some event, like when they do something that makes him proud, or touch his heart with a tender expression of their own love for him. But that white-hot feeling of love he infrequently feels is momentary, and soon cools back down. And he wonders why. Why does it sometimes feel like he’s holding back love from the ones he loves the most?
Days go by and he forgets about all this love stuff, slipping back to his usual, seemingly carefree life. But his thoughts on love return to haunt him, bringing a deep feeling of failure, failure to give total love to those he loves, especially his wife and children.
Then one day, early in the morning with a cup of coffee in his hand and a good book in his lap, he closes his eyes and meditates on this uneasy feeling about love, that feeling that he’s not loving as much as he could. And in a flash of recognition, he sees it, and knows it.
He sees himself. He has sometimes felt the dual forms of his personality, like the little angel on one shoulder, and the devil on his other shoulder, each trying to influence him. And what he sees, sucking up his limited supply of love, is his little devil, his Self … the parasite. Yes, the parasite has a name, and that name is Self. The selfish, prideful, self-centered, self-seeking side of him that is a fundamental part of the person he is.
The Self is always hungry for attention. And the delight that is its favorite dessert is love. For the more love it can suck up from its host, as well as those around him, the stronger grows its self-worth. And the sweetness of love provides it the most nourishment. Damn parasite.
He wrests his mind free from the parasite, looks down, and reads further in the book sitting in his lap. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Love never fails. But he doesn’t feel it, for his love fails often, and his efforts to give a greater love always fail. He flips several pages in the book, glances down and reads some more. “God is love.”
And then it hits him. God’s love never fails. It’s God’s love that always perseveres. And believing that God is infinite, he now sees that God’s love must also be infinite. So unlike his own limited love. And since God doesn’t suffer from the presence of His own self-seeking little devil always sitting on His shoulder, sucking up gulps of love for itself, there is no limit to the love God pours out upon His children.
Though he feels the familiar gratitude for God’s love, this new insight doesn’t make him feel any better. In a way, it just makes him feel more wretched, as he sees in a brighter light how pitiful his own capacity to love really is.
So he prays, asking God to show him how to love more. And in a flash, the answer comes to him, feeling like the answer was always there, like the book sitting in his lap, just waiting for him to open his eyes and look.
He quickly flips back many pages in the book, looking for the words he remembers and has long craved. And there it is, as John the Baptist speaks of his cousin Jesus by saying, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
And the answer he’s long known becomes sharp and clear in his mind. The more his Self becomes less, the more Jesus’ Spirit within him will become greater. And the more Jesus takes over, the more the love of God and Jesus will push out his Self, his devilish parasite, and fill him with love. All that love pouring into him will then be available for him to pour out to others. And maybe someday he too will be able to love his wife and children, his family and friends with the unlimited love of God, a love that will never fail.
He sees also the answer to being rid of the parasite of pride. He’d often wondered about a cure, or some kind of spiritual surgery to cut it out. Now he sees his freedom comes from letting the Spirit of Jesus in, and Jesus will then push out his parasite of pride.
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5)
The early evening sun dropped behind the tree in the front yard, casting the lawn in speckled shadows. My wife sat in her usual spot for that time of day, on the couch, facing the large window looking out to the street, her latest favorite book in hand. I was in my usual spot, on the family room couch, scanning the articles in our local online newspaper (yes, it was all the same stuff—all coronavirus, all the time).
Suddenly my wife let out a chuckle.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Well, I’m sitting here looking out the window, and I’m seeing the same people, walking past at the same time of day, in the same direction, and yet all keeping plenty of ‘social distance’ between them. But it’s just like yesterday—the same thing each day.”
And then we were both chuckling, feeling as if we too were stuck in the cycle Bill Murray fell into in the movie “Groundhog Day,” living the same day over and over again.
This sheltering in place has many of us falling into a routine as we try to make the best out of a difficult situation. Some, like the people my wife chuckled at, get outside when they can for a nice social-distanced walk in the fresh air. My wife and I do, usually at the same time of day, each and every day. Yet, we do sometimes change our route, being the thrill-seekers we are.
Are you living your own Groundhog Day? If it feels that way, you can always keep repeating what you enjoy, and change up what you don’t. And if possible, try to find some humor in our new reality.
By the way, I tried to figure out how to tie this into some kind of Christian message, since that’s what I usually write about. But I couldn’t think of anything. So I decided to share it just for the fun. During this era of tension and stress that so many of us feel, it’s important to have some fun, as often as we can.
Here’s hoping you have a great day today, even if it’s a lot like yesterday.
Our past is littered with fighting, fighting against each other. We’re still fighting, but now aligned together against a common enemy, a worldwide pandemic. I think it’s possible that this has never happened before in the history of humanity—I mean, how we so quickly formed a worldwide alliance.
Consider that the last pandemic, in the early 1900’s, infected the earth before there was rapid transportation from one continent to the next, and before there was instantly shared communication throughout the world. I haven’t seen any data, but I suspect this new pandemic has spread faster than any in history. The fear and panic have spread just as quickly.
But still, we are all now united in the fight against the Coronavirus. Has the entire world ever been this united before? I don’t really know. What might our unity lead to? I can’t even imagine. But, I have a growing hope that something amazing will emerge. I believe all this presents the possibility for a turning point in the human race, in the midst of the chaos. And I strongly feel that, though the pandemic will bring death and severe pain, our unity can only bring good.
What form will that good take? How long will it last? Of course, I don’t know and I can’t even guess. But as a Christian, I really believe that Jesus will make something good out of all this bad. And with Jesus involved, I’m excited. I hope you can be excited too.
I think the best thing we can do is pray, hope, and trust. And excitedly wait to see what God does with our trust and unity.