Two nights ago I tried to imagine what heaven looked like on the day of the crucifixion.
‘I believe in God, and I know He is God and can do all things. However, I also believe He has given us knowledge so that we can make informed decisions based on this knowledge. Let us not tempt God in our decisions. Some things cannot change. What can God do?’-excerpt,paraphrased.
Not tempt God?
What can God do?
I felt betrayed. It was like a sucker punch to my gut. It literally took the wind out of my sails.
After crying and yelling and railing, I went back to thinking. Decided to find out the meaning of tempt. Here’s what I got:
Tempt-To entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain.
To induce to do something.
To risk provoking.
Going further, I checked the meaning of provoke.
Provoke-to incite to anger-both from the Merriam Websters Dictionary of the English language.
Now….what can God do?
Wow…hmmm….a question that a lot of us have asked(with our actions). How?
When we are impatient,having bought into the ‘now’ culture which has pervaded the secular world and now intruded and taken over our Churches,the need for instant gratification evident when we go ahead to venture into a business deal without His backing or endorsement,because it looks like it may yield immediate profit.
The craze that has become picking out a life partner by ourselves,without waiting for Him to bring who He has prepared for us.
The way we forget to pray when we get ill.
Looking to others-people like you and I,running this same race of life, for validation. And despising them when they cannot provide that which only God can.
In each way we turn to our selves first,our money,our friends, our families(first), what we are really doing is asking God what He can do.
I’d never heard the words put so succinctly before and they sounded so blasphemous to my ears,so I recoiled in horror because, hypocrite that I am( I am really no better because I had only subconsciously thought it amd not voiced it), I thought,for just a minute there,that I was better. And I asked the stupidest question ever. ‘How can you say such a thing?’
But the real question should have been ‘what CAN’T He do?’
And in that second,I realised why the statement ‘don’t tempt God’ had always grated.
Don’t tempt God? How,exactly? How can us,mere humans do that? Seduce Him?(I guffawed at the thought) By inducing Him to do something?
We make Him too small.
Is there anything that He doesn’t already know? Is there anything you want to ask that He didn’t lay in your heart? Is there anything you want to ask that hasn’t been asked? The desires and wishes of man haven’t changed from creation and the fall of man. God has been dealing with our kind since for ever.
Since when does faith provoke God to anger?
Since when is believing the very nature,the very essence of God wrong?
Because if believing the impossible is tempting God,I might as well resign to tempting Him my whole life. The idea of a man who died two thousand years ago being the salvation of the whole world is ludicrous,really,based on common knowledge.
But it isn’t knowledge that pleases God. Faith is.
I’ve been reading the book of Ezra in the last few days. Today I got to the part where there was a report about the Israelites getting married to pagan women(anyone who did not worship the God of Israel was referred to as pagan),and in most instances having children by them.
If you are familiar with some of biblical history, you will know that, in those days, God gave strict orders that the Israelites must not marry outside of Israel. This is because marriage is supposed to be an ‘integrater'(I don’t think that is a proper word but i’m using it anyway ;p).When you marry someone, you marry their hopes, dreams, likes , loves, belief systems. Essentially, you get stuck with everything-warts and all..hehehe.
And so marrying pagan women meant marrying their gods and ways. And their practices, which were said to be detestable to God.
Essentially, in God’s books, they were unfaithful to Him because they would have worshipped the gods of these pagans. And we know how God felt about idols. How He still feels about idols.
So, the anger of God burned against them. Fiercely. They were killed,robbed, captured.
When Ezra found out about this, he was devastated. Appalled. He sat in ashes in mourning. An assembly was called. The people confessed. And after confessing, as a sign of reconciliation, of godly repentance, an agreement was reached to divorce their pagan wives and send them away.
This was taking the moral high ground, for certain. The suffering and the injustice of it all..and why should the children have to pay for this? Divorce is NEVER a good thing. Never. It seems too much a price to pay, really.
And yet, it was a strict decree from God..and his decrees take no prisoners. Its either you do it or you don’t. Either you fully obey, or you don’t. All or nothing. His way or the highway. You get nowhere by sitting on the fence.
Faith is like that,you know. Taking the high road. Fixing your eyes on something only you can see. Faith literally eschews reality. Faith is NOT reality. Having faith is completely unrealistic. Anyone can and will believe in what they see. Faith…that is a completely different matter o. Because, like I said earlier, you get nowhere by sitting on the fence. You either have faith, or you don’t.
So, if we can profess to have faith;take the high road, fixing our eyes on what we say we believe and essentially ignoring everything else, not compromising until the evidence of things unseen is right there before us, then the flipside of the coin is, treating the decrees of God as such.
No compromise. No reasoning it out. No justifying.
The decrees say, don’t steal. Don’t fornicate. Don’t lie about your neighbor. Don’t gossip. Love.
Just fix your eyes on what you must do and don’t reason it out.
Afterall, when you are having faith and expecting God to respond, you don’t really expect him to reason it out. You honestly, really and truly expect Him to answer. If you are like me, you want Him to answer in the way you envisioned it in your head.
Sticking to and obeying the commands and wishes of God is its own form of faith. Its having to believe that,even though it seems okay to do these things, He had to have had a good reason for saying I shouldn’t. And I’m choosing to focus on that reason even if I don’t completely understand it. #thinkaboutit.
And that is really and truly faith,friends. That’s the fear of God. That’s #nobullshit Christianity.
PS-very glad to be back and blogging. Very long hiatus- Your girl almost died. But that is a story for another day 🙂
The time I am most at rest in my life is when I am reading something. It may be an eagerly anticipated book, an interesting article or an old, well worn but loved novel that I must’ve read over and over(some books just do that for me). No academic stuff though. .lol…but really, reading is what I do for rest. For leisure. Reading is what I do when I am at peace with myself and with the world. Reading is what I do when I’m happy. Reading is what I do to get happy-being invited into the mind of someone else is utterly fascinating.
When im distressed, when I’m involved in an argument with someone I love(arguments upset me more than I can ever say), when I’m worried, and I pick up a book and find that I can’t concentrate, then I know for certain that whatever it is that’s happening has really and truly stolen away my peace.
I can’t tell you how many times that has happened. You probably know what im talking about.
Peace. Much coveted commodity in our hearts, in our homeS,and by extension, in our world-you only have to look at Maiduguri,or Syria, to know for certain that peace is an expensive, sought out commodity.
We all know what it is not to have peace. A difficult boss. An exam that has caused us not to get a promotion. Bills that remain unpaid for one reason or another. A boyfriend who demands unreasonable things. Children who just won’t act right.(You can insert here what takes away your peace..lol)
On Sunday,pentecost,I thought of what it must have been like to be a disciple of Jesus in the period that he died. The Roman soldiers would’ve looked everywhere for them-to eliminate all traces of Jesus and this strange new cult that was threatening to emerge-nothing should be a threat to Caesar’s rule, and this Jesus preached some sort of Kingship. The Jewish leaders had their own motives-this Jesus brought some sort of apostasy on a grand scale!
By default, this followership had to be squashed. I imagine there would’ve been some price money on each of the heads of the major players and all affiliated to them.
Huddled in that inner room upstairs, whispering and frightened for their lives, probably wondering if the last three years with Jesus was worth this trouble, remembering all his talk about going to Jerusalem and dying and wondering why the bloody man had to be so damn mysterious with all this His talk(I would’ve been exasperated with Jesus,to be honest)missing him so much and wondering if they would ever see him again, maybe at some point or the other, whispering a word or two of prayer, but mostly reminiscing about this man who had changed their lives on a scale that even they at the time could not fully comprehend….
…..and suddenly,a hush falls over the room.
There he is. Standing, probably with a slightly playful,slightly mysterious expression on his face.
Peace be with you, He says.
And their hearts are suddenly full and empty at the same time. Full! Bursting at the seams with joy, happiness and this PEACE they’ve been craving,the kind that only this man-God could give.
And empty…! Wonderfully empty of this..fear, this anxiety that they’ve been carrying about.
Because, you see,apart from this peace, he gave them the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, they went hand in hand. And once they embraced this Holy Spirit, their lives changed on a scale that,like the domino effect,has caused ripples upon ripples..to this very day. Those fearful, weak men became,seemingly overnight,powerful courageous men, who couldn’t keep silent about the wonderfulness of this man who they had been with.
Peace. And with peace, courage.
Courage may very well be the absence of fear,then, if what happened to the disciples is anything to go by. Because, these timid men who literally scattered in the wake of Jesus’ arrest became,only a few years later, men who bravely gave their lives for this Jesus.
I don’t see any fear there.
Courage. The absence of fear. Jesus came and breathed this peace. This peace that dispelled the fear. This Spirit that gave courage.
And so I say to you. Peace. #theJesusway.#theonlyway.
For a while, Lord, perhaps all week, i’ve been filled with..vague disquiet. I’ve grappled with regret about a lot of things. Perhaps, for longer than that, maybe the whole year, in my hours of quiet-in the hours before dawn, before I have to be up and about, attending to the demands my world makes of me, i’ve wondered what my purpose here is. Maybe because i’m getting older? Maybe because the year is drawing to a close? I really do not know. I’ve examined my life as a person disconnected, dissociated from myself. I’ve struggled with being who you say I should be-often times failing, and with effort, rising back up to continue.
But perhaps, there lies the problem-struggling in my own strength?
As long as I’ve known, i’ve been taught to believe in you-the one true God. I’ve been taught to fear you. The one who created me, who formed me and knows me even more than i’ve known myself. The one who knows my thoughts before I think them, who knows exactly what i’m capable of. Who provides, who protects. The one I owe my very existence to-beginning from the very air that I cannot see,to water,whose formulation scientists cannot exactly recreate,no matter how hard they try.
I’ve had my doubts about You growing up though. What kind of God are you? Would You who has professed to be Love allow all the pain I see around me?Would You who professed to be love let an innocent baby die of AIDS, or let a ten year old be abused by her brother? You say you are concerned about the little intricate details of my life, yet you would let me ache with so much pain sometimes, I have thought I would die from it. You who say you love me, yet are silent more times than I care to count, in the face of my loneliness, worry and distress-when I need you the most.
You leave me with the uncertainty of not knowing the exact path my life would take.
Most of all,You who profess to love me has left me with this thing you call Free will-a thing i’ve often wondered whether I really need. You act as though your hands are tied by your principles-why give me free will, then? Since you know the heart of every man, you know who will rape who, and who will kill whom, why let it happen, Lord? We hurt each other when we cheat, when we lie, when we are greedy and selfish-and hurting ourselves hurts You-yet you stand there, seemingly helpless to stop the pain and the hurt. Does pain amuse you?
Why can’t you just let us know, Lord? Is it better for people to keep putting their faith and trust in fake pastors and prophets, in fortune tellers, clairvoyants and dibias, in astrology and palm reading? These people-and things who pretend to foretell the future-a future that only you know? These mediums who only gave a false semblance of hope?
You create us with a hunger, with the desire to control what goes on around us, then ask us to love you and trust you that we cannot see or touch?
I’m not sure if I was taught to love you. You are God. All mighty. All everything. What do you need my love for? You made me. I should do whatever you want or say-out of obligation. Love has nothing to do with obedience…not so?
But it is precisely because you are Love that you’ve left me with this, isn’t it? Free will. You, the Creator, me, the created, free,to love and adore my Creator-or not. To pay homage-or not.
Of all your creatures, i’m the one you chose to be allowed to choose if I want to be subject to my creator. I’m the one you chose to fill with your Spirit.
How can you be contained within me-flesh, full of lies and deceit-how can this be the jar you choose to fill up with your power?
I don’t understand you, God. I’ve often times thought that you were quite mad. Often times, i’ve looked in your word, and i’ve found you to be a big paradox. You are a God of justice, but you are also merciful. You are a good of war, but you love peace. You are all knowing, all seeing, all encompassing, all everything. Nothing escapes your watchful eye-not my silent tears, or the collective groaning of humanity under the weight of sin and evil. Not the little boy torn away from his parents in his youth because of wars, or famine, sometimes forced to take up arms in wars he has no business with. Nothing escapes you, Lord. You know and see everything. You OWN everything. Including me.
Yet you want my love-of all things! Your heart craves it!
How? How can anyone as imperfect as me render love unto a perfect God?What sort of God would want love from me??
And, as if that isn’t confusing enough, this one thing that you desire, you decide to give me free rein whether to give to you or not.
Loving You isn’t obligatory, then. I get to choose. Because,unlike everything else, You don’t own my love.
This is what baffles me.
You woo me for this love. Shamelessly. Like a heartsick woman, like a man in love. Even when I’ve scorned you, chasing my own desires and pleasures, you’ve refused to give up.. And like a girl doing shakara, hoard it from you I have. Even when you have shown me the extent of your love-at least shown me what my little mind can take, i’ve thrown it in your face in numerous ways. I’ve wanted to be loved only on my own terms-never mind that what and how I feel are not necessarily barometers of truth or common sense. You want my trust so that you can help run my life and make sure that everything good comes to me-because you know my end from my beginning-yet, even when I wrestle with you for it, you won’t demand it. You want my obedience-so that I can relax in your will and purpose-after all, who knows the purpose of something more than the one who created it? Yet you allow me to do whatsoever I please. You are content to pursue me,doggedly, determinedly, even when I busy my life with unnecessary things, even when I try to drown you out with the constant humdrum of life.
You let me break your heart so many times by my blatant unfaithfulness to you- when you can very easily take me out with a snap of your fingers. You chose to pour your love into me-traitorous, flimsy creature like me! Why, God? Are you so addicted to abuse that you let me do this over and over, and still accept me, used, battered and broken every single time I crawl back?
What kind of God are you, God?
And yet, when I turn to you, my strength is renewed. My hope is replenished. The light in my eyes return. The spring in my step..the joy in my heart…My heart expands and blossoms with so much love. You are there, ever present, to cry with me when I fall and blunder from not listening to you. When I choose to act like a goat or a mule- stubborn, proud, unyielding, you are still patient with me. You pick me up, when I get to the end of myself-when my pain and my suffering drives me right back to You, when I realize-often belatedly, that no one else can love me the way you can, can fill me up the way you do, can make me the person that I ought to be.
I’ve heard it said that in love, what you leave unattended to deteriorates. With you, even when I leave you and pursue other gods-the gods of knowledge and intellect and beauty, of power, pleasure and riches, these gods who satisfy the hunger I feel but only temporarily, who love me only on their own terms(which are, as long as I remain slave to them)whenever I crawl back to you, I find your love to be exactly as it was-perfect ,stable and undiminished by my stupidness and shortsightedness.
You give me so much more than any other gods can.
Precisely because you are God. You are this kind of God. The only kind of God-the one I can’t understand. My faithful lover.
You have taught me about trust-In the darkness of my life, you have whispered your love, you have erased my guilt, and my shame. you have given me your strength. You have brought me up and out of the place of bitterness,anger and rage that I have been in for so long. You have exchanged my fear for faith. Even in my pain, you have converted and used for my good. Even in the hours of doubt, you never leave. You surround me with your presence. Undeserving as I am. Through regret, suffering, and sorrow, you have humbled me,and brought me to my knees, repentant, hungry for your light, and for your love. In serving me, making me Your own, in cleaning up my mess, and taking up my shame, you teach me what it truly is to serve.
I don’t understand you, God. But I am learning to trust. To lean on you. To focus on your Who-ness, so that my Whys don’t hold as much importance. Because the victory isn’t in struggling in my own strength, is it? My struggle remains because I use my limited understanding of what I think you should be to measure who you are. As if I could limit you to my paltry understanding of You. Smh.
No, Its in resting in You-even when my world is falling to pieces. Because nowhere else is as safe as within your embrace. No other voice is as sweet, as soothing as yours. No other words spoken anywhere by any man or woman, can be as loving as the ones you speak in Your word. The one you whisper to my heart when it is so full of doubt-if I will but listen.
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
Is there anything I have that you have not given me? Beauty, brains, wit. All gifts. The act of learning to trust, to believe, is a gift. From you. All from you.
You know my name.
And that is enough.